After “The Homecoming”: “Why Scott Stayed”
Once the doctor had arrived to tend to the injured, Scott Lancer turned his attention to the grounds around his new home. It reminded him sadly of the battlefields he had seen during the War of the Rebellion, the sullen stillness that reigned after any conflict. Much smaller in scale, of course, than what he’d witnessed. The Lancer men who had been slain had already been removed from the ‘battlefield’ by their comrades, however, the corpses of their opponents had been left behind. While Murdoch and Teresa were inside, tending to Johnny and the other wounded men, it fell to Scott to organize the vaqueros for the task of removing the remaining bodies. It would take many more days to restore the grounds and buildings to their previous condition.
Scott Lancer was good at that, seeing what had to be done, and doing it, even when, as in this case, he was very tired and the task was unpleasant. He made a point of stopping the doctor on his way out, to inquire as to the condition of his half-brother, and had received what he considered a reassuring response. But whenever he entered the house, he saw only worry and concern on the faces of Teresa, Maria and, especially Murdoch Lancer, coming and going from Johnny’s room. He himself stopped by when he finally turned in for what was left of the night, and again when he got up early the next morning. Each time he found someone seated at his brother’s bedside, with Johnny evidently asleep. No need to hover, the young man was clearly being well cared for and watched over. Scott stood in the doorway, received an update from whoever was “on watch”, and then headed out to tend to whatever it was that needed to be done.
Although his personality, education and military experience meant that he was well suited for command, Scott Lancer wasn’t one to pretend that he knew what to do when he did not. He had consulted with Cipriano and some of the other long-time employees before determining the tasks to be performed by the relatively small number of able-bodied workers. As the days passed, and Johnny improved, Murdoch began to turn his attention back to the ranch, at least to the extent of providing Scott with much needed guidance as to what exactly needed to be done. Johnny was now more frequently alert when Scott paid his brief ‘visits’ and able to register whatever comments Scott made, usually something along the lines of “It’s good to see that you’re feeling better”. Although the words were sincere, even to Scott’s own ears they sounded stiff and formal. For some reason he felt awkward addressing his “brother” in front of an audience. Johnny’s responses were typically a mock complaint about the restrictions being placed upon him by his ‘nursemaids’. But today when Scott, leaning against the doorframe, had commented on the amount of work that had to be done, adding lightly, “anytime you feel like getting up out of bed and lending a hand around here would be fine with me”, his half-brother had looked at him sharply, saying that on second thought, if there was that much work to be done, then maybe he didn’t mind staying right where he was a while longer. Despite the mild tone, Scott could see that Johnny had taken offense. Scott said good evening and retreated to his own room.
Later, at supper, Murdoch mentioned that since Johnny had been up and about for several hours that day, perhaps by next week he might be well enough to ride into Morro Coyo. The three Lancers could visit Mr. Randolph, Murdoch’s lawyer and sign the legal documents giving Scott and Johnny each one third of the Lancer spread.
“He’s definitely staying then?” asked Scott.
“Yes, why not? Do you have an issue with that?” Murdoch asked gruffly, Teresa turning anxious eyes towards Scott.
“No, sir, not at all, I’m glad to hear it. I just wasn’t certain that he’d agree to be tied down.”
“Neither was I “, Murdoch relented.
“He was coming back to us” Theresa insisted softly.
“I know”, replied Scott. And thought to himself, But I wonder why.
Glancing at Scott, Murdoch said, “He wanted to know if I was sure that I still wanted to include him. Which I am. And he asked me what you thought about it.”
“Really?” Scott registered mild surprised. “And what did you say?”
“I told him that it was my decision.”
Scott was perturbed. Not that it was especially surprising that Murdoch again felt the need to assert that he was still in charge. Scott glanced downwards momentarily, before looking up, meeting and holding the older man’s gaze with his own piercing look. “Just so that you know, for the record, I’m not against it”, he said deliberately.
Regretting his harsh statement, Murdoch nodded brusquely: “I assumed that”. After a brief pause, he added in a milder tone: “And I also told your brother that when he was shot off of his horse, you were ready to go out after him-------if I hadn’t stopped you. That later, when we saw him moving, you didn’t hesitate.”
