Word Count 24, 109
I don’t own them * sigh * I’m just having some fun with them. All original characters belong to their rightful owners, all others belong to me, and may not be used without my permission.
This story is Rated – R for language.
Johnny Madrid Lancer
Tom Smith – Marshal, Tin Cup, Colorado
Mike Williams – deputy marshal, Tin Cup, Colorado
Andy Jameson – deputy marshal, Tin Cup, Colorado
Cal Wheeler – Marshal, Abilene, Kansas
Porter Rockwell – deputy marshal, Abilene, Kansas
Richard Griffith – deputy marshal, Abilene, Kansas
Abe Pratt – Owner, Cottonwood ranch, Abilene, Kansas
Tom Pratt – son
Fenton Pratt – son
J.R. Blackshere – owner,Clover Cliff ranch, Abilene, Kansas
Warren Blackshere – son
” Hey Murdoch, we finished that section of fence up at Black Mesa. ” Johnny said.
” Good….. Scott, would you leave us? ” Murdoch said as he stood up. ” I need to speak to your brother alone. ”
Scott looked at his brother and smiled. Slapping him on the back. ” Nice knowing you brother. I think I’ll go take a hot bath before supper. ” Scott said with a smile.
Johnny walked over and poured a shot of tequila and downed it. His mind wheeling with wonder of what it was he did wrong this time.
” Come sit down John. ”
” I’ll stand. ” he said. ” Just tell me what I did wrong this time and get it over with. ”
Murdoch sighed. ” I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel that way son. ” Murdoch said. ” I wanted to talk to you about something important. There’s an auction coming up at the county seat. I’m going to have your brother go with me. He needs to learn what to look for in bulls…..What I need to know……What I want to ask you is if you would feel comfortable running Lancer for two weeks? ”
” Me run Lancer for two weeks? ” Johnny asked. ” You would trust me to do that? ”
” Yes. You have experience and the men respect you. ”
” They didn’t at first. ” Johnny said.
” But they do now. ” Murdoch replied. ” Teresa will be staying here. I don’t have to tell you……”
” No Murdoch. Teresa is like a sister to me and nothing more. ” Johnny cut in and said firmly. ” So when do you leave? ”
” End of the week. ” Murdoch said. ” While we’re gone I would like you to fix that hole in the barn roof before it starts raining. ”
Three men rode into Spanish Wells, dismounting in front of the saloon. Jake Garcia, the older of the three, and the planner, Mark Anderson, was like a younger brother to Jake, always there to back him up, Dave Moore was the troublemaker, short tempered, and quick to beat a man. All three former guards at Lansing, Kansas State Penitentiary, and all three let go due to complaints about the treatment of the prisoners. Drifting from town to town, working when needed for money, the three rode into Abilene, looking for work, they rode to the Clover Cliff ranch, and were immediately hired by J.R. Blackshere to guard his prized Black Galloway cattle he brought all the way from Scotland.
A neighboring rancher named Abe Pratt ran a sheep ranch. His Merino sheep came all the way from Spain. Excellent wool producers, Pratt’s sheep became known all over Kansas, and sought for making wool clothes. Most of western Kansas belong to cattle ranchers, so when Pratt started a sheep ranch, it didn’t sit well with the ranchers. The marshal of Abilene, Cal Wheeler, and his two deputies, Porter Rockwell, and Richard Griffith worked hard trying to keep the peace. Most of the trouble, fights usually would happen at the Drovers Cottage, owned by Joseph McCoy.
Five years ago McCoy expanded his corrals to handle a hundred thousand head of cattle at a time. Five thousand cowboys in a season would come into Abilene after three months on the trail. Most didn’t want trouble, but some sought it.
Marshal Cal Wheeler had three deputies to help him maintain the peace. Deputies Porter Rockwell, Richard Griffith, and Johnny Madrid. A man known by both his name, and his reputation as the best. A man the marshal had worked with before in Arizona. A man he never expected to see in Kansas. Making him an offer of seventy five dollars a month, plus two dollars and fifty cents for every arrest, Cal was glad when Johnny accepted the badge, and soon found it was a very tiresome job. Sleeping during the day, and working most of the night.
The night of the shooting, Madrid had been working with Rockwell at the west end of town, checking business doors around midnight. Abe Pratt’s youngest son Tom, got into a fight with J.R. Blackshere’ only son, Warren. Witnesses told how Warren was the one who drew first, and fired. When Johnny got there, Warren refused to drop his gun, leaving Johnny no choice but to shoot him. Only he didn’t kill the kid, he shot him in the right arm. The bullet shattering the bone so bad, the doctor had no choice but to remove the arm.
J.R. Blackshere, though not present when his son was shot, became angry, and swore he would some day make Madrid pay. Madrid left Abilene the fall of the next year. Not long after his leaving is when Blackshere made the offer to Jake, Mark, and Dave of five thousand dollars if they brought Madrid back to him alive so he could make him pay. Only problem was, they didn’t know where Madrid went when he left. Riding all along the border of Mexico, they had no luck finding him. Then one day, luck came their way when they overheard a whore talking about Madrid, and how she was going to miss him. Cornering the girl late that night, they learned he had went home to California.
” What can I get you gentlemen? ”
” Some information to start. ” Jake Garcia said. ” Looking for a ranch that’s supposed to be around here called Lancer. You hear of it? ”
” Lancer, yeah it sure is. It’s the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin. ” Mac said. ” Just follow the road west to Morro Coyo and then north about ten miles, you’ll see the cutoff road that goes right to the ranch. ”
” Biggest ranch huh, how big? ” Mark Anderson asked.
” One hundred thousand acres big. ” Mac responded. ” Murdoch runs it with his two sons Scott and Johnny. ”
” Two sons? ” Dave Moore asked.
” Look…..no disrespect, but you want to know anymore about Lancer, go ask someone else. ” Mac said before going in the back.
” Him having a brother, and father could become a problem getting him. ” Mark suggested.
” Dave, go to Morro Coyo and see what you can learn about this ranch. I don’t want to go there and be blindsided. ” Jake ordered.
” What happened John? ” Sam asked as he walked into the bedroom.
” He was on the barn roof fixing a hole when he fell through. ” Teresa said.
” How far did you fall John? ”
” About thirty feet I guess. I landed on the bales of straw. ” Johnny said. ” I was pulling up rotten boards when the one I was standing on broke under my right foot. ”
” How’s it feel when you breath? ”
” Sore, but I don’t think they’re broke.”
” No, it would appear they’re not, but they are badly bruised. Soak in a hot tub before you go to bed tonight, then let Teresa put cold compresses on them to help with the bruising and soreness. ” Sam instructed. ” I know Murdoch left you in charge John, but I wouldn’t recommend doing any work or riding for a few days. ”
” Murdoch is going to be furious with me if I don’t get that roof fixed before they come home Sam. ”
” I think he will understand. ” Sam said.
” A hand can fix it Johnny. You are not going back up there. ” Teresa said firmly.
” Just take it easy John. Give it a few days. ”
” Can you stay for supper Sam? ” Teresa asked.
” I would like to, but I have another patient I need to see tonight. ” Sam said. ” I’ll stop by on Sunday. ”
” We can take him with no problem. ” Dave said.
” What do you mean? ” Jake asked.
” He’s there alone. It seems his old man and brother are gone to some auction and won’t be back for two weeks. ” Dave said. ” He’s running the ranch. It’s only him and some young girl, his fathers ward in the house. ”
” How many hands? ” Mark asked.
