Foley: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
FOLEY – A MISSING SCENE
The dust had well and truly settled but still Johnny stared out the window and down the track. It was the last glimpse he’d had of Murdoch’s back. His old man, hands tied, sitting a horse and forced to ride with the Foleys wherever they’d taken him – it sure left a bitter taste in his mouth.
A noise behind him made him turn around. Scott had been in there talking to her. He’d heard his brother’s words. Scott sounded pretty calm promising Polly that they weren’t about to give her up. He figured Scott was big on all that self-sacrificing stuff – he’d fought in a war, hadn’t he, all because of his ‘ideals,’ he’d called them. Well, ideals might sound real fancy and high-minded but they don’t fill a belly and by the looks of it, they were about to get his old man killed.
He had to admit, that idea didn’t sit too well with him right now - made his gut churn and his hands sweat.
Mierda. He felt pretty mad about the whole thing – mad with Polly, mad with Scott. Hadn’t he told Scott she was trouble right off, before he’d even laid eyes on Polly lying under the tree? Told Scott it was a big country out there and he ought to lose himself in it …a man was asking for trouble coming between a woman and her kin. Heck, this wasn’t Boston – if Scott thought Johnny was gonna sit back and let his brother try and solve the problems of every no hoper he came across, then Scott had better think again.
A minister’s daughter…from back east…how the hell did Boston ever fall for that one? You only had to take one look at her to see the type of gal she was…even carrying a child.
How did she ever get mixed up with the likes of the Foleys? He shook his head at that one. Well, some folk just attracted trouble. He guessed he’d seen it in Polly way back then. She was hell-bent on getting herself outta that dancehall and she was gonna do it any way she could.
He just wished she’d found some other sucker to spin her tale to.
The squeak of Maria’s bedroom door opening made him glance around. Good, it was about time he had a talk with that brother of his.
Scott held back his sigh as he came from the bedroom. Not sure he wanted to meet his brother’s eye, he took his time closing the door, but Johnny started in on him straight away.
“Well, this is some fix we’ve got ourselves in, huh, brother?”
Scott raised his brows. Johnny sounded casual enough, as if he was unperturbed about the whole thing, but Scott knew better – there was no way that Johnny was happy with the way things had panned out. He knew that from the look he’d thrown at Scott before following Gant Foley out of the room. Johnny might not say much sometimes, but those eyes of his could speak volumes. Scott let out a long breath - he couldn’t entirely blame him, he supposed, as the door clicked shut.
“You mean I’ve got us in, don’t you, Johnny?” he asked calmly, even though he wasn’t feeling that way, as he turned around to face his brother.
Johnny looked at him for a beat, then shrugged, before turning back to the window…leaving Scott with his uneasy guilt.
Scott looked around the cluttered cabin with the deer head on the wall and the rugs and the preserves on the shelves. He’d never been in here before. He’d heard from Johnny that Maria’s husband used to work for Lancer until he got himself killed by Pardee. She stayed on in the cottage she’d shared with her husband, coming to the hacienda a couple of times a week to do the washing and the cleaning with the other chattering women.
Murdoch hadn’t thrown her out – he’d looked after her. Surely he’d understand that that’s what he wanted to do for Polly…and the baby.
What he wouldn’t have given to have at least one word with Murdoch before the Foleys took him. Here he was, risking his father’s life and he wasn’t even sure that Murdoch would understand. He thought he would – felt almost certain, even – but that wasn’t quite enough against his brother’s obvious discontentment, not to mention his own concern about his father’s safety. He couldn’t honestly say that he loved Murdoch – not yet - but he was certainly beginning to understand him a little and even to feel warmly towards him and that was a start.
It was ironic that Johnny had had more arguments with Murdoch since they’d both been at Lancer but ever since the Stryker business, Scott had been amazed at how close the two of them had suddenly become.
Johnny was beginning to open up a little, talk a bit more…definitely laugh a lot more…and not in that cocky, brash way he’d had those first few weeks. More than once now, he’d seen Murdoch drop a hand to Johnny’s shoulder and amazingly Johnny accepted it…even appeared to relish it.
He remembered the first time he’d seen it happen, just a few days after the Stryker business. Johnny and Murdoch had just ridden in with a string of wild horses and they were standing by the corral watching them. Johnny had quickly looked up into Murdoch’s eyes as the hand touched his shoulder and Scott had held his breath, the first picture in his mind being the angry young man by the river who’d shown him the gold coin and announced with loathing that money was the only reason he’d come...not love for Murdoch Lancer.
