Rated PG-13 One strong language moment, two paragraphs to be precise.
disclaimer. Lancer and the characters are not mine, but the story is.
Scott accidentally stumbles
upon the Pinkerton report on Johnny Madrid. Will he read it, or will he have
a more drastic reaction?
This is in
response to Deb B's invitation to complete another of her story starters.
Thank you Deb, for setting up such an interesting scenario and then letting
us run with it. I hope you approve of my interpretation of where this could
was sitting at his father's desk studying the Army contracts that Murdoch
had requested he review before the meeting next week. Except for the occasional
scratch of his pencil when he made a note, the house was silent. His father
and brother had left that morning to check the condition of the line shacks
on the northern portion of the ranch. Teresa, his father's ward, had retired
hours ago. As the clock struck eleven, Scott realized how tired he was and
decided to finish his perusal of the contracts tomorrow. Having made this
decision, he gathered the pages together to return them to the bottom drawer
of the desk.
was opening the drawer, he carelessly knocked over a cup of coffee. Fortunately
the cup was almost empty and it appeared that only a few drops splattered
into the drawer. To be on the safe side, Scott decided to remove all the
papers and check that they were dry. As he was doing this, he found a bound
report with the words JOHNNY MADRID blazoned across its cover.
coffee forgotten, Scott sat staring at the report. He had known the report
existed. He probably even knew about a few of the events that the report
included … the few that his brother had shared. But Scott also recognized
the fact that there was a lot that Johnny had not told him. There were so
many things that Johnny kept bottled up inside. Things that Scott would like
to know for Johnny's sake as well as his own. Although Scott loved his brother
dearly, he was honest enough with himself to admit that there were times
when he just didn't understand Johnny. Could this report be the key to finally
comprehending what Johnny's life was like before he came to the ranch? Who
Johnny was before he became Johnny Lancer? Would gaining this knowledge be
worth any guilt he would feel for what could definitely be considered an
invasion of privacy?
to a tentative decision, Scott closed the drawer, returning the tantalizing
report to its previous place of ambiguity. He simply couldn't bring himself
to casually peruse details of Johnny's life that may or may not be the complete
truth. Well, not directly, anyway. He wasn't about to simply ignore the document's
existence, but Johnny deserved at least a chance to come clean on his own.
And one more chance was all he was going to get.
Scott groaned when his leg vehemently protested the movement. Reaching for
the cane he had been using since being injured a week before, Scott hobbled
from behind the huge desk and headed for his bedroom. Maybe if it hadn't
been for the bullet wound in his left thigh, a little gift from one of Johnny
Madrid's former saddle buddies, he wouldn't be feeling this way. Then again,
who knew? What he did know for certain was that Johnny was due back in two
days. By the end of the third day, he would know quite a bit more about the
elusive Johnny Madrid.
With a terse groan,
Johnny squinted in annoyance at the morning sun shining through his window.
This wasn't the first time he had cursed his draw of bedrooms, and he doubted
it would be the last. Whether by luck or by design, his brother had ended
up with the room on the other side of the hallway - the side of the house
where the sun did not mercilessly invade the darkness every morning, including
those few occasions on which he could indulge himself by sleeping in.
He and Murdoch
had arrived back at the ranch well past midnight. The last thing his father
had said, before disappearing into his own bedroom, was to tell Johnny to
feel free to sleep in. Snorting, Johnny crawled out of bed and padded over
to the window. His bare feet made a slight squeaking noise as he crossed
the floor, but just as he reached to pull down the heavy draperies, he felt
an old familiar shimmy making its way up his spine. He wasn't alone.
Suddenly wide awake,
Johnny spun around, his now wide-open eyes taking in every inch of the room
around him, looking for whatever danger was lurking in the dusky shadows.
However, when his eyes focused in on the source of his anxiety, his nervousness
faded as quickly as it had appeared. "Mornin', brother," he said with an
"I'm glad you think
so," came the curt reply. Scott was sitting in the chair on the other side
of his bed. Although dressed, his shirt was undone, revealing his broad chest
and flat stomach. The usual etiquette monger looked uncharacteristically
casual, even for an early morning surprise. However, it was the tangible
sense of hostility hovering between them that bewildered Johnny and sent
his ingrained sense of self-preservation into instinctive motion.
He didn't like
the feeling of vulnerability his brother's unexpected visit had brought down
on him. That the sense of comfortable camaraderie that usually existed them
was conspicuously absent didn't unnerve him nearly as much as the cool intensity
that was clearly being aimed in his direction. Reaching for the pair of pants
he had discarded only a few hours earlier, Johnny quickly pulled them on,
not once taking his eye off the man sitting quietly across the room.
