The house truly was empty of human occupation. Even
the kitchen. He knew that his father and brother had ridden out together to look
at some problem with a collapsed bridge and that Theresa and Maria had gone
'shopping', into Spanish Wells, with the escort of one of the long-term and
trusted regular hands--so he now had the house to himself.
He himself was supposed to be doing what he called 'barn chores' as he was under
doctors orders to stay out of the saddle for a few days. Fuss--fuss--fuss. He
had been 'in the saddle' when he had been more than half-dead-with bullet
wounds, knife wounds, broken ribs---but because he had merely dislocated his
collar bone (and he had managed not to tell anyone how he had done this either)
he had been doctored and medicated and even fitted out with a sling--which he
had now carefully removed. It now hung on the hall stand, along with his hat,
spurs and gun belt. He didn't need any of those items for what he had to do at
He had checked carefully-looked into the kitchen and the wash-house and even the
back-house, checked his fathers study, peeked into the bedrooms and called aloud
twice, before he was assured that he really did have the big hacienda to
He could not do this if there was anyone else there.
He did in fact feel a little bit guilty-a bit sneaky-about it--
but Murdoch found out he was bound to be furious-// We need to talk about this
John//-his least favourite group of words in all the world--he thought he might
actually prefer 'Ready-aim-fire' from a firing squad sergeant, in some Mexican
prison or even the challenge of a harsh 'Madrid-thought you were dead' with its
implied threat of course, that he might well be, very shortly, on some border
town street, to those 'talks' that took place in Murdochs study, with his angry
And Scott??--well-he wasn't sure about Scott--but he would probably be very
disappointed in him//what on earth were you thinking off brother// if he found
him out in this. Worse--he might even be sympathetic and understanding.
Sometimes his big brothers 'understanding' was even harder to deal with than the
Old Mans lectures. Scott was everything he had ever wanted in a 'big' brother of
course--but just sometimes--a bit too much so.
As for Theresa-she would be horrified. He could hear her outraged tones in his
head, even now.
'Johnny Lancer--what do you think you are doing' she would shriek--and
frankly-he would not have a good answer.
However--for some reason that he could not rationalise--even knowing that these
three people who cared about him so much, would heartily disapprove of his
actions--he simply HAD to do this thing.
With one last furtive glance about him, he ran up the stairs. He paused at the
top and gave another cautious glance about him. It was alright--there was no-one
about. If he was gonna do this thing--then he had to do it. Now!!.
He ran a hand over the shiny polished knob on the newel post, then stroked the
wide wooden rail that bounded the stairway.
Then-catching his breath, he placed both hands onto the newel knob, slung his
left leg over the polished wood, found his balance and let go his hands. It was
out of his control now. He pushed off--and, with a whoop and a holler, Johnny
Lancer-aged nineteen and a half-- slid backwards down the bannister.