Listen To Me!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve always wondered what made Teresa so sure Johnny was coming back to Lancer – to “them” – rather than leading Day Pardee and his men in against them. She couldn’t have thought too highly of Johnny’s moral conduct after he let Scott be beaten in town by Pardee’s men. So, what happened to, seemingly, make her change her mind about Johnny and be so sure he was coming back to Lancer? Maybe it was just the foolish hope of a young girl wanting things to work out for Murdoch with his sons. Or, maybe it was something else—like this, perhaps…..
(A WHIB FOR “THE HIGH RIDERS” PILOT EPISODE)
Based on the TV Western Series – LANCER
“Is that what you think of me?” Johnny said.
“I don’t know what to think of you,” Murdoch replied.
“Think what you like,” Johnny replied, and brushed past Murdoch.
“Damn that old man,” Johnny fumed just barely enough under his breath to keep Murdoch from hearing him. He strode through the house toward the kitchen. “Doesn’t have a clue who I am and doesn’t want one. Well, screw him.” He silenced abruptly at the sight of the girl, Teresa, working at the kitchen table. She was busy rolling what looked like bandages, obviously preparing for the upcoming battle.
“Is there something you wanted?” Teresa asked, censure for Johnny in her voice, as she continued with her chore. She hadn’t forgiven Johnny for his failure to come to Scott’s aid in town. Now, Scott had gone to set his trap for Pardee, and, again, Johnny had failed—in her eyes—to come to Scott’s aid.
Johnny stared at Teresa a moment, in his mind’s eye seeing the farmer and his family dead at Pardee’s hands. The farmer had been hung and his wife…. Well, Johnny didn’t want to think about what she had suffered at the hands of Pardee’s men before being killed. Johnny knew this girl would fare no better—probably worse—if Day Pardee won this upcoming battle. Johnny shook his head, then realized the girl would probably misunderstand. He looked back the way he had just come, seeing Murdoch and hearing his words again. But, Johnny knew he couldn’t let his problems with Murdoch get the best of him right now. Too much was at stake. “I need to talk to you a minute,” Johnny said to Teresa.
“I’m busy,” Teresa replied, beginning to roll another bandage. “Besides, shouldn’t you be out with Scott?”
“Look! This is important, all right?” Johnny said, his anger barely under control. First Murdoch wouldn’t listen, now this girl. Wouldn’t anyone listen to him?
Teresa stopped what she was doing, defiantly looking at Johnny. “As important as when I asked you to help Scott in town? As important as helping him now?”
Johnny bowed his head, his hands going to his hips, and he sighed. Then, he raised his head and spoke. “I ain’t got time to go into those things right now, Teresa. You know this thing with Pardee ain’t over yet. When it is, you can spend a whole day yelling at me if you want. Right now, I need you to listen to me. Will ya do that?”
Teresa looked into Johnny’s eyes. What was there frightened her, but, strangely, Johnny himself did not. She came around to his side of the table to stand in front of him. “What is it that’s so important?”
Johnny wanted to roll his eyes in exasperation. Didn’t any of them appreciate what was at stake? Didn’t any of them understand that he wasn’t the enemy? Instead, he got to the point. “The ol’ man don’t want to hear me out, and I don’t have time to argue with him. Scott’s gone to set a trap for Pardee.”
“Yes, I know,” Teresa interrupted, her impatience clear.
Johnny allowed himself a brief roll of his eyes before saying, “It’s a good plan,” he acknowledged. “Scott don’t need me right now. But, I know Day Pardee. He won’t be as easy to lead into that trap as Scott and the ol’ man think. That is, unless someone he trusts leads him in. That would be me. In case I don’t make it….”
Teresa interruped again. “No, Johnny! Don’t even think like that!” She was appalled by the turn his thoughts were taking, and her fear for him compelled her to speak out.
Johnny smiled. “Never had anyone care about Johnny Madrid before,” he said. Teresa tremulously smiled at him, her fear still in the forefront. “Well, anyway, right now the ol’ man thinks I’ve turned traitor. Me showing up with Pardee will only make it worse. Make sure you set the record straight in case I can’t. Will you do that for me, Teresa?”
“I will, Johnny. I promise,” Teresa vowed.
Johnny reached behind him, producing a small handgun from his waistband. His hide-away gun. He cradled it a moment in his hands, wondering if he should give it to the girl. If things went as planned, he wouldn’t need it, but this girl might. He took Teresa’s right hand in his left and put the gun in it. “You stay with Murdoch and Scott until the last. They’ll protect you best as they can. Like I said, Scott has a good plan. But, if Pardee somehow manages to win this thing, you use this before…..” Johnny’s voice trailed off as he found himself unable to speak the words to this innocent girl. Instead, he said, “It’s small, but will do the job. Understand?” Teresa’s eyes were huge with the knowledge of what Johnny was telling her to do. “Promise me?” Johnny insisted.
Teresa looked at the small gun again and back at Johnny. Nodding slowly, she said in a small voice. “I promise.” Johnny turned again to leave. “Johnny!” Teresa called out to him. He turned to look at her. “Vaya con Dios.”
“Gracias,” Johnny replied, and was gone.