Feeling more at
ease now that he was at least decently covered, he sauntered back across
the room, where he plopped back down on the bed. Leaning causally against
the headboard, he gave Scott a lopsided grin. "Somethin' I can do for you,
Instead of answering
verbally, Scott reached for something in the chair beside him. Even when
he tossed the book-like item onto the bed between them, Scott still said
nothing. However, the intense scrutiny of those gray-blue eyes, combined
with the written words glaring up at Johnny from the folder lying next to
his hip, made a formal explanation unnecessary.
instantly turned cold. He had expected this moment to come from the day he
had agreed to become partners with his father and brother, only he had always
pictured it would be Murdoch on the business end of this particular document.
He couldn't quite fathom what Scott was doing with the Pinkerton report on
Johnny Madrid, or why he was acting so unusual?
to mean somethin'? Johnny asked with a cold aloofness that belied the turmoil
churning within his chest.
"It means," Scott
said with just the barest hint of concern in his voice, "that the time has
come for you to fess up, brother. About everything."
"You already know
everything, so what's the point?" Johnny challenged.
"I haven't read
it," Scott countered, then added a biting, "Yet."
Confusion and fear
had Johnny's nerves frayed to the breaking point. He felt like he was being
set up, and while that feeling in itself wasn't anything particularly unusual,
it was when the source of that feeling happened to be coming from his usually
understanding brother. Never before had Scott pushed him for answers about
his past, so why was he doing so now? And why was he being so blatantly combative
about it? Again, Johnny reacted out of pure instinct.
Bouncing off the
bed, Johnny headed for the nearest door. When he tried the latch, however,
nothing happened. Another few jerks and Johnny realized that the mechanism
was jammed. With his panic mounting, he headed for the other door, only to
find the same malfunction had occurred there, as well.
"You're not running
away from it this time, brother," Scott stated flatly.
A quick glance at the only other avenue for escape, the window, reminded
Johnny that the bars used to keep the outside out, also kept him in. With
no other viable alternative, he returned to the bed. Plopping down with the
same air of indifference he had cloaked himself in for he walk across the
room, he leaned back against the headboard and returned his brother's defiant
stare with one of his own.
As the minutes
of tension-filled silence extended, a battle raged inside Johnny. With the
same tenacity that had proved life saving on more than one occasion, Johnny
Madrid slowly but surely clawed his way from the obscurity in which he had
been banished less than six months ago. Scott didn't know what he was doing,
and Johnny Lancer's parting thought before becoming completely overshadowed
by his alter ego was to hope that Scott didn't push too hard. Brother or
not, Johnny Madrid would not react as kindly as Johnny Lancer.
*** *** *** ***
that took place right before his very eyes was both daunting and mesmerizing.
In a matter of minutes the man sitting on the bed had ceased to be his beloved
brother. Now, sitting before him, was the man whose life was chronicled in
the report that was still lying ominously between them. Johnny Lancer had
disappeared into some unknown obscurity, and in his wake had emerged the
crisp, emotionless form of Johnny Madrid.
Scott briefly wondered
if he might have overplayed his hand, but just as quickly pushed those thoughts
aside. Retreat was not an option. This was for Johnny's own good, for his
own good, as well as for Murdoch and Teresa and the other hands that were
loyal to Lancer. The secrets would end here, in this room, or one of them
would die in the process.
A small irregular
beat of his heart reminded him that the later alternative was a distinct
possibility. The brother in which he had total confidence could never intentionally
do him any harm had been completely eclipsed by a man Scott didn't even know;
a man Scott wasn't entirely sure he wanted to know. With his actions he had
effectively cornered Johnny Madrid, left him with no means of escape, and
served notice that his life was about to be served up for scrutiny. Johnny
Lancer would be mortified; Johnny Madrid's reaction was, as yet, an unknown
The minutes continued
ticking away, the tangible silence broken only by Scott's nervous breathing.
He couldn't even hear the sound of Johnny's breaths, but the steady rise
and fall of the other man's chest gave credence to the fact that Johnny was
still breathing right along with him. As he watched the movements of his
brother's chest, Scott was startled to see that they were breathing in unison.
Had that been a subconscious reaction of his own mind, or was Johnny Madrid
purposely toying with him?
With a sincerity
he didn't know he possessed, Scott fervidly thanked God for giving him the
foresight to remove Johnny's gun from the room before sabotaging the door
latches. Although Johnny had made no overt moves to retrieve his weapon,
Scott had no doubt that the only reason for this was because Johnny was already
aware that it was not to be had.
Fighting off his
rising anxieties, Scott stared back at his brother, hoping that Johnny had
not picked up on his momentary fears. The man who had survived the hardships
and dangers of the Mexican border through sheer grit and determination would
no doubt exploit any show of weakness.
Scott lost track
of time as he and Johnny fought a battle of wills with nothing but their
eyes. It amazed Scott how his usually flighty and impatient brother could
be so still and composed for what seemed like such a long time. How long
had it been? Scott didn't know. Johnny's bedroom was laid out as simply as
his life, and a timepiece obviously hadn't been something he had felt the
need to acquire. No matter, it was time for this particular standoff to come
to an end.
