Laura’s Revenge by Marilyn

An episode tag for Cut The Wolf Loose

Word count: 25,915

Chapter One

“I tell ya, Scott, I never saw anything like it.” Johnny was saying to his brother as they were walking into the house. Both were covered in dust, from head to toe. They had just returned from the south part of the ranch after checking the fence lines and repairing what was needed to be fixed. It was a hot, dry and dusty day, and both were glad it was finally over…so they thought.

“That horse…” Johnny continued to say, when Scott motioned to him to stop and to look over to where he was pointing. Both looked and what they saw put a chill in them.

Murdoch was sitting behind his desk, staring straight ahead. He had never even noticed the boys walking in. The expression on his face was what worried them. It had hurt, shock, and anger written all over it. He also was holding a piece of paper in his right hand; holding it so tightly that his knuckles were turning white.

Hanging up their hats, they looked at each other, puzzled as to what is going on. Both boys very quietly walked on over to where their father was and stood there for a few minutes before speaking.

“Sir?” Scott spoke up first. “Are you alright?” he asked with great concern.

Their father didn’t move nor said a word.

“Murdoch! You’re scaring us,” Johnny said, pleading to his father. “What is it? What’s wrong?

It was Johnny’s gentle voice that brought him out of the spell he was in. He looked up at his youngest and stared at him. Turning his head away, he got up slowly and walked over to the window. Staring out into the horizon, and still holding the paper in his hand, he stood there in silence.

“Murdoch! Will you speak to us?” Johnny demanded. The way his father looked at him pierced his soul and was making him feel like death had just visited Lancer.

Murdoch wanted to speak but the words would not come. There where no words.

Now he was thinking back only a few months ago. When he had first met her, this beautiful, young woman. Even though he had only met her once, he’d admired the courage she had showed in wanting to continue her father’s work. They had talked and after he had given his donation, he had wished her well and good luck.

With their nerves on edge and growing tired of this silence, both boys spoke up at once.

“Murdoch! Will you please tell us what’s wrong?” they asked, looking at each other for answers.

With a heavy sigh, he turned and walked over to Scott and handed him the letter first, looking at him in the eyes for a few seconds. Then he walked on over to the big chair close to where Johnny was standing. As he walked by he gave his son a gentle squeeze on his shoulder, before sitting down

Realizing what he father meant by the look he gave him; Scott began to read the letter. As he read the words on the paper his heart started to ache. Scott looked up at his brother and gave him a sad frown and shook his head in disbelief.

Johnny’s nerves were screaming at him. He was getting tired of this and he didn’t like the looks he was receiving. If it had something to with him he wanted to know…and now.

“Will someone PLEASE tell me what the hell is going on?” he demanded in frustration.

With a nod from his father, Scott handed to letter over to his brother and walked away. He couldn’t bear to see the look on his face when he read it.

Johnny took the letter with a shaky hand. He looked down at it, now afraid to read it. He had a gut feeling that it was going to cause him a world of hurt. Talking a deep breath, he read it.

Both his father and his brother kept a close eye on him, and the look on his face was one that could break the heart of the devil himself, if he had one.

Johnny just stood there, not moving a muscle and trying to hold back the tears that threatened to fall. His face was as a little boy who had lost his best friend.

“Johnny.” Scott spoke softly to his brother and went to touch his arm. “Brother.”

Johnny still didn’t move and after a few minutes he looked up at both of them and tried to speak. Finally, taking short tear filled breaths, he pushed those words out.

“Laura’s dead?”

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Chapter Two

He rode hard and fast across Lancer with the wind blowing on his face, drying the tears that were now falling. He was so full of hurt and anger he couldn’t think straight. But he had to stop and think; to be alone with his thoughts and figure out why God would let something like this happen.

So he headed to the one spot he always went to think, where he could see all of Lancer.

Urging Barranca up the hill and stopping by the old oak tree, Johnny dismounted and let his amigo roam free and cool down from the hard ride. Still shaky from the news, he slowly walked over to the tree and sat down.

Looking out over his land, he had to wonder why an ex-gunfighter, a killer, could be blessed with such wealth and happiness; while God turned his back on others who were more worthy of his love and mercy then he was. It didn’t make any sense and his heart was screaming for answers.

“Why, God? Why Laura?” Johnny shouted up at the sky. Tears threatened to fall again, but he skook them off… he had to. He had to make sense of all of this .And not only Laura had died that day. There were others too.

The letter had said that there had been a fire at the mission a few nights ago, while the town slept. By the time the townspeople had gotten there and worked frantically to put it out, it was too late.

No one had gotten out alive, it said. All that remained were the charred bodies of its residents. The town doctor was the one who had notified Murdoch about the deaths. He knew that Murdoch was one of the mission’s benefactors and thought he should know about what had happened.

He said he had been able to identify a few of the remains, the ones who were not badly burnt. they had been Laura, Santee and Jim. The rest had been too far gone to recognize.

Johnny kept seeing those words in his head and wondered how… how did it happened and why? He thought of Santee, the man he had befriended when he had first arrived there. And he remembered how he had stopped the man from hanging himself, gave him hope to go on. Johnny had known that Santee was still living there even after he took that job that Johnny had told him about.

He had promised Johnny before he left that he would keep an eye on Laura for him, that he would make sure that she was being treated right by those Indians she was so fond of. Even though he couldn’t do much, he would have let Johnny know if she needed his help somehow. Now he was gone.

Johnny sat there thinking to himself about what he had told her before he left. About his concerns of them draining the life out of her young life, and he was right,so to speak. He wanted to give her a life; his life to share with him. But it was her faith, and devotion to her work that called her, and he understood that and left.Wishing now that he would of had fought harder, too make her leave with him before it was too late, and now it was.

Whistling for Barranca to come to him, he got up slowly and patted his horse on the neck. Then he leaned into him and sighed. “Come on boy, let’s go home,” he said as he mounted and headed for home. This time he rode at an easy pace and thought some more about how he was going to handle this.

He knew that Laura would have not approved of the way he always handled things, and he tried to see things her way. But there was one thing that was clear- if therehad been foul play behind the fire and her death, it would be as the bible says, *an eye for an eye* and there would be no turning the other cheek.

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Chapter Three

Looking out the French doors, Scott wondered where his brother was. He didn’t like the way Johnny had bolted out of here; he was going to follow him, when Murdoch had stopped him. He said to let him go, that it would do no good trying to stop him. If he needed to go off by himself, let him. It was his way and they couldn’t change it. Scott agreed with his father, but didn’t like it.

It wasn’t long ago that Johnny had asked Laura to marry him. And, even though she refused him and choose to stay there at the mission, his brother still loved her. Scott could only image what Johnny must be going through.

“He’ll be back, Scott!” said Murdoch, sitting at his desk, still in shock himself.

“Will he? I’m not too sure, not after the way he looked when he ran out of here,” Scott shot back at his father.

“You have to understand that he loved her, Scott.” Murdoch said staring at his desk. “This hit him hard. He needs time alone.” He added, “You ought to know that by now.”

“Yes, I know that! But the way he looked when he read the letter is what I’m worried about. I’ve’ never seen him like that, it…it was like he was a little boy,” he said sadly.

“Yes he was. I saw that look once before. When he was not quite two, when his favorite toy, a wooden horse, was accidentally thrown into the fire place. ” Murdoch said remembering, “We got it out, but it was ruined. He looked at it just as he did that letter.”

“She must have been very special, I wish I could have met her!” Scott said with his back towards the French doors.

“You would have loved her, Brother!” said the voice coming from behind him as Johnny walked through the doors.

“John!” Murdoch said standing up. “Are you ok, Son?”

“Yeah, I’ll be ok. Once I find out what happened,” he replied and headed for the liquor cabinet. He poured himself a stiff drink. “Care to join me?” he asked, holding up the bottle of brandy.

Both nodded and he handed them each a glass. He drank his down fast and then poured one more, taking the bottle with him, and then went to sit down by the fireplace. He stared into it, pointed to the flames burning brightly and said, “There is a reason why she died and I’m going to find out.” He took a big sip of his brandy.

“Johnny, you read the letter. It could have been anything,” Scott tired to reason with him.

“Why do you want to start something that might turn out to be nothing?”

“Oh, you know me, Brother. I’m just a curious sort; have to stick my nose into everything!” Johnny snarled at his brother.

“John!” Murdoch intervenes. “What your brother meant is…”

“I know what he meant, Murdoch!” Johnny retorted getting up and pacing the floor. “I also know that Laura was a very careful woman. She cared too much for those…those poor souls to put them at risk,” he said pointing to the fireplace.

“So you’re saying that it might have been intentional?” Scott ask

“That, brother, is what I’m going to find out!” Johnny replied, and pouring himself another drink.

Murdoch knew there was no way he would be able to stop his son from finding out what had really happened. The truth was that he wanted to know himself. For someone, if that was the case, to burn down a place of worship was uncalled for. And justice needed to be served. But trying to convince his son, well that was another story.

“Then let the law take care of it, John.” He had to that point out, knowing it would do no good. And he was right.

“Well, Murdoch, I’m just going to HELP the LAW!” Johnny said a slurring his words and swaying as he walked.

“Come on, brother. Lets get you to bed” Taking the glass out Johnny’s hand was a chore. “Come on, you’ve’ had enough, give me the glass.” Scott demanded.

“NO!” he shouted and, after taking another gulp… and another, he threw the glass in the fireplace and said, “Now, I’ve had enough.”

Then Johnny slowly and unsteadily made his way up the stairs to his bedroom. While his father and brother watched him leave. Scott went to follow and a strong hand on his shoulder stopped him again.

In his room, Johnny lay on his bed not even bothering to undress. He stared up at the ceiling thinking; thinking of Laura. Not one day had gone by that he didn’t think of her. And now his heart ached at the thought that she was gone, this time for good.

He’d find out what happened and whoever did this would pay – even if it had to be Madrid’s way.

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Chapter Four

Scott entered the kitchen to find only his Father and Teresa sitting at the table. There was no Johnny, but he wasn’t the least bit surprised not to see his brother at the table inhaling his food as he had normally did. Knowing Johnny he’d make his way to the kitchen eventually. The brandy he had scoffed down last night was enough to cause anyone to sleep in.

The news of Laura’s death, and of the others, yesterday was enough to put anybody over the edge. It had hit Johnny hard and he was hell bent on finding out about what had happened.

Scott strolled over to the table and sat down. He picked up his hot mug of coffee and, after taking a swallow, he looked up at their faces. He knew that neither one was in a good mood.

“Morning,” he said to his father and Teresa, trying to break the ice.

“Morning, Scott. Sit down and I’ll get your breakfast,” Teresa said as she got up.

“Sir, is there something going on I should know about?” he asked

Murdoch was sitting there, looking into his now cold cup of coffee. He didn’t answer right away. Scott knew better than to push his father and so he waited for Murdoch to answer his question.

“Yes! It’s your brother!” he finally replied, but with an angry tone. “He’s out in the barn right now, getting ready to go off on some foolhardy quest to find out what happened to Laura!” he bellowed at his son. Realizing he had yelled, he apologized. “I’m sorry, Son. But he just won’t listen to reason,” he added and pounded his fist on the table.

Scott raised his eyebrows. He knew Johnny would venture out on his own seeking answers and, if needs to be, giving his own form of justice – not listening to reason nor willing to ask for help. That was the one thing that bothered him the most about his little brother.

“You knew he would. So what else is new?” Scott said with a sharp tone to his own voice.

“Can you blame him?” asked Teresa. “After al, he still loved her and you know this will eat at him if he doesn’t go and find out for himself,” she tired to reason with them.

” You’re right, Teresa. But I just wish he would let the law take care of it, for once,” Scott said with a heavy sigh. “Every time he feels the need to take care of things like this, it scares the hell out of me,” he added.

“So what are we going to do?” asked Teresa as she handed Scott a plate of ham and eggs.

“Well…” was all Murdoch said, and both Teresa and Scott looked at him… then at each other.

The _expression on Murdoch’s face when he looked at his oldest son didn’t need any words. Scott knew what was on his father’s mind. He wanted Scott to go with Johnny and keep an eye on him-keep him from going off and getting in more trouble than was necessary. If he’d let him.

Scott nodded and ate his breakfast in a hurry so he could catch his brother before he left.

“How’s the head?” he asked his brother as he entered the barn. Johnny had his back towards him as he was finishing up with Barranca. He knew Scott was there, and what was on his mind.

“Alright. I didn’t get that drunk, brother,” he said and added before Scott had a chance to ask “No! You’re not coming with me!”

Scott put it to him straight. “You don’t have to rude, and yes I am!”

“Listen, Scott, I don’t need a babysitter,” he said, turning around and looking his brother in the eye. “I’ll be fine, okay?” He started to lead Barranca out the barn when he felt his brother’s hand on his arm stopping him before he reached the door.

“No! You listen to me, brother! In this case you do need someone to look out for you!” Scott said frankly, and Johnny looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Our father wants me to go with you, and that’s final.” He paused and added “Unless you want to tell him…No?”

Johnny knew better than to fight with his father when he had his mind made up. He was just a stubborn as he was. Standing there, he thought for a few minutes, then he let out a sigh in defeat and said, “Get your gear ready, and hurry! I’ll wait outside!” and he left the barn.

He didn’t really want to admit it to himself or to Scott, but they were right. He had a feeling that he was going to need his big brother before this was all over. ‘I must be getting soft,’ he thought to himself. ‘Me, Johnny Madrid, needing a babysitter.’ He chuckled at that thought.

Madrid… It just might come to the point where he would have to call on him. He hoped that he wouldn’t have to. He really didn’t want to expose Scott to that side of himself.

“SCOTT! Hurry up will ya?” Johnny hollered towards the barn, sitting on Barranca and getting very impatient.

“I’m coming! Hold your horses,’ Scott said as he walked out and, mounting up, he added, “Well? What are you waiting for?”

Johnny didn’t say word. He urged Barranca on as he headed out at a fast gallop. And Scott was right behind him, trying to catch up with his headstrong brother.

Murdoch watched his sons ride off and hoped that, whatever they found out, especially Johnny, they would let the law take over and come home. But he knew that was wishful thinking. He let out a heavy sigh, catching Teresa’s attention as she stood by him.

“Scott will take care of him, Murdoch,” Teresa said as she hugged his arm.

“I know, honey,” He replied to his ward. “I have a feeling that whatever they find out will be harder on him then he thinks,” he added and gave her hand a pat. They both walked back into the house and he gave a quick glance over his shoulder.

It had been two days since they left home and they had made very good time, not having the cattle to slow them down this time. Johnny figured they should be in town by tomorrow afternoon.

