Word count 1,198
The Kingdom’s Prince
It had been a long and difficult birth, but both were doing fine. Gazing down on his wife’s tired face, he returned her smile before her eyes dropped in exhaustion and sleep. Looking down into the cradle he marveled at his son. Johnny was tiny, with a full head of fine black hair. He had a bewildered expression, as if this newborn was puzzled on no longer being safe and warm within his mother’s womb. His unfocused blue eyes wandered, never settling on his father or the huge hands coming down to pick him up. He gave a small cry of apprehension and his limbs jerked as he was lifted into the air.
Murdoch grinned as he stroked his son’s hair with his thumb and felt the child settle back down. Strolling over to the sunlight streaming through the window, Murdoch looked over his land and made a promise to his boy.
“I’ll bring your brother home from Boston and we’ll finally be a family. I have so much to teach my sons and I look forward to watching you grow up. Welcome to your home, my son.” He held Johnny up to gaze over his empire.
Lost Keys to the Kingdom
He stood outside in the cold, pouring rain and it ran off his hat, jacket and pants to cascade onto his dress shoes. He was numb, but not from the water. Those brownstone walls of the Boston mansion were formidable, forbidding and flaunting him. Once again, he had been escorted out and, to his shame, leaving behind his first-born son in the care of his father-in-law. He had no choice, as his son would suffer if he persisted. Scott would have the best his grandfather could give him, including a college education. In time, maybe he could see his son again, but for now, he would keep the image forever close to his heart of his sweet, serious, blond-head boy at his birthday party.
He stood at the window looking out at the warm pelting rain. He was thoughtless, still and numb. His Johnny was away, taken in the middle of the night by his disgruntle wife. How could his empire be so empty and lifeless with the ghostly echoes of his younger son’s laughter fading away in his mind? His baby was gone. The keys to his kingdom were lost.
Groaning, he lowered his head back down and hid under the blanket away from the morning sun. His broken heart had cracked and drowned in despair over losing his sons. Then the yapping started and changed into a frantic yelping. He needed more sleep. Covering his head with a pillow, trying to drown out the noise, and then he remembered, he had no helpers today to shut up the mutt. It was just him, alone…with a barking dog…Johnny’s dog.
With mounting anger, he jumped up, yanked on his pants and stomped out barefooted to chastise the noise maker, who was running tight circles in panic. He tried to catch her, but her antics made him madder, until he heard the muffled yip. Searching, he found the first pup, head down in the fence pole hole he’d left opened after yesterday’s exhaustion. Pulling it out by its tail, he crawled to the next hole and retrieved the other. He stood and watched the mother fawn over her two rolly-pollies. She hadn’t given up looking for and finding help to retrieve her two, so why had he? Looking to heaven, he swore to retrieve his kingdom’s sons.
Quest from the Kingdom
Time was wasting as he made his plans. Scott was safe for now; he’ll focused on Johnny.
He had to find someone to care for the ranch while he searched for his baby. Thank God that the money he’d hid hadn’t been found. He needed that to finance the ranch and his journey for the next few months. As he went out to saddle his horse, he saw the man riding in from town. Tall, hefty, like himself, the man came looking for a job. His wife was in town. His name was Paul O’Brien and Murdoch took a liking to him.
By next week, the O’Briens were settled in, arrangements for the running of the ranch was made and Murdoch, pulling a pack horse, was riding away from the estancia on his quest to find his son. It was difficult to quell his impulse to put spurs to the horse’s sides. Maria was Mexican. She’d have taken Johnny south. Deliberately turning the reins in that direction, he nudged the mount with his knees, took a deep breath, thought of the mother dog and her pups, and smiled. He’ll rescue his little prince from the witch.
Lure of the Kingdom
It had been months of steady searching and still no sign of his son. His young and flighty wife, Maria, had been too clever at hiding her journey into Old Mexico. His last clue had petered out at the border when he caught up with the milquetoast gambler in the owl glasses. His story rang true and Murdoch believed that Maria had used the meek and mild man for her own devices and an escape method. The man had fallen for her manipulations and had delivered her and Johnny to the border. From there, the trail drifted off.
His heart was heavy as reality came crashing down. Supplies were running low, money was a close second, and despair had won. Staring into the flickering flames of the fire and drinking the bitter dredges of trail coffee gave no answers. Exhaustion took over his mind and body and his horse’s soft breathing nearby soothed him into slumber. As he slept, dreams of Lancer crept through his subconscious and the lure of his kingdom wove it’s tendril string through his mind. When he woke, he knew the drifting was done and he was returning home without his prince.
Standing up from his stoop in the now cleared creek bed, he flung the last heavy bush away from the water and heard the crack of his spine stretching. Wiping his muddy hand across his dripping forehead, he deflected the blood sucking mosquito from its feast. He stood still as his thoughts drifted to his missing sons. He had worked hard over the last year and the money from the last drive was enough to hire the Pinkerton Detective Agency to track down Johnny and watch over Scott. His efforts had prospered and he’d doubled his land holdings. It may take some time, but his boys would return home and he would make sure there was plenty of kingdom to give them.
He heard the yell from the knoll above. The baby had come and it was a girl. Splashing out of the thigh high water, he scrambled up the side of the ravine, caught up the reins of his horse and he swung up to ride proudly back to the estancia. O’Brien’s girl was here and, for a moment, Murdoch would rest his worry over his sons and lose himself in the joy of counting baby toes.
Sadly, LaJuan is no longer with us. She passed away March 16, 2017. Her stories are archived here for her friends to remember her by. Enjoy her legacy to Lancer.