Word count: 13,620
“You can’t be serious!” thundered Murdoch Lancer, quickly standing up behind his desk after hearing the bad news coming from Val. He gave the sheriff from Green River a frown as he made his way to the big window that overlooked his land, the land he loved so dearly.
“Never more serious than now, Mr. Lancer,” Val replied. “And you know that if you ask for help, you just might not get it. People are just plumb scared of these situations.” He sat with his head bowed, ashamed to say those words to a man like Murdoch Lancer.
“This can’t be happening!” Scott said, pacing back and forth and shaking his head.
“Well it’s happening, brother,” Johnny replied.
“So! What are we going to do about it?” asked Scott. Looking at his brother’s troubled face, he could see the answer on it.
“Fight!” was all Johnny said.
Scott just nodded at his brother’s answer. It was the only thing they could do.
“How long do we have, Val..?” Murdoch asked, still staring out the window.
“Oh! I’d say two or three days at the most.” Val replied as he walked over to Johnny. He gave his friend a concerned look; they both knew only too well what was coming to Lancer.
“Comancheros ! And on Lancer land!” Murdoch bellowed, looking at his sons and Val. “I thought they only raided villages and towns. Why Lancer?” he asked, seeking answers.
“Murdoch, these are murderers and mercenaries. They don’t care where they raid.” Johnny answered his father, adding, “Look at it,” he said, pointing to the land outside the window. “This is an empire to them. If they take Lancer, they will have the whole valley at their beck and call.”
“He’s right!” Val said. “One of them came into town last night and had a few too many. He was bragging how Lancer was going down in a few days.”
“How do you know that’s what he meant?” Scott asked, hoping this was all a li
“He went on and on about how the valley would their fortress.” Val replied.
“So I followed him back to his camp a half-day’d ride south of town, and…” He stopped and looked at Johnny’s face, knowing it had to be said. Johnny just nodded. He had an feeling about what Val had found there at the campsite.
“And what, Val?” Murdoch demanded.
Val blew out a breath and said it. “They have a Gatling gun, Mr. Lancer.”
“A what?” Scott yelled out.
“You heard him, Scott!.” Johnny said as he walked over and poured himself a drink. He knew too well what a gun like that could do to the strongest of buildings and people.
The great room fell silent as they all took in the news. How were they going to get through this? the Lancers thought themselves. Even in their wildest dreams, they would have never dreamed of defending their home like this…
“How many did you see, Val?” Johnny asked his friend.
“Oh, I’d say about forty to fifty men,” the sheriff replied.
“Fifty!.. That’s a small army,” came from the ex-army lieutenant as Scott shook his head.
‘Yeah! But with that Catling gun, it turns that fifty into a hundred men.” Johnny blurted out.
“So, now what? Scott said to his brother and father.
“Like your brother said, we fight!” Murdoch replied, turning towards his desk and looking at his sons ”I’m not going to give up Lancer, not without a fight. It will be a cold day in hell before I do that.” Both boys just nodded and sighed.
They knew Murdoch would fight to the end to save his…their land.
“Believe me! That’s what’s coming to Lancer now. Hell!” Johnny stated, adding, “We better come up with a plan and fast”.
As they bid farewell to Val, who had to get back to Green River, the sheriff promised to keep an eye out for anything that could prove useful the the Lancers..
Val was just about out of view of the ranch when he turned back to look, wishing there were some other was he could help beside keeping an ear open. He knew the townspeople would not help. They were cowards. The thought shamed him–his own town.
All three Lancer men stood there, waving to Val as he left. Their thoughts were running wild, anger and dread, mixing with fear: how in the world can we survive this?. One thing was for sure, their first step would be getting the women and children out before all hell broke loose..
After a very quiet dinner, the three Lancer men found themselves sitting out on the veranda, looking at the stars, each lost in their own thoughts..
This was their home–their legacy. No band of murdering cowards would take it from them. Not as long as Murdoch, Scott and Johnny Lancer Lived..
The Lancer Hacienda was in an uproar as the men tried to get Teresa to listen to them. She didn’t want to leave the ranch. This was her home too. She couldn’t just up and leave not knowing if she would have something to come back to. Or someone to come back to. They had to eat, so she was needed to cook for them. What if they were injured, she’d definitely be needed then. But it was not working.
Johnny took Teresa over to the side of the room, and said to her she was going with the other women to Green River or else…
“Or else what?” She hollered at Johnny.
“Or I’ll take you over my knee and spank some common sense into you” Johnny replied sternly, standing there with his hands on his hips. Teresa looked over at her surrogate father for help.
“Johnny’s right sweetheart” he said, adding. “You’ll be safer in Green River where Val can keep an eye on you.”
“But I just can’t leave you. I’m needed here.” She begged, but was still not getting anywhere.
“Teresa, listen to me honey!” Johnny took her by the shoulders and looked at her in the eyes. “We can’t fight this battle with you here. It’s going to get ugly, we don’t want to be worrying about you while it’s going on.” he explained to her.
He kissed her forehead and gave her a gentle hug. Teresa looked up into her brother’s deep blues eyes and gave in. ”Ok! But please promise to take care of yourselves and keep Lancer safe. I want a home to come back to, and you all to be here too.” Teresa said to the men sadly as she turned to go and pack.
As they watched her head on upstairs, their thoughts were of the families that resided all around Lancer. Word was sent out to the smaller ranches to evacuate and head for the nearest town. A few of them were right in the path of the Commancheros on the way to Lancer.
That went for the families here on the ranch, too. The men in Murdoch’s employ would stay and fight, but the women and children were sent to the safety of the town. Many had little homes they lived in as they worked the land.
After all tearful kisses and hugs goodbyes, the women and children were loaded on to the wagons. With one last wave to their spouses, they were on the way to Green River. The men looked on waving, all saying a silent prayer they all would see their families again.
Val’s had sent a couple of deputies to carefully check on the whereabouts of the Comancheros. The news came back that they were going to bypass Green River all together, hence Murdoch had decided to send the women and children there. The Commancheros were after Lancer, but wouldn’t be there for another couple of days. It seemed they were taking their sweet time coming.
Now it was time to plan their defense of Lancer itself. Jelly had refused to go with the women, so now he and the Lancers just paced the floor thinking about what they could do.
“Scott you’re the military man here. What do you think we should do?” Johnny asked his brother as he poured a few glasses of brandy.
“Well, first we need to get the grounds secured, with armed men and look outs“ Scott replied as he took a glass. “We could build barricades around the hacienda for extra protection.
“I was thinking the same thing, son” Murdoch said. “Jelly would you please go get Cipriano for me” He asked the old handy man.
“Sure Boss!” As Jelly left the room, the boys were still thinking of other ways to defend their home. Sipping on brandy and racking their heads for answers. Pacing the floor again and again.
War! That’s what this is going to be a damn war. They all thought. There has to be something that would even the odds against the Gatling gun. But what? Dynamite might work Johnny thought to himself as he flopped down into a big chair. Just then Cipriano entered the great room with Jelly. “You wanted to see me, Senor?”
“Yes, Cip” Murdoch replied to the Segundo and trusted friend of the family. “I need you to put up guards up all round the grounds and see what we could use to build barricades,” then added “Oh and see what we have for ammo, I need to know in case I have to get more from town”.
“Si, Senor.” As Cipriano turned to leave, Johnny shot out the chair and shouted “Cip! Do you know where we can get a cannon?” Everyone looked stunned at the youngest Lancer.
“A cannon!” They both said at once.
“Yeah a cannon.” Johnny replied. “I reckon that would even the odds a bit. It would give us a lot more fire power,” He had a smile on his face.
