Sheriff,” Frank Key said as he walked in the door.
“I’m Frank Key. I’ve
been hired to represent Mr. Lancer in court.”
Val replied. “What can I do you
to visit with my client if that’s all right with you.”
Holding his coat out away from his body he added, “You can see I’m
unarmed but if you’d like to search me for hidden weapons that’s quite all
be necessary,” Val said. “Your
reputation precedes you. I’ve
heard a lot of good things about you since you set up shop in Green River.
I can’t let you in the cell with him but you can take this chair and
sit outside the door to talk with him.”
Sheriff Crawford,” Key said. “I’ll take you up on your offer.
Might I trouble you for some privacy while I speak to my client?”
leave you alone with him but I can sit at my desk in here while you talk.”
Val grimaced, “The last thing I need right now is the Wilsons finding
out that I left my prisoner unattended while a complete stranger had a talk with
completely,” the attorney said. “That’ll
be just fine.”
Val put a
straight-backed wooden chair in front of the door to Scott’s cell and then
left the attorney and his client to speak privately.
Scott,” Key said. “I’m Frank Key. Your
father has hired me to represent you at your trial.”
Scott sat up.
He’d been lying on the cot trying to stay warm.
The days were turning chilly now that October was here.
“Nice to meet you Mr. Key. I
only wish it were under different circumstances.”
quite all right Scott.” Taking a notebook and a pencil out of his pocket Key
proceeded to quiz Scott. “Now
tell me about yourself. Your father
tells me that your maternal grandfather raised you.
In Boston wasn’t it?”
Scott grimaced. “I know
now that Murdoch tried to bring me home and that my grandfather thwarted every
effort he made. But I also had a
good home. Plenty of food, warm
clothes. A room I could call my
own. I had several trips to Europe
and attended Harvard.”
“When did you join
“When I was
eighteen. I wanted to join before
then but Grandfather objected. When
I was old enough I joined anyway. Grandfather
wasn’t very happy about it but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. I
wouldn’t allow him to pay a substitute to take my place – not when so many
men were sacrificing everything to serve their country.”
“And you became a
Lieutenant in less than a year? How
was that possible?” Key knew the
answer very well; he’d wired Washington, D.C. and inquired of a friend in the
War Department about Scott’s record. It
was, to say the least, exemplary.
“I don’t like to
brag about it sir,” Scott said. “Let’s
just say I was in the right place at the right time.
Or maybe it was the wrong place at the right time.
I couldn’t stand by and let my men be slaughtered so I led a few
charges. I was promoted in the
field several times.”
Key scribbled a few
notes as the blond Lancer talked. His
dark, curly head nodded several times as he did so.
“Now tell me about the events that led up to your capture.
I believe you were at the siege and battle of Vicksburg?”
It was a couple of months later that I was taken prisoner. My men and I were on a routine patrol and we ran into a large
contingent of Confederates. They
overran us. I was wounded in the
shoulder and my horse was killed. When
it fell I was pinned under it.”
“And the boy, Peter
Winslow, he tried to help?”
eyes clouded over at the thought of the twelve-year-old standard bearer.
“Peter was a very brave boy. He
knew I was hurt and tried to get me out from under my dead horse.
But he wasn’t strong enough. I
tried to get him to flee but he refused. He
stayed right by my side the whole time and was captured at the same time.”
“What were the men
like that took you prisoners?”
“The Captain in
charge of the infantry patrol was decent enough.
He saw to it that my wound was taken care of and that we had enough water
and shared what little food they had with us.”
“How long did it
take before you arrived at Cahaba?”
“I don’t know
exactly. I think about a week or
so. I was rather ill at the
Key scribbled some
more notes. Some were things that Scott had mentioned that he felt were
important. Others were notes to
himself – questions that he wanted to ask Murdoch Lancer and other people
“One more question
Scott – did you kill Charles Wilson?”
“I don’t know,”
Scott answered. “I was angry enough to when I saw him on the street and I
was certainly angry enough to when Peter was killed. But I honestly don’t remember if I killed him or not.”
Key nodded and
smiled. The younger man was honest;
there was no doubt about that. Cloudy
memory or not he admitted that he had been angry enough to do it even if he
didn’t remember whether he had or not.
enough for today. I’m going to ask some questions around town before I go
back to my office.” Key rose from
his chair. “You rest and take it
easy. I’ll be back tomorrow and
every day until the trial starts.”
“Do you know when
that will be?” an anxious Scott asked.
“I understand the
Circuit Judge will be here in four days.”
I want to get this over with.”
“Keep your chin up
Scott. We’ll lick this thing.
I believe very strongly that you’re innocent of the charge and I’ll
do my best to convince a jury.”
Leaving the cell area
he took the chair with him. Val was
seated at his desk looking at wanted posters when the attorney returned his
now.” Key studied Val’s face
closely. “I understand you and
Johnny Lancer are good friends. Is it very hard on you having to lock up his brother?”
“Yeah – you might
say that.” Val stared at the lawyer.
“Listen I may complain about Scott Lancer being a fancy dresser and all
that but I really have nothing but high regard for him.
He came out here from Boston after serving in the Army for two years and
proved himself to his father, brother and all their hands.
I hear tell he even sobered up an old retired marshal by the name of
Kansas Bill Sharpe. Found the old
man’s grandson out in the woods while fishing with his father, Johnny and
Jelly Hoskins. Scott took the boy
to Onyx, which is up in the Lava Hills. Found
Kansas Bill had become the town joke as well as the town drunk and sobered him
right up so that his grandson could at least meet him.”
“This Kansas Bill
– is he still around? Would you
know where I might be able to get in touch with him?”
“Scott said that
the old man and his grandson were headed for Oregon.
I don’t rightly know where exactly.”
“Hmm,” Key said.
“I think I’ll send a few wires and put some feelers out. If this Kansas Bill was as well known as you indicate someone
must know where he is. Scott could
use him as a character witness.” Putting
his hand out to shake Val’s he said, “I told Scott I’d be back every day
until the trial starts. I’ll see
I’ll be here.”
an anxious Teresa asked as she came out the French doors.
“Cipriano came back an hour ago and said there was some trouble when
you got to town. Is Scott ok?”
darling,” Murdoch reassured his ward. Mike
Wilson did jump him but Jim Talbot came along and helped Val break up the mob
that was behind him.”
Johnny, black eye,
scrapes and all dismounted and handed Barranca’s reins to Ramon who appeared
seemingly out of nowhere to take charge of their mounts.
happened to you?”
I just got a little mad when Mike jumped Scott.
Scott’s back was turned. If
it weren’t for that sprained ankle and being taken by surprise Scott could
have handled that big mouth any day!”
“You got in a fight
with Mike Wilson? In Green River? What did Val have to say about that?”
He and Mr. Talbot broke us up and Val sent Mike and his pals on their
way. Val promised to keep a close
eye on them.”
“Well come inside
and let me put something on that eye and clean those scratches.”
Taking her “brother” by the hand she led him into the great room
where she made him sit on the sofa while she got some hot water and clean cloths
to clean him up and some ice in a towel for his eye.
No beefsteak for my eye?” Johnny complained when she returned.
“Sam says ice does
just as good a job and doesn’t waste a perfectly good piece of meat.”
“Murdoch did you
get a lawyer for Scott?” Teresa wanted to know.
“Yes darling I
“Is he good?”
“I don’t know if
he’s good or not Teresa. Jim
Talbot recommended him – said he was new in town.
You know that we’ve never needed a lawyer that handles criminal cases
now,” Teresa said. “That Mike Wilson was always a bully when we went to school
together. I can’t see that he’s
changed much. It wouldn’t
surprise me if he killed his cousin himself and tried to blame Scott for it
because he hates that Scott and Johnny are so popular and Scott won that
shooting contest at the fair.”
“It’s not nice to
judge people without proof Teresa,” Murdoch chided her.
“I know Mike and his father aren’t very popular with anybody in the
area but that doesn’t mean that he would murder someone.
Especially not a member of his own family.”
“Teresa’s got a
point Murdoch. I think I’ll have a talk with Mike,” Johnny said
“No you won’t.
You’re going to let the law handle this. This isn’t a time for you to act on your own the way you
did when you and your brother helped Charlie Poe rob the train to get those land
grant papers before they could reach Sacramento.
Let Mr. Key do his job.”
Frank Key did his job well. After
speaking to Scott and to Val he started inquiring around Green River.
The banker was quite happy to expound upon Scott’s sterling qualities.
However, being as Murdoch Lancer did his banking there, Key wasn’t too
impressed. The man struck him as
the kind that would say anything and do anything to keep Murdoch Lancer’s
accounts in his bank.
who also owned the general store, was only slightly better.
It seemed that some time ago, a young man by the name of Clay Criswell
had ridden into town and taken the job of sheriff while Val Crawford was laid
up. At first he’d seemed like a
good choice. Crime was down.
Everyone had to check their guns when they came into the saloon.
But Criswell butted heads with the wrong Lancer when Johnny, angry over
his friend’s replacement and the new man’s arrogance and his seemingly
effortless handling of the rowdier elements in town, clashed with him. Eventually, thanks to Lone Crow’s children, Johnny and
Murdoch learned that the man was a crook who was in the process of robbing the
town blind. The mayor discovered it
too late as did Zeek the barber. With
the guns of most of the men in town locked up in the jail cell and no key
available it was up to Johnny and Val, while Murdoch was off rounding up some of
their hands to help, to put a stop to it. No,
he wouldn’t call on the mayor either. He
was still smarting over his being made a fool of.
Hargis over in Spanish Wells was another matter entirely.
She readily admitted that she had misjudged Scott during the incident
with Zee, a young woman Scott apprehended in the process of escaping from the
robbery of the widow’s store. Frank
was hard pressed not to laugh when he heard the widow tell him about chasing the
robber out of her store with a broom and the abuse that the younger woman, Zee,
had inflicted on Scott in the form of a bitten finger, a kicked knee and an
attempt to blow his head off with a shotgun.
Zee’s masquerade as the daughter of a notorious outlaw by the name of
Tom Mangrum came to a halt when the man himself exposed her as a phony.
The widow would make an excellent character witness.
The people of
Morro Coyo, Spanish Wells and Green River were, by turns, amused and fascinated
by the sight of the young attorney in his suits riding around the countryside on
a dappled gray mare in English tack. Nobody
in any of those towns, save Scott himself, had ever seen such gear on a horse
– unless it were Maura Talbot who had grown up in Ireland and never even knew
there was such a thing as a western saddle until she arrived in the states. But his friendly grin and firm handshake soon won many people
over. Even the Mexicans liked him.
His curly hair fascinated some, especially the children.
Most had never seen such curly hair.
In Morro Coyo
Frank Key met Señor Baldomero who owned the dry goods store where Scott had
gone to purchase new clothes the morning after his arrival in California at his
father’s ranch. Baldomero was very pleased when the lawyer made an attempt to
converse with him in Spanish. Better
than that was the fact that he laughed at his own mistakes when the elderly
shopkeeper pointed them out to him. Frank
was impressed with Señor Baldomero’s story of how Scott had been put upon by
three members of Day Pardee’s gang and still given a good accounting of
Stopping at the
telegraph office in Morro Coyo he sent a wire to Washington, D.C. to the War
Department to get information on Scott’s military service.
Another wire went to a very important personage whose identity would be
revealed much later.
Two days before
the trial he rode out to Lancer to talk to Murdoch and Johnny.
Also to interview the ranch hands about Scott.
Murdoch saw him as he arrived and left the corral by the barn to greet
Welcome to Lancer. How’s
the investigation going?”
I’m lining up what I believe to be some good character witnesses for Scott’s
defense. I talked with the Widow
Hargis.” Key laughed.
“She’s quite the character. Is
it true that she chased a thief out of her store by way of the window by chasing
him with a broom?”
Johnny and I were parked in front of the feed and grain while Scott was
loading the wagon. Scott was inside
at the time but Johnny and I saw the whole thing – more or less. The man went in the door and came out the window with her
swinging a broom at him and yelling.”
Just as they
finished the discussion on the Widow Teresa, wearing an orange skirt and a white
blouse came down from the house. She’d
seen Key arrive and was curious to know who their visitor was.
She hadn’t been to town since Scott gave himself up to Val – it was
too distressing for her to think of him in jail accused of a murder she knew he
didn’t commit. Knew but
couldn’t prove any more than anyone else could right now.
“Mr. Key this
is my ward Teresa O’Brien,” Murdoch said as she approached.
“Teresa this is Scott’s lawyer Mr. Frank Key.”
Miss O’Brien,” Key said taking her hand and pressing his lips gently to it
in a courtly gesture.
Teresa acknowledged the introduction. “How’s
Teresa. Sheriff Crawford is looking
out for him very well. He almost
fusses over him like an old mother hen.”
like an old mother hen?” Jelly arrived on the scene having exited the barn
just in time to hear that statement.
mother hens,” Murdoch mumbled under his breath.