Instinctively, Scott readied himself for something, even if he didn’t know what. Scott had seen Johnny’s ease vanish in an instant and the look he’d shot at Murdoch was the one Scott had seen too often in those first days – distrust, suspicion, wariness. Then, somehow, it changed…like he was wondering…questioning, he supposed.
And in the end Scott had had to look away, study the horses, the sky…the dust still churning in the air. Some things are just too personal to witness – things like getting a glimpse into another’s soul - but he’d never forgotten the look that passed between them…because it changed Johnny…seemed to have changed them both.
Was it any wonder that Johnny wasn’t all that impressed with him right now?
Scott lowered his head. This was no time for recriminations. They both had a job to do and in his mind it was to save both Polly and Murdoch.
Scott glanced across to the other window. If he had to fight Johnny over the matter, he supposed he’d just have to. Johnny certainly looked ready to fight in that calm way of his – he hadn’t even taken his hat off. And he wasn’t talking…he’d gone all quiet. Whatever he was thinking about, it wasn’t relaxing – Scott could see the muscle in his jaw working. When Johnny got like this, you felt like all his energy was centred somewhere deep inside him, building and building until he was ready to strike.
Maybe Gant Foley wouldn’t have been quite as confident if he’d known it was Johnny Madrid he was up against. Well, Johnny was the ace they had up their sleeve – Scott just had to hope that Johnny saw things his way.
Surely they didn’t do things that differently out here – surely a woman’s life and that of her baby was still important even though everyone seemed more than willing to fire a gun at another man without a moment’s thought. God - even himself! He’d killed a man for Polly this very day…which gave him all the more reason to see this thing through.
It didn’t make him feel any easier that Maria was involved, although she seemed to take it all in her stride as she feverishly chopped and threw things into a big pot on the stove. Scott watched her for a moment as she bustled over to the sideboard close to where Johnny stood watching by the window. He seemed to be staring so intently outside that Scott didn’t think he’d even noticed what Maria was doing but when she came close he murmured something to her in Spanish. To his surprise, Maria laughed and blushed, then babbled away in her native tongue at a speed Scott didn’t have a hope of following, even if she’d used one of the dozen or so words Johnny had taught him so far. Mind you, he couldn’t imagine a woman like Maria using most of them, anyway.
She returned to the pot with some sympathetic clucking that said it all despite the fact he had no idea of her actual words. At least she seemed to feel something for Polly’s predicament even if his brother didn’t.
Scott moved across to the other window and took up a similar stance to Johnny. He’d just pulled the blue and tan striped curtain back a little when Johnny spoke in that lazy drawl of his. “She says her mama always made this dish – old family recipe. Swears it’ll bring on the baby an’ make the birthing easier.”
Scott’s eyes were almost beginning to water. “I can understand why - I’d say everything else inside you would come rushing out as well with all those chillies.”
Johnny grinned as he went back to his study. “I think that’s the whole idea, brother.”
Scott smiled in response but he could feel the unease between them.
“So…she tell ya anything else?” Johnny eventually added, coolly.
Scott bristled at the tone. He remembered the smart aleck hint of something or other on his brother’s face when he’d taken a good look at Polly that first time by the tree.
“No. Nothing we don’t already know,” he answered, equally coolly, as he studied the road that led away from the cabin.
Johnny nodded his head. “Oh, yeah, that’s right…you already found out plenty about her, didn’t you, Scott.”
His tone riled Scott. “I guess you wouldn’t have been fooled, would you brother?” he asked flatly.
“Not by the likes o’ Polly.”
He could hear the smirk in Johnny’s words…even picture it and he found himself clenching his fist. Johnny definitely had a way of getting under his skin sometimes - right about now he had a strong urge to punch his brother in the jaw.
Damn. By the sound of it Johnny must think he was a fool – a gullible, dumb easterner - and he probably was. Seeing a person in need tended to do that to him but Polly had needed help and that’s all he’d heard; somehow the facts never seemed all that important when you were staring at someone who was desperate.
Johnny of all people should know that…but then again, maybe he didn’t. Maybe no one had helped him…maybe he was one of the ones who fell through the cracks just like Polly and her baby would if no one helped them now. Strange to think that Johnny had been a part of Polly’s world, probably a pretty tawdry world by the sound of it. It bothered him a little that he could only guess at what that their life had been like but it must have been pretty bad for Polly to even consider marrying one of these Foleys let alone actually doing it.