“Johnny, that’s a great idea.” Murdoch praised his son, and gave Johnny’s shoulder a squeeze.
“Got to hand it to you, brother” Scott said giving Johnny a slap on the back. “You do come up with good ideas sometimes.”
“Why thank ya, Brother“. Johnny said returning the slap.
“Cip, where can we find one?” Murdoch asked.
“I think that there is one in Morro Coyo, by the old mission, Senor” he replied, “I don’t know if it still works. It is very old.” he added.
“Well we just have to take our chances.” Murdoch said turning to his sons who already knew what he was going to say.
“Right on it, Sir! Come on Johnny.” Scott said and motioned to Johnny to follow. The Lancer sons grab their hats and gun belts and headed out the door. To get the one thing they hope would help in their battle to keep Lancer.
As his sons rode off to Morro Coyo, Murdoch Lancer said a silent prayer that his home and family would get through this.
As Scott and Johnny Lancer rode into Morro Coyo, it seemed that all eyes were on them. The news had spread fast. People slunk back into corners and shadows. The looks on their faces said it all. Val was right. They were cowards. There wasn’t a soul here that would help to defend Lancer – not one soul to rely on. It was a betrayal that made the Lancer brothers’ skin crawl.
Murdoch Lancer had helped this town grow. He had helped individual businesses, and individual families. He did as much of his business here as he could. But the townspeople were unwilling to repay him. They’d made that clear back then when Murdoch and Paul O’Brien came to town to retrieve the stallion Pardee had stolen from the ranch. Not one single person had been willing to warn them of the ambush. And Paul had paid with his life.
Now history was repeating itself. They were all hiding again, all afraid of their own shadows. There was no point in asking anyone to help. Their only hope now was the cannon, if they could take it home with them. If it was worth taking home.
“How about one quick beer, brother?” Johnny asked, with a grin. It had been a hot day and the road to town was dusty. A nice cold beer would go down well before they headed on over to the mission.
“We’ll , I guess one won’t hurt.” Scott replied. “But just one, we have to get that cannon to the ranch as soon as possible”. He added, seeing that his brother was already making his way towards that cold beer.
Scott followed Johnny into the noisy smoke filled saloon. Johnny barely paused in the doorway as his eyes raked the room. The chatter stopped, the temperature dropped. It was as if death had walked through the batwings doors. The room suddenly felt icy cold.
Paying no mind to the change, the brothers walked to the bar and ordered their beers. Jose handed them the mugs, then backed off with a sad smile. After a few minutes, Johnny couldn’t take the silence anymore and called him back.
“What the hell is going on here?” He asked the barkeep.
“There’re scared, Johnny!” He replied
“Scared of what?” asked Scott.
“Scared that you will bring the Comancheros here to Morro Coyo. Scared that you will ask for help, for none are willing to offer.” Jose said sadly.
“We can see that!” Scott spat bitterly. He looked around the room at the shameful faces of the people they had thought were their friends.
“Well they don’t have to worry about us Lancers asking for no help from the likes of them” Johnny said just as bitter as his brother.
“Johnny! It has nothing to do with Lancer. It is the Commancheros. They are mucho evil, they rape and murder for the fun of it.” Jose said tried to explain. “These devils, they sell guns to the Indians. They burn farms…mucho evil.
“I’m well aware of what they can do, Jose,” Johnny replied tossing him a coin for the beers. The brother strode across to the doors, ignoring everybody. Outside, Johnny thumped the hitching rail in frustration, startling the horses. He apologized to them with soothing words, calming himself in the process. Then they rode out to the mission, to see about the cannon.
The Cannon looked a little rusty in places on the outside, but it was the inside that was important. Johnny lit a match and stood back as he tossed it into the barrel. There was no explosion, no burning, so no unused gunpowder to worry about. He lit another match and took a closer look inside.
He felt for any rough spots that needed to be smoothed out in order for it to fire straight. He also checked the mobility of it to see if it could be aimed where you needed it. In Johnny’s opinion the cannon would work.
“How do you know all this, brother?” Scott asked in amazement that his little brother knew so much about cannons.
“You forget, brother. I was in the Mexican army” He replied with a sly grin. “It was one of my jobs to keep the cannons clean.” Johnny could have kicked himself. He hadn’t intended to mention that – it had just slipped out.
“How old were you?” asked Scott giving his younger brother a concerned look.
Johnny was quiet for a few seconds before he answered. “Thirteen” was all he said and went back to inspecting the machine.
Scott knew not to push the subject any further, but it did bother him that his little brother had been in the Mexican army at that young age. Johnny was a wonder to him. How many more revelations would there be? And how had Johnny come through all of it and still be a man he was proud to call brother.
Scott started looking around for someone to ask about borrowing the cannon. But the mission was empty, abandoned years ago. Time was getting short. They went to see the mayor. He was not very happy about their request. Scott said a silent prayer that it wouldn’t occur to the Mayor that he might keep the cannon to defend the town. The brothers reassured him that this was Lancer’s fight, and it would not affect Morro Coyo. The Mayor thought for a while, then agreed to let the boys take it.
They rented a wagon, and carefully loaded the cannon, using both horses to pull it up a makeshift ramp. With it secured, they loaded all the cannon balls they could find and tucked them in straw to stop them rolling around the wagon. Now it was time to get back to the ranch.
The wagon with the heavy cannon would slow their journey home. The people of Morro Coyo watched as they made their way down the main street, most of them too ashamed to look at the Lancer boys as they made their way towards home.
After what seemed like an eternity, they finally had the cannon safely at Lancer. Johnny immediately started on the task of getting it ready for battle, barking out orders to the men. He needed all the help he could get and fast.
Time was no longer on their side. Val had already sent a message back with one of the hands. The Commancheros had moved up their advance on Lancer. Now Johnny made haste to tackle the cannon with all he had.
He carefully smoothed out all the pits and rust inside of it until it was smooth as a baby’s bottom. That would ensure he could use the cannon without fear of it back firing on him.
Next he greased every joint, getting the men to move the nose of the cannon up and down as he did so. It had to move freely, so that it could be aimed properly. The wheels were also greased so that it could be moved back and forth without any resistance.
After three pain-staking hours, the chore was done. Johnny thanked his comrades for their help and after a last close inspection of the weapon. He declared it to be ready for battle. He was sitting under a tree by the cannon, taking a breather, when his father approached him.
“How’s it going with the cannon?” he asked.
“All done, Murdoch. I reckon it will do the job.”
“I’m sure it will, John.” Murdoch said, but Johnny noticed a catch in his voice.
“Are you alright, Murdoch?’ looking at his fathers eyes and seeing something in them that he never seen before…fear.
“I‘m fine, Son! It’s that damn message from Val. That has me worried. Not knowing when and where they will hit us!” He explained.
“Well, I reckon we’ll know soon enough when they get here. We just have to be ready.”
Murdoch just nodded. ”I’m going inside, you coming?”
“No, I’m going to check the grounds out. You go ahead” He replied.
“Ok, see you in a bit” Johnny said and walked into the house, then he came back out and stopped Murdoch in his tracks. “Hey! I’m cooking tonight. Six sharp, tell Scott.” He relayed to his father with a sly grin.
Murdoch just waved to him, and went looking for his oldest son. He found Scott over- seeing the building of the barricades. The men were busy piling up straw and twigs, rocks, and brick. Anything they could find that they could stack then seal with mud to consolidate them. The walls had to be high enough to provide cover, yet still allow the men to shoot over or around.
”Scott, how’s it going with the barricades.” He asked, inspecting the one in front of him. “It seems to be sturdy enough. How many did you get done?”
“Not nearly enough, Sir.” was Scott’s answer. “We’re running short of time and materials to get more up. Let’s hope the these two will do the job.”
