is the sixth story in “the Surprise” series, taking place shortly after
“The Chase.” If you haven’t
read those stories, there may be parts of this one that are confusing.
Johnny and Scott froze in the entryway.
“I wonder which one of them is in trouble now,” Scott
Johnny shrugged. “Knowing our luck, probably both of
“Well, at least Murdoch has someone to yell at besides
“In case you haven’t noticed, he’s STILL yellin’
at us,” Johnny snorted.
“Should we try to make a run for it?”
Johnny shook his head in resignation.
“He’d catch us eventually.”
Scott nodded in agreement, and then the two marched
bravely into the Great Room, where Murdoch sat glowering at them from behind the
Johnny took a bewildered look around and noticed the
Great Room had undergone significant changes since that morning.
“What happened in here? Teresa
lose her temper?” Johnny smirked. Then his gaze went further into the room and he froze,
suddenly aware of just who had caused the mayhem.
Scott looked around the room in awe. It looked like a freight train had come through the room, and
the freight train in question now appeared to be sleeping soundly next to the
stairs. Then only thing still
relatively untouched was Murdoch’s precious model ship, standing forlornly in
the middle of the wreckage. The
sofa was in pieces, as was a nearby chair, and the sideboard had been swept
clean of bottles.
The scowl on Murdoch’s face remained fixed as he
stared at Johnny. “If I were you,
BOY, I wouldn’t get too cute. And
I’ll give you ONE guess as to just who caused all of this, and it WASN’T
Teresa, although she did an admirable job of losing her temper after she saw
As Johnny worriedly bit his lip, Scott took a
relieved breath. At least Helen
wasn’t responsible. It looked
like he was in the clear. However,
there WAS that nagging worry as to why Murdoch had yelled for both of them.
Scott felt the tension come back.
Murdoch continued glaring at Johnny.
“It seems as though your girlfriend has a craving for liquor.
I foolishly left the patio door open, and she decided to help herself. The only problem was, the door wasn’t QUITE big enough.”
Johnny and Scott’s eyes were drawn to where the patio door
had been. Now there was simply a
hole, with splinters of wood and glass strewn around the opening.
Teresa’s drapes were hanging drunkenly off of the rods.
“Evidently she had been drinking for quite a while
before I caught her. She had time
to polish off my entire stock of imported brandy.”
Both Scott and Johnny winced.
That alone was enough to ensure their fate.
“When I tried to chase her out, your drunken friend
managed to destroy the room before collapsing on top of my favorite chair.”
Johnny glanced over to where Agnes was peacefully
sleeping. Yep, he was pretty sure
he saw an oak leg sticking out from under her massive bulk.
Murdoch pointed toward the center of the room.
“The ONLY thing that saved her from a shotgun blast was the fact that
she didn’t destroy that model. If
that had been touched, both you and she would have been toast.”
“I’m sure she didn’t mean it,” Johnny explained
lamely. “I’ve been gone a
while, and she probably missed me.”
“Well, just to reassure you, I WON”T miss you if
you don’t get her out of here and clean up this mess.
Johnny looked at his father in bewilderment.
“Just how am I supposed ta do that?
She’s passed out! It’s not like I can just lift her up and carry her out!”
As much as Murdoch wanted to insist, he knew his
son had a point. “All right, but
as soon as she’s awake, I want her out of this room!”
He stood up. “And rest
assured, this WILL be coming out of your pay!”
Murdoch walked toward the stairs, and Scott
started to follow him out. Murdoch
glared at his older son. “And
just WHERE do you think YOU’RE going?”
Scott tried to shrug nonchalantly. “It was AGNES that did it, not Helen.”
Murdoch nodded his head.
“I guess that’s your decision if you don’t want help your brother.
Besides, you’re going to have to get up AWFULLY early tomorrow.”
Scott felt the specter of doom descending.
“Helen got hungry this afternoon.”
Even though he knew better, Scott couldn’t
resist asking. “And?”
Murdoch shrugged again.
“And…she decided the food in the turkey pen looked absolutely
Scott shut his eyes.
“And she decided to go in and help herself to
Scott opened one eye cautiously. That certainly didn’t sound too bad. He watched his father warily.
“So what’s the problem?”
Murdoch turned and smiled at his older son.
“She apparently forgot to close the gate after she left.”
Scott once more slammed his eyes shut. “How many?” He whispered desperately.
“All of them. At
last count we had exactly four hundred and eighty three, and
I expect to have exactly four hundred eighty three birds back in that pen
by tomorrow night.” He glared at
both boys in turn. “ALIVE!”
Scott turned white and spun around. He went over to the demolished sideboard and started
rummaging frantically in the debris.
proceeded up the stairs, then turned and called over his shoulder. “Don’t bother. I
already looked. She drank it
With a moan, Scott sank down into what remained of the
couch, and then looked hopefully at his brother.
“Guess we’d better start cleaning this mess up.”
Johnny shook his head.
“No ‘we’ about it. I
guess I’D better get busy.”
“You’re not going to let me chase down those darn
turkeys all by myself, are you?”
Johnny shrugged. “You
were gonna let me clean up this mess by myself ‘till ya found out what Helen
had done, and you KNOW how I feel about those birds.”
Scott swallowed hard.
“Johnny, please. I feel the same way you do, but I CAN”T catch those
turkeys by myself and you know it. I
tell you what. I’ll take half the
blame for this mess if you help me catch those darn birds.”
At that moment, Agnes decided to wake up.
She rolled onto her stomach and then pushed her front feet out in front
of her. Johnny scrambled backward
as the elephant wobbled to her feet, her head just barely clearing the ceiling.
Agnes stood precariously for a moment, and then took a tentative step
forward. She immediately lurched
sideways, and Johnny once more jumped backwards to avoid getting squished. As he moved, he tripped on a rug and went flying, but luckily
managed to catch himself by grabbing a table.
Johnny watched in resigned horror as the table tipped up and the model
ship went flying through the air.
He shut his eyes as the sound of a crash echoed through the room.
“Deal,” he told his brother.
The next evening, Johnny and Scott stood in the barn,
trying to get up enough courage to enter the house.
They were tired and dirty, and they had definitely had enough of turkeys
to last them the rest of their lives.
“What do you think he’ll do to us?”
Scott shook his head.
“I have no idea, but I’m sure it won’t be pleasant.”
Johnny shook his head.
“I hate turkeys.” He
looked over at his brother. “Ya
didn’t tell him about his ship, did you?”
“I’m NOT stupid. I told him that we put it in
your room for safekeeping.”
Johnny stared at his brother in panic.
“MY ROOM! Why did ya tell
“It’s your elephant.”
“And what happens when he wants to put it
back in the Great Room?”
“We’ll think of something.”
think of something. I’m not the
one that told him it was there.”
“Maybe we can tell him it’s being
cleaned or something.”
Johnny looked at his brother hopefully.
“Do ya think he’ll buy it?”
Scott shook his head sorrowfully. ‘Not in a million years.”
Johnny reached over and plucked a turkey feather from
his brother’s hair. “What are
we gonna tell him about those stupid birds?”
Scott shrugged in resignation.
“I have no idea.”
Johnny shook his head.
“I TOLD ya we shoulda done it my way.”
Scott glared at his brother.
“And I told YOU that Murdoch was very specific.
He wanted them ALIVE.”
“Well, I coulda winged ‘em,” Johnny sulked.
“It would be better than rollin’ around in the dirt all day, and we
woulda gotten a heck of a lot more of ‘em than twenty eight.”
“I HATE turkeys.”
“Do you really think Murdoch will make us
find ALL of those birds? Half of
‘em are clear down in Mexico by now.”
“With any luck he will, and then we can stay down there and we can live
the rest of our lives in peaceful oblivion.”
“I TOLD ya we shoulda gone down there months
ago. It woulda saved us a lot of grief.”
“Well, the way I see it, if we get rid of the turkeys
life will improve considerably around here.”
“Life would improve considerably if we got rid
of Murdoch, too.”
shook his head impatiently. “We already discussed that.
You KNOW we can’t murder our own father.
“Explain to me again exactly why not?”
Scott shook his head in exasperation at his brother.
“You were perfectly willin’ ta blow him up!”
“I had a perfectly good reason to blow him up
“And ya don’t now?
Do you have any idea what he’s gonna do to us when we tell him we could
only catch twenty-eight of those fancy feather dusters?”
“I already told ya, eggs don’t count.”
“I hate turkeys.”
Finally Scott sighed and looked at Johnny hopefully.
“Maybe we can buy some replacements.”
“Do you have some money I don’t know about?
You KNOW Murdoch’s been takin’ all of our wages ta pay off the
contracts to that circus.”
“And the new circus tent.”
forget the hay for Agnes and Helen.”
“And Sam’s bill for Murdoch’s broken
“And the cost of those hands he had ta hire ta
help with round-up.”
Johnny and Scott looked at each other glumly.
“We SHOULD have stayed with the circus,” Scott said.
“At least THERE we were making money.”
Johnny nodded in agreement.
Finally Scott sighed.
“Are you ready to go in?”
Johnny dropped his head for a moment and then
looked at his brother and smiled. “Sure.
But you go first.”
Scott nodded glumly and headed for the house, with
Johnny following closely behind. They
tiptoed into the house, and made a dash for the stairs, but they had only gone a
few feet when Murdoch’s bellow stopped them.
With an identical sigh, the boys turned around and headed into the Great
“It’ll probably take us another day or
two ta catch ‘em all.” Johnny
And just how many DID you catch?”
Johnny bit the inside of his lip and looked at
his brother, but the cat seemed to have gotten Scott’s tongue.
“Twenty…Nine,” Johnny finally admitted hopefully.
“Twenty-Nine,” Murdoch repeated in disbelief.
“Yeah, but they’re all alive,” Johnny said
brightly, before a frown crossed his features.
Murdoch drummed his fingers on the top of his desk and
contemplated his sons. Finally,
Scott broke the silence. “Come
on, Murdoch! You can’t seriously
expect us to round up all of those turkeys!
They’re scattered all over the country by now!”
Murdoch continued staring as he answered,
his voice gradually rising as he talked.
“We have a contract with the army to delivery four hundred and fifty
turkeys to their buyer by the fifteenth of November.
That’s less than five weeks away. If you gentlemen will remember, we
ALSO have both cattle and horse contracts with the army.
In fact, they’re our main customers, so we want to keep them REAL
happy. Now, if we DON’T deliver
those turkeys in time for Thanksgiving, they’re NOT going to be happy. In fact, they might be SO not happy that they cancel our
other contracts. And if THAT
happens, BOYS, you will be herding turkeys for the REST OF YOUR LIVES, because
THAT will be all we can AFFORD! SO,
I don’t care HOW you do it, but that pen had BETTER have at least four hundred
and fifty LIVE turkeys in it by the fifteenth of November.
“We could buy ‘em.”
Johnny said hopefully.
Murdoch turned his gaze on Johnny.
“I THINK,” his father said icily, “that MIGHT cut into our profits.
What do you think?”
“Ya mean ya want ta make a profit on ‘em,
Murdoch started breathing deeply and his face
began to turn purple. When he
reached for Johnny’s throat, Scott grabbed his brother and headed for the
stairs, yelling over his shoulder, “We’ll take care of it, Sir.
Murdoch watched as they disappeared up the
stairs. That was what he was afraid of, that his boys would handle it, just like
they’d handled everything else the last few months.
He looked toward his wiped out liquor cabinet and moaned.
He hated that elephant.
“I don’t want to hear one more word
about it!” Victoria ordered, her
hands on her hips. “Murdoch
Lancer was nice enough to offer to let us stay at his house while we were in
town for the cattle auction, and that’s where we’ll be staying, and I
don’t want to hear one more word about it!”
“I’d rather sleep in a hollow log,”
“And that’s where you WILL be sleeping for
the rest of your life if you can’t get along with the Lancer boys,” Victoria
“Getting along with the Lancers is
IMPOSSIBLE! They’re crazy, and
you know it!” Nick shook his
head. “And they’re also
DANGEROUS! Somebody’s always
getting shot or bitten or hit on the head or banged up somehow whenever
they’re around. A man has a right
to protect himself!”
“Nick, we won’t be there that long, and I expect
you to play nice. Is that
Nick bit back a reply.
He knew his mother wasn’t going to give in on this one, and he was
outnumbered. He glared at Heath,
who was enjoying this exchange immensely. For
some reason Heath LIKED Scott and Johnny, a serious personality flaw as far as
Nick was concerned. He glared at
his brother. “All I can say is
you’d better make sure you keep your friends on a leash, or I JUST might
forget my manners.”
Much to Heath’s amusement, Nick dropped his eyes.
“Yes, Mother,” he said with a sigh.
“I’ll be good.”
“See to it that you are.
You’re still not too big to turn over my knee.”
Nick looked up at his mother hopefully.
“If I can’t shoot either of them, can I at least shoot one of their
Johnny and Scott chorused.
“You heard me. I
invited Victoria Barkley to stay with us while she was attending the cattle
auction in Green River.”
Scott shook his head impatiently. “No, the OTHER part.”
Murdoch looked at his son with an innocent look.
“What? That Heath will be
“Keep going,” Johnny said.
“That Nick will be coming too?”
“That’s the part,” Johnny said, spinning on his
heel and heading for the door, followed closely by Scott.
stop RIGHT THERE!”
Scott and Johnny came to a reluctant halt.
“I expect you to act like gentlemen and behave
“That won’t be a problem, because we have no
intention of being anywhere in the area of Nick Barkley.”
“Oh yes you will.
You still have, what, four hundred turkeys to catch?
“Four hundred fifty –five,” Scott muttered, as
Johnny elbowed him in the side.
Murdoch nodded. “You
aren’t going ANYWHERE until they’re all safely back in that pen.”
Johnny glared at his father.
“Does Jelly know that Nick will be here?”
“As a matter of fact, he does, and he’s just fine with
“Uh huh,” Scott said.
Murdoch slammed down the book he had in his hand.
“The two of you won’t have time to get into a fight with Nick;
you’ll be too busy catching those birds.
Now I don’t want to hear one more word about it, UNDERSTOOD?”
“But Murdoch, Nick’s crazy,” Johnny
Johnny and Scott reluctantly nodded, then turned and
made their way quietly up the stairs. Johnny
followed his brother into his room, and closed the door.
Scott unbuttoned his shirt and shook his head.
“Well what are we gonna do?
You and I both know that there’s NO WAY that the four of us can be
together for more than a few minutes without somebody killin’ somebody else.