Scott verbally drew the line in the sand, issuing his ultimatum with his
own brand of determination. "Do you want to tell me your side of it?" he
said in a voice more steady than he would have believed himself capable of
at the moment. "Or would you rather I read a complete stranger's interpretation
of your life?"
Johnny didn't answer.
He didn't even blink an eye at the challenge, which only served to infuriate
Scott. All thoughts of compassion, or even fear, that might have threatened
to derail his fact-finding mission were lost by the wayside. If Johnny Madrid
wanted to make a fight out of this, then he was about to get a serious lesson
on just how tenacious an Eastern dandy could be.
For over a week,
Scott had been fighting to control his growing anger, had been trying to
squelch the mounting frustration that had surfaced the moment it was discovered
that the bullet dug from his leg had been put there courtesy of Johnny's
past life; a life he refused to share, except when it came to explaining
why one of them had been hurt because of it. Only then would he admit to
knowing who had it in for him, and why, but by then it was always too late.
Then, two days
ago, Scott had inadvertently discovered that damnable report in Murdoch's
desk. From that moment forward, he had been unable to think of anything else.
For two days he had planned the best way to confront his brother. For two
days he had deliberated with himself over his right to know, verses Johnny's
right to keep his past his own. In the end, however, it was the throbbing
pain in his thigh that cast the deciding vote. He had retrieved the file
from Murdoch's desk, and put into motion the chain of events that would now
lead to revelation or annihilation.
In response to
an urgent summons from the sheriff in Green River, Murdoch and Jelly had
departed for Morro Coyo a little before sunup. Both were certain to be highly
irate when they discovered the sheriff had sent no such summons, but Scott
didn't care. He needed Johnny to himself for this to work.
Cooper had provided him a reprieve where Teresa was concerned. A previously
issued invitation to spend the day in town with her and some of the other
young ladies had kept his web of deceit limited to just his father and Jelly.
Teresa had ridden to town with the two men and would not be home until dark.
There would be no interruptions, no interventions, and no salvation from
whatever was to be.
"Have it your way,
brother," he said crisply, but not without making sure he stressed the word
brother, just in case Johnny Lancer was still within hearing range. It wasn't
something he was counting on, but he wasn't above exploiting any possible
means to gain the advantage.
Scott leaned forward and retrieved the report. Half expecting Johnny to make
some sort of token gesture to stop him, Scott was surprised when his fingers
made contact with the cold binding without any resistance. Recovering quickly,
Scott pulled the document back into his lap.
he read the bold block lettering with an interested sigh. Glancing up at
his brother, he noticed the expression on Johnny's face had not faltered
in the slightest. "I don't suppose you would be too inclined to tell me what
made you decide on that name?" Scott asked without expecting to receive an
answer, which he didn't get.
Opening the folder,
Scott said with only the slightest amount of regret. "Somehow I doubt that
particular bit of information is going to be found in these pages, so I guess
that's one secret you'll get to keep." Scott casually scanned the first few
paragraphs and then looked up at Johnny with a wry grin. "Then again, I could
be wrong about that."
"Ain't the only
thing you could be wrong about."
came in the form of a deadly soft voice that made Scott flinch. It was a
voice he had heard only once before. They had both just arrived at Lancer,
and had met Murdoch for the first time. Scott had quickly declined the offering
of a drink, as had Johnny, only his brother's refusal had come with less
finesse and a lot more antagonism. It was when Murdoch had turned his back
on them that Scott had heard the threatening tone of Johnny Madrid's icy
voice for the first time.
'You got somethin'
to say, old man, say it.' At the time Scott had jumped at just the sound
of his Johnny Madrid's voice, wondering not only how such a young man could
have acquired such a fatalistic attitude, but also how it could be woven
into a subtle timbre that could silence the entire world for an entire moment.
Just thinking about it could make his skin crawl, but actually hearing it
again had his stomach twisted into a hard knot.
"Care to explain
that remark?" Scott asked pointedly.
"Ain't none of
your business," came the softly dangerous reply.
flared out of control. "The hell it isn't!" he growled. Standing, a tactic
he had learned from his grandfather to place himself above, and therefore
in a superior position to the adversary, he ignored the protest coming from
his leg and used its stiffness to accentuate his point.
"This leg makes
it my business. The slug dug out of your shoulder last month when Jack Dumas
tried to take you makes it my business. Teresa having to witness the killing
of Steve Cameron, all for the sake of some stupid ideology that says whoever
can pull a gun out of his damned holster and shoot the other the fastest
is something to be proud of, makes it my business! The uncertainty that each
day might drag in another gun-toting stray from your past makes it my business.
You are my brother, damn it, and you can bet your ass that makes it my business!"
"An' you actually
think knowin' the gory details of things that happened in the past woulda
stopped any of that from happening?"
was still soft, but not nearly as dangerous sounding as it had been a moment
ago. The edge was still there, but there was something else, too, and Scott
easily recognized the small part of Johnny Lancer that had resurfaced. "No,
I don't," he replied calmly as he sank back down in his chair. "But maybe
it would make the acceptance a whole lot easier."