Both brothers sat by the campfire and neither one of them was saying much, just small talk, alone with their thoughts.

Scott looked at his quiet brother and he knew what was on his mind. He thought he would try to reason with him one more time before they headed into town tomorrow.

“Johnny, you don’t have to do this. We can go home and forget it,” he suggested, and added. “Let the law take care of this.”

“No, Scott I can’t let it go. No”’ he said shaking his head. “Laura’s dead and I need to know why and how, and besides I made her a promise,” he added in a cold hard voice.

“Promise? What Promise?” he questioned his brother.

“To avenge her death.”

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Chapter Five

Scott’s heart sank at the sight before him, then he turned to look at his brother. He gently put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder as they stood there in front of what used to be the mission. Johnny just stared at it, not moving a muscle. The expression on his face was one of pure horror. Then right before Scott’s eyes, it turned to pure rage as he looked at the charred remains of the building.

They could only imagine the horror those inside must have gone through. Or had they even known what was happening? Johnny closed his eyes and his fist was closed so tight that his knuckles were turning white. He had to take deep breaths to control the rage that was building inside him.

“Johnny!” Scott called to his brother softly, shaking him gently, trying to break the spell he was in. “Johnny, let’s go brother. I could use a beer. How about you?” he asked.

Johnny looked at Scott and nodded. “Yeah a beer does sound good right now,” he said and turned away from the burnt building, a little shaky. His nerves were still screaming at him and he tried to calm himself.

Both brothers walked through town instead of riding. This way it would give them time to think and cool down their tempers. There was going to be a lot of questions that needed to be answered, and both needed a clear, cool head.

As they walked towards the middle of town, Scott noticed that they were the center of attention; all eyes were on them, as they walked by. They wondered why. What was so interesting about them?

Johnny stopped in his tracks and his eyes narrowed as he looked at that small bar, and at that son of a bitch owner who was standing there with a smudged face as he watched the boys walked by. He remembered that man very clearly and he would be getting a visit from this ex-gunfighter, very soon.

Scott motioned to Johnny to stop and pointed to the saloon, but Johnny wanted to stop by the sheriff’s office first. He wanted to talk to the law and see what he had found out.

“You go ahead, Scott. I’ll join you later,” he said to his brother. “I need to ask the sheriff a few things.” He headed on over to the sheriff’s office. Scott was right behind him.

“I think I better come with you,” he said ” I don’t need you to be thrown in jail, right after we just got to town!”

“Suit yourself,” Johnny said in a cold voice that worried Scott.

The sheriff was sitting at his desk drinking a cup coffee when Johnny came barging into the office, slamming the door against the wall so loudly, it had startled the man. Causing him to jump up so fast, he spilled his coffee on himself, burning his lap.

“DAMN! Who do you think you are barging in like that?” he asked, wiping his lap off as he looked up at them both.

“I’m Scott Lancer and this is my brother Johnny and…” Scott didn’t get a chance to finish.

“…And we want to know what the hell you are doing about what happen to Laura?” Johnny asked for his brother in a tone of voice that put a shiver up the sheriff spine.

“What…what do you mean?” he asked, trying to keep his wits about him.

Scott shot his brother a look to cool it, and then replied to the sheriff. “What my brother means, Sheriff, is what did you find out about the fire? Do you know who did it? Or how did it start?” he explained as his brother paced the floor.

“How did you find out about it?” The Sheriff asked watching as Johnny paced. He was getting a little nervous now.

“You are not answering my brother’s question, Sheriff,” Johnny said as he stopped pacing and was now leaning in towards the sheriff with his hands on his desk.

“Our father was a benefactor for the mission, and he was notified of the fire and…deaths,” Scott explained.

“And we would like to know what is being done about it!” Johnny said this time a little calmer.

“Well?” asked Scott.

The sheriff got up a little shakily and went to pour himself another cup a coffee. He offered some to the boys – both refused. “Well, what I know is this. It was a quiet night until we heard the fire bell. We tried to get in under control but…it was to late.”

“We know that, but did you find out who set it, or why it happened?” Johnny demanded to know.

There was no answer right away, and the boys were now getting a bad feeling about his answer.

“Yes, and by the time I found out, they were gone,” he said.

“They?” asked Scott, “What do you mean, ‘they’, Sheriff?”

He looked up at the boys and said, “Vigilantes!”

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Chapter Six

The word ‘Vigilante’ echoed in his mind and he felt like someone had just stabbed him in the heart, as he barreled out the sheriff’s office and into the street. Pacing back and forth, Johnny’s eyes were full of rage and hurt. His heart was pounding so fast the he could hardly breathe. His fingers were twitching and itchy to pull the trigger…to kill the ones responsible for the deaths.

Scott watched from the door of the office. He too was feeling anger after hearing that it was vigilantes who were the cause of the fire at the mission. Indians haters, all of them, and they would not stop at nothing to rid the world of them, even if it meant killing others who stood in their way.

Johnny was desperately trying to get his emotions under control. He needed a clear head to think, to think of how and where to find these murderers. He took deep breaths and blew them out; and then walked over to Barranca and leaned his head against his golden neck, standing there-gathering his thoughts.

After a few minutes of watching his brother, and when Johnny finally did gain control, it was not Johnny Lancer who Scott saw, it was Madrid. His heart skipped a beat when he saw his brother’s eyes, so cold and without emotions. It had scared the hell of him, and he hoped that somehow he could keep him from getting them both killed.

“Johnny,” he said softly to his brother. “Let’s check into the hotel and get something to eat, and…”

“And what, Scott?” Johnny said harshly. “And forget about it?” He stared at his brother with cold steel blue eyes.

“Yes! That is what exactly what we should do!” Scott said frankly. “There is nothing we can do, Brother, just let it be,” he pleaded. “Why don’t leave it to the law, for now and if they don’t come up with any leads, then we can….”

“NO!” Johnny yelled and added, “Do you expect me to just sit back and let those bastards get away with killing Laura and Santee? My God, Scott, he only had one leg. He had no chance of getting out alive! And Laura, what about her? She was probably trying to get them all out, and got herself killed doing it.” His face was beet red when he was done.

“Johnny…I…” Scott was lost for words and knew there would be no stopping him.

“If you want to go back home, then go ahead!” Johnny told his brother. “But I’m going to find and kill every single one of them!” Johnny continued frankly and with a tone in his voice that shot through his brother’s heart.

“And how do you expect to do that by yourself?” Scott wanted to know.

“I have my ways,” Johnny replied coldly.

“Well your ways just might get us killed!’ Scott pointed out.

“Us?” Johnny looked at him puzzled.

“Yes, us! I’m your brother aren’t I? So we’ll do this together,” he said giving his brother a tap on the arm.

“You do know what you’re getting yourself into to, don’t ya?” Johnny asked with a half smile.

“Yes, I know what I’m getting into, and I also know that if I go back home without you, OUR father will have my hide for supper!” he pointed out with a grin.

They both laughed at that thought and when Scott suggested they go check in, Johnny told him to do it for them. He had one more stop to make first.

“Well don’t take too long – and stay out of trouble,” Scott expressed firmly, as Johnny turned to walk away.

Johnny slowly made his way up the boardwalk and stopped for a few minutes in front of the door before entering that cantina where it had all started. He could still see the owner with his hands on Laura as he was practically dragging her out of his cantina. He took a deep breath and entered, finding the jackass standing there, smiling.

“Well, well, well! Looked what the cat dragged in,” said the owner. “Hey cowboy, you come for some more of my special Tequila?” He laughed. “On second thought, better not, there is no mission lady to help you this time.” He laughed harder and the next thing he knew, he was laying flat on his back.

Johnny stood over him, rubbing his fist and smiling down at him. “Well that sure felt good,” he said. He pulled the jackass off the floor and pushed him against the wall, coming to face to face with him. The man began to shake as he looked into Johnny’s deadly eyes.

“Now you are going to tell me what you know about the fire,” Johnny demanded.

“I…I don’t know nothing,” he said, with Johnny still in his face.

“I don’t believe you, Mister,” Johnny growled and pushing him harder against the wall. “Now tell me what you know.”

The man was sweating, trying to compose himself before he spoke. “There were about ten to twelve of them, mean cusses. They came in here to eat and drink. Bragging about how they were going to rid the world of all the Indian scum and anybody who stands in there way, like your… lady friend,” he admitted.

Johnny saw red. He threw him to the ground hard and stood over him with his boot pressing against chest. “And I suppose you told them about Laura…huh? ’HUH?” He pushed harder on the man’s chest, causing him to loose his wind.

“No…no…I ” He was trying to catch his breath. “No matter what you think… I’d never sick them on a woman. They must’ve found out from somewhere else,” he said.

Johnny let him up and walked to the door. Turning he warned him. “If I find out you are lying, you run, Mister, because you haven’t seen the last of me.”

“Who the hell are ya?”

“Madrid, Johnny Madrid!”

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Chapter Seven

Johnny entered the hotel and found his brother standing by the clerk’s desk, waiting patently for him. One look at his brothers face told Scott that his visit must had gone well…or not.

“Well, that didn’t take long,” Scott commented.

“It never takes long when you deal with scum, brother!” Johnny answered.

“True. I do hope that scum is still alive?” he asked, raising his eyebrows at his brother.

“Yes, he is still alive,” he said, a little cockily. “I just gave him a lot to think about, that’s all.”

Scott was going to answer that remark when the hotel clerk came in and said that their baths were ready. Johnny gave his brother a sly look and Scott just smiled.

“I don’t know about you, brother, but I want a bath,” he said before Johnny had a chance to say anything.

“Suit yourself, but I want a drink first,” Johnny said. He took the key to his room out of his brother’s hand and added, “Just keep the water hot for me,” then walked out the door and headed towards the saloon.

Scott watched Johnny walk away and was torn between taking a nice hot bath or following his brother. He knew Johnny could take care of himself, but it was the mood he was in that worried him. ‘Heaven help the person that rubbed Johnny Madrid the wrong way,’ he thought to himself and let out a heavy sigh.

“I guess we’ll take those baths later,” he said to the clerk. “I think I’d better keep an eye on my brother.”

“That’s quite alright, Mr. Lancer,” said the clerk “Just let me know when you are ready.” Scott nodded and left to go find his younger sibling.

Johnny slowly opened the batwings doors and did he usual scan of the room. The room was filled with smoke, so thick you could cut it with a knife.

There were a few tables filled with card players, each with a couple of saloon girls hanging on them. Nothing out of the ordinary as far a he was concerned.

He strolled over to the bar and ordered a beer.He turned his back to the bar, only to see his brothe rwalk in. “Make that two beers,” he said and pointed out a table for Scott to go and wait for him. Paying for the beers, he made his way to the table and handed his nosy brother his glass, then he sat down with his back to the wall.

“What happened to that bath you wanted so bad?” he asked annoyed.

“Well, I thought about it, and your right, a beer did sound pretty good, so…”he said and hesitated.

“So you reckon I needed a babysitter, huh?” Johnny narrowed his eyes at his brother and Scott knew he was in trouble.

“You’re a big boy, Johnny. I just thought I could use a beer first, then a bath,” he said, trying to redeem himself and then added, with a smirk, “So I changed my mind.”

Johnny just laughed a half laugh and smiled. That made Scott relax a little, but Johnny’s manner still had him worried.

“Now what?” he asked

“We have a beer or two and wait,” Johnny replied.

“Wait? For what?” asked his curious brother.

“To see if any of those murdering bastards comes back,” he said frankly.

“Do you think they will?”

“Maybe. Did you get anything out of that clerk?” Johnny asked back.

“Nothing really. He said they just checked in and kept to themselves. Then he clammed up.”

“Funny how people tend to get very forgetful when it comes to murder,” Johnny said coldly. “I guess it doesn’t matter if it was a woman or not,” he finished, a little louder this time.

Johnny happened to glance up as he said it and saw the expression on the barkeep’s face had changed. He must have heard the remark and it had made him nervous.

“I’ll be right back,” Johnny told Scott

“Where are you going?” Scott asked.

“Just over there,” he pointed to the bar.

Johnny walked very calmly over to the bar, looking straight at the barkeep who was now getting very uncomfortable as he watched Johnny coming closer.He knew what he wanted. Johnny leaned over, with both hands on the bar, and asked for another beer. As he handed Johnny the glass, his hand was shaking so hard, that it was spilling over.

“You’re spilling my beer, Mister!” Johnny said and then grabbed the barkeep’s hand to steady it. Startling him, he froze and his eyes had locked onto Johnny’s.

“I’m…I’m sorr…y,” he said in a shaky voice.

“Is there any reason why you’re so nervous?” Johnny asked, looking straight into his eyes.

The barkeep just looked into those cold steel blue eyes and felt like he was going to pass out from fear. He knew if he didn’t answer him, he would regret it. He started to sweat and wiped his forehead with the bar rag.

“Well? I asked you a question,” Johnny said and, still getting no answer, he put another way. “Okay, let’s try this again. Is there something you would like to tell me?” and got a little closer to his face. “I know you heard me, and I know you know something. So why don’t you just tell me,” Johnny said with an icy cold voice.

The barkeep gulped and wiped his brow and tried to calm himself. All along, Scott was watching from the table. He had an smirk on his face. He marveled at his brother’s ability to get people to talk, like getting water out of a rock. He was actually having fun, watching his brother at work.

He finally spoke up nervously. “You’re looking for the ones who burnt down the mission, right?” Johnny just nodded. “They…they came in a couple of weeks ago, wanting to know if we had any Indians living in town.” He gulped again and continued, “When they found about the mission…when she wouldn’t give them up…they said she would pay.”

“And nobody did nothing to stop it?” Scott, who was now standing next to his brother, asked angrily. The barkeep just nodded in shame.

Johnny grabbed him by the collar and pulled him up to his face. “Which way did they go?” he demanded with deadly insistence. It put the fear of Madrid into him.

“South.”

.

Chapter Eight

South! The man had said. They could be anywhere between here and the Mexican border and that was where the Lancer brothers were headed. Johnny still could not get the image of the burnt mission house out of his head. Sleep did not come easy that night and both had left town still very tired and angry.

Scott too was feeling the anger of the whole thing. This morning, while Johnny was readying the horses, he made a quick visit to the sheriff again. This time, he demanded more answers than what the sheriff he had given them when they first arrived in town. After some heated words and threats of having his badge removed, the man finally confessed.

“YOU WHAT?” Scott yelled at the sheriff after he was told something that he thought he would never hear from the law.

“You heard me,” the man said, sitting behind his desk with his hands on his face. “Do you think I’m proud of it?”

“Well! I wouldn’t be very proud of myself either, if I just stood by and let them commit murder!” Scott fumed at the sheriff. “Tell me sheriff, did you strike the match for them?” he growled at the man.