And if I have ta listen ta Nick’s bellowing for more than a day, I KNOW
who’s gonna be goin the shootin’ and I DON”T think Murdoch’s gonna be
threw his shirt onto the chair. “You
heard Murdoch. We have to get
enough birds back in the pen in time for thanksgiving.
If it weren’t for those darn turkeys we could…”
Scott’s voice drifted off, and a smile came to his lips.
“All we have to do is replace those turkeys, and we’ll be
home free,” Scott mused.
“You make it sound easy. I
hate ta break the news to ya, but there’s NO WAY we’re gonna catch all of
those birds. We already caught the
Scott’s smile got wider.
“Who said ANYTHING about catching those turkeys?
I said we had to get birds back in the pen, ready to ship.
It doesn’t HAVE to be THOSE turkeys.”
Johnny shook his head again.
“Like I said, we don’t have any money.”
“We won’t NEED any money,” Scott said
conspiratorially. “Brother, I
have a plan.”
Nick stomped out of the house, grumbling to himself,
and Heath hurriedly caught up. Heath
grabbed his older brother’s arm. “Come
on, Nick, it won’t be that bad.”
“Oh, WON’T IT?”
Johnny and Scott will probably be doin’ so many chores they won’t have TIME
to even TALK to us. Besides,
isn’t it worth it to get away from our own chores for a while?
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t get away from those turkeys
for a while, I think I’ll shoot every single one of them.”
“DON’T remind me whose fault it is we have
those birds, anyway.”
Heath sighed. “It
wasn’t exactly their fault, and you know it.”
“Can’t you think of SOMETHING good about
visiting Lancer? I, for one, plan
on asking Teresa to the Halloween dance!”
“What makes you think she’d even go with you?”
“I plan on getting her a present than no woman
Nick looked at his brother cautiously.
“As long as it’s not that perfume that got my saddle shot.”
is FAR better.”
Nick looked at his brother dubiously. “All right, but if any of them come after you with a
shotgun, DON’T hide behind me!”
Heath clapped his hand on his brother’s
shoulder. “You know what’s
wrong with you? You worry too much.
You need to relax and have some fun!”
“The only fun I want is to get even with at least ONE
of those idiots at Lancer.” Nick
stopped and looked thoughtfully at his brother.
“Halloween, huh?” A slow
smile crept over Nick’s face. “Maybe
I’ll take your advice and have some fun after all. Brother, I have a plan.”
Victoria Barkley stood with her arms
folded, studying her two sons. She
knew something was going on, but so far she had been unsuccessful in prying
whatever it was out if them. They
both looked completely innocent, which made her all the more suspicious.
“All right, tell me again why you have to ride to
Lancer a day early?”
“I told you, we want to stop on the way and
look at some stock that we heard was for sale down around Colton.”
Victoria’s eyes narrowed.
“Isn’t that where the Meyers Brothers circus is giving a performance
Nick’s eyes got wide in surprise. “Is it? Well,
don’t worry; I have NO intention of getting anywhere NEAR that place again.
I don’t particularly relish the thought of getting chased by those mad
She nodded in agreement.
He would have to be crazy to go through that again. She looked over at
Heath. “What about you?”
Her youngest son shook his head emphatically.
“No, ma’am. I have no
intention of getting chased, either.”
Victoria’s eyes narrowed.
She certainly didn’t believe them, but her sons weren’t crazy,
either. “All right, I will
see you at Lancer. But if you boys
don’t behave yourselves before I get there…”
She let the threat trail off.
Nick grabbed his hat and shepherded Heath
out the door. “No, ma’am.
We won’t get into any trouble, and we’ll be as nice as can be to
those two…to Johnny and Scott.” He
gave Heath a shove. “Come
on, Heath, we have to be going.”
Victoria watched as her two boys hurried out of the
house. She had the feeling that she
should forbid them to leave early; she knew they were up to no good.
Victoria stood there thinking about the running feud between two of her
boys and Murdoch’s and smiled. Both
she and Murdoch had their hands full with those four.
The thought crossed her mind that maybe she should let Murdoch have some
fun and let him ride herd on all four of them for a while.
Maybe he could stop the nonsense. The
more she thought about it, the more she thought that she’d wait an extra day
or two to leave. Besides, after
that circus fiasco, Scott and Johnny deserved whatever they got.
Heath looked worried as they rode out of the yard, and
Nick pulled alongside him. “What’s
“I didn’t like lying to mother.”
Nick looked at his younger brother in
exasperation. “We didn’t lie! WE ARE checking out stock.
I just didn’t say what kind, and I have NO intention of getting
anywhere near that circus, I’m leaving that to you.
And I’m SURE you have no intention of getting chased by that pack of
mangy hounds, do you?”
Heath looked at his brother and started to grin.
“Do you think Mother knew something was up?”
“She’s NOT dumb. Of
course she did. But she probably
figured we’ll be doing what she would like to do to those two if she could get
away with it. You heard what she
said about them when that circus tent came down on her.”
Heath’s grin widened.
“Well, since you put it that way, what are we waiting for?”
Nick smiled back.
This actually might be fun.
Johnny shook his head.
“I STILL don’t know how you’re gonna get those turkeys away from
the Barkleys. Nick ain’t gonna
just give ‘em to us, and we still don’t have any money.
I don’t mind getting’ killed, but I DO mind my headstone reading’:
Scott shook his head in exasperation. “We won’t HAVE to steal those turkeys. Nick is going to make sure we get them, one way or the
“Why would he do that?
He’s not exactly friendly, and he SURE wouldn’t do anything ta help
us out of this mess. In fact,
he’d probably do anything to get us INTO a mess.”
For being a gunfighter, sometimes his brother was awfully naïve.
“What is the ONE thing that would make Nick a happy man?”
“Scott, it won’t do us much good ta get those
turkeys if we have ta let Nick kill us ta get ‘em.
Sort of defeats the purpose of keepin’ us outta trouble, dontcha
Scott shook his head in frustration. “All right, the second thing that would make him happy.”
“Makin’ us miserable?”
He’d do anything to make us miserable.
And what is the one thing that would totally ruin our lives?”
“Gettin’ those dang turkeys back,” Johnny
Scott nodded sagely.
“So, all we have to do is convince Nick that we’d kill ourselves if
we got more turkeys, and I can guarantee you that pen will be full before you
can say “turkey dinner.”
Johnny stared at his brother for a while.
“But we WILL be miserable.”
“Yes, but only for a couple more weeks, and in the meantime, Murdoch
won’t kill us, so we’ll all be happy. And just as soon as those turkeys are
delivered, we can forget about being turkey farmers and go back to wrestling
steers out of mud holes and getting our heads stomped on by outlaw horses.
We’ll be in heaven.”
“What if Murdoch decides to get more turkeys?”
Johnny asked dubiously.
“I’ve already taken care of that. I’ve spread the word that if ANYONE sells even ONE turkey
to the Lancer ranch, Johnny Madrid would be gunning for them.”
If I lose, my headstone will STILL read: “He died for turkeys.”
“Can you think of a BETTER cause to die for
than keeping turkeys off of this ranch?’
Johnny sighed and shook his head glumly.
“All right, now all we have to do is to act like we are
OVERJOYED that those dang birds have disappeared.”
“There ain’t no actin’ to it.
I AM overjoyed.”
“See, I told you it would be easy.”
Johnny sighed. “Are
you SURE we can’t just kill Murdoch? It
would be a WHOLE lot less stressful than dealing with Nick and those turkeys.”
Nick and Heath rode under the Lancer arch
two days later. They had ridden
over to Colton, and then stopped off briefly in town to take care of some
business. The cattle auction
wasn’t due to start for another two days, so they had plenty of time to relax
at the ranch before they had to go into town, and that’s JUST what they
planned to do. Their mother had
been working their tails off lately, and they were going to have some fun while
they could. They were going
to relax and forget they had even heard of ranching, stringing wire, and most of
all, forget there were any such things as turkeys.
Scott peeked through the
bushes and then whispered to his brother. “All
right, here they come!” Both men
started talking in loud voices.
“I mean it Scott!!!
If I have ta spend ONE MORE DAY with ANYTHING feathered, I think I just
might kill myself!”
“That goes for me too!
If Murdoch thinks were going to keep looking for those stupid birds,
he’s badly mistaken.”
“If I do find ‘em, I sure
ain’t gonna catch ‘em. What
does he think we are, stupid?”
“Well, all I can say is I’m sure glad those darn birds are out of my
life once and for all!”
“If Murdoch thinks we’re gonna
get more, I’m gonna SHOOT him!”
Nick nudged Heath. “I TOLD ya
they were all crazy,” he grinned, and then rode a little closer to the talking
bushes. “What’re you boys doing in there, anyway?”
Scott poked his head out of the bush. “Oh, hi Nick. What’re
you doing here?”
“Your father asked us to stay a few days.
What are YOU doing in THERE?”
Scott looked innocent.
“Oh nothing. Just having a
talk with my little brother.” He
grabbed Johnny by the arm and dragged him out of the shrubbery.
smiled. “Do you ALWAYS do your
talking in bushes?”
Scott shook his head.
“NO. Only sometimes, when
we’re trying to not do something.”
Johnny nodded his head.
“We’re tryin’ ta NOT catch turkeys.”
“Is it working?”
“So far it’s working beautifully.
Now if you’ll excuse us, gentlemen, we have to go back to not
working.” Scott pulled
Johnny with him into the bushes and disappeared.
Nick shook his head and rode toward the house, with
Heath following closely behind him. Nick
kept looking back at the bushes, but they were no longer talking. After they had
gone about fifty yards, Heath spoke up, “Now see, they aren’t crazy.”
Nick opened his mouth to say
something, and then shut it. If
Heath didn’t notice anything unusual about that encounter, HE certainly
wasn’t going to enlighten his brother. Then another thought crossed his mind.
Maybe whatever the Lancers had was contagious.
He looked at Heath out of the corner of his eye and quickly moved his
horse further away from his brother. The
two men rode up to the front of the house and dismounted.
“Nick, Heath, I’m glad you got here so quickly.”
Nick and Heath spun around and stared into the garden,
where their mother and Murdoch were apparently enjoying some lemonade.
So much for two days of peace. With
a sigh, the two men made their way over to the garden.
“Mother, Mr. Lancer.”
Murdoch shook hands with the two young men, and
then offered them some lemonade. Heath
and Nick accepted gratefully, and sank into one of the chairs sitting
incongruously in the yard. Heath
looked around and noticed several pieces of furniture scattered around the
garden. “I didn’t notice this last time.”
“It wasn’t here last time,” Murdoch growled.
“We can’t use the Great Room for a while, it was destroyed.”
Heath’s eyes got big.
Murdoch snorted in disgust as he pointed to what
was left of the door leading to the Great Room.
“Johnny’s girlfriend tore her way into the room to get at my imported
Brandy and managed to drink my entire stock.”
“ALL of it?” Heath squeaked, his eyes locked on the
massive hole in the wall and the bits of furniture piled in the corner of the
Murdoch nodded glumly.
“Every last drop. Then she
got drunk and destroyed all of the furniture before she passed out.”
Nick finally dragged his eyes away from the
damaged wall before looking at Heath in triumph.
“Told ya so.”
Victoria spoke up.
“I’m glad the two of you got here early.
It seems as if Scott and Johnny could use some help.”
“You got that right, but I’m NOT a psychiatrist,”
Nick mumbled as Heath poked him in the ribs with an elbow.
Victoria continued, “It seems as though
the two of them have misplaced a few birds, and I told Murdoch you would be more
than happy to help them find them.”
“What KIND of birds?”
Nick asked suspiciously.
Victoria took a sip of her lemonade. “I believe they were turkeys.”
Murdoch nodded. “Scott’s
camel wandered into the turkey pen and left the gate open.
Now Scott and Johnny are trying to catch the escapees.”
“Don’t bet on it,” Nick mumbled once more.
Victoria’s eyes widened slightly. “Don’t bet on what?”
I expect you two to go out and give Murdoch’s boys a hand.
Between the two of you, you SHOULD be able to round up those birds in no
“But MOTHER,” Heath complained, “We were
PLANNING on relaxing and having some fun. You
TOLD us this was supposed to be a vacation!”
“Now what could be more relaxing than spending time with some good
friends? Right Murdoch?”
Murdoch nodded. “Right,
and I know Scott and Johnny will appreciate it. Thanks, boys.”
Resigned to their fate, Nick and Heath drained
their lemonade and then stalked back out toward the bushes.
“I KNEW IT!” Nick
shouted. “I knew that SOMEHOW I was going to actually have to be around those
“Nick, calm down.
Look on the bright side. You
still have your plan to get even.”
Nick glared at his brother.
“Fat lot of good it will do me if I hang for murdering one of them
before that! Besides, I’m not
sure I’m going to do ANYTHING to Johnny. I’m not worried about him, but I
don’t want his girlfriend mad at me. That
woman has one serious anger management problem.”
Nick tore through the bushes where he had last
seen Scott and Johnny. “Just wait
until I get my hands on those two. I think they ‘lost’ those turkeys on
purpose just to make me mad.”
“Come on, Nick, how would they know that Mother and
Mr. Lancer would make us help them find their lost birds?”
“I have no idea, but it’s STILL their
fault! Now be quiet, or they’ll
know we’re coming, and I REALLY want to surprise them.”
Heath decided not to point out to his brother that with
his growling they could hear him coming a mile away, and he’d be lucky if they
didn’t shoot him thinking he was a grizzly bear.
Heath made sure he stayed behind his brother, just in case.
Nick finally pushed some particularly thick
shrubbery aside, and found Scott and Johnny calmly sitting and eating their
lunch. He glared at them for a
moment, and then Scott held something up to him.
As Nick started to hyperventilate, Heath calmly
grabbed the offering from Scott’s hand and sank down next to the two Lancers.
Johnny handed his friend a small flask, and Heath took a swig and smiled.
“WHAT DO you think you’re DOING?” Nick
bellowed. “That’s consorting
with the enemy!”
Heath shrugged. “I’m
Nick looked back and forth between Scott and Johnny.
“And what are YOU TWO doing sitting here?
YOU’RE SUPPOSED to be finding those turkeys!”
“Sure ya don’t want a cookie?”
At Nick’s silence, Johnny held up a small wrapped package.
“How about a piece of Maria’s apple pie?”
Nick stared at the parcel for a moment, his taste
buds obviously warring with his sense of retribution. Finally, he joined Heath on the ground and Johnny calmly
handed over the pie.
“You know that your father thinks you’re
looking for those lost turkeys,” Nick said accusingly through a mouthful of
Scott shrugged nonchalantly.
“We ARE looking, can’t you tell?