” About a hundred and fifty, but they won’t be a problem if we can get inside before sunup. ” Dave suggested.
” We’ll go early in the morning. ”
Teresa stood preparing dough for biscuits when she heard someone walk into the kitchen. Assuming it was Johnny, she turned around.
” Don’t scream. ” Jake ordered as he went to her and put the barrel of his pistol to her head. ” Where’s Madrid? ”
” Upstairs, he hasn’t come down yet. ” she said.
” You do as you’re told and you won’t be hurt. ”
” Someone is coming down the stairs. ” Dave said.
” Morning Teresa…..”
” Don’t do anything stupid Madrid. ” Jake ordered. ”
” What do you want? ” he asked.
” Little lady, I want you to go out and saddle a horse for him. Bring it up to the house, and don’t think of talking to anyone. ”
” Who are you? ”
” Don’t worry about it ma’am. Just go do what I said. ”
” It’s alright Teresa. ” Johnny said.
” Names Jake Garcia. This here is Mark Anderson and that’s Dave Moore. ” Jake said after Teresa left the house. ” Tie his hands up. Make sure he can’t get loose. ”
Mark tied Johnny’s hands in the front, leaving enough room between his wrist for the knot.
” Bounty hunters. ” Johnny spat.
” No, but you are worth five thousand dollars to us. The choice is yours. ”
” His horse was just brought up. ” Mark said. ” Lets go. ”
” Where you taking Johnny? ” Teresa demanded.
” That’s of no concern of yours little lady. ” Jake ordered as they walked outside. ” Mount up Madrid. ”
” We can’t leave her loose. She’ll wake up the hands and we won’t get off this property. ” Mark said.
” You’re right. Watch him while I tie her up, and gag her so we can get away. ” Jake said as he walked Teresa back inside the house.
” Hurry up, rains coming. ” Dave said.
” Good, it’ll wash away our tracks so they can’t follow us. ” Mark said.
” Sorry to do this to you little lady, but Madrid is worth five thousand dollars to us dead or alive. ” Jake said as he tied her hands. ” So you might want to keep that in mind when you get free in the morning. ”
Teresa ran outside when Murdoch and Scott rode into the yard a week later. ” Oh Murdoch, I didn’t think you would ever get here. ” she sobbed.
” What’s wrong? ” he asked.
” They took him…..They took Johnny! ”
” Who took Johnny? ” Scott demanded.
” Three men came here last week and took him! They said he’s worth five thousand dollars to them! ”
” Five thousand dollars. For what? ” Murdoch demanded.
” I don’t know. They never said. ” she said.
” Teresa, were they lawmen? ” Scott asked.
” No, I heard Johnny call them bounty hunters. ”
” Are you sure ? ” Murdoch asked.
” Yes. That’s what the one called Jake said when he was tying me up. He said I needed to remember that Johnny is worth five thousand dollars to them, and they will do whatever they have too to deliver him. ” she said.
” Why does it matter? ” Scott asked.
” Bounty hunters work for anyone. It has to be a private bounty. Your brother has committed no crimes before, or since he’s come home. ”
” You think maybe the Rurales are behind this? ” Scott asked.
” I don’t see them paying that kind of money to get your brother back in Mexico. It’s getting late, lets go through the file I have on him from the Pinkerton’s. Maybe there is something in there that will tell us where they took him. ”
” Johnny hasn’t been called out once since he came here. ” Scott said.
” Teresa put together bandages and provisions for both of us, we’ll leave at daybreak. ” Murdoch said.
” Murdoch, Scott, Johnny is hurt. He was fixing the barn roof and a board broke. He fell through and bruised his ribs badly. ” Teresa explained.
Johnny was tired. Tired and sore. The bruises on his ribs still bothered him. His wrist were now raw and burning from the sweat. He knew tied like they were, it wouldn’t be long and they would start bleeding. For the past week they had headed east toward the Sierra mountains.
” We better find a lace to stay dry before that storm gets here. ” Dave said.
” I don’t want to go into a town where someone might know Madrid, or there’s any law to ask questions. ” Jake said.
” So where we gonna get out of the rain at? ” Mark asked.
Not wanting to be out in the rain himself, knowing what it would do to the rope, Johnny took a chance and spoke up.
” There’s an abandoned mining town at the top of the pass. ” Johnny said.
” I don’t believe we asked your opinion. ” Mark said before hitting Johnny hard in his already sore, bruised ribs with his rifle butt.
” There’s wood for a fire, and shelter. ” Johnny said as he glared at Mark. ” Up here it’ll be snow, not rain this time of year. ”
” Boy you sure are a stubborn one. ” Mark said before hitting Johnny again.
” Knock it off! ” Jake ordered. ” How far to the top? ”
” Two miles. ” Johnny said as he ignored the pain in his left side.
” Mark, you better get that temper of yours under control. We don’t need him having splintered ribs and dying on us before we hand him over. ”
” You know he’s to be alive upon delivery. ” Dave added.
” Then tell him to keep his mouth shut! ” Mark said with anger.
” He was telling us where there’s shelter from the storm you jackass. ” Dave said.
Sam stopped his buggy and got down just as Scott came out of the house. ” Scott, I didn’t know you and Murdoch were back. ”
” Sam, how bad is Johnny’s ribs? ”
” Teresa told you. Bad enough I don’t want him working or riding for a couple weeks. Why? ”
Scott told him what happened to his brother just as Murdoch walked out of the house. ” Thanks Sam. ” he said as he tied his saddlebags on and slid his rifle in the scabbard.
” Are you two going after him? ” Sam asked.
” We don’t know which direction they went. Storm wiped out there tracks the night they took Johnny. ” Murdoch said. ” Could you take Teresa over to stay with Mrs. Conway while we’re gone? ”
” Murdoch, I want to stay here just in case Johnny gets away from them and comes back here. ”
” I don’t want you here alone. ”
” I won’t be alone. The hands are here, and I know how to use a gun. I’m staying. ” Teresa said firmly.
” One of us is gonna have to go to a town and get supplies tomorrow. ” Dave said.
” Madrid, where’s the next town we can get supplies at? ” Jake asked.
” Candelaria, Nevada will have everything you’ll need. ” Johnny said.
” Like we’re going to believe you! ” Mark said.
” He asked me, so I told him. I don’t give a shit if you believe me or not asshole. ” Johnny said as he gave the man a look of pure ice.
Mark walked over to Johnny. ” You got a smart mouth on you. ” he said before he kicked him hard in the ribs.
Johnny rolled onto his side and coughed as he tried to protect his already sore ribs.
” Damn it Mark! Get the hell away from Madrid now! ” Jake ordered as he stood up and went over to him.
” I say we just kill him now and get it over with. ” Mark spat.
Jake grabbed him by his coat. ” You stupid sonofabitch, they want him alive. We were not supposed to hurt him. ”
” I didn’t hurt him…..yet! ”
Jake shoved him away. ” From now on you don’t go anywhere near him. ”
Johnny stayed curled up as he closed his eyes and tried to get through the pain.
” Sit up Madrid. Let me take a look. ” Jake ordered.
Johnny didn’t want kicked or beat anymore so he slowly sat up, and with Jake’s help, stood up.
” Let me see your ribs. ”
Johnny pulled his shirt up to show the dark bruising on his left side.
” What the hell did you do to him Mark? ” Dave demanded.