Scott considered his next words carefully, moving the curtain further aside before looking across at Johnny. “Back at the tree, she told me she was a dance hall girl – that you two shared a bottle.”
He thought he saw the hint of a grin again, but this time Johnny had the good sense to duck his head.
“I’m thinking you shared more than just a bottle,” he added, having to make do with giving his brother a mental poke instead of a physical one.
Johnny looked up at that. “What’s that to you? You sweet on her or somethin’, brother?”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
Scott saw the same look in Johnny’s eyes he always saw when he pressed him about his past – they seemed to sort of darken with wariness and grow colder somehow. Scott couldn’t blame him. He guessed he didn’t have any right to ask his brother something like that. Didn’t even really understand himself why he wanted to hear it from his brother’s mouth – he was pretty sure he already knew the answer.
Eventually, Johnny shrugged, “Sure. We shared a bottle – after that we shared a bed a time or two.”
‘Or three or four,’ Scott read between the lines. He nodded, careful to keep his face expressionless. This wasn’t about passing judgement on his brother. Not as if he hadn’t paid for a woman’s services here and there – it was just that he was more fortunate in being able to enjoy the thrill of enticing the less pious ladies of his own class...or thereabouts. Then again, maybe he was doing both Polly and Johnny an injustice assuming dancehall girl meant little better than a whore. He understood something of how a girl’s mind worked and in his experience, a good looking man didn’t have to pay for services rendered too often; and he’d wager a month’s pay his brother fell into that category.
Johnny had turned away, leaning a bent arm against the window as he stared out. To his annoyance, Scott found himself feeling a little guilty that he’d pushed Johnny for an answer.
“You mind if I talk to her?”
The question surprised Scott. Johnny must have seen his hesitation because he added, “If our old man’s about to die – well, I wanna be sure I know who it is he’s dyin’ for.”
Scott felt doubtful but he guessed his brother had the right.
“Just take it easy on her, Johnny,” was his only proviso, and he hoped he didn’t regret this as Johnny glanced at Scott just the once, then headed towards the only other room in Maria’s cabin.
Johnny knocked softly before opening the door.
He thought at first she was asleep but then her face twisted with the birthing pains and he figured he should back out, but right at that moment her eyes opened and she was staring straight at him.
“Johnny Madrid.” The tone wasn’t exactly welcoming – but then she always did have a smart mouth.
“Polly,” he murmured, shrugging off the sneer behind her words. She made it sound as if he was something she’d scraped off her boot. “And it’s Lancer now. Johnny Lancer.”
“Lancer? You weren’t so high an’ mighty when I knew you. You were just Johnny Madrid, gunfighter…and only about a step away from bein’ as low as me.”
Johnny took a few steps further into the room, shoving the door closed with his boot, his eyes fixed on her all the while. He sure didn’t want Scott to get an earful of what his life used to be like.
Her eyes followed his movement as he closed the door. “You can at least thank me,” she said tiredly, restlessly pulling the blanket up a little higher on her swollen belly.
He tilted his head with a small frown, leaning back against the closed door with his arms crossed.
“I coulda told him who you were,” she explained.
“He knows,” Johnny said evenly. “So does my old man…an’ I’ve given up gunfighting. I’m a rancher now.”
“Brothers? You two ain’t nothin’ alike,” she pointed out scornfully.
“Half-brothers,” he admitted, not showing how the confession ate at him right then because she was right – at times like this it stood out like a sore thumb that he and Scott were as different as night and day.
“That hacienda we visited at before – that really where you live…with your brother an’ your daddy?”
Johnny nodded. Even now he wondered some days how he ever deserved all that. “It’s really somethin’, isn’t it?” he said quietly, taking off his hat and moving further into the room.
She stared at him and he could almost feel the envy washing over her. “And on top of all that you got yourself a fancy horse and a pretty brother. Well ain’t that somethin’? Reckon you must think yourself even better’n me now.”
Johnny frowned, wondering where all this was coming from. “Polly, I never did think I was better’n you.”
She laughed at that. “Mr High and Mighty, Johnny Madrid, walking into that dance hall, knowin’ every girl’s eye was on him.”
Johnny could only stare at her. Funny, he didn’t remember it that way at all. Wes had dragged him in there…said it was gonna be fun. Wes was always looking for fun. Johnny had seen Polly straight off – must’ve been those eyes of hers. Roundest, prettiest pair of eyes he’d ever seen…when they wanted to be…when she wanted to charm a man, leastways.
