Confronting Destiny by Liette

Word Count 3,594

An episode tag for The High Riders
12th in the Destiny Series, following Challenging Destiny

As Fat Guy lowers his gun and looks over his shoulder, time seems to stop. I can’t help but grin as I nod at the newcomer, relieved that my assumption was spot on. Fat Guy looks like he regrets the interruption. I bet he would have gladly put a bullet in me, I just feel it. Must be wary of that one and never ever trust him.

“Day,” I say, taking care to steady my voice so that I don’t let on how relieved I feel.

“Long time, Johnny Madrid,” he says.

Wow! He even sounds happy. I grin and bow my head. Guess he ain’t pissed at me anymore. So, I laugh a little. “Yeah, long time.” Must be what… two years or so since we last met.

“Care for a drink?”

I steal a quick look at the sky again; feeling the need to make sure it’s still above, bright and clear.

“Yeah, sure,” I answer, walking toward him at a leisurely pace that lets me size-uphis cutthroats. Vest backs out of my way and as I pass in front of them, I can feel their eyes boring into my back. I holster my gun as if nothing had happened and I keep on walking, slowly.

I wonder what they think of “Dog won’t fetch” now they know who’s been facing them. I smile to myself. Must think I’m totally loco, provoking them the way I did. Truth is that was close, way too close. It could have turned out real ugly… with me facing my maker. Of course, I wouldn’t have been alone; I’d have taken at least two or three with me, if not more. I snort. Somehow, I doubt I’d be allowed to knock at St. Peter’s door. And even if I manage to show up there, I’m sure he’d send me directly to Hell, without even thinking of Purgatory.

Pardee looks past me, down the street. When I’m at his level, his “Madrid” has a hint of an inquiry. I stop and we stand face to face. “Were you lookin’ for me?” His voice sounds wary, as if he’s afraid of what I might say.

“No, but I had a feelin’ I’d find you.” I keep my voice soft and barely above a whisper.

I step inside the saloon, feeling Day’s eyes on my back, observing me. Strangely enough, aside from the fact he kinda just saved my butt, I’m glad to see him, even knowing what a son of a bitch he can be. Go figure!

“I heard you got yourself killed down in Mexico,” Day says.

“Yeah, almost.”

Cagily, I take the place in with half-closed eyes, not wishing to arouse Day’s suspicions.

Towards the back a few men sit at tables; but I doubt they’re part of his gang. They don’t look mean enough. There’s no one near us. I spot a table with some bottles, probably where Day was sitting, so I head over, and wait a spell to see where the wind will blow. Waiting’s pretty short.

“Why, some kind of a revolution?”

“Yeah, somethin’ like that.” I sit and pick up a bottle.

Day sets another glass on the table and looks at me before he slumps into the chair. “Do any good?”

Before I answer him, I glance back over my left shoulder. The Indian’s there, with his shotgun, his face bland. That figures! Day’s still Day, no matter what! Always one of his guys watchin’, ready to shoot first and ask questions later.

I turn back to face Day, open the bottle and pour him a drink. “I met some nice people,” I finally say, softly. Truth is, they were nice and they didn’t deserve the treatment they got from both the hacendados and the Rurales.

Day raises his eyebrows, just as I knew he’d do.

“No money?”

For Day, everything’s a question of money. The more he can squeeze out of people’s pocket, the better it is. He’s pretty expensive to hire on, and with reason – he’s damn good at his trade, nearly as good as I am. The funny thing is I’m also an expensive gun to hire but money never stays long in my pockets.

I pour myself a drink. “No… Turned out they didn’t have any.” And I laugh, adding “That explains the revolution.”

Day simply nods but he’d never work for free. That’s one of the reasons we had a falling out. There was this man who needed protection against a group of real bullies but couldn’t afford to pay us. I agreed to help for free lodging and meals. Day flat out refused; signed up with the other side… and lost. Never digested that failure and blamed me for the way it all went south.

I dip the side of my thumb in the bowl of salt and grab a lime wedge. We watch each other, like two dogs ready to fight for the same bone.

“Plenty of money here, Johnny.”

“Yeah!” I suck the lime and squint my eyes a little at the sourness. “That’s what I hear.”

Day looks at me intently, his eyes boring into mine as if searching my soul. Well, he’ll search for nothin’ ’cause I don’t have one – left it behind me some while back and haven’t found it since.

“Well, what’s your business here?”

Seems the preliminaries are done.

“Day, I’m just lookin’.”

“For your best shot?”