” That from him busting you earlier? ”
” Not all of it. ” Johnny said. ” I was repairing the barn roof last week and fell thru some rotten boards. They weren’t fractured then, but I think they are now thanks to him kicking me. ”
” Let me know. ” Jake said as he carefully started feeling his ribs until Johnny jerked away. ” Damn it Mark. They got a doc in Candelaria? ”
Johnny glared at Mark. ” Yeah. It’s a silver mining town. ” he said. ” I ever get the chance…..I’m going to kill you! ” he said with coldness in his voice.
” I’ll take you to the doc and let him bind up your ribs. ” Jake said.
” This might be something. ” Scott said. ” It says Johnny worked as a deputy for a marshal Cal Wheeler in Abilene, Kansas. ”
” Go on. ”
” It says the marshal hired him as a deputy because of the amount of cattle coming into the town. ”
” Does it say the year Johnny was there? ” Murdoch asked.
” 1869. ” Scott responded. ” My gut is telling me that’s it sir. Something happened in Abilene, Kansas to make those men come here and take my brother back there. ”
” And if it’s not there? ” Murdoch asked.
” One thing I learned from my brother is to always go with your gut instinct. ” he responded. ” It’s what’s kept him alive. ”
” They’ve been gone a week, and your brother has badly bruised ribs, that will slow them down. ”
” Be ready to ride at daybreak. ”
” Young man, you have no fractured ribs, but they are badly bruised. It wouldn’t take much to break them. I suggest you not ride a horse for a week, let them heal up. ”
” He can’t do that doc. ” Jake said. ” Can’t you wrap them up or something? ”
” I can. Go ahead and take your shirt off so I can wrap them up for you. ”
” My god young man! ” the doctor said when Johnny removed his shirt.
” I’ve had a rough life doc. ” Johnny said as he looked at Jake.
” In all my years I have never seen anyone with so many scars from bullets, knives, and what appears to be whip? ”
” Yeah, the Mexican Rurales like to whip their prisoners. ” Johnny said as the doctor started wrapping his ribs up. He noticed the fresh burn marks on his wrist. ” I’ll give you some salve you can put on your wrist. ”
” Don’t bother doc. ” Johnny said. ” Just wrapping my ribs up will be enough. ”
” How much doc? ” Jake asked.
” Six bits will cover it. ”
” Thanks doc. Let’s go Johnny. ”
” Looks to be a mining town. ” Scott said.
” Let’s hope someone has seen them. ” Murdoch said as they dismounted.
” Johnny being hurt when they took him. Maybe they have a doctor here who’s seen them? ”
” Excuse me, is there a doctor in this town? ” Murdoch asked a man passing by.
” Sure do. That’s him coming this way. Names Doc Haskell. ”
” Much obliged. ” Murdoch said.
” Excuse me, Doctor Haskell? ”
” Yes. What can I do for you gentlemen? ”
” We need some information. We’re looking…….”
” Is there someplace more private we can talk doctor? ” Murdoch cut in and asked.
” My office. I was just headed there. ”
Murdoch and Scott followed the man to his office, glad to be out of the dust, and bustle of the street.
” Now, what is it I can do for you? ”
” Have you in the past week seen a man for badly bruised ribs? ” Murdoch asked.
” Why you asking? ”
” He’s my son. This is his brother Scott, and I’m Murdoch Lancer. His name is Johnny Lancer. ”
Doc Haskell looked at the two men. ” I don’t much care to be lied too. I’m going to ask you gentlemen to leave. ”
” You seen him didn’t you? ”
” I said leave! ”
” Doctor please! Three men came into our home and took my brother at gunpoint over a week ago. He has badly bruised ribs from falling through the barn roof when repairing it. Please, did you see him? ” Scott explained and pleaded.
” I treated a man last week for bruised ribs. I bound him up and told him he shouldn’t ride, but the man with him said they had too. ” the doc said. ” The man I treated goes by the name Johnny Madrid, not Lancer. ”
” It’s a long story doc, but Madrid is my son Johnny Lancer. ”
” Any man foolish enough to claim that I recon is telling me the truth. ” he said. ” Like I said, I wrapped his ribs up, and advised against riding. I also offered some salve for his wrist, but he refused. Said it wouldn’t do any good. ”
” His wrist? ” Murdoch asked.
” I’ve seen more than my share of rope burns, and that boys wrist are raw from rope being tied around them. ” he responded.
” Your boy kept staring at the other man, even when he took his short off so I could wrap his ribs up. I ain’t ever seen so many scars on a mans body before. All he says is he’s had a rough life, and that the Mexican Rurales like to beat their prisoners. ”
” Do you by chance know which way the headed when they left town? ” Scott asked.
” They stayed the night and then headed straight east the next morning. I did hear one of them in the saloon say they would be glad when the sixteen hundred mile trip was over. ”
Scott looked at his father. ” My gut instinct was right. They are headed to Abilene. ”
” Listen doctor Haskell, I can’t thank you enough for what you have told us. ” Murdoch said.
Scott pulled out ten dollars and handed it to the man. ” Thank you. ”
” I know Johnny Madrid. Whatever those men took him for has to be wrong son. ” the doctor said.
” I assure you it is. ” Scott said before walking outside.
” Put that ankle shackle on him so he can sleep. ” Jake ordered.
” Why you coddling Madrid so much? ” Dave asked. ” Ever since the doc bound his ribs up, you been coddling him. ”
” Just because we’re taking him against his will don’t mean we can’t be civil about it. ” Jake said.
” Yeah, you treat a prisoner right, they’re less likely to cause problems. ” Mark added. ” That’s what got you kicked off the inmate ward. ”
” They were murderers. They weren’t sent there to be pampered. ” Dave said. ” I don’t care how nice you treat that half-breed sonofabitch, he’ll try and escape the first chance he gets. ”
” Seems to me Madrid said the first chance he gets…..he’s killing you for beating on him. ” Mark said with a laugh.
” Turn that bastard loose. I’ll be the one killing him. ” Dave said.
” Yeah, in the back. ” Johnny said just loud enough he knew he was heard.
Dave spun around and glared at Johnny. ” What did you say boy? ”
” You heard me. Men like you like to shoot people in the back. ” Johnny said. ” You shoot them in the back because you don’t have the guts to face them. ”
Dave took three quick steps toward Johnny when a shot rang out, hitting at his feet. ” Next one goes in you Dave. Stay away from him. ”
” Tell him to keep his smart mouth shut! ” Dave said with anger before kicking sand in Johnny’s face.
Johnny closed his eyes as the sand sprayed his face.
” Damn it Dave! Go get some firewood so we can have coffee and something hot to eat. ” Jake ordered.
” We could run into snow when we get into the mountains in Colorado. ” Mark said.
” It’s August. It don’t snow in August. ” Dave said.
” It snows in the higher elevations dummy. ” Jake said. ” We’ll have to get warmer coats, and a couple tarps so we stay dry at night. ”
” You think they’ll stay headed straight east? ” Scott asked as he tossed his saddle down, and spread his sleeping bag.
” Coffee will be done soon. I think they will. They could hit snow up in the mountains in Colorado though. ” Murdoch said.
” Snow, it’s August. ” Scott said.
” Down here yes, but up in the Rockies it will be much cooler, especially at night. ” Murdoch said as he sat down. ” If we don’t get Johnny back before they get up there, we’ll have to buy warm clothes, coats, gloves, scarfs. ”
” Maybe a pack-horse to carry enough supplies if it does snow. ” Scott said.
