The Prodigal Returns
The writers of Lancer wrote the first scene – the rest is mine.
For those that don't remember Murdoch meets Mrs. Dane in San Francisco and rekindles a friendship with her. She's looking for more – a father for her troubled son. Near the end, Scott goes to read a book, and Johnny goes to town (not to be seen again for the rest of the show). At the end we see Scott driving Mrs. Dane to town. This is what might have happened – off screen. The first section is copied, humbly, from the show.
The Prodigal Returns
"Scott! Scott!" Murdoch read the note again. Scott came in from the kitchen. "Marcy left this note. She said she overheard Jeff and Packer saying they were going to leave from San Francisco in three days on a boat. They've going north along the Ocean Road - she must have gone along with them."
Scott was puzzled and it showed on his face. "Why would she go after them?"
"She says she was going to find some way to pay me back for what Jeff did."
"The Army patrol is headed south."
"You and your brother catch up with that patrol. Tell them what happened and bring them back along the ocean road. I'm going after Jeff and Marcy."
"What are you going to do if you catch up?" They moved to the door, Scott following his father as he wrapped his gun belt around his hips.
"Well, I'll hold them there until you two and the patrol find us." Murdoch put his hat on and pulled open the front door.
Scott headed to the kitchen, where he'd left his jacket. "Right."
Scott headed for town. Johnny had gone the night before and never come home. It wasn't unusual, when he and Murdoch disagreed. He half expected to meet Johnny on the road, on the way home, then they could go together to find the patrol.
He made it all the way to town, constantly wondering if he'd passed some place where Johnny might have turned off to do chores. But when he got to town he saw the Palomino tied to the hitching post in front of the cantina.
He pushed open the batwing doors to see Johnny sitting at a back table playing solitaire. "I thought you'd have headed home by now." Scott pulled a chair out from the table, and rested his foot on the seat and his forearm on his knee. He waited for Johnny to reply, but when he didn't he reached across the table and put a black eight on a red nine.
"I might have gone, I guess, after a game or two."
"Well, we need to head south after an army patrol."
Johnny sighed and pulled a card off the stack in his hand. "What did Jeff do?"
"What makes you think Jeff did anything?"
Johnny snorted and put the card in his discard pile and pulled the next card. The Jack went on a Queen.
"He took off in the night, with the payroll money and Marcy went with him. Murdoch went after them. And wants us to go after the Army. Bring them up the ocean road."
"Ah, the payroll money."
"Johnny, that's not it and you know it." Scott tipped his hat back, trying to read his brother's face, but Johnny kept his head down, presumably studying his cards.
When Johnny finally looked up, and his tone was that butter soft tone that Scott found much more disconcerting than all the raised voices he'd ever heard. "He had more faith in Jeff than he has in me."
"Johnny." Scott closed his eyes.
"No." Johnny cut him off. "You better get going after that patrol, it's heading further south every minute."
Scott shook his head, his lips pursed. "You won't go with me?"
"Fine." Scott shook his head again and stood up straight, shoving the chair back under the table, not caring that it sloshed Johnny's beer.
Scott found the patrol, and
led them over a short cut across the Bar –T ranch and headed north. It was well
into the afternoon when they caught up with Murdoch, Marcy, Jeff and Packer.
Packer was dead. Jeff was sitting on a log, across the remains of a cold fire.
Scott could tell something was wrong, long before he dismounted his horse. Marcy was pacing, wringing her hands, but staying well behind Murdoch, who was holding a pistol on her son. The big man looked worn out, and not from too little sleep. There were worry lines in his face Scott hadn't seen before.
Scott stood back and watched as Lt. Hartford took control of Jeff Dane and had the body of Packer wrapped for transport back to San Francisco. Jeff was still vocal; pleading his innocence, saying it wasn't his fault. After he'd been placed in shackles, Murdoch told his story how Packer had tried to stop Jeff from shooting him and Jeff had fired the gun. The bullet that was meant for him, Packer had taken instead.
Scott stood back, listening
silently. There was pain in his father's voice, something more than the loss of
the son of a friend. In a cloud of dust the Army was gone. Marcy wanted to go
with Jeff, but Lt. Hartford had refused. They would be traveling fast and hard,
with a prisoner in tow, and they were not going to look after a woman.
Scott watched Marcy, her hand clutched to her throat. Scott had seen that look of despair more than once on the faces of mothers as their sons headed off to war. He moved to her side and taking her elbow in his hand he led her to her horse, helping her mount. They would head home. There was nothing for her here.
Scott drove the wagon taking Mrs. Dane to town, the fare for the stage to San Francisco tucked in his pocket. Johnny still wasn't home and it nagged at him. The two of them were silent on the ride. It wasn't unexpected. He knew she blamed him, to some extent, for Jeff's imprisonment. He was the one that had brought the Army.
But Scott remained courteous,
making small talk and securing her bags to the top of the stage. He waited at
the stage stop with her.
"You will tell Murdoch how sorry I am." There was a catch in her voice, but she wasn't going to cry. She was cried out.
"He knows, ma'am. He understands."
"I wish I did." Her skirts rustled as she allowed him to give her a hand up into the stage. Minutes later she was gone.
Scott slapped his gloves against his thigh and made a beeline for the cantina. Johnny was still there, only now the card game was poker instead of solitaire.
"I need to talk to you." Scott had his head very close to his brother's, whispering in his ear.
"I'm busy." Johnny raised the pot by fifty cents. The clink of coins went around the table.
"I'm sure these gentlemen won't mind if you sit out this hand."
"I don't want to sit out the hand." Johnny raised another dime.