With that last remark, the man’s head shot up and he got up fast and walked over to Scott.

“What was I supposed to do? My deputy was killed and the townspeople just didn’t care!”

He yelled back. “I was all by myself. Anyway they were only Indians,” admitted the coward.

The next thing he knew, he had a pairs of hand grabbing his shirt and was face to face with Scott, who wanted nothing better then beat the daylights out of him.

“There were also human beings, along with old men, a cripple and a young woman, Sheriff!” he told the man and pushed away from him. “What about them? That young woman, my brother loved her!” and you had better pray to God that he doesn’t find out that you stood by and did nothing!” With that said he left the sheriff shaking in his boots as he stormed out the door.

The sheriff knew who his brother was and did say a prayer that Johnny Madrid didn’t find out.

That was this morning and Scott was still fuming about the whole meeting with the lawman. And he tried to keep it from his brother. He knew that Johnny didn’t need to hear that bit of information. He looked over and his brother’s sullen face, so he kept quiet until Johnny was ready to talk.

“What’s on your mind, brother?” he asked Scott. His voice was soft, but cold.

“What makes you think I have something on my mind?” Scott asked back.

“When don’t you?” Johnny said as he turned his head to look at his brother. “What did the sheriff tell you?” And the look he gave his brother threw Scott.

“How did you know I was there?” asked Scott, trying to come up with an answer… quickly.

Johnny didn’t say a word, just gave his brother a smirk, and Scott knew he had been tricked into admitting he was at the sheriff’s office. He shook his head at his brother in amusement. ‘One of these days I’ll figure him out!’ he thought to himself.

“He said he knew nothing more than he told us the first time,” he lied.

“Somehow I find that hard to believe; but if you say so,” Johnny said and then looked away and turned his attention to looking for signs of recent campfires or tracks left by any of their horses. So far there had been nothing and it was preying on his mind. They have had to have come this way, unless the barkeep had lied.

“Did the sheriff happen to say which way they were headed?” He needed to know.

“Just what the bartender said, and I think they were both was telling the truth,” he told him.

“Why?”

“Because you put the fear of Johnny Madrid in them, that’s why?” and gave his brother a smile. Johnny couldn‘t resist but smile back.

It was a quiet ride after that. Neither one felt like talking until Johnny‘s eagles eyes spotted something ahead in the brush. It was shiny and hanging from a small branch. Johnny’s heart started to beat faster and faster as he realized what it was.

It was the cross that Laura had worn around her neck. He took it off the branch and held it in his hand. He just stared at it, not saying a word. He could feel his blood pressure rise as realized they must have had their dirty hands on her, just like that barkeep back at town.

They had ripped the cross off her neck before they burned down the mission, keeping it and then throwing it away when it was of no use to them.

“Those bastards will pay!” Johnny said through his teeth and looked at Scott. “And now we know for sure which way they came.” He closed his eyes for second and said “Laura just showed me the way.” He held up the cross.

.

Chapter Nine

The two brothers rode in silence for most of the day. Scott wasn’t too sure of how to talk to his brother. That last remark he had made – “Laura showed me the way” – had thrown him. He was at a loss for words but, most of all, it had him very worried. He had never heard Johnny talk like that before.

Was Johnny grasping at straws? Was he taking every little thing as a sign from her? Or could it really be that Laura really was sending Johnny signs, letting him know she’s with him and showing him the way to her murderers? Scott was having a hard time believing that. His logical mind just could not fathom the idea. So he decided, for Johnny’s sake, to go along with him on this and to make sure that he kept his wits about him. The last thing he wanted was for his brother to loose it.

Johnny had put the cross around his neck, next to his own medallion. Every once in a while he would rub it between his fingers. The expression on his face was one of conflict. It would be soft one minute; the next it would be hard. When he smiled, it instantly gave way to a frown. It had Scott even more worried. He didn’t really know what to think. Johnny was like the sea – calm one minute and churning the next, up on one wave and then down on the next one.

But one thing he knew was that he had had enough of the silence. He decided to push a little and asked his brother, “So where to next, Johnny?”

“Oh, I think there’s a small town up ahead. We can check it out,” Johnny replied, stretching a little. They had had a long day in the saddle, without stopping much along the way.

“And are we going to stop for the night?” Scott asked adding, “Maybe get a room, something to eat and a bath?”

“I reckon we could,” Johnny answered and smiled softly at Scott. “What’s wrong, Boston, getting soft in your old age?”

“No, but I think you are,” Scott said with a smirk on his face trying to break the tension in the air.

Johnny just shot him a sly look and said, “Look I know what you are trying to do and we’re both tired, so lets just get to that town, okay!” Johnny said and rode on ahead of Scott.

Scott shook his head as he watched Johnny ride off and urged his mount to catch up with him.

They finally arrived at a small town called Red Eye. It had only a few businesses – a café and a saloon, but no hotel. It looked more like a ghost town – dusty, run down and there were not too many people walking about.

“I sure hope we can find someplace to bed down,” Scott remarked.

“I’m sure we’ll find some place where you can rest your weary bones,” Johnny assured him, and added, pointing to the saloon, “Let’s try over there first.”

‘Well, I could go for a beer right about now anyway. Lead on, Brother.”

Entering the saloon in his normal fashion, he stopped just inside at the batwing doors to scan the room with cold narrow eyes that sent a message that Madrid was entering the room. Satisfied with what he could see, he continued to walk on in with Scott right behind him.

“Two beers,” Johnny ordered.

“Nice place,” Scott commented on the run down room. “Must not get much business.”

“No, guess not,” Johnny said, a little disappointed.

It didn’t go unnoticed by Scott. He knew that Johnny was afraid that the vigilantes might not have come this way, or that they had by-passed this town altogether, perhaps thinking that it was too small and not worth the trouble of looking for targets here.

“Where can a man find a bath and a room?” Scott asked the bartender.

“I have a few rooms upstairs,” the bartender told him. “And you can get a bath at the barber shop.”

Johnny spoke up. “We’ll take two rooms.”

“Well I really only have one ready right now, but it has two beds,” the barkeep said.

“Fine, if my brother don’t mind bunking with me?” Johnny asked looking at Scott.

“No, not at all,” he said, smiling.” As long as you don’t snore!”

Johnny paid for the room and the beers and went to sit at a table, but Scott just stood there. He was curious as to why a place that was not very busy would have only one room available.

Just before he sat down, Johnny heard his brother ask the bartender “Are you sure you don’t have another room?” It stopped him in his tracks. He turned and walked back to the bar.

“What do you mean, ‘am I sure’?” The man looked at Scott puzzled. “And what’s it to you?”

“You don’t seem to be very busy and yet you have only one room left.” Scott said the man.

That remark got Johnny wondering the same thing. “Yes, my brother has a point. So tell us, Mister,” he said, as his eyes narrowed.

Nervously, the man told them both what they wanted to hear. “Well, some mean looking hombres came to town asking if we had any Indians living around here,” he admitted.

“Did they find any?” Scott asked for his brother, who was getting very uneasy.

“No, we don’t have any living here, but…” He paused.

“But what?” Johnny wanted to know – and now.

“There’s a small village, a few days ride south from here.” The bartender paused and then continued, “It only has a few of them – mostly women, children and old men,” he said sadly.

Johnny closed his eyes, not wanting to think of the outcome of the information they had just heard. He asked coldly, “And I suppose you told them where to find the village?”

The bartender just nodded and explained to them, “They took their bottles of whisky up to their rooms and had a celebration. I can’t figure out why though. But they got drunk and smashed up my rooms. Still didn’t get them fixed up yet,” he finished, and shivered at the sight of Johnny eyes.

“Well, I hope you never do, Mister, and I hope you rot in hell!” Johnny snarled at the man. “You just helped send innocent people to their deaths!”

.

Chapter Ten

It was a massacre…a bloody massacre. The village was completely destroyed. Teepees were burnt and torn down to the ground. The livestock they had for their food supply had been slaughtered. And there was bodies lying everywhere – bodies of old men, women and children – lying where they had fallen after being helplessly murdered.

The Lancer brothers stood there, not moving a muscle. They couldn’t even if they had tried. Their tempers flared at the sight in front of them; hearts racing with anger, grief and now vengeance that now ran through them both.

The desire to avenge Laura and the others had become more intense. Johnny swore to avenge the deaths of these souls, these innocent people, whose only crime was being born an Indian.

“Come on, Johnny, there is nothing we can do for them now,” Scott said as he put his hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“Yes, there is!” he said grimly.

It had taken a while, but they had sadly gathered up the bodies and placed them in a group. Stacking dry brush in a circle around them, they lit it up. The least they could do was to give them a decent Indian burial and send them on their way to their ancestors with honor.

Mounting their horses, they both rode off without looking back at the massive fire that was burning brightly behind them. The only thing on their minds now was finding the ones who were responsible for this senseless slaughter.

“That was a good thing you did back there, Brother,” Scott commented.

“It’s what Laura would have wanted me to do,” Johnny said, and gave his brother a sad smile.

“Yes, I do believe you’re right.” Scott paused for a few seconds and said, “She sure did make an expression on you… for you to see it her way like that.”

“I loved her, Scott! But she loved her work even more then me,” he said adding, “I understood that, but to have to die for believing in God, Scott. It doesn’t make any since. Why her?” He closed his eyes… waiting for an answer.

“No, it doesn’t make any sence, Johnny,” Scott said sadly.

Johnny didn’t say any more on the subject. It made his blood boil whenever he thought about it. To him, there is no reason why these things would happen to people like her. ‘What reason could there be?’ he asked himself. No there wasn’t any reason and he knew what had to be done, weather Laura would approve or not.

Another day had gone by and still they had had no luck in finding any signs of those vigilantes. It was as if they had fallen off the face of the earth. Johnny was getting frustrated and unpleasant at times and Scott wished he would give this up and just go home.

The further south they went, the moodier Johnny got. Scott knew that his brother didn’t want to be here, but this was where the last information they had gotten had brought them.

Johnny suddenly brought Barranca to a halt and his full attention was on a small town ahead of them. It was more of a village then a town. As they rode down the dusty street, Scott wondered how people survived here. It had one cantina, one store, and a fountain in the middle of the road. The rest were houses made of adobe brick, and, poorly made at that.

Stopping in front of the cantina, both brothers dismounted and entered through the broken doors; with all eyes were on them as they walked up to the bar. Ordering their drinks of tequila and beer, they took seats at dirty table. Scott frowned at it as Johnny wiped it clean with his hand.

“Are they all like this?” asked Scott as he looked around at the rundown room.

“No, they get worse, Brother,” he explained

“Wonderful.”

“Hey, you wanted to come along,” Johnny said, putting his hands in the air.

“Yes, well, remind me to thank our father when we get home – if we do,” he said. His voiced trailed off as he looked at the expression Johnny had on his face.

Turning to see what caught his brother’s attention, his own expression changed too. Their days of hard riding and nights of sleeping on the cold ground had just paid off.

A tall man had walked through the doors and strolled on over to the bar, demanding a drink.

He had vigilante written all over him – from his long black coat to the righteous smirk on his scarred faced. Johnny’s eyes narrowed as he watched the man. He watched him very carefully.

Scott looked back at his brother and saw the gleam in his eyes. He knew that Johnny had a plan brewing in his head, while never taking his eyes off the man in black.

“Now what?” asked Scott.

“We follow him.”

.

Chapter Eleven

They stayed in the cover of the trees, as far back as possible but not so far that they would lose sight of the man. Johnny and Scott had been following the vigilante ever since he had left the saloon, giving him a head start and taking a mental note of the direction he was heading…south.

It wasn’t too long before they caught up with him. They found him, relieving himself of all that beer he had drunk before it seemed; and they waited in the trees for the man to get moving again.

Johnny was scanning the territory, wondering where he was leading them. The hills were getting rockier and the trees were becoming fewer. There were no valleys around this part of the territory and soon the cover of the trees would run out, leaving them out in the open.

“Where is he going?” Scott asked.

“Well, we’ll just have to wait and see where he leads us, Brother,” Johnny replied.

They didn’t have to wait long. The man was mounting his horse and heading out again. He turned his horse to the right and made his way up a narrow path up the hillside. Soon the boys were behind him, keeping their distance and being as quiet as possible.

With Johnny in the lead, he pulled up and motioned to Scott to stop and get off his horse. The man had slowed down and looked like he was going to dismount soon.

“We’ll have to follow on foot,” Johnny said to his puzzled brother.

“Why? Who knows how long we’ll have to follow him on foot?”

“Well for one thing, he’s slowing down. We’re sitting ducks out in the open. Use your army sense. We have to stay low,” he explained, a little annoyed and then adding, “We’ll keep up with him. Now let’s get these horses hidden.”

“It’s your show, Brother,” Scott agreed.

Having tied off the horses and hidden them in a small grove of trees, they proceeded up the path, keeping the man in sight. He was taking his sweet time about it, then dismounted and walked slowly ahead. Johnny was curious as to why he was not in a hurry to get back to his murdering comrades.

The path led to a large opening in the hillside, like a big crack that Mother Nature had opened up between two sides of the hill – just enough room for a horse and man to fit through. The man disappeared as he entered it and the boys hurried to catch up with him.

With very little light to guide them, the boys stayed close to the walls as they made their way through.

When they reached the other side, they were amazed at what they were seeing. They had entered what was a hidden valley, big enough to supply shelter and water for an army. And it seemed that the vigilantes had stumbled onto it.

Down below, tents were set up – at least twenty to twenty five of them, Johnny figured. Campfires were going and men were walking and sitting about, acting like they didn’t have a care in the world. It was as if this was a little fortress for them to come back to after they did their murderous deeds.

The Lancer boys stayed hidden behind some big rocks up above the camp, thinking about what they should do next.

“Okay, Brother, what’s next?” Scott asked, a little unnerved. “It seems that we are out-numbered.”

“It looks that way,” Johnny noted, and added. “But where’s there a will, there’s a way, Brother!”

“Well, I hope you come up with something soon,” Scott said as he raised his eyebrows. “It will be dark soon, and we can’t afford to light a fire without being found,” he pointed out to his quiet brother.

“I know, I know.”

“Well?”

“We go back to where the horses are and make camp there for the night,” Johnny said. “This place is very well-hidden. I don’t think they will post any guards tonight. So we should be safe,” he added.

“Now that sounds like a good plan,” Scott agreed.

They both quickly and quietly went back through the pass and made it to the horses without being seen. Having set up camp, they each took turns as look outs, just in case some unwanted visitor happened to wander by.