We can’t help it if those stupid birds aren’t where we happen to be
looking for them.”
“Makes sense to me.”
Nick looked back and forth between the three men.
“You have ALL lost your minds,” he observed.
Scott looked at Nick.
“Do YOU want to spend the rest of your life taking care of turkeys?”
“No, and I don’t plan on it, either!”
Johnny shrugged. “Neither
did we, but Murdoch found out just what a GREAT punishment it was, and now
that’s all we hear about is those dang birds.
I’ve forgotten what a cow looks like.
I even see turkeys in my dreams!”
“And if we FIND them, we’ll have to go back to taking care of them.
So they are going to STAY lost.”
“That’s just the point.
Mother told us to help you find them, and SHE won’t let us off the hook
until every last one is rounded up,” Nick bellowed.
“If you want to try it, be our guests, but we have been looking for
three days, and so far, we’ve only found thirty three.”
Heath looked up at Johnny.
“Just how many are missing?”
Johnny did some fast calculations in his head.
“Four hundred and fifty. Give
or take a few.”
The pie spewed out of Nick’s mouth. “You’re supposed to round up FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY
Scott nodded. “And
they have to be ALIVE.”
Johnny nodded calmly. “So, the way I see it, you can
either go out and spend the next week lookin’ for those overstuffed feather
dusters or you can stay here with us and keep your mouth shut.”
Nick thought for several moments before he grabbed the
flask from Johnny’s hand and downed a healthy slug.
“You have any more pie?”
Victoria and Murdoch sat in the garden the rest of the day, enjoying lemonade and reminiscing, and were sitting there when their four wayward sons rode in and started unsaddling their mounts.
“They look exhausted.
Do you think we’ve been too hard on them?”
Murdoch thought back to his squished
“At least they don’t appear to have killed each
other,” Mrs. Barkley observed.
“Then they must really be tired,” Murdoch
“How many do you think they’ve caught?”
“None.” He cast a
sidelong glance in her direction. “Have
you ever tried to catch a wild turkey?”
“No, I can’t say that I’ve had the
“It’s impossible. I have NO idea how
they managed to catch the ones that they
did. Besides, I only turned
fifty of them loose. Those boys
will be dragging in here every night, too exhausted to stand, which should
ensure US of a nice, peaceful, relaxing week.”
Victoria looked at her friend in disbelief, and
then started to laugh. “Why
Murdoch Lancer, do you mean you staged the whole thing?”
“Scott didn’t even question it, and for that matter, neither did
Johnny. They were too busy trying
to figure out how to get out of catching those birds to check out my story.
They were ALSO a little too worried about their futures after they saw
what Agnes had done to the Great Room. I
must admit, she had great timing; I had already turned those turkeys loose when
I came back and found Johnny’s elephant in the Great Room.
With all of the Halloween pranks that were pulled last year, I figured
I’d get a head start this Halloween.”
“What did you
do with the rest of the birds?”
are safely ensconced at a local farm, ready to be turned over to the army.”
chuckled. “You had better hope
that none of those boys find out what you’ve done.”
“You either. YOU’RE the
one that suggested Heath and Nick help Scott and Johnny.”
“Murdoch Lancer, YOU are downright sneaky!”
“The boys forced me to learn fast. I figured the only way that we’d all survive this week was
to keep them all too tired to get into trouble.”
Victoria looked over at her friend. “Do you think it will work?”
Murdoch shook his head.
“Not a chance.”
The boys entered through the kitchen door,
hoping to avoid their parents, but unfortunately, Victoria and Murdoch were
still seated at the table.
“Boys,” Murdoch greeted them.
“Sit down and have some supper.”
The four young men warily approached the
table. There was a brief scuffle as
all four of them went for the chair closest to the door, but Nick finally won
out, and the others had to settle for the more dangerous locations.
Maria started filling plates from the
stove, and slid them in front of the men. Murdoch
waited until the four young men had relaxed slightly before clearing his throat.
“So how many birds did you catch today?”
Johnny shot a look at Scott, who promptly dropped
his head. Johnny took one last
longing look at his supper, and then sighed.
Victoria’s eyebrows went up and she fixed Nick with a
stare. “The FOUR of you only
managed to catch ONE BIRD all day?”
Nick reluctantly put his fork down. Slowly, he nodded.
“They’re awfully hard to catch,” he muttered.
His mother continued to fix him with a glare, and
Nick’s appetite vanished like Johnny’s had a few moments earlier.
“Four grown men spent ALL DAY trying to
catch ONE TURKEY?” Murdoch asked
in disbelief, turning his gaze on Scott.
Scott hurriedly took another bite of meat before
meeting his father’s gaze. “Well,”
he said lamely, “as Nick pointed out, they ARE awfully hard to catch.”
watched the fate of the others and took advantage of his momentary respite to
quickly shovel a few more bites into his mouth.
A large piece if meat was halfway to his mouth when his mother shifted
her attention to her youngest.
The fork faltered in mid air.
“Why did you only manage to catch one
The fork clattered back down onto his plate, the
meat forgotten. “Cause they’re
hard to catch?” He offered
Victoria glowered at her wayward sons. “I PROMISED Murdoch you would help Scott and Johnny catch
those birds. I don’t care HOW
LONG it takes you; you are staying at this ranch until EVERY LAST ONE of those
turkeys is back in the pen. DO...you...understand?”
Heath took the news philosophically. He liked Maria’s cooking better than their own cook, and
besides, if catching those birds meant sitting in the bushes eating pie, it
didn’t sound half bad. Nick, on
the other hand looked like he might be going into shock.
Murdoch looked quickly over at Victoria, who was
smiling at him in triumph. He felt
panicked at the thought of all four of the boys staying at the ranch. Visions of total annihilation swam before his eyes.
“Really, Victoria, that won’t be necessary.
I’m sure my boys can handle it,” he babbled.
He looked beseechingly at his sons.
“Isn’t that right?”
Scott and Johnny studied their father for several
moments, and then Scott shook his head with a smirk.
“Actually, it HAS been a lot harder than we thought it would be.
Maybe it WOULD be a good idea to have some help.”
Johnny snuck a look at Nick and saw a satisfying purple
shade starting to creep up his neck. Johnny
hurriedly agreed. “Yeah, we could
use some help. I think they should
stay here as long as it takes ta catch all of those turkeys.”
He looked at his father hopefully. “But
do we have ta stay too?”
Nick lunged at Johnny, who masterfully avoided him but
managed to send the roast flying onto Scott’s lap.
Scott jumped up, catching his foot in the table leg, and the whole table
tottered precariously. Victoria
calmly stood up and grabbed her plate as Murdoch tried desperately to get
control of the wobbling pitcher of milk balanced on the edge of the table.
He had just reached it when Heath decided to grab it, too.
Their hands collided, and the pitcher went flying into the air.
Johnny caught it as it was coming down, saving the pitcher, but drenching
himself in the process. He jumped
to his feet, tipping the table up and sending a large bowl of mashed potatoes
sliding. Unaware of the stealthily
approaching potatoes, Nick reached down on the floor and tried to pick up what
was left of his dinner. A moment later, the vegetables launched their surprise
attack. Nick sat up abruptly, the
bowl upside down on his head, and globs of white clinging to his nose.
Nick opened his mouth, but a glance at his mother
reminded him that there was a lady present, and he closed his mouth with a snap.
He stood up stiffly and took two steps before deciding that it didn’t
matter, he was going to say it anyway. He
turned around and his mother put her hands on her hips.
“NICK,” she said threateningly.
Nick’s temper fought with his common sense, and for
once, his temper lost, at least for the time being.
He shot Johnny one last glare before turning and marching resolutely
toward the stairs.
The rest of the boys took one look at their parent’s faces
and quickly followed Nick, deciding that their odds of surviving were SLIGHTLY
better with the angry Barkley. After all, there WERE locks on their bedroom
Murdoch watched the rest of the boys’ undignified
retreat and then heaved a huge sigh. He
back down at the destroyed table, and Victoria wiped some potatoes from her seat
before sinking down into her own chair.
Murdoch looked at his friend in disbelief.
“You set me up!”
Victoria smiled. “Not
really. You set yourself up when
you started that prank.”
Murdoch put his head in his hands for a moment.
“It’s too late now. If I tell
them, they’ll kill me.”
Victoria nodded calmly.
“Yes, they will. For that
matter, Heath and Nick just might kill you, too. So as I see it, the only choice you have is to keep your
mouth shut and gracefully accept Heath and Nick’s help for say...the next
Murdoch looked at her with narrowed eyes.
“Why do you want to get rid of them so badly?”
“Murdoch Lancer, look around you!
If you had the chance to get rid of your two sons for three weeks,
you’d jump on it immediately, and you know it.”
Murdoch nodded glumly.
“You’re right. But I’m
still not sure it’s worth it. They’ll destroy the ranch before killing each
other and then me.” He looked at
her hopefully. “Maybe they
won’t find out.”
Victoria nodded her head.
“Of course you can decide not to go through with it, but if I don’t
get my vacation, I can guarantee the boys will find out about it.”
Victoria nodded. “Yes,”
she said sweetly. “It is.”
Nick grumbled as he fought his way through the bushes.
He didn’t care if he had to stay up all night for the next week, he was
going to find all of those turkeys and get away from the madmen at this ranch.
As far as he was concerned, they were all crazy.
He thought he just might ask Jarrod what it took to get someone
committed. If Nick had his way,
every single person on the Lancer ranch would end their days in the loony bin.
He just hoped it wasn’t contagious; both Mother and Heath seemed to be
acting a little strangely. He shook his head, he had better hurry up and find
those birds and get his family to safety. He
crept forward again, grumbling “Here turkey, here, turkey- turkey.”
Johnny heard Nick’s ill-tempered march
through the bushes, and he lowered his voice.
“I still don’t know about this plan, Scott.
Havin’ Nick around just might be worse than havin’ those turkeys
here. At least the turkeys
weren’t tryin’ ta kill us, and we could kill a turkey now and then.
Murdoch might be sort of mad if we wrung ole Nick’s neck.”
Scott shook his head.
“Don’t worry; he won’t be here that long. Eventually he’ll HAVE to realize that there are several
hundred turkeys just sitting over at his ranch, and then the trap will be
“We could remind him.”
“NO! If we suggest it, he’ll not do just on general
principle. We just have to sit
tight and wait for him to figure it out.”
“I don’t know, Scott.
I’m gettin’ awful tired of hangin around in these bushes. Seems like there ought ta be an easier way.”
“Just give him another day or two. Even NICK ought to be able to figure out the solution by
“In the meantime, we gotta make sure Nick doesn’t
find us. I STILL don’t know why
he was mad at US! What did WE
Scott shook his head.
“We didn’t do anything. Nick’s
just crazy. He’s mad at
“Yeah, well, he’s not lookin’ ta kill EVERYONE,
Scott shrugged. “All
we have to do is stay out of his way until he remembers those turkeys are at his
Johnny nodded glumly. “How’s
Jelly comin’ with that turkey call, anyway?”
“I have no idea, but if it’s anything like his other inventions,
we’d better watch out.”
“Yeah, the last time he said he’d invented
somethin’ I ended up flat on my back for three days!”
“We’ll just make sure Nick tries it out first.”
Johnny grinned back.
“Sounds like a plan ta me.” He
peeked out of the shrub. “Do ya
think we’d better at least PRETEND ta look for those dang birds?”
Scott nodded slowly. “I guess.
But THIS time, DON’T find any!”
“That wasn’t my fault,” Johnny replied sullenly.
“The darn bird flew right into my arms.”
“You could have dropped him.”
“I DID! He
followed us back to the ranch, remember?”
Scott sighed. Sometimes
Johnny’s way with animals was very annoying. Scott started to say something,
and then hunkered down lower in the bush. Someone
was approaching and Scott had no intention of letting Nick find them. They only
had one piece of pie left, and Scott had no intention of using it as a peace
The bushes rattled noisily, and the two brothers got ready to
run. Finally a whiskered face
peered at them from the other side of the shrubbery.
scolded. Why didn’t ya tell us it
“Cause I didn’t know it was YOU, Mr.
“Well it is. Now
what do you want?”
Jelly proudly held out an object. “Here it is. A
gen- u- wine turkey call.”
“But Jelly, we don’t WANT ta catch those birds.”
Jelly stuck out his chin.
“You mean I went ta all that trouble for nuthin’?”
With a sigh, Scott reached for the call, but Jelly
pulled it back. “I gotta show ya
how ta use it.” He put the call
to his lips and blew. The racket
that was produced made both Johnny and Scott cover their ears.
Johnny snatched the call out of his friend’s hands.
“There’s NO WAY that thing is gonna get turkeys ta come.
IN fact, after hearin’ that, they’re probably all in the next county
Scott smiled, and Johnny realized what he had just said.
Johnny put the call to his lips and he blew on the call several times.
Nothing happened, and Johnny smiled at his brother before trying it
again. He once more used the call,
and without warning, a form came leaping through the bushes and landed with some
force on Johnny, sending him sprawling on his back.
Nick’s eyes got wide when he saw just who and what he
had captured. “YOU!” he
bellowed. He looked around and saw
Jelly, and his eyes widened even more. Jelly bolted to his feet and took off
through the bushes, screaming about murder.
Nick jumped to his feet and tried to launch himself after the fleeing
man, but Johnny reached out and grabbed Nick’s foot, sending him sprawling
into the bushes.
Scott wisely removed himself and the last remaining
piece of pie from the immediate vicinity, and stood watching as Nick struggled
to regain his footing.
Finally, Nick lunged to his feet and tackled Johnny, sending them both crashing
back into the bushes. Johnny got up
and swung at Nick, sending him flying. Scott
and his pie calmly stepped back another foot and watched as Johnny and Nick
discussed their differences.
Scott stood a short ways away and ate his pie until a
particularly vicious lunge by the two combatants caught him unaware and the jolt
sent his pie into the shrubbery. He
looked sadly at the remains of his dessert, and then with a sigh, he joined his
brother in the discussion.
The three men sat and looked at each other without
talking. All of them were slightly
worse for wear, and none of them appeared to be in a good mood. Finally Scott broke the silence. “Look, Nick, as long as we
have to work together, why don’t we call a truce?”
Nick looked at Scott in disbelief. “Because I don’t want to get killed, that’s why!
Anytime I’m anywhere around you two, something bad happens.”
“Aw, come on. Nick,” Johnny said. “It ain’t THAT bad.”
“Want to bet?”
Nick glowered. “The two of
you and Jelly could have won the war by yourselves by signing up on the opposite
side!” He looked around. “Just
where is Mr. Hoskins, anyway?”