"It won't," Johnny
argued with an almost calm indifference. "It'll only make things worse."
snorted in disbelief. "I don't think that's possible."
"Like I done said,
there's more'n one thing you got wrong so far."
agreed, but then added almost apologetically. "But that isn't going to stop
and looked away. "Do what you gotta do, Boston. Just don't blame me when
you find out this ain't the smartest thing you ever done. Johnny Madrid wasn't
A slight smile
tugged at the left corner of Scott's mouth, but the relief quickly faded.
This was too fast, too soon. Johnny Madrid would never have acquiesced to
such a blatant threat, nor would he have called him 'Boston'. But that could
only mean...the slow dawn of realization began to form in his gradually clearing
He had been wrong.
So had Johnny, for that matter. And Murdoch, and everyone else who tried
to segregate one man into two distinct beings. "It would seem that I'm not
the only one who is wrong about a thing or two. Johnny Madrid is neither
saint nor sinner because he never even existed."
A pair of steely
blue eyes narrowed as they stared at him. "How do you figure?"
Picking up the
Pinkerton report, Scott held it up for Johnny to see. "This is wrong. This
isn't a recount of the life of Johnny Madrid. It is the details of the life
of Johnny Lancer."
"You've gone plumb
loco, Scott," Johnny snapped defiantly. "Johnny Lancer wasn't even around
With an enthusiasm
born of a hard-fought discovery, Scott stood from his chair and took the
two steps necessary to close the gap between he and his brother. Sitting
on the bed, he held the precious document close to his chest. "How many legs
does a cow have?" he asked in total seriousness.
face became a canvas of suspicious confusion. "What are you talkin' about?"
Scott shook his
head. "Just answer the question, Johnny. How many legs does a cow have?"
"Right. Now if
I said its tail was a leg, how many legs would it have?" Scott pressed with
barely controlled exuberance.
"Five," came the
even more hesitant response.
nearly jumped off the bed when Scott let the report fall between to grab
Johnny firmly by the shoulders. "Just because I say its tail is a leg, doesn't
make it a leg. Don't you understand?"
Johnny eyed Scott
very cautiously. "No."
Taking a deep breath,
Scott pulled back to regroup. With a chuckle he admitted that if he had been
on the receiving end of the same scenario he would probably be looking at
himself with as much skepticism as Johnny was right now. "Don't you see,
Johnny, it doesn't matter what name you used, you've always been the same
person inside. You could have called yourself the Crown Prince of Problem
Solving, but that wouldn't have changed the fact that you were still just
plain Johnny Lancer, son of Murdoch and Maria Lancer."
slightly crowded the suspicion from Johnny's features, but Scott couldn't
miss the familiar gleam that ignited in those fiery blue eyes. "You sayin'
I'm a tail, brother?" Johnny asked with a touch of amused sarcasm.
than others," Scott grinned. "Don't you see what you've been doing, what
we've all been doing, is all wrong. This," Scott retrieved the document from
the bed and held it up. "This isn't the story of some heartless, obscure,
killer who I never met and care nothing for."
Grasping the report
tightly to his chest, Scott fought back the emotional avalanche that was
suddenly threatening to overtake him before he could make his assertions
clear. "This contains the trials and tribulations of Johnny Lancer. This
is an accounting of the hell the brother I didn't know existed survived,
so one day he could be the brother I know and love."
Scott choked back his tears. "This is you, and I love you. All of you. The
good, the not so good, and the oh-so-thankfully resilient. I've been wary
of this information, fearing it as something I wouldn't be able stand knowing,
but it's not. It is something to embrace, the key to understanding the brave,
honorable, brilliant, compassionate, sometimes annoying as hell, man who
is, and always was, my brother."
across Johnny's flat expression, but Scott was not about to be dissuaded.
He had found the answer, and with it, the reality that had been staring him
in the face for months. "Johnny, I spent a year of my life in a confederate
prison. I did things during that time that I'm not overly proud of, but I
did them in the name of my survival, as well as the survival of others. When
I was rescued, I carried the same burden of guilt you feel now over the things
you did just to make it through the life you were handed."
Reaching out, Scott
slipped his hand behind Johnny's neck and gently pulled Johnny to him. His
other arm slipped protectively around a pair of tense shoulders, which he
squeezed in a tight embrace. "Don't you see, Johnny? You were a prisoner
just as much as I was, only your jailer was life. You didn't choose to be
taken from Lancer, you didn't choose to be thrust into an environment fraught
with danger and hatred. The only difference between the two of us is that
only a year of my life was taken from me, whereas you had to survive your
hell for a lot longer."