“Well, I guess we have to make do with what we have.” Murdoch agreed. “Is there anything else we can do the ready ourselves for…”
Murdoch stopped when he had to think of that word…battle. But that’s what would be. He and his sons, and the rest of Lancer would have fight. Fight with everything they had. It sickened him to think he had to do this all over again. He had hoped there would be peace in the valley after Pardee had been defeated ’I guessed wrong.’ He thought to himself.
“Sir!” Scott said touching his father’s arm, breaking him from his reverie.
“Oh, sorry son”, he apologized. “My mind was wandering.”
“It’s ok, there’s been a lot of that lately.” He said. ”As to your question about what else we can do – well, we just… wait!”
Murdoch nodded and started back towards the house, then he turned back to Scott and said. “Your brother’s cooking tonight you know what that means, don’t you?”
“Chili!” Scott said holding his stomach.
Murdoch just laughed. ”Six sharp!” Then he turned and went into the house.
Dinner came and went. Johnny’s chili was a big hit, because he didn’t use as many spices as he normally did. For this, his father and brother were very grateful, and so was Jelly who had joined them for the meal. After dinner they retired to the great room. Murdoch was at his desk going over the books. Scott was reading one of his favorite novels. Johnny and Jelly were trying to enjoy a game of checkers.
They were trying to go about their normal routine like any other night. But this night was anything but normal. The threat that was getting closer by the hour, and it unnerved them. Even though they were trying to keep cool heads, it was hard not to think about what would be the outcome of this whole nightmare.
“Your move, Johnny!” Jelly said to his friend, but Johnny just stared at the checkers. ”Johnny, it’s your move! Jelly urged him with a tap to his arm.
With a flash of his hand, Johnny slapped checker board across the room in a fit of frustration. He walked over to the window and looked out into the darkness. Nobody said anything, for they were all feeling the same way.
“It’s getting late, why don’t we all try to get some sleep.” Murdoch suggested.
The Lancer men headed to their rooms and Jelly went out to his. They were all sore and tired from the day’s hard labor to ready the ranch, but tonight there would be no sleep for any of them.
Morning was announced by the alarm bell ringing, echoing frantically through out the house and pulling the Lancer men out of bed. In a panic they reached for their clothes and boots, and dressed on the run. Not watching where they were going, they barreled out of their bedrooms, practically running each other down in the hallway as they all headed downstairs.
In the great room, Murdoch looked at the grandfather clock, it was only four am, and the sun was barely coming up They had just gotten to sleep after a restless night of tossing and turning, when the alarm bell went off
“What the hell is going on?” Johnny said as he was hurriedly trying to button up his shirt.
Suddenly Jelly came bursting through the front door, half dressed himself.
“Boss! Boss!” He hollered to Murdoch.
“Jelly! Jelly, calm down and tell me what’s wrong!” asked Murdoch.
“Walt’s riding in and fast
Scott had suggested to his father last night that if he could spare one man, it would be a good idea to send him to check on the other ranches. He figured with the cover of night he could get by undetected if he happened to come across the commancheros. Murdoch agreed and sent Walt. But not until after midnight.
The four men ran outside just as Walt was bringing his horse to a stop. The expression on his face meant only one thing.
“What is it, Walt?” Murdoch asked, as his heart skipped a beat.
“It’s. . not. . good, Boss!” Walt replied trying to catch his breath from the hard ride. ”They hit the Peterson place and burned it down to the ground. And telling from the smoke in the distance they hit a couple of the other ranches too!” pausing for a few seconds, ”It seems they’re making a circle first, before they hit us.”
Murdoch just bowed his head. At least he knew the Petersons had left their home and were safe in a nearby town. He hoped that the other small ranchers had done the same.
“How soon do you think they will get here?” Johnny asked with a hint of desperation in his voice.
“Can’t tell ya for sure, Johnny…But by the rate they‘re going, I’d say it won’t be too long.” Walt told the Lancers.
They were stunned into silence at Walt’s news, silence except for the pounding of their hearts beating fast and furious with the fear that was now building up inside them.
Breaking the silence, Murdoch started to bark out the orders to the men to finish the preparations of getting their defenses ready. But not until first getting some breakfast inside them. At least his men would be allowed a decent meal before they would have to fight the battle of their lives.
Scott and Johnny just stood there, looking out over their land as the sun was now coming up. They could not fathom the thought that this just might be the last time they would see their home. This was a home worth fighting for, and by golly, they were going to fight. If they could not keep Lancer for themselves, they would die trying.
Murdoch noted a change in his sons, something almost imperceptible, but something that gladdened his heart. It was only a year since they had found their home and now he just knew they were determined not to lose it.
“Boys! Come inside and lets gets some breakfast.” Murdoch called.
“Be right in, Sir” Scott said as he was still looking out into the horizon.
“Don’t take too long, we have things to discuss.” Murdoch replied.
“Discuss what!” Johnny shot, “all we have to do is just… fight. Hope and pray that the cannon works, and fight!” Then turned and went into the house. His anger was now getting the best of him.
“Johnny!” Scott followed his younger brother into the house and stopped him before he reached the kitchen. “We have to come up with some kind of a plan, Johnny!”
“Well, good I hope you come up with one.” he said looking into Scott’s eyes. “Because we’re going to need one and fast.”
“What do you mean?” Murdoch asked as he entered through the front door.
“Murdoch, you heard Walt! The other ranches were a warning, showing us what they have in store for us, and they will hit us hard!” He paused closing his eyes and continued, “I’ve seen what a Gatling gun can do, and it isn’t pretty. There will be no mercy when they start to use it”. He spat out.
The words *No mercy* struck a cord with Scott, for he too seen what men like these can do. The Gatling gun and the cannon brought back awful memories of his days in the war. He had thought he would never had to fight like that again.
Murdoch, too, had had to fight; fight to keep this land many times over, and knew that Johnny was right about these murderers. The stakes were higher now; this time he had his boys to think about.
“Johnny, we will fight with all we have! Lancer will not fall to the likes of them!”
Murdoch told his son, putting his big hand on Johnny’s shoulder. Johnny just looked up at his father and shook his head sadly.
The three of them stood there for a few minutes looking around the great room. This would be their Battle Station. This room they all loved so much and hoped would still be theirs when this was all over. The French doors were boarded up and the big window covered, but leaving enough space to look through and to aim a gun.
After getting their wits about them they headed into the kitchen and tried to force food down themselves, but no-one had an appetite. They just stared into their cups of coffee. Time was getting short and they had to think of ways to win the war.
Johnny sat there listening to his father and brother talking about their plans, and everything they had come up with was sound and good ideas. But he also had a plan of his own. It was a plan that his father and brother would not approve of, so he would only use it if necessary, and until then, he would keep it to himself.
But for right now all they could do was to get ready and…wait.
“Murdoch!” gasped Johnny as he came storming in the house. Against his father wishes, he had gone on a scouting mission of his own. He had left straight after breakfast, sneaking out the back door. Finding just the right spot, he’d kept to the trees and watched for any signs of the commancheros.
“Where the hell have you been?” Murdoch demanded. Johnny was bent over, still trying to catch his breath, when Scott walked in.
“Johnny! What is it?” Scott asked
“There..’re …here!” was all Johnny could get out. Pointing to the north range.
Murdoch hurried over to the door and looked out to the horizon, seeing nothing but a dust cloud in the far distance. He let out a heavy sigh and still looking out the door he asked “How long?”
“I’d say an hour at the most.” Johnny stood up after getting his wind back.