As Jelly drew closer though he said, “Mr. Key this is Jelly Hoskins.
He works for us.”
How’s the boy holding up?”
right. Sheriff Crawford has been
very diligent in keeping the Wilsons away from him and tries to cheer him up.”
Turning to Murdoch he said, “The sheriff doesn’t believe Scott is
guilty. He wants you all to know
that. But he had to lock Scott up
or he’d have a riot on his hands. Scott
wants to be sure that you all understand that he bears no ill will toward
Sheriff Crawford. He understands
that he’s just doing his job.
like, Mr. Lancer, is to talk to your employees.
I want to hear what they have to say about your son.
No offense but it must be without your being in the room.”
understand,” Murdoch said. “Why don’t you start with Jelly here and I’ll see if I
can find Cipriano and some of the others that have been here long enough to know
Scott. You might talk to Maria, our
housekeeper, when you’re through with Jelly.
If the truth were told I think she’d have to admit that Johnny is her
favorite but she takes good care of all of us.”
Teresa said, “why don’t you
take Mr. Key into the dining room? He
can sit at the table and take notes while he talks.
I’ll go find Maria and tell her that he wants to speak to her too.”
So saying the young woman left the men and went toward the house.
later Frank Key and Cipriano were seated at the table in the great room.
Cipriano appreciated the younger man’s efforts to speak Spanish but
graciously agreed to English since it was easier.
His friendly manner put the lawyer at ease – not that Frank was nervous
but his Spanish was very rudimentary and it would take some time before he was
very fluent in it.
Cipriano how long have you worked for Mr. Lancer?”
now. Since he bought the
“How long ago
thirty years ago señor.”
“So you knew
The Señora was a beautiful woman.
And very kind to all of us. She
did not hate us or distrust us because are Mexican.”
I’ve never understood that myself, sir,” Frank told the Segundo.
“I guess I’m a lot like other members of my family who didn’t
understand slavery and disliked it greatly even when it was legal.
However, that’s neither here nor there.”
puzzled. “No importante.” Frank
Cipriano nodded his understanding.
worked for Mr. Lancer for almost thirty years.
You were here, then, when Day Pardee and his bunch tried to take over the
valley. I’ve heard a lot about that in Morro Coyo.”
It was a very bad time. Señor
O’Brien, he was killed, and the Patron, he was badly hurt.
That is why he sent for Señor Scott and Juanito.
He needed their help and he wanted his sons home where they belong.”
Tell me about Scott. I
understand that his grandfather raised him back in Boston.
How did he take to life on a ranch?
It must have been very hard for him at first.”
was,” the Segundo agreed with a nod. “He
already rode very well but riding a horse trained to work cattle is very
different from what he was used to. It
took him a little time to learn the new way.”
Thinking hard he added, “Learning to rope a cow or a horse was hard
too. And some of the men, they
think he does not know what he’s doing so they don’t listen to him very
much. The men that were here during
the raid – they listened to him very much.
Especially after he lay the trap for Pardee and his bandidos.
When they see those men ride into Señor Scott’s trap they have mucho
respect for him.”
about that day.”
Patron’s sons had just come home the day before.
The bandidos they burned a field and killed a man and his wife who lived
nearby. Señor Scott heard his
father say that I knew the mountains. I
told him sí – like the back of my hand.
He took some of us and we rode into the mountains – just far enough to
let those men think that we had taken their bait.
Then we doubled back through the pass that I knew.
It is very rough but we did it and got back in time to be in place when
the bandidos attacked. Juanito, we
thought he had joined them but when they attacked he was out in front on his
horse running for his life and shooting at them.
He led them right into Señor Scott’s trap.
We lost several men but they did as well.
Juanito he was shot in the back by Pardee, who was their leader, and fell from
his horse out in the front yard. We
thought he was dead But Señor
Scott was going to go out and get him anyway.
The Patron he stopped him but then Juanito - he moved!
He started shooting at the bandidos.
Señor Scott told us to cover him and he ran out firing his rifle very
quickly and started to help Juanito to safety.
I ran out with him and helped him pull his brother to safety by a tree.
Then that bad man – that Pardee – he was going to shoot Señor Scott
but Juanito saw him and cried out. Señor
Scott shot him and the others, when they see this, they run.
The fight was still over.
“Sounds like a very
exciting and nerve wracking time. Tell
me Cipriano, have you ever seen Scott lose his temper – get very angry with
someone? Threaten them?”
“Only once, señor.
A vaquero was seen abusing his horse by Juanito.
When Juanito confronted him the man tried to beat him up.
When Señor Scott came along he stopped it.
He tell the man that if he ever try that again he would kill him with his
bare hands. Then he took Juanito to
the house to have Señorita Teresa fix him up.”
The Segundo’s dark eyes flashed with anger as he remembered that
“So the only time
you’ve seen him angry enough to kill was when his brother was in grave danger.
Would you say that that’s typical of him? That he only gets angry enough to threaten to kill someone
when someone he loves is in danger?”
“Sí, that is
“And those men that
refused to listen to him – how long did it take before they knew they were
Señor Scott worked very hard to learn how to rope and brand and all the
things that he needed to learn when he say he will stay.”
“Thank you Señor,”
Key said shaking Cipriano’s hand. “I
won’t keep you from your work any longer.”
“De nada, Señor,”
Cipriano responded. “It is
nothing. Please – tell Señor
Scott we are praying for him and we will be there at the trial.
My wife – she sends her love to him.”
“I will, my friend,
I will,” Key replied as the older man left.
with Maria went just as well. It
was obvious to Key that these people who worked for the Lancers were loyal,
honest and hard working. That
Johnny was, as they put it, “one of them” because of his Mexican heritage
was completely understandable. But
Scott had wormed his way into their hearts by his courtly manner, appreciation
of their work – especially Maria’s cooking and the effort he had put forth
into learning the skills necessary to live on a ranch.
This was no spoiled rich man’s son – this was a young man who, though
he was more educated than many of them, wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. No job was too tough or too dirty for him.
Jelly, too, was
full of praise for the young man. He
openly admitted to how he’d taken the sack of money dropped by the bank
robbers two years earlier. Because
he’d been taking care of eight lost and orphaned boys, he’d needed the money
to buy food and clothes for them. Despite
this Murdoch Lancer had stood up for Jelly and hired him on at the rate of $1.00
a day to repay the court imposed fine for breaking out of the jail.
Jelly had decided to stay on even after all eight boys were adopted by
families in the area. He was an
important part of the Lancer family now. So
much so that a wise cracking cattleman who had dared to make fun of Jelly’s
“bankroll” that had consisted mostly of corncob, got dumped on the floor and
his drink poured in his face by an irate Scott.
A very calm, but still very angry, Scott.
The rest of that story would come out in court.
As Key started
to leave the ranch, stopping to talk to Murdoch about the trial due to start in
just a couple of days, Maria came out of the kitchen with a paper bag in her
“Señor Key, please – take these to Señor Scott for me.
They are his favorite cookies. Maybe
they will help cheer him up.”
“I will Señora
and I’ll be sure to tell him that you made them especially for him.”
him a brilliant smile and went back to her baking in the kitchen.
wonderful woman Mr. Lancer,” Key said. “She’s
very fond of your boys.”
Murdoch responded with a smile. “She’d
spoil Johnny rotten if she thought she could get away with it.
And she fusses at Scott about being too skinny.”
trial starts in two days, Mr. Lancer. Please
have someone bring Scott a pair of dress pants or a suit.
And a tie. He needs to make
a good appearance.”
Johnny bring them in tomorrow. He’s
been itching for a chance to go visit his brother but we’ve been very busy.
With Scott in jail on top of having men who are injured or ill and some
that quit a few weeks ago, we’re short-handed.
Johnny’s been trying to make up for it by doing both his and his
brother’s work. It’ll be good
for him to take the day. The rest
of us, Teresa, Jelly and myself will be in the day of the trial.”
brother,” Johnny said as he approached the cell where Scott sat on his bunk
looking gloomy. “How ya holdin’
I’m all right,” was the response he got.
“Sure ya are.
You know that Mr. Key, I think he’s gonna do a real good job.
He’s been all over Green River, Morro Coyo and Spanish Wells askin’
about ya and us and the Wilsons. I
hear he even sent a couple of telegrams though what was in them is a secret –
for now anyway.”
He’s been in to see me a few times too.”
Maria pressed your suit for you. They
made me carry it in this carpetbag so it wouldn’t get all wrinkled up
again.” Johnny handed his brother
the outfit he pulled out of said carpetbag.
“Oh, and Maria sent you these cookies.
She figures Val,” Johnny shot a teasing glance at his friend, “would
have either confiscated or eaten all the ones she sent in yesterday with Mr.
“Tell Maria I said ‘thank you’. She’s
been trying to keep my spirits up by sending treats with everyone who comes into
“Hey Val how
about some of that lousy coffee you make? Still
makin’ it in a fryin’ pan or did you break down and spend the money on a new
information, Mr. Wise Guy Johnny Lancer,” Val retorted, “I only use a fryin’
pan at home. Got me a real
coffeepot for the office.”
me some will ya? I want to talk to Scott.”
“Too lazy to
get your own?”
Johnny’s tone was warning now. He
wanted to talk to his brother privately for a few minutes.
“Your trial starts day after tomorrow.
Have you remembered anything yet about where you were when Wilson was
“So far all I
remember is a windstorm and getting hit with a tree branch just before Mr.
Talbot found me. I still don’t
know where I was or what I was doing the night that Wilson was murdered”
Jenkins been in to see ya?”
Several times. He says the
lump on my head is gone and my ankle is almost back to normal.
The scratches are healed too. But
he can’t tell me when my memory will come back.
He says there’s nothing that will help.”
we’ll have to see how good a lawyer this Mr. Key really is.”
don’t see any thing else we can do,” Scott agreed.
“Here ya go
Johnny,” Val approached with the coffee.
“But this is the last time I’m servin’ ya.
Next time you can get your own!”
Johnny drank the coffee down quickly using it to wash down a couple of
Maria’s cookies. Then he rose
from the chair he was sitting in and put it back by Val’s desk.
“I’ll see you tomorrow Scott.”
Turning to his friend the sheriff he said, “How about buying me a beer?
Seems to me you owe me at least one or two.”
Not while I’ve got a prisoner – you know that,” Val reminded his
friend. “I’ll buy you a dozen
beers once this trial is over and done with.”
will,” Johnny laughed putting his brown hat on his head.
“See you when I come in to visit Scott tomorrow.”
He went out the
door and headed for the Longhorn. He
wanted to get an idea of public opinion in his brother’s case.
He figured the saloon would be the best place to hear what was being
said. If nothing else, Thad, the
bartender, might have heard something important.
In a few days it would turn out to be a very profitable visit.
They say old
habits die hard and this was especially true in Johnny’s case.
He stopped in the doorway of the Longhorn Saloon and looked things over
cautiously before entering. Years
of living in border towns, with a price on his head or some two-bit gunslinger
wanna be out to make a name for himself, had honed this instinctive habit to a
fine edge. He seldom, if ever,
entered such a place without checking it out first.
On those occasions when he didn’t do it himself Scott did it for him.
Johnny made him do it because he felt that Scott was too trusting at times.
looked peaceful. Johnny could see some of the hands from the Talbot’s place
there. A couple from the Moreno’s
and three from a ranch closer to Morro Coyo were sitting at a table near the
front window playing poker. One of
them looked up, saw Johnny and waved him over.
Johnny turned him down however. What he wanted to do was hang out at the
bar nursing a beer and listening to what was going on.
how’s your brother,” Thad Peterson, the bartender, asked.
“He’s ok I
guess. This murder charge has us
all on edge,” Johnny sighed. “It
would help if he could remember where he was that night.
But so far all he remembers is the tree branch hitting him just as Mr.
Talbot found him.”
gonna make it rough at the trial isn’t it?”
it is.” Johnny glanced in the
mirror to see what was happening in the rest of the room.
“The Talbots are real upset. They’re
the only real witnesses to the murder and every time someone asks them about it
they can only say they ‘don’t know’ or ‘don’t think’ it was Scott.
All they really saw was a tall blond with a limp.
And when Mr. Talbot found Scott he was limping around on a sprained
ankle. The limp is almost gone now
but that don’t help Scott none. He
can’t remember when or how he hurt that ankle.”
shame. You know most of my
customers think Scott’s innocent. Most
of the regulars that is – except the one and I don’t think I need to tell
you who that is.”
Where is Mike tonight anyway?
He’s usually in here spouting off about Scott ain’t he?”
seen him tonight. The hands from
the Double Bar T and the Rocking Star have been here for a while.
So have the fellas from the Morenos’ place.
Not too many strangers tonight. All
except that one fella sitting at that table in the back.
He’s been in here every night for a week or more. No – more like two
weeks. Orders a beer or two and
sits in that corner watching and nursing his beer.