“Ya know there wasn’t a girl there that didn’t wanna bed ya,” she went on, smoothing the blanket down about her. “You coulda had your pick of any one of ’em…but you chose me.”
She suddenly tensed and gave a small gasp, her hands rubbing at her stomach. Johnny ran the brim of his hat through his hands and looked away. Feeling a little awkward he waited for the pain to go…or get Maria if he had to.
She’d been a tiny waisted thing back then, her stomach flat and silky and smooth against his lips. She sure knew how to pleasure a man when she…whoa. Johnny pulled his thoughts up short, feeling guilty. This wasn’t the time to be thinking about when they’d lain together. He wasn’t even sure how his mind had dug up the memory - not as if there hadn’t been plenty more since Polly.
Thinking he ought to do something for her, he looked around and saw the bottle of Tequila next to the bed. Her face was still twisted in pain but he figured it wasn’t just the birth…Scott told him she’d killed a man and then he’d heard it himself from her own lips when she had her talk with Foley. Madre de Dios – the father of her baby. How the hell do you tell a kid you killed their daddy? What a darn mess.
“Here – have some of this,” he murmured, tossing his hat on the bed and pouring a little into the glass.
“Your brother gave me some already. I don’t want no more,” she complained, but when he stood over her and put the glass to her lips she took just the one small sip before turning her head away.
“Just like old times, ain’t it, Johnny, only you ain’t drinkin’ with me this time. But I wouldn’t be much of a lay now, would I? Though I’ve heard it said that some men get real turned on by a fat belly…”
Johnny dropped his head. “Don’t do that, Polly.”
“What about that fancy brother a’ yours? You think he woulda bedded me if he’d come to the dancehall?”
Johnny gave it to her straight. “What d’you think, Polly? You see my brother in a place like that, drinking lousy beer outta filthy glasses?”
She looked hurt and turned her head away and he wondered angrily what the hell she’d expected him to say.
No, Scott didn’t belong in a place like that with the overflowing spittoons and the rank sawdust that hadn’t been swept out in weeks. Scott didn’t belong in any of his past. It made him feel kinda dirty just thinking about it. It made him mad, too, that she’d tricked Scott. His brother didn’t deserve that.
He set the bottle back on the side table with a thump. “Well, you sure fooled him good. You must feel pretty pleased with yourself.”
For a moment he thought he saw a hint of something like shame in those huge eyes of hers, but then she said, “I didn’t fool him - he let himself be fooled,” as if Scott’s gullibility gave her the right.
“Maybe because he likes to see the good in people.”
“Well, he made a mistake there, didn’t he Johnny? There ain’t no good in the likes of you an’ me.”
One time, when Johnny was at his lowest, he probably would’ve agreed with her, but not now…not since Murdoch had pulled him out of all that…the world Polly still lived in.
“Ooh, I dunno,” he drawled, softly, “I kinda like to think there’s a bit a good hid in everyone…somewhere…if you dig deep enough.”
Polly’s laugh was bitter.
“When’d you get so hard, Polly?” he asked, with a shrug of his shoulders.
“I was always this way.”
“No…no you weren’t.”
She stared at him for a moment, and gradually some of the fire seemed to damp down in her eyes.
“If it makes any difference…I feel bad about lyin’ to him. Your brother’s a fine man. Ain’t many around that’d do what he did.”
“Yeah,” Johnny murmured, taking the glass from her.
She’d turned her face away again and for a moment he got a glimpse of her in that pokey little room with the sagging bed and the mouse that’d high tailed it back to a corner when he’d surprised it picking up his pants off the floor. The place had been crawling with’em…well, it could’ve been worse, could’ve been rats, he supposed. She didn’t seem to mind the sound of them scuttling around when they were busy…but after…well, he’d seen the look in her eyes as she’d watched him get dressed. The same look he’d seen in plenty of saloon girls’ faces – kind of a bitterness that he was up and dressing and leaving and they’d still be there the next night and the next and the next…
Johnny put the glass back on the table, thinking he wouldn’t mind a shot of Tequila himself, right now, if it’d help to make any sense of all this.
“I got blood on my hands now, Johnny. Just like you,” she said suddenly, turning her head on the pillow to stare up at him bleakly.
Johnny shook his head at that, feeling unexpectedly moved by her words. “No, Polly, you did what you had to do to save your baby. That don’t make you like me.”