Johnny had first watch. He was too wound up to sleep, while Scott couldn’t wait to hit the sack. Sitting there with his cup of hot coffee, Johnny thought about how he was going to handle this without getting his brother too involved.

There was only one way he could even the odds and he knew Scott wouldn’t go for it. Johnny decided to do it by himself and hoped he wouldn’t get caught.

Looking over at his sleeping brother, he smiled and then slowly got up and quietly left camp.

.

Chapter Twelve

Creeping along the sleeping camp, Johnny was being as quiet as possible while he searched for the ammunition they had stored somewhere. Finding a tent that they were using for storage, he worked his way around the back of it. Taking out his boot knife, he very slowly slit a cut down the side of it and carefully climbed in.

Locating what he was looking for, he loaded up a sack full of dynamite and a few other extra items he could use. Hearing the men rustling around in their sleep, he froze for a few seconds. Then, peering out of the tent and satisfied it was clear to leave, he went about his business like a thief in the night.

Going from place to another, he put his plan into motion.

Scott was woken by the overwhelming sensation of being alone. Sitting up and looking around, he frowned when didn’t see his brother anywhere. He called out to Johnny. After waiting for answer and not getting any, he shook his head in disbelief.

‘Where are you little brother? And what are you up to?’ It didn’t take him long to figure it out. Scott had a pretty good idea as to where Johnny had gone. He thought he had better go and find him, before Johnny got himself into a mess that he couldn’t get out of.

By the time he had reached the other end of the pass, Scott had to duck behind some large rocks as the valley was shaken by the sound of the explosions coming from the camp. The ammunition tent was the first to go, sending debris everywhere. The horses were scared off by the sound of the blast, galloping away in all directions.

Men were running around in their underwear. They barreled out of their tents, trying to get their wits about them after being woken up from their slumber by the noise. They were thrown to the ground by the impact of the explosions behind them, flying debris killing the not so lucky ones.

In all the confusion, they were screaming and cussing at each other, falling over one another as they scrabbled for their guns. The leader was barking out orders to find those who were responsible for this outburst of violence.

Scott couldn’t help but smile, for he knew who was responsible for this. He had to hand it to his little brother; he sure knew how to make his presence known. At the same time, he was worried whether Johnny would get out of there alive. Should he go and help? Or should he stay there and wait?

 With the smoke and debris still flying around, he couldn’t see very clearly from up there.

‘Come on, little brother, get out of there,’ Scott said softly, sending a mental message to Johnny… hoping he would hear it.

Johnny laid low in the cover of the trees as he waited for his chance to make his way back up the hill. He was pleased with himself, knowing that his plan had worked. He had intended to even the odds a little. Now they had no horses and their ammunition was all gone. And with only a few men remaining, ‘Yeah, I think that does it,’ he said to himself.

A big grin crossed his face when Johnny spotted the leader of the gang. He was a stocky man, with silver hair and a big scar on his left cheek. Johnny saw this as his chance to make good the vow he had made to Laura. Waiting for the man to come within his reach, Johnny grabbed him by the neck and put his gun to the man’s head.

“Now, we are going to leave here nice and easy. Do you understand?” he said in the man’s ear, with an ice cold tone to his voice that sent a chill through the leader’s very soul.

The leader nodded as Johnny pushed the gun harder against his head then, using the man as a shield, Johnny, slowly walked out into view. One of the men soon spotted them and yelled to the others. That ran in, only to be stopped cold by the sight of their boss with a gun held to his head.

“Nobody moves or your boss here, gets a nice big hole in his head!” Johnny hollered to them. Johnny tightened his hold on the man’s neck.

“Do…as he…says,” his captive told his men as he gasped for air.

“There’s only one of him, Boss,” said a tall thin man “We can take him!”

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” Johnny stated and looked up at the rocks.

Urging the stocky man to move backwards with him, they were slowly making their way to the edge of the hill’s base. One of his men made a move and Johnny fired a warning shot at his feet.

“I said nobody moves! The next bullet will be in his head.” He made his point by sticking his gun to their boss’ head again.

“For God’s sake…do as he says!” the nervous man said.

“God is not going to help you, Mister,” Johnny snarled through his teeth. “Not where you are going! Now, let’s go.”

The air finally cleared of smoke and debris and Scott could now clearly see the scene unfolding down below him. Raising his rifle, he carefully took aim.

.

Chapter Thirteen

Tension was building in the air as they watched their boss being held at gun point and being used as a shield. Scott was watching closely through the scope of his rifle, waiting for someone to make a move. Not taking heed of his boss’s order’s to do nothing, one of them reached for his gun. That was when Scott cut loose, shooting the man in his right arm. The guy fell to the ground in agony.

Johnny looked up at the rocks and smiled. ‘Well it’s about time, brother.’ he said quietly to himself.

Looking back, the men were helping their injured off the ground. “Now, unless you want the same, I suggest you stay where you are!” he yelled at them and then whispered coldly into his hostage’s ear, “And you, move and don’t try anything. I have a very itchy finger here, and the gun just might go off.”

Not knowing how many rifles were aimed at them, they had no choice but to obey Johnny’s orders and let them go by. Stepping aside the men let Johnny pass with his hostage, they both moved backwards as they slowly climb up the rocky hillside. They were halfway up the hill when the men below decided to take their chances and opened fire on Johnny.

Scott’s eyes narrowed and he shot back, hoping to give Johnny the cover he needed. His sure aim cut down a few of them in the process.

He kept firing until Johnny and his hostage made it to the rocks where he was hiding. He let out a sigh of relief when he saw a smirk on Johnny’s face.

“Nice shooting, Brother,” Johnny said, catching his breath.

“Thanks, now what?”

“Well, we get the hell out of here!” he replied. He pulled a couple sticks of dynamite out of his shirt and lit them.

Johnny threw the fizzing sticks down the hillside and for the explosion. Rocks shook free and barreled down towards the men who were climbing up after them, covering them in a blanket of rocks and dirt. Those who escaped the first landslide looked at the tumbling rocks in horror and tried to get out of the way. Soon, they too became victims of Johnny’s show of force.

“Well, Brother, you sure do have a way of making an exit,” Scott said grinning.

“Thanks, “Johnny replied as he was tying up the leaders hands. “Now move!” he ordered the furious man, pushing him along.

The three of them hurriedly went back through the pass where Scott had left the horses waiting for them. Scott grabbed what they needed while Johnny had the stocky man get up on Barranca, and then tied his hands to the saddle horn.

“And what are we supposed to do with him?” Scott asked.

“Take him with us, that’s what,” Johnny said a little sharply. “I have plans for him,” he added as he stared at the man with cold blue eyes.

“Just who the hell are you?” the man asked. He didn’t like the look he got from Johnny. It cut right through him.

“Your worst nightmare,” Johnny said in a slow and soft drawl. He got up behind him on Barrnaca and all three of them took off, getting far as away as they could.

Johnny didn’t want to push Barranca too much further, not with two men on his back, so they started to scan the area for a place to hole up for the night. Johnny’s eagle eyes located the perfect spot.

“Over there, Scott, that’s where we’ll stop for the night,” he told his brother, pointing to a cave the was just big enough for the three of them.

“Good choice, I’ll find a place to hide the horses,” Scott said.

When Scott had left to scout for a place to hide the horses, Johnny got off Barranca and then pulled the man off. They both walked on up to the cave. The prisoner had started to resist Johnny a little by the time they both entered the cave. Having enough of this, Johnny pushed him up against the cold hard wall and grabbed him by the collar.

“Listen, mister, I’m in no mood to have to mess with you right now!” he told him and added, throwing him to the ground, “Just sit there like a good boy.” What do your men call you besides Boss?”

“Jasper, and what do you want with me?” he demanded, staring up at his kidnapper.

“Well, Jasper!” he said very sharply. “I don’t take kindly to men like you. Men who go around murdering innocent people.” Johnny snorted and, with a flash of his hand, he had his gun pointed right at the man’s chest. “’Specially women.” The man’s eyes widened in pure fear.

“JOHNNY! Put the gun down! Now is not the time or place,” Scott yelled at his brother as he walked into the cave.

“Scott, I would like you to meet Jasper, the man who killed Laura, Santee and all those poor Indians,” he said with malice in his voice. He pointed to the man lying on the ground and put his gun back in the hoister

Jasper just looked up at Johnny’s face and saw nothing but pure hatred for him. He suddenly knew what this was all about. “You mean that missionary and those filthy savages? They had to die. They had no right to live or breath the same air as we do!” he said harshly, and with no regret. “The girl? Well, she just got in the way.”

Johnny reached down and grabbed him off the ground. He shoved him against the wall of the cave. “Laura got in the way, huh? And you never thought twice about murdering an innocent woman whose only ‘crime’ was to care for the sick and poor? Is that right?” He pushed him harder against the wall. “I SAID, IS THAT RIGHT?”

“They were Indians -murderers themselves. They massacred white people – men, women and children. They have to be exterminated!” he yelled back in Johnny’s face. “Anyone who stands in my way will die too, even if it’s a woman! All Indian lovers are just as bad!”

“No, Jasper, you are just as bad. And now you’re going to find out what I do to men like you!”

.

Chapter Fourteen

Johnny sat quietly by the fire, still trying calm his nerves down after his confrontation with Jasper. He had never really met a man like him before. He had hired out to men who were nothing but land grabbers; power-hungry ruthless people who would stop at nothing to get what they wanted. But this man? He was something else. His hatred for the Indian went beyond all of that.

Reaching around his neck, he took off the cross that rested against his chest and held it ever so gently in his hand. Tenderly rubbing it with his fingers, he smiled and, with a sad voice, he asked, “What would you have me do, Laura honey?” His voice so soft that only he could hear the question.

Then the smile disappeared as his mind wandered back to the sight of the burnt out mission. Feeling his blood pressure rise again, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath; and then he said to himself, ‘ I will teach that bastard a lesson, even if it kills me.’

Laura was gone, and Jasper was here, alive and with no remorse for what he had done. But he would regret it soon enough.

“What do you think he’ll do to me?” Jasper asked Scott as he looked over at Johnny sitting and staring at the cross.

“Frankly, mister, I don’t care what my brother does to you,” Scott replied. He too was feeling anger, no… rage, towards this man and doing all he could to control himself.

“You’re not going to stop him?”

“Nope. When my brother has his mind made up, there’s no stopping him,” Scott replied, with a sly grin. Hoping to put a little fear into Jasper, he added, “Consider yourself lucky that you are still alive.”

“Who the hell is he? And who are you?” he asked very rudely, “You don‘t look much like brothers to me. That one looks Mex.” Jasper went on to say.

“Very observant,” Scott answered, forcing back the urge to just hit the man. “My name is Scott Lancer; and my brother, over there, is Johnny Lancer. Or you might know him by his other name.”

“Other name?”

“Yes, before he came home to Lancer he was well known as…” Scott paused just to add to the moment. “Johnny Madrid.” He smiled when he saw the expression on the man’s face go from a smug look to one of pure fear. ‘That should do it,’ Scott said to himself.

Jasper looked over at Johnny. Johnny stood up and stretched, then turned to walked towards them. Jasper’s heart stopped when he saw the look on the man’s face. It was hard and his eyes were of blue ice. Jasper had heard of Johnny Madrid’s reputation as a gun hawk. And now here he was at his mercy.

Jasper jumped when Johnny spoke, his voice cold and hard.

“Has our guest have been behaving himself?”

“Like an angel,” Scott replied, sarcastically. “Isn’t that right, Jasper?”

“Yeah, yeah, just sitting here minding my manners,” Jasper said very nervously.

“Good. Well, I reckon you’d better get a good night’s sleep, Mr. Jasper,” Johnny suggested

“Why?” asked Jasper.

“Because, tomorrow, you are going to have a very busy and very long day. “Johnny kneeled down next to him and added coldly, “You’re going to need the rest. I don‘t want you get too tuckered out before the day is done.” He stared right into the man’s eyes and Jasper turned his head away.

Jasper looked towards Scott, as if for help, but Scott said, “I suggest you better do as my brother says, if you know what’s best for you.”

 Both Johnny and Scott got up walked away from the man who narrowed his eyes and yelled at Johnny, “Madrid!” Johnny stopped and stood with his back to him. “You don’t scare me!”

Johnny just chuckled. “We’ll see,” he said. “Go get some sleep too, Scott. I’ll keep first watch.”

“Do you think that they might come looking for us, this late?” Scott asked.

“Could be, you never know about his kind,” Johnny replied. He saw the worried look on Scott’s face. “Get some rest. I’ll be fine.” Scott nodded and went back to the fire to check on Jasper.

The night went by fast, with no signs of Jasper’s men lurking about. It was a relief to the brothers, but a disappointment to Jasper. He thought for sure that they would come looking for him. ’The cowards. I thought I knew them better,’ he said to himself as he was woken by the smell of hot coffee brewing. His mouth was watering for a cup.

“Can I have a cup of that coffee you’re fixing up?” Jasper asked, politely.

“Well, since you asked so nice, I reckon you can,” Johnny answered and brought him a cup. Jasper held it with both hands still tied up.

“So, tell me, Johnny. What are your plans for our guest?” Scott asked, adding, “You never did tell me.”

“In due time, brother, in due time,” he said without looking at Scott. “But I’ll say this. It will be a lesson he’ll never forget… a slow and painful lesson.” He stared into his cup.

“Slow and Painful, huh? You mean a bullet will not be the answer?” Scott questioned his brother’s reply.

“Nope! Oh, he’ll probably ask for one before I’m done with him though,” he said quietly. He stood up and walked over to the man. “Get up. It’s time we got going,” he ordered. Jasper refused and Johnny kicked him in the shin. “I said get up!”

Jasper’s head shot up as the pain of the kick shot through his leg.

Getting up slowly he growled at Johnny, “Where are we going, Madrid?”

“You’ll see.”

.

Chapter Fifteen

Scott went to gather the horses from where he had them hidden, while Johnny quickly broke camp. All the while, Johnny kept an close eye on his prisoner. When they were done saddling up, Johnny grabbed his rope off Barranca and walked over to Jasper.

“Give me your hands!” he demanded.

Jasper reluctantly did as he was told and Johnny tied one end of the rope around the smaller one that had Jasper’s hands bound together, Then he tied the other end to his saddle horn.

“Johnny?” Scott questioned.

“Don’t worry, Brother. He’s just gonna have to walk for a spell,” Johnny answered. coldly “I’m not gonna risk Barranca getting hurt because of the likes of him. He’ll be okay, if he keeps up.”

Jasper looked at him coldly saying, “I’ll keep up, Madrid.”

“Good. Let’s go,” he growled at the man and gave the rope a hard yank. He almost pulled Jasper against Barranca’s side and the golden horse bucked in fright.