”Probably wouldn’t hurt. ” Murdoch said. ” You know, when you boys came home….I was so happy. I built Lancer up because I wanted to leave a legacy behind. I’ve been thinking since we left home about all that’s happened, all I’ve built, and….though I want to leave Lancer to you boys when I die….I’ve realized I’ve already left a legacy. You and Johnny are my legacy. ”
” We will get him back sir. ” Scott said.
Murdoch poured two cups of coffee, and handed one to Scott. ” She never should have left me. ”
” Thank you. ” Scott said as he took the hot cup. ” Johnny’s mother? ”
” I was working as a deputy sheriff, tracking a man below the border. I rode into Matamoros, and stopped at this cantina. Don’t get me wrong son, I loved your mother very much. She was my everything. I was devastated when she died giving birth to you. The ranch was under attack, so I sent her away with your grandfather to a safer place. ” he said. ” I didn’t know she would go into labor on the road. Your grandfather took you and left her there to die in the back of that wagon. Two people who were with them had already buried her by the time I got there.”
Scott settled back against his saddle and stretched his legs out. ” Grandfather never told me I had a brother. All he told me was that you didn’t want me. ”
” I came to see you in Boston son. It was your fifth birthday. I came to get you back, and he threatened me with years in court, and sending you away so I would never see you again.” he said. ” I wrote to you several times a year even though I never got a response back. Every birthday and Christmas I sent you a present. ”
” I never got them. ”
” I figured as much. I met Maria a couple years later when in Matamoros. She was a thing of absolute beauty. She got…..we got married and I brought her home to Lancer. ” Murdoch said as he stirred the beans. ” I thought she was happy there, but it seems that after Johnny was born….she wasn’t. It seems she started seeing a man, a gambler when I was out all day working. I woke one morning to find her gone, and Johnny with her. For twenty years I searched for him, not knowing if he was still alive, where he was, and why he never came back home. I can’t believe she lied to him, and told him I threw them out. That I didn’t want him. ”
” You ever notice the scar on the back of Johnny’s right hand? ” Scott asked. ” He doesn’t talk about his past much to me. We were out fixing fence-line when he told me something that still angers me. He told me while he was in the orphanage, these kids ganged up on him, and cut him to see if his blood was red like there’s. The padre beat him all the time, or locked him in a small closet for several days with no food or water. ”
Johnny sat with his back against the tree he was chained too watching every mood the three men made. Bringing his legs up, he felt his knife still on the inside of his left boot just waiting for the right time to be used.
” It’s not much, but it’s hot. ” Jake said as he brought a plate of beans and a cup of coffee to Johnny.
” Thanks. ” Johnny said. ” I will kill him if I get a chance. ”
” There’s been times I’ve wanted to kill him. ” he said. ” Don’t underestimate Dave. He’s not a man to make angry. What he did to you is nothing to what he can do. ”
” You guys were guards at a prison? ”
” Kansas state penitentiary in Lansing. ”
” There’s a trading post about ten miles across the line in Colorado. You can get what you’ll need there. ”
” How is it you know so much about this area? I thought Johnny Madrid ran down along the border? ”
” I’ve been around. I went where I was needed. ” Johnny said. ” Where you taking me? ”
” Abilene. We were offered five thousand dollars to bring you back to Abilene. Why I don’t know, and that’s the truth. Eat up before it gets cold. ”
” Thanks. ” Johnny said as he watched Jake walk back over to the fire and sit down. His gut instinct was telling him the man didn’t want to do what he was doing. That he was being forced to do it.
” I hate that my life was easy, and my brothers was struggle just to stay alive. I wish grandfather had told me I have a little brother. ”
”If you had known, would you have left Boston to come and look for him? ”
” Most definitely sir. ” he said. ” Growing up I always wanted a little brother, and wondered what it would be like to have one. ”
” I wish the two of you could have grown up at Lancer. I would have loved to have watched the two of you grow up. ”
” I know you didn’t get much time with him as a baby…..but I was wondering what he was like? ”
” In to everything once he started walking. There was no keeping that boy in one spot. ” Murdoch said. ” This one day I was down at the corral and Maria came running down there frantic. It seems Johnny had escaped the house, and she couldn’t find him anywhere. I had the hands help look for him, and he was found a short time later asleep in a stall with a mare and her foal. She was so angry at him. Yelling in Spanish as she snatched him up and took him back into the house. It was a week later that she left in the middle of the night. ”
” No explanation why? ”
” No. She just packed up and left. ”
” I wonder why this river is green? ” Mark asked.
” Algae and moss. ” Dave said.
” It’s minerals washed down from the mines. It does it whenever it rains. ” Johnny said.
” Shows what you know half-breed. It’s not raining. ” Dave said snidely.
” Didn’t say it was. It washes down from the mountains when it rains. If you had bothered to look last night at sunset, you would have noticed it was storming up north. ”
” Dave don’t notice much of anything. ” Jake said.
” Mistakes like that can get a man killed. ” Johnny said.
” That should do you fellas. ”
” Thank you. ” Scott said as he tossed a canvas over the pack and started securing it with rope.
” You haven’t seen four men headed east in the past week have you? ” Murdoch asked. ” One of them a dark haired young man with blue eyes? ”
” Four men came thru three days ago. They bought supplies and some coats to stay warm in case it’s snowing up in the mountains. Now this ole girl will do you good, she’s sturdy and strong. ”
” We’ll take good care of her. ” Murdoch said.
” There’s a town called Tin Cup with a marshal. If it snows up there, they won’t make it through the pass
” How far to this Tin Cup? ”
” About a hundred and eighty miles. You should make it there in ten days. ” the man said as he untied the pack-horse and handed the lead rope to Scott.
” Thank you. ” Scott said as he mounted up and took the lead rope.
” Keep in mind, it can rain pretty hard up there. You stretch a rope between a couple trees, and put that tarp over it, you’ll stay dry. Pine branches and needles can make for a somewhat comfy bed under your sleeping bag. ”
” We’ll keep that in mind. ” Murdoch said as he mounted up.
” Something slowed them down if they’re only three days ahead of us now. ” Scott said.
” Lets hope the weather works in our favor on that pass. ” Murdoch said.
” This damn snow is getting worse. ” Mark grumbled.
” Hell I can’t feel my damn feet, hands, or face. ” Dave added.
” Looks like a town up ahead. We’ll stop and wait it out. ” Jake said.
” What do we do about him? ” Mark asked.
Jake stopped his horse, and pulled his knife. ” Let me see your hands. ”
Johnny held his hands out and let Jake cut the rope.
” Okay, I’m going to tale a chance and trust you to not try and get away. You do, and a lot of innocent people in that town will die. Do I make myself clear? ”
” We ain’t got enough money between us for a room Jake, let alone some whiskey or food. ”
” I have money. ” Johnny said.
” What? ” Mark asked.
” You have money. ” Dave said. ” How much? ”
Johnny ignored Dave. ” Look, this snow could trap us here for days. There’s a pass on the other side that if snowed shut, you can either stay until spring, or go back and around. ”
” How come a man who grew up down along the Mexican border knows so much about this area? ” Mark asked.
” I didn’t always work along the border. ” Johnny said.
All four men rode into Tin Cup, stopping in front of a hotel. None of them noticed they were being watched from down the street.