“Somethin’ like that, yeah.” Funny, I’m saying that a lot today.

Day smiles and seems pleased. “Well, you’ve found it.”

I watch him as intently as he looked at me a minute ago, waiting to hear him out.

“Now, I can use you, Johnny.” All of a sudden, he’s all serious-like.

My mouth stretches into a slow smile. “Uh, you let me think about it.”

As I knew he would, Day leans forward and speaks softly – he knows how to use his voice almost as well as I do. “Hey, you ain’t already tied up with somebody else, are you?”

And, by somebody else, he probably thinks about Murdoch Lancer and whoever else might side with the Ol’ Man.

I shake my head as I bite into another lime wedge. “No. And I said I’d think about it and I will.”

Day lowers his eyelids and pouts. Always makes me grin when he does that, makes him look like a frustrated kid.

“Well, take your time John.” I almost raise my eyes to the ceiling. Fact is, he’s rarely called me John – only when he needs me bad like that time when we – Oh hell! No time for this.

Good Ol’ Day licks his fingers – another of his habits – gets up and heads over to the rear of the room.

“Tequila!” he orders, clapping his hands and adding, “Pronto.”

Day says something to the barman. He speaks with a Spanish accent that isn’t quite right, but it’s better than I’ve heard from some. It sounds like Day is making sure the barman gives us his best bottle. And then, he says “Pronto”, again. I grin. Day loves saying “Pronto”. He loves it when things are done quickly while being slow at planning and making sure everything’s going according to HIS plan. Contradictory, that’s what Day is. Quick… and slow.  

I lick the lime from my fingers while looking over my left shoulder. Sure enough, the Indian hasn’t moved and still watches me, his face as blank as ever. Wonder if this guy knows how to smile!

A very short while later I hear Fat Guy’s voice. “Hey, that girl from Lancer just rode in. Got a fancy dan with her, too.”

Damn! Teresa and Scott. What possessed them to come here? Doesn’t Murdoch Lancer have any sense at all? This is crazy! Shouldn’t let her come when he knows perfectly well Pardee’s using Morro Coyo as one of his bases. With the Indian and the others I met in front of the porch accounting for what… eight including Day, we’re a bit far from the 20 or 25 Ol’ Man Lancer spoke of. I’m pretty sure the rest of his men are hidden out of town, between here and Lancer – that’s what I would have done. Hell, after all Day took me under his wing at one time and he’s taught me a few things. I pretty much know how his mind works.

Got to play this close to my vest. I settle more deeply into my chair, unconcerned about what’s happening on the street.  

“Go lean on him a little. Find out who he is,” Day orders.

“Yeah!” He sounds a bit too cheerful for my taste.

Leaning’s okay, I’d have asked the same had I been in charge. I just hope it won’t occur to them to capture Teresa and Scott once they know who Scott is… and they’re bound to learn and… Mierda! They might even find out ’bout me bein’ related to Lancer. Mierda! Mierda! Mierda!

Day comes back and sets the bottle down. He stands beside the table, letting out his breath with hands on hips while I thumb the neck of the bottle.

“Don’t take too long, John. You might miss all the fun,” he says, smiling.

I almost laugh in his face. First, he said to take my time and now, to hurry. Yep, he hasn’t changed; he always seems to hesitate between two extremes, as if he can’t make up his mind. But that’s only a show… to make people play him for a fool. But I know better. Day IS dangerous, very dangerous.

I dip my head a little and then, I look up at him.

“See you around?”

“Yeah, yeah,” I say, holding the bottle in both my hands. Day leaves, along with his shadow whose eyes I don’t feel anymore, while I peer closely at the bottle – it is, indeed, a very good tequila. I smile. Too bad I won’t get to taste it. But, I have to think… and fast, and I can’t afford to let my brain get fogged by one too many shots of tequila – no matter how good said tequila might be.

Shortly after, I stroll outside. Fat Guy’s chair is empty and, as far as I can see, no one’s around. I lower my butt and sit comfortably, one foot resting on a barrel. Haven’t even been there for two minutes when Teresa runs out of the mercantile. She looks around, spots me and cries, “Johnny! Johnny!”

I remove my foot from the barrel as she runs over to me, gesturing behind her. “Johnny, it’s Scott!”

My hands are on the arms of the chair and I lift my shoulders a bit… but I don’t get up. I know damn well it’s Scott and I hope no one has heard her besides me. Her foolish intervention is enough to blow my cover. Damn her, damn Scott and damn Murdoch Lancer’s stupidity in allowing them to come here, of all places.