“But I hated him. I wanted him dead,” she told him fiercely, clenching her fists tight either side of her.
He didn’t get a chance to answer her before she spoke again. This time her voice was not much more than a hoarse whisper and he saw the look on her face of someone with a fear that was eating away inside of them. ‘You think they’ll lock me away an’ take my baby from me?”
“Now don’t get yourself in a pucker,” he soothed her, pulling up a chair and putting the cloth in the basin. “I don’t see why. You were just protectin’ yourself.” He wrung it out and passed it to her. “An’ it doesn’t sound like ol’ man Foley wants to lay charges. All he wants is that baby.”
She stared at him as if she wanted to believe but something was holding her back.
“Lay that on your face. It’ll make you feel good,” he told her, when she made no move to use the cloth.
After a moment she wiped her face then wordlessly gave it back to him. When she started to look like she was in pain again, he stood up and moved across to the window, thinking he ought to go but he felt those big eyes of hers following him. “He’ll do it, ya know. He’ll kill your daddy to get what he wants.”
Johnny looked outside, he wasn’t going to show her how that fear had started to eat at him, too. “Well, we got time. Murdoch’s his bargaining chip. Foley won’t be in too much of a hurry to kill ’im.”
He heard her shift restlessly again but her voice had lost a lot of its edge when she spoke this time. “You know, all I ever wanted was ta get outta that dancehall and away from the men pawing at me and thinkin’ I owed them something because they bought me a glass a’ cheap beer. You can understand that, cantcha Johnny?”
She sounded different those last few words – nothing like the smart-assed dancer who’d pressed herself against him and ran her hand over his butt almost as soon as he walked through the doors.
Johnny looked down, kicking at the edge of Maria’s bright floor rug with his toe. He knew what it was like to be stuck in a life that was slowly bleeding all the good out of you.
“Life don’t always play fair, does it, Polly?” he drawled softly.
He sensed her shake her head and looked up in time to see her squeeze her eyes closed tight, but she wasn’t quick enough to catch the tears that had already welled up in her eyes and now spilled down each cheek.
Dios, he breathed out under his breath…what a way for a kid to come into the world.
Polly’s pains came on quickly after that. Johnny had heard women in childbirth before; the Mexican women in the villages tended to scream a lot…scared the heck out of him the first time he’d heard it when he was a kid.
A few times he’d heard her cry out and he’d looked across at his brother. Birthing and dying could be pretty close compadres where he grew up. Heck, Scott’s mother had died giving birth to Scott. He wondered if Scott was thinking about that just then.
It was dark now, each brother standing by their window, mostly just watching. They’d hardly talked since Johnny had come out from seeing Polly. Scott had taken that timepiece of his out a couple of times but there didn’t seem to be much to say to each other. Looked like neither of them were big on small talk at a time like this.
They hadn’t lit any lamps inside this part of the cabin and now that the moon had come up he could make out the dark outlines of the hanging baskets on Maria’s front porch and then further past that a world of trees and shadows that somewhere hid his father. Dios, if they’ve laid a hand on his old man’s head…
It’d been a shock to walk in the back door of the blacksmith’s and find one of the Foleys with a gun at Murdoch’s neck. Suddenly, he was feeling things he’d never felt before. An anger had ripped through him, but he could feel this kind of fear at the same time that made his whole body sort of war with itself. He was so damned mad he didn’t even have a chance to smile like he usually would when he told them to take the gun out of his old man’s neck. Murdoch’d never know how much it took for him to get his words out without pulling his gun and taking down every one of those damned Foleys. Would’ve been better if he had, too – then they wouldn’t be in this mess, now.
He didn’t look across but he could sense Scott looking at him, then his brother walked over to stand behind him.
“Anything?” Scott asked.
Johnny could tell he had the watch in his hand again - the one ticking down the minutes of Murdoch’s life if he didn’t do something about it. Well, it seemed like now was as good a time as any.
“Yeah, they’re still out there somewhere,” he told Scott, hands going to the buckle on his gunbelt. “I figure there’s two things we can do. Turn the girl over to ‘em so we can get outta here…” He dumped the belt on the table and slipped his gun from the holster as he talked. “Or make a stand and our ole man’ll probably be killed.”
“And you…uh…vote that we sell the girl out,” Scott murmured as Johnny spun the chamber and checked his gun.
Johnny grinned broadly at him, wondering how his brother ever got a thought like that.
“No brother…that ain’t the way I vote at all.”