Johnny shrugged. “Don’t be mad at him.” He dug into his pocket and brought out the turkey call.
“See, he made a turkey call so you could find those birds quicker.
Sort of a peace offering.”
Nick looked at the call suspiciously. “Does it work?”
Johnny grinned. “It
fooled you, didn’t it?”
“Why don’t you want it?”
Nick asked suspiciously.
“Because WE don’t WANT to find those turkeys,
“Then WHY do you want me to use it?”
“We’re just tryin’ ta be nice.”
“Somehow, I doubt that!”
Nick scowled at Johnny for a moment, and
then grabbed the call and put it to his own lips and blew.
Nick shrugged. “I guess
I’ll give it a try. Nothing else
seems to be working.” He glared at the two men.
“But if ANYTHING happens to me because of this call, I am going to kill
you...slowly. And I don’t care
what Mother says!”
“Come on, Nick, what could POSSIBLY go wrong
with a turkey call? You’re awfully suspicious.”
“When it comes to you two, that’s the only
way to stay alive!” Nick
scrambled to his feet, and trudged off through the bushes, sounding the call
every few feet.
Johnny looked at Scott.
“Wonder if it’ll work?”
“Who knows? Even if it
doesn’t, it can’t hurt anything.”
Johnny looked at the rapidly disappearing Nick and nodded. “I guess.”
Nick proceeded slowly through the bushes, calling every
few minutes. So far, he hadn’t
seen any sign of turkeys, and he was beginning to wonder if the Lancer boys had
put one over on him again. He gave
another call, as loud as he could this time, and he heard a soft call coming
from a stand of thick trees up ahead. He
slowed down and blew softly once more, and was rewarded with another answering
call. Chuckling, he advanced
slowly, so he wouldn’t frighten the wary bird.
As he got next to the trees, he gave one last call, and stepped into the
It took him a moment for his eyes to adjust to the light, but
he didn’t see any sign of turkeys. He called once more, and was answered by a
chirping sound coming from a huge tangle of brush. Nick grinned; the turkey call actually seemed to be working.
The turkey was definitely coming closer, and it was a big one from the
sound of it. He snuck closer, and then swept the bushes aside with his hands.
His eyes widened as he spied the animal that had been answering his call,
and he turned to run, Agnes hot on his heels.
Murdoch and Victoria were sitting on the porch,
enjoying the peaceful surroundings. Murdoch
was still feeling a little upset about the way Victoria had tricked him, and he
was letting her know it.
“I still can’t believe you’re blackmailing me
into keep those boys.”
Victoria calmly took a sip from her lemonade.
“And I can’t believe all of the problems YOUR boys have caused
Murdoch sighed. “Neither
can I. I THOUGHT they were
reasonably intelligent, but I have had my doubts the last couple of months.”
“They HAVE managed to get themselves into quite a few
messes, that’s for sure.”
Murdoch looked at his friend hopefully.
“Don’t your boys ever get into trouble?”
Victoria nodded her head.
“Occasionally. But they
never get involved in the kind of disasters your boys seem to get into
regularly. Your boys seem to have a
knack for making themselves look ridiculous.”
Murdoch nodded glumly.
“That they do.”
A loud trumpeting was heard from a distance, followed
by an angry bellow. Victoria and
Murdoch looked up and shaded their eyes in order to see the cause of all of the
racket. A cloud of dust was fast
approaching the hacienda, and it took a few moments for the two older people to
realize that it was caused by the fast approach of Agnes.
In front of her was a panicked Nick, who was doing his best to stay in
front of the runaway elephant.
As he ran, Nick kept making shooing gestures toward the
elephant, and bellowing for her to go away.
Agnes calmly ignored him, and continued her headlong flight.
Victoria watched in open- mouthed amazement as her son disappeared into
the barn with the elephant in hot pursuit.
An amazing cacophony of moos, bellows, neighs and screams erupted from
within, and a few seconds later, dozens of men and animals came bursting out of
A moment of silence descended before Nick once
more came running into view, bolting out of a small side door. Murdoch and
Victoria both winced as the whole side of the barn seemed to erupt and the
elephant resumed her chase. Nick
caught sight of the two people on the porch and came running in their direction.
Murdoch and Victoria both jumped to their feet and dove behind their
chairs as Nick launched himself up the steps and disappeared into the house,
through the newly repaired French doors.
Agnes didn’t hesitate; she dutifully followed Nick
into the house, leaving splinters of wood and broken glass in her wake.
Murdoch winced once more as enormous crashing sounds erupted from inside,
and he knew that Nick had chosen to escape up the stairs.
When silence once more prevailed, Murdoch got calmly to his feet and offered his hand to Victoria. “Now what were you saying about your boys?
Nick sat on the bed and stared at his brother.
Heath was afraid that Nick might be going into shock, and he hurriedly
poured a glass of water and handed it to him.
Nick drank it in one long swallow, and then slammed the glass down on the
bedside table. He turned his
attention to the glass and glared at it. “They
don’t even have decent whisky in this house.”
Heath started to enlighten him, but then closed his
mouth. His brother had had enough
shocks for one day without informing him he had gulped down water instead of
whisky. That information might be
enough to put his brother right over the edge.
“Look on the bright side...”
Heath started before Nick’s glare stopped him in his tracks.
“We are stuck at Lancer for who knows how
long,” Nick growled. “DON’T
tell me there is a bright side, because there isn’t any.”
Nick buried his face in his hands. “I
can’t BELIEVE Mother left us here with these madmen.”
Heath shrugged noncommittally.
“Come on, Nick. It IS only
fair you stay here and help Murdoch fix the house and barn.
After all, you’re the one that messed it up.”
Nick straightened up and glowered at his brother.
“I MESSED IT UP? I’M not the one that tore a hole in the side of the house
and flattened the stairs! That was
Johnny’s ‘girlfriend.’ I had
NOTHING to do with it.”
“That’s not what mother said. She
said you purposely headed for the house, instead of leading Agnes off somewhere
where she couldn’t do any damage.”
Nick shook his head in amazement. “And I don’t suppose any of you would have cared if
that overgrown monstrosity would have flattened me instead of the house.”
Heath shrugged once more.
“Probably not. Look Nick,
all we have to do is to help Scott and Johnny find the rest of those birds,
build new stairs, mend the French doors, and fix the hole in the barn, and we
Nick stared at Heath. “Is that all? Well
I have news for you brother, with Scott and Johnny around to help us, we’ll be
here THE REST OF OUR LIVES!!
And after that I’ll go to jail, because I’m GOING to KILL BOTH of
Heath wanted to give his brother some sympathy, but he was a
little afraid to go near him right now, and he decided to wait until Nick calmed
down a little bit.
Nick put his face in his hands one more time, and then
suddenly sat straight up. “I have
no intention of spending the rest of my life looking for turkeys, and I don’t
care how good Maria’s pies are. I know where there are at least five hundred
birds that the owners are just DYING to get rid of.”
Heath looked at his brother suspiciously.
Nick smiled for the first time since meeting Agnes.
“Now where do you think, brother?”
Heath shook his head.
“I THINK Mother will definitely notice that those birds are gone.”
“So? She won’t care as
long as we make a profit on them.”
Heath shook his head.
“I’m not going to buy my own birds.
You can count me out.”
“You won’t have to buy them.
We’ll wait until Scott and Johnny are desperate, and then make THEM buy
“What makes you think they’ll be
Nick simply smiled. “Trust me.”
Scott and Johnny returned to the house late that
afternoon. They figured they had
spent enough time lurking in the bushes, and since they had run out of food they
had decided to come home. They
hadn’t seen or heard Nick since they had given him Jelly’s turkey call, and
they were both hoping that he had gotten lost.
Scott and Johnny pulled their horses to a halt just
outside the Great Room and stared at the giant hole in the wall. Scott looked over at Johnny.
“Wasn’t that fixed this morning?”
“I THOUGHT so, but I was in too much of a hurry ta leave ta really
Scott shook his head.
He could have sworn that hole had been fixed, but apparently he was
wrong. That’s what happened when
you were around turkeys every day.
The two boys walked into the Great Room and skidded to
a halt. “Now I KNOW we had stairs
this morning,” Scott mumbled.
Johnny nodded. “Yep.
Seems I remember those all right.” Johnny
looked around in confusion. “Wonder
“Maybe Nick lost his temper,” Scott smirked.
“Actually,” Murdoch said from his desk, “You’re
Johnny looked around uneasily.
“Agnes?” He croaked.
Murdoch nodded. “She
chased Nick right through the barn and into the house.
Unfortunately, she was a little too big for the stairs.”
Johnny winced and shut his eyes. When the screaming didn’t start, he opened one eye just to
make sure Murdoch wasn’t going for his shotgun.
Amazingly, his father was still seated, and actually looked fairly calm.
“All right, what’s the catch?”
asked innocently. “There’s no
This time Scott spoke up.
“Sir, we demand to know why you are not at this moment killing us.”
Murdoch shook his head and chuckled. “I don’t know where you boys get those ideas.
Anyway, I’ll see you in the morning.
I’m going to bed.” He looked at his sons. “You’d
better try the back stairs, and if I were you, I’d avoid Nick’s room.
Last time I saw him he seemed a little cranky.”
Johnny frowned. “I
wonder why Agnes was chasin’ him.”
“He wasn’t too coherent, but he was babbling something about a turkey
Scott froze. “A
turkey call?” He repeated.
Murdoch nodded. “Oh,
and by the way, Heath and Nick are going to be our guests for several weeks.
Isn’t that nice? You boys can work together to clean this place up and catch
Scott went over to the sideboard and poured two glasses of
brandy and then as an afterthought he grabbed the bottle. Without a word he headed for the door, then turned around and
grabbed another bottle. Spinning
around, he marched out the hole in the side of the house with Johnny following
close behind him.
“Where are you going?”
Murdoch asked in confusion.
“We’re sleepin’ in the barn. And if ya want us,
don’t sneak up on us, ‘cause we’re shootin’ anyone that comes near
us,” Johnny called over his shoulder.
Johnny started awake, trying to hold his head and grab
for his gun at the same time. He
finally decided it was more important to make sure his head stayed attached to
his body, and he grabbed his head with both hands as he looked wildly around,
trying to find the source of the commotion.
He made the mistake of turning his head toward the sound, and he waited
for his head to roll off from the sudden movement. He held on tighter.
“Get UP! RIGHT
NOW! I’ve found one!”
Jelly was hoping up and down and waving his hands wildly in the air.
“I FOUND ONE! Hurry UP or
it’s gonna get away!”
Johnny glared at the handyman for a moment before
lying back down with a groan, one of the empty bottles serving as a pillow.
Scott sat up unsteadily and tried to focus his eyes on
the three Jellies’ that were standing in front of him.
“Found WHAT?” he whispered, then winced as his own voice echoed in
Jelly hopped some more.
“A TURKEY! What else would
I be lookin’ for?”
Scott joined his brother on the ground.
“Stop JUMPING! You’re making the whole barn move. Besides, we TOLD you, we don’t WANT to find any turkeys,”
Scott ground out. “If you find
one, chase it away.”
Jelly stuck his chin out belligerently.
“Well, you’ll wanna find this one for sure!
It’s HUGE! Bigger than all
the rest of ‘em combined.”
“And just WHY would we want a huge turkey?
The regular sized ones are bad enough,” Johnny offered.
“”Cause it’s probably worth a fortune. It must weigh more’n me.”
“Sure it does, Jelly.”
“You don’t believe me?”
The handyman asked angrily.
Johnny managed to roll over and glare at
the old man. “Last time I
believed you I spent a week tryin’ ta catch an imaginary critter and makin’
a fool of myself. Not ta mention
gettin’ scratched, kicked, bit and tromped on.
I’m not going to make the same mistake this time.
Whatever it is can just go right back where it came from.”
“That one WASN’T imaginary.
It just wasn’t what you thought it was.”
“And I really don’t care what this one is, either.
I’m going back to sleep.”
Jelly started hopping again.
“I’m tellin’ ya, there’s a giant turkey out there. Now come on
out and look before it gets away.” He
pulled on Johnny’s arm, trying to get his friend to his feet. Johnny tried to pull away, but he was hampered by the fact
that he wouldn’t let go of his head.
Finally Scott turned his bleary eyes toward
Jelly and came to his brother’s rescue. “If
I come out and look at it, will you leave us alone and let us go back to
Jelly’s eyes bugged out and he stuck his chin
out even more. “If’n you can go
back ta sleep with a monster runnin’ around loose, that’s fine with me, but
I aim ta catch it. It’s gotta be
With a sigh, Scott tried to sit up. It took several tries, and a little help from both Jelly and
Johnny, but he finally staggered to his feet.
“All right, Jelly, lead on.”
“Scott, wait, ya can’t go after a monster without
protection. Here, take my gun.”
Jelly watched in confusion as Johnny solemnly handed his brother a carrot and
Scott tried for several seconds to check to see if it was loaded.
Finally, Jelly grabbed Scott by the arm and dragged him away.
Johnny watched as Jelly disappeared out the hole in the wall
that Agnes had made. Scott
hit the wall several times before Jelly came back and grabbed his arm and guided
him through the opening. Johnny
tried to stay in a sitting position long enough to see if Scott actually saw
anything, but he was getting tired of holding his head onto his body. Finally, Johnny decided that the way his head felt he
didn’t really want it attached anyway, and he cautiously let go.
He was slightly disappointed when it stayed attached, and he collapsed
with a groan onto the hay.
Quite a while latter, Johnny heard Scott shuffle back
into the barn. Without opening his
eyes, Johnny started whispering. “So,
didja see it?”
“And what was it?”
“A giant turkey,” Scott slurred.
“Oh, that’s nice.
Is Jelly gonna leave us alone now?”
“Uh huh. The
turkey took off and Jelly’s gonna go ask Nick to give him his turkey call
It took a minute for the words to register, and then Johnny
made the mistake of trying to sit up.” WHAT?”
Scott shrugged. “That’s
OK. There were three Jellys. ONE of
them is BOUND to survive.”
Johnny collapsed back into the hay once more,
reassured that everything would be all right.
“OK, if you say so. Goo’night.”
“Was it REALLY a giant turkey?”
“Looked like it to me.”
wanted ta make sure it wasn’t another Easter Bunny.”
Scott thought hard before finally answering.
“Nope, it didn’t have any clothes on, and it had feathers.”
“”Don’t sound like the Easter Bunny.”
“Do you think Nick will kill Jelly?”
Scott thought again.