Even as the tears
began falling shamelessly from his eyes, some landing without a sound on
the pillow of dark hair nestled beneath his cheek, Scott basked in the relief,
the knowledge, that his brother was not only free of that prison, but that
he had survived it relatively intact. Sure, Johnny could be hard as nails,
but it was the softness, the tender gentleness that Johnny hid only half
as well as he thought that told the real story. With Johnny's survival, Scott
could accept all there was to know about his brother, with no condemnation,
no censure, and no disappointment. There could be nothing but joy in true
mumbled against his shoulder. "I think I understand what you're tryin' to
say, but you still ain't got it just right. No one forced me to stay there.
No one forced me to become a gunhawk. That was my doin'."
In protest, Scott's
arms tightened around Johnny's shoulders. "No it wasn't. I know this is going
to sound harsh, but it needs to be said, Johnny," Scott begged softly. "The
truth is that it was all your mother's doing. She could have left Lancer
without placing you in that environment. She could have made a living somewhere
else, without doing the things she did, and without subjecting you to a future
of poverty and crime." Scott felt a bitter resentment stirring inside his
soul and fought valiantly to keep it under control.
Once calm, he continued.
"She put you in that prison, and she threw away the key when she told you
those lies about Murdoch. If you hadn't hated him so much, you might have
returned here sooner. You would have had a chance for escape, but she took
that chance away from you. I'll always be eternally grateful to her fro bringing
you into this world, but I'll never be able to forgive her for stealing you
away from the life you could have known."
Scott fearfully waited for Johnny's reaction. Maria Lancer was a volatile
subject with both her former husband and her son, and Scott's words had been
anything but pleasant. But they were the truth as Scott saw it. However,
instead of an angry outburst, Scott heard only a light chuckle coming from
from Scott's arms, Johnny sat back and looked at him with a small smile that
contained only regretful understanding. "I guess that kinda makes us even,
Boston. I don't gotta like your grandfather to appreciate what he done for
you when you was growin' up. I guess it's only fair that you ain't gotta
like my mother for what you think she done wrong." Pain clouded Johnny's
voice. "But you're wrong. She didn't have a choice, Scott. I know she didn't."
Pursing his lips,
Scott stood his ground in the name of pure love. To give in now would be
to let Johnny fall back into that pile of manure of self-doubt and self-recrimination.
"Johnny, your mother's reasons for leaving Murdoch were her own, and unless
you know something you haven't shared with me, those reasons died with her.
However, she had every choice in the world when it came to what she told
you about your father. She had no right, no justification, to burn that bridge
for you. If she hadn't been so selfish, Johnny Madrid would never have been
necessary. That's the cold, hard truth and it can't be denied. Your hell
was all her doing, not yours."
Scott's heart sank
when Johnny bowed his head low. He had known even as he spoke the words that
he was risking destroying everything he had gained with his brother, but
he couldn't help it. The responsibility for Johnny's life had to lay somewhere,
and better at his mother's feet, the chief candidate, than at Johnny's, the
As he tried to
think of some kind of feeble peace offering that might keep this encounter
from costing him his brother, he heard Johnny inhale sharply. Scott held
his breath as he watched the dark head before him slowly rise to reveal Johnny's
Johnny looked at
him, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. When he spoke the sound was painful
and tempered with regret. "I know she done wrong by me, Scott, but she was
my mother. I still love her."
by the lack of condemnation, Scott gave Johnny a reassuring smile. "I'm not
asking you not to, Johnny. I'm simply asking you to accept that you are not
to blame for the things that were done *to* you, not *by* you."
but didn't verbally acknowledge his agreement. A frown barely ghosted across
his lips as his gaze became fixed on the discarded Pinkerton report, but
his eyes easily belied his anguish. "What does that paper say about it?"
he asked without taking his eyes off the report in Scott's hands.
Glancing down at
the Pinkerton report, Scott wasn't sure what Johnny meant. "Say about what?"
lightly. "About how I picked the name 'Madrid'."
knew he had been called. "It doesn't," he admitted. "I was just bluffing
to get some kind of response out of you." Johnny nodded, but Scott's curiosity
had been piqued. "Will you tell me about it?" he asked, hoping Johnny wouldn't
clam up on him again.
"Ain't all that
interestin'," Johnny mumbled very unconvincingly.
Despite the day's
revelations, Scott still had a mission to complete, and he wasn't about to
back down. Shifting around so that he was sitting shoulder to shoulder with
Johnny, Scott stretched his legs out, crossing them at the ankles. He might
as well be comfortable if things were going to get ugly again. "I'd like
to know, anyway."
Johnny shifted anxiously, but remained next to him. "Scott..." he implored.
"El Tesoro Madrid
Scott looked over
at his brother, sensing the deep pain that was lurking just behind those
few unknown words. Even after these long months living in bilingual California,
his Spanish was still remedial, at best. There had been too many other things
he had been required to learn, about ranching and cows and living life in
the west, for him to have put too much effort into learning another language.
He had mastered the necessary words and phrases that were a part of dealing
with the Mexican hands and neighbors, but that was all.
he requested softly. Next to him Johnny snorted, or maybe it was a sob. He
couldn't tell for sure. What he could tell was that Johnny was in pain.