While Teresa engaged Murdoch in conversation about plans for a dinner to introduce the Lancer sons to some of their new neighbors, Scott thought about his brief acquaintance with his younger "brother". He supposed that that was why he had gone out after him, some reflexive response to the idea of a ‘brother’. Hard though it was to believe, Scott had not seriously considered that he might find his father with another wife here and more children. Not that Johnny was much like what Scott had imagined in a younger brother anyway. From the moment that they'd first encountered each other, Johnny had been disdainful of Scott, his clothing, his plans for dealing with Pardee . . . all in all, he'd made his disregard quite evident. Seems he decided not to pass up this particular twenty dollar gold piece. Presumably, he's changed his mind about it becoming a ‘one-man operation’.
After the meal, Murdoch Lancer retired to his study with his elder son, and they spent another evening looking over the ranch’s financial records. As Murdoch regarded his son’s blonde head bent over a ledger, he thought about how this reserved easterner had, to his surprise, already shown himself to be a great asset. This stranger, his son. Murdoch had many fond memories of Johnny as a toddler, and he had imagined that he could see some vestige of that child in the angry young man who had arrived a few days before. Sitting at Johnny’s bedside, he had already heard himself tentatively address him as ‘Son’ on more than one occasion. Scott was another matter.
For his part, Scott was pleased that he was making progress in comprehending his father’s methods of accounting. Earlier, he had even tactfully offered a few suggestions, to which the older man had seemed receptive. Scott now indicated that he would be willing to take on much of the record keeping. When Murdoch hesitated, Scott reminded him: “You no longer have to do everything yourself, after all, you have partners now---two of them”. Murdoch, sounding pleased, slowly responded, “Yes, it appears that I do”. The moment felt comfortable enough that Scott took the opportunity to pose a question about their absent partner--”So tell me, just how much do you know about his past”? Murdoch gave him a searching look, and appeared to come to a decision. Opening a drawer of his desk, he took out a stack of folders.
“If you’re curious about your brother-- you might want to read some of this.”
“What’s that you have there?”
Unable to judge Scott’s tone or expression, Murdoch stated flatly, “If you’d rather not, its the same to me. There are parts of them that I still haven’t read.“
“As you’ve said, sir, its the present that’s most important right now, not the past”.
“That’s true” Murdoch answered, then, indicating the top of the stack-- ”looks like this is the one about you.” Scott raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.
“Well, it’s been another long day, I’m going to bed. Good night, Scott.”
Alone, Scott loosened his string tie--although things were informal here, he still felt better if he dressed up a bit for the evening meal. He considered refilling his glass, changed his mind, and moved restlessly around the room. He’d had plenty of time to think during his westward journey, but his speculations hadn’t even come close to the reality of the events of the past week. He shook his head. So far, the only thing that had worked out as planned was that he’d stayed longer than the requested one hour. He had had no intention of traveling so far just to be quickly dismissed for the long return trip back East.
So, it had not been a difficult decision to agree to help defend the ranch. His military experience had proven beneficial, but he certainly didn’t know the first thing about cattle, or ranching. Still, Scott was intrigued, rather than intimidated by the idea of something entirely new and challenging. He did have serious doubts about Murdoch’s ability to accept anyone as a partner. He even questioned whether the older man would really mind if Scott decided not to accept his one-third share of the property. After all, returning to his familiar life in Boston would always remain an option. There is a bit less shooting going on there.
Returning to the big desk, Scott sighed and reached for ‘his’ folder. He sat down in the leather chair, and, after easing off his boots, propped up his feet and perused the few pages he found inside. The Pinkerton report listed his name, age, and address in Boston, outlined his studies at Harvard College and very briefly described his military service. He nodded ruefully when he saw the word “None” next to “Present Occupation”. He’d returned home after the War, complied with his grandfather’s request that he complete his degree and then . . . . . . Nothing. He felt embarrassed to see it in print. The Pinkertons could have been a bit more creative --perhaps Present Occupation: “Dining, Dancing and . . . Décolletage?” he thought, as he read that his “Known Associates” included, in addition to a few friends and classmates, numerous fashionable and some not-so-fashionable, young ladies. Mention of his former fiancée was, however, surprisingly absent. There was a list of places he had visited on his travels and a few familiar details about his grandfather, Harlan Garrett. There was not very much else.