“OK. Just as
long as he does it quietly. Goo
Scott sat bolt upright as he tried to figure out what
that horrible racket was. At first
he thought it might be a mad bull, and then he decided it was probably a grizzly
bear. Whatever it was, it was doing
his head absolutely no good at all. With any luck, the beast would come in and
put him out of his misery. He
looked over at his brother, who was snoring softly, cuddling an empty bottle.
He couldn’t believe Johnny could actually sleep through that racket.
Finally, Scott began to realize that the grizzly bear
was yelling at Jelly, and he smiled to himself.
If Jelly wanted to make money with some strange creature, he should
capture that bear. Scott thought
that a talking bear would be worth a whole lot more than a giant turkey.
He’d have to tell Jelly in the morning but right now he was going to go
back to sleep. Scott grabbed
his own bottle and tried to fluff it before giving up and putting it under his
head. He made up his mind to talk
to his father about investing in some better pillows, too.
Johnny gazed lackadaisically at the
form sprawled next to him. He
couldn’t figure out how someone could sleep in such an uncomfortable position.
His brother was actually using the empty brandy bottle as a pillow, and
his arms were spread-eagled in the hay. On foot was propped up on the wall, and
the other was bent almost backward. For
some strange reason, Scott was clutching a carrot tightly in one hand.
Johnny studied him for a moment, and then cautiously looked around.
Most of the horses were gone, and the sun appeared to be high overhead.
He couldn’t believe they had slept through all of the commotion as the
wranglers left to work. Murdoch was
going to have their hides.
He staggered to his feet, holding on to the side of a
stall for support. The barn tilted
crazily, and he grabbed the stall door with both hands. When he had managed to
make the barn stop moving, he cautiously let go and felt his head. He was mildly
surprised to find that it was still attached; he could have sworn he remembered
losing it last night.
He looked back at the sleeping form of his brother and
thought about waking him up, but decided Scott probably wasn’t in too good a
shape anyway. Unlike him, Scott
just couldn’t hold his liquor at all.
Johnny managed to find his way out of the barn without getting lost, and
he walked over to the horse trough, meaning to dip his head, but he overextended
a tiny bit and landed head first in the water.
He finally managed to figure out just which way was up, and he came
spluttering to the surface.
Hearing the commotion, Jelly came running over
and dragged Johnny out of the trough by his arm.
“What in tarnation’s the matter with you? You scared all the horses half ta death with all that
splashin’ around.” Jelly looked
around. “Where’s Scott?”
Johnny pointed to the barn, but wisely decided not to
talk at this point. Jelly’s voice
was bad enough, and his own would be a whole lot closer.
Jelly moved in front of Johnny and put his
hands on his hips. “SO?”
Johnny narrowed his eyes as he gave up and
realized that he’d have to talk sometime.
“So, what?” He
Jelly huffed impatiently.
“SO...have ya figured out a plan yet ta catch it?”
“THE GIANT TURKEY!”
Johnny slammed his hands over his ears and
whispered in confusion, “What giant turkey...and whisper, will ya?”
“The giant turkey that was here last night.”
Johnny took a step forward and sniffed suspiciously at
Jelly’s breath. “You been into
the horse liniment again?”
spluttered, “That’s callin’ the kettle black!”
Jelly shook his head emphatically. “Where’s
Scott? He’ll tell ya.”
Jelly marched into the barn yelling for Johnny’s older brother.
A moment later, Johnny heard Jelly’s strident
voice coming from the barn, and he felt a moment’s pity for his brother, but
was grateful that Jelly had turned his attention elsewhere.
Johnny sat down to wait, and several minutes later Scott staggered out of
the barn and headed for the horse trough. He
spent the next several moments trying to drown himself, and then finally gave up
and collapsed next to Johnny. Scott
looked over at his brother. “You
Johnny nodded. “It’s
that rot gut brandy Murdoch insists on gettin’. Next time we’re gonna drink a whole bottle each, I get ta
pick just what we’re gonna drink.”
Scott nodded carefully.
“Tequila COULDN’T be worse than this.”
Jelly had been watching them both with a worried
expression on his face. “SO,
what’re we gonna do about it?”
Johnny saw that Jelly was getting ready to yell, so he
interrupted. “Jelly, there ain’t no such thing as a giant turkey.”
“Scott, tell him!
You saw it!”
Scott continued holding his head and mumbled,
“I saw a LOT of things last night.” He
looked at Johnny suspiciously. “Did
you paint Agnes pink?”
Johnny stared at his brother worriedly.
Scott shook his head carefully. “No reason,” he mumbled.
Johnny thought for a moment.
“You didn’t paint Helen, did ya?”
“Not that I remember.”
“All right, “Johnny said cautiously, not
really believing his brother.
Scott squinted up at the sun.
“We’d better get to work or Murdoch is going to kill us.
He took a step and staggered slightly.
“Actually, that MIGHT not be a bad idea.”
thought of that, but Scott, guns are noisy,” Johnny offered solemnly.
“WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO ABOUT THAT TURKEY?”
Scott contemplated him for a moment and then
shrugged his shoulders. “Have
Nick help you. By the way, where is
“He’s in the house with Heath, they’ve been
workin’ on that staircase since dawn,”
Scott locked eyed with his brother. “Then WE’RE going back out to look for those turkeys.
I don’t think my head could survive another discussion with Nick.”
Johnny nodded in agreement, and turned back toward the
barn to get the horses.
Jelly could contain himself no longer.
“If you’re just gonna ignore that monster out there, that’s fine
with me. Just don’t come cryin’
ta Jelly when he eats all the livestock and then goes after you.”
“I tell ya what Jelly.
You send that big bird out to us about suppertime, and I guarantee
we’ll do somethin’ about it. We
oughta be hungry by then.”
“Ya CAN’T kill it,” Jelly protested. “Ya gotta capture it alive!”
Johnny shook his head.
“I heard THAT before. Anything
strange lookin’ gets with a hundred feet of me today, I’m gonna shoot it.
And that includes Nick.”
Scott nodded in agreement.
“We’ll see you tonight. If Murdoch asks, tell him we’re out hunting
Jelly watched as the two men disappeared into the barn,
and shook his head. He couldn’t
understand how they could be so calm when some dangerous monster was getting
ready to destroy the ranch. He
guessed it was up to him, Jellifer B. Hoskins, to capture the beast. Then they’d see.
By early afternoon, both Scott and Johnny were
feeling a little more clear headed. They
spent that afternoon not catching turkeys and making sure they avoided Nick.
As they had no idea where the irate Barkley was, they had to keep a
pretty sharp lookout for him. They had no intentions of getting murdered on
their own ranch. Scott and Johnny
finally took refuge in a grassy area next to a stream, and sprawled lazily in
“Do ya think he’ll find us here?”
“How should I know?
That stupid elephant of yours will probably lead him straight to us.”
“She ain’t stupid.”
“NO, but she’s DEFINITELY yours. I still don’t know why Nick’s mad at me.”
“Nick’s mad at everybody.”
Johnny looked at his brother. “I
thought you said he’d deliver those turkeys as soon as he knew we didn’t
“Don’t worry, he will.
He hasn’t really had time to go get them yet.”
“Well, he’d better hurry up.
We need those turkeys real quick.”
“We might have to do some of the chores Murdoch has him working on to
give him time to get the birds.”
“Do we have to?”
Johnny asked petulantly. “I’d
much rather not catch turkeys all day.”
“If we don’t want our own father to kill us, it
might be prudent. Besides, if we
don’t get those turkeys pretty soon Murdoch is going to realize that we’re
doing absolutely nothing, and then we WILL be dead.”
Johnny nodded resignedly, and then looked at his
brother hopefully. ‘Didja bring
anything ta eat?”
“I have two pieces of beef jerky, and a
flask of brandy.”
Johnny grabbed a piece of jerky from Scott’s hand,
but shuddered when his brother offered the flask.
“You can have the brandy. I’m
swearin’ off drinkin’ for a while.”
“Do ya think Nick is thinkin’ about gettin’ those
turkeys pretty soon? If this
doesn’t work, we’re gonna have at come up with another way ta get those
Scott shook his
head. “Trust me; everything is
going according to plan. Just keep complaining and saying how much you hate
those turkeys, and he’ll have them here by this weekend.”
Johnny watched his brother dubiously. “All right, if you say so, but somehow I don’t think
it’ll be that easy.”
Scott glared at his brother.
“Come on, Johnny. I’ve
thought of everything. What could
possibly go wrong?”
Johnny looked glumly at his brother and grabbed the
flask of brandy.
Nick stopped and wiped the sweat from his brow.
He had made pretty good progress on the stairs, and he was proud of his
work. He and Heath had been working
on the shattered staircase since early this morning, trying desperately to get
it done. Heath wasn’t in a particular hurry, but Nick wanted to get
back home as soon as possible. He was afraid if he stayed he’d either be
arrested for murder or he’d wind up just as loony as the rest of the people on
They had made great progress on the repair, and
Nick attributed that to the fact that Johnny and Scott hadn’t appeared all
day. For that matter, neither had
anyone else. Murdoch Lancer
had gone into Green River to pick up some supplies, and after breakfast the
women had gone over to a neighbor’s house to visit.
Heath went over and poured a glass of lemonade
for himself and Nick, and then plunked down on the one couch that was left.
He contemplated his brother seriously.
“I STILL don’t understand how you’re going to get Johnny and Scott
to pay good money to replace a bunch of birds that they’re tryin’ that hard
not to find.”
Nick threw down his hammer and walked over and
picked up the lemonade. “Heath,
the trouble with you is you never plan anything.
What is the ONE thing that would make Johnny and Scott’s life
absolutely miserable? That they’d
pay any amount of money to avoid?”
Heath thought for a few seconds.
“Having to take care of more turkeys?’
Nick shook his head impatiently. “No! Even more
Heath looked perplexed for a moment until comprehension
dawned. “Having us stay here.”
“Exactly,” Nick grinned.
“So all we have to do ....” Heath started.
“Is act like we’re enjoying ourselves so much
that we don’t want to leave. We’re
going to be REAL nice to the two of them, and make sure they know just how much
we DON’T want to get rid of our turkeys.
Johnny might not figure it out, but I’m sure Scott will realize that
he’s not going to get rid of us unless he replaces those birds.
If we’re REAL lucky, they’ll even help us with the rest of the chores
we’re supposed to be doing.”
Heath smiled. “All
right, but for some reason I don’t think it’s going to be that easy.
This IS Scott and Johnny we’re talking about, remember?”
Nick waved his hand at his brother. “Trust me, what could POSSIBLY go wrong?”
Murdoch sat in the bar at Green River,
sipping a drink and talking to his old friend, Sam Jenkins.
Sam laughed. “Do
you mean to tell me that Victoria left you babysitting all four boys?”
Murdoch nodded grumpily.
“It isn’t funny. I
thought she was more trustworthy than that.”
Sam chuckled. “Well,
from what you tell me, it IS your fault. Shame
on you for tricking those boys like that! They’re
probably working themselves to death trying to catch a bunch of stupid birds
that don’t even exist.”
Murdoch snorted. “Somehow,
I doubt that. I tell you Sam, I
can’t WAIT to get rid of all of those stupid birds for good.
They’ve caused more problems than you can ever imagine.”
“I can imagine quite a bit, especially when it comes
to those boys of yours!”
“I know. That’s
why I pulled this stunt. First, to
get even with them for some of the pranks they’ve pulled, especially last
Halloween, but also to keep them occupied and out of trouble when Nick and Heath
were here. I didn’t need those
boys at each other’s throats.”
“It doesn’t sound like it worked too well.”
Murdoch nodded. “Oh,
yes, it worked. They haven’t
killed each other yet, anyway. And
those birds are safely ensconced over at the Danson’s place. All I have to do is hold on a little while longer.
Trust me, Sam, nothing can POSSIBLY go wrong.”
Victoria Barkley was sitting in the parlor of her house, talking with Jarrod. She had just returned home, minus her two other sons, and she
had explained to him how she had set Murdoch up.
He was showing some skepticism about his mother’s plan, however.
“Aren’t you afraid Nick will kill Scott and Johnny?”
“Oh, come now, Jarrod.
You make Nick sound absolutely out of control. I’m sure Murdoch will keep him so busy he won’t have TIME
to plot anything.
Jarrod shook his head. “I’m
still not convinced you should have left them there for three weeks.”
Victoria shook her head.
“Come now, Jarrod. Trust
me. What could possibly go wrong?
Johnny and Scott waited until
after dark before venturing into the house.
They figured if Nick was still on the warpath that the chances of losing
him in the dark were a whole lot better than if he took out after them during
Cautiously, Johnny stuck his head into the Great Room
and saw Heath and Nick sitting comfortably by the fire, each of them with a
drink in their hands. Nick looked
up and saw Johnny, and a big smile erupted on his face.
“JOHNNY!” he bellowed, “We’ve
been wondering where you and Scott were. You
sure missed a great supper.”
Johnny looked back at Scott, who shrugged, and Johnny
opened the door a little bit wider.
Heath went over and poured two more glasses of
brandy and held them up. Johnny
looked at the glasses suspiciously, and then cautiously entered the room, Scott
following closely on his tail. Heath
came over and handed the two men their drinks, and then returned to the lone
couch and sat down. Nick was
sitting at the other end of the sofa, which left the floor for Johnny and Scott.
The two men decided to stand
to get a better head start, because they knew that SOMEONE would be after them
grinned. “You must have been
working hard today. We missed you at both lunch and dinner.”
Scott nodded in confusion and then looked at the
half finished stairs. “It looks
like you two were working hard, too.”
Nick beamed at Scott.
“We sure were, but I almost hate to finish the work around here.”
“Because I really like it here. In fact, I think I’ll really take my time hunting those
turkeys.” He swirled his drink
around his glass and nodded, “Yes sir, I could get used to this.”
Johnny asked suspiciously.
“He went to bed early,” Heath offered.
“Uh huh,” Johnny replied, keeping his eyes
glued on Nick.
“Actually, I’m afraid it’s going to take
quite a long time to catch all of those birds,” Nick said innocently. “I was telling Heath earlier that’s it’s too bad we
couldn’t get some somewhere else to replace the ones you lost. In fact I was even trying to figure out a way to bring our
supply of turkeys over here, but Mother would have a fit if she had to lose all
Nick shrugged and took another drink.
“Actually, now I think it’s just as well.
We’ll be able to stay here for a good long while and get to know you
boys better.” He finished the drink in one long gulp. “I
think I’ll turn in, good night, and I’ll see you in the morning.”