“That figured,” I say, trying to keep calm.

“Well, aren’t you gonna help him?”

Looks like I’m frozen there, in mid-rise. “Nope.” And I pray again that none of Pardee’s men is nearby and heard her.

She looks at me, shock clearly showing in her eyes. She doesn’t speak, just turns and leaves while I ease back in the chair with a sigh.

She heads back to the store but then, the door opens and Scott comes spinning out, overturning a barrel and landing face down in the street. Guess Fat Guy did lean a bit on him. I take my foot off the barrel once again, and this time, I get up. So far, so good. I’m totally alone on this side of the street.

Scott’s still lying face down in the street and Teresa runs over to him. That girl’s got spunk, not a bad thing in itself but it can get her hurt.

I continue to watch. Fat Guy comes out, hat in hands, shirt hangin’ loose. He puts his hat on the handle of the wheelbarrow and tuck in his shirt. Vest comes out as well, hair sticking out, closely followed by Suit.

The three move past without talking while Teresa’s helping Scott to get up. Well, seems they’re done with their “leaning on”. Day did say “a little” after all and Fat Guy’s a good dog – a dangerous one. I wonder if they’ve learned whose pup Boston is.

Heck! I have the feeling Scott defended himself pretty well ’cause Suit’s limping. Good thing. I don’t like this guy with his fancy manners.

I lean on a post and watch both groups. Pardee’s guys walk away and Scott, although he’s standing, still looks a bit shaky. Three big guys against a tall, skinny Bostonian fancy dan. Not quite fair but then, Day’s never been exactly fair in his dealings.

Teresa and Scott look at me. Guess they’re pissed ’bout me not havin’ helped them. I’d have thought he’d leave with the girl but he surprises me as he shakes Teresa’s arm and strides back into the store. Gotta say this, he sure is stubborn, this brother of mine. Hmm, maybe I’ll stick around a little once it’s all finished – that is, if we’re still alive. He might be worth getting to know a bit more.

*

I watch Scott and Teresa as they finally leave town in the buckboard. I wait for a few more minutes to make sure no one’s following them. On my way to get my horse, I stop by the place where I met the old Mexican. Sure enough, he’s still there, talking with other people. I talk to him a little and give him one of the golden coins. His eyes almost burst out of their sockets. I bet he’s never seen that much money at one time. Poor guy.

Finally, I leave Morro Coyo. I will have to tread very carefully now that Day knows I’m around. I can’t let him or any of his men see me at Lancer. Might be a bit hard to explain since I’m not supposed to know they’ve targeted Lancer specifically. Might earn me a bullet in the back of my head. Yep, and I can just imagine Fat Guy’s joy at pulling the trigger.

In the distance, I can see the buckboard. As I get nearer, it seems Scott’s holding a cloth to his face. Teresa has Scott’s jacket in one hand while she brushes her hair away from her face with her other hand. Both step forward as they see me.

Oh boy! If looks could kill, I’d lie dead judging from the way Teresa looks at me. I glance at my brother. His expression is neutral. Makes me wonder whether or not he’s a good poker player. Maybe I should invite him for a few rounds later to see how good he is, if I stick around, that is. Teresa hands Scott his jacket and then, she goes back to the buckboard. Scott ignores me as he shakes his jacket.

I finally rein up near him. “I told you to stay out of it, didn’t I?” I tell him, more softly than I intended because I was still furious about how careless he and the girl had been.


“Well, you did, anyway,” Scott answers, draping the jacket on his left arm.

I certainly wasn’t expecting that answer. To tell the truth, I wasn’t expecting much of anything from Mr. Frilly. But, I have to admit, he did surprise me in town.

I dismount. “Well, if you wanna get yourself killed, that’s your business.” I step over to face my brother and gesture toward his face. “That’s… ah… quite a bruise you got.”

Scott glances down at the jacket he’s holding in his hands. Suddenly, he drops it and takes a big swing with his right and lands a solid punch to my face. Whoa! He sure caught me off guard. I roll downhill and almost end up in the lake, losing my hat in the process.

“I just couldn’t resist thanking you for your help… Brother!”

His words are loaded with sarcasm. I get to my feet and run up the slope, blood boiling, and lashing at him. “Don’t you call me ‘Brother’ just because we share that Ol’ Man’s blood!”

Scott’s waiting for me and he catches me with his right arm – again. But this time, I’m more prepared and I punch him in his mid-section with my own right. He staggers back against a tree.