Scott had not been favorably impressed that the long overdue contact from his absent father had come in the form of a Pinkerton agent. He had informed the agent in no uncertain terms that the offer of $1000 for one hour of his time was an insult, but had agreed that his travel expenses should be paid--”I’ll travel first class---- and I will take my time”, he’d told the man. In truth, the offer of payment had been entirely unnecessary; a simple invitation would have sufficed. Growing up in his grandfather’s home, Scott had never heard a single positive remark about Murdoch Lancer. In spite of this, and in spite of his own sense of having been abandoned by the man, Scott had still been curious about his father. Yes, he’d felt quite a bit of resentment and anger, but he still craved answers. Pensively, he wondered about the timing of this Pinkerton report--had Murdoch Lancer received this information before or after the agent had spoken with Scott? More to the point, if there had been no indication that his Boston-bred son could sit a horse and fire a gun, would the contact have ever been made at all? He slowly closed the folder and placed it on the desk.
Eyebrows raised, Scott turned next to the much larger stack of paper, which Murdoch had indicated contained his brother’s story. “Well, this should be . . . interesting”. For the next few hours, Scott Lancer sat engrossed in the saga of one ‘Johnny Madrid”.
He lay quietly, eyes closed and tried to get a bearing on his surroundings. He was in a bed, could tell that he’d been bandaged up. Johnny opened his eyes. Looked up at an unfamiliar ceiling --not in itself, an unfamiliar occurrence--except that the bed was pretty comfortable. And there was someone seated nearby.
“I think he’s waking”, he heard someone murmur and turned to see the girl Teresa. Beside her was his rediscovered father. He realized that he was in the room he’d been occupying since he’d arrived at the ranch, but Johnny had no recollection of how he’d gotten there. “Do you want anything?” the girl asked. “No, I’m okay.” She gave him a sip of water anyway. Johnny closed his eyes and waited. He didn’t feel too bad, just tired, and knew that he didn’t want to get into a conversation.
Whenever his eyelids fluttered open, there was someone seated nearby, watching him. Sometimes it was Murdoch. Johnny was surprised by that, but didn’t say anything. One time it was a woman who worked at the ranch, Maria. She was saying what sounded like prayers in Spanish----Johnny murmured “gracias” and they’d exchanged a few words in that language. The next time it was Teresa again Don’t these people have anything better to do? Probably be soldier-boy sittin’ here next. He recalled how angry Teresa’d been when he’d refused to help his “brother’ in town. And when she’d said those things about his mother leaving Murdoch and how the old man still loved her . . . his so-called brother was standing there and heard it all. How could she know anything? She wasn’t around. Well, maybe I’ll ask her about it--- manana, maybe ---not now.
His face must have given something away, because Teresa softly inquired, “Johnny?” He reluctantly opened his eyes. She helped him sit up and offered him some broth ---he said “please” and “thank you”, not much else, but felt better afterwards. As Johnny was falling back asleep, he heard Boston come to the doorway asking, “How is he?” and Teresa reporting on his progress. Over the next few days, Johnny registered that his half-brother stopped by each morning and evening, usually saying something like “Good to see that you’re feeling better”, but never coming into the room. Teresa or Maria would be there, and Johnny would make some comment about how his “nursemaids” were taking such good care of him.
The third morning, when he looked up through half closed eyes, it was Murdoch, alone. Couldn’t read his expression. Johnny decided that he was tired of playing possum, opened his eyes and made the mistake of trying to sit up a bit too quickly---he instantly regretted it.
“Easy now. How’re you feeling, Son?”
“I’ve been better. Been worse.” He settled more comfortably against the pillows.
“The doctor thinks that you’ll be just fine.”
Might as well get it said. “I’m surprised to see you sittin’ here. I figured you’d think I’d taken off and joined up with Pardee.”
“You came back”, Murdoch said with conviction. “The question is, are you staying?”
“You still want me to?” Johnny asked flatly.
Murdoch sat back in his chair. “Yes, the offer is still open--one-third of everything that you see.”
Johnny considered this. “Let me get this straight. You’re still offering me one-third? . . well, that’s not half bad, seein’ as I only shot, two, maybe three of Pardee’s boys. One-third----- so tell me, how does . . . Scott feel ‘bout that?”
“It’s my decision, “ Murdoch stated emphatically.
“Well, you do sound like a man who’s made up his mind, “ Johnny said slowly.
“And from your actions, it seemed to me that you’d made up yours”, Murdoch responded.
“Yeah. I’ll stay.”