Heath set his glass down and shrugged at Johnny, and
then followed his brother. Scott
watched as Johnny remained motionless for quite some time. Scott was beginning to worry when suddenly Johnny bolted to
his feet and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?”
‘I’m going ta find some turkeys!” Johnny growled. “I
KNEW your plan wouldn’t work.”
“Of COURSE it will work, you just have to have
faith. Give it some time! Do you think Nick WANTS to stay here? He’s bluffing!”
“I AIN’T givin’ it any more time.”
“And where do you think you’re going to find
turkeys this time of night?”
“I have no idea, but I KNOW I ain’t gonna find any in the
house,” Johnny yelled as the door slammed behind him.
Scott stared at the door for a few moments, and
then stood up and poured himself another glass of brandy.
The problem with his brother was that he never had a plan.
Johnny headed out without any particular
destination in mind, but as he rode, he thought that he just might know a place
that had a bunch of turkeys. The
Dansons always raised turkeys for the holiday season, and he’d just about bet
that they had some extras they’d be willing to get rid of.
He shook his head. Anybody
in their right mind would be willing to get rid of any of those dang birds that
He headed Barranca toward the small ranch, and let his
thoughts wander. He wasn’t sure
just what Nick Barkley was up to, but he didn’t care to find out.
He just wanted him gone. Johnny
sighed; at least Murdoch had been in a decent mood lately.
He couldn’t figure out why, but he wasn’t going to rock the boat,
that was for sure.
thought of boats reminded Johnny of Murdoch’s model ship.
He had looked all over for someone who could repair it, and finally found
an old man in Spanish Wells. It was
going to cost Johnny quite a bit, but if he could get it fixed and back in the
house before Murdoch realized anything was wrong, it would be worth it.
Johnny shook his head, he had been lucky so far, and Murdoch hadn’t
It was close to nine o’clock by the time Johnny
rode into the small barnyard, and immediately the air was echoing with the
sounds of hundreds of disgruntled turkeys. Johnny worriedly studied the house
and was relieved when he saw the lamps were still lit. He had no intention of
sleeping in the barn with those darn birds.
Marty Danson opened the door to find out who his late
night visitor was, and waved at Johnny. “Come
on in! My Pa’s out of town for a
week or so, and I could use some company.”
Johnny tied up Barranca and entered the house
where Mr. Danson and his son, Marty lived.
They had been the Lancer’s neighbors for almost twenty years, and were
“What can I do for you, Johnny?
Everything All right?”
“Actually, I was wondering if you could do me a
“I sure will if I can.”
“I was wondering if you had any turkeys you’d be willing
Marty looked confused for a moment. “You need more?”
Johnny sighed. “Scott
and I sort of lost the last bunch.”
“I didn’t realize you had that many.” He grinned at Johnny. “I
was under the impression they weren’t exactly your favorite animals.”
“Believe me, they’re not.
But Murdoch is going to have both Scott’s and my head if we can’t
come up with those missing birds.” He
hesitated. “I may have ta pay you
“That’s OK. You can pay us anytime.
You can have what I got, maybe three hundred.
Is that enough?”
Johnny sighed. “I
guess it’ll have to be. Sure
sounded like you had more out there, though.”
“Well, with the four hundred and thirty your father
brought over here the other day, we have about seven hundred and fifty.”
Johnny stared at Danson.
Danson shook his head. “Didn’t you know he brought
Johnny slowly shook his head.
“Maybe I wasn’t supposed t say anything.”
“Oh yes you were,” Johnny said softly. “Did Murdoch say anything?”
Marty shrugged. “Just
for us ta keep ‘em her until the army buyer was ready for ‘em.”
Johnny nodded, and Marty asked worriedly, “You’re not
mad, are ya?”
“Not at you,” Johnny replied calmly.
“Ya probably don’t want those other turkeys now, do ya?”
Johnny smiled wickedly.
“Oh, yes, I want them. I
want every last one that you can spare.”
Heath watched as his brother paced around the
room muttering to himself. Finally
Heath shook his head. “I don’t
think it’s going to work. They’re
not going to fall for it.”
Nick shot his brother a glare and resumed his pacing.
“Well, it had better work. If
I have to be nice to the two of them one more time…”
“Aw, come on, Nick, it’s not that bad.”
“DON’T tell me that again.
I’LL decide what’s not too bad, and spending time with Scott and
Johnny is DEFINITELY BAD.”
“Well,” Heath started cautiously. “We could just bring the birds over here and leave them.”
Nick glared at his brother for a moment,
and then nodded. “That’s just
what we might have to do. If we
wait for them to figure it out, I’ll probably get squished by a giant tomato
or something. Right now I don’t
care WHAT it costs, it’s better than staying here.”
Heath shrugged. “I
guess. I STILL don’t know what
you have against them, though. I
think Scott and Johnny are pretty nice.”
Nick stared at Heath.
“And I think you are out of your mind.”
Heath shrugged. “Well, for some reason, around here
that seems pretty normal. I mean,
you haven’t exactly been acting like you’re playing with a full deck lately,
Nick nodded miserably.
“I know. That’s what
I’m afraid of.” He looked at
his brother. “Do you think maybe
Heath shrugged. “Maybe
it’s something in the water.”
“I KNEW there was a reason I was sticking with brandy, even
though the stuff they have here is awfully weak.”
Heath smiled. HE
sure wasn’t going to enlighten his brother.
Besides, he and Johnny had their own stash of tequila in the barn, so at
least he wasn’t going to catch anything.
Johnny came riding into the barnyard several hours after he left.
He had been thinking the whole way home, and he thought he just might
have a plan to pay Murdoch back. This
time he wasn’t going to leave the planning to Scott. For some reason, his big brother’s plans just didn’t
quite work out, and Johnny was going to take no chances.
After swearing Marty to secrecy, he had made arrangements with Marty to
deliver the birds whenever Johnny needed them, but Johnny wanted to make some
other plans first. With any luck,
he could get some cooperation from Nick and Heath; although he wasn’t quite
sure he wanted to get close enough to Nick to explain his plan.
After all, that boy was crazy, and it just might be contagious.
Johnny swung down off of Barranca, and Jelly was
immediately in his face.
“Didja see it?”
“See what, Jelly?”
Jelly stuck out his chin.
“See the giant turkey!”
Johnny sighed. “Jelly, I told ya already, there
ain’t no such thing.”
“Of COUSE there is.
Even Scott saw it!”
Johnny shook his head.
“I tell ya what, you and Scott catch it, and then I’ll come see it,
“That’s just it.
I can’t catch it; I need your help.”
I ain’t fallin’ for THAT again.”
“All right, just come with me and let me show
it to ya, and then maybe you can give me some ideas on how ta capture it.”
Johnny looked longingly at the house and then
turned and reluctantly followed his friend.
“Why don’t ya just shoot it?”
Jelly shook his head emphatically. “Uh UH! It’s
gotta be worth somethin’, and I aim ta collect the reward.”
Jelly snuck through the bushes, cautioning Johnny to be
quiet and quit tripping over things, which was rather difficult in the dark. Finally,
Jelly crouched down and cautiously parted the bushes and peered into a nearby
field. He looked around for a moment, and then triumphantly
motioned for Johnny to look.
With a sigh, Johnny moved forward and looked into the
moonlit pasture. He looked for a
long time, and then finally sat back down and studied Jelly.
“I don’t see nuthin’.”
Jelly’s eyes bugged out of his head and he
pushed Johnny aside and looked out himself.
There it was, standing right in the middle of the field.
He sat back and looked at Johnny, his eyes narrowing.
“What do ya MEAN ya don’t see it?
It’s standin’ there plain as day!
Johnny shrugged and looked again, then sat back down.
“Like I said, I don’t see nothin.”
Jelly started to hyperventilate.
“What do you MEAN you don’t see nuthin’?” He yelled. The
handyman grabbed the bushes and swept them aside, and the startled creature took
off, disappearing into the shrubbery on the other side of the field.
“Now see what ya done?
Ya made me scare it. Now
I’ll never be able ta catch it!”
Johnny shrugged. “Can’t
catch somethin’ when there’s nothin’ there ta catch.”
“JOHN LANCER you can’t sit there and look me in the
eye and tell me you didn’t see it!”
Johnny shrugged again.
“Nope, I didn’t see nothin. And neither did you.”
Jelly jumped up and down.
“Whatdya MEAN I didn’t see nothin!!!!”
“I MEAN Jelly, that whatever the heck that thing is, you
don’t WANT ta see it.”
Jelly’s face scrunched up as he tried to follow
Johnny’s reasoning. “But it’s
worth a lot of money!”
“Nope,” Johnny shook his head emphatically.
“It’s worth a lot of TROUBLE! Remember
that Easter Bunny we found?”
Jelly nodded slowly.
“Well, I have the feeling this thing’s gonna be
whole lot more trouble than some poor little giant rabbit.
This thing looks like it’s just waitin’ ta kick my head off, and
probably yours, too.”
Jelly stared at Johnny for a moment as he
tried to figure out what Johnny was getting at.
Finally, the light dawned. “So
I didn’t see nuthin’, even though I did.”
you didn’t see nothin, either.”
about Scott? Did he see somethin’?”
“I have no idea what Scott saw, but I’m
sure if he did, he didn’t.”
“What if somebody else sees it? What if Nick or Heath sees it?
“I’m sure THEY won’t see anything,
“What about Murdoch?”
“If HE sees it, that’s his problem.”
Jelly thought about it for a while, and then slowly
nodded his head. “I didn’t see
Johnny smiled and clapped the old man on his back.
“Now you’re getting the idea. Let
somebody else be crazy for a change.”
Jelly smiled. “Yeah.
Maybe Ole’ Nick WILL see the dang thing.
I know I haven’t seen anything strange around here.”
I mean, everybody knows Nick is crazy anyway.
Maybe this’ll prove it.”
Johnny left Jelly muttering to himself and walked into the house. As
expected, no one had waited up for him, but as he walked past Nick and Heath’s
room he saw a light still on. He
hesitated for a moment, and then proceeded down the hall to Scott’s room.
He barged in, and Scott came up out of a sound sleep and looked around in
confusion. His bleary eyes finally
settled on his brother, and he flopped back down onto the mattress.
“Oh, it’s you. Go away.”
Johnny walked over to his brother’s bed and pulled the blanket off of
him. “Come on, get up. We
Scott shut his eyes and buried deeper into the bed while hanging on to
the remaining sheets. “Is the
house on fire?”
“Is anyone dead?”
“Then leave me alone!”
Johnny grabbed the sheets and tugged.
“Come on, Scott. Believe
me, it’ll be worth it.”
Scott opened one eye and regarded his brother suspiciously.
“We’re not going to see Jelly’s giant turkey, are we?”
“NO! Now GET UP!” Johnny took a firm grip on the sheets and gave a mighty tug,
sending Scott sprawling on the floor. Scott
looked up at his brother in disgust and finally pulled the sheet back out of his
brother’s hand and wrapped it around himself before standing up.
“This had BETTER be good,” Scott said icily.
Johnny nodded. “Believe
me, it’s worth getting’ up for.” He
took Scott’s arm and started to drag him toward the door.
“Where are we going?” Scott
said asked a panicked voice. “I’m
“You’re decent enough for Nick and Heath, and they’re the only ones
that’ll see ya. Now come on.”
Scott hit the brakes. “I
am NOT going in their room like this. Let
me get dressed.”
“What DIFFERENCE does it make?”
Scott pulled himself to his full height.
“I have the feeling that whatever you are planning on telling them is
going to get us killed, and I at LEAST want to die with my drawers on.”
Johnny realized that his brother had a valid point and plopped down on
the bed to wait. Several minutes
later, Scott and Johnny pushed the Barkley’s door open and stalked into the
Nick was sitting by the table sipping a glass of water, and Heath was
sprawled on top of the bed. Nick
glowered at the two men who had barged in.
“Doesn’t anyone around here ever knock?”
Johnny shrugged and smiled. “Oh,
just think of me like a brother.”
The water went down the wrong way, and Nick choked, spewing water all
over the table. Scott immediately
went over and clapped him on the back, and Nick tried to fight off that attack
while trying to keep from choking. Heath sat up and watched in interest as his
brother finally managed to regain his composure.
Nick glared at both Scott and Johnny.
Johnny went over to the bed and plopped down next to Heath, who smiled at
his friend. Johnny turned toward
Nick. “You’d better be nice ta
us, ‘cause I got some information that might be worth somethin’ to ya.”
“What could you POSSIBLY know that would be worth money?”
Nick ground out.
Scott studied his brother suspiciously.
Johnny looked around at the other men and smiled.
“What if I were to tell you that The Great Turkey Escape was a put up
“What do you mean?” Scott
“We can’t find any turkeys ‘cause there aren’t any ta find.”
Heath shook his head. “I
don’t follow you.”
“Well now THAT isn’t surprising,” Nick snapped.
“I mean that our dear father only SAID that the turkeys escaped. In reality, they’ve been over at the Danson’s the whole
“Why would he do that?” Heath asked.
Johnny shrugged. “Who
“Are you SURE?” Scott asked suspiciously.
Johnny nodded. “I took a
little ride over there tonight. Murdoch
brought the Danson’s over four hundred turkeys to be picked up by the army.”
Scott plopped down on Nick’s bed.
“Do you mean that we’ve spent the last several weeks going to all of
the trouble of NOT catching turkeys when there really haven’t been any turkeys
Johnny nodded. “I THINK,
brother, that we’ve been had.”
Nick started to laugh. “I
think you have been, too. What
Scott turned slowly toward Nick. “Well,
at least we didn’t go out looking for turkeys and manage to find an
Nick clamped his mouth shut, and then a thought hit him and he turned
toward Heath. “You don’t think
Mother knew about this, do you?”
Heath shrugged. “She DID
seem awfully glad to get out of here, and she and Murdoch DID seem awfully
Nick’s eyes narrowed. “All
right, what are we going to do about it?”
“Well, I think if Ole’ Murdoch wants us ta find turkeys so much, I
think we should oblige him, don’t you?”
Scott and Heath nodded solemnly, but Nick still looked doubtful.
“If you think I’m going to tromp through those bushes, especially
when there’s a mad elephant out there…”
“Now, Nick, did Johnny say ANYTHING about tromping through bushes?”
Nick stared at Johnny. “All
right, what did you have in mind?”
Johnny shrugged. “We have
to get all the turkeys we can lay our hands on.
But there is just one small catch.”
Johnny shrugged again. “Well,
if Lancer suddenly becomes Turkeyland, there’s no way Scott and I are gonna
“SO?” Nick asked suspiciously.