“Scott, tell the men to stand ready, everybody to their post.” Murdoch barked out the orders as he walked on over to his desk. He turned to talk to Johnny, who was heading out through the door followed by Scott
“Wait a minute! Who’s going to man the cannon?” Scott grabbed Johnny by his arm.
“I am!” Johnny replied
“NO! You’re not, brother!” Scott ordered his younger sibling.
“Why not?” Johnny wanted to know.
“Because I…We need you here with us” Scott paused for a second, “we have to stick together…to…to keep each other from…” Scott was at a lost for words.
“…Getting killed! Is that you are trying to say, brother?” Johnny just gave his brother a big smile.
“Well, yes!” Scott replied “ Let someone else fire of the cannon!”
“Well don’t go and worry your pretty head, Brother. I have no intention of getting myself killed.” he continued through the door, adding. “Besides I’m the only one who knows how to use the cannon.” Then he was gone.
“Your brother will be ok, Scott” Murdoch said. Truth was he did worry about his youngest too. He never knew what that boy had in his head. But Johnny was right: he was the only one who knew how to use the cannon.
Scott and Murdoch looked out through the peepholes in boarded-up French doors. Johnny was out by the cannon, checking it one last time. The men were at their posts, and for now it was just a waiting game.
They didn’t have to wait long.
There they were forty to fifty of them, sitting there on their horses down by the north gate.
And there also was the Gatling gun, all shiny and deadly pointed directly at the house.
“What are they waiting for?” Scott asked nervously.
“To see who makes the first move is how I see it.” Murdoch replied.
As Murdoch spoke, the leader of the gang started to ride up very slowly to the house waving his hat. Johnny quickly had the men help him push the cannon out of view. He didn’t want to give away their edge…yet.
Stopping a ways from the house, the leader looked around, studying the area, wearing a grin that made their skin crawl.
“You in the house!” He spoke in broken English. Half-breeds, most of them. Gringos, riding with half -Indians, half- Mexicans. The worst kind of commanchero possible, murderers, scum: hated men – who hated any man who stood in their way.
“What do you want?” thundered Murdoch through the French doors.
“You know what we want, Senor?” he taunted, pointing to all of the Lancer men he could see. “You cannot win, we have many men you have very little, Si?”
“That remains to be seen!” Murdoch bellowed, Scott just smiled at that remark, but the smile was short lived.
“Senor! Give up your home now and everyone will be spared..” said the leader.. lying.
But Murdoch had no intention of backing down. ”NO!” was his final word.
“Have it your way, Senor. But be prepared to die!” and with that he turned to go back to his men.
“That went well!” Scott said with a hint of humor, but nothing was funny about this.
“Now let’s see how long it takes them to make their move” Murdoch said. And they watched carefully as the gang spread out.
Watching where they moved to and how many were pairing up, Johnny stayed in the shadows, ready by the cannon. Checking every angle and how far they were from the range of the cannon. With his keen eyes it was not hard for him to figure out the distance.
An hour passed and everyone’s nerves were screaming. Waiting for this to get started and over with at the same time. It was too quiet and hands were now sweaty from holding guns. The heat was bearing down on them from the afternoon sun, making it hard to see through the sweat running down in their eyes.
The two older Lancer men were pacing the floor the trying to keep calm. Looking at the clock to see the minutes ticking by. The silence was driving them crazy. The commancheros were trying their patience, waiting to see who would give in and take the first shot. Murdoch had told his men not to fire until the first shot came from the other side.
Scott peered out the window and looked over at his brother and he too was doing the same thing.
Listening to the silence.
“FIRE!” the leader of the Commancheros yelled, to the delight of his trigger-happy men.
All hell broke loose as bullets were flying everywhere. Men jumping up and ducking at the same time as they shot off rounds of ammo, meanwhile receiving return fire from the other end of the battlefield. Back and forth was how the first siege went in the war…the war for Lancer.
Just before the shooting started, the leader had had his men move the Gatling gun further back behind some trees. He had no intention of using it yet, or even of letting the Lancer men see it until necessary. He knew that Murdoch had fewer men then he did, and figured he would have an easy victory.
Every Lancer men kept a close eye on the Gatling gun, though. Watching for when the commancheros were ready to use it, so the could stay out of its way. It was a gun that would show no mercy, just like the men using it. It could cut through a man like a hot knife slicing through butter, and then there was the damage it could do to the buildings.
Johnny still stayed in the shadows, waiting for the right time to use the cannon. From his position he couldn’t get a good shot at the Gatling gun. But he could still use it against the commancheros.
“What is Johnny waiting for?” Scott asked, peering out the cracks from the boarded up windows.
“He is waiting for the right moment, Scott.” Murdoch replied, firing off an round from his rifle and hitting a target that was charging up to the house.” He knows what he’s doing.”
“Well, I hope he aim is as good as with his gun!” Scott yelled as more bullets echoed off the walls outside of the house. “We only found five cannon balls, so every shot he makes has to count” He explained to his father, firing off a round himself.
Johnny’s heart skipped a beat as he spotted a gang of men make their way up the along side of the gate. His eyes narrowed, as they came into range . ‘Oh, no you don’t!‘ He thought to himself.
He motioned to Walt and a couple of men to push the cannon in that direction. As they did, he very carefully aimed the cannon and lit the fuse.
It only took a few seconds for it to burn, and then it was like music to his ears.
The cannon shot like it was new. The ball flew through the air like an angel of death and hit its target. Men were screaming from the sheer pain it brought as it exploded around them. Some ran from their cover, only to be cut down from the bullets of the Lancer guns.
There were cheers coming from all around the house as the cannon hit its target.
Johnny stood there and let a big whoop as he slapped Walt on the back. “Did you see that? It works!” Johnny said in amazement. “Now that’s firepower, my friend, pure firepower!”
“It sure is, Johnny!” Walt replied to his comrade.
The leader of the gang was furious as he came out of his hiding spot to get a better view. Looking around to see where the cannon ball came from, he spotted Johnny and Walt getting the cannon ready again. His eyes narrowed with anger at the sight of the cannon, and he yelled to his men to start firing over at that direction.
Scott eyes had widened with fear, as he saw their guns pointing at his brother’s direction. “Cover me!” He yelled to Murdoch as he ran outside and hid behind one of the pillars, and dodging bullets that came his way.
“SCOTT! GET BACK IN HERE!” Murdoch thundered as his son disappeared out of the door to warn his brother. Murdoch had no option but to cover his son by firing out the window.
“JOHNNY!” Scott hollered to get his sibling’s attention. “JOHNNY!” he yelled again and Johnny turned around as he heard his brother’s voice. A volley of bullets sent Johnny sailing to the ground and crawling to find some cover. Then he heard a scream, Walt had been hit.
“Walt! Where are you hit?” Johnny yelled from behind a water trough.
“My leg!” came the answer from by the cannon.
“Stay there! I’m coming to get you!” Johnny told him, despite the bullets still flying through the air.
“NO! Johnny I’m ok. I have some cover here,” He said, pointing to wheels of the cannon. And Johnny stayed where he was.
Scott seen that they were ok, except for Walt’s leg . He let out a sigh of relief and made his way back into the house. Now he and Murdoch now shot off rounds of ammo to draw the guns away from Johnny. “We have to get them to keep firing over this way so Johnny can load the cannon again.” Scott said to his father.
Murdoch nodded and bellowed out the window. “Frank! Keep them firing this way. Johnny needs time to reload the cannon.” He ordered to his foreman.
Frank just waved acknowledgement and opened fire. It worked, the commancheros turned their attention back to Frank and his men over behind one of the barricades and now were shooting at them.
Johnny saw his chance and dashed back to the cannon. “Walt can you stand?” he asked. Walt nodded and got up slowly. “We need to finish reloading!” Johnny said pausing, “ I’ll show those Bastards!”