“Whoa, Boy! It’s okay.” Johnny calmed his amigo down by patting his neck and said, with a hint of malice in his voice, “but if you want to give him a kick I won’t stop ya.” He looked down at Jasper with a devilish grin.

Jasper stared at Johnny with eyes narrowed with pure hatred. ‘Wait until I get free, you Mex. Your next on my list,’ he said to himself. Then he felt himself being pulled along as they headed out. He stumbled a few times, but was able to keep his balance and he started to walk behind Barranca. Johnny’s remark stuck in his head, so he was well aware of the horse’s legs.

Instead of going back the way they had come, Johnny was leading them further south away from the hills and in the direction of the flatlands. Johnny glanced back a few times to see how his tag-a-long was doing. Jasper was keeping up so far, due to the slow pace they keeping up. Johnny didn’t want to wear out his prisoner; he had a lot to do when they reached their destination.

“So, Brother, where are we going? You can tell me, can’t you?” Scott asked.

“There’s a place a few miles up ahead, “Johnny answered and looked back at Jasper. The man was getting tired now and trying to keep on his feet, so Johnny stopped for a few minutes to let Jasper rest and catch his breath . “Maybe we can find him a horse there. If so he’ll have to earn it.”

“Earn it?’ What do you mean by that?” wondered Scott

“You’ll see.”

“It’s your show. Let’s hope you know what your doing,” Scott told his brother, who just smiled back at him.

Seeing that Jasper had recovered some, Johnny continued leading them to the place he had in mind.

A few hours later they were sitting in front of an old run-down mission. It looked as if it had been built in the very early days of Southern California. The walls were full of small holes that time had rotted away. The grounds were poorly kept up and the vegetable garden was almost nothing. There was no livestock to be seen. It look like bandits had raided the mission and taken all that they could carry, leaving only the shell of the building.

“Is there anybody here?” Scott asked is quiet brother.

“Yeah. Here they come now,” he answered softly.

Both Scott’s and Jasper’s eyes narrowed at the sight before them. Scott’s reaction was of sorrow and pity, whereas Jasper’s was of hate and contempt as he looked at the little group that was coming their way.

An old padre was leading a small group of women and children of all sizes and ages; and they were all… Indians. The brothers’ hearts were saddened at the sight of them. They were all dressed in rags and their faces and hands were scarred as though they had been held captive and beaten at one point.

“Buenos tardes, Padre,” Johnny said softy.

The old padre shielded his eyes against the noon sun with his hands to see you who taking to him. A smile graced his wrinkled old face.

“Ah, Senor Madrid. It is nice to see you again,” he greeted Johnny back.

“It is good to see you again. I see your eyes have not improved?” he asked, noting the padre was having a hard time focusing on Scott and Jasper.

“No, they have not and, as you can see, I can not do very much these days,” he pointed out as he looked around his mission.

“Well, that’s why we are here, Padre,” Johnny told him and gave Jasper a look that confused him. But Scott knew what Johnny meant and a smile crossed his lips.

“That’s a very good idea, Brother.”

“Brother?” asked the old man.

“Si, this is my Brother,” Johnny replied and gave his brother a sly grin. “Scott, this is Father Jose. He’s a very good friend,” He looked at his brother’s puzzled face. “I know I don’t hold too much stock in priests, but he helped me out a few times. He‘s special,” Johnny whispered to Scott who smiled and nodded.

“Ah, si. Come in, por favor,” said the old padre. “I will give you drink and some food.”

Having dismounted, and untying Jasper, they all followed Father Jose into the mission. As Jasper walked by the women and children, his skin crawled at the sight of them. He wished he had known about this place. It would have been a pleasure to have exterminated them like all the others.

They found the inside of the mission was not as bad as the outside, but there was not much left after the last time they had been hit by bandits. This time, Johnny had not been here to help them fight off those hombres who came to steal and rape. His heart was saddened by the way these people had to live now, but he was here now and he’d help in any way he could.

“Come and sit. Lo siento, but all I can offer is bread and water,” the Padre offered.

“Just water, Father,” Scott said, knowing they didn’t have much to eat.

“Well, I’ll take both,” Jasper said rudely.

“You’ll get only water!” Johnny said coldly and turned to face the old man. “Padre, this is Mr. Jasper and he is on a mission. I think he can be of some help to you.”

“Mission? What kind of mission?” he asked as he handed out cups of water.

“He is on a mission to help the Indians and the people who stand by them, like you; instead of murdering them because they are different,” Johnny said straight out and loud enough for Jasper to hear clearly.

Jasper had his eyes shut, trying not to look at the women and children who were standing around staring at him.

Jasper’s eyes flew open. He choked on the water he was swallowing. Coughing and getting his air back, he hollered at them, “I’m not going to help a those savages! If I had my way, I ….”

He was stopped cold by stare he received from Johnny. It was cold and malice, and Jasper’s heart stopped when Johnny grabbed his by the collar and looked into the man’s eyes.

“If I hear you raise your voice once more in a House of God, it will be your last, comprende?”

.

Chapter Sixteen

Jasper’s eyes burned as the sweat ran into his eyes. He wiped his brow with his dusty sleeve. The hot sun was beating down and the swift winds stirred up dust devils that whirled around him. He was climbing up the side wall of the small part of the mission, cursing every step of the way. Missing a step here and there on the rickety old ladder, he looked down at the gun pointing up at him. ‘Wait till we are alone, Madrid,’ he thought to himself. ‘I’ll see you dead.’

Johnny stood watching Jasper as Scott approached him with a grin. “Got to hand to you, Brother, you do come up with good ideas… sometimes,” he said and gave his brother a light slap on the back. “What changed your mind?” he asked.

“About killing him?” Johnny replied “I got to thinking and I figured that that would be the easy way out for him. No, this way is better. He’ll suffer nice and slow, wishing I had put a bullet in him!”

“What better punishment for someone like him? But I’d watch my back if I were you, Johnny,” Scott advised his brother. “You never know what he’ll do.”

“Don’t worry about me, Brother. I know what I’m doing.”

“I’m sure you do,” Scott commented

“Ah, I see you have the hombre fixing the hole in the roof. iBueno! ” said Father Jose as he walked up to the brothers carrying a tray of glasses and a pitcher of water for them. “You must be thirsty. It is a dry day. I’m afraid we get too many of them,” he sadly admitted.

“I can see that, Father. Have you thought about relocating?” asked Scott.

“And go where, Scott?” Johnny answered for him. “This is the only mission within miles. Besides, they wouldn’t make it very far. You’ve seen them,” he finished, frowning and looking back up at Jasper. ’Not with men likes him around,’ Johnny said under his breath.

“He is right, Senor. We have no place to go, so we stay and live as best we can,” the padre agreed with Johnny.

“If you can call this living,” Scott said with a sullen voice, as he looked around at the dried up land.

“I know it’s not much, but it is our home,” Father Jose, replied.

“Well, at least we can make it more liveable,” Johnny added. “Isn’t that right, Jasper?” he hollered up to the roof.

Jasper looked down with eyes narrowed at Johnny, his face beet red. He turned away and continued to hammer angrily, cussing between breaths and plotting his escape and how he was going to get even with Johnny for putting him through this torture.

He wanted so much to grab a gun and put a bullet through Johnny’s heart. Johnny had him confused. He was a gun hawk, a killer himself; so why did he care about these savages? Is Madrid going soft? If that is the case, then maybe I have a chance to get away and take him down,’ Jasper thought to himself. A sly grin formed on his heated face.

A small boy came up to the group and pulled on the Padre’s robe. He whispered in the padre’s ear as he kneeled down. Father Jose nodded and stood back up. “It is almost noon and the women had prepared a meal. It is not much, but they want you to eat.”

“Are you sure? We don’t want to take what you can’t spare,” Scott asked

“Por favor, it will please them. It is their way of thanking you for the help,” the padre said. “Please, come.”

“Well, if you don’t, then I will,” Jasper said rudely from the top of the ladder, as he started to climb down.

“You can eat, but don’t make a pig of yourself. They don’t have much, understand?” Johnny ordered as he watched. He was on the alert as his prisoner took his last step off the ladder. Jasper looked at Johnny and the gun, still aimed at him.

“One day, you’re gonna get very tired of holding that gun on me, mestizo. And when you do…” He paused. “I’ll kill ya!” he growled and waited for Johnny’s reaction. But Johnny stayed calm. He walked up to him and looked him in the eyes, his gun aimed at Jasper’s heart.

“Maybe, maybe not. Now get going,” and he gave Jasper a hard shove to get him moving.

They all sat at a long table as the women brought out the food. It consisted of bread, corn mash and a few tortillas, along with water. Johnny had a bad feeling that their water supply was also running out, by the look of it. The color was not as clear as it should be.

There was no milk for the children and they looked as though they were in dire need of some. They were way too skinny and he had seen what the lack of milk could do to a child. Thinking for a few moments, Johnny leaned over and spoke quietly in Scott’s ear. Scott nodded.

Jasper took one look at the meal and turned his nose up at it, then his stomach reminded how hungry he was. He took small amounts of everything. He hated to eat Indian-Mexican food, but this time we would allow himself to do so. Forcing it down, he had a feeling he was going to need all his strength.

After the meal, the boys thanked the women with a gentle kiss on their cheeks. The ladies blushed.

“Muchas gracias.” Johnny spoke softly, then they went outside to see where there was more work that needed to be done.

They had no means to dig a well, as Johnny had hoped to do. He did notice that the living quarters had a few good sized holes in the walls that left them exposed to the elements. They could be very easily patched up with mud and straw so, with a wave of his gun, he pointed out the spots to Jasper to get started on.

Jasper growled beneath his breath as he gathered twigs and dry grass, and what was left of the straw. Then he started to mix the water and dirt, mashing them together with his hands. He let out little grunts of pain whenever he cut his hands on the sharp twigs.

Scott had finished saddling his horse and walked on over to where his brother was. “Which way was it again?”

“You head due south for a few miles and you should see it,” Johnny explained to him.

“I’ll try and get back as soon as I can. And Johnny, watch your back,” Scott cautioned.

“I will; now get going,” Johnny assured him and added, “Scott, you be careful too.” Scott nodded and took off hoping to find his brother in one piece when he got back.

“Where is he going?” asked Jasper.

“None of your business. Now get back to patching up those holes,” Johnny demanded as he watched Scott ride off, hoping he would have some luck.

.

Chapter Seventeen

While Scott rode , his heart was saddened at the sight of this dry and almost barren land. He couldn’t imagine how these people could live like this and survive. The dry spells were killing off the land and the livestock. There was skulls of cattle laying about and broken-down wagons that had been left behind. The creeks were almost dried up and the ground was as hard as rock. He just shook his head in wonderment.

Then his thoughts went back to the mission and the faces of the women and children there. They were the reason why he was out here in this desolate place. Their faces were of hope and yet despair. ‘No child should have to live like that,’ Scott thought.

He wondered if it had been like that for Johnny, back in those border towns of his childhood. Whenever he thought about how his brother had had to live, he felt guilty about the blessings he had had as a child.

He had had a brother out there, a blood brother; someone he should have had the chance to grow up with. But now that they are together at last, Johnny amazed Scott. To have gone through what he had and still have the heart of a child. Johnny’s compassion for others, putting them first even if the odds were against him, simply amazed him.

Scott smiled at the thought of his little brother and turned his attention back to what he was looking for. Slowing his horse down almost a stop, he spotted the place Johnny had told him to look for. It was a good sized farm that was well kept up and had plenty to offer. This surprised Scott, considering just what he had traveled through to get here. ‘I guess some people have all the luck,’ he thought to himself.

As he had approached the entrance of the house, he was greeted by a stocky middle-aged women holding a rifle that she pointed at him.

“Hello, I mean you no harm,” Scott said with his hands up.

“How do I know that, senor?” she asked. “I do not know you.”

“I’m here on a mission of mercy,” he replied and pointed to the rifle in her hands. “May I put my hands down?”

“No! You say a mission of mercy? What does a gringo have to do with mercy, Senor?” Then she added, “The only gringos around here want to steal from us, murder, and dishonor our daughters.”

Seeing that he wasn’t going to get very far with her, Scott restored to ‘plan B’.

“I can see why you don’t trust me but perhaps, if I tell you who sent me, you’ll change your mind,” Scott reasoned with the scared woman. It seemed that she alone at the moment. He hadn’t noticed anyone else coming to greet him, friendly or not.

“Tell me then, Senor, who has sent you then?” the woman asked, still holding the rifle on Scott.

“My brother… Johnny Madrid,” Scott replied proudly.

She laughed out loud and said, “Juanito does not have a brother, Senor.” She raised the rifle even higher. “You are lying, now go!”

“Please, listen to me. I’m telling you the truth,” he pleaded with her. “We have different mothers,” Scott explained nervously. He took something from his pocket and lifted it up so that she could see it. “This is my brother’s. He said you would recognize it.” Scott tossed it to her.

The woman moved closer. Still holding the rifle on Scott, she kneeled down and picked the item up off the ground. Looking at it carefully her face softened and a smile came across her lips. She rubbed the medallion against her flushed cheek as fond memories flashed in her head. Then she looked up at Scott.

“Juanito would not take this off. He is either dead, or he gave it to you. Perhaps you are telling the truth, Senor.” she admitted. “Por favor, come in.” She lowered the rifle and walked back to the house, still tenderly rubbing the medallion with her fingers.

Scott dismounted and followed the woman into the house where she reluctantly handed the medallion back to him.

“Please sit down, Senor.” She directed him to a chair. “How is Juanito? Why did he send you?” she asked anxiously.

“Johnny is doing fine,” Scott replied. “He sent me here to ask for your help. He said you could help us.”

“Help? What can I do? Where is Juanito?” She realized she hadn’t introduced herself. “Oh, please forgive my manners. I am Carla – Carla Carza.” She extended her hand to him.

“It’s nice to meet you, Carla. I’m Scott Lancer,” Scott said, shaking her hand gently.

“Lancer?” she asked, surprised and then added, “Juanito found his papa? His familia?”

“Si,” Scott said smiling at the woman. “Johnny is at the old mission and we were wondering if we could buy a cow or goat and a few supplies from you.” Scott hoped she would able to spare them.

She didn’t answer right away ,but considered it and then said, “Si, Senor… Scott. But why he did not come himself?”

Carla was just full of questions and Scott tried to answer them all. He explained why they had come all this way and their concern for the children at the mission. She too was worried about the mission, but her stubborn husband would not allow her to help them. He was a greedy man and claimed that he had no time for the church nor for the mission.