” The weather continues to hold, we should reach that town, Tin Cup in two, maybe three days. ” Scott said as they made camp.
” It’s getting colder son. I don’t think we’ll be so lucky. Feels like it could snow tonight. ”
” I guess I’ve been away from Boston too long. I forgot what it’s like before it snows. ”
Murdoch smiled. ” Do you miss it? ”
” Boston….a little. Mainly some of my friends, and the parties at holiday time. ”
” What did you do for Christmas during the war? ”
” Higher ranks in Washington said we were forbidden to celebrate Christmas, but it didn’t stop some of us. Some of the towns we went through, people had very little, to no food. I remember in this one town in Georgia, General Sheridan decided to go against orders. ” Scott said. ” H had us decorate carts up, and we even put tree branches on the mules to make them look like antlers. We had turkey, oysters, pies, and apples. It wasn’t much, but to see the children just glad to have something to eat, I would have to say was the best Christmas I had in a long time. ”
” That was a very selfless act General Sheridan did. ” Murdoch said.
” That’s the kind of man he was. ”
” You know, President Grant made Christmas a federal holiday in an attempt to unite the north and south. ” Murdoch said.
” I don’t think anything will bring the north and south together sir. ” Scott said softly.
” Marshal, guess who just rode into Tin Cup! ” Deputy Mike Williams said.
” Now how the hell would I know who it is! ” Marshal Tom Smith said as he stood up.
” Johnny Madrid! ” he said.
” Madrid, he’s down along the Mexican border. ” Deputy Andy Jameson said.
” Nope. He just rode in with three other men. ”Williams said. ” Don’t believe me, take a look down in front of the hotel. ”
Marshal Smith walked over and looked out the window. ” Just what I don’t need. ” he said.
” You think he was brought in by Jess Carver? ” Jameson asked.
” Who else would have a reason? Madrid is an awful expensive gun. ” the marshal responded as he walked over to and unlocked the gun rack, and handed a scatter-gun to each deputy.
” What are you going to do? ” Jameson asked.
” Find out why he’s here. ” the marshal said as he loaded his shotgun. ” You see Jess in town today? ”
” Not since last night. He was pretty drunk when I told him to go home and sleep it off. ” Andy said.
” Last month when he confronted Mac Clemons, didn’t Mac say Jess said he had hired someone to make sure nobody runs him off his claim? ” Mike asked.
” Let’s go find out. ” the marshal said as he opened the door, and stepped outside.
” Tom, there’ Jess down at the mercantile. ” Andy said.
” Go bring him to the jail. I want to find out what I can before we have a blood bath on the street. ” the marshal ordered before going back inside.
” Let us have some beers and a bottle of whiskey. ” Jake told the girl.
” I guess we should thank you for the bath, rooms, hot meal and this whiskey. ” Mark said.
” What’s your game Madrid? ” Dave asked.
Johnny chose to ignore him. ” Why you taking me back to Abilene? ”
Jake looked at him. ” How’s it work? ”
” How’s what work? ” Johnny asked.
” You in a gunfight? ”
” Yeah, what do you do, look for someone? ” Mark asked.
” I look for no one. Men who think they’re faster than me, call me out, and usually die as a result of their cockiness. ”
” So if someone in this town recognized you, and called you out, you would be killed since you have no gun. ” Dave said with a laugh.
” Shut up Dave! ” Jake ordered.
” You wanted to see me marshal? ” Jess asked.
” Yes I do. Last month you made a statement to Mac Clemons stating nobody was going to run you off your claim, and that you had hired someone to make sure that didn’t happen. I want to know who you hired? ” Marshal Smith demanded.
” I don’t know what you’re talking about Marshal. ” Jess said.
” Mac said you told him you hired someone to come and guard your claim. To make sure nobody run you off it. ” Deputy Williams said.
” Well he lied to you. Look Marshal, that claim ain’t much,but it’s all I got. I’ve spent three years on it, and Mac keeps trying to jump it. I barely get enough each month to pay my bill in town and eat. How in the hell am I gonna hire someone to guard it? ”
” A man just rode into town. He’s a gunfighter. Goes by the name of Johnny Madrid. ” the marshal said. ” He rode in with three other men, and are at the saloon right now. ”
” Tom, I assure you, I didn’t hire no gunfighter. ”
” If he didn’t hire him, then who did? ” Andy asked.
” Maybe he’s just passing through, and the snow made him stop here? ” Mike suggested.
” Jess, I want you to stay in here until I come back, and say it’s safe to leave. ” the marshal ordered. ” Let’s go. ”
” Hey sweet thing, how much to go upstairs and have a poke? ” Dave asked.
” You don’t have enough money to afford me. ” she said as she gave Johnny a smile when she set his beer down.
” Seems she’s interested in someone else, and not you Dave. ”. Mark said.
Dave grabbed the girls arm.
” Cool it Dave. The law just walked in! ” Jake said as he watched a man with a scatter gun walk toward their table. ” What can we do for you sheriff? ”
” Marshal. I want to know what business you got in my town? ”
Johnny remembered what Jake said before they came into town. ” Just having a drink Marshal. ”
” Who brought you here? ” he demanded.
Dave stood up.
” I wouldn’t! ” Mike said from above them as he aimed his scatter gun at them.
” You boys just stay calm and answer the marshals questions. ” Andy said from the storage room door to their left.
” Why marshal, you greet everyone like this? ” Jake asked. ” We’re headed east. The only reason we’re in your fine little town is because of the storm. As soon as it breaks, we will be gone. ”
” That may be, but I was told he was brought here to kill someone. I want you to stand up real easy like, and keep your hand away from your gun Madrid. ” the marshal ordered. ” You three stay seated. ”
Johnny stood up and showed the marshal he was unarmed.
” You’re coming with me. ”
Johnny went to walk around Dave, when he was stopped.
” Let him go Dave. He can’t go anywhere. ” Jake ordered.
” Come on down Mike, I got them covered. ” Andy said.
” You fellas go on and finish your drinks. Lets go Madrid. ”
Jake sat and watched as five thousand dollars walked out of the saloon with the marshal and his two deputies.
” What the hell we do now? ” Mark demanded. ” Madrid is going to tell that marshal. ”
” Go keep an eye on them. See if Madrid comes out. ” Jake ordered.
” We should reach Tin Cup in the morning. ” Murdoch said.
” I hope Johnny is there. ” Scott said.
” I’m sure he is son. The way the snow is coming down, they had to stop. ”
” That man said there’s a marshal in the town. Maybe he can help us get Johnny back? ”
” I don’t want to do anything that will risk your brother getting hurt or killed. ”
” Neither do I. ” Scott said.
” You must feel real comfortable to ride in here and not be wearing your gun? ” the marshal asked.
” Marshal listen to me. Those men I was with kidnapped me over a month ago from my home in California. ”
” Kidnapped you. Boy talk about a wild story. ” Deputy Williams said.
Johnny held out his wrist so they could see the rope burns. ” Does this look like a story to you? ”
” Why’d they kidnap you? ” Andy asked.
” I don’t know. Jake wouldn’t say. All he said was they’re taking me to Abilene, and will be paid five thousand dollars to deliver me to whoever is paying them. Marshal, I have no reason to lie to you. Send a wire to Morro Coyo to my ranch. Ask my father Murdoch Lancer, my brother Scott, or Doc Sam Jenkins. ”
” If that’s true, then why were you looking so comfy with them drinking a beer? ”
” He said that if I tried anything a lot of innocent people would be hurt. ” Johnny said. ” I’ve never broke the law, and I’m not wanted by the law for anything in any state. ”
” So what you’re saying is, if I don’t let you walk out of here, they will start killing innocent people? ”
” Yes. ”
” Lock him up Mike. I’m going to send a wire and check out his story. ”
” Tom, you’re not really going to believe him are you? ” Andy asked as Johnny was taken to a cell in the back, and locked up.