We both hear Teresa yelling, “Stop it!” Of course, we don’t listen and keep going at it with me yelling, “You mean nothing to me!”

We face each other and Scott takes a fighting pose with his fists raised. We’re about to start hitting each other again but the crazy girl runs between us.

“Stop it! Stop it! You hear me?” She’s clearly furious. She holds her arm against Scott’s, whose hands are still closed in fists.

“You ought to be ashamed. Brothers fighting!”

She looks at me something fierce while I glare at her. I’m still furious, both because of their carelessness and my fight with Scott. My brother lowers his hands. He’s breathing hard. He looks at Teresa then speaks to me. “Look, I’m sorry!”

I stare at him; still too angry to speak then I turn away. I head over to where my hat lies on the ground, pick it up and walk toward my horse.

“Wait a minute!”

I take the reins and pat the horse’s neck, all the while trying to keep my heart from bursting out of my chest.

“We ought to be able to get along. After all, we both came here for the same reason.”

What does he know of my reasons for coming, this Eastern dandy? He knows nothing, can’t understand nothing. I quickly pull my last coin out of my pocket and hold it up. “That’s why I came,” I say, scornfully.

“The money?”

I put the coin back into my pocket. “What else?” And I jump on my horse’s back.

Scott waits the time of a heartbeat. “My mistake.” Then, he turns away. Dios! He even manages to sound disappointed.

“Why do you think I came?” I ask, still furious.

Scott turns back and fixes me, as I continue, all fired up, “For loyalty or love for Murdoch Lancer? You wanna know what he did to my mother?”

I look at him hard, unable to hide my feelings anymore. “He gave her the keys to the road one day and said, ‘What’s your hurry?’ and ‘Just a minute, don’t forget Buster here.’”

A forceful, “That’s not true” comes from Teresa. She looks unhappy with my version of what happened.

I ride past Scott, well intent on leaving before I make a fool out of myself and break down in front of him and the girl. Dios! It hurts so much more than I thought it would. But, Teresa runs after me. She doesn’t know when to quit, that’s obvious.

“That’s not true about Mr. Lancer and your mother!” she repeats. “He never made her leave. She left of her own free will.”

“Now look, you don’t know what you’re…”

I have no time to continue as she cuts me off, “She ran off with somebody.”

I give her a hard look, say nothing and keep on riding. I know Scott’s heard everything she said and right now, I just can’t face it. Besides, there are more pressing matters than my hurt feelings. But she continues. She’s just like a little dog that keeps on coming back, jumping around and waiting for you to send her chasing after a branch or somethin’.

“He was some kind of a gambler or something. She just packed up and left with him.”

Those words make me stop and I glance at her over my shoulder, confused. I suddenly remember a gambler who stuck with us for a spell… But I’m still too angry. “Now, did he tell you that?”

“No. My father told me! And it’s true!” She comes towards me and keeps on talking. I should go but, somehow, I’m rooted to the spot. “If anybody was done a wrong, Johnny, well, it was Murdoch Lancer.”

Now, she’s right at my horse’s head and puts a hand on my leg while she strokes the horse’s neck.

“And there’s something else you ought to know.”

“All right!” I grind my teeth as I urge my horse forward. I meant to say ‘that’s enough’. I don’t want to hear anymore because if Teresa’s right, then that means I was lied to… She… My mother… lied to me! No, it can’t be. It can’t. Why would she do that? I want to go, but again, Teresa stops me.

“No, no, listen! When your father wasn’t sure whether he’d live or die, I sat with him. And he kept saying your mother’s name, Johnny, asking for her! So, if you want to hate him because he’s… he’s stubborn or wrong-headed lots of the time, or proud, well, they’re… they’re faults. But, don’t hate him for your mother, Johnny, because he loved her!”

It’s hard not to listen to her. She sure is passionate about it all. And indeed, it makes me stop. But, before I have the time to react to what she just said, we all hear a distant shout. There’s something wrong, deadly wrong, and without further delay, I ride off, leaving Teresa and Scott in my wake.

It’s time to confront my destiny.

End
Finished 2013/ Posted June 2022

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9 thoughts on “Confronting Destiny by Liette

  1. Nicely written. I enjoyed reading the way Liette has used the script – especially the wonderful scene of Johnny meeting Day (one of my favourite few minutes of the whole series) to write very believably from Johnny’s POV. Thank you for posting.

    Like

  2. Ciao Liette, I always liked the Destiny Serie that I read more times.
    Thus one is very good one.
    Thank you for writing.
    I hope I can read more.

    Like

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