She explained her fondness for Johnny. He had come to her a while back, hurt. She had nursed him back to health and, in return, he helped around the rancho with the chores. And while he was there he had also protected her until her husband had returned from his business trip. He was like a son she had never had and she missed him dearly.

After a hour of talking and drinking his fill of coffee, Scott was ready to leave. He told Carla what was needed and packed the supplies she offered and then picked out a sturdy cow.

“You cannot wait until morning? It is getting late,” Carla reasoned.

“No, I think it’s best I leave now. I will be just fine,” he assured the woman and could see why Johnny had been sure that she would help. She was kind and very easy to talk to. ‘It’s a shame,’ he thought, ‘to have to live with a man like her husband when she could put that kindness to good use.’

She nodded and said, “Please give Juanito my love.”

“I will, and thank you for all your help.” Scott tipped his hat and she smiled and nodded as she waved to him.

Soon Scott was riding back as fast as he could. It was not easy though, not with a cow and a donkey that Carla had thrown in to help carry the supplies. He hoped that when he got back to the mission, all would be well.

He didn’t trust Jasper one bit, and he was worried about his brother.

.

Chapter Eighteen

Johnny stood there with a satisfied grin on his face. He watched Jasper work his tail off, fixing the holes in the walls of the mission. It was late in the afternoon and Johnny was making sure Jasper got as much done as possible while waiting for Scott to get back. He knew it would be a while before his brother returned and he hoped that Scott had had luck getting the supplies from Carla.

The grin grew wider as he remembered her. She had been like an angel to him when he had needed help. He had been thrown from his horse after it was spooked by a rattler and he had busted a few ribs. He happened across her farm where she had been alone at the time and willing to care for him. He had stayed to help her with the hard chores… the ones that her husband had left her to do while he took off on business.

Johnny had only met the man once and he hadn’t liked what he had seen. He wondered what Carla had ever seen in the man she had married, but it wasn’t his right to say anything so he had kept it to himself. But when it had come time to leave, he had bid her farewell and wished her luck with him. He had told her that if she ever needed his help again, with the farm or her husband, she could send for him and he would be there for her.

Now here he, was needing her help again. He let out a heavy sigh and then looked at the man who had brought him this way. Johnny still had Jasper tied up, but not tight that he couldn’t use his hands. And he kept him at gun point at all times.

“You’re doing a good job there, Jasper,” Johnny said, smirking. “Just a little bit longer and you can call it a day.”

Jasper stared at Johnny with narrowed eyes. ” I’m so pleased you like my work, Madrid,” He said cockily, and added, “But don’t get too smug. When I get free, you’ll be one sorry son of a bitch!”

“If you get free,” Johnny said and walked up to the man. “Now let’s go inside; and mind your manners,” he said coldly.

“Anything you say, Mr. Madrid,” Jasper replied and walked ahead of Johnny as they entered the mission.

“Ah, I see you are done for the day. ¡Bueno! Come sit and rest. You must be very tired,” the padre said as the men went to sit down.

“I’m done in, because I did all the work!” Jasper said sharply as he gave Johnny a dirty look and pointed at him. “He just sat there and watched.”

“Hey you think it’s easy sitting all day? That sun was hot, out there. I broke a sweat just watching you.” Johnny chuckled as he spoke.

The others laughed along with Johnny as they brought the meal in. The children stared at Jasper with their coal black eyes, and it gave Jasper the willies. He hated to be around them and Johnny knew that. So, any chance he got, Johnny was making, sure that they made their presence known to the man-just a reminder why he was here.

The meal still consisted of the same basic food and Johnny made sure that they took only small portions to make their food last until Scott returned. After eating and resting up, the padre took Johnny to the side. He wanted to talk to him in private.

“Juanito, how much longer are you going to have this…this killer here?” Father Jose asked. “I do not trust him,” he added with dread in his voice.

“Not much longer, Padre. As soon as Scott gets back, we’ll be on our way,” he assured the man. “I know he bothers you, but you have to admit, he is getting…” Johnny didn’t get a chance to finish. They heard a scream…a child’s scream.

They both turned and gasped at the sight of Jasper holding a knife on one of the children. Then they noticed one of the women lying on the floor with a bloody lip. He had grabbed the knife from her and thrown the woman to the ground after he had hit her. Then he got a hold of one of the small boys and put the knife to his neck.

“Hold it right there, Madrid!” Jasper snarled. “Now, you just let me leave here peacefully and none of these savages will get hurt,” he said, just as Johnny went to reach for his gun. Father Jose stopped Johnny by grabbing his arm.

“No, Juanito! No guns in a house of God. Please,” he pleaded. “Let him go.”

“I can’t, Padre. I searched too long to find him. I’m not about to let him get away,” Johnny said, looking at the padre and then looking back at Jasper. “Not until I’m done with him!”

“Listen to the good father, JUANITO!” Jasper growled. He pushed the knife in a little more, causing the boy to cry even harder then he had been. “Or this brat will get it.”

Biting his lower lip and rubbing his forehead with his free hand, Johnny thought for a few seconds. He hesitated and then took his hand away from his gun. A thought came to him, then he relaxed a little. He knew that the only horse Jasper could use for his escape was Barranca.

“Okay,” he said with a heavy sigh. “Let the boy go and get out of here. There’s only one horse though, and that’s mine. Are you going to just leave me here stranded?” Johnny asked knowing all too well he would take Barranca.

“Well, that brother of yours will be back soon and you both can ride double for all I care,” he snorted and looked towards the door. He smiled.

Thinking he would be free soon, Jasper dragged the boy with him to the door. With his back to it, he pulled the boy out with him and then kicked the door shut with his foot.

Johnny didn’t wait too long to follow him. He quickly made it outside to find the boy laying on the ground unharmed. Helping the boy up, he glanced up to see Jasper riding off with Barranca. With a quick sharp whistle Barranca stopped cold in his tracks as he listened to his name being called.

“Barranca!” Called his amigo.

Barranca started to buck and kick while his golden mane was slapping his unwanted passenger in the face. Whinnying and kicking harder, Barrance continued his battle until Jasper went flying through the air. Jasper Landed flat on his back with the wind out of him.

Getting his breath back, Jasper got up off the ground, still a little dazed from the fall. He glanced around to look for the horse, only too see Johnny coming after him at a dead run. He tried to run but his legs wouldn’t let him get very far. Johnny quickly caught up with him and tackled him to the ground.

Jasper punched and shoved at him, but Johnny got the last punch in and knocked him out cold. Johnny then whistled for Barranca to come back. Listening to his amigo’s call, the golden horse came trotting back. Johnny grabbed Jasper and threw him over the saddle, to which the horse took exception. He bucked, trying to dislodge Jasper.

“Whoa boy, it’s okay. He’s just taking a nap.” Johnny comforted his friend and walked alongside him.

It was just about dark when he got back to the mission. He tied Jasper up to a bed and made sure the ropes were tight and secure. He wanted Jasper to stay put. Having done that, Johnny went to check on the boy and the woman.

“How are they, Padre?” he asked softly.

“They are okay, My Son. A little scared but okay,” he replied with a smile. “That was a brave thing you did. Your horse is a very smart animal,” he commented.

“Well, my horse is very picky about who rides him,” Johnny said with a chuckle. “I’m going to be over there with our guest, if you need me.”

“Si, but you must rest too,” he said, having noticing that Johnny was looking very tired himself. He needed a good night’s sleep. “Why don’t you get some sleep. I will watch him and wake you a few hours,” the old padre offered. “I see you have him nice and secure. Por favor, rest.”

“Are you sure? You’ll wake me in a few hours?”

The padre nodded and Johnny went to lie down in a bed a few feet away from Jasper. He was asleep in no time.

His last thoughts before he drifted off were of Laura and a sad smile formed on his face. “What now, Laura honey?”

.

Chapter Nineteen

“Morning,” Johnny greeted the sleeping man as he stood over Jasper. “Are you ready for another busy day?” he asked, grinning.

Jasper slowly sat up, feeling the after affects from the day before. He was stiff and sore and hungry. Then he looked up at Johnny’s grinning face and frowned. “I’m not doing no more work for you or these savages! I’ve done enough!” he shot at Johnny.

But Johnny leaned over him with cold, narrowed eyes and looked Jasper right in the face. “Well, I say you didn’t do hardly enough, so you will get to work right after breakfast,” Johnny said in a slow and icy voice. “On second thought you can get to work now and forget about breakfast. You look like you could lose a few pounds.” Johnny poked the man’s stomach.

Jasper face turned beet red, his eyes narrowed with pure hatred and, in an instant, he tried to reach for Johnny’s throat. But Johnny had taken the precaution of tying him to the bed. He didn’t get far.

“You untie me, you half-breed bastard!” he screamed at Johnny. The next thing he felt was a hand across his face.

The back of Johnny’s hand stung a little but hitting Jasper sure felt good. The man was nursing a bloody lip but Johnny leaned over again and said, in a deadly voice, “The next time you call me that, those will be the last words that come out of your filthy mouth.”

Just then Scott had walked into the room. He saw that his worries had been for nothing. Scott grinned when he saw that his brother had everything under control. He had just gotten back a few minutes ago and the padre had told him where he could find Johnny.

“Well, what did I miss?” Scott asked, still grinning.

“Oh, I was just giving our guest here a lesson in manners, that’s all,” Johnny replied and looked back down at Jasper.

“I can see that. Do you think it will work?” Scott asked.

“If he knows what good for him,” Johnny said. “I see you made it back, okay. Did you have any luck?”

“Yes, Mrs. Garza is a very nice lady and sends her love to you,” Scott relayed and Johnny smiled.

He was pleased she had remembered him. And it had come in handy when he sent his brother on his quest for supplies. Johnny had been sure that she wouldn’t turn them down, as long as her husband wasn’t around.

“Ok then, let’s get some milk into those kids,” Johnny said, looking over at Jasper. And, with a sly grin, he asked, “Can you milk a cow?”

“NO! I’m not going to milk no damn cow!” the shocked man said. But he only received a glare from both Johnny and Scott.

The children sat watching while Jasper tried to milk the cow. He was getting irritated that the beast wasn’t cooperating with him. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t get any milk out. He grabbed the udder’s nipples so hard out of frustration that the cow kicked him off his stool, mooing in pain. The children laughed even harder at the man’s antics.

One of the boys came over and stood by him, then he kneeled down and very kindly showed Jasper how to do it. The boy smiled at him, not knowing that his presence was fueling the rage that was building inside him. After a few minutes of being close to the boy, Jasper’s anger cut loose.

“GET AWAY FROM ME, YOU PIECE OF INDIAN TRASH. I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP!” he hollered, then picked the boy up and threw him to the ground.

In a matter of seconds, Jasper found himself on the ground, flat on his back, and with a very steaming mad ex-gunfighter on top of him.

Johnny was inches away from his face. His hard blue eyes were staring right into Jaspers brown dazed ones. He had a tight hold on the man’s collar; so tight that it was almost choking Jasper.

“How dare you pick up a child and throw him like that!” Johnny said, practically spitting in Jasper’s face as he gritted his words out through his teeth. “That boy was trying to be nice. You had no right to do that!” Johnny pounded him against the ground. “Do you understand that?”

“He’s an Indian. That gave me the right, child or not,” Jasper replied sharply after catching his wind. It was the wrong answer.

The next thing he felt was a fist in his face. Johnny was about to lay another one on him when Scott grabbed his arm.

“Johnny! Johnny! Come, Brother, he’s not worth hurting your hands on.” Scott tried to reason. “He’s a hopeless case. He’ll never change.”

Johnny got off the man quickly and looked down at him. “Well, if he is that hopeless, then maybe I oughta put him out off of his misery,” he said and took his gun out. He pointed it right at Jasper’s head. His anger was flaring and he only saw one answer to this whole mess as he just stared coldly down at the man.

Jasper couldn’t move. He was frozen to the spot. His heart was racing with fear as he looked at the expression on Johnny’s face… cold and with no emotion in it. It was as if he was staring at Death himself.

“NO! Johnny, not here! The children, Johnny… think of them,” Scott pleaded.

The children looked on with shocked faces and moved back, waiting for something to happen. This was not the time or place and Scott knew it.

“Si, Juanito, please do not. It is not worth ruing your soul for a man like him,” the padre begged while tending to the fallen boy. “Por favor, Juanito.”

“My soul is already ruined, Padre. But you’re right. He’s not worth wasting a bullet on!” Johnny said, his expression relenting as he put his gun away. Everybody breathed a little easier, even Jasper. “Get up, you have a cow to finish milking,” Johnny ordered him and grabbed him off the ground to lead him back the cow.

After breakfast, Johnny did some thinking and decided that they had better be on their way. He didn’t trust Jasper with these women and children any longer. He had thought it would teach the man a lesson, but he had been wrong. There was no way this leopard would change his spots. So they saddled up and said their goodbyes.

“I wanted to do more here, Padre” Johnny said sadly. “But I just don’t trust him with the women and children and it‘s best we leave.”

“I know, My Son. I do appreciate all you have done for us,” he said with a smile. “The cow, the food and blankets – it will help a lot,” He took Johnny’s hand in his and said, “You do have a good soul, I can see in your eyes. Please believe that.”

“I’ll try, Padre, I’ll try,” Johnny said, smiled and turned to mount Barranca.

As they all waved goodbye to each other, the children couldn’t help but laugh again at Jasper. He was riding behind Johnny and Scott, sitting on the donkey with his hands tied to it – cussing with every step the animal took.

.

Chapter Twenty

After debating as to which way to go first – further south to avoid Jasper’s men, in case they were looking for him, or back the way they had come – they had finally agreed to head back to the town where the crime had been committed and let the local law take over.

They would stick around town to make sure that it was done right. There had still been a lot of unanswered questions when they had left.

Scott was also debating whether he should let his brother in on what he had learned about the Sheriff; that the local law had stood by and let it happen. He knew that Johnny didn’t trust the man and this just might set him off. Thinking about it some more, and against his better judgment, he had decided that his brother had the right to know.

“Johnny, there is something you should know before we get to town,” Scott said nervously.

“What’s that?”

“Well, it’s about that Sheriff, and…” He paused, gathering his thoughts

“And?” Johnny asked

Looking at his brother he continued. “You’re not going to like this, but…”

“Go on,” he said calmly.

“Well, the sheriff admitted to doing nothing to stop the attack on the mission!” There he’d said it. He found himself waiting for a reaction that never came.

He looked at his brother’s face and it was relaxed. That puzzled Scott.

Of course, Johnny was a puzzle to him at times. There was no knowing what was brewing in that his head of his. But this was news that should have gotten some kind of reaction out of his brother.

“Johnny, did you hear what I said?”