” What reason would he have for lying to us Andy….huh? Lock the door after I leave. I’ll be back in about ten minutes. ”
” We never should have come into this town! ” Dave said.
” Just relax. ” Jake said.
” Relax, how the hell can you sit there so calm when we just lost five thousand dollars? ”
” We haven’t lost anything yet. Go get a girl and go upstairs for an hour. Work out some of that frustration you have. ”
Dave stood up, and walked over to the bar. A few minutes later he headed upstairs with a girl just as Mark came into the saloon.
” Marshal just went to the telegraph office, sent a wire, and went back to the jail. ”
” Probably checking out Madrid’s story. ”
” I went down and took a look in the window, they locked Madrid up. The front door is the only way in. There’s no windows in the back either. Where’s Dave? ”
” I sent him upstairs to poke a girl. Man was getting on my nerves. ” Jake said. ” We’ll give them until noon tomorrow to release him. They don’t, then we start having fun in this town until that marshal releases him. ”
” We never should have brought him. He was nothing but trouble at Lansing, and he’s been nothing but trouble now. ” Mark said.
” Blackshere hired all three of us to bring Madrid back to him. ” Jake said.
” I know, but there ain’t nothing says he can’t find a bullet before we get out of these mountains. ” Mark suggested.
” You read my mind. Let’s go get a good nights sleep, and talk to that marshal in he morning. ”
Marshal Smith sat at his desk going thru wanted posters just after sunup when his door opened, and the telegrapher came in. ” I got that reply you wanted marshal. ”
” Thanks. ” he said as he took the envelope and opened it.
” Is that really Johnny Madrid you have in jail? ”
” It is. Listen, I don’t want you saying anything to anyone about this telegram, or Madrid. You do, I’ll have you cleaning spittoons at the saloons for a year. ”
” I won’t say a word marshal. ” the man said before leaving.
The marshal unlocked the door to the back, and went inside to talk to Madrid. ” Seems what you said is true. ” he said. ” I got a wire back from that doctor you mentioned. Seems your brother and father aren’t home. Seems they’re out looking for you. He says they left a week after you were kidnapped. ”
” So what are you going to do? ” Johnny asked.
” Well, I got no reason to hold you. Being a gunfighter isn’t against the law…..yet. ” he said. ” So I recon I can either let you go, or keep you in here and run them out of town. ”
” I don’t run from a fight marshal. Never have, and I’m not about to start now. ” Johnny said as he went over and sat back down on the cot.
” If you’re hungry I can Mike get you some breakfast brought from the cafe. Big plate of ham, spuds, and eggs. ” he offered.
” Thanks. I haven’t ate for a few days. ” Johnny said.
” Are you as deadly as they say you are with a gun? ”
” Sixteen men asked that very question marshal. ” Johnny said. ” They got their answer with lead. ”
Marshal Smith knew Johnny saying what he just did disturbed him. ” I’ll be back with your breakfast. ”
” Looks like Tin Cup is a mining town. ” Scott said as they rode into town. ” I wonder what they mine for? ”
” Gold most likely. Towns like this spring up all over in the mountains until the gold plays out, and then the people move on to the next strike, and the town is abandoned to rot. Some people stay though. ” Murdoch said as they stopped in front of the jail and dismounted.
” I hope he’s seen him. ” Scott said as they walked inside.
” Can I help you? ” the marshal asked.
” We hope so marshal, I’m Murdoch Lancer, and this is my son Scott. ”
” Lancer you say? ”
Yes. We’re looking for my youngest son Johnny. He was kidnapped from our home by three men over a month ago. We have reason to believe those men are taking my son to Abilene, Kansas ”
” Your son….does he go by another name? ” Mike asked.
” Down along the Mexican border he was known by another name. Why? ” Scott asked.
” Would that name be Johnny Madrid? ” the marshal asked.
” It would. ” Murdoch responded.
” Your son is in the back in a cell. ” the marshal said as he picked up his keys went and unlocked the door to the cells, and opened it. ” I locked him up last night. ”
” Has my son broke a law marshal? ”
” No. he told me what happened. He asked me to send a wire, I did, and a doctor named Sam Jenkins verified what he said. He told me the two of you left to look for him. ”
Murdoch and Scott walked into the back. ” I can’t leave you alone for one second little brother. ” Scott said with a grin.
” Scott, Murdoch…….how did you ever find me? ”
” By taking your advice and listening to my gut brother. ”
” We went thru those Pinkerton reports I have, and your brother figured out you were being taken to Abilene, Kansas. ” Murdoch said.
Marshal Smith unlocked the cell door. ” Come on out. ”
Johnny walked out of the cell and was immediately pulled into a hug by his brother.
” It’s good to see you again son. ” Murdoch said.
” Where’s the three men? ”
” Two of them are at the hotel. They stayed in the saloon till late last night drinking and keeping an eye on my jail. ”
” Seeing if you were going to release me. ” Johnny said. ” The third one? ”
” Been with a woman all night. ”
” How you want to do this son? ”
” I know who’s with the woman. His name is Dave Moore. The other two are Mark Anderson and Jake Garcia. Five years ago I was hired by a marshal named Cal Wheeler in Abilene to help during cattle drives. They worked for a ranch called the Clover Cliff. The owner, J. R. Blackshere and his only son Warren ran it. He brought Black Galloway cattle over from Scotland. ”
” I know the breed. ” Murdoch said.
” Another rancher named Abe Pratt had a sheep ranch. He brought Merino sheep from Spain. When I got there, Marshal Wheeler said those two had been feuding for some time. Pratt didn’t understand western Kansas was cattle country. Pratt’s one son Tom and Blackshere’ only son Warren got into it one night. I ordered him to drop his gun, but he wouldn’t. When he started to bring it up to shoot me, I shot him. My bullet hit him in his upper right arm, shattering the bone. He lost his arm because of my bullet. ”
” You gave him a choice, and he chose wrong. It’s never easy for a man who wears a badge Madrid. ” the marshal said.
” You think his father is why you were being took back to Abilene son? ”
” Blackshere swore he would make me pay for crippling his son that night. ”
” Jake Garcia, he the one last night? ”
” Yeah, he seems to be the one running it. ”
” How you want to do this son? ”
” I don’t want innocent people hurt, and I know why they were taking me back to Abilene. ”
” Just a minute brother. ” Scott said before going outside for a minute. Coming back inside, he handed his brother something. ” I believe you forgot this. ”
Johnny took the gunbelt and strapped it around his slender waist. Pulling the colt, he spun the cylinder and checked the bullets. ” Thanks. ”
” I cleaned it good last night. We hoped you would be here. ” Scott said. ” Didn’t want you to feel naked. ”
Johnny walked into the saloon with the marshal, his father, and Scott. ” Which room is he in? ”
” Top of the stairs, door on the left. ” Deputy Williams said.
” You sure you want to go in there alone? ” his father asked. The look Johnny had, gave him his answer.