"El Tesoro Madrid
Blanco was how she died," Johnny explained in a softly anguished voice. "I
came home one afternoon and found her lyin' in the floor. She'd finally drank
herself to death. Two empty bottles of El Tesoro Madrid Blanco tequila where
on the floor, too. The undertaker..." Johnny choked on a heartwrenching sob.
"I heard the undertaker tellin' my stepfather that he'd had to break her
fingers to get the last bottle out of her hand."
Scott didn't know
what to say. Like Murdoch, Scott had come to believe that Johnny's mother
had been murdered, presumably by her second husband. Little things Johnny
had said, and his reactions to certain statements and situations, had fostered
that belief in both father and brother.
Of course, that
was before Scott had stumbled upon the existence of the Pinkerton report.
Unconsciously his faith in that theory had been cemented with that discovery.
Murdoch no doubt knew what was in the report, yet he had all but confirmed
Scott's assumptions during a quiet conversation back when Johnny was recovering
from Jack Dumas' bullet. This was obviously going to be startling news to
their father, too.
"I knew without
her, I wouldn't be welcome in that house no more. Not that I was ever more'n
tolerated anyway," Johnny continued. "I figured I wouldn't be able to stay
alive without doin'...things, an' I didn't want to go sullyin' my mother's
name, so I decided on Madrid." This time Johnny's snort sounded defeated
and heartbroken. "I guess I coulda turned out to be Johnny Tesoro just as
"Madrid was the
better choice." Although sickened by the event that led to Johnny having
to make such a choice, he wasn't about to do anything but offer his full
support for the choice made. Neither sounded better than Lancer, but of the
two, Johnny Madrid definitely had more class.
"What else?" Johnny
asked. His voice was cold and flat, but not argumentative.
Part of Scott wanted
to give in, to let Johnny off the hook about the contents of he Pinkerton
report, but he couldn't. While doing so would be easier on Johnny now, in
the long run he would not be doing his brother any favors. Getting it all
out in the open, putting the ghosts to rest and removing Johnny's constant
fears that something in his past would come up and turn his family against
him was the only way to give his brother lasting peace.
Over the next few
hours he and Johnny went over the report in detail, with Johnny correcting
the few things the detectives had gotten wrong, and expounding on the far
greater number of facts they had gotten right. About thirty minutes into
their review, Johnny had actually commented on how impressed he was with
the report's accuracy.
They had just finished
the report, and Scott was sitting in a dazed silence while Johnny paced nervously
around the room. It had been early on that Johnny had found it impossible
to remain seated, retaking his place on the bed only when a particular fact,
as dictated by Scott, seemed to require his visual inspection.
The last item had
been the revelation that Johnny had been within minutes of death when the
Pinkerton detective finally caught up with him. Scott couldn't believe how
close he had come to never having the opportunity to get to know his brother.
"So, where's the
key?" Johnny's voice intruded into Scott's agonizing thoughts.
"Huh?" he looked
"The key?" Johnny
repeated with a gesture aimed towards the door.
and Johnny's expression turned expectantly demanding in response. "Well,
it goes this way, brother," Scott began nervously. "I...well..." winching
at his own shortsightedness, Scott took a deep breath and blurted out his
confession. "The doors aren't locked."
Johnny walked over
to the nearest door and again tried to open it, with no more success than
he'd had when he tried it earlier. "Then why won't it open?" he asked suspiciously.
"I jammed the mechanism
with hot coals," Scott muttered. "It's probably fused solid by now."
"Are you crazy?!"
Johnny yelled in a sudden fit of anger. "What if things hadn't turned out
so well? What if I'd..." Johnny stopped. He was staring at Scott, chest heaving
from his ragged breaths, and his face a contorted mixture of paralyzing terror
and disbelief. "I could have killed you!"
Scott shook his
head. "No, Johnny, you couldn't. You might have destroyed this entire wing
of the house, but you could never hurt me. Not like that."
"How can you be
so sure?" Johnny was still breathing heavily. His fists were balled tightly
at his sides, and he looked like he was about to explode. "How could you
have done this to me?" he demanded softly. "Do you got any idea what woulda
happened if I'd hurt you?"
Scott was amazed
that through all he had done, all he had said, Johnny found this issue to
be the breaking point of the confrontation. Slipping from the bed, he approached
Johnny with caution. Not because he feared Johnny would hurt him, but because
he feared Johnny would hurt himself, somehow.
"I trust you,"
Scott said softly as he came to a stop in front of Johnny's trembling form.
"I trust you with my life, Johnny. I only sabotaged the doors because I also
trust your well-honed flight response. I always believed it was just your
way of avoiding us, avoiding facing things that hurt too much. Now I understand
that you've always thought you needed it to protect us from yourself."
Placing a hand
on Johnny's shoulder, Scott squeezed it reassuringly. "You don't have to
run from us, Johnny. No matter how upset you are, you could never hurt us.
