Based on the TV Western Series – LANCER
NOTE: This is an alternate reality Lancer story. In it, Scott has been sent by Murdock to meet with Johnny Madrid and ask him to come to Lancer and help in the fight against Day Pardee. I wrote the story this way to accomplish a challenge I set for myself—and you! I have written as many titles of western television shows into this story as I could. Now, there were some—like Sky King—that I did not try to include because, after all, an airplane! Really! And, some were about persons that were not contemporaries of the Lancers. So, before you look up a list of the television westerns, see what you can find. BTW, I used the list from Wikipedia.
The tall man entered the cantina and strode to the bar. “Do you have anything cool to drink?” he asked. The stranger definitely looked out of place in the small bordertown.
The loner, sitting in the far corner where he had a view of both the front and back doors of the cantina while keeping his back to the wall, assessed the stranger without seeming to pay any attention to him at all. The stranger definitely wasn’t a lawman or a gunslinger. He looked more like a sugarfoot, one of those fancy easterners who had lost everything in the war and had come into the west to make a new legacy for themselves. The loner was about to dismiss the stranger when the bartender directed him to his table.
“Mr. Madrid?” The man asked.
“Who wants to know?” Johnny Madrid replied.
“The name is Lancer, Scott Lancer,” the stranger replied. “Mind if I sit down?”
“Easier than me looking up at you,” Johnny said, kicking out a chair. “Tequila?” he asked as Scott sat down.
“No, thank you. I’ll stay with my beer,” Scott replied, taking a sip of the tepid drink. “You’re a hard man to track down, Mr. Madrid. We’ve been looking for you just about everywhere except the Dakotas—Laramie, Laredo, the Tombstone Territory, Cheyenne, even Cimmaron City in the Cimmaron Strip. You name it, we’ve searched there.”
“Well, you didn’t search here, did you? And, who’s ‘we’?” Johnny asked.
“My father, Murdoch Lancer. He hired a former state trooper from Nevada—a man named Tate-- to find you. He got word from the marshal of Gunsight Pass, a man named Nichols, that you’d recently been in that area. Even then, it was hard to find out where you’d gone from there. But, then, my father is a very determined man and made sure Tate knew it.”
“Well, your man Tate couldn’t have travelled to all of those places, now could he? Hell, I ain’t old enough to have been to half of them anyway. I don’t have a notion where half of them are—except Gunsight Pass. I was there about a month ago. Seems like your old man has gone to a lot of trouble to find me, though. You want to tell me what all the fuss is about?” Johnny inquired.
“Let me give you some background so it will make sense. My father came from Boston—that’s back east—about twenty-five years ago with just my mother and a dream. There was no stagecoach west then. The Red Ryder steam engine of the iron horse of the Union Pacific railroad wasn’t even a dream yet. My father didn’t want to travel to St. Louis and take a wagon train west. Instead, my parents set their two faces west by taking a ship to the Texas territory, the port town of Galveston. From there, they took an overland trail. It was rough for the young pioneers. Frontier country with Indians attacking wagon trains. There was one—Brave Eagle—who was especially savage to the Americans who came into his territory. The road west for my parents, fortunately, skirted his territory. When they arrived in California, my father wasted no time setting out to build his empire. The Californians were not too hospitable at first. But, Murdoch soon discovered land available in the wilds of eastern California—the San Joaquin Valley. He claimed as much as he could with the monies my mother had available from a family trust. So, Murdoch had his land and stock. Then, the unthinkable happened. My mother died giving birth to me. It devastated Murdoch.” Scott paused in his narration to take another sip of his beer.
Johnny had patiently listened up until now, but it was getting late in the afternoon and more patrons were entering the cantina. Johnny didn’t like crowds, especially when he was conducting business. He cleared his throat and said, “You know, Lancer, this is all very interesting, this family history of yours. But, what has it got to do with me? I’m no bronco buster, or wrangler, and I don’t chase rawhide for a living. Now, I’ve been known to throw the rounders from time-to-time if I don’t think I’ll hurt my gun hand, but, mostly, I mind my own business unless I’m being paid to use this.” Johnny quickly pulled his Colt .45 and just as quickly returned it to its holster.
“Besides which,” Johnny continued, “I know a lot about your old man, Lancer. He’s sort of a legend, the way he fought off Mackenzie’s raiders years ago. I know all about his hitting the bonanza and setting up his little paradise, too, in the big valley. I’ve heard that he knows how to dispense his own brand of frontier justice. So, what’s a man like him doing looking for me?”