Once the cannon was reloaded, they carefully aimed at the group who were now shooting at Frank. Johnny lit the fuse. Again men were screaming and running, and again they were cut down in their tracks by the Lancer guns.
This made the leader even madder. He had enough of this and with a determined snarl on his face he motioned for his men to ready the Gatling gun.
“SCOTT! Look over there!” Murdoch’s eyes widened in terror at the sight of the commancheros getting the Gatling gun ready and aiming it at his men . . . specifically . . . at Johnny.
Scott ran to the window and looking out and with nothing but pure fear running through him he again ran to the door, this time he stayed inside and opened it just enough for his brother could see him. Calling out to him to get his attention.
“JOHNNY!” Scott yelled out and waving his hand.
The ex-gunfighter looked over at his brother, who was pointing in the direction of the Gatling gun. Johnny’s vivid blue eyes narrowed with anger, seeing that they were about to use it… on him.
Desperately trying to get the cannon ready again, and seeing that he had no time left, Johnny called to his men to take cover, and he too ran sliding into the ground and crawling behind a wall
The gun spat into life, its fire showing no mercy. The bullets left a trail of holes in the walls and ground, and a curtain of dust to add to the confusion. There was a scream as a Lancer hand went down, and then another and another as they tried run for better cover – the hurriedly-made barricades were no match for the force of this war machine.
A few of Johnny’s men were cut down right in front of him, making his heart cry out in pain as they were shot like sitting ducks. It angered him more for knowing that there was no way he was able to get the cannon ready without being killed himself.
The firing stopped while they reloaded the Gatling gun, and Johnny made a fast dash for the house. He ducked along the now battered walls, as more rifle fire was exchanged, shooting off his own gun and hitting a few as he went. Making his way to the front door, he threw himself inside and quickly shut it.
“You.. two.. .ok? He asked, picking himself off the floor and feeling a little winded. Walking over to his father and brother, he needed to tell them something. And they were not going to like it.
“We’re ok.” Murdoch wondered what was on his son’s mind . . . he had that look on his face…the look that said something was up. Scott knew that look too.
“Now what, brother?” Scott asked before his father did. “ You no doubt have something going on in that fool hearted mind of yours! Come on, spill it!”
“Yep, I do!” he told his brother with grin that said Madrid all over it, and it scared Scott. “And I know you’re not going to like it!” he said frankly
“Then…” Scott didn’t get to a chance to finish.
“…Don’t do it!” Johnny finished for him and added, “ Well, I have no choice, brother. Besides you don’t even know what I have planned,” he said, looking out the window.
“And what do you have in mind, son?” Murdoch’s heart skipped a beat as he waited for the answer.
Johnny was quiet and then spoke up.” I need to take out that damn gun, or we have no chance of getting out of here alive!” He explained.
“Well! Use the cannon to blow it up.” Scott suggested, but his brother was shaking his head. “Well?”
“Scott, I can’t even get to close to it to reload and fire the damn thing.” Johnny pointed out. “You’ve seen what that…that gun did, it got three of my friends…our friends . . within seconds, I don’t stand a chance if I tried,” he said, as he rubbed his eyes.
“What do you have in mind, John?” Murdoch asked again of his strong-willed son, knowing Johnny would not give up this fight . . . . not without trying everything else.
“Dynamite!” he stated.
Both Murdoch and Scott looked at him in total disbelief and horror. They knew the only chance of blowing up the gun with dynamite meant getting real close to it.
They knew right there and then what he had on his mind.
“NO!” boomed his father as he looked in his son’s vivid blues eyes, with nothing but fear in his own.
“Johnny, that’s suicide, No! I’m not going to let you do it.” Scott pleaded with his stubborn brother.
“I have to, Scott.” He paused and said, “We have no choice. If I don’t take out that God damn gun, then we my as well surrender Lancer over to those bastards and be done with it.” Shutting his eyes, he listened to the gunfire outside. His anger towards those who were destroying his home was more then he could bear.
They were silent for a few minutes as they all listened to the battle going on outside. Brave men were fighting to save Lancer. Their hearts were already heavy with grief for the ones who died today. They all knew that the Gatling gun had to be stopped or all would be lost.
“Scott!” Johnny’s voice shook him from his thoughts. ”Did you hear me? I’m going out the back way, and you have to watch out for me and give them something else to shoot at.”
“Yes, I heard you, and I still don’t like It.” he told his loco brother. That’s what he thought of Johnny right now that, he was plum loco to try this fool stunt. It scared the hell out of him, knowing that anything could go wrong.
“You don’t have to like it, brother. Just help me, Ok?” he replied with a smile.
Murdoch walked up to Johnny and put his big hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze of approval. His smile was grim as he added. “Be careful, Son and don‘t take any chances.”
“I will, Murdoch. I‘ll be ok!” smiling back at both Scott and Murdoch. Then he went to leave by the back door.
As he just exiting the back door, he felt a hand grab at his arm, and turned to see his old friend standing there, looking at him with concerned eyes. There were no words between them: just a smile from Johnny as he touched the old man’s whiskers.
The two older Lancer men watched carefully as the youngest made his way around the house. Both their hearts started to beat fast as they saw him come in view, and then they started to shoot to draw the fire away from him.
Scott watched as his brother made his way the supply shed and ducking in just as the Gatling gun started to fire up again. With a sigh of relief that he made it that far, Scott called out very softly “God speed, little brother!”
Johnny carefully gathered enough dynamite to blow up, or at least disable, the Gatling gun. He stuffed those sticks in a sack, and carried the few extra sticks he would use to cause a diversion. A diversion big enough to allow him to get close to the gun, plant the sticks, light the fuse, and then get away before being spotted…he hoped.
He had thought about waiting until nightfall to sneak out and plant the dynamite, but these… bastards… were showing no signs of letting up with the gun. They had already blistered the walls full of holes. He had to move and now, before there was no one left to fight back.
He sat there for a few minutes, gathering his wits about him, drawing on his inner self. Johnny Lancer needed Johnny Madrid to help pull him through this. Taking a deep breath and blowing it out. He told himself ‘Ok, lets do it.’
Opening the shed door just enough to stick his hand, he waved to the house. This was the signal he had told Scott to look for when he was ready to make his move. Then opening it a little more and peeking out he looked for the closest shelter he could run too. Finding it, he was ready. He waved his hand again.
‘Come on Scott, give me some cover fire,’ he said to himself.
“Do you see him?” asked Murdoch peering out the window.
“No, I…wait I see him!” Scott said, his eyes widening when he spotted Johnny’s hand waving, and without hesitation he then shouted to the men. “NOW!”
The gunfire swung towards the house, giving Johnny the time he needed to make his escape.
He was just like a cat, fast and smooth as he flew out the door and ran for the small wall near the shed. But bullets still whizzed past him. ’Damn!’ he thought. ‘Where did they come from?’ He was beginning to wonder if there were more of the enemy then he had calculated.
Scanning the area around him, wondering to where he could move to next, he let out a sigh and frowned. He realized that the further away from the house he got, the less shelter there was. ’Now what?’ he asked himself.
Wiping his brow with his shirtsleeve and biting his lip, he sat there planning his next move. His only hope was that their ammo would hold out, until he could get the dynamite planted and the fuse lit. ‘Well I just can’t sit here,’ he said to himself, ‘gotta get going.’
Keeping low to the ground, Johnny crawled along as fast as he could, to get from one spot to the next. He was over half way there when he felt the hot pain of a bullet as it hit his left thigh. Not giving in to the pain, he dragged himself further, and another bullet just grazed his lower right side. He waited a few moments, then somehow made it to shelter on sheer will power and adrenaline.