Never." Half expecting Johnny to bow his head in remorse, Scott was startled
when terrified blue eyes met his gaze.
"Yes, I could,
Scott," Johnny admitted. His total anguish was etched in every stress line
on his normally smooth face. "If you only knew how hard it is to stay in
control. I been so angry for so long...Scott...you just don't know. Lashing
out is too much of an instinct for me. Please promise me you won't do nothin'
like this again."
Scott started to
protest, but the painful determination in Johnny's pleading eyes stopped
him just as he opened his mouth. "I promise," he said with certainty. "I
promise because I know I won't have to do anything like this again. We slew
those dragons in here today."
Instead of agreeing,
Johnny jerked away. "We ain't killed nothin'," he protested. "Just 'cause
we talked about things, don't mean they's gonna go away."
Unwilling to argue
the point, Scott smiled. One day Johnny would figure out that his fear of
having the past dragged out into the open was ninety percent of his control
problem. Next time something came up, Johnny would realize it too, but until
then, Scott could let him believe as he needed. Time was on his side, so
Scott wasn't the least bit concerned. "I said I promise, Johnny."
For a brief moment
Johnny merely stared back at Scott. However, before long that mischievous
glint appeared in his eyes and a teasing smirk formed on his lips. "So, Boston,
has that Harvard educated mind a yours thought of a way to get us outta here?"
hesitated, then exhaled slowly. "No."
"Yes," Scott somewhat
reluctantly agreed. "I mean, yes, as in, no, I don't have the slightest idea."
With a roll of
his eyes, Johnny headed for the chest of drawers in the corner. Kneeling
down, he pulled out the bottom drawer and began rummaging around in its contents.
"Good thing for you," he called out over his shoulder, "that you have the
Crown Prince of Problem Solvin' for a brother." Closing the drawer with a
bang, Johnny stood and provided the visual evidence of his assertion.
As he watched Johnny
begin removing the pins from the hinges in the door, Scott wasn't sure what
surprised him most: the fact that Johnny actually kept a hammer and chisel
in his bedroom drawers, for what reason he was pretty certain he didn't want
to know; or that Johnny would have he audacity to actually refer to himself
by the outrageous title Scott had thought up at the spur of the moment.
In a matter of
seconds, Johnny had all three pins removed and was smiling victoriously in
Scott's direction. "Care to give me a hand?" he asked with a teasing smirk.
"These doors ain't the lightest things around."
After a few grunting
lifts, the heavy door slid away from the hinge plates, and was maneuvered
against the adjoining wall. However, when the two men turned around, it was
not an empty corridor that met their startled stares.
"Would you two
care to explain what's going on?" Murdoch demanded in and icy growl.
"The lock got jammed,"
Johnny answered a little too quickly.
snapped. "And using the other door would have been too much trouble?"
"Well, sir," Scott
joined in. "It was jammed, too."
another word, Murdoch shouldered his way into Johnny's bedroom and proceeded
to inspect the recently removed door. A deep frown furrowed his weathered
brow when the mechanism did indeed turn out to be fused solid, and why. Moving
to the far door, he repeated the same procedure, and obviously found the
as Murdoch turned back towards them, he noticed the Pinkerton report lying
in the middle of Johnny's bed. Snatching up the document, he studied it in
silence for a brief moment, then looked up, glaring at them with an expression
they both knew meant he wanted an explanation and he wanted it now.
Scott and Johnny
glanced sheepishly at each other. "Well, your Highness," Scott mumbled to
Johnny. "You wouldn't happen to have any solutions handy for this particular
problem, would you?"
+++ +++ +++ +++
After following Murdoch into the great room, in a flurry of words Scott had
confessed all his three days worth of sins: finding the Pinkerton report,
formulating a plan of action that included the fake note from the sheriff
in order to get Murdoch and Jelly out of the way, retrieving the report,
removing Johnny's gun from his room, and, last but not least, sabotaging
the door locks.
had been guilty of nothing, he insisted on standing by Scott's side, or in
this case, sitting by his side as their father paced the floor in front of
them. This touched Scott deeply, even though he had already come to expect
such steadfast loyalty from his younger brother.
For the third time
in five minutes, Murdoch stopped, looked directly at Scott and opened his
mouth to speak, only to snap it shut and resume his pacing. Finally, Scott
couldn't take it any longer. Yelling he could have dealt with, but this silent
form of disapproval reminded him far too much of his grandfather.
stepped directly into Murdoch's path, forcing his father to stop. "Sir, I
wish I was sorry for my actions," he paused to sneak a peek at Johnny, who
was grinning like an idiot from his seat on the sofa. "I wish I was sorry,
but I'm not. I do, however, apologize for deceiving you and Jelly, even though
it was necessary."
"But not for this?!"
Murdoch snarled as he waved in Scott's face the report that had been held
tightly in his fist ever since it had been retrieved from Johnny's bed. "You
don't feel one bit of remorse for pilfering through my private documents—"
"Wait just a minute!"