"I can't blame you," Scott leaned over and took of sip of Johnny's warm beer. "I wouldn't want to throw in two pair either."
Every other player at the table folded.
Scott smiled and pulled back Johnny's chair. "Join me outside?"
Johnny tossed his cards on the table, settled his hat on his head and gestured for Scott to go first.
"Oh no, after you." Scott took another healthy swig of the beer before he nodded to the other men at the table.
The street was glaringly hot and noisy after the dim coolness of the cantina.
"Your absence at the ranch was keenly felt." Scott leaned against an overhang post.
"Yeah, well, it's gonna be felt for a bit longer."
Johnny turned away, looking out at the street.
"Look, I know that you're angry, but when are you coming home?"
"I don't know. When I'm not angry any more."
"Johnny," Scott shook his head, trying to think how his brother's mind was working. "You two need to talk this out, Johnny. And do you really want to do it here? With the whole town looking on, knowing our business."
"So, you have to come home. Come on home with me."
Johnny nodded. "Let me get my winnings."
Scott gave him a pat on the shoulder. "I'll get your horse."
Murdoch was aware that the house was noticeably absent of people. The help were outside or off on errands. Teresa had a "visit" to make to a friend. Scott took Johnny's horse and with a none-too-subtle shove sent his brother into the house.
"You're back." Murdoch stated the obvious.
"I want an apology." Johnny said bluntly, but his eyes were down, the toe of his boot nudging the edging of a rug.
Murdoch pursed his lips, his ire raising. "An apology for what?"
"That I know more about Jeff Dane and his type than you do."
Murdoch frowned. He knew what Johnny wanted, but he didn't feel he was in the wrong. "I'm sorry that you know that type better than I do, Johnny."
Johnny snorted at the twisting of his meaning and slapped his hand against his thigh. "You didn't have faith in my judgement."
"I have plenty of faith in your judgement, Johnny." Murdoch growled. He hated having his words tossed back at him. "I just wanted to believe in Jeff, is that so wrong?"
Johnny turned his back and tossed his hat onto one of the blue wing back chairs. He knew the minute he'd done it, it was a bad idea. He'd tossed the hat brim down. Bad luck. He went over and got it, quickly setting it on its crown. The idle thought of bad luck broke his mood. He wasn't angry any more, just disappointed. He just wasn't sure if it was with himself or his father. "I just want to hear that I was right about Jeff."
Murdoch sighed. "You know you were right, son." He could see Johnny deflate before his eyes. It was a hollow victory. "Was I right?"
Johnny turned, quizzically searching his father's face.
Murdoch fingered the edge of his desk. "Did anyone have faith in you?"
Johnny nodded, resigned to the answer. "Yes, there were more than a few. Some of them for no good reason."
"I don't believe that, Johnny." Murdoch leaned back against the desk, crossing one ankle over the other and crossing his arms over his chest. "You don't have that "soft, slip-away look" do you? You've never had it."
Johnny tipped his head to one side, thinking the answer over. "I don't know. Maybe."
"No." Murdoch shook his head. "Jeff was born that way and you know it."
"I know some like Jeff were born that way, some change." Johnny was uncomfortable with the turn of conversation. "I felt like suddenly I didn't know you."
"Because I hadn't told you about Marcy?"
"Yeah," Johnny drawled and then added a smile. "Scott says it's only fair, cuz I don't tell you about all my girlfriends in Morro Coyo, but …"
"You think I don't know about them? Marilee and Suzanne and what's that new one named? Bridget?
Johnny snorted a laugh. "Brigitte."
"But I wasn't thinking of being reined in by any of them."
"I'm sure that they are all disappointed."
"What's going to happen with Mrs. Dane now?"
"She's gone to be with her son through the trial."
"And you?" Johnny was almost afraid of the answer.
"And me?" Murdoch thought about both the question and the answer. "Scott answered that question before, but you didn't. Are you worried that I might be serious enough to marry again?"
"Maybe I'm not really ready for a new mama."
Murdoch smiled. "I'll be sure to let you know before I propose, okay."
"All right." Johnny shrugged, still feeling a knot of tension in his stomach. He was looking down at the floor and didn't hear his father come over. He did feel the warm hand on his shoulder.
"My family is big enough, for now, and I'm not ready to be reined in by a woman just yet."
"All right." Johnny nodded again, believing it this time.
"Good, now get back to work, before I dock your pay."
Johnny turned to go, picking
up his hat.
"Johnny," Murdoch called and Johnny turned back. "I'm sorry you think I didn't trust your judgement. I just didn't want to believe it."
"I can understand that. I'm sorry I was right." Johnny twirled his hat in his hand. "I'll get going." He went out the front, headed for the barn.
Scott came in from the hallway
by the kitchen and watched Murdoch for just a moment. Their eyes met and Murdoch
nodded. Scott had been right, again, and he was man enough to admit it.
Scott slipped out the front door, following his brother to the barn.
"Did I tell you it wasn't about the money?" Scott watched as Johnny sorted through some loose tack, hanging bridles on pegs on the wall.
"Yes, big brother, you were right, as always."
"I like the sound of those words," Scott grinned. "Say it again."
"No, I'm not saying it again. You're head is big enough as it is." Johnny tossed a bit at Scott who caught it deftly, putting it in a bin with others.
"I can't help it. Smart and handsome is just my lot in life."
"Next thing I throw at you won't be a bit." Johnny chuckled. "I didn't think he'd apologize."
"You didn't think he had old flames, either."
"Shut up," Johnny groused, but his words had no venom.
Scott took that good advice and grabbed a shovel. Minutes later they both dug in cleaning stalls. Scott was glad the right Prodigal son was back where he belonged.