Having heard the response that he had been waiting for, Murdoch stood up, abruptly ending the conversation. “Good. Well, I’ve got a ranch to run. I’ll see about having some breakfast brought up.” At the doorway, Murdoch turned and paused. “Maybe I should tell you, Johnny, that when you went down, your brother was about to go out after you. But I stopped him---- thought it was no use. Later, when you started moving, Scott never hesitated.” Right-- I remember him standin’ there, smiling down at me like he was actually glad to see me, said something I don’t remember. . .
By the time that Teresa came upstairs with a tray, Johnny had eased himself up so that he was sitting on the edge of the bed. Teresa was not pleased, but Johnny assured her that he was fine and that he couldn’t stay in bed forever. Reluctantly, the girl agreed to let him sit in the big chair while he ate his breakfast. “It will give me a chance to get you some fresh bedding.” He ate while she bustled around, and when she tried to get him to return to the bed, Johnny turned his most winning smile on her and was able to coax some more time in the chair. “Well, all right,” she smiled back, “but only because you did so well with your breakfast.” She sat down on the edge of the bed facing him.
Johnny flashed on the idea that there was at least one topic of conversation that he didn’t want to get into at the moment. Better say something, Madrid. “So, Teresa, you know, I don’t really remember too much that happened after I got shot off of that horse. I was walking, but I’m thinkin’ I didn’t get too far . . . “
“No, you passed out and Scott caught you and carried you inside.”
“Huh. Guess he’s stronger than he looks.”
Teresa bristled. She was not about to listen to Johnny say anything against Scott. She knew how very much it meant to Murdoch Lancer to have his two sons here, even if Murdoch wouldn’t show it. Teresa was also aware that Murdoch had been searching for Johnny for a very long time. She felt rather sorry for Johnny, because his mother had evidently filled his head with lies and told him terrible stories about Mr. Lancer. But that didn’t mean she was willing to forgive Johnny for not helping Scott when he had to fight off those three men in the clothing store. And then by the river, it was bad enough that the two of them were fighting, but Johnny had yelled out that Scott was “nothing” to him. When she tried to get them to stop by reminding them that they were brothers-- well, Scott had apologized, but Johnny had just walked away.
So Teresa was more than ready to defend Scott. “Just because he’s from the East and dresses nicely and has manners, doesn’t mean he can’t take care of himself,” she said pointedly.
“Oh, I know. He was in the cavalry and all. Even got a picture of himself all dressed up in a uniform with some general”.
“Well, you should be glad of that,---your horse might not have gone over that fence so easily if Scott hadn’t taken him through some jumps!”
“Well, you just might be right,” Johnny drawled. “But, now, Teresa, you’ve lived here all your life--you gotta admit, that when he got off that stage and you saw how he was dressed, all fancied up, you weren’t expectin’ him to amount to anything.” Now he was grinning, teasing her, “Come on now, admit it“. Then, turning serious, he added, “ ‘Course, you probably weren’t too impressed with me either. For different reasons.“
Johnny could tell from her face that he’d guessed correctly -- Teresa had been more than a little dismayed when she’d first laid eyes on Murdoch’s two sons. She’d been all bright and cheery at the time, but she must have had some serious doubts that these two were going to be the ones to rescue the Lancer ranch. Not that she’d ever admit it now. She just said how wonderful it was that everything had worked out and that it was time for him to get back in that bed.
Boston himself stopped by at the end of the day. He certainly didn’t have that same dandified air about him, now that he was tanned, wearing regular work clothes and kind of dusty looking.
“Well, you seem to be doing quite a bit better”.
“Teresa here might even let me get up out of bed someday . . . But you’re lookin’ a bit dog-eared yourself.”
“Its a big place, there’s quite a bit of work to be done. Anytime you feel like getting up out of bed and lending a hand around here would be fine with me”.
Scott’s expression when he said this was pleasant enough, but Johnny resented
the implication that he wasn’t doing his part. He managed to keep
his response easy, “Well, on second thought, if there’s all that much work,
then I might just stay right where I am a while longer. But don’t you worry,
you might be gettin’ a head start, but I’ll catch up with you pretty quick
once I’m back on my feet.”