“So,” Heath volunteered, “you boys are more than welcome to come
stay with us for a while. I’m
sure Mother would be delighted, wouldn’t she, Nick?”
Nick went over and grabbed his glass of water and downed it in a long
gulp before turning back toward Johnny and Scott and appraising them for a long
moment. After all, Mother had abandoned the two of them to their fate, so Nick
figured she just might deserve a dose of the Lancer boys. “I’m
sure she would.” He glared at the
glass he was holding. “And at
least we have decent whisky at our house.”
Scott smiled. “Good.
Now we can figure out just where to get the turkeys.
Heath, why don’t you go pick up the ones at your ranch, and Johnny can
get the ones from the Danson’s. I’ll
go to into Spanish Wells, Green river and Moro Coyo and buy all the stock I can
from the small farmers. Just
don’t have them delivered until tomorrow.
Murdoch is going into town tomorrow morning, and won’t be back until
early afternoon. We’ve got to
make sure they all arrive at the same time, when we’re long gone. ”
“What do you want me to do?” Nick
Scott glanced quickly at his brother, warning him to be quiet.
“I thought you could go over and pick up some birds from our neighbor,
the Widow Potter.”
Johnny choked, and Nick looked at the gunfighter suspiciously.
“What’s wrong with him?”
Scott glared at Johnny. “Don’t
mind him; he’s just upset because he has a little crush on her and he wanted
an excuse to go over there.”
Nick smiled. “Well
that’s too bad, Johnny boy, but that’s the breaks.
She’s all mine.”
Johnny grabbed Scott’s arm and dragged him out of Nick’s room.
He pulled his brother back to his own room and shut the door, and then
stared at his brother for a long moment. “Just
WHAT do you think you’re doing?”
Scott looked at Johnny innocently. “What?”
“What? Nick is going
ta kill us, that’s what!”
Johnny looked at his brother as if he were insane.
“Because I’D kill us if I pulled a stunt like that. Widow Potter is
going to eat Nick for breakfast, and then Nick’s gonna come after us.”
“Now Johnny, think about it. How
would WE know he wouldn’t like her?”
Johnny stopped, sidetracked by Scott’s logic.
“OK,” he agreed cautiously. “But
he’s gonna KNOW that you were lyin’ about me havin’ a crush on her.”
“BECAUSE! No one in their
right MIND would have a crush on that…lady!”
Scott shrugged. “I rest my
case. Nick will believe it, no
Johnny stared at his brother as he tried to figure out if he’d been
insulted. “Are you sure?” He
“All right, if you say so,” Johnny said reluctantly.
“Now how are we gonna pay for all of these turkeys?
I don’t know about you, but I’m flat broke.”
“Easy. Murdoch has credit
all over the valley.”
Johnny gaped at his brother. “You
mean we’re gonna make MURDOCH pay for ‘em?”
Scott shrugged. “Why not?
He’s the one that started this war.”
Johnny shook his head slowly.
“Yeah, and I have the feeling if we’re not careful he may one the one
finishing it. I hope you known what
Scott shrugged and then smiled. “Won’t
it be worth it to see his face when all of those turkeys show up?”
Johnny smiled back at his brother. “Yeah,
as long as I’m not within’ range of his gun.”
Scott shook his head. “We’ll
be long gone. I just hope Victoria
Barkley doesn’t extradite us.”
Johnny nodded. “I don’t
care WHAT she does to us as long as she doesn’t send us back here.
I have the feeling Murdoch’s NOT going to be in a good mood for a long
“No problem. We’ll just
stay there until he calms down.”
“I hope Mrs. Barkley and Audra know how to make tamales,” Johnny said
Murdoch came down the stairs the next morning, whistling a tune.
He couldn’t remember ever being in this good a mood. For
once, he was going to get the best of those boys and head off any nonsense
before it got started. The
boys didn’t suspect a thing, and everything was working out perfectly.
He hesitated when he stepped off of the stairs and looked into what used
to be the Great Room. Well, almost
perfectly, but it would be worth it see the boys’ expressions when he told
them what he’d done.
He walked into the kitchen and came to an abrupt halt.
The four young men were sitting at the table in perfect harmony.
He looked at them suspiciously and then slid into his own seat.
He snuck a glance at Nick, and was startled to see him actually grinning.
Murdoch smiled politely. “You
seem like you’re in a good mood today, Nick.”
Nick grinned. “I’m in a
GREAT mood. I’m going to go over
this morning and pay a visit to a lovely young lady. Maybe with any luck
she’ll go with me to the dance.”
Murdoch nodded. “When you
get back, maybe you can help Scott and Johnny look for more of those turkeys.”
Nick nodded. “Sure, Mr.
Lancer, Heath and I would be glad to. Anything
to help out our friends.”
Murdoch watched Nick warily, wondering if the young man had been drinking
before breakfast, but he finally decided to let it go. “Do I know the young lady you were hoping to take to the
Nick shot a look at Johnny and wondered briefly if Murdoch would be upset
that he beat Johnny out of a date, but finally he shrugged.
“I know Johnny has been trying to court her, but I figured I’d try my
luck. She might appreciate someone
with manners for a change.”
Murdoch shook his head. “What’s
this young lady’s name?”
Both Scott and Johnny held their breath as Nick answered.
“Miss Potter. I believe
she lives on an adjoining farm.”
Murdoch cautiously and slowly leaned over, and without taking his eyes
off of Nick, he sniffed the young man’s coffee.
He looked perplexed, and sat slowly back in his chair, his eyes narrowed.
He looked over at Scott and Johnny, but they seemed to be taking the news in
stride. His gaze rested on Johnny.
“So you were planning on courting her?”
Johnny nodded as he scooped another spoonful of eggs into his mouth.
“Yep. But she’s real
hard ta get ta commit ta anything. I
only stepped in after Scott gave up. She
refused at have anything ta do with him. If Nick wants ta try, it’s all right
Murdoch sat back and shook his head.
If Nick wanted to go out with Widow Potter, that was his business, but
he’d have to have a LONG talk with Johnny.
He had NO intention of winding up with that woman as a daughter-in
–law. His eyes shifted toward
Scott, who was apparently calmly accepting what his brother had said.
Scott looked up and caught his father’s eye and then smiled and
Murdoch tore his eyes away from his son and turned his attention back to
“Well, good luck.”
Nick nodded. “Thanks, Mr.
Lancer. I think I’ll head over
there now, so I can get back in time to look for some of those turkeys.”
Murdoch watched Nick leave, and then the rest of the boys stood up
and walked out. Murdoch sat at the
table for a few moments, trying to figure out what was going on, and then walked
into the Great Room and grabbed a bottle of brandy.
To hell with it being early, he needed a drink.
Nick rode back into the yard after his meeting with the widow Potter.
He should have known that Scott and Johnny weren’t being honest with
him. He’d been lucky to get out
of there with his life. He had been
close to panic when he had had a brilliant idea, and the widow apparently
thought so, too, because she promised to deliver five hundred turkeys to Lancer
the following day. Nick chuckled
quietly. He was going to get the last laugh after all.
After putting his horse away, he walked out of the barn, and then froze.
Standing in the middle of the yard was the biggest bird he’d ever seen.
He looked cautiously around, and finally spied Jelly working on a wagon
Jelly startled and looked up at Nick, ready to run.
“DO you SEE that thing?” Nick
asked the handyman in hushed tones.
Jelly looked around and shook his head.
“I don’t see nothin’.”
“That Giant Turkey!”
“Nope, don’t see nothin’.”
Nick looked back and forth between the bird and the old man.
“It’s RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE YARD!!”
Jelly shrugged nonchalantly. “There
ain’t no such things as giant turkeys, and I STILL don’t see nothin’.”
Nick walked over to Jelly and stood with his hands on his hips as the
handyman continued fixing the wheel. . “Are
you telling me that you don’t see that monstrosity that’s standing right in
the middle of the yard?
Jelly looked at Nick and stuck his chin out.
“I don’t see nothin’ cause there’s nothin’ ta see. Ain’t no such thing as giant turkeys, and if they ain’t
real, then I ain’t seein’ nothin’.”
Nick looked perplexed as he tried to figure out Jelly’s logic. “Have Scott and Johnny seen it?”
Jelly nodded. “Scott saw
it, but he was seeing’ pink elephants, too, and pretendin’ a carrot was a
gun. Course, he figured it out when
he tried to load it. At least I
think he did. Johnny didn’t see
nothin, even though he did, but he didn’t.
At least he said he didn’t.”
Nick didn’t even try. He
took one last look at the bird and headed for the house.
He was very disappointed; he had thought that at least ONE of them would
think it was a giant turkey. He had
gone to a lot of trouble buying that bird from the circus; the least they could
have done was see the dang thing.
Johnny cautiously approached the house, wondering if Nick was back yet.
He certainly didn’t want to come across him by himself.
He tried to peer into the barn to see if his brother’s horse was
inside, but he couldn’t quite see. He
certainly didn’t want to go inside; it was a perfect place for an ambush.
He stood indecisively for a few moments, and then saw Murdoch in the
window of the Great Room. He
figured even Nick wasn’t crazy enough to kill him with witnesses, so Johnny
started in that direction. After going a few feet, he stopped.
Nick was inside with Murdoch, and as far as Johnny could tell, they were
getting along splendidly. Johnny
thought furiously, and decided to go back to the barn.
After all, Murdoch certainly hadn’t been too pleased with him lately;
maybe he and Nick were plotting his murder together. He decided he’d just wait until Scott came home; after all,
there was safety in numbers.
An hour later, Scott rode in, and Johnny came out of his hiding place.
“Didja get some?” Johnny asked.
Scott nodded happily. “I
was able to purchase four hundred and fifty birds, all charged to Murdoch’s
Johnny grinned. “I sure
hope Murdoch’s plannin’ on eatin’ a lot of turkey.”
He looked at Scott. “Nick
and Murdoch are inside talkin’. By
the way, I was able ta sneak Murdoch’s model ship back into the Great Room.
It isn’t perfect, but hopefully he won’t notice.”
Scott shrugged. “Keep your
fingers crossed. Murdoch treats
that ship like gold. By the way,
are the Danson’s turkeys going to be delivered tomorrow?”
“Yep. I managed to talk
him into delivering the ones Murdoch was keepin’ there, too. Marty will be
delivering over seven hundred birds.”
Scott snorted. “Well, at
least SOMETHING’S going right.”
Johnny nodded. “Yeah, at least so far, but Nick’s gonna be furious about
the widow and I thought I’d wait till you got back before goin’ in.”
Scott shrugged. “He can be
as furious as he wants, as long as he managed to sweet talk her out of those
Johnny cautiously opened the door, and when Murdoch saw him, Johnny pushed it
open wider and stepped inside, Scott at his heels.
Johnny turned to his brother and whispered; “Back off, or I might run
ya over if Nick goes for me.”
Scott dutifully stepped back a few feet.
After all, that put him nearer the door, too.
As they approached, Johnny kept a wary eye on Nick, but he seemed as if
he were in a good mood.
“JOHNNY! SCOTT!” he
boomed. “Just the men I
wanted to see!”
Scott and Johnny froze as Nick continued.
“I want to thank you for letting me meet such a fine young lady.
She’s absolutely the sweetest thing I’ve had the pleasure to meet in
quite a while.” He came over and
pumped both of the startled men’s hands.
Scott and Johnny looked at each other and shrugged. It figured that Nick
would like her; she was probably just his type. Scott glanced at his father and
then asked Nick cautiously, “Were you able to talk to her about what we had
“ABSOLUTELY! No problem at
all.” He turned to Johnny and
grinned. “And you will be
DELIGHTED to know that she was more than eager to go to the dance with you.
I KNOW how much you had been trying to convince her to go with you, so I
took it upon myself to ask her for you.”
Johnny froze for just a moment before he launched himself at Nick.
Murdoch sidestepped out of the way and grabbed his beloved ship as the two men
rolled across the Great Room. He
scurried behind his desk and watched as the newly refurbished room took yet
Murdoch came downstairs, wondering if there would be any house left.
After Johnny and Nick had gotten through with the Great Room the night
before, it looked like a herd of Agnesses had stampeded through it.
When he and Scott had finally separated the two, he had ordered the three
boys to clean up the mess and fix anything that was broken, and then Murdoch had
taken his ship and stalked off to bed, dreaming of vengeance against his dear
friend, Victoria Barkley.
He walked through the Great Room, and he had to admit, they had done a
passable job of fixing it back up. He
looked around cautiously, and noticed there were no dead bodies lying around, so
the boys must have come to an agreement of some sorts.
Murdoch smiled. Poor Nick
was outnumbered; his brother had left on an errand and wouldn’t be back until
He walked into the kitchen and found all four boys sitting quietly at the
table, eating an early breakfast. He
looked at them in surprise. “You
boys are up early.”
Scott nodded. “We plan on
getting an early start.”
Murdoch grinned. “Going
out to catch more turkeys?”
Heath shook his head. “No,
sir. Johnny and Scott thought
they’d come back to our place for a while.
I’m sure my mother has a lot of things at the ranch to keep them
Murdoch did his best to hide his glee. Of course, he would be short on
help while they were gone, but for some reason, they hadn’t been doing that
much lately, anyway. Whatever
revenge he could exact on Victoria would be well worth any inconvenience on his
part. How better to
get even with her than to give her a dose of her own medicine. He glanced over to where Nick and Johnny were scuffling over
the last piece of sausage, and he nodded slowly.
“That sounds like a good idea. However,
there’s the matter of those turkeys that you boys promised to find.”
Scott looked up at his father in surprise.
“They’re all in their pen, and they must have multiplied while they
were running wild, because we counted 500 birds this morning.”
Murdoch froze. “What? Where did you find them?”
Johnny had managed to dig Nick in the ribs with his elbow, and flipped
the sausage onto his own plate. “Oh,
we found them here and there.”
Murdoch looked at the boys suspiciously.
“And you found all of them last night?”
Scott nodded, and Murdoch studied his younger son.
Johnny glanced up at his father, and Nick took advantage of his foe’s
lack of concentration and stabbed the sausage with his own fork.
Johnny shot him an evil look and answered his father.
“You found ALL of those turkeys last night?”
Johnny sighed. “Well, not
exactly. Like Scott said, I think they multiplied, ‘cause we managed ta get
our hands on a few more than we lost.” He
turned toward Nick and pounded him on the back, making the sausage fall off of
Nick’s fork. “Nick here found a
lot of them.”
At Murdoch’s raised eyebrow, Nick put his fork down and tried to
explain. “Well, I had a lot of
help. Jelly’s turkey call really
saved the day.” Nick watched
helplessly as Heath reached over and grabbed the sausage off his plate and
stuffed it into his mouth while Johnny unsuccessfully tried to stop him.
