The Gunslinger and the Dandy
The three adult Lancers meet for the first time. Murdochs viewpoint.
The usual disclaimers apply.
He came to his feet, cursing to himself that he was still so reliant on the damned cane that he needed to use to haul himself up, as the buckboard drove in under the arched entrance.
He had spotted it some time before of course. This big window had been placed as it was just so that it gave the panoramic view of the piece of the San Joaquim Valley that was his. Every inch of it-sweated for, hurt for, killed for and sometimes even cheated for. Now under threat. He wondered whether the buckboard was bringing him hope or hopelessness. He had not been sure that his curt demand would even be met--in fact had more than half expected an equally curt refusal-or even no response at all--but he had come at least--he was sitting up there now, on the buckboard, alongside his ward as she drove the wagon through the gate. He was not carrying a weapon. Surely it would have made sense for him to at least have armed himself for such a drive-but his hands were certainly empty.
The buckboard followed the swing of the path towards the barn. The change of angle showed him that there was a second passenger who had been lounging in the back but was now coming to his feet, standing up and balancing easily on the bouncing wagon.
He did hold a rifle.
As the buckboard drew to a halt he leapt
easily to the ground and stood there, rather obviously staring around him. His
hat hung down his shoulders and he was dark-haired, rather slight and his shirt
was an odd shade of--pink??. He took two or three steps towards the big house,
the rifle still held at the 'ready' although it was now obvious that he wore
another gun. Tied low on his right hip.
Murdoch Lancers heart lurched. Had he really sent his girl into town and let her drive back all that way with a damned gunfighter in the back of the wagon--with just the unknown quantity from back east, to play propriety.
Christ no--this was not how he had planned it. Not BOTH of them at once. How had THAT come about? He was not accustomed to his plans being thwarted.
He restrained the almost bursting desire to go out there and demand an explanation.
Let them come in to him.
The other one was tall and blond--and over-dressed. Damn. He had sent for the calvary officer of the Pinkerton report. This dandy would be of no use to him.
Don't be foolish, commonsense, at the back of his mind chided. Did you expect him to arrive in uniform--with a troop at this back?
The dandy had politely assisted Theresa down from the driving seat and was standing now, with his hands on his hips, surverying the ranch-house, pushing back his jacket with his hands, to show that whatever else he might be wearing, a gun belt was not an item.
Murdoch Lancer waited, becoming impatient. There would be time later for them all to admire the hacienda-if thats what they were doing. He wanted them to come inside before he had to give in to the all but overwhelming desire to go out there to them.
He had planned out exactly what he had been going to say. But that was when there was meant to be just the one of them. Still-it didn't really matter. What he had to say applied to the pair of them. He could still use his much rehearsed 'speech'.
They were heading for the house. All three of them. Theresa led the way. The blonde dandy came a few paces behind her--and the dark haired boy with the rifle some little way back, alert and seemingly on guard. As they came closer to the verandah they closed ranks a little. Theresa turned her head and said something to the dark haired boy. He nodded.
Footsteps--spurs jingling--and he heard the heavy front door being pushed open. He leant the cane against a chair and limped across the big room so that he was standing by his huge desk. He had already set out a bottle of whisky and two glasses on it. He had decided that the desk was the place to be when he confronted his son--(he wasn't expecting sons-in the plural), for this first meeting. Damn-he needed another glass. The desk somehow gave him a sense of security--and if his back and leg became too painful he could sit into the big leather chair without appearing to show his weakness.
Theresa ushered her two passengers into the room-- the dark haired boy no longer held rifle--smiled encouragingly at all three of the thus assembled men and slid unobtrusively from the room.
------and Murdoch Lancer came face to face with his adult sons.
Dear God in Heaven. His throat caught and turned dry. The least thing on his mind through all this was what his sons might actually look like. If he had given the matter a fleeting thought he might have thought that they would be tall and large and look something like him. He knew that one was blonde and the other was dark--but he had not expected--oh no--he had not expected that they would, the both of them, be the living facial spit of their mothers. Catherine--Maria--his dead wives name exploded in his head and for a second he feared he may have spoken aloud.
He should have expected it-why hadn't he prepared himself for this.
His beautifully prepared speech fled his mind, never to be recalled. For a moment they all stood there, just looking. For a moment he thought he saw a flicker of something-a sort of hungry, longing look, in Marias boys face-and then it was gone, hidden behind an impassive, hostile mask. A mere trick of the light.
He stared from the one to the other--from the tall aristocratic blonde Boston dandy--damn it the boy was pure Garrett-- with his impassive slate blue-grey eyes, his neatly barboured hair and his expensive, elegantly tailoured. long skirted jacket the well cut matching pants and totally unsuitable ruffled shirt, then to the shorter, darker and decidedly grubby gunfighter in his faded pink shirt and black leather pants, held up by a wide heavy belt and ostensibly adorned with large silver concho fastenings. He had some sort of medallion on a leather thong around his neck and wore an odd turquoise bracelet on his left wrist. His boots were nearly worn through-but the plain brown gun-belt, with an unusual double buckle, about his trim hips was well cared for and immaculately clean. There was a strange little smile dancing on his lips and his eyes were the most astonishing shade of a very unfriendly blue.
Murdoch Lancer was not accustomed to being left speechless. This was certainly not at all how he had planned these meetings to go. He swallowed the dry lump in his throat and the only word he could think of to say was
'Thank you--no' the blonde dandy said curtly. Murdoch flinched a little at the animosity in the tone. What was that for?
'What about you--you drink don't you?' he turned his attention to the younger man, almost hopefully.
'Not 'til I know the man I'm drinkin' with' now THAT was downright rude and the blue eyes were now full of a fierce and open hostility.
Murdoch thought he needed a drink himself.
'You--' he turned his attention back to the man from Boston, who was standing straight and tall, unbending in more ways than one 'have your mothers eyes' ---dear lord--what a stupid thing to say but it seemed as if the whole scenario had slipped totally beyond his control 'and you' he swung his gaze onto the other one 'have your mothers temper'.