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Summary: A missing scene and a What Happened Next for The Lawman.
The shouting roused Johnny from the half-doze he had fallen into. The book Teresa had brought him to cure his boredom was not enough to take his mind off his current situation, and had led him to just wanting to sleep. Maybe it would make the time go faster and he’d stop worrying about his family out there tracking Evans.
It was Teresa screaming Scott’s name that had him bolting off the bunk and slamming against the door in his panic. Gripping the bars in the window, Johnny willed someone – anyone - to enter the guardhouse and tell him what he suspected wasn’t true.
He was still startled when the outer door opened and Barker shuffled in, head down, his subdued demeanor solidifying all Johnny’s suspicions into a dead certainty; he didn’t need to see Frank’s hold on Barker’s arm to know the lawman had been found out.
The implacable expressions Frank and Walt wore shifted Johnny’s private panic into a deep-seated dread. Walt slipped by Frank and Barker to flip the latch and open Johnny’s prison door.
Johnny stepped out as Barker was led in, but he ignored the Sheriff. His eyes remained on the ranch hands, a silent demand for an explanation that neither seemed eager to give. When the cell-door closed, Frank met Johnny’s gaze.
“Evans ambushed your brother. Got ‘em in the shoulder and he hit his head pretty good. Still out as far as I know, but he doesn’t seem to be hurt bad. Evans is dead.”
It was enough.
“Johnny?” Barker’s voice stopped him mid stride and Johnny looked over his shoulder at the face framed in the window. And felt nothing but fury because he knew Barker played a part in this. Maybe he hadn’t shot Scott, but Barker’s actions led to it. Of that Johnny was certain.
Barker backed away and Johnny sprinted out the door and didn’t stop running until he was at his brother’s bedroom door. One hand grasping the frame, he watched as Murdoch removed Scott’s shirt, his large hands efficient and quick. When Teresa moved to lift Scott, Johnny nudged her aside and caught his brother up by the shoulders: Felt his forearm become damp and knew it to be his brother’s blood.
Scott’s head lolled away from him, and Johnny spotted the bruise peeking out from under his hairline. He stuffed the urge down hard to return to the guardhouse and give Barker a few bruises of his own. Evans was beyond his reach and had already paid. Barker was not, but he looked at his father’s face and let it die.
Never was easy to have an old friend turn out to be something else.
Scott came to after he was bandaged and everyone except Johnny had left the room.
Johnny leaned over him and spoke in a low voice knowing his brother’s head had to ache.
“Evans bushwhacked you. He’s dead. Barker is in the guardhouse and everyone is all right.”
Scott swallowed and his hand tapped Johnny’s thigh in acknowledgement.
“Go to sleep.”
His brother’s hand slipped from his leg and Johnny tucked it under the blanket.
Scott was more than ready to see Barker, in shackles, riding away from Lancer.
How had a simple visit from Murdoch’s old friend resulted in Johnny taking the blame for murdering a lawman and Scott shot off his horse? It had also brought back a host of doubts about Murdoch’s motivations for asking--or was bribing a more accurate description--Johnny and himself to come to Lancer.
Murdoch had offered Barker part of Lancer, which indicated to Scott that he had given up on seeing either of sons again. What if Barker had taken him up on the offer when it was given, rather than waiting years? Would Murdoch still have summoned his sons?
“I need to catch up on the ledgers; I’ll see you at dinner. Scott, you should rest.” And Murdoch headed off to his desk.
Scott turned to Johnny to see if he could glean what his brother might be thinking, but didn’t find the younger man behind him. Glancing out the door, he could see Johnny was still watching the lawmen and Barker riding off. Unable to deny his curiosity, Scott headed back outside.
Johnny swung his head to look at him at a canted angle. “You ever wonder, Scott?”
The cryptic question shouldn’t have made sense, and wouldn’t have if Scott hadn’t been in the same frame of mind. “All the time, Johnny. More so since Barker showed up.”
“I know Murdoch believed I didn’t kill that lawman, but he trusted Barker; trusted the badge. You didn’t.”
“No, I didn’t. Neither did you.”
“Yeah, but I’ve had reason not to, past and present. What’s your excuse?”
“No excuse.” Scott shrugged and regretted it. “I just didn’t. He felt wrong to me when he was protesting your innocence. Too much… bluster, I guess.”
The both looked back to the small specks that were three horses and their riders.
“Get the feelin’ that everyone wants a chunk of Lancer and would prefer that we weren’t here. Keeps a man lookin’ over his shoulder.”
Scott settled his gaze back on Johnny. “When Murdoch introduced me to Barker, he said it was nice that I had come for a visit. That was the first time I had admitted I was staying here. Murdoch said we had always been family; it’s just that now we are all together. I’ve never thought of it that way.”
“Still can’t see it that way.”
Johnny looked back to the now empty horizon. “Agree with you there. Spent too much time hatin’ the man to think of him as missin’ family. Since I didn’t know about you, well, you couldn’t be a thought.”
“We have both of those in common, Brother.”
“Think we had plenty of reasons to doubt him, Scott.”
“I’m not sure that has changed.” Scott resettled his arm in the sling, the incessant throbbing fueling his troubled mood.
“Murdoch didn’t want me to run, and he knew I didn’t want to run. I’m not sure how he knew.”
“He knew you didn’t have anything to run from. I have to give Murdoch credit for that. He wasn’t sure about you when we were up against Pardee, but he wasn’t about to doubt you again.”
Johnny gave Scott a wry smile. “I’ll give him reason to in the future.”
“Quid pro quo?”
Johnny’s grin grew. “Maybe.”
Scott matched the grin before it faded away. “He’s going to help Barker. At the risk of sounding like a petulant child, I have a hard time with that considering the man framed you for murder and was indirectly responsible for me being shot.”
Johnny nodded. “Chafes a bit.”
“Like a full day in the saddle.”
“I think it’s goin’ to take us awhile before we understand Murdoch.” Johnny glanced behind him to see Murdoch sitting at his desk through one of the glass paned doors. Looking down at his feet, he scuffed the ground with his boot. “Thanks for standing by me.”
Scott smiled again. “Easy to do.”