Doesn’t even mingle with the girls.
And believe me they’ve tried everything.
He just doesn’t pay any attention to them.
Strange if you ask me.”
bartender kept up a running commentary in between serving drinks or supplying
new decks of cards to replace those that were worn out and easy to mark.
Johnny, meantime, kept surreptitiously eyeing the stranger by way of the
large mirror hanging behind the bar. The
more he looked at him the more something didn’t ring true. But he couldn’t put his finger on it.
Deciding to see
if he could get a better look and maybe get acquainted Johnny took his beer and
headed for the stranger’s table.
Giving the man
one of his most engaging grins Johnny approached the man’s table.
in here tonight. Mind if I join ya?”
“I prefer to
drink alone,” the stranger said.
Don’t mean not harm,” Johnny said not willingly backing off just yet.
“You’re sittin’ here by yourself and the place is pretty crowded.
Thought you might like some company – bein’ new in town and all.”
you say that?”
seen you around before – that I can remember.
I know most of the hands at the ranches around here.”
Johnny held out his right hand. “Name’s
The other man
ignored him. Johnny waited a few
seconds for him to acknowledge the introduction then dropped his hand.
Alarm bells were going off in his head but he didn’t know why.
It wasn’t the first time he’d met someone that didn’t act very
friendly and probably wouldn’t be the last.
But there was something about this guy that had his instincts screaming.
There was something wrong about him.
Deciding not to
press the issue Johnny took his beer and went back to the bar.
Thad was busy with other customers so Johnny downed his beer and left
stopping briefly to speak to the poker players who could shed no more light on
the stranger than he had been able to glean from Thad.
Once outside he released Barranca from the hitching rail out front and
mounted. But he did not turn
Barranca toward home. Instead he
turned him toward an alley across the street where he could keep an eye on this
stranger and see if he could find out anything useful.
For some reason he couldn’t get it out of his head that this man had
something to do with the murder of Charles Wilson.
If he told Val, however, he knew he’d get laughed at.
Val was not a man to work on instinct or someone’s gut feelings. He’d
need proof anyway before he could charge the man with anything.
patience was rewarded. He and Barranca hadn’t been in that dark alley watching and
waiting for more than fifteen minutes when the man came out.
Even from across the street Johnny could see that the man walked with a
pronounced limp. And under the
lamplight his hair looked to be dark. But
that didn’t stop Johnny from thinking. He
watched as the man limped slowly back toward the boarding house at the end of
town. There he lost him as the
stranger entered and went to his room. Frustrated
when the man didn’t come back out after half an hour Johnny turned Barranca
toward home. He’d talk to Murdoch
in the morning, if there were time, before they left for the temporary
courthouse and the start of Scott’s trial.
The old school house had been requisitioned since Green River didn’t
have a courthouse.
boarding house the stranger tried to shake off a feeling of being watched.
He was none too happy that the dark-haired Lancer brother had approached
him trying to be friendly. There
was something in that kid’s eyes that made him nervous.
He was known to be an ex-gunfighter but that didn’t worry him.
There was something else. The
ex-sergeant decided that he’d better keep a low profile for a few days.
But nothing was going to keep him from being at that trial. He wanted to see the Lieutenant pay for his “crime” of
not protecting all those in his work detail.
courthouse was packed when the Lancers entered the next morning.
Friends, neighbors and interested bystanders were all there to watch the
trial of Scott Lancer for the murder of Charles Wilson.
Many of those from
Green River knew of the bad blood between the Lancers and the Wilsons and had
heard the story of how Charles Wilson had been a brutal, bullying guard at
Cahaba Prison when Scott was a prisoner of war.
Many of them believed that Scott had every reason to kill the man and was
within his rights if he really had. None
of them would have put up with the man getting away with killing a
twelve-year-old child – even if it were somewhat of an accident.
Murdoch and his
family entered the courtroom grim-faced and nervous.
Teresa looked to be on the verge of tears.
Murdoch’s face was set in granite while Johnny’s sapphire blue eyes
constantly scanned the courtroom looking for potential troublemakers.
Most specifically he wanted to be sure that Pierce and Mike Wilson got
nowhere near his brother. They took
seats directly behind the table where Frank Key sat waiting for his client to
arrive. Key was impeccably dressed
in a dark blue suit with a white shirt and a black string tie.
He had a writing tablet and several sharpened pencils on the table in
front of him. He was well prepared with notes he’d taken and a list of
witnesses he intended to call including Cipriano and Jelly.
The Talbots would be subject to cross-examination.
He knew they were sympathetic to the Lancers but bound by their word and
the law to testify to what they’d seen.
When Val and Scott
entered the room you could have heard a pin drop.
Scott stood straight and tall looking straight ahead yet he was as pale
as he’d been during his illness the previous spring.
Val looked the way he always did. Like
he’d slept in his clothes – which was the truth since he’d spent the night
at the jail sleeping in the empty cell next to Scott just in case there was
As they arrived
Teresa reached out to hug her “brother” while his father and brother clapped
him on the shoulder and tried to reassure him that they knew things would work
out all right. Scott returned the hug Teresa gave him but with little
enthusiasm. He walked and acted
like a man shell-shocked. He still
had no memory of where he’d been before Jim Talbot found him.
The most he remembered was being soaking wet, having a sore ankle and
getting hit with the tree limb. He
didn’t remember his horse running away during the storm or setting out from
the cabin the next day on foot. He
still couldn’t remember the note he’d left Johnny even though they’d shown
it to him. He knew it was his
handwriting but he didn’t remember writing it.
attorney was a man named Stuart Copeland. He’d
been practicing law in various towns and cities in the San Joaquin Valley for
thirty years. A graduate of Yale
College, which would in 1887 become Yale University, he’d steadily made
himself unpopular with many residents due to his overbearing manner.
On top of that he thought a lot of himself and never failed to mention
his background and education. He
was the son and grandson of successful lawyers.
His great-grandfather had attended Yale at the same time as one of the
college’s most famous alumni – the martyred Nathan Hale.
Copeland loved to remind people of his family’s prestigious background.
The Talbots arrived a few minutes after the Lancers and made their way to
the seats directly behind them. Jim
gave Scott a reassuring squeeze of the right shoulder after shaking hands with
Murdoch and Johnny. Teresa was
given a kiss on the cheek. Maura
lost no time in kissing both boys on the cheek and Teresa was given the same
treatment. Murdoch greeted her with
a kiss on the cheek, which she accepted gladly from her old friend.
The bailiff announced the entrance of the judge just as the Talbots
reached their seats.
The judge, Owen Pickering, was fifty-five, tall with red hair that was somewhat
gray at the temples and a solemn manner - but not without a sense of humor or a
sense of justice. He wasn’t
terribly fond of Prosecutor Copeland but was forced to work with him.
He kept Copeland on the straight and narrow and allowed no theatrics or
other shenanigans in his courtroom. He
was a no-nonsense man when the situation called for it but loved to have little
opportunities to poke holes in the prosecutor’s ego.
He took his seat at the table in the front of the room.
is now in order. The Honorable
Judge Owen Pickering residing.”
Judge banged his gavel on the table twice.
spectators, witnesses, defendant and lawyers all took their seats.
Pickering shuffled some papers in front of him for a moment or two and
then looked up.
the prosecution ready to proceed in the matter of the State of California vs.
are Your Honor,” Copeland replied.
the defendant present?”
sir,” Scott replied.
the defense ready to proceed?”
Your Honor, we are.” Key spoke
out clearly so all could hear.
hear opening statements at this time. Mr.
Copeland you go first.”
state intends to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that the defendant, Mr.
Scott Lancer did with malice aforethought plan to ambush and murder the deceased
Mr. Charles Wilson. We will offer
evidence that the defendant knew the deceased from years ago when he was
incarcerated in a Confederate Prison Camp.
That the deceased Mr. Wilson abused the defendant and all other prisoners
in his custody until one day a fellow prisoner was accidentally killed.
At that time Mr. Lancer swore that he would, if it took twenty years of
waiting and watching, kill Mr. Wilson for what he perceived to be a cold blooded
killing. The deceased Mr. Wilson was relieved of his duties at the
prison camp and disappeared from Mr. Lancer’s life.
Then, just about two weeks ago, a chance encounter on the streets of this
great little metropolis brought these two antagonists together again.
After a brief but violent confrontation on the main thoroughfare they
went their own way only to have Mr. Wilson turn up dead – shot to death in an
will call witnesses to the murder and present other evidence pointing to the
fact that Mr. Lancer has a violent temper and a history of such unwarranted
leaned over toward his father with a confused look on his face.
“What’s he sayin’ about Scott?”
whispered, “He says he intends to prove that Scott hated Wilson enough to plan
to kill him from ambush. He’s
going to tell them about how Scott was in that prison camp and that Scott
planned to kill Wilson for killing the boy I told you about. He wants the jury to believe that Scott was wrong about young
Peter being murdered and, that after that meeting in Green River the other week,
Scott intended to kill Wilson to get revenge for Peter’s death.”
Why doesn’t he just say that?” Johnny
asked now that he understood the lawyer’s dictionary-like vocabulary.
did,” Murdoch said. “He just
likes to show off all the big words he knows.”
Teresa shushed them.
Lancer men turned their attention back to the front of the courtroom.
Frank Key had risen and was about to make his opening statement.
Honor, Gentlemen of the jury I intend to prove to you that the defendant, Scott
Lancer did not set out to kill Charles Wilson. Oh, yes, I know the prosecuting attorney has witnesses but
those witnesses themselves will tell you that they didn’t see enough to make a
positive identification. I intend
to call witnesses who will tell you that the defendant is, in fact, an extremely
good-natured young man who is polite, kind, generous to a fault and far more
patient with people and events than the prosecution would have you believe.
These witnesses will testify to the fact that Scott Lancer has to be
pushed very hard and very long under normal circumstances before he loses his
temper. The events leading up to this chance encounter on the main
street of Green River would try the patience of a saint and then some.
I intend to call witness after witness to show that Mr. Lancer did not
and could not have killed Mr. Charles Wilson.”
the longwinded speech of the prosecuting attorney Frank Key’s simple eloquence
was a breath of fresh air. After a
brief pause while the person taking the official record of the trial got caught
up, the prosecutor called his first witness.
state calls Mr. James Talbot.”
Jim Talbot rose from his seat and made his way to the witness stand.
He didn’t like the way Copeland was trying to set Scott up as a
murderer using his testimony. The acting bailiff presented him with the Bible and swore him
in. The Lancers, Teresa, Jelly –
who was sitting behind them next to the Talbots, and other members of their
household tensed up.
your name and occupation for the record please,” Copeland said.
Alexander Talbot. I own the
Talbot would you tell the court where you were on the night of September 20th?”
wife, Maura, and I were at the home of Brad Ingersoll and his wife Sharon.
We had dinner with them.”
time was that?”
was at five. We left there around
happened when you went to leave?”
we got outside and into our buggy the wind had picked up and it was threatening
to rain. It had gotten cloudy and
the wind was picking up.”
we’d driven in in the open buggy rather than a covered one and Maura was
afraid we would get soaked before we got home.
I went back to the Ingersolls’ to borrow a tarp to hold over us until
we got home. To try and keep us
dry. By the time I got back it was
starting to thunder and lightning. Maura
was having a little bit of trouble keeping the horse calm so I grabbed hold of
its bridle until it settled down again. Then
I got into the buggy and we started to drive home.”
far did you get?”
do you mean?”
far did you get before you heard the gunshot?”
were driving down Main Street and got as far as the Barber Shop and the General
Store. There was a tremendous clap
of thunder but just before, maybe a few seconds before, I heard the sound of a
gunshot. It seemed like it had come
from the alley between the stores.”
did you do when you heard the shot?”
grabbed a lantern from the buggy and went down the alley to investigate.”
did you see?”
saw two figures – one standing and one lying on the ground.”
you identify them?”
really. The one that was standing
appeared to be leaning over the one on the ground. He took off when I approached with the lantern.”
you able to identify this person?”
that he was tall and blond.”
see. And what about the person on
I got right up to him I saw that it was Charles Wilson.”
what did you do then?”
my wife was coming into the alley but I stopped her. I told her to run and get the sheriff.”
long did it take before he arrived?”
long. Maybe five minutes.”
did you do while you were waiting for him to arrive?”
kept the crowd that was forming away from the body.”
you say anything to them? About the
murder that is?”
that it was Charles Wilson and he was dead.”
you tell them who you saw?”
I did not identify Scott or anyone else by name.
I couldn’t because I didn’t get that good a look at the man and
that’s what I told the crowd that gathered.”
on did you add anything to that? When
Sheriff Crawford came out to see you and asked you and your wife if either of
you had remembered anything else?”
night of the murder that’s all I remembered.
When Sheriff Crawford came out a few days later I remembered that the man
had a limp.”
you Mr. Talbot. That will be
Key rose to conduct his cross-examination.