“Yes, but tell me something I don’t already know,” Johnny said as he turned to look at Scott. “I knew that the minute I laid eyes on the good sheriff.”

“And it doesn’t bother you?” Scott asked curiously.

“Sure it does, and I’m not done with him – not by a long shot,” Johnny said with a wry grin.

Frowning Scott looked at his little brother and said sternly, “Listen, Brother, what ever you do to him, it had better be legal!”

“Don’t worry your head over it, Scott,” Johnny assured him with a chuckle. “I’m not going to hurt the man.”

“I hope not. Keep it that way,” Scott replied. He turned to looked back at Jasper who struggling with staying on that donkey. He had no saddle to keep him square on its back and kept swaying to one side to another, cursing under his breath at the Lancer boys – especially Johnny. “Do you think the sheriff will do the job right this time?” Scott wondered.

“He’d better. If not, then I’ll make sure Jasper gets what’s coming to him,” he said grimly.

“Johnny?” Scott asked, frowning at his brother’s answer.

But Johnny didn’t answer. He was keeping a close eye out for any of Jasper’s men. They could still be lurking about. They were getting close to the area of the hidden valley and he was scanning every possible spot they could use as an ambush.

Then something shinny caught his eye.

“Scott,” he said softly, not wanting to be overheard by Jasper, “Look up ahead, in those rocks.”

Scott took a quick glance, and saw the flash that could be coming from a scope of a rifle or a looking-glass. Whatever it was, they were not alone.

“Now what?” he asked his quiet brother.

“We keep riding; and we don’t let on we know they’re there,” Johnny said calmly.

“What about Jasper? They’re going to want him back,” Scott asked in hushed voice.

“I know, but let’s see them try. He’s not going anywhere but to hell,” Johnny stated to his worried brother, who looked at him with a frown. “Keep riding.”

The brothers and their prisoner kept on riding slow and leisurely as though nothing was bothering them. Jasper had no clue that his men were still out there. He thought that they had run off like cowards. Besides himself, only his second in command had ever kept the gang together. Now that the man was dead, Jasper was sure that the gang would be scattered.

Just when they had reached a narrow part of the pass, Johnny yelled out and he and Scott pulled up on their mounts, quickly dismounting. They ran to take cover behind some big boulders.

Scott was the first to reach the rocks on one side of the pass.

Johnny stopped long enough to pull out his boot knife, quickly cut the ropes that had Jasper bound and pulled him off the donkey. Then he dragged and pushed Jasper along with him, but not without Jasper putting up a fight. He slowed Johnny, causing him to have to take whatever cover he could find.

Finally, with one last push, he shoved Jasper behind a large boulder and quickly dived for cover.

That was when the rifle fire started. Bullets were ricocheting off the boulders, all around them. Johnny and Jasper were pinned down, but Scott had a better vantage point-a better chance of getting a good shot at their ambushers.

Scott motioned to his brother to sit still, indicating that he would try to sneak around and get as many as he could. That would give Johnny a chance to recoup his thoughts, while still keeping an eye on Jasper.

Johnny waved in agreement. He hoped that his brother would not get hurt in the process.

Scott slowly made his way up the hill through the cover of the rocks, heading in the direction from which the gunshots had come. After a few minutes of climbing and weaving through the maze of rocks, he crept up behind the gang. They were just a few feet down from him.

He stood up.

“Good afternoon, Gentlemen!”

.

Chapter Twenty-One

The silence was starting to worry Johnny. He hadn’t heard a sound, at least not gunfire, just the sound of a rock or two tumbling down the hillside. He breathed nervously in time with the sound of his own heart beating hard and fast in his chest. He was putting all his faith in his brother to get the drop on them, however this ensuing quiet was putting that faith to the test. Suddenly rifle shots could be heard. The shots had come from the direction Scott had climbed towards. Johnny jumped at the harsh crack of the shots and his eyes widened with distress, as he scanned the area. “God let Scott be safe,” he said to himself.

Johnny got a chance to shoot off a few rounds at the ones who were on the ground and close by, taking a few out. All the while he had to keep Jasper from trying to escape, which was every time Johnny had his back turned on him, and was engaged in gunplay. He was getting very annoyed with the man, and could very easily put a bullet in his head right now. But he had more important things to worry about at the moment. Plus he did promise to let the law take over if they ever got out of here . . . alive.

“You’ll never get out of here alive, Madrid!” Jasper said with confidence. “My men will cut you down, the minute you step out from behind this rock.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that, Jasper.” He answered back, just as confident, “Now do me a favor and shut up!” Johnny ordered with his eyes still trained on the other side of the canyon.

“Those rifle shots you heard, was my men putting a stop to your brother.” He paused, and then adding, “You’re all alone now, Madrid. So why don’t just let me go, and I’ll see you go free?” Jasper gave Johnny a devilish grin, his eyes full of hatred for the gunfighter, as he lied and taunted him.

“I SAID SHUT UP!” Johnny yelled, his patience giving out. He walloped Jasper over the head with the butt of his gun, emphasizing his displeasure with the situation.

Jasper was knocked out cold, and a satisfied smile bloomed on Johnny’s face as he admitted to himself the action had felt good. The bonus was he didn’t have to listen to the man’s ranting any longer or he just might have really put a bullet in him, promise or not. Then Johnny turned his thoughts back to his brother. “Come on, brother, where are you?” he said softly, letting out a heavy sigh he whispered fervently, “Come on, Scott.”

A few minutes passed, Johnny was getting restless; he knew he should be looking for Scott. Then suddenly he heard some rustling sounds coming from behind him. Johnny turned in a flash, gun pointing with deadly intentions in the direction the sound came from.

“WHOA!” Scott hollered, “It’s me, Johnny!”

Johnny blew out a big breath of relief, as his brother came within his view. “Damn it, Scott! I almost shot you.” He shouted to him. “Are you alright?” he asked trying to swallow around the lump in his throat that he was sure was his heart.

“I’m fine, but those three up there are not.” Scott said with a shrewd grin. “What happened to him?” Scott asked pointing to the supine insensate form of Jasper.

“I had one nerve left and he got on it.” Johnny replied with his own grin.

“Well, I think we better get out of here, while we still have the chance.” Scott suggested, “Never know how many are still out there.”

“Sounds good to me. Help me with him, will ya?” Johnny requested.

The brothers grabbed the unconscious man. After throwing Jasper over the donkey, they tied him up nice and tight, and then high tailed it out of there as quickly as possible. Their eyes were scanning every tree and rock for more of Jasper’s men, as they rapidly rode away.

Feeling a little more at ease, that they were out of danger for right now, they had both agreed to by pass the small town. It had nothing there that they needed, and Johnny certainly had no desire to revisit it. Especially not after he had learned that those ‘good town’s people’ had told Jasper about the village. A few of them knew what Jasper was and hadn’t felt guilty about the information they had given him. Jasper had taken pleasure in destroying it. Johnny wasn’t too sure of how he would handle himself, right at this moment; he just might have sought some form of retribution.

He was trying to see it through Laura’s eyes, as he brought her killer back to justice to stand trial. But that didn’t mean that he had to go back in one piece. Looking back at the man draped over the donkey, a sly grin graced his face, as a thought came to him. /An ass carrying an ass. / The humor in the thought made him chuckled lightly.

“What’s so funny?” Scott wondered.

“Oh, nothing much!”

The rest of the journey was uneventful and finally they were back at town. Ready to hand over Jasper to the cowardly sheriff. Well at least Scott was, Johnny still didn’t know for sure that handing him over to the law, here in this town, was going to be enough. He didn’t go through all this trouble just to have the man get off scot-free.

As they rode through the center of town, all eyes were on them. Most of them were mainly interested in the man draped over the donkey. Johnny had noticed this and it unnerved him, something was not right here. His eyes narrowed as he tried to read their faces, but most of them just looked away.

The sheriff was alerted to the return of the threesome, he came barreling out of his office. A frown grew on his face, “They’re back.” he said quietly to himself. He took out his bandana and with a shaky hand wiped franticly at the sweat that was starting to form on his brow.

The owner of the cantina, also saw this, and he too was not very happy to see them back either. Suddenly he was overwhelmed by an attack of nerves. He hurried back into his bar, throwing out his only customer and locking the door.

The brothers stopped in front of the sheriff office and dismounted. Johnny untied Jasper who was now awake, but dazed from the blood rushing to his head from riding the animal on his belly. “Come on, get over there.” Johnny ordered, as he roughly pulled the man off the donkey and gave him a shove to get moving.

“Well, I see you found your man!” the lawman said in agitation.

“No thanks to you.” Johnny said sharply as he pushed his prisoner through the door.

Scott was right behind him; he grabbed the cell keys off the wall. They proceeded to the jail cell, and threw Jasper into one, locking the door.

“There you go, sheriff, now do your job.” Scott commanded the man.

“And he had better be in that cell when we get back!” Johnny added with cold narrowed eyes that made the sheriff even more nervous than he already was.

“Where…where are you going? He stuttered.

“We are going to get something to eat, a hot bath, and a good night’s sleep!” Scott answered.

Johnny walked up to the man, growling with iciness, “We did your job for you, now you better see that he stays in that cell.” Johnny reminded the man, adding, “Or this will be your last day of being a lawman.” Madrid walked out the door, slamming it shut, leaving the sheriff shaking in his boots at the veiled threat.

The sheriff walked over to the window, pressing his troubled head against the cool glass, he watched as the Lancer brothers entered the hotel. And then from the back of the room he could hear Jasper, calling to him.

The sheriff walked backed to the cell area; he stared at the man.

“Well, don’t just stand there, Dan. Let me out!”

.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Shock washed over the Lawman stilling his movement, as if he were frozen. He glared contemptuously at the man behind bars, and wondered what the hell he had gotten himself into. This was not like it was supposed to be. But that damn doctor had to go ahead and send that letter to the Lancers, even after he had told him not too; that there was absolutely no need for them to know. There was nothing really for them to do. Otherwise they would have never had known about the fire and Jasper.

And to have Johnny Madrid as one of them just made matters worse, for him and whoever else was involved. This whole thing was going to hell in a hand basket.

“Dan! Are you going to let me out?” Jasper demanded to know.

“NO! Not yet, Steve.” the Sheriff bellowed, rubbing his worried face. “Why did you go and get yourself caught?” he asked angrily.

“That, Madrid is a clever cuss. He out smarted us, that’s why!” Jasper shouted to the man.

“Keep your damn voice down, you idiot. I don’t want anyone to over hear us!” Dan hushed the man behind the bar, looking around to see if anybody had come in.

“Don’t you go calling me names. You’re just as responsible for all of this as I am.” Jasper retorted as he slung himself down hopelessly on his bunk. “You’re the one who sent for us, to rid the town of those savages. I can’t help it if that the girl got in the way!” He said with an evil grin.

“Well, it was a shame, but she and those Indians of hers, were dirtying up MY town.” He said pacing the floor nervously.

“Glad you see it my way, now let me out!” Jasper demanded again, as he stalked over to stand by the cell door.

“No, it’s not going happen! Not with those two still in town. Madrid will have no problem gunning us down.” He explained to his friend.

“He’ll never find out about you!” He pleaded. “You can say that I tricked you and I got away. He’ll believe it.” Jasper said with a snort. “ Besides he already thinks you’re a push over and a coward, he’ll believe it.”

Dan gave Jasper a dirty look for the snide remark, and hollered. “NOT YET! Let me think.” He stormed out and slammed the door.

“DAN!” Bellowed Jasper.

Meanwhile . . . .Johnny was reclining in the tub, his were eyes shut, as he reveled in the soothing hot water relaxing his tired and sore muscles. Johnny gave in to the pleasurable feel of the steamy liquid lifting the ache of heaviness from his limbs. He had a glass of whisky in one hand and his other was resting on the end table close to his gun. He was trying to collect his thoughts from the past few weeks, and sort them all out. It had been one hell of a journey, but now that they were back, he hoped that the sheriff would not botch things up. Lost in his thoughts that were floating around his head, like the soap bubbles on the bath water, it seemed like he did not even hear when Scott entered the room.

“Johnny.” Scott called softly, getting no answer he called again. “Johnny! Wake up do you want to shrivel up in that tub?” He asked grinning.

“I’m awake, just thinking.” Johnny replied.

“About what?”

“Oh, about how I still don’t trust that sheriff.” He explained.

“I know what you mean, he sure was nervous.” Scott commented.

“Yeah, so after dinner, I reckon I’ll pay him a late night visit!”

“Good idea. Speaking of dinner, what should I order for you? Since you’re still indulging yourself.” Scott asked with a sly grin, and then he slapped his hand on top the water, stepping back as it rose up to hit Johnny in the face. But Johnny didn’t budge, and Scott shook his head.

“The works! Steak, potatoes, ya know. What I normally eat.” Johnny said smiling, his eyes still closed until he lethargically fluttered them open to see his brother’s expression of amusement.

“I’m sorry, brother, but I don’t think they can muster up that much food.” Both brothers chuckled over the statement. “See you downstairs.” But Johnny wasn’t kidding, he really felt like he was hungry enough to eat a horse . . . shoes, tack and saddle.

“Okay, give me a few more minutes.” Johnny eyes slowly shuttered closed, his brother just shook his head and smiled. Then he had to say something.

“Johnny.”

“Yeah?”

“I just wanted to say that I’m proud of you.” Scott told him.

“For what?” Johnny asked propping his head up to look at his brother’s beaming face.

“Of how you handled yourself, I mean with Jasper.” Scott replied, “You had many opportunities to kill him, but you didn’t, that took self-restraint when most men would have lost control. How do you do it?” Scott went on to say.

“It’s something I learned a long time ago. Kinda goes with being who I was. “ Johnny answered softly, as he laid his head back down. Scott smiled and was about to leave when Johnny spoke again. “Beside it’s what Laura would have wanted me to do.”

****

Back at the jail, the sheriff was still debating on what he should do. What if the Lancer’s did found out that he was the one who had sent for Jasper and his men? Dan knew that he would be one sorry son a of bitch. He sat there thinking hard as sweat poured down his troubled face before he reached a decision. He came to the conclusion that he would do whatever he had to, as long as it benefited him the best.

Standing up, he walked over to the window, looking out to see if any of the boys were coming. He hoped they would stay away for the night. Just then the door opened, and in walked the last person he thought he would see tonight.

“Well, Dan, it looks like your plan has backfired on you!” said the owner of the cantina, laughing harshly.

“Shut up, Joe!” The sheriff said and pointed out the window. “And if you say anything, to those Lancer’s I’ll kill you myself.” he promised the man.

“I’m not going to say a word. I told ya, Madrid threatened me too, and you don’t want to mess with his kind!” Joe explained to his friend.