Johnny walked up the stairs, and stopped outside the door. Listening, he could hear Dave just finishing with the girl inside. Opening the door slowly, he stepped inside, gun drawn. ” I imagine getting caught with your pants down would be the last thing on your mind. ”
Dave rolled off the girl. ” What the hell you think you’re doing Madrid? ”
Johnny cocked the pistol. ” Get up, and get dressed. ”
Dave sat down to put his boots on after getting dressed. ” I should have killed you. ” he spat.
” Who’s paying the three of you to bring me back to Abilene? ”
Dave pulled the knife he carried in his boot when Johnny walked to the end of the bed. ” I ain’t telling you nothing. ” he said as he stood up.
Johnny walked over closer to Dave. ” Lets go, the marshal is waiting. ”
Dave stepped outside the door, gripped his knife firmly, spun and brought it across Johnny’s left forearm.
Johnny had no time to react before he felt the white hot pain. Squeezing the trigger, he hit Dave in the chest, knocking him down the stairs.
” Johnny! ” Scott yelled as he rushed to his brothers side when he seen the blood spreading across his shirt. ” I got you brother. I got you. ”
” I’m alright. It’s not that deep. ” Johnny said. ” I want the other two. ”
” Me and my deputies will get them. The docs on the way to the hotel. ”
Johnny cradled his left arm. ” I need Jake alive marshal. ”
Johnny opened his eyes and found he was laying in a bed. His left arm started throbbing when he moved it.
” I wouldn’t move that arm around too much brother. ” Scott said as he walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed.
” Where arm I? ”
” In a hotel. Doc sewed your arm up. The cut was deep. You’ve been asleep for two days now. ”
” Two days? ” Johnny said as he tried to sit up.
” Let me help you. ”
” The marshal get the other two? ”
” One of them is in jail. The other one is dead. ”
” Where’s Murdoch? ”
” He went to send Teresa a telegram letting her know we got you back, and we will be headed home as soon as you can travel. ”
” I can’t go home yet. I need to go to Abilene. ” Johnny said. ” If Blackshere did this, I need to know why? ”
” I can understand that, but what if we get there and this man shoots you? ”
” That’s a chance I’ll have to take. Help me get dressed. I want to talk to the one in jail. ”
” Let me ask you something Mister Lancer. How come your son grew up in Mexico, instead of in California with you on your ranch? ” the marshal asked.
” His mother took him away from me in the middle of the night. I searched for twenty years for Johnny. He’s only been home a short time. ”
” Did your other son, Scott grow up with you? ” Andy asked.
” No, his mother died giving birth to him. He was raised by his grandfather in Boston. ”
” My wife did the same as Johnny’s. She told my daughter lies about me, and she wants nothing to do with me because of those lies. ” he said. ” I don’t even know where she’s at now. ”
” The Pinkerton’s helped me find my son. It took twenty years because he had changed his name after his mother was killed when he was ten. ”
” I heard the name Madrid started when he was young. ”
” He was abused as a child, especially when he was placed in the orphanage. The report I have is he ran away from there, and wasn’t seen again until he found the man who murdered his mother in a cantina. He killed the man and after that he was known as Johnny Madrid. ” Murdoch said as the door opened and both his sons walked into the jail.
” How’s the arm? ” the marshal asked.
” I’ll live. ” Johnny said. ” I want to talk to him. ”
” Alright, just leave the gun here. ” the marshal said as he picked up the keys.
” Sam, what are you doing here? ” Teresa asked.
” I wanted to check on you, and let you know I received a wire from a marshal in a town called Tin Cup, Colorado. He was asking me about Johnny, and if he had been kidnapped from here. ” Sam said as he walked over and sat down. ” I would have been here sooner, but Vera Johnson went into labor, and that baby took his time being born. ”
” She had a little boy. I bet Paul is happy. He was wanting a son. ” Teresa said.
” He is. ”
” Did the marshal say why Johnny was there? ”
” He said he had him in his jail, and wanted to know what I already said. I sent a response back telling him it was true, and that Murdoch, and Scott were looking for him. ”
” I got a wire this morning from Murdoch telling me they found Johnny, and would be coming home as soon as they could. ” she said.
” That’s good. ” Sam said. ” Now, I have a request from Mrs Johnson. She was wondering if you could come and help her with the baby until she gets back on her feet. It’ll only be for a week, maybe two. ”
” I would love to. I’ll have Frank take me over there tomorrow. ”
Johnny walked into the back, and stopped at the cell Jake Garcia was in. ” You’re going to prison for kidnapping, and I’m going to see to it you do. ”
” The most I’ll get is two years. ” Jake said.
”Who hired you to kidnap me and take me back to Abilene? ”
” You don’t remember me do you? ” Jake asked.
” I remember you. ” Johnny said. ” You worked for J.R. Blackshere at the Clover Cliff ranch. He hire you? ”
” You crippled his only son when you shot him that night. He became bitter, and when you left Abilene, we were offered five thousand dollars to bring you back. ” Jake said.
” So J.R. Blackshere offered you the money? ” Johnny asked.
” Guess you’ll have to go to Abilene to find out. ” Jake said.
Johnny stood looking at Jake for a minute before walking back out front. ” I’m going to Abilene. ”
” What!….Absolutely not son. ”
” Murdoch, I need to know who offered them that much money to bring me back. If it’s who I think it is, he won’t stop. ”
” He’s right Murdoch. ” Scott said.
” If you want to go back to Lancer, go. I don’t need yo with me to handle this. ”
” If you think I am going to go back home without both my sons, you thought wrong young man. ”
” I’m going to need a written affidavit from you stating all that happened in Abilene, back in California when they kidnapped you, and from there to here. ” the marshal said.
” We can leave in two days.. That’ will give you time to write the affidavit, and give us time to get supplies. ”
” Just so you know, you call the tune at home. When we get there, it’s my show….not yours. ”
” Doctor said those stitches had to stay in ten days. ” Scott said.
” I can take them out when it’s time. ” Johnny said. ” I’ve removed bullets, sewed myself up, and removed stitches before. ”
” You’re one tough sonofabitch Madrid. ” Mike said.
” I’ve been told that before. ” Johnny said as he opened the door. ” I’ll get that affidavit wrote out and back too you in the morning. ”
” Once you make it thru Tin Cup Pass it’s pretty much all downhill from there all the way to Colorado Springs. ” the marshal said.
” If you need more from me, or the judge needs more, send a wire to Abilene. ” Johnny said as he mounted up, and offered his hand to shake.
” I hope it all works out for you Johnny. You take care of yourself. ” the marshal said as he reached up and shook his hand.
” Let’s go to Kansas. ” Johnny said as he turned his horse, and headed east.
” It sure is beautiful country. ” Scott said as thy ate supper just after sunset three nights later.
” Yeah it is, but not as pretty as the view of Lancer from on top of the hill. ” Johnny said. ” We should be in Colorado Springs tomorrow afternoon. ”
” What was Abilene like when you were there? ” Murdoch asked.
” Growing. At least five thousand drovers a year came into town with huge herds of cattle from Texas mainly. ” Johnny said. ” A man named Joseph McCoy bought two hundred and fifty acres northeast of Abilene, and built the Drovers Cottage and pens to hold two thousand head of cattle, and a stable for their horses. With the railway going thru more and more cattle started coming in. When I was there, there were over half a million cattle that year. ”
” Half a million….That’s a lot of steaks. ” Scott said.