Talbot have you known my client very long?”
sir. I’ve only known Scott since
he came out to California to live with his father.”
night in the alley – did you ever tell the sheriff that you thought it was
Scott Lancer that you saw standing over the dead man?”
sir, I did not. I told him, as I
told the prosecutor, all I could see was that it was a tall blond male.”
you know if my client walks with a limp?”
smiled. He could see where Key was
leading. “To the best of my
knowledge, having known the lad for just over a year I would say no – he does
not walk with a limp.”
you Mr. Talbot. No further
your honor,” Copeland wasn’t going to let this opportunity get away from
him. “Mr. Talbot you say that the
defendant does not walk with a limp yet when he came into the courtroom this
morning he was limping. How do you
because of an injury to his left ankle.”
you concede that the defendant does indeed limp.”
does now but not as a general rule.”
further questions your honor.” Copeland
was frowning. He’d not expected
that answer. Jim Talbot had gone
further in his answer than he had wanted him to.
witness may step down,” Judge Pickering said.
“Call your next witness Mr. Copeland.”
state calls Sheriff Valentine Crawford.”
spectators all started to snicker. Some
even ventured to laugh out loud. Val’s real given name had never been known to
anyone but a select few. Even
Johnny, his best friend, had no clue that Val’s real name was Valentine.
Despite the gravity of the situation Johnny nearly fell off his seat
laughing. Even Scott, nervous as he
was, had to smile at that.
I will have order in this court!” Judge Pickering banged his gavel on
the table in front of him twice. However,
those who were closest to the front of the room could see that even he was
smiling. But that didn’t mean he was going to allow the situation to
get out of hand.
took a couple of minutes but eventually the room was quiet again.
Val, face red from embarrassment, took his seat.
The sight of Johnny’s smirking face and Teresa trying to restrain her
giggles made him scowl. Maura
Talbot just smiled at him. She
would scold Johnny later. She
considered it her right as his surrogate mother.
with Jim Talbot the bailiff swore Val in and made him repeat his name and
occupation. Then the prosecuting
attorney started his questioning.
Crawford please tell the court what you witnessed on the night that Charles
Wilson was murdered.”
didn’t witness nothin’,” Val said. “I
was in my office when Miz Talbot came to fetch me.”
time was that?” Copeland inquired.
I reckon it was around eight o’clock.”
what did Mrs. Talbot say to you when she came to get you?”
said that she and her husband might have witnessed a murder and that there was a
dead body in the alley between the General Store and Zeek’s.”
being the man that owns the Barber Shop?”
that’s right,” Val agreed.
did you find when you arrived at the scene of the crime?”
was a whole crowd of people standin’ around at the head of the alley.
Mr. Talbot was there talkin’ to them and tryin’ to keep them from
what did Mr. Talbot say to you when you arrived.”
much. Just that he’d seen a tall,
slim and blond man run from the alley when he approached with his lantern.”
did he identify this person by name?”
he did not!” Val was indignant.
“I just told ya! Mr. Talbot said he saw a tall, slim blond and that’s all he
said! He didn’t name any
the time Prosecutor Copeland had questioned and re-questioned Jim Talbot and Val
on what they saw the night that Charles Wilson was murdered it was noontime.
The Judge recessed court until one o’clock warning the men on the jury
not to discuss the case with anyone outside the courtroom.
took Scott back to the jail but left the door to his cell unlocked.
It was his jail and nobody was going to tell him how to run it.
He didn’t believe for a minute that Scott was guilty and he wasn’t
about to lock Teresa up when she came to visit.
Nor would he deny her the privilege of sitting with her brother while
they ate lunch. Murdoch joined them
but Johnny wandered over to the saloon again.
He was curious to see if that stranger was still around and what he was
up to. He thought maybe he could
find out a little more about him.
the lunch break it was Maura’s turn to testify. The bailiff swore her in and she was seated.
state your full name for the court.”
Maura Catherine Talbot.”
where do you live Mrs. Talbot?”
know perfectly well where I live Stuart Copeland! At the Double Bar T with my husband Alex!”
Mrs. Talbot,” Judge Pickering said. “Just
answer his question. And you, Mr.
Copeland, refrain from asking ridiculous questions that you already know the
Your Honor,” Copeland said.
Talbot would you please tell us your version of what happened the night of
my husband said we came into Green River to have dinner with the Ingersolls.
Dinner was at five and we started to leave around eight.
We had driven into town in the open buggy because it had seemed like such
a nice night. When we went to leave
the wind had started blowing hard and it was sprinkling.” Maura paused for a second to catch her breath.
“I was worried that it was going to storm and that we would get soaked
before we got home – it takes us an hour or better depending on the road
conditions. Alex went back to the
Ingersolls’ and borrowed a piece of canvas – a tarpaulin – from Brad to
cover us until we got home.
were delayed for a moment or two because the horse was frightened somewhat by
the storm. After we regained control of him Alex got into the buggy and
we started off. There was a
brilliant flash of lightning and a very loud clap of thunder just as we reached
Zeek’s Barber Shop. Almost
immediately after the thunder died down we heard a gunshot.
It seemed to come from the alley between Zeek’s and the General Store.
Alex stopped the buggy in front of the Barber Shop and took the lantern
he had hanging on the buggy to light our way and went into the alley.
As he walked down that alley he saw two figures, one standing and one
lying on the ground. The one that was standing ran away when they saw us.”
close were you to the alley?”
close at all. I was sitting in the
buggy when Alex told me to drive over and fetch the sheriff.”
you see who the person was that ran away?”
I could not.”
Talbot you just stated that you heard a gunshot and you saw two figures in the
were at the mouth of the alley by the barber shop?”
I said that I was.”
good is your eyesight Mrs. Talbot?”
don’t need glasses if that’s what you mean.”
why is it that you couldn’t identify the person that ran away?”
he was too far away for me to see,” Maura answered.
and your husband both testified that it was storming and there was a lot of
lightning did you not?”
we did and there was.”
you say that you couldn’t identify the man you saw running from the alley.”
I couldn’t see the man that ran away.”
surely the lightning lit up the scene.” Copeland
was about to get an earful from an outraged witness.
listen to me you puffed up popinjay!” Maura exclaimed.
“I said I was in the buggy at the entrance to the alley.
I also said that the person who was standing ran off when they saw us
approach. They were at the far end
of the alley. How do you expect me
to recognize or identify anyone from that distance may I ask!
You’re so full of your own self-importance that you’d do anything to
make yourself look good even if that means convicting an innocent lad of a crime
he wouldn’t and didn’t commit! Just
remember ‘Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a
courtroom burst into laugher again. Maura
Talbot was known far and wide for being a woman who spoke her mind.
Whether she was nursing or advising or just conversing she spoke the
truth and nothing but the truth. She
blamed it on her Irish temperament. Her
father had been an outspoken critic of the English rule during the potato famine
and she’d inherited much of her personality traits from him.
Pickering pounded his gavel several times shouting, “order in the court”
before he was able to regain control. Much
as he agreed with Maura he had to reprimand her for her outburst.
Mrs. Talbot – Maura – control yourself.”
sorry Your Honor,” she said. “But
he makes me so angry sometimes!”
know.” The judge turned to the
Prosecuting Attorney, “And you, Mr. Copeland, stop badgering your own
Your Honor,” he said in a subdued tone.
you any more questions for this witness Mr. Copeland?” Judge Pickering asked.
Your Honor. I’m through with
well. Mr. Key do you have any
questions for this witness.”
to his feet Frank Key smiled and said, “No Your Honor.
Mrs. Talbot has already answered the questions I would have asked her.”
well then you may step down Mrs. Talbot.”
at the clock and seeing that the Prosecuting Attorney had taken quite a while to
continue his questioning of the first three witnesses Judge Pickering decided to
call it a day. Court would resume
at nine in the morning.
was led back to his cell after getting a hug from Teresa and a hug and a kiss
from Maura. Prosecutor Copeland was
not happy with this but it made no difference to Maura. She was fully on Scott’s side and had no intention of
treating him any differently now than she ever did.
court recessed from the day Johnny took leave of his family and friends and
headed for the saloon. He had a
feeling that the unfriendly stranger would be hanging out there again and he
wanted to take another crack at him. If
that failed them he would find a way to quietly observe him without being
was in luck. The stranger was
sitting at that same table in the back of the room.
A bottle of whiskey and a glass sat on the table in front of him.
Johnny, seemingly nonchalant and surprised, wandered over to the man.
like we meet again,” he said with a grin.
other man merely grunted in response to his statement.
the place is pretty crowded this after noon.
Would it be all right if I sat at your table with you to drink my
ex-sergeant looked at the ex-gunfighter and decided it might be safer to let the
kid have his way than to try and keep putting him off.
I know,” the other man said. “You
told me last night.”
yeah,” Johnny laughed and took a sip of his beer. “I forgot.”
were both silent for a minute then Johnny spoke up again.
“Sure is cold for this early in October don’t ya think?
Wasn’t like this down the border towns where I grew up.
I still can’t get used to it.”
kid,” the ex cavalryman snarled, “I said you could join me.
I didn’t say I wanted to talk so shut up why don’t you?
Better yet finish your beer and leave!”
mister. Sorry I bothered ya.”
Johnny drank his last couple of swallows and then went to the bar for a
refill. To kill time and keep an
eye on the unfriendly stranger he joined a poker game that the Double Bar T
hands and a couple of Green River men had going.
Five hands later and twenty dollars richer Johnny saw the stranger get up
and leave. There was a strange look
on his face in Johnny’s opinion. He
seemed to be awfully satisfied about something.
waited a couple of minutes and then cashed in his chips.
Picking up his hat and donning his buckskin jacket he made his way
outside to pick up the stranger’s trail.
He spotted him halfway down the block toward the jail.
A little fearful that this guy had something in mind for his brother
Johnny picked up his pace so as to be closer to him.
doors away from the jail the man stopped, looked around to see if he was being
observed. Johnny ducked into a
doorway out of the man’s line of sight. The
ex-soldier then threw a salute in the general direction of Scott’s cell and
then crossed the street and continued on toward the boarding house.
Johnny came out of the doorway and watched the man as he walked down the
street. What he had just witnessed
made no sense to him whatsoever.
Val,” Johnny said as he entered the Sheriff’s Office a couple of minutes
later. “How’s Scott?”
don’t you go see for yourself?”
left his pistol on Val’s desk without being asked. He and Val had agreed that it would be best if he did in case
the Wilsons or the Prosecuting Attorney decided to pay him a visit while Johnny
was there. They didn’t want
anything to ruin Scott’s chances of having visitors because of a broken rule
about guns, other than the sheriff’s, in the cell block.
brother. How ya doin’?” Johnny
I guess. The trial could have gone
worse I suppose.”
right it could. Hey wasn’t Mrs.
Talbot great? She really told old
Copeland off didn’t she?” Johnny
grinned at the memory.
she did,” Scott had to smile. “She’s
quite a lady Mrs. Talbot.”
Scott, I’ve been talkin’ to a guy that’s new in town. He seems awfully interested in what’s happening but he sits
in the back of the saloon listenin’ more than talkin’. In fact he’s down right unfriendly. But the funny thing is that just a few minutes ago I saw him
standing just a few feet away from here and aim a salute toward your window.
Do you suppose you know him from somewhere?”
don’t know. What does he look
I don’t know. Maybe around forty.
Dark hair. Dark skin.
that could be anybody. Does he have
any scars or any other marks that would make him stand out?”
he walks with a limp.”
see where you’re going with this little brother. You think that this man could be the killer.”
Scott smiled wanly. “I
appreciate what you’re trying to do Johnny but both Mr. and Mrs. Talbot said
the man they saw flee the alley had blond hair.
But thanks for trying. Your
mysterious stranger is probably nothing more than a drifter passing through
Johnny wasn’t convinced. He
was suspicious of this man and he was going to keep an eye on him.
convened at nine the next morning. The
prosecution called Pierce Wilson to the stand first. As soon as he was sworn in Prosecutor Copeland started his
Wilson how were you related to the deceased?”
was my cousin. My Uncle David’s
see. Were you two close when you
We were like brothers.”
the court, if you would, about the altercation on the street between your cousin
and the defendant.”
had arrived in Green River two days earlier.
He had come to visit for a few days.
We hadn’t seen each other for about ten years. Not since before he joined the army.”
had decided to have some lunch and were headed for the hotel dining room.
As we left my son’s shop the Lancer brothers came along.
Scott Lancer bumped into my cousin.
Then for no reason at all he accused my cousin of murdering someone named
Winslow. He only stopped fighting when that half-breed brother of his
fell and hit his head.”
the defendant attacked your cousin without provocation?”
lyin’,” an outraged Johnny shouted.
Sit down Mr. Lancer or I will have you ejected from this courtroom,”
the judge told him.
took Johnny by the shoulder and forced him down to his seat again warning him to
be quiet or the judge would be sure to have him removed.
it for this reason that you believe that the defendant killed your cousin?”
just that. He threatened him right
there on the street. Said he should
have killed him ten years ago.”
did your cousin react to this threat to his life?”
laughed it off at first.”
