Jumping to Conclusions
(The customary disclaimers apply to this little story)
Johnny--as was not so very unusual, was overdue.
His last words, as he had jogged sedately through the Lancer arch, had been a casual 'Adios' and Murdoch had re-iterated-for about the fiftieth time 'See you on Thurdsday' and Johnny had waved and departed. Scott--who, unlike his father, rarely expected the 'expected' of his 'little brother'--had merely shaken his head over this. If Johnny was back in four days he'd eat his new (and expensive) Stetson hat.
It was now Saturday-the hat was safe and Murdoch was on the fret--verging on the fume-bandying words like 'unreliable' and 'irresponsible' about the place.
The telegram--quite a long one, and addressed to Scott, arrived on the Monday. By which time Murdoch had moved on from fret and fume to downright angry.
Scott-re-reading his brothers telegram, decided that this time at least, he was going to teach his unreasonable sire a lesson.
'Johnny's in a town called Spotsville' he volunteered, interrupting yet another tirade about his brothers unsuitability to be a partner in the Lancer enterprise etc etc. 'he's--er--had a bit of a run in with the law there'.
'You mean he's in jail' Murdoch snapped.
'Er-well--you might say that' Scott admitted reluctantly.
'And does he say WHY?'
Scott pretended to re-read his telegram-which he knew already, word for word.
'Something about a stage holdup'
'Johhny held up the STAGE!!!' Murdoch yelped. 'why in heavens name would he want to do a thing like that'
'I dont think he held it up exactly-not by himself--but he does seem to have gotten involved--------------'
'Let me see that--' the rancher reached out for the telegram, but Scott refolded it into his pocket.
'Its addressed to ME' he said irritably. 'if he'd wanted you to see it, he would have addressed it to you. Anyway--he can't get home yet awhiles. He's waiting for the circuit judge'.
'He'll need a lawyer--Scott--I need to get over to Spotsville immediately'
'Yes sir-I think you do-and I think I'd better come with you'
One of the reason Spotsville might have been called Spotsville was because it was very small--a mere spot on the map. The other reason was because it had been named for the biggest of its few stores--which belonged to a man called Spotts--and someone, somewhere, couldn't spell it properly when they raised the original sign.
It met with Scotts approval though. It was neat and tidy and well maintained, with properly raised sidewalks to its several streets, painted houses with curtained windows, a well run livery stable, several stores, two saloons, three hotels, two of which served meals, a courthouse and a tidy white painted sheriffs office with a sign . 'Sheriffs Office. James Ashcott presiding ' in one of its shining windows.
Murdoch had spent the journey over getting more and more het up and annoyed about the whole affair, threatening to let the 'law take its course' and letting Johnny be sent to prison rather than pay any fines and generally being as unreasonable as he could be. Scott, pointing out reasonably, that they hadn't heard his brothers side of the story yet and that there might be a very good reason for Johnny having become involved in a stage-coach hold up, was accused, rather unfairly, of 'encouraging' his brother in his wildness and when he protested that he had had nothing to do with it--hadn't been any where near Spotsville or its stage-coach hold up, was told that 'it was always the same' and that Johnny could get away with blue murder as far as he, Scott was concerned and he would always defend him.
Spotsville looked peaceable and law-abiding as the the father and son rode into town. Scott took the horses to the livery stable and said he would see about getting a room-or two-in one of the hotels and that he would meet his father in the sheriffs office as soon as possible.
Murdoch, champing angrily, strode off to this civic amenity, where he expected to find his son incarcerated -and where he also expected a very good explanation for it as well.
The sheriffs office was as neat and tidy within as was the little town without. It consisted of a lockable gun cabinet, containing three rifles, a scatter-gun and two Colts, a large desk, several chairs, a tall cabinet of drawers and blue and yellow curtains at its very clean windows.
At least it seemed that for once Johnny had managed to get himself locked up in fairly (relatively) salubrious surroundings. No doubt the cells would be as clean and neat as everything else.
There was no-one immediately in sight as Murdoch marched in through the blue painted door so, being an impatient man, he hollered for attention.
'Be right there' someone obliged, from out the back. Then some footsteps and a man stepped towards the door that led out of the tidy office to the rear. He was young and compactly made, and at first glance he reminded the rancher of Johnny himself, with his untidy dark hair, broad shoulders encased in a bright shirt and trim hips, girt about with a plain brown gunbelt. On his chest glinted one of the new silver stars that now denoted an officially sworn in and legal lawman.
'My names Murdoch Lancer--I'm looking for -----------' he began, then the words died on his lips as the young man came into the full light of the neat little office --and he stood there, open mouthed and speechless, silently mouthing the word that was printed on the silver badge.
The door opened behind him and Scott strode on in.
'Afternoon little brother' he said, cheerfully, to Spotsville's temporary deputy.