The sun shone brightly and there was a slight breeze rippling the water. This time when Scott’s fist met Johnny’s taunting face with a satisfying impact, his ‘brother’ didn’t roll quite as far down the slope. Instead of getting up and charging at him, with dark fury, Johnny remained on the ground and simply raised himself up on his side. Scott looked down at Johnny as he slowly drew his gun, and casually aimed it in Scott’s direction. He stood motionless as Johnny fired, point-blank, at his chest.
Scott opened his eyes. Looked up at an unfamiliar ceiling--not in
itself an unfamiliar occurrence---except that the other side of the bed
Then it came to him. California. Lancer.
As far back as he could remember, Scott had had vivid dreams. They were less frequent in adulthood, probably because he really didn’t sleep all that much--he stayed up late, but was still an early riser---no ‘slug-a-beds” allowed in Harlan Garrett’s house. At least this “Johnny Madrid” sequence was less disturbing than some of his wartime images. Scott rubbed his eyes, erasing vague memories of having been shot more than once during the night.
He thought about the stack of Pinkerton reports he’d read the previous evening as he carefully shaved and dressed. Scott could well imagine that the information that they’d contained about his brother had been disturbing reading material for Murdoch Lancer. Although some parts had been pretty sketchy, even without reading between the lines. . . .Scott shook his head. Rough life.
Scott joined Teresa and Maria in the kitchen for some breakfast. Teresa greeted him cheerfully, while Maria had a smile and full plate for “Senor Scott.” But she also quizzed the young blond man on the food and utensils before him. Because so many of the people at the Lancer ranch were Mexican, Scott had immediately decided to try to learn as much Spanish as possible. He had studied Latin, of course, and knew a bit of French, which at times both helped and hindered his efforts. He could memorize the words, but his accent sounded alternately either too French or too “Bawston”. Still he had picked up quite a bit of Spanish vocabulary from the vaqueros, ranching terms mostly, as well as a few more colorful phrases which they had been more than happy to translate, at his request. He, Teresa and Maria ate comfortably together in the kitchen, something that would never have occurred in his grandfather’s home.
Noticing Maria preparing a tray, Scott scooped it up, and, before the two women could object, he was on his way. Let’s see if the famous gunslinger is ready for his breakfast.
“The famous gunslinger”, with tousled hair and sleepy eyes, was just sitting up in bed when Scott knocked and entered. Well, he’s not looking particularly dangerous at the moment.
“Good morning--breakfast is served”.
“Hey.” Well, lookee who’s here. “Seems like they found somethin’ for you to do.”
Scott handed over the tray. “Rumor has it that you were actually out of bed yesterday.”
Johnny was more than pleased to acknowledge the truth of that statement, “Yeah, that’s right”, he said, looking over the food in front of him. Scott murmured “Mind if I have a seat?”, and without waiting for a reply, eased himself into the big chair beside the bed, leaned back, crossed his arms and stretched out his long legs. He fastened his customary direct gaze on Johnny and said, “Murdoch tells me that you’ve decided to stay.”
“Yeah, that’s right”.
“Good to hear it”. Scott continued to recline in the big chair, regarding Johnny with a neutral expression.
Johnny chewed and considered several possible retorts. Relax, Madrid, he thought, and settled on a change of subject--“So what else they got you doin’ around here--’sides kitchen chores?”
Although amused by the phrasing of the question, Scott elected to give a serious response. “Well, I have seen quite a bit of the ranch, although I can’t begin to guess how long it would take to see all of it. . . .Gotten to know some of the men--their names at least. . . .Spent some time with Murdoch going over the accounts . . .”
“Murdoch, huh? that what you’re gonna call him?”
“’Mr. Lancer’ seemed a bit formal.”
“I guess. So all our accounts in order?”
“They seem to be, yes.”
“Well, you’re welcome to that. Never had too much schoolin’ myself.” Johnny sounded as if that were a very good thing.
“I’m don’t know that mine will be of much use out here.”
Johnny allowed his quick appraisal--noting the other man’s relaxed posture, confident tone and the faint hint of uncertainty in his words--to temper his response. “Well, Boston, seems like you can do what’s most important, you can ride and you can shoot-----
Scott was careful to maintain his same neutral expression--- he had resolved before he’d come up here that he was not going to allow himself to be provoked. But he still couldn’t help thinking---<<‘Boston’!?--is he still calling me that?>> ---just as Johnny decided that he might be getting a bit too complimentary:
can shoot a carbine, anyway. But I don’t know, with a six shooter, maybe
you can’t even hit the broad side of a barn.”