Scott hoped his surprise at Madrid’s extensive knowledge of his father’s business enterprise didn’t show on his face. “If you know so much, maybe you also know that the San Joaquin is again the target of another land grab. It started about a year or so ago with some small raids on some of the most southern ranches. Rustling, mostly, and only a few head from each of the ranches hit. They’ve been getting bolder, though, moving farther north, and more aggressive. At first, the ranches were too small and remote to be able to get any help to them before the raiders were gone. The targets are getting bigger, and the resistance heavier. It won’t be long before Lancer starts to feel the pressure. We’ve already lost some neighbors—the Chisolms, the Monroes, the young Maverick family, and a few others. My father is already starting to lose some of the cowboys. Mostly married men with families to consider. He needs help. He needs you.”
Johnny looked at Scott, a slight smile on his face giving way to a chuckle. Then, serious, he asked. “Why me? I work alone. I don’t even have a Pancho working with me, like the Cisco Kid.”
“Who?” Scott asked, perplexed.
“Cisco. He’s sort of a bandit fellow south of here. He usually takes a little something from the rich patrons and spreads it around,” Johnny explained.
“Sort of like Robin Hood,” Scott rejoined.
“If you say so,” Johnny replied. “Anyway…. Believe me, Lancer, when I say it will take more than me and any of the young riders left of your father’s hands to stop Day Pardee and his men if old Day is set on taking Lancer.”
“You seem to know a lot about the situation,” Scott answered, his face getting a guarded look.
“Well, I can read, Lancer. There’s a right good little newspaper nearby run by a man named Jefferson Drum. Calls his paper The Virginian. Seems he came here from Virginia following your war up there. Didn’t like your Union winning it all and decided to put down new roots here for his family. His son, Shane, knew Bret Maverick—the one that pulled up roots when Day got too close. And, it’s my job to know what’s going on and where. It’s how I make my living, remember? Besides, Day already offered me a part in all of it. I turned him down,” Johnny revealed.
“May I ask why you turned Pardee down,” Scott inquired.
“Sure, Boston. I’m not interested in any dead man’s walk,” Johnny replied, while signaling to the barkeep. “Bring me and my friend here a couple of them big juicy steaks and the trimmings, Jose.”
“Thank you, Mr. Madrid,” Scott acknowledged.
“Call me Johnny, Boston. And, don’t thank me. Your daddy is buying,” Johnny smugly announced.
“You may call me Scott. And, does this mean you’re taking the job?” Scott asked. Johnny nodded. “Why Murdoch and not Pardee? I mean, you don’t seem to think much of our chances against him.”
Johnny sobered. “That’s true, Boston,” he replied, ignoring the slight wince Scott gave when Johnny used the nickname he had bestowed on Scott. “But, your old man has some vacqueros who’ve been there all their lives, I bet. Married or not, young or old, their loyalty is to the patron and the land. They won’t leave. And, Day has some nasty people riding with him. He can count on the guns of Will Sonnet, Yancy Derringer who likes close up killing, the rifleman Hec Ramsey, Johnny Ringo, a man called Shenandoah who rode in your war (no one knows his real name), and a couple who use the alias Smith and Jones. They’re a pair wanted across the west. Their real names, as far as anyone knows, are Hondo and Redigo. The sheriff of Cochise County would give a king’s ransom to get them for the murder of the man from Blackhawk. He was a small time rancher—a man without a gun. When he hadn’t been seen in a while, the sheriff rode out to check on him. Smith and Jones had tortured him to death. And, what they’d done to his wife…. Well, the sheriff never said. The deputy quit the same day they found them.”
A look of cold fury crossed Johnny’s face for an instant before his features became closed again. “Day Pardee has all the outcasts of the wild, wild west riding with him, Scott. They’re all a bunch of outlaws. Everyone of them is wanted—dead or alive—some place or another. How do you think your father’s guns of paradise are going to do against them? Most of them probably haven’t shot anything more deadly than a snake. They’ll go against Pardee and his gang holding a dead man’s gun.”
“If that’s how you feel, why are you taking the job?” Scott asked.
“Good question, Boston. But, everyone’s got to die sometime,” Johnny replied.
“That’s a pretty pessimistic attitude for a gunfighter, isn’t it?” Scott inquired.
“Not really, when you consider the type of frontier doctor we have around these parts. Mostly, I fix myself up. Believe me, it ain’t pretty,” Johnny flippantly replied.
“From what I’ve heard, you’re practically a legend yourself, Madrid,” Scott said.
“I can tell you’ve been reading all those dime novels out there, Boston, on how the west was won. Penny dreadful like “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Adventures of Jim Bowie,” the Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok,” “The Legend of Jesse James,” or “The Adventures of Kit Carson.” What about The Adventures of Lariat Sam”? Ever read that one? I bet not, since I just made it up,” Johnny teased.
Scott laughed. “I can see I wouldn’t be the only one reading them,” he admitted.
“Well, when you’re holed up some place, you have to have something to do, you know,” Johnny admitted with a smile.