“Damn it! Scott, keep them away from me!” he cussed at his brother, as he lay there grabbing his leg in agony, the pain shooting up his body, and leaving him gasping for breath.
From the house his brother and father watched in horror as the youngest Lancer was being shot at…and hit. His heart pounding, Scott made a dash for the door without thinking of the consequences. Murdoch grabbed his arm and pulled him back towards the middle of the room.
“Let me go!” Scott yelled as he tried to pull away.
“NO! Scott, You’re not going out there!” Murdoch yelled back, a hint of panic in his voice.
“Johnny’s hurt, and you expect me to stand by and do nothing?” Scott asked, “He needs help and I’m going to him.”
“I said NO! Scott! And that’s final.” He said, letting go of his son’s arm. “I need you here. And I don’t need another son shot up. You’ll never get to him!” he reasoned and added. “They’ll cut you down the minute you made a run for it!”
“Johnny knew what he was getting into.” Murdoch said grimly. “He’ll come through this. All we can do is keep giving him time he needs to get the job done.” he paused and with a heavy sigh said. “Hurt or not, he’ll get it done. That’s just how your brother is.”
Both just stared at each other for a few seconds, trying to calm their nerves. With sad and tired eyes, Scott walked over to the window and looked over to where his brother was last seen. He had to hope Murdoch was right, and Johnny would be ok.
There was an uneasy calm out there now and he realized why.
“It won’t be long before dark now.” Scott said, looking out to the horizon and the setting sun.
The air around the Hacienda was still, but with the smell of gunpowder and blood lingering – the aroma of death. Lancer had become a battlefield with bodies laying everywhere, men from both sides that had fought with their lives, to either save Lancer, or to take it away.
When night finally arrived, so did a cease-fire, and to everybody’s relief they could take well earned rest from this nightmare.
Not even the Commancheros were dumb enough to keep up the gunplay after dark.
No, they just sat around their little campfires, laughing and drinking, being as loud as they possibly could. Celebrating their victory of the day, and taunting the Lancer men, by yelling up to the house in drunken voices.
“Hey, Hombre, give it up, you cannot win, Si?” Laughing and shooting of their guns in the air. “You cannot beat our gun!” pointing to the Gatling gun.
As they listened to rantings of those drunken murderers, Scott and Murdoch were tending to their wounded. Patching up as best they could. Jelly gave them food and water. They all rested as much as they possibly could. Knowing they’d all be back out before dawn. Hoping it would all be over soon.
There was one wounded man out not accounted for…Johnny.
He was too far from the house to risk going after, even in the dark. Not knowing if he was still alive or… no – they didn’t want to think about that right now. Murdoch just hoped his son would not fall into the hands of the enemy.
“Where is he?” Scott asked his father yet again. “Why doesn’t he just come back and let us take care of him?”
“You know your brother, when he has his mind set on something, he sees it through.” Murdoch replied, then asked the men, yet again, “Did any of you see Johnny?”
“No Boss, he wasn’t where I last saw him!” Frank said looking at the others who just shook their heads.
“Then where in the hell is he?” Scott asked again this time his voice was full of anger.
Anger because his little brother kept taking chances with his life . . chances that one-day might be the death of him. Scott looked out the front door trying to see if he could spot his dark head brother somewhere out there, but there was only darkness and the sound of those bastards having a grand old time.
“Hombre, you have an good sleep, eh, for tomorrow you die.” said the leader laughing.
Scott eyes narrowed at that last remark and said to himself, ‘you won’t be laughing when my brother gets done with you.’ Listening to the leader ranting on, before closing the door he said, ’Give them hell, little brother.’
Johnny lay in the dirt, trying to regain some of his strength. He had crawled to a hiding place not too far from the Gatling gun. His leg was throbbing with the unending pain of the wound. The bullet had gone clean through and he’d wrapped his bandana tightly around his thigh to stem the blood flow. His side was just grazed and he wasn’t too worried about that.
Now all he had to do was wait for them all to fall in a drunken sleep, at worst leaving only a few guards to contend with. He had no choice now but to wait and make use of the darkness. With the cease-fire there was no longer a need to hurry. Let them have their laughs, for they would not be laughing when he was done with them. And so he waited.
Back in Green River, Val was sitting at his desk and staring at his food; he had lost his appetite days ago when this all started. His mind was playing games with him, all kinds of scenarios were running through his head. The worst was just not knowing. Not knowing how the battle was going, or who was dead or alive. He felt so useless to his friends. And it made him sick inside.
What sickened him even more was this town. His town, for which he gave his oath to protect and serve, and of which he was now ashamed to be a part. He had walked around and looked at the faces of the townspeople, and he wanted to slap every single one of them.
Murdoch had always been their friend and mentor, or so it seemed, and the boys always did what they could to help out around town. Now in their own hour of need they were treated like strangers by these so-called good townspeople of Green River, and Morro Coyo too for that matter. No one wanted to get involved and that made his blood boil. Sitting there mumbling to himself, he was interrupted by an gentle voice.
“Val!” said Teresa as she sat down next to him.
“Huh! Oh hi there, I didn’t see you come in.” He replied, looking at a pair of sad brown eyes.
“That’s ok, I…I can’t stop thinking about them too.” She said trying to hold back her tears. “What‘s wrong with these people, Val, Why don’t they do something to help?” she got up and went over to look out the window.
Val got up too, walked to the door and opened it.
“Because they’re COWARDS!” he shouted into the street, not caring who heard him. He had hoped someone would hear him, and maybe it would shock some sense into them. Then he slammed the door and walk back to his desk. Teresa followed and sat back down.
“What are we going to do, Val? This is driving he crazy,” She said, this time the tears started to fall and she felt a pair of strong arms around her as Val tired to comfort her.
“I really don’t know, honey, I really don’t know.” He said, and the scruffy old sheriff was fighting back his own tears.
As they both stood there, a pair of concerned hazel eyes was looking in at them from outside, and her heart was saddened. She knew the Lancer family very well and had admired their courage and the love they had for each other, and it angered her that the town would not help. She, too, was ashamed of her town.
As she stood there watching Teresa cry for her family, and Val looking at a loss as to how he could do help his friends, she thought to herself, ‘I know how to help,’ and then she made up her mind to do so.
With a straight back, the gray-haired dressmaker walked up the street to the Mayor’s house. And she banged on the door, yelling his name “Howard!” until he answered it.
“Martha!” said the gray-haired, chubby cheek Mayor Of Green River. “What…what is the meaning of this? You knocking like that!” He asked as he was trying to gulp down the glass of brandy he was holding in his fat hand.
Pushing the him out of her way, she walked right in and closed the door behind her . . . hard.
“Howard! We have to call a town meeting now, and I mean…NOW!”
Johnny limped gingerly around the pile of vile smelling bodies as the men slept. The odor was so strong; he had to cover his mouth to keep from gagging. The smell was of whisky, tequila, and of their filthy bodies combined, all for which reminded him of those border town cantinas. The ones he had to clean up at night, just to earn the little food money he got for his mama and himself.
Creeping up behind the guard standing by the Gatling gun, his leg screamed at him with every step. It was like someone was cutting into it with hot knife, sending sheer agonizing pain shooting through his body. But he couldn’t let it stop him, he was too close to the enemy and the risk of getting caught was too high.
Taking slow deep breaths to try to keep the pain under control, and grabbing on to anything to help keep his balance, he continued on to reach his target as quickly and quietly as possible.
He carefully pulled out his boot knife and putting his hand on the guard’s mouth; he swiftly pushed the knife into his back. As the man struggled briefly to free himself, Johnny held his ground, keeping his hand on the guard’s mouth, muffling the sound of his scream until he fell to the ground…dead.