Johnny grinned with that last, clearly intending a joke and looking for a reaction. Scott, although distracted by that “Boston” label, managed to come up with a measured reply--”You’ll be happy to know that with a sidearm, I have been known to hit the narrow side of a barn, upon occasion.” Johnny sipped his coffee to hide his appreciative grin at the wry comment.
Scott paused for a moment before he continued, “From what I understand, you can hit the latch and open the barn door.”
Johnny’s expression changed as he set down the coffee cup: “Where’d you hear that?”
Now it was Scott who tried for the light retort: “Well, Brother, it seems that you have a reputation.” Careful-- he probably likes being called ‘Brother” as much as I enjoy “Boston”. Sitting forward, resting his elbows on his thighs, he looked directly at Johnny. “Actually I did some reading last night--Murdoch’s Pinkerton files on Johnny Madrid”. Scott glanced away, started to speak again, stopped, and smiled slightly, amused at his own hesitation. Johnny impatiently demanded, “Well, you got something to say?--just spit it out”.
His face registering surprise at his brother’s sudden harsh tone, Scott said softly, “I . . . was just thinking that you perhaps ought to listen to Teresa, to what she said about your mother and Murdoch.”
Nettled, Johnny asked “So everything Murdoch Lancer says is true and my mother’s just some lyin’ Mexican?”
A small sigh escaped as Scott again glanced at the floor, then looked up at Johnny with an expression that the younger man finally translated aloud: “all right, so you didn’t say that.”
“No, I didn’t. What I will say is that the truth is most likely somewhere in between. The files go back seventeen, eighteen, years. Off and on, he was looking for the two of you. But obviously, she wasn’t happy here, or with him. And unfortunately, you can’t ask her any questions about what she told you.”
“No, she died ten, almost eleven years back.”
Scott sat back again. “Well, that’s where I have an advantage. What little I know about Murdoch Lancer, I learned from my grandfather. And he’s still alive. When I write, I just may have a few questions for him.”
“Why write a letter when you can just ask Murdoch?”
“He hasn’t seemed especially eager to volunteer information. You’ve heard the man; he says that we should “focus on the present, not the past.” And I’m willing to go along with that----for now.”
Ever since he had heard Johnny’s angry rendition of what had occurred between his mother and Murdoch, and Teresa’s equally vehement alternative account, Scott couldn’t help but reflect on his own too similar circumstance---that of having heard only one side of the story.
No longer a child and certainly not a fool, Scott felt that he knew his grandfather very well. He loved and respected him, but recognized Harlan Garrett as a man who was both extremely demanding and fiercely protective of his only grandchild. The man was both distant and doting. He was also accustomed to having things his own way. Scott was well aware that over the years his grandfather had done a great many things for “his own good”. For the most part, it had worked out---despite having had every advantage, Scott doubted that many people would consider him to be lazy or ‘spoiled”. Well--his mind flashed briefly on that “Present Occupation: None” that he’d read in the file the night before. That had been the cause of more than one argument with the elderly gentleman recently--he’d said that Scott was being “irresponsible” --always one of the old man’s harshest criticisms. Albeit reluctantly, Scott did have to admit that he could imagine Harlan Garrett intercepting a letter or package, even forestalling a visit, from his grandson’s detested father, “for Scotty’s own good”. Not, of course, that there was anyindication that there had ever been a letter, a package or a visit . . .
Reconsidering, he knew that his next letter to his grandfather would be full of news but most likely avoid uncomfortable questions for the time being. Scott realized that if his own truth were, as he’d said to Johnny, “somewhere in between”, then any new information which he received was likely to taint his much loved and admired grandfather without any chance of exonerating Murdoch Lancer for his twenty four years of silence. For in giving him the files the previous evening, Murdoch, out of a desire to help the Bostonian better understand his very different younger sibling, had also unthinkingly provided him with tangible evidence of a significant disparity between the two brothers--the effort which had been expended to make contact with one of them.
Of course, it wasn’t as if he had spent his entire childhood waiting by the door---though for some reason, he’d always had a notion that if he ever were to receive a communication from his unknown father, it would coincide with his birthday. And when he was twelve or thirteen, young Scott had settled in his own mind on his 21st birthday as the date upon which the long delayed invitation to California would most likely arrive. But Scott Lancer’s 21st birthday had passed by unnoticed . . . . and only now, three years later . . .