Nick stood up in disgust. “Well,
we’d better get going, it’s getting late.”
The other three young men stood up and walked out of the kitchen, with
Murdoch trailing along behind him. He
followed them outside, and then he walked over to the turkey pen.
There were certainly about five hundred turkeys there, and for some
reason he felt that somehow he’d been had, but he wasn’t sure how.
Murdoch looked over to the barn where the boys were hurriedly saddling up
their horses, and suddenly a large bird wandered nonchalantly across the yard.
He froze. “BOYS!
Look at this!”
Scott turned toward Murdoch and shrugged. “Look at what?”
“What bird?” Johnny
“That giant…whatever it is!”
All four boys looked around, bewildered.
“We don’t see anything,” Heath finally offered.
“You sure you’re feelin’ OK?”
Johnny asked. “Maybe
we’d better stay home.”
Murdoch panicked at that thought. “No,
no, it’s all right, I’m not sure what I saw.
I guess I don’t see anything, either.
You boys go on and have a nice time.”
He watched as the bird picked its way across the yard.
Scott and Heath grinned at each other but a shrill scream from the house
quickly wiped the smiles off of their faces.
They all bolted toward the kitchen, where the yell had come from, and
found Teresa in mortal ballet with Helen. Teresa
swung the mop and whapped the camel over the head, but Helen calmly continued
drinking the rest of the pancake batter.
She shook the mop in Scott’s direction.
“Scott Lancer, you get this…animal OUT OF MY KITCHEN!
Johnny and Nick started laughing as Scott and Heath tried to push Helen
away from her feast while she blithely ignored them. Finally Nick decided to
help, and walked up and grabbed Helen by the neck.
The camel calmly appraised the man, and then spit at him. Nick ducked and dove for cover under the table.
The camel tried to follow him, and then backed up, the table firmly
planted on her back and the batter precariously balanced on the top.
Murdoch watched the melee in the kitchen for several moments, and then
looked out toward the barn, where the giant bird was sauntering around the yard.
He turned back and saw Jelly ambling toward him with some rope.
“JELLY! DO YOU see that
Jelly didn’t even break stride. “Nope,
don’t see a thing. Never did,
Murdoch looked back just as the bird disappeared into the barn.
Maybe Johnny was right, maybe he’d better go lie down.
He watched as Jelly calmly walked into the kitchen and handed Scott the
rope, and a few moments later Murdoch heard a terrible racket in the kitchen. He heard Teresa giving the boys some not so ladylike
suggestions, and a second later, Heath went flying out of the kitchen door.
Murdoch wasn’t sure if it was Helen or Teresa who had thrown him, and
at this point, he really didn’t care.
He smiled to himself; Victoria was going to have his head for sending all
of the boys to her ranch, but it would be worth it to have a few days of
blissful peace. He turned
back toward the house, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw several wagons
approaching. Curious, he walked out to meet them.
Murdoch heard the commotion coming from the wagons before they were even
through the arch, and his brows furrowed.
Why would someone be bringing more turkeys out to the ranch?
He watched as the wagons got closer, and saw Marty Danson in one wagon
and Harvey Leonard from Spanish Wells in the other.
He felt a moment’s panic when he realized that Marty might say
something he shouldn’t, but then he figured it didn’t really matter; it was
almost time to let the boys in on the joke anyway.
He just hoped they didn’t get violent.
As he was trying to figure it out, he realized that he no longer heard
any sounds coming from the kitchen, and he spun around.
All four of the boys were bolting toward their horses.
Murdoch chuckled, thinking that either Helen or Teresa had gotten the
best of them, but then he realized the boys were shooting alarmed glances down
the road. Murdoch’s eyes narrowed
again, and he realized SOMETHING was afoot.
“BOYS!! Hold it RIGHT
All four young men came to a sliding stop and turned toward him. Johnny
gave his father a disarming smile, sending Murdoch’s senses on high alert, and
he realized that they were just as apprehensive about the wagons as he was.
He decided to bluff.
“Do you boys have any idea why there are two wagonloads of turkeys
coming into our yard?” Murdoch
Four heads shook in unison and Murdoch looked back toward the wagons.
All four of the young men took advantage of Murdoch’s momentary lapse
of attention to make another effort to get to their horses, but Murdoch once
again spun around and stopped them with a glare.
“Why don’t we all just stay here and see if we can clear up the
The boys darted looks back and forth between themselves and the rapidly
approaching wagons, and Murdoch knew that whatever was going on, they were at
the bottom of it, and they weren’t very comfortable about it, either.
Harvey pulled the wagon to a halt in front of Murdoch and jumped down.
“Here ya go, Mr. Lancer. Four
hundred and fifty prime turkeys. Where
do ya want them?”
Murdoch stared at Harvey for a moment, and then turned slowly around and
studied the boys. He glanced back
and noticed there were a lot more turkeys in Marty’s wagon, and he wondered
again just what was going on. Whatever it was, the boys were looking mighty
suspicious. He turned back to
the boys, wondering if there was some way to kill all four of them without
drawing anyone’s attention. He
was reasonably sure Victoria wouldn’t mind.
Scott smiled nervously and finally spoke up.
“Well, we’d better be going.”
“Oh, no,” Murdoch breathed. “You’re
going to unload all of these birds and build pens before you go ANYWHERE.”
“But Mr. Lancer, they’re not OUR birds!”
“Well, they’re not mine, either.”
He turned his gaze on his two sons.
“It seems that you’ve acquired some new pets.
I would think that Agnes and Helen keep you busy enough without wanting a
bunch of turkeys. I didn’t
realize you enjoyed having those birds around so much.”
Harvey came up and pulled on Murdoch’s sleeve. “Mr. Lancer, I was
wondering if I could get paid now. I
sort of need the money.”
“PAID? ‘I’ have to PAY
for those birds!” His face turned
an alarming shade of red and he looked back at the boys, who were dividing their
attention between watching him and watching another wagon approaching, this time
with the Widow Potter inside.
Johnny bit his lip nervously for a moment, and then made an executive
decision. He bolted. He might have been able to face Murdoch’s wrath and possibly
the turkey’s racket, but Widow Potter was the straw that broke the camel’s
back. Scott, Heath and Nick
followed their leader faithfully, and leaped onto their horses and tore out of
the yard, with Murdoch’s bellowing gradually fading into a distant rumble.
They tore up the road, flying by the Widow’s wagon and then settling
their horses down to an even gallop. They
didn’t think Murdoch could catch them, but they were taking no chances because
several more wagons were also headed down the road, all filled with gobbling
turkeys. About a mile
further up the road, they came to a very familiar buggy.
Johnny pulled Barranca to a halt next to the buggy and the doctor smiled
at the young men. “You boys
look like you’re in a hurry,” Sam commented.
“Yeah, well, we thought we’d take off before Murdoch murdered us.”
“Oh,” Sam said calmly. “That’s
“I think he’s gone crazy,”
Sam nodded calmly. “So
Scott looked at Johnny, who shrugged.
“Yeah, I guess it is.”
Sam studied the two boys. “Anything
I should know about before I go out there and talk to your father?”
Scott shook his head. “No…except
for maybe the turkeys.”
Sam’s eyebrows went up. “The
Scott nodded. “Yes, the
turkeys that are at the ranch that aren’t supposed to be at the ranch that
Murdoch has to pay for. Of course,
he might forget all about the birds by the time Widow Potter’s done with
“Yeah,” Johnny added. “Guess
Ole Murdoch’s gonna get ta take her to the dance.”
“Murdoch is taking Widow Potter to the dance?”
Scott nodded. “It looks
Sam turned back to Johnny and raised his eyebrows, and Johnny nodded.
“Yeah. Ya see, Murdoch had
us lookin’ for turkeys that weren’t really there, but Scott and I didn’t
want ta find ‘em anyway, so we looked where they weren’t, but sometimes they
were. But then Nick here found an
elephant instead of a turkey, so he and Heath had ta stay and fix the stairs.
In the meantime, Jelly was tryin’ ta find the giant turkey that
didn’t exist, but nobody saw it even though they did and then Murdoch saw it,
but it doesn’t exist, so he didn’t.
Then I found the turkeys that weren’t lost, and we figured we’d get
more of ‘em that weren’t lost so Murdoch would learn his lesson.
Anyway, Nick went over to the Widow and promised I’d take her to the
dance ‘cause I had a crush on her after she dumped Scott, but now she’s
gonna have to go with Murdoch.”
Sam looked at Scott, who nodded and said, “Yes, that pretty well sums
Sam looked at Nick and Heath. “Did
that make sense to you?”
Heath nodded, and Nick looked at him in disgust.
“I TOLD you it was contagious. Now
it even makes sense to ME!” He
turned toward the Doctor. “You’ve
got to help me, Doc. I think I’m
Johnny nodded. “Well of COURSE you’re crazy.
I never doubted that for a moment.”
“Well, if Nick’s crazy, then you’re REALLY crazy,” Heath offered.
Sam watched the four men cautiously, and then decided to make good his
escape before they got violent. He
clucked to his horse and took off down the road toward Lancer.
He just hoped Murdoch wasn’t crazy, too.
Chapter Twenty One
“JELLY! You DO see THESE turkeys,
don’t you?” Murdoch swept his
hand toward the eight wagons, full of birds, parked in the Lancer yard.
Jelly studied the wagons, unsure if he should be seeing them or not.
After all, it seemed to him that having this many turkeys in one place
was pretty impossible, too. He sure
wished Johnny was here to tell him if he was seeing them.
Jelly sighed. Even if it WAS impossible, it was pretty hard to deny their
existence, especially while they were making such god-awful racket.
“Yeah, I see ‘em.”
“GOOD! Now get all of
these wagons into the barn and start unloading them.
We’ll figure out just what to do with them later.”
Murdoch turned on his heel and strode toward the house, wondering if
there was any way to keep the boys at the Barkleys.
After all, finders keepers. He
hesitated just outside the door when the giant bird strolled in front of him,
but he figured if no on else saw the dang thing, he wasn’t going to either,
and he continued into the house. As
he shut the door, he looked back and was not surprised to find the creature had
Jelly quickly had the drivers move the wagons into the barn and started
unloading the crates. He didn’t
know WHAT they were going to do with the birds, but one thing was for sure, HE
wasn’t going to take care of them. Agnes
and Helen were bad enough.
Sam pulled up to the house thirty minutes later, and walked into the Great Room.
Murdoch was sitting on a squashed chair and Sam wondered what exactly had
happened to it. The doctor went
over to the bar and helped himself to a drink.
He was going to see if Murdoch could explain what Johnny had been ranting
about. Sam went over and sat on the
sofa next to Murdoch.
Murdoch looked at the doctor. “Well?”
Sam looked at him in confusion. “Well,
“What did you think about our new guests?”
Sam shook his head. He
certainly didn’t know Heath and Nick well enough to comment, but they seemed
like nice enough young men. “I
think they’re very nice.”
Murdoch wondered how ANYONE could think turkeys were ‘nice’, but he
decided to be polite and let Sam think what he wanted.
“They sure make a lot of racket.”
Sam nodded, unsure of what to say. “Well,
so do Johnny and Scott.”
Murdoch nodded, only half listening.
“I need to get rid of ALL of them; they’re just too much trouble. I
don’t know what I’m going to do with them, but I do know that I’m going to
get rid of them one way or the other. I
might try to sell them; after all, I have to get at least part of my money back.
The trouble is, I just don’t know who would want them.”
Sam looked at Murdoch cautiously. “Sell
Murdoch nodded. “Yes. I
thought about sending them to the army, but they probably have enough just like
them.” Murdoch shrugged. “I might have to resort to giving them away, but even then,
it might not be enough. If I can’t get rid of them through legitimate means, I
might have to just shoot them and bury them somewhere.
All I know is that they’re not staying here.”
Sam sat, staring at Murdoch in shock and wondering if his friend was
really crazy after all. Murdoch glanced up at Sam and lowered his voice.
“By the way, did you see it?”
“See what?” Sam asked cautiously.
“The giant…turkey,” Murdoch whispered.
“No,” the doctor whispered back.
“Was I supposed to?”
“I don’t know. Everyone says he doesn’t exist, but I know what I saw.
Of course, he disappeared right in front of my eyes, but then I WAS
concentrating on all of those other turkeys out there.”
Murdoch leaned closer to Sam. “Have
you EVER seen so many turkeys in your life?
There are thousands of them.”
“Where?” Sam asked
Murdoch looked at Sam, wondering what was wrong with him.
“Where do you think? Outside,
of course. The only wildlife that
comes in the house, besides the boys, is the elephant.”
Sam slowly shook his head. “I
didn’t see any turkeys, even giant ones.”
He hesitated. “You let the
elephant in the house?”
Murdoch shrugged. “She just comes in when she wants a drink.”
“I see. Is that often?”
Murdoch thought for a moment, “No, she only goes on a drinking binge
As fascinating as the present conversation was, Sam realized he was
getting sidetracked. “So you
think you might have to shoot them?”
Murdoch shrugged. “Shoot them, wring their necks, chop their heads off, it
doesn’t matter.” He looked at Sam worriedly.
“But I don’t want Teresa to think I’m mean.
You don’t think she will, do you?”
Sam stared at his friend before answering soothingly, “No, I’m sure
she doesn’t think that. Murdoch, I think you need a vacation. A nice quiet place where you can relax for a while.”
“Are there turkeys there?”
Sam shook his head. “No,
no turkeys. How about it?”
Murdoch looked suspiciously at his friend.
“Will the boys be there?”
Sam thought back to how the young men were acting when he had seen
them on the road, and answered truthfully, “I don’t know, but probably not
for a while.”
Murdoch nodded. “All right, as long as there are no turkeys, elephants, or
boys. When do I leave?”
Victoria shook her head and managed to sound somewhat sincere.
“I’m SO sorry you boys have to leave when you just got here.
You know that you and Agnes are always welcome.”
Her eyes shifted to the large gray elephant munching calmly in her
“Thank you, Mrs. Barkley, but we have to get back to run the ranch.”
Victoria nodded. “I hope your father is feeling better, soon.”
Johnny nodded. “Oh he’ll be fine. Sam
says he should be able to be released in a couple of months.”
Victoria felt badly about Murdoch. He
had seemed so normal the last time she saw him, and she wondered what could
possibly have caused his breakdown. As the boys rode off, Victoria had an
absolutely inspired thought. As
soon as her old friend was back home, she and her boys would go and visit for a
while. That ought to cheer him up.