But a few nights later he came home and told me that someone had taken a
shot at him.”
he say who it was?”
He didn’t see the person.”
you believe it was the defendant.”
I believe that Scott Lancer killed Charles.
Killed him because he hated him.”
Key rose to start his cross-examination.
Wilson let me extend my condolences on the loss of your cousin.
It must have been a terrible blow since you were so close.”
it was,” Pierce said.
then Mr. Wilson. You say that Scott
Lancer started a fight on the street of Green River with your cousin simply
because they bumped into each other?”
was just the start of it. He bumped
into Charles and then, when he recognized him, he accused him of murder and
Frank walked over to the defense council’s table and picked up a piece of
paper. Then he turned back toward
the witness stand. “Mr. Wilson I
hold in my hand a list of names. Names
of men, some of whom live in Green River and others that either work in the area
or own businesses here, who will swear, under oath, that Scott Lancer did not
start that fight with you and your family.”
either liars or they didn’t see it right.”
you call Thomas Baldwin a liar? The
editor of the Green River News? He’s
on this list. So is Brad Ingersoll.
So are several of the Double Bar T ranch hands.
They all witnessed the fight. They
all agree that while Scott reached for your cousin Charles managed to evade
Scott. But, as you and he were
walking away, your son Mike turned around and threw the first punch. And in the ensuing fistfight Johnny Lancer was hit by a stray
punch and fell striking his head on a wooden post. A blow which knocked him out and sent him to the doctor’s
not what happened. Young Lancer
threw the first punch! We were
lucky to escape unscathed. If
Sheriff Crawford hadn’t come along when he did there’s no telling what would
talk about your cousin’s past for a moment shall we? What was he like when you were growing up?”
was my best friend. We went camping
and hunting and fishing together. We
spent a lot of time at each other’s homes.”
joined the Confederate Army when the war broke out didn’t he?”
Your Honor,” Copeland was on his feet in a hurry. “The victim’s military service has nothing to do with the
matter at hand.”
goes to credibility Your Honor. Mr.
Wilson says that his cousin was an innocent victim of a man on a rampage.
I intend to offer evidence that that is not the case.
That the man’s army career has a lot to do with what happened on
allow it. But get to the point
quickly Mr. Key.”
will Your Honor. Thank you.”
Frank turned back to the witness. “How
did he do in the army Mr. Wilson?”
served with honor and distinction,” Pierce declared.
walked back to the witness table, put down the paper he was holding and picked
up another one. Then he turned back
Honor I have here a wire from Captain H.A. M. Henderson, late of the Confederate
Army and the commander of Cahaba Prison near Selma, Alabama.
This is the camp where Scott Lancer was held prisoner for over a year.
Mr. Wilson’s cousin was a guard at that camp.
In it he confirms everything that I’ve been told about my client’s
time in that prison.
Wilson was a guard there. For
reasons known only to himself, he singled out then Lieutenant Scott Lancer for
harassment and harsh treatment – harsher than any other prisoner under his
control. Furthermore Sergeant
Wilson frequently, and with deliberate actions, tormented a twelve-year-old boy
who had been in Lieutenant Lancer’s command.
A boy whose only crime was that he was a Yankee and he was loyal to his
Lieutenant. Wilson deliberately
focused his abuse on that boy in the hopes of getting my client to do something
that would permit him, as a guard, to inflict severe punishment.
For the two months before that boy’s death, after his imprisonment,
Wilson tripped, kicked, punched, slapped or otherwise abused that boy.
Then, one day in November, while gathering wood for a fire, the boy
accidentally dropped a log on Sergeant Wilson’s foot.
Sergeant Wilson’s reaction was to curse the boy and slap him. He slapped him so hard the second time that the boy fell and
hit his head and died.
my client, attacked Charles Wilson – at the prison camp and on the street but
under extreme circumstances and he was punished for it.
He spent a week in solitary confinement and then was permitted to testify
at the sergeant’s court martial. Wilson
was found guilty of manslaughter and received a dishonorable discharge from the
army. What have you to say about that Mr. Wilson?”
Wilson was silently fuming. He
hadn’t known that. All his cousin
had told him just before the fight on the street of Green River was that some
Yankee kid had tripped over his own feet and fell – striking his head on a
rock and dying. It didn’t take
him long to decide what he was going to say.
He was convinced that Scott was guilty and he was going to say so.
If he could nail the half-breed in the process so much the better.
lies! I knew my cousin.
He would never do such a thing. Somebody
made that up and put it in his record!”
Mr. Wilson? In an official Army
record? Even if we don’t agree
with the Confederate states and their secession and everything else that was
considered a reason for secession and war surely you don’t think a Government
official would just make all that up? Just
choose your cousin at random to take the fall for something that was an accident
that never should have happened?”
lies I tell you! And I wouldn’t
put it past that half-breed gunslinger brother of his to have threatened
somebody to put that in there!”
Key was taken a little aback at this. He
didn’t know, not that it mattered to him, that Johnny was considered a
half-breed or that he’d been a gunfighter.
He’d have to talk to the Lancers afterward about that.
He didn’t like being blindsided. But,
to be honest, he had to admit that nobody else he’d talked to had mentioned it
either. If it wasn’t important to them then why was it important to
this witness? He recovered quickly.
all right here Mr. Wilson. And I
might add that Captain Henderson is a Methodist minister – a man of God.
And a man who would never dream of doing what you’ve just accused him
of. I have no more questions for
this witness Your Honor.”
was silently fuming. Wilson’s
testimony acted like a match touched to a fuse attached to a bundle of dynamite
or a keg of TNT. Sooner or later he
was going to blow. His father was
watching him but he was trying to pay attention to the testimony as well.
He knew that Wilson hated Johnny simply because Johnny’s mother had
been a Mexican but to accuse him of threatening somebody to falsify a legal
document – that was going to cost Wilson dearly.
There was such a thing as slander and slander suits and Wilson was
setting himself up dearly for it.
Pierce Wilson’s testimony the judge called for a recess so everyone could have
lunch. The Lancers and their
friends adjourned to the jail to have lunch with Scott and Val.
Scott was still pale. He’d
forbidden Val to tell anyone but he was still having nightmares only now it was
the stress of the murder trial that was causing them.
He’d managed, somewhat, to put the dreams behind him during the days
that he’d been up at the cabin. There
was something so calming and peaceful about Hawk Valley.
Now, however, thrust into the middle of this messy trial, the nightmares
were back and he was losing weight again. The sooner this trial was over and
done with the better.
first witness called to the stand after the noon recess was Mike Wilson.
As soon as he was sworn in and seated Prosecutor Copeland asked him to
tell his version of what had happened during and after that chance encounter on
Wilson – Mike – please tell the court your version of what happened the day
that you, your father and your cousin encountered the defendant and his brother
on the street here in Green River.”
sir, it’s like my father said. Cousin
Charles had come to town just a few days before and wanted to spend some time
with us. Pa hadn’t seen him in
about ten years. I don’t rightly
remember him myself.”
yes, go on,” Copeland urged.
we had lunch at the hotel dining room. When
we were through we went to my shop. I had a rifle I was working on for a customer and Charles was
curious about it. I showed it to
him and we talked for a few minutes. Then
Father and Charles left the shop. When
they got outside Scott Lancer bumped into Charles. When he recognized him a few seconds later he attacked
fuse had reached the TNT. Johnny,
sitting behind his brother and Frank Key exploded.
a lie and you know it Mike Wilson!” he shouted. “Scott just wanted to talk to him. You threw the first punch!”
I will have order in this court!”
Judge Pickering pounded his gavel on the table and shouted.
“Sit down Mr. Lancer! Sit
down or I will have you removed from this court room!”
was in no mood to take orders from the judge.
Mike Wilson’s bald faced lies had him steaming and he was ready,
willing and able to take the gunsmith on and pound him into the ground just as
he had done the day Scott turned himself in to Val.
No amount of talk from his father, brother, Teresa, Jelly or Cipriano
could calm him down.
Crawford,” Pickering bellowed, “remove Johnny Lancer from the courtroom and
see that he does not return until he can sit there quietly.
Wilsons exchanged smirks that did not go unnoticed by Frank Key, as Johnny was
escorted from the room. Val had his
hands full trying to get Johnny to leave. A
look from him to Murdoch had the senior Lancer on his feet assisting him and
trying to calm his angry son.
me go!” Johnny fumed as he
struggled to free himself from the other men’s grips.
until ya calm down,” Val retorted.
you’re not helping Scott any by losing your temper like that,” his father
he’s lying through his teeth Murdoch! That
ain’t the way it happened!”
know that and Scott knows that and there are plenty of others in that court room
who can testify that Mike’s lying. But
you need to calm down. Now have a
seat over there,” Murdoch said indicating a chair outside of Val’s office,
“Or go over to the cantina. But
don’t come back until you’re ready to sit calmly. Judge Pickering won’t hesitate to throw you out again.”
Johnny did as he was told and went over to Val’s office to wait.
The lawman himself had gone back into the courtroom as soon as Murdoch
took over his son. As Johnny headed toward Val’s office Murdoch turned and
went back into the courtroom. Scott
was looking anxiously back toward the door for his father’s return.
He hoped that Johnny and Murdoch hadn’t clashed too harshly over this.
gone to Val’s office to wait,” Murdoch answered his older son’s unasked
question. “He’s got to cool off
for a while. You’ll see him
later.” The eldest Lancer gave his son’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
Lancer! Do you guarantee that your
other son will not return until he’s able to control himself?”
Your Honor. I’ve sent him off to
well. See me after this session to
pay his fine for disturbing the proceedings.”
Your Honor.” Murdoch sat back
down with a grim smile. It was
worth it to see the look on Mike Wilson’s face when Johnny exploded. The would-be gunslinger had looked terrified – probably
thought Johnny was going to pound him into the ground again.
your cousin was visiting and when he left your shop he was minding his own
business when Scott Lancer attacked him on the street?”
you. Your witness Mr. Key.”
rose from his place at the defense table and approached Mike.
He smiled but it was the smile of a warrior who has chosen his target.
Wilson, your father testified much the same way not very long ago - this very
morning as a matter of fact. At
that time I countered his testimony with a list of names of witnesses who said
otherwise. Would you care to hear
Mike was sullen. He didn’t like this lawyer with his fine manners and his
ways of making his father look like a fool.
then tell me this – if you and your family members were the ones who were
attacked on the street how is it that the three of you escaped unharmed but the
defendant’s brother was injured and had to be taken to Dr. Jenkins’
got in the way of his brother’s punches I guess.”
That’s not what Mr. Baldwin or Mr. Ingersoll said.
They told the sheriff that you threw the first punch and that Johnny
Lancer was only trying to protect his brother when you attacked my client from
behind. Furthermore it is my understanding that the day my client
turned himself in you and some friends were hanging around the Sheriff’s
Office waiting. You’d all been
drinking pretty steadily and that you attacked Mr. Lancer from behind.”
Then why would Johnny Lancer have – what’s the expression I want?
Oh yes – mopped up the ground with you?”
the half-breed has a nasty temper just like his brother!”
Mike was determined to pin this on the Lancer boys.
Wilson I can call a dozen witnesses that will swear that the only time either
Lancer brother loses his temper that badly is when someone he cares about is in
grave danger. Perhaps Johnny Lancer
felt that his brother was in serious trouble.
That you were going to harm him.”
Copeland rose to object but Frank smoothly withdrew the question and concluded
his questioning of the witness. The
prosecution rested its case at this point. They had no other witnesses.
Key’s first witness for the defense was Scott himself.
This stunned everyone in the room but Frank needed Scott’s testimony to
set up Sam’s. The good doctor
would testify about Scott’s memory problems.
tall, slender and pale stood straight and tall as he was sworn in.
Those who knew him best were shocked at his appearance.
Scott was slim but now his clothes seemed to hang off of him and there
were dark circles under his eyes.
can you tell us what happened the day that you met the former prison guard,
Charles Wilson, on the street here in Green River?”
Johnny and I had come into town to do some errands for the ranch.
We had to make a deposit at the bank and pick up some supplies at the
General Store. It was cold and
windy and Johnny was complaining about it and about being hungry.
Sheriff Crawford came along and teased him about how he was always hungry
or needed a drink.”
on. What else can you tell us?”
the three of us, had lunch at the cantina.
Then we took care of the deposit and went to the General Store.
While we were in the General Store we bumped into the Talbots and stopped
to talk for a few minutes. When we
came out I accidentally bumped into someone and that someone turned out to be
Charles Wilson only I didn’t recognize him at first.
It wasn’t until they, the Wilsons, were walking away that I realized
who the third man was. He had a
certain way of swinging his arms like he was carrying a club – which he did
while he was a guard at Cahaba.”
did you do when you realized that you knew him?”
afraid I got a little rough because I was angry. All I could think about was how he’d killed Peter.”
was this Peter you speak of?” Key
knew the answer but he wanted the jury and the spectators to hear it.