“Hey Boston--you still here?”
Johnny had finished his breakfast, while carefully watching and assessing this silent stranger seated before him. It’d really been something--- to find out that he had an older brother and have him turn out to be this blond Gringo. Most Easterners he’d encountered couldn’t hide their disdain for everything west of the Mississippi, let alone anything or anyone Mexican. << It sure wasn’t the money, so why’d you come all this ways, Boston?>> Most city slickers acted so polite, smiling all the time--never meaning it. <<This one has all the pretty manners all right, but he sure is serious.>> Johnny was a very good judge of character-- he’d had to be. Now if he’d made a mistake, he’d like to think that he was man enough to admit it. To himself, anyway. So, now maybe he’s not so much of a fancy dan as I first thought, have to give him that. The Soldier-boy here jumped right into it and came up with a passable plan. . . Hell, Madrid, he ain’t the one that ended up gettin’ shot . . .
Johnny’s “Hey Boston--you still here?” broke through Scott’s reverie.
This time Scott looked directly at him and----keeping his voice level---said ”You keep calling me that---perhaps I need to remind you---my name is Scott.”
“Sorry, guess it just slipped out.”
Belatedly Scott registered that this time the word “Boston” had sounded friendly rather than mocking. Coolly regarding the younger man, he spoke with exaggerated emphasis. “Well, I suppose it is preferable to being called a . . . ‘Tin Soldier‘ ”. An amused expression entered his eyes, and then filtered into a grin, “or some of the other ones that haven’t ‘slipped out’ yet”.
Johnny grinned too, wondering if that was just a lucky guess. Then he said very seriously, “Even though you’re from Boston, Scott, it looks like you ‘ve showed that you can handle yourself out here.”
“Have I?” his blond brother asked skeptically. “Actually, I suspect that around here, I’m going to be a ‘grin-go‘, for quite some time.”
“‘It’s ‘gringo’, and in your case, it’s permanent. But when it comes to ranching, I guess we’re both gonna be ‘greenhorns’, for a while. . . .But look,“ Johnny took a breath and met Scott’s eyes--- “I know that you covered me out there. . . “ An acknowledgement was as far as he’d planned to go with that topic. But then, his voice taking on a slight edge, he couldn’t help adding--”I guess I’m wondering why.”
Scott made a questioning gesture with his hands, before he slowly replied, “I didn’t really have time to think about it. I suppose that its because we are brothers”--holding up one hand to ward off an objection--”and I know. That shouldn’t mean anything, since, after all, we’ve just met.”
“Means somethin’ to you--you expected me to back you up in town.”
“I did. But I managed to ‘handle myself‘, as you say”. He added pointedly, “And--as I recall, I did land at least one solid punch”, and was pleased to see Johnny, deadpan, slowly rub his jaw.
Then Scott pinned Johnny with knowing look. “It wasn’t just me. You hadn’t made a decision yet. At the time, you weren’t ready for anyone to know that you were associated with Lancer”.
Johnny stared back. Finally, he nodded in acknowledgement of Scott’s candid observation. He said slowly, “No, I wasn’t ready then, but I guess I am now”.
Scott nodded his acceptance. “So, now, what do I call you---- is it Lancer or Madrid?”
”Looks like its gonna be Lancer from now on.” He tilted his head slightly as he looked at Scott. “If you got a problem with any of that, then I ought to know about it.”
“No, none”. Scott eased up out of the chair. Standing, he added, “In fact, it seems to me that we both may be here for the same reason after all”.
Johnny looked up. “And why’s that?”, he asked skeptically.
“Perhaps its time for a change.”
Johnny considered this. “Can’t change the past.”
“No, we can’t. And we wouldn’t be here without it.”
“So now you’re sayin’ ‘Focus on the present’”.
Blue eyes looked at blue eyes. Scott looked down at his brother, smiling just as he had in the courtyard. “And the future.”
He picked up the breakfast tray and turned towards the door.
Turning back, he added “And for future reference, I don’t especially enjoy being beaten up. The next time, I’d be willing to accept some assistance.”
“Well,” Johnny grinned, “in your case there’s probably gonna be a next time.” “But”, he added, turning serious once more, “I guess the same goes for me. . . . And Boston,---- so you know, I ain’t used to acceptin’ help from just anyone”.
“Careful, Brother, or I might start to think that I’m not just anyone.”