Bending over he pulled the knife out and wiped it on the dead man’s shirt. ‘No sense in dirtying my clothes with his blood,’ he told himself, then stuck the knife back in his boot.
A quick look-around satisfied him that the way was clear, so he went to work planting the dynamite. He carefully and quietly placed a few sticks under the gun, wedging more in to its mechanism to blow it apart. Then he made sure that the fuse was long enough so that when he lit it, he had time to get away before it blew.
Noting that the sun would be rising soon, he decided it was time to start the music. He just hoped his father would be ready for when they start to charge the house, for once the gun was out of commission; they would come after him with everything they had left.
He struck a match and lit the fuse. Then ran as fast as he could on his injured leg, falling a few times. He headed for the nearest cover, and was almost there when the dynamite blew.
The sound of the explosion was deafening. The noise of the rounds of ammunition exploding was like firecrackers going off in a fourth of July celebration.
The drunken men were forced from their slumber. Sooner or later each of them had grabbed a gun and was running for cover. A few didn’t make it as they were hit by the debris from the gun and ammo flying in all directions.
In the hacienda, Murdoch as Scott rushed to the window, having been woken up from a restless sleep by the blast. They were in time to see that last of the ammo exploding, then everything was dark again. They caught glimpses of the commancheros running for cover, but there was no sign of Johnny.
“He did it!” Scott said with a sigh of relief, and giving his father a slight tap on the arm.
“Yes, he sure did.” Murdoch replied and closing his eyes, “We better get ready, son. Soon as it’s daybreak, they will hit us with everything they have.”
Scott just nodded and went to inform the men to stand ready. But first he turned to ask his father “Do you think…” he hesitated “…Johnny made it out ok?”
“Sure, he did!” Jelly’s voice came from the kitchen doorway “Ain’t that right, boss? Johnny’s a survivor! I kin feel it in my bones, that he’s ok!” The old handy man was trying to reassure the two older Lancer men and himself.
“Yes, Jelly, like you said, he’s a survivor.” Murdoch said to his friend, and gave him a pat on the back. “Now go back into the kitchen and stay there.”
“But…Boss!” He pleaded “Can’t I stay out here?”
“No buts about it, Jelly, now go!” Murdoch demanded pointing to the kitchen.
Jelly just turned in a huff and mumbling to himself as he went back into the kitchen. As they both watched their old friend walk away, their thoughts turned back to the task at hand.
They could hear the leader barking out the orders to get ready. Scott continued on his way to check with the Lancer men.
Then it went quiet again as the sun slowly started to rise, like the calm before the storm.
“Here they come!’ yelled Scott as the commancheros began their rush on the house.
Murdoch ran to the window and frowned at the sight in front of him, they were spreading out in all directions, and it worried him, even though he didn’t want to admit it. Now that the Gatling gun was disposed of, the enemy had no choice but to widen their attack. They were hell bent on taking Lancer, and Murdoch was hell bent on keeping it.
“Frank!” Murdoch bellowed to his foreman through the window. “They’re spreading out, tell the men to do the same. And watch their backs at all times!” he ordered.
“Got it boss!’ Frank said waving his hand and motioned to his men to spread out, leaving only a few to cover the front of the house.
Bullets were whizzing by them like flies, and men were dashing and ducking behind everything they were able to get too: the bullet-ridden wall, the torn-down barricades, anything for cover. Frank and the men were following orders, and taking out as many as they could, but they didn’t have eyes in the backs of their heads.
Murdoch and Scott were doing their best from inside, covering both ends of the house. While Jelly was coming back and forth from the kitchen watching the back door and reloading their rifles.
“Scott – how much ammo do you have left?” Murdoch asked
“Only a few more rounds!” he replied.
“So do I!” he said with a heavy sigh.
“Boss, That’s not nearly enough!” Jelly spat out, “What are we going to do?”
“Fight, Jelly! Fight, even if it has to be with our bare hands!” he told his old friend. “They will never take Lancer from us!”
Jelly just nodded. His heart ached for the Lancers; they had befriended him and given him a home and job. And here they were, fighting to save it now. He vowed to himself that he would help in doing whatever it took to win this battle.
He also kept looking at the door, hoping to see a certain dark hair young man walk in with that big smile of his. But he knew that Johnny was out there somewhere, injured, and only hoped he could make his way back.
“Jelly! Don’t worry, you know Johnny’s a fighter, he’ll be ok.” Murdoch said to the misty-eyed handy man.
“Damn straight, he’ll be just fine!” Jelly said with a stiff upper lip.
Murdoch smiled grimly, and went to look out the window to take aim at the ones that were now making their way up by the side of house, There were still at least ten of them, and he didn’t have that much ammo left.
Closing his eyes for a few seconds to steady his nerves, he was just about to start firing when suddenly the sound of the cannon broke the air close to the house. They all ran to the front door, wondering who in the world was firing the cannon at… them? Opening the door it was a sight to see.
There was screaming and bodies flying as the cannon ball exploded around them. The commancheros who were making their way up to the house, were no more. Looking over at that direction they saw a dark haired young man was leaning against the cannon, with his eyes narrowed and a sly grin on his face.
“IT’S JOHNNY! Scott hollered “He made it back!” he added with a big smile and sigh of relief.
In the not so far distance a bunch of riders heard the sound of the cannon going off.
“Thank God, they’re still alive!” said Val, letting out a sigh of relief, and then he motioned to his men to follow him.
Martha had invited Val to speak to the people at the town meeting last night. And he had laid into them. He made them feel like low lives for turning their backs on the Lancers. He had to remind them of how much Murdoch had done for this town.
After a few heated words back and forth, they finally agreed to help as much as they could. Val accepted that and made no haste to get going, telling them they’d better get their gear ready to head out before first light.
The closer they got to the ranch the clearer they could hear the gunfire and then that cannon going off. Reaching the north gate they all waited for Val’s word.
“CHARGE!” he yelled and they all went galloping in. Commancheros fled left, right and center, and those that had been hiding were flushed out. Their leader, too, was running, but only to meet the bullet from Johnny’s colt.
“It’s Val! “ Scott yelled as they watched from the door, Jelly and Murdoch let out a whoop of joy and relief as they watched their friend and others from town go after the rest of the gang cutting them down in their tracks.
Scott looked over to where his brother was and his heart skipped a beat when he saw that was Johnny lying down by the cannon, not moving. Val saw that too, and jumping off his horse, he ran with Scott over to him.
“Hey, Buddy! Don’t be checking out on us now! Val said to Johnny, and then looking down at his leg, he motioned to Scott to take a look. He cringed at the sight of it. His leg was bleeding again but now it was swollen and infected.
There was a moan and then blue eyes fluttered open slowly. Johnny stared up at his friend, faintly he said “And miss out on looking at your ugly mug?”
Looking around the Hacienda, Murdoch let out a heavy sigh of relief and grief. The battle for the ranch was over, and now a new war would begin. A war to get things back to normal, if that was ever possible. For the moment, Lancer looked like a real battlefield, the living were picking up the dead and piling them in wagons to be hauled for away for burial.
The Lancer men that gave up their lives for this land would have a special burial place on the ranch. And their families would always have a home here, and would never have to want for anything. Murdoch had made that vow way before this all started. These were good men and he would forever be grateful to them for fighting to save this land.
The clean up alone would be only the start. The walls around the Hacienda were full of bullets holes from the that Gatling gun. They would have to be repaired with adobe and paint. There was debris everywhere from the damage done by the cannon, fences were down, and there were huge holes in the ground where the cannon balls had hit.