Winslow. He was a standard bearer
in my company during the war.”
was so special about Peter Winslow that you would be so angry nearly ten years
was only a boy of twelve. And
Wilson bullied him like he bullied everybody else only more so because I
wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of reacting when he tried to hound me!”
know it’s painful for you but tell us what happened the day Peter died.”
were collecting wood for fires. There
wasn’t much around that was any good. Mostly green sap pine or rotten oak.
But it was all we had to keep warm or cook with.”
see. Go on.”
work detail split up. Peter found a
few small branches but then he found a log that was really too big for him to
manage. When he was dragging it
back to the prison he lost his grip on it and the log fell on Wilson’s foot.
Wilson backhanded the boy twice. The
second blow knocked Peter off balance. He…” Scott’s voice trailed off and his eyes glistened with
unshed tears as he remembered this. “He
fell and hit his head on a rock. Wilson
murdered him as surely as if he’d set out to do it on purpose.”
did you react when you saw this?”
was about a quarter of a mile away. When
I saw Peter fall I ran to him. I
found the blood on the back of his head come off on my fingers.
I lost all control, forgetting that I was a prisoner, and attacked him.
I would have killed him if the other guards hadn’t pulled me off.”
did the warden have to say about this?”
put me in solitary confinement for a week.
When Wilson’s court-martial was held I was allowed to testify. He
got off on manslaughter charges and received a dishonorable discharge.
The other guards had never gotten up the nerve to testify against him.
They were afraid they’d be transferred to the front lines themselves
for being party to the boy’s death.”
what was your reaction?”
threatened to kill him. I told him
I’d hunt him down if it took me twenty years.
I hated him for what he’d done. Not
what he’d done to me – I could take that. I hated him for bullying Peter and causing his death.”
happened when you recognized him that day in Green River?”
Frank was ready to get into Scott’s actions of that particular day.
I realized who he was I confronted him. I
told him I remembered him. We got
into a shouting match and he tried to walk away after telling his cousin that
‘some Yankee trash kid’ fell and hit his head on a rock.
He laughed about it.
two oldest Wilsons started to walk away but I stopped them.
I wasn’t through talking. Then
all of a sudden punches were being thrown and Val – Sheriff Crawford – was
there and my brother Johnny was lying on the boardwalk unconscious.
Witnesses said afterward that it was hard to tell exactly what happened.
Johnny told me, after I got him home that day, that it was an accident.
He got his boot heel caught in a crack in the boardwalk and fell.
When he fell he hit his head on a support post for the overhang on Mike
Wilson’s Gunsmith shop.”
about the night of the murder? Where
you explain that?”
have no memory of that night or several nights prior to the murder of Charles
Wilson. Everything that happened
since Johnny was hurt and I brought him home is lost to me.”
sir. I remember that day in town
and I remember Johnny being hurt and bringing him home. I remember a storm and my horse running away but I don’t
remember what night that was.”
walking with a slight limp. Can you
tell the court why?”
Jenkins says I twisted my ankle. I
don’t really remember that either.”
do you remember between the day you encountered Charles Wilson on the street and
the day you turned yourself in to Sheriff Crawford?”
I said. I remember bringing Johnny
home. I remember a storm and my
horse running away. And I remember
being hit with a tree branch just as Mr. Talbot found me walking near Wolf
Creek. But that’s it.”
further questions your honor.”
Copeland – your witness.”
you Your Honor.” The Prosecutor
rose and approached Scott sitting in the witness chair.
Lancer you say that you only wanted to talk to Mr. Wilson is that right?”
a fight broke out.”
threw the first punch?”
what I remember and what I’ve been told Mike Wilson did.”
sure about that?”
sir,” Scott affirmed. “I admit
that I grabbed Charles Wilson and spun him around but I didn’t throw any
punches at him at that point in time. I
was yelling but I wasn’t physical.”
how do you explain your brother being hurt?”
was trying to protect me and break up the fight before it got started.
But I didn’t see what happened to him.
He was behind me. When Sheriff Crawford broke up the fight he pointed out that
Johnny was lying on the boardwalk unconscious.
I picked him up and brought him to Dr. Jenkins office.
When the doctor was through with him I brought him home.”
were you the night that Charles Wilson was murdered?”
sir, it’s not convenient to not be able to remember where I was.
I received relatively minor blow to the head around that time.
Dr. Jenkins said that I was also suffering from hypothermia and the
combination of the two plus exhaustion robbed me of almost a week of
memories.” Scott was seething inside.
toward the jury Copeland said, “You would have us believe that you have
amnesia yet you can remember who you are and what you were doing in the days
before the murder?”
sir, that’s how it is.”
mighty convenient to me,” Copeland sneered.
Your Honor!” Frank was on his feet. “Is
the Prosecutor asking a question or stating an opinion?”
Mr. Copeland either ask a question or dismiss the witness.”
further questions Your Honor.”
well then. You may step down Mr.
defense calls Dr. Samuel Jenkins,” Frank Key announced next.
rose from the seat he’d taken near the Lancers and made his way toward the
front of the room. As soon as he
was sworn in he took his seated and waited for Scott’s lawyer to start.
Jenkins my client is well known to you isn’t he?”
he is. I’ve treated Scott – the
defendant – and his brother for various ailments and injuries for the last two
years or so.”
did you get your degree in medicine from Dr. Jenkins?”
University in New York City,” Sam replied.
“It was founded in 1754 as King’s College with a charter granted by
King George II of England. It was
the first American Medical school to grant an M.D. degree. That was in 1757.”
quite a prestigious school. I take
it you studied long and hard to earn that degree.”
you please explain to the jury just what it is that my client is suffering from?
In simple terms please.”
simple terms Scott is suffering from a cloudy memory. It’s not total amnesia in that he remembers who he is and
knows where he is. He remembers his
family and friends but he’s lost approximately a week of time due to a
combination of factors.”
back up a moment shall we doctor? Were
you recently called to the Lancer ranch to treat my client?”
you tell us why?”
had been missing for about a week when Jim Talbot found him out by Wolf Creek.
Just as Jim reined his horse he said a branch from a pine tree was
dislodged from the trunk and fell. When
it fell it struck Scott a glancing blow on the side of his head.
Jim brought the boy home to his family and they sent for me.
I arrived I found him in bed, unconscious.
He was, in addition to the blow to the head, suffering from exhaustion,
had twisted or sprained his left ankle. He
had numerous cuts and bruises, his feet were covered with blisters from walking
in high heeled boots intended for riding only and he was slightly
you explain what hypothermia is?”
is a lowering of the body temperature. Not
as you would want to do it for a fever but it’s a condition in which the body
temperature becomes too low. The
victim can suffer from confusion. They’re
so cold they stop shivering and don’t realize how cold they are.
They’re prone to walk around with a jacket unfastened when it should
are the results? Is there a
it’s mild hypothermia the patient can be warmed up by being given warm fluids
to raise the body temperature from the inside. And a warm, but not hot, bath
also helps. The most severe cases
often result in death.”
my client was suffering from this?”
As I said he had a mild case. As
I understand it when Jim found him he was so confused that all he could say was
that he wanted to go home.”
Your Honor. Hearsay.”
all doctor. Thank you.”
to his feet the pompous prosecutor approached the medical man.
“Dr. Jenkins is it possible that the defendant is faking this memory
possible but I don’t think so.”
do you say that?”
come to know the Lancer boys well since they came to live in California with
their father. As I said before
I’ve treated them for various ailments and injuries. And I studied medicine at one of the premiere medical schools
in the country. It would be, in my
opinion, very hard for him to keep up the act if it were an act.
He would be bound to make a mistake and say or do something that would
disprove his claim of memory loss.”
it could be done.”
defendant is accused of murder. Most
men would say or do anything to avoid a hangman’s noose.
Don’t you think that faking memory loss would be among those things
they would try?”
Lancer isn’t faking. And when did
you become an expert in medical matters Stuart Copeland? Have you got a degree in medicine? From an accredited medical school such as Columbia?”
not the one on trial here Doctor.”
But maybe you should be!” Sam was
angry. He’d never liked Stuart
Copeland much and his presumption that Scott would be faking his memory problems
just irritated him more than he could say – in mixed company that is.
you doctor. That will be all.”
Teresa and the others were steaming over the insinuation that Scott was faking
his memory loss. Those closest to
him knew that not knowing where he was the night that Charles Wilson was killed
was tearing him apart. He almost
had himself convinced that he had killed Wilson. Scott just sat at the defense table, eyes downcast.
Not a word or a sound did he make as he was accused of faking his memory
Key’s next move was to call forth an arsenal of character witnesses.
Some, Jelly and Cipriano, would testify in person.
Others, like Kansas Bill Sharpe, had sent letters due to their inability
to be there because of ill health or other commitments.
Bill’s letter spoke glowingly of how Scott had faced down Col. Anders and his
crew to sober him up so that he could meet his grandson.
Neither had had any idea when they first met that they would end up being
good friends after Bill saved Scott from serious injury or even death, at the
pleading of his grandson Willy, when Anders men dragged him behind a horse up
and down the street of Onyx because he’d interfered with their little game.
Widow Hargis told about how Scott had reluctantly taken the job of deputy, after
three thieves tried to rob her store, only to be physically abused by his
prisoner – a young woman by the name of Zee.
Zee had told everyone she was the daughter of outlaw Tom Mangrum
prompting all the witnesses against her to recant their statements.
But Scott had stood his ground and charged her with assault.
In the end Zee realized that she couldn’t do anything to hurt Scott and
they’d parted on good terms. Prosecutor
Copeland tried his best to discredit her as a foolish old woman only to get the
same reaction he’d gotten from Maura Talbot – comparison to a peacock though
rather than a popinjay. The poor
judge was forced to pound his gavel and practically yell himself hoarse to quiet
the courtroom after that little episode. Secretly
though he was very amused by the two women.
afternoon wore on Johnny sulked over at Val’s office.
He wanted to be there for his brother but there was no way he was going
to keep quiet while Mike Wilson sat on the stand and lied about Scott.
looking at some old wanted posters, for lack of anything better to read in that
disaster area that Val called an office, when the door opened and several men in
blue cavalry uniforms entered.
me would you be the law in this town?”
blue eyes twinkled in spite of his worry for his brother.
He thought it was hilarious to think that he might be mistaken for the
sir. That’d be Val Crawford.
He’s over at the old school house.
There’s a murder trial going on.”
that’s why we’re here.” The
man, bearing the insignia of a Captain, turned and went to the door.
“He’s not here General. He’s
over at the trial.”
small man, not much over five feet tall, wearing the insignia of a senior
officer entered the office.
I ask who you are sir?” he said.
relation to Scott Lancer? Lieutenant
sir,” a puzzled Johnny replied. “He’s
my brother. You know Scott?”
should say I do. He served under me
in the cavalry during the war.”
Johnny realized that the man standing before him was the same man in the picture
Scott had in his room – General Philip Henry Sheridan.
Nicknamed Little Phil due to his small, five-foot-five, stature.
General Sheridan!” he exclaimed.
know about me. Good.
But I must say that you come as a surprise.
I didn’t know that Lieutenant Lancer had a brother,” Sheridan said.
story General. We only met a couple
of years ago.”
see. Now tell me what kind of a
mess that Lieutenant of mine has gone and gotten himself into!”
Sheridan’s voice had the ring of authority – even more than
Murdoch’s when he was issuing orders to his hands or his sons.
“What’s all this nonsense about him killing a man in cold blood?”
quickly and thoroughly explained about the events of the last month up to and
including Scott’s disappearance and attempt to walk home from Hawk Valley
after his horse ran away.
your brother has short-term memory loss and can’t remember where he was?
Is that right?”
sir,” Johnny replied. “Doc
Jenkins said at first that it was the exhaustion and the cold – he’s got
some big fancy term for it – that caused the memory problems.
And the messed up speech. Now
he says the blow to the head has caused the problem.”
I know Lieutenant Lancer right about now he’s blaming himself for the whole
think so General. He looks sick.
He don’t act like himself at all.”
Johnny is it?” Johnny nodded.
“Now Johnny has anybody found out where your brother was during that
time he was missing?”
Talbot said he found Scott’s saddle and bridle in the lean-to at the hunting
cabin we use in Hawk Valley.”
he say how long it appeared they’d been there?”
thought long and hard for a moment his brow creased in a frown line as he did
so. Then all of a sudden it came to
sir! Nobody asked him that.
We were just happy to see Scott. We
put him to bed and had Doc Jenkins look him over but we never did ask Mr. Talbot
how long he thought Scott had been staying there.”
long did this Talbot fellow stay at the cabin you just mentioned?”
Sheridan was forming a plan in his head.
think he said something once about only staying overnight.