“I know!” The nervous sheriff said, “I can’t believe that Johnny Madrid and Johnny Lancer are the same man . . . the same deadly man!”

“So what are you going to do?” Asked Joe as he looked out the window, his big nose pressing against it, “Well?”

Sighing he said, “ The way I see it, I have no choice but to let Steve go, and claim he escaped.” Dan admitted. He was still not too sure of his plan, and wished he’d never had sent for the murderer. He should have just closed down the Mission and kicked Laura out of town, forcing her to take her Indians with her. But he took the coward’s way out.

“Well you better do it tonight, cause those Lancer boys are not going anywhere . . . any time soon!” Joe relayed to Dan, breaking him from his thoughts.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I overheard the blond one ask when the judge would be in town next. And that’s in three days.”

Dan sighed and nodded, he motioned for the other man to follow him and they both went into the back to tell Jasper of their plan. Whispering so no one would over hear, just in case someone should happen to walk by the back window, Steve Jasper whole-heartedly agreed to the plan. They had their backs towards the front of the office, so the plotting men never heard him walk in.

And just when Dan had put the key in the cell door, they heard a voice that sent chills of fear rippling across their bodies.

“Going somewhere?” asked Johnny, his gun in hand and pointed right at them.

.

Chapter Twenty-Three

The two men were practically shaking in their boots, too stunned to actually try to move or say a word. Just the sight of Johnny Madrid; standing there with his gun drawn on them, ready to shoot them at any given moment was enough put a chill down their spineless backs and black souls. The scene in front of him did not faze Jasper; he played along, acting as if he was scared of the gunfighter. He knew he was safe behind bars, at least for right now, that is.

“You didn’t answer my question, Sheriff.” Johnny repeated coldly, his eyes narrowed as he looked at the cantina owner. “ And why am I not surprised to find you here?” Joe stood there frozen in place, as he felt Johnny’s deadly stare pierce his very soul. He imagined he could feel the daggers being thrown at him by Madrid’s steel blue eyes.

Trying to get his wits about him and find his voice, the shaking lawman came up with the only answer he could think of. “No…nowhere, just giving the prisoner his supper, that’s all.” He squeaked, letting out the breath he was holding. “Nothing to worry about.”

“Yeah, yeah, and I… I got curious about this one, when I heard he was the one who killed your lady friend!” was Joe’s lame excuse. “So I brought him his supper as an excuse to take a look for myself at the dirty bastard.” He said with his heart was pounding in his chest, as he tried to swallow the lump in his throat.

Scratching the back his head with his free hand, gun still in the other. Johnny leaned against the wall, and smiled devilishly “Now why don’t I believe you? Huh?”

“Believe what you want, Mad…Lancer, but it’s the truth!” the sheriff stuttered nervously.

“If it’s the truth, then where is the food tray?” Johnny wondered, and pointed to the cell. “I don’t see one in your hands or his, nor in the cell. So where is it?” Johnny asked, getting impatient, and tired of their lies.

While the discussion was all going on between the three of them, the scheming Jasper had his hand on the key, slowly turning it. He was partially blocked from Johnny’s line of sight by the two men in front of him, so Johnny couldn’t see him clearly. Jasper was biding his time, before he made his move. He kept eyeing the back door, hoping and praying it was unlocked.

Still standing in the doorway, waiting for an answer, Johnny was also noticing the back door. He realized Jasper was too calm and quiet for the precarious position he was in. Something didn’t smell right. His gunfighter senses told him he had better be ready for anything to happen. Johnny’s eyes shifted back and forth, from the sheriff to Joe, then to Jasper and over to the back door. His colt was still pointing at the three men.

In the blink of an eye, all hell broke loose. Dan and Joe were being shoved, then thrown to the side of the cell. The cell door flew open; Jasper came barreling out, pushing his way pass the two startled men. He sped for the back door, hollering, “Help me, Dan. Stop Madrid!”

Steadying himself, the sheriff went for his gun, only to have it shot out of his hand. He screamed in pain, as he clutched his bloody hand to his chest. The loud mouth cantina owner suddenly found some guts; he made a dash for the gun lying on the floor. The next thing he knew, he was on the ground with a bullet in his arm. Johnny had taken them both down within seconds.

Jasper breathlessly made it to the door, but when he opened it, he was met with a rifle barrel pointed right at his chest.

“Hold it right there!” Scott ordered, “Now move,“ forcing the stunned bastard back into the room, the long gun pressed against his back. Jasper hesitated and Scott pushed the barrel harder into his back, causing the man to grunt, “I said move it” this time he did as he was told.

Johnny stepped over the downed men, and grabbed Jasper by the collar and threw him back into the cell. This time he would have company, as he shoved the lawman and his friend in with him. Slamming the cell door so hard that it made a ringing noise. He smirked at the three caged men, staring them down as a hunter would an animal.

“Scott, get the doc, and wake up the Mayor,” Johnny asked of his brother, “He should know about his trusty sheriff here.”

“Will you be okay alone with them?” asked his worried brother.

“Yeah, I’ll be just fine!” He said nice and slow, pulling up a chair, sitting himself down. Johnny just glared at them; his expression was cold and malicious. So threatening was the look that it shot a chill of death right through them.

“You’re not going to leave us alone with him, are ya?” Dan hollered.

Scott turned around and taunted, “Good luck.” and left. That made Johnny smiled.

Out of spite, Johnny teased the frightened men; he made a sudden move like he was going for his gun, and the men jumped back. Their hearts were beating so fast they could hear their pulse drumming in their ears. Johnny paced back and forth a little, then he would stop and study them like he could see through them. He was intimidating them, and it felt good. Madrid was enjoying making them sweat, and wonder what he would do to them next.

“So you all know each other, huh? Well isn’t that just nice!” he said sharply.

“What are you going to do with us?” Asked the sheriff, very nervously, still holding his injured hand, beads of sweat forming on his brow. He hissed at the pain.

“What should I do you with? That’s a very good question.” Johnny pointed out. “ Well, lets see, you had him.” he said pointing to Jasper, “come here and do your dirty work for you, and then lied to us about the whole damn thing!” Johnny reminded him, as he looked into Dan eyes. “So you tell me what I should do to you!”

Dan’s face grew even more sullen, for he was surprised that Johnny even knew about him and Jasper. At a loss for words, trying to make sense of this news, he had to ask. “How did you know that? Who told you?” Dan’s eyes shot over to where Joe was laying.

“I didn’t know.” Johnny replied, with a sly grin as he looked at the sheriff shocked pale face. Dan’s expression was one of total disbelief as he realized he had been tricked into confessing. “But I do now.” Madrid smirked knowingly at them.

With eyes wide open, Dan said, “It’s my word against yours! I’m the law here, and you’re nothing but a half-breed…” his words froze in his mouth. His heart stopped beating for a few seconds when he looked at Johnny’s colt pointed right at his heart.

“I’m a what? Go ahead and finish what you were saying.” Johnny demanded. He was itching to pull the trigger and put the scumbag out of his misery.

“Johnny!” yelled Scott as he walked in with the doctor, the Mayor following right behind them.

The Mayor took one look at his lawman behind bars and with a shocked voice asked. “Dan, what the hell is the meaning of this?”

“It’s not what you think, Hal!” explained the sheriff.

“It’s exactly what you think, Mayor.” Johnny corrected the man. “Your good sheriff here is the mastermind who brought this murdering bastard to your town. He had him burn down the mission, killing all its occupants!” he said very angrily. “So what are you going to do about it?” Madrid demanded.

“This cannot be true!” he expressed with disbelief. The Mayor walked up to the cell and looked at Dan. “Well, is it true, you had the girl and those Indians killed?”

The sheriff didn’t answer right away, and gave Jasper a look that meant trouble for them all.

“Well, Dan?”

.

Chapter Twenty-Four

The room was so deadly quiet that you could hear a pin drop, as they all waited for the answer from the very nervous man. Jasper was sending death threats out with his eyes; signals that said ‘deny it or die.’ But the doomed sheriff didn’t pay any attention to him; he had made up his mind. There was no getting out of it now. Either way both of them were going to die, either by Johnny’s gun or by the noose.

Taking a deep breath, he looked the mayor right in the eyes, “Yes! But I did it for the town, Hal.” he said in his defense. “I had to, I had to rid the town of those savages, they were dirtying up our town!” he blurted out with pride at his morbid deed, “They had no right living here, along with those Mexs. They were soiling our town, too.” He admitted heartlessly, knowing Johnny was standing there. “ I had planned on taking care of them, too.”

“Shut up, Dan!” ordered Jasper. Trying to stop Dan from spilling his guts just to clear his soul, if he had one.

“No!” He hollered at him, and continued. “I sent for Steve, I knew of his hatred for the Indians, so what better way to rid our town of them. All I had to do was to blame it on the vigilantes.” Dan said, and glanced over at Jasper, who was staring at him, his eyes narrowed, face beet red, like it was ready to explode.

“You sent them after me?” Jasper growled through his teeth, his lips barely moving.

“I didn’t think they would find you.” The sheriff admitted to his steaming friend.

“You son of a bitch! You set me up!” he screamed, jumping up from the cot like the mad dog he was. He longed to rip the heart right out of him. With his hands out, he lunged for the sheriff’s throat, knocking them both to the ground. ”I’ll kill you…you bastard” Jasper spit out as he was trying to choke the man. The doctor who was tending to Joe’s arm, quickly pulled Jasper off Dan

“Oh, this is sweet.” Johnny said laughing as he watched the two men on the ground. “The rat setting off his own mouse trap.”

“You heard it, Mayor.” Said Scott, and smiled at his brother, who wasn’t smiling anymore. He knew Johnny was thinking about the bigotry of these men. And how it had cost Laura her life, along with who knows how many others that had fallen at their hands.

“Yes I did, and I don’t know what to say. I had no idea he had that much hatred towards people like…” he stopped and looked at Johnny.

“Like me?” Johnny said softly.

The Mayor bowed his head in shame, unable to look at Johnny‘s despondent face at that moment. “Yes, Mr. Lancer, and I am deeply shamed by this, I’m so very sorry for your loss.” He said sadly. “I was told you knew the young lady, very well.”

“Yes I did, and I hope you will see to it that justice is done…or I will!” Johnny demanded sternly, “We didn’t do all this to see the likes of them get off, right?”

“Most definitely, justice will be served.” he assured the Lancer men. “But there is no need for you to stay here, go on home.” he expressed. “I assure you they will be dealt with.”

“Well, if you don’t mind, Mayor, I think we’ll just stick around, and see that it gets done.” Scott requested. And gave his brother a slight grin. Johnny nodded in agreement.

“You don’t have too.”

“Yes, we do, Mayor!” Johnny said frankly.

“Well, suit yourself.” He conceded, knowing it would do no good to argue with them. ”But I’m faced with another problem.” The mayor added, frowning.

“Oh! What’s that?” Scott asked.

“I have no officer of the law, now. Without any semblance of law here, the town will be over run by who knows what. And I don’t know who to get right off hand to take his place.”

Scott and Johnny looked at each other, and smiled devilishly. “Well, Mayor!” Scott said raising his eyebrows, grinning. He didn’t have to say another word, as the mayor knew what was on their minds just by the expressions on their faces. . So did Dan.

“NO! Hal, don’t do it, not them!” the former sheriff yelled, but his words fell on deaf ears.

He watched in horror, as the mayor swore in the Lancer brothers as his temporary sheriff and deputy. The Mayor then left for the comforts of his home and his feather bed.

“Well, Sheriff John, what shall we do as our first act as lawmen?” Scott joked with dry humor in his voice.

“Well, Deputy Scott, I could go for a beer. Then when we get back, we can see that our prisoners are comfortable!” He said loud enough for the trio to hear. “If we’re lucky maybe they’ll do our work for us, and kill each other.” Johnny added as they walked out the door. Leaving the three defeated men glaring at each other.

The next few days were very interesting, as they waited for the Judge to arrive. Having an ex-gun hawk for a sheriff and his brother as his deputy, proved very useful. The town had never been so peaceful. Nobody had the guts or fortitude to stand up against Johnny. And if there were a brawl, it would break up before he and Scott got there. The mayor was very pleased with his decision. In fact, he was wishing they would stay on.

The Judge had come and gone, with the confession from Dan, there was no trial. He and Jasper had been sentence to hang by the neck for the murders of Laura, Santee, and all those Indians at the mission, plus the village.

The loud mouth canteen owner was sentenced to a prison term of two years. For aiding and abetting the sheriff’s efforts to rid the town of the mission, and for helping with the attempted escape of Jasper. His business was put up for sale.

Johnny was pleased at the results, but until this was all over he still couldn’t feel any satisfaction that justice had been fully served.

The day of the hanging came, but before they turned in their badges, Johnny and Scott had one last duty to perform. That was walking the two men to hangman’s noose.

Leading them out of the jail, hands bound, Dan and Jasper looked at the crowd with smug faces. Neither one felt any remorse for what they had done. In their prejudiced minds, they did a service for the town.

The boys stood there as the ropes were placed around the doomed men’s necks. The brothers had mixed emotions as they looked at the sight in front of them. This wasn’t just any hanging; it was personal. Their hearts and minds were racing in a rapid staccato rhythm, waiting for the hangman to pull that lever. Putting an end to this whole nightmare.

The echo of the trapdoor dropping open followed the grind and whine of the lever being pulled. A wet crunching noise accompanied strangled gurgling sounds. The bodies of the guilty men twisted in a rigid and macabre dance before settling to a gentle sway. The crowd cheered their demise. Johnny’s heart suddenly felt lighter then it had in weeks. He smiled grimly, turning he slowly walked back into the jail. As his brother watched, his own sad smile faded as he followed behind Johnny.

Johnny stood by the empty jail cell, and put his hand on the cross around his neck. Satisfied he had done things Laura’s way, the right way. Even though he still had to kill, he did bring her killers to justice in doing so. Johnny now felt relieved, the journey was over; it was now time to go home.

He felt a strong hand on his shoulder. “Come on, brother, let’s go home.”

He nodded and threw his badge on the desk as he walked out of the office, as did Scott. When they rode out of town, Johnny stopped by the burnt mission. Staring at it for a few moments, he dismounted and walked over to the remains of what used to be a metal cross. It had once rested on the dining room wall.

He took off his cross from around his neck, gently kissing it he placed it on top the larger one. He looked at the ruined building and closed his eyes to remember it as it was before. With that picture in his mind, he also imagined Laura standing there. Smiling at him. ‘Cinnamon peaches’ he thought as he looked at her.

A lone tear fell down his check, as he said. “Laura honey, I love you. And I will miss you. You can rest in peace now…now that you have had your revenge…through me.

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~end~

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