A few horses had run off when the fences by the barn were torn down, some others were injured. The cattle were also scattered, those grazing in the paddocks near the hacienda had stampeded out of sight, scared off by the noise of the gunfire. The men who were not wounded would have to round them up, and that would take some time, being that they were now very short handed.
All in all, life would get back to normal, and Lancer would go on. Murdoch had decreed it to himself.
Looking down the road Murdoch saw a familiar buggy is coming. Val had sent word that the siege was over and for Sam to get out here on the double. But not to the send the women and children home yet, not until it was at least it was decent enough for them to return to their homes.
As the buggy got a little closer, Murdoch got a better view of it, and his eyes narrowed at the sight of Sam’s passenger.
‘Teresa, you couldn’t just stay in town, could you’ he thought to himself. ‘Well, I guess Sam could use your help.’
Sam certainly had his work cut out, starting with his star patient, who was already upstairs waiting for him. Johnny had passed out again soon after they had carried him into the house. And his leg was a worry: it looked red hot and swollen.
As the buggy came into the yard, Sam shook his head in disbelief. Never in all his days as a Doctor, had he seen anything like this. Letting out a heavy sigh, he drove up to the house. Teresa just covered her mouth, and closed her eyes, trying to hold back the tears that threatened to fall when she looked on at her home.
“Sam!” Murdoch called out to him, as he walked wearily across. ”I’m glad you’re here. Johnny’s leg is in a bad way. We did what we could until you got here.” He explained to the gray-haired doctor, as he helped him out of the buggy.
Teresa was out of the buggy and already heading upstairs to her brother’s room, not bothering to speak to her surrogate father who was obviously at least on his feet, her heart and mind were with her brother at the moment.
“How about the other wounded I saw as I drove up?” Sam asked
“I have Jelly looking after them, he’ll take care on them until you’re done with Johnny.” Murdoch replied.
Sam nodded and walked to the door “No need to show me where to go, I have it memorized up here!” he said pointing to his head. And Murdoch just smiled.
When they had entered Johnny’s room, Scott was sitting with his brother as Val stood by the window. Both looked worse for wear themselves. Scott stood up to make room for the old doctor as Sam walked over to the bed. Looking down at his patient, he felt his forehead. Johnny seemed warm but not too bad …yet.
“Where’s Teresa?” Sam asked, looking for the girl.
“She went to get some more clean bandages and hot water.” Scott replied.
“Good, we’re going to need them. How long has he had this fever?” he asked looking at Scott.
“Not long, Sam. It just came on.,” he answered in a weary voice.
“That’s good! At least we can fight it right away with luck.” Sam said as he pulled back the covers to take a look at Johnny’s leg. The fever didn’t worry him at the moment, but it was the sight of his leg that made the doctor cringe. Johnny was still unconscious and he was grateful for that, as he poked and probed at his wound.
Murdoch, Val and Scott stood in the background as he examined Johnny leg further. Then he looked at the wound in his side, it was just a flesh wound and not serious. They had cleaned it out nicely before he got there, so he wasn’t too worried about it.
Taking a deep sigh he turned to where the three were standing, waiting patiently and all too battle-weary.
“Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“Well, the bullet went straight through and left a lot of damage to the leg.” Sam paused, then continued. “It has torn through a couple of muscles and done some ligament damage, too“
“You can fix it, huh, doc?” Val asked quietly.
“I can repair the damage, yes Val. But it’s the infection I‘m worried about!”
‘What do you mean, Sam?” Scott asked, looking at his brother’s pale face.
“To make it simple, I’m worried about how much the infection has spread. If we don’t get under control, it just might turn into gangrene, and he just might lose his leg.’ he explained with his head bowed, unable to look at their faces.
“Well!, Sam, what are you waiting for?” Scott said as his heart skipped a beat at the news. “Do something!”
“Scott!” Murdoch said, trying to calm his son. “Sam will do his best!”
“We’ll both do our best!” Teresa said as she entered the room with her arms full of bandages and hot water.
“Of course we will, I don’t want to see him lose his leg either.’ He told Scott and sent them out of the room so he could get to work on Johnny.
Before Scott closed the door, he gave Sam a look that said it all. Sam just nodded.
For the next few weeks life at the ranch was very hectic and nerve racking. Repair work around the hacienda and buildings just did not seem to go fast enough. The damage to the walls of the house was now almost invisible, and the fences were just about rebuilt. The holes in the ground from the cannon balls had been filled in with dirt and packed down.
The women and children had been reunited with their spouses and fathers, returning to their homes and beginning to rebuild their lives. The wives of the wounded took over the care of them, and gave comfort so those who had suffered the loss of a loved one.
It was a time when everyone had came out of the woodwork to lend a hand helping with the rebuilding of the smaller ranches that had been destroyed. Local merchants were generous with the supplies to help restock their homes with food and dry goods.
There were still a lot of hard feelings between the Lancers and the townspeople from both Green River and Morro Coyo. Even though some had come to aid Lancer at the last minute, it was not easily forgotten that they had turned their backs on them at the beginning. Respect and trust had been lost, and it would take time to rebuild.
Many had apologized and regretted their actions, saying they were scared and really didn’t know how they could have helped. Val had laughed at their lame excuses. They were all cowards in his book and he had to remind them again of the value the Lancer family brought to this valley.
Sam had given them all some good news: the infection in Johnny leg wasn’t spreading and there was no sign of gangrene. He had been able to drain the infection and repair the damage to the muscles and ligaments. Even so, it had been touch and go for a while with the fever as it had spiked a few times, but now it had been gone for over a week.
Johnny was instructed to stay in bed at least another week, much to his disgust. He was restless, and wanted to get up and move around. But Sam didn’t back down, nor did Murdoch who threatened to hog-tie him to the bed. After grumbling, and swearing a few times in Spanish, he gave in, realising he was out-numbered, and promised he would be a good boy.
Teresa coddled him, and for once he didn’t mind it. After what they had gone through, the touch and love of his adopted sister was more than welcome. He was very grateful that she was spared the horror of what went on at the ranch. If he had lost her, he didn’t think he could have lived with himself. She was a bright spot in their lives, and he cherished her.
The Lancer men would never forget what had happened a few weeks ago. Nothing had meant so much to them then to fight to keep their land, their home, their legacy. They were the victors of this battle, but it had cost them dearly.
Sam stopped by this morning to check on Johnny, and was pleased at the rate he was improving. After a lot of begging from his patient, he had agreed that Johnny could get out of bed. But . . . he said . . . . no riding yet and take it easy. After weeks of being cooped up, Johnny agreed that just getting out of his room would do for now.
After Sam had left, Johnny had told his family there was one thing he didn’t want to put off any longer, now that he was able. Their first thoughts were that he wanted to go to the barn and tend to Barranca, as he always did. But when he told them what he wanted, they both just smiled and agreed to help him.
All three rode up together in the wagon to the graveyard. The area Murdoch had set a side for men who had given their lives for this land during both this battle and in previous years. They helped Johnny to walk over to the three new graves, and stood there with their heads bowed.
Because of his fever, Johnny hadn’t been able to attend the funerals of his friends – men he had worked alongside, and had drunk and played cards with. His heart was heavy with grief and he needed to say good-bye to them. To the ex-gun hawk, loyalty meant a lot, and these men had shown him just that.
Both Murdoch and Scott stood in the background and waited until he was done saying his goodbyes. They too still felt the loss, and would do so for a long time. Johnny looked out over the land before him, and knew it was safe again, thanks to all that had fought to save it. He looked back down at the graves and said to his fallen friends.
“Gracias, amigos, I will never forget you.”
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment. Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here. You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Marilyn directly.