(A Missing Scene For “A Scarecrow At Hackett’s”)
My first story, written without the aid of a beta, but with the guidance and encouragement of ‘Doc’, to whom I am very grateful.
Absolom Weir looked down on Johnny Lancer’s bowed head and intoned, “You’ve torn the heart out of this boy. Now you get away from here, and stay away”. He seemed to know just what to say to rip Johnny’s own heart into pieces. The last thing that Johnny had wanted was for Silas to suffer anymore heartache.
Weir then walked away, waving his wicked cane in the air and taking a distraught Silas with him.
Johnny wasn’t sure how long he stayed kneeling in the dirt beside the inert form of what had once been a beautiful animal. Cinder was dead . . . and by his hand. The experience of having to shoot a sick or injured horse was not new to Johnny but never before had he put down an animal that was so dear to the heart of a child.
He tried desperately to understand the turn of events that had led to the death of Silas’s beloved horse but try as he may he couldn’t shake off the unacceptable fact that it was his actions that had caused it. He knew that without Weir’s interference there would have been a different outcome. He also knew that if he hadn’t stubbornly carried on when everything started to go to hell the result would not have been so devastating.
The endless ‘what ifs’ ran through the young Lancer’s head. What if he hadn’t decided to breed Cinder with his mare? What if he hadn’t carried on riding when he had heard that god-awful scream? What if Absolom Weir really was the devil? With this last ridiculous ‘what if’ Johnny knew his racing mind was getting out of control.
Realising that there was nothing more to be done at the Hackett place Johnny dragged himself to his feet and started the long walk home. He looked off up the track to Lancer hoping to see Jelly returning with Barranca, but he knew that this was just wishful thinking. However uneasy Jelly felt about leaving Johnny behind, without the means to get home, he would more than likely do what was asked of him.
To add to his misery Johnny had to walk back to Lancer wearing riding boots, which were totally unsuitable for walking. With a heavy sigh and a heavier heart he set off for home, his colt still dangling uselessly from his right hand.
Murdoch returned to the hacienda at the end of the working day only to find Jelly in a state of agitation. Apparently Johnny had not returned from the Hackett place with Silas or Cinder and Jelly’s elbows were telling him that something was very wrong.
Taking Jelly’s elbows with a large pinch of salt Murdoch invited the old worry-guts into the great room to discuss what had happened.
The room was in complete darkness and Murdoch quickly lit several lamps. As the light spread around Murdoch suddenly became aware of the presence of somebody else in the room. There on the couch sat his younger son, bootless feet propped on the ottoman, looking like he’d just lost his best friend. Obviously Johnny had returned at some point and had managed to slip into the house without the ever-vigilant Jelly noticing.
Johnny stared off into the distance and didn’t acknowledge the two people who had just entered the room. Murdoch knew that the ex-gunfighter would have to be aware of his presence, so his son’s silence was a cause for concern.
Coming around the end of the couch Murdoch purposely put himself between Johnny and the imaginary object that held his attention. At this Johnny raised his head and refocused his eyes onto his father. A weak grin appeared on his face and he said, “hey Murdoch, how was your day?”
“Hey yourself son. I’m guessing my day was better than yours,” Murdoch answered, with what he hoped was a warm smile of encouragement.
Johnny lowered his head, as he always did when trying to hide his feelings, and sighed, “yeah, I’m guessing you’re right.”
Jelly stood back and watched the unfolding scene with concern written all over his craggy face. He loved Johnny Lancer as if he was his own son and at the same time he didn’t trust Absolom Weir any further than he could spit. At that very moment his money was on Weir being the source of Johnny’s discomfort.
Sensing that Johnny would be chilled from sitting alone in the dark cold room Murdoch moved to pour him a warming drink and asked Jelly to get a fire started. Johnny remained silent with his head down.
Jelly, happy to be doing something to help, immediately got to work. As he passed Johnny he gave him an affectionate slap on the knee and was glad to see that this elicited another, more genuine, smile from his troubled friend.
Johnny sipped his drink and tipped his head back to rest on the back of the couch. He started to feel the heat of the fire warming his body and the love of those around him warming his heart. He sighed with relief. He was no longer alone and he had his family to help him come to terms with what had happened. He knew they would listen when he could finally put into words the horrible events of the day.
Knowing that it would be a mistake to try and push Johnny into telling them what the problem was, Jelly and Murdoch sat down and made themselves comfortable. In time they knew that Johnny would open up to them and share the burden of whatever was troubling him but in the meantime his father and friend were there for him.