It’s a long ride to that cabin and it was almost dark by the time he
got there. That area is too rough
and wild to be running around at night.”
sir,” the other officer said.
Sergeant Morris come in here!”
sir!” The captain, a tall
redhead, went to the door. Seeing
the man he wanted he called him in.
Daniel Morris was a six-foot, two hundred pound brunet with a moustache and a
full beard. Some called him a bear
of a man because of his broad shoulders and deep gravelly voice.
His teeth gleamed white below the moustache.
General sir? You wanted to see me
sergeant. This is Johnny Lancer –
Lieutenant Lancer’s brother. I
want you to go with him to Hawk Valley. There’s
a cabin up there. Lieutenant Lancer
spent some time at that cabin prior to the murder that he’s been accused
of.” Sheridan smiled grimly.
“You’re the best tracker and scout I’ve ever worked with.
I want you to go with Johnny and check that cabin and the surrounding
area out. See if you can ascertain
how long the Lieutenant was there.” Turning
to Johnny Sheridan asked, “Has anyone been to that cabin since your brother
was brought home?”
sir, not that I know of.”
Then you and Sergeant Morris make tracks right now and get up there.
I’m headed over to the trial.”
didn’t argue. General
Sheridan’s idea made perfect sense and he was kicking himself that nobody,
including himself, Murdoch or Val, had thought to ask Jim Talbot how long Scott
had been there or gone to check it out for themselves.
It could have solved the mystery of whether or not Scott could have been
in Green River the night Wilson was murdered.
Not ten minutes later he had saddled Barranca, whom he’d left in care
of the livery stable, and the sergeant had a fresh horse and they were on their
would take them the rest of the day to get there at the very least.
Hawk Valley was a good day’s ride from Lancer if not more and from
Green River it was even further. Johnny
just hoped that the wind and the rain that they’d had hadn’t destroyed any
evidence of Scott’s visit. Little
did he know that that would be the least of his worries for the mysterious
stranger, the real killer, had recognized General Sheridan and, hiding in an
alley by the Sheriff’s Office out of sight, had listened in on the
conversation. Even now, scant
minutes before Johnny and Sergeant Morris left, he was on his way up to the
cabin to destroy any evidence that might clear Scott.
courtroom Frank Key was still questioning people who had promised to be
character witnesses for Scott. And
he was trying to discredit the Wilsons. It
had occurred to him that they had not questioned Val about his trip to Lancer,
the morning after the murder, to question Scott only to find out that he was not
Crawford when did you go out to the Lancer ranch to question my client about his
whereabouts the night of the murder?”
happened when you got there?”
I even got there Pierce and Mike Wilson came along and insisted on coming along
you invite them along?”
I did not! I didn’t want,
or need, them. But they didn’t
trust me to do my job,” he said indignantly.
his brother and I are friends.”
happened when you arrived at the ranch?”
Lancer met me in the yard. Johnny
was right behind him.”
told Mr. Lancer about the murder and that I needed to talk to Scott.
He said he wasn’t there. I
had no reason not to believe him but the Wilsons they got mad and accused him of
lying. Mike was going to search the
house but Johnny got hold of him before I could make a move to stop him.
Then Mike made the mistake of throwing a punch at Johnny who fought back
and beat him pretty good. Miss
O’Brien and the housekeeper were in the doorway looking nervous. I guess the Wilsons had them worried. Anyway Johnny was getting the upper hand when Pierce pulled
his pistol. I reckon he was going
to shoot Johnny only Mr. Talbot come along and hit Pierce Wilson’s wrist with
his own pistol, which made Wilson drop his, and told him to stay out of it.
Then Mr. Lancer and I broke up the fight.”
door in the back of the courtroom squeaked and the bright sunlight streamed in
for a moment as General Sheridan and Captain Taylor entered the building.
A few heads turned but not many. The
two officers took seats in the back of the room.
General Sheridan’s name was known to many of them but only Scott Lancer
had ever laid eyes on the man.
questioned Val for a few more minutes and then Prosecutor Copeland tried to
discredit his version of what had happened the morning after the murder.
It didn’t do him any good. The gruff and disheveled lawman stuck to his
story. The Wilsons had been the
aggressors and not the Lancers.
defense attorney had been expecting General Sheridan but had not said anything
to the Lancers, as the General had not been able to give a specific time that he
would arrive. Now was the time for
his most important character witness.
it please the court I have one more character witness I wish to call.”
be it but let this be the last one.”
it will be Your Honor,” Frank smiled. “I
guarantee no other character witnesses will be needed.”
Turning to the back of the room and giving Scott an encouraging smile he
announced, “The defense calls General Phil Sheridan!”
collective gasp went up from the gallery. As voices murmured all around the
courtroom Scott turned around in shock and then jumped to his feet to stand at
attention as his former Commanding Officer made his way to the witness stand.
General Sheridan smiled at Scott as he passed the defense table.
Scott didn’t sit down until his father and Val prompted him.
He was too stunned to move at the sight of the general being in Green
River, California to testify on his behalf.
state your name for the court,” Frank said to Sheridan.
your rank sir?”
General United States Army.”
to Green River General,” Key said.
an honor to have you in my courtroom General Sheridan,” Judge Pickering said.
you Your Honor. I wish I could say
it was an honor to be here. But it is
an honor to testify on behalf of Lieutenant Lancer.”
pleasantries out of the way Frank Key proceeded to elicit General Sheridan’s
testimony on Scott’s behalf. “General
Sheridan have you known my client for very long?”
sir. At the start of the war I was
a Lieutenant and the Lieutenant was a private.
We both got promoted rather quickly.
He served under me until the day he was captured shortly after the siege
and battle of Vicksburg. He was on
loan to General John C. Park at the time. I
deeply regretted the loss of Lieutenant Lancer. He was a good officer and, more importantly, a good
you describe his, shall we say, work ethic?
What was he like when he was on duty?”
General Sheridan was testifying in Scott’s behalf Johnny and Sergeant Morris
were riding fast and furious toward the cabin.
Johnny took the direct route that he believed his brother would have
taken the night he left home. Sergeant
Morris was right on Barranca’s heels. His
mount wasn’t much to look at but the little bay had mustang blood in him and
that made him tough.
were only halfway there when it got too dark to go on.
They made camp near Wolf Creek. In
the morning they would find evidence that Scott, or someone, had made camp there
within the last two weeks.
and the sergeant were on their way right after first light.
There wasn’t much to do to break camp since neither had come prepared
for an overnight. But they made
sure that there were no live embers in their campfire before saddling the horses
and starting off again.
Lancer would you please tell the court what you know of your son’s whereabouts
the night of the murder?” Prosecutor
Copeland was still determined to prove that Scott had no alibi and was faking
his problems with his memory.
don’t know for sure – first hand. Two
nights after the fight in which his brother was injured Scott left home.
We didn’t see or hear from him again until Jim Talbot found him and
brought him home. He was
unconscious more than anything. He
was also soaking wet and had a number of scratches and bruises on his face as
well as a lump on his head.”
your son, the defendant, has no alibi as far as your concerned.”
was livid. “No!
I do not know where my son was but I know that he did not and would
not kill that man. This much I am
will be all Mr. Lancer. Your
witness Mr. Key.” Copeland was
sure he had won this round. Nothing
could help Scott after that damaging testimony.
you.” Frank rose to his feet and approached Murdoch. Not overly confident but knowing that he had some ammunition
of his own. “Mr. Lancer did your
son say anything to anybody before he left home?
About where he was going or what he intended to do?”
left a note for his brother. In it
he told Johnny how sorry he was that he’d caused him to be hurt.
That he was all mixed up about things.
That seeing Charles Wilson had brought back some awful memories that he
thought he’d put behind him. He’d
been having nightmares again and had to get away.
He said he’d be back when he could act like a human being again.”
this the letter?” Frank held up
the letter that Scott had left Johnny. They’d
showed it to Scott but other than verifying that it was his handwriting he
didn’t recognize it. The little
bits of memory that had come back didn’t include leaving this note for his
you read it for the court? Just the
last paragraph. “
have to get away for a while and think things through.
I don’t want to bring trouble on you, Murdoch, Teresa, Jelly, Cipriano
or any of the others. Please
don’t try to find me. I’ll be back when I’m ready to be a civilized human
ask you, gentlemen of the jury, does that sound like a cold blooded killer to
was dismissed and Jim Talbot was called to the stand again.
This time as a defense witness.
Talbot when and where did you find Scott Lancer?”
week after Charles Wilson was killed. He
was on foot near Wolf Creek.”
did you know where to look for him?”
didn’t at first. There’s a
cabin in a remote part of Hawk Valley that Murdoch Lancer and I stay in when we
go hunting or fishing. When I got
there I saw signs that there’d been a bad storm and that someone had been
staying in the cabin. The more I
looked around the more evidence I found. Then
I found a saddle belonging to Lancer, and a bridle, but not horse, in the
lean-to that we shelter the horses in when we stay there.
Outside, near the little stream that runs close to the cabin, I found
evidence of a runaway horse. Those
tracks led away from the valley.”
see. And what else did you find?”
found footprints of a man wearing high heeled boots. They also led away from the cabin. I started following them.
I knew Scott was missing and he was the only Lancer unaccounted for at
the ranch. The further I went on
the more I could see that he was obviously getting tired. And it wasn’t hard to see why.
There was a trail where he’d slipped and slid trying to get up and down
the path into the valley. I found a
piece of his shirt. His saddlebags
were left behind. Things like that.
Just as I found him he got hit with a tree branch.
He was mostly unconscious all the way home.”
long does it take to get to this cabin?”
better part of a day. It depends on
what time of day you set out.”
you say it’s possible to make it from Green River to the cabin, or vice versa,
in less than a day.”
I’ve never done it in under six hours myself.
Sometimes I have to stop for the night en route and camp out.”
then you don’t believe it’s possible for my client to have made it to Hawk
Valley, come back, killed Charles Wilson and gotten back to the cabin in one
I do not.”
you Mr. Talbot. Your witness Mr.
Copeland rose to his feet and attempted to sway Jim Talbot away from his
assurance that Scott could not have made that trip in less than six hours.
It didn’t do him any good. Jim
knew the area well enough to know that Scott would have either killed his horse,
gotten lost or killed his horse and himself trying.
He wasn’t about to be persuaded, tricked or pressured into changing his
all this testimony Scott sat tense and still at the defense table.
His father and Teresa, along with General Sheridan and Captain Taylor sat
behind him. It was hard to tell,
looking at the jury, whether it was going well for him or not.
at the cabin the stranger with the limp dismounted from his exhausted horse.
Frantically he looked through the lean-to and the cabin to see what
evidence there was that could clear the Lieutenant.
It couldn’t happen. He had
to pay for his lack of diligence and protection of those under his care in the
camp. He had to.
a journal he tucked it in his pocket to read later. Then he took the kerosene from the lamp and splashed it
around. Lighting a match he set it
on fire and went out to the lean-to to set it on fire. It would be much easier since there was a lot of hay stored
there under a tarp. The hay would
he worked he was unaware that Johnny and Sergeant Morris were fast approaching
the cabin until he heard the Sergeant’s horse neigh. Then he heard and saw the two riders coming fast.
Racing to his own horse he pulled his rifle from its scabbard and ducked
into some nearby trees. Taking what he thought was careful aim he fired a shot at the
shot went wild and only served as a warning.
Johnny and the sergeant wheeled their horses to the side and dismounted
drawing their own weapons. While
more comfortable with his handgun, given his past profession, Johnny was just as
good with the rifle when necessary. The
sergeant, of course, was well versed in the use of both weapons.
you see where the shot came from lad?” Sergeant Morris asked Johnny.
came from the cabin if you ask me. Look
there’s smoke coming from it!”
shot clipped a tree branch over Johnny’s head.
He retaliated by sending a shot of his own toward where he thought it had
I’ve gotta get over there and put that fire out. There could be proof of how long Scott was here being
laddie, you’re right.” Sergeant
Morris’ grandparents had been Scottish and he’d picked up a lot of their
speech pattern. Besides, as Johnny
was a good twenty years younger than he, the sergeant thought that gave him the
right to call him “lad” or “laddie”.
“I’ll put a couple of shots over his head.
Let’s see if you can’t get around behind him while I keep him busy.
You’re right about that fire. If
he’s desperate enough to take shots at us and burn the cabin then we need to
get it out and find out who he is.”
saying the sergeant took his army issue carbine and sent three shots in quick
succession in the direction of the other shooter. Johnny ducked around to the right keeping under cover of the
trees until he got closer. Signaling
the sergeant that he was ready had three more shots winging their way toward the
burst from cover and headed toward the cabin.