Johnny snapped to his feet. "How do you figure that's *your* private stuff
when it's all about me? I'm the one who should be feeling invaded, not you.
Were you ever gonna tell me you had that, Murdoch? Or maybe you was plannin'
on springin' it on me the next time you thought I needed to be reminded of
Things were quickly
spiraling out of control, and Scott knew he had to act quickly or his equally
hotheaded, stubborn, and mostly unreasonable father and brother were going
to be at each other's throats once again. "Shut up, both of you!" he ordered
in his most commanding voice.
Glaring at Murdoch,
Scott held out his hand. "Give it to me," he demanded with just as much authority
as had actually, much to his surprise, silenced the two other men. His surprise
was complete when Murdoch actually did relinquish the document.
"I take it you've
read this, sir?" he snapped quickly, before he could lose his nerve or Murdoch
regained his senses.
"Yes," came the
"All of it?" Scott
pressed. What he had in mind was drastic, and final, so he didn't want any
miscommunication to turn his decision against him.
Without even turning
that way, Scott extended his arm fully to the side and with a quick flip
of his wrist, sent the offensive document flying into the fireplace. Thankfully
the weather had been just chilly enough for the fire to have been kept going
through the night, so the remaining smoldering embers were enough to ignite
the dry paper.
"What are you doing?"
Murdoch demanded in outrage. He moved as if he planned to retrieve the burning
document, but Scott grabbed him and held him back.
"You don't need
that thing anymore," he said firmly. "If you want to know about your son,
there he is." Scott pointed directly at Johnny. "He's already discussed what
was contained in that report with me, and there's no reason to think he won't
do it with you, too."
Glancing up at
Johnny, Scott was surprised to see that his brother was standing there watching
the paper burn in the fireplace. He looked pale, but at the same time, relieved.
"Do you have a Pinkerton report on me?" Scott asked bluntly.
"Of course not?
But what has that got to do--"
Scott interrupted. "The three of us are right here, in this room, in this
house, on this ranch. There isn't a detailed outline of my life to be examined
without my permission or consent, and there isn't one on yours either. All
I've done is put us all on even footing. If any of us want to know something
about the other, we'll find it out like normal families do — by talking to
"I've tried talking
to him!" Murdoch yelled.
"No you haven't."
Johnny's voice was so soft it was almost inaudible as he continued staring
at the disintegrating report. "You demand and you disapprove. You ain't never
*asked* me anything."
A deafening silence
filled the great room. Only the popping sounds of the fire broke the stillness.
Scott waited, watching his father and brother both try to come to terms with
issues that should have been settled back when they were first reunited.
Fear and hurt had caused Murdoch to dismiss the transgressions of the past
with the wave of his hand, while the same emotions had made Johnny close
himself off from his father each time a clumsy attempt had been made to bridge
the ever-growing gap developing between them.
Both men had leaned
on that report for too long; Murdoch using it as a crutch to keep from having
to knuckle down and ask Johnny the difficult questions, and Johnny, not sure
of its existence but suspecting enough to keep waiting for the eventual ambush.
The tension on both sides had never found a release, but now it could. Now
it had too.
Scott held his
breath as he watched Murdoch move stiffly over to Johnny's side. Everything
could change here, today, in the next few moments, depending on how Murdoch
reacted. Time seemed to tick by slowly, and Scott could feel his lungs beginning
to burn as they slowly depleted the oxygen in the breath he was still holding.
you tell me about your mother?" Murdoch said more gently than Scott had ever
imagined that usually gruff voice could be. "I...I loved her very much, and
I would really like to know what happened."
Ignoring the burning
in his lungs, Scott's entire being was focused on his brother. His heart
sank when Johnny's head bowed lower against his chest. However, a moment
later Johnny's head raised, and when he looked up at their father, Scott
saw only anguish in his teary blue eyes.
"It'll hurt," Johnny
"I know," Murdoch
agreed. "But I have to know, Johnny. I have to know if that report was right,
if she was killed by that man." Murdoch's agitation was obvious in both his
voice and the hand that now gripped Johnny's shoulder.
"It ain't, at least
not the way you're thinkin'," Johnny answered regretfully. "An' there's a
few other things in that report that ain't all that accurate, neither."
Releasing his grip,
Murdoch slipped his arm around Johnny's shoulders. "I would like to hear
about them all, son."
Scott watched for
a moment as his father and brother got settled on the couch. Already knowing
what was going to be said over the next few hours, and knowing it would be
both painful and cleansing for the two men, he slipped out without a word.
While this hadn't
exactly been the way he had planned today to work out, it was much more than
he had ever dared hope to achieve. Murdoch and Johnny were talking, and as
for himself, there were a couple of doors upstairs that needed some serious
attention before Teresa got home. That girl would be the death of them all
if she didn't even have to open the door before barging into a room, which
just wouldn't do now that there was a chance for peace in the family.