“Seriously, though, Johnny, my father’s men may surprise you. At least 26 men served in the war on one side or the other. And, I may have been schooled back east—your Boston moniker is quite correct—but I’ve seen my share of gunsmoke, too. I served in the war with Custer of F Troop under General Sheridan’s command. We were among the rough riders of the Shenandoah with the Rebel army hot on our trail. Also, a couple of my father’s men rode for the Pony Express through Apache country. They’re not all just the range rider you hear about, pushing cows all day among the high chapparel.” Scott’s voice was proud as he related the experience of his father’s men.
Johnny sounded exasperated as he replied, “And I’m not just the restless gun looking for some action in the afternoon—a have gun-will travel type. So, now that we’ve settled who’s the best of the west, let’s talk terms, Boston. I don’t come cheap. And, I always want half up front.” Johnny was all business now.
“I’m not prepared to negotiate a fee, Johnny. My father will do that. However, I am authorized to offer you $1,000 to have you meet with him and assess the situation,” Scott explained.
Johnny gave a low whistle. “Why didn’t you say so, Boston? We could have saved a lot of time and trouble on the quest your daddy set out for you. You have it on you?”
“I may not be the westerner you fancy yourself to be, Madrid, but I’m not stupid, either. My father provided a down payment of $200 plus I’m to pay your expenses on the trip to Lancer. He felt that would be sufficient for now,” Scott stated.
“It’ll do. It’ll do. No choice really, though, is there?” Johnny arose. “We still have some good daylight. We might as well get started on the trail, unless your horse needs more rest,” Johnny suggested.
“He’s a livery horse I hired at the last town north of here, but he seems quite dependable. Despite any tales of Wells Fargo you may have heard, their line doesn’t run too far south of the border, and a hired horse was the only means of getting here,” Scott said as he followed Johnny outside.
“This him?” Johnny asked, pointing to a buckskin at the rail in front of the cantina. Scott nodded. “What town?”
“Destry,” Scott answered.
Johnny snorted. “That old broken down boomtown? I thought it was mostly deadwood by now.”
“According to the man on the stage riding shotgun, Slade, there are still a couple of working mines in the region. So, Wells Fargo still operates a line there for payroll and to transport small amounts of ore,” Scott explained.
“That so? I wonder if my old friend, Temple Houston, still operates the Hotel de Paree there then?” Johnny mused.
“A French-named hotel in Mexico?” Scott was astonished.
“Not quite. Destry is just over the border. But, don’t forget, the French once ruled Mexico,” Johnny corrected him.
“You’re quite right. I had forgotten,” Scott apologized.
“Temple was once a Texas ranger—the lone ranger I felt I could trust. He could sure tell tales of the Texas rangers. Strangely enough, he started out a riverboat gambler on the Mississippi, he said, before trying his luck on the Barbary Coast. That place is a real walk on the wildside according to Temple. Anyway, from what he says, no one has good luck there. He and a friend got mixed up with some of the wrong bunch and his friend was killed. Temple started tracking them all the way to Texas. He got them all and signed on with the rangers. Stayed with them for a good while, then got shot up and decided to call it quits and run the hotel,” Johnny explained.
“Just how many of your acquaintances are a western marshal or Texas ranger?” Scott joked.
“Don’t forget doctors, when I can find them,” Johnny jokingly replied.
“Well, I don’t know if your Texas ranger friend still owns it, but the hotel is still there—the only one in town, in fact. I spent a night there. I was pleasantly surprised,” Scott informed Johnny.
“Sounds like Temple still owns it, then,” Johnny said. “Now, then, Boston, give me that $200. I’ll go see Father Murphy, then get my horse and we’ll be on our way.”
“Now you know a priest! An Irish one at that, by the sound of it. You really intrigue me, Madrid. I get the feeling you’re not quite the maverick you’d have me believe,” Scott commented as he handed over the envelope with the $200.
“The priest is the closest thing to a bank here, Boston. Whether he’s Irish or not, I have no clue. He’s Catholic. That’s good enough for me,” Johnny said, grinning. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
About twenty minutes later Scott saw Johnny riding toward him. He gave an admiring whistle at the showy palomino sporting a black saddle and halter adorned in silver. The fender of the saddle was branded with a curlicue “M” outlined in silver.
“Nice rig,” Scott complimented Johnny. “But, doesn’t it get you a lot of, perhaps unwanted, attention? I mean, all of that silver.”
“Horses, boots, and saddles,” Johnny replied. At Scott’s perplexed look, he explained. “They’re important enough here in the west to get a man hanged who dares to steal any one of them. Besides, I can protect my own.” He gestured to Scott. “Saddle up, Boston. Let’s get going. Time is a wasting. If we don’t hurry, Day will own Lancer when we get there and I’ll lose that $800 your old man still owes me.”
As though they were one, they turned their horses north and headed to the San Joaquin.