A lucky shot from the shooter nicked his left arm but didn’t slow him
down. He was far too angry at what
was happening to slow down now. Too
close to finding the answers they all needed and the proof that his brother was not
a cold-blooded murderer.
shot from the sergeant distracted their quarry and Johnny was able to tackle him
from behind. Furious he pounded the
man’s face and ribs. The other
man fought like a tiger but two against one, for Sergeant Morris now joined the
fray, was too much and he lay winded and battered.
him in Sergeant Morris’ custody Johnny ran in and extinguished the fire
thereby saving the cabin. Unfortunately,
there was a fair amount of damage and he couldn’t be sure how long Scott had
been there. The lean-to was a lost
cause. Even Scott’s saddle and
bridle were goners. Too badly
damaged to even repair. Johnny and
the sergeant, who had bound their shooter to a tree while they watched the fire
to be sure no further damage was done, poured bucket after bucket of water on
the remains of the lean-to to ensure that there were no live embers to start a
flare up and thereby set fire to the woods.
are you and why did you shoot at us? Why’d
you set fire to the cabin?” Johnny
shook the man by his collar.
lad, you’ll not be getting any answers out of him if you shake him to bits.
Let’s take him back to town and see if anyone recognizes him.”
seen him before,” Johnny told the sergeant. “He’s been hanging around town
for at least a week. Something
bothers me about him but I don’t know what.”
Johnny frowned. “There’s
something about him that don’t sit right but I can’t put my finger on it.”
maybe your brother or the General knows who he is.” Sergeant Morris hauled the prisoner to his feet again.
“Let’s get a move on lad. It’ll
take us the rest of the day to get back.”
three men mounted their horses and headed back to Green River.
As the sergeant had said it took them the rest of the day.
Court was about to adjourn for the day when they walked in.
the meaning of this?” Judge Pickering bellowed as the struggling prisoner was
pushed ahead of Johnny and Sergeant Morris to the front of the courtroom.
“John Lancer you’ve been banished from this courtroom!
What are you doing back here? Who
is this man?”
sorry Judge,” Johnny said, “But I think this fella’s the real killer.
The sergeant and I found him up at the cabin in Hawk Valley.
He’d set fire to it and the lean-to and took a couple of shots at us
when we rode up.”
like he got you,” Murdoch commented looking at the bandage Sergeant Morris had
insisted on putting on Johnny’s arm.
nothin’,” Johnny said. Turning
to his startled brother he said, “Do you recognize this guy Scott?”
Scott said puzzled. “I don’t
brother,” Johnny urged.
I don’t think I do.”
about you General?”
Phil” studied the prisoner. “He
looks somewhat familiar but there’s something wrong.” He looked harder. “What’s
your name mister? Don’t I know
you from somewhere?”
I don’t know you and you don’t know me.”
The prisoner was adamant but his voice was stirring up memories in
General Sheridan’s head.
do know you don’t I? I know your
voice. But you’ve changed your
appearance. You used to have a
beard and a moustache. And your
hair wasn’t dark – it was blond.”
prisoner gave a fierce twist and wrenched himself free of Johnny’s grip.
Turning he swung a nasty right that caught Johnny on the side of the head
and sent him flying. As he fell he struck his head on the prosecutor’s table and
Teresa screamed and tried to rush to her brother.
reached him first. The sight of his
brother going down like that was bringing back some bad memories.
All of a sudden he could remember everything.
His mind went back to the camp and forward to the fight on the street,
leaving the note for Johnny and his horse running away.
The long walk home and Jim Talbot finding him.
He didn’t remember anything about the ride home.
He’d been too exhausted and the hypothermia had taken its toll.
fleeing prisoner was brought down before he got more than five feet from the
door. For all his size Cipriano was
very quick and he and Sergeant Morris teamed up to bring the prisoner down.
In the struggle the journal fell out of his pocket.
Cipriano picked it up and handed it to Scott when they got back inside.
wasn’t unconscious for long – he was more dazed than hurt.
But he was fighting mad. It
took his father and Val to hold him back from the re-captured prisoner.
Sheridan,” Johnny addressed his brother’s former commanding officer.
“You say this guy used to be a blond?”
believe so. Why?”
Johnny drawled, “why don’t we just see if this dark hair is for real?”
He picked up the pitcher of water from the defense table and poured it
over the prisoner’s head. The dark walnut coloring began to run revealing lighter hair
underneath. Seeing this he and
Sergeant Morris, together, dragged the struggling man outside and dunked his
head in the watering trough enough times to wash it away completely.
gasped in shock when he realized that he did know who the man was.
“Sergeant Kenyon! But why?”
Because you spoiled everything! I
should have had the promotions that you got! I was with the outfit longer than
you were! I should have been the General’s favorite!” the prisoner
snarled. “But along came you the
rich man’s grandson with the college education and the fine manners and all
and suddenly I wasn’t good enough any more.
I wouldn’t have this limp if you’d been a better leader.
Wilson wouldn’t have been able to cause my injury if you’d watched
out for us better!” The man raved
on for a good five minutes before they dragged him away to Val’s jail.
There were enough witnesses to convict the man of the murder of Charles
Wilson. And therefore Scott was cleared of the charges.
still don’t understand,” Scott said. “Why
does he hate me so? I never treated
him any differently than anyone else in the outfit.”
a bitter man Lieutenant. He
resented you then and he blames you for his injury.
He’s crippled in body and spirit and mind because of it.
But you’re not to blame for any of it.”
Turning to Captain Taylor he said, “Captain you remember Sergeant Carl
Kenyon don’t you?”
sir General, I do. He had the
makings of a good soldier – even an officer - but he was too rough on the men
and on the people that you encountered during your searches. I’d heard a lot of rumors but you were captured,
Lieutenant, before I was able to do anything about it.”
sat down in shock. He still
couldn’t believe it.
Talbot?” Sheridan had a question
for Jim that nobody had thought to ask.
testified, I believe, that the man you saw in the alley the night Charles Wilson
was killed, was blond, tall and had a limp.
I want you to think very hard man. Which
leg did he limp on?”
are you going with this General?” Murdoch wondered.
you’ll know in a minute Mr. Lancer.” General Sheridan said.
“What about it Mr. Talbot?”
sat and thought back to that night. He
and Maura had had dinner at the Ingersolls and it was threatening to rain.
He went back to get a tarp to keep them dry.
They were nearing the Barbershop and the General Store when he heard the
shot. The lightning lit up the
alley for a few brief seconds. The
man ran away limping on….”His right leg!
It was his right leg that he favored!
Scott this clears you boy! You’re
favoring your left ankle because you twisted it.
This man is limping on his right leg.
And it’s the limp of someone who’s been living with it for a long
time. Why didn’t I think of this
Frank Key said, “Because no one, not even me, thought to ask that question.
Your Honor I believe this clears my client of the charges?”
right Mr. Key. Case dismissed!”
squealed and threw her arms around Scott’s neck. Then, getting carried away, she gave Frank Key a kiss on the
cheek as well that pleased and embarrassed him both.
Copeland looked very unhappy. He
was so sure that he’d won this case. But
the evidence was all circumstantial and the jury really hadn’t been convinced
one way or the other yet. The last
thing the Lancers needed was to have had the jury be hung and a new trial start
at a later time.
noticed the look on his face and told her husband and their friends about it.
looks unhappy. He should be aware
of the Cork resident’s saying ‘There’s many a dry eye at a moneylender’s
funeral’. I think it applies to
prosecuting attorneys as well in this case.
Nobody’s unhappy that he lost the case excepting himself.”
laughed and Scott was congratulated all around. He, himself, was somewhat at a loss for words.
the Wilsons slinking out of the courtroom with chagrined looks on their faces
Murdoch added, “Unless it’s Pierce and his son. I don’t know if they’re happy the real killer was found
Sheridan I don’t know how to thank you sir,” Scott said.
“You didn’t have to come all this way just to testify for me.”
wasn’t a problem Lieutenant. I
had some leave coming to me and just arranged for Captain Taylor and Sergeant
Morris to accompany me. I’m glad
I was able to help.”
to his officer and the Sergeant he said, “Gentlemen we must be on our way.”
Then he turned back to the Lancers.
“Good-bye Lieutenant. Take
care of yourself and your family. I
wish you well.” With that the three military men were gone.
Key,” Scott said. “I don’t
know how to thank you either.”
no need Scott. I did what I was
paid to do. If I didn’t believe
you were innocent I wouldn’t have taken the case.
My cousin Frank would have done the same. I merely learn by the example he and Great-grandfather Philip
set before me. Frank and
Great-grandfather did the state of Maryland and this country proud. Especially Frank. President
Madison was quite fond of him. As was President Jackson.”
Gathering his things he said, “I really must get back to my office now
that this trial is over with. I
imagine the work is stacked up. I’ll
see you all later.”
Key,” Murdoch said. “We, the
boys and Jim Talbot and I, would be pleased if you would join us on our hunting
trip next week. To the cabin in
Hawk Valley. It’ll be repaired by
Lancer I’d be pleased to join you.” Frank
shook hands all around and left the courtroom.
Lancers, Jelly and Cipriano all headed joyfully back to the ranch.
When Maria and the hands that had stayed behind saw Scott returning with
his family a cheer went up the likes of which hadn’t been heard since the day
the boys arrived two years earlier. Maria
outdid herself with fixing a meal for the homecoming.
Jim and Maura Talbot were invited as well.
It was a jolly affair and Scott was touched beyond words that Maria would
go to so much trouble.
had given him the journal and now they all knew for sure that Scott had been at
the cabin in Hawk Valley since late afternoon of the day he left home.
It was Maura’s words, in the form of an Irish proverb that made it all
make sense to him. Why the ranch
meant so much to him that he left so that no one else would be hurt.
quite simple dear,” Maura told him. “’Your
feet will bring you to where your heart is’.
Your heart was here at home with your family.
Even though you were hurt and tired and cold your heart kept leading you
later Frank Key joined the three Lancer men and Jim Talbot for a few days of
hunting and fishing in Hawk Valley. His
spirit was stirred by the rugged beauty of the mountains surrounding them.
Snow capped peaks. Towering pine trees. Deer and elk and an occasional
is beautiful. Maryland has nothing
on California for scenery,” he said to Murdoch as they lounged on the banks of
the stream with fishing poles in their hands.
is beautiful isn’t it? I like to
sneak away for the occasional trip. It’s
sound of several pistol shots in quick succession startled Frank until Scott
yelled from several yards way, “It’s all right. It’s just Johnny. He’s
not having any luck with his line.”
relaxed instantly. Frank looked at
him curiously. “Does he always do
that? Johnny? Shoot at the fish?”
when he can’t catch them with a hook. He’s
not got the patience of a true angler.” Murdoch laughed. “You
remember Kansas Bill Sharpe? The
retired lawman that sent the letter on behalf of himself and his grandson
Willie? The one in Oregon?”
The one that Scott sobered up and helped clean up the town he was living
the one,” Murdoch nodded. “Well,
when we first met Willie we were all fishing.
The boys, Jelly and I. We
had a bet as to who would get the biggest fish.
Johnny jerked his line, lost his fish and started shooting.
We let him hear about it every now and then.”
Key,” Scott approached the other men from where he’d been dangling his own
fishing line. “You were saying that your cousin and your great-grandfather
were lawyers. I never did get your
call me Frank. I hardly ever answer
to my real name. Yes, my cousin –
a distant cousin, and my great-grandfather were lawyers.” Frank was also a
poet and a he wrote a couple of hymns that are found in the Episcopal hymnal.
And one is a song that you might have heard a lot of when you were in the
is your full name then?” Scott
was curious. He wasn’t prepared
for the answer. His jaw dropped in
astonishment when he heard it.
Scott Key III. I was named for
Cousin Frank. The family is quite
proud of his poem The Star Spangled Banner.”
** Frank Key is entirely my own creation. In researching a famous lawyer, or relative thereof, for this
story I was unable to ascertain whether or not any of the first Francis Scott
Key’s sons or grandsons had ever become lawyers. I did find a grandson that was a famous artist in the 1870s.
Maura’s proverb and the Cork resident’s quote that she used at the
end of the trial were taken from Irish Wit and Wisdom – Ancient Wisdom and
Modern Blarney. It was compiled by
John Hickey, Martin Hintz, Cathy Ann Tell and Malcolm McDowell Woods.
****Francis Scott Key was born
August 9, 1779 at his family’s plantation, Terra Rubra, in Frederick County,
Maryland. He died January 11, 1843.
His sole sibling was his sister Ann who married Roger Taney.
(Pronounced Tawn – ey.) Tawney
was a law school classmate of Key’s. He
went on to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and is the one responsible
for the Dred Scott decision that helped ignite the Civil War.
Key was a poet and a lawyer. A man of faith who taught Sunday School when
his children were young. He really did write a couple of hymns that are in the
Episcopal hymnal. It was a privilege to model Frank after his famous relative.
Who knows? There really
could have been a Francis Scott Key III.
*****Frank Key is named using
the Kennedy method. In
Massachusetts former Represenative Joseph P. Kennedy III is named for his
grandfather – not his father. His
father was JFK’s younger brother Robert.
Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr., JFK’s older brother, was killed in action