” It’s cattle country, but farmers were starting to move in, and buy up the land around Abilene. Abe Pratt bought land and brought in Merino sheep. I don’t have to tell you how well that sat with cattle ranchers.”
” A lot of men lost their lives in the Johnson County War in Wyoming over sheep being brought into cattle country. Porter was part of that war. He came to California to start over. ” Murdoch said. ” Sheep will eat grass right down to the ground. It makes it very hard to recover from. ”
” I’ve seen his pastures. You’re right about eating it down to the ground. ”
” You know, they have sheep back in Scotland, and they never have the problems there with grazing like they do here. ”
” Maybe that’s because Scotland gets more rain. ” Johnny suggested.
” True and it doesn’t get as hot as here. ” Murdoch added.
” I know you don’t like talking about your past, but can I ask how did the marshal of Abilene know about you to make him hire you? ” Scott asked.
” Marshal Wheeler and me worked together in Arizona. He’s a good man. I stayed two seasons helping him out. ” Johnny said. ” I made seventy five dollars a month, plus two dollars and fifty cents for every arrest. ”
” That’s a lot of money for a deputy. ” Murdoch said.
” I have a nice amount in the bank. ” he said. ” I think I’ll check the horses. ”
” He talks to you more than he does me. ” Murdoch said softly.
” Maybe if you talked to him as a father instead of the man who calls the tune, you would do better sir. ” Scott suggested. ” You know what your problem is? You’re all pride, and Johnny’s cut from the same mold. Not one inch of give. Why is it when I make a suggestion, you are all for trying it. Yet when Johnny does, you say it’s not practical. ”
” I guess I didn’t realize I was doing that to your brother. ”
” It was his idea to move the foot bridge, not mine sir. ” Scott said as he watched Johnny walk back over.
” I’m going to turn in. I’ll see you in the morning. ” Johnny said as he sat down on his sleeping bag, and removed his boots. Taking his colt out, he placed it next to his head as he snuggled down in his blanket.
Johnny sat at the table in their hotel room in Colorado Springs, staring out the window at the people on the street below.
” Earth to Johnny. ” Murdoch said and got no response. Looking at Scott, he stood up, and walked over to his youngest. Placing a hand on his left shoulder, he could feel him trembling slightly. ” You alright? ”
” I’ve been sitting here thinking about that night, and what would have happened if I hadn’t shot him. ” Johnny said softly.
” Johnny, you said you told him to drop his gun, and he didn’t. He left you no choice but to shoot him brother. ”
” I don’t know for sure he would have shot me. ”
” Son, I’ve wore a badge, and I know that when a man points a gun at a man wearing a badge, he fully intends on shooting that man. ”
” I’ll never know that now. ” Johnny said as he stood up. ” I crippled that kid. I destroyed his life. ”
” No you didn’t brother. He did that when he chose to point that gun at you. ” Scott said firmly. ” Look, when I was in a battle in Maryland, a kid maybe seventeen pointed his rifle at me. We both fired at the same time. His bullet gave me this small scar on my right cheek. My bullet didn’t. I shot him in the chest, and he died in my arms. I too have shot and crippled men in the war, so I know what you are feeling. ”
” I need a drink, and some time alone! ” Johnny said as he grabbed his coat, opened the hotel room door, and left.
” I don’t know if it’s such a good idea him going back to Abilene. ” Scott said.
” He has too son. Your brother needs to put this to rest so both him and Blackshere can move on with their lives. ” Murdoch said as he put his coat on.
” Where you going? ” Scott asked.
” He shouldn’t be alone right now. ”
” You won’t be able to……..he won’t be alone. ” Scott said.
Murdoch looked at his oldest a minute before it dawned on him where his youngest son had gone. ” Would you care to join me for supper? ”
” Indeed I would. ”
” I’m going to have to have a talk with your brother about visiting those places. ”
” I asked him once why he does it, and he told me to relieve stress or anger. Especially when he has a disagreement with you. ”
Johnny sat in a corner of a saloon at the end of town watching the girls interact with men who came in. A half empty bottle of rye whiskey sat on the table. He knew his brother, and father were only trying to help, but a part of him felt like they didn’t understand how crippling Warren Blackshere that night really affected him. How every man he had to kill haunted his dreams. Sixteen men foolish enough to call him out thinking they were faster. At just twenty two, Johnny’s life had been rough until he went home to Lancer. When he had first became Madrid, all he cared about was building a reputation as the best, and fastest gunfighter. Something he thought at the time was important, and made people respect him, when in actuality, it made people fear him.
” You want some company? ” a woman asked.
Johnny looked at the woman. ” I got all the company I need ma’am. ” he said.
” Getting drunk isn’t always the answer Madrid. ” she said softly as she sat down.
” Do I know you? ”
” No, but I know you. I seen you a few years ago in Tucson. You went upstairs with another girl, and from what I heard, you’re one hell of a man in bed. ” she said as she put her hand on his thigh.
Johnny wasn’t interested in what the woman was offering, and stopped her hand from going higher. ” I’m not interested. ”
The woman jerked her hand free, stood up, and walked away.
” How’d it go? ” Deputy Rockwell asked.
” About as well as you’d think. ” Marshal Wheeler said. ” He claims his boys are entitled to have some fun after being on the trail for three months. ”
” Sure, but not when they decide to destroy a mans business. ”
” You should have seen the look on his face when the marshal told him his men could no longer come into town wearing their guns, and that he has to pay for all damages. ” Deputy Griffith said.
” How’d everything go here? Any trouble? ” the marshal asked.
” Nope. Did get a telegram you might find interesting. Seems Johnny Madrid is coming back to Abilene. ”
” After what happened when he was here before, you’d think he wouldn’t come back here. ”
” J.R’ son brought it on himself! ” the marshal said. ” Madrid was justified in shooting him. ”
” He could have killed him. ” Griffith said.
” We know that, but that old man has been full of anger and hate ever since. ” Cal said.
” Because his son told him he wasn’t armed when Madrid shot him. ” Rockwell said.
” He say when he would be here? ” Marshal Wheeler asked.
” No. he could be coming up with a herd. ” Rockwell responded.
” All the drives are done for the year. ”
” I just know what the wire said. It’s in the desk. I’m going to get some supper. ” Rockwell said before walking out.
” We’ll be in Abilene day after tomorrow. ” Johnny said.
” What’s Abilene like when the drives are over? ” Scott asked.
” There will still be herds in the pens waiting to be shipped, but it will be a lot quieter. ” Johnny said as he looked at his father. ” You got something to say old man…..say it! ”
” Johnny. ” Scott said.
” No Scott, he’s been giving me looks ever since we left Colorado Springs. I want to know why? ”
” Your reckless actions that night young man. You going out getting drunk, and whoring. ”
” Not that it’s any of your damn business what I do, yeah I got drunk. I think I was entitled. ” Johnny said. ” As far as whoring, I didn’t sleep with anyone. I bought a bottle, drank half of it, a woman tried to get me to go upstairs, but I refused. All I wanted was a few drinks while I did some thinking. She left, I came back to the room, and passed out. ”
” Is that what you do when we have a disagreement, take off and go to town? ”
Johnny looked at his brother, and shook his head slightly as he sighed. ” I’m twenty two, I don’t have to tell you what I do, or where I go. ”
” I’m your father, I worry about you son. ”
” You’re only my father because I let you be. ” Johnny said. ” You haven’t been in my life, my whole life. ”
” Alright that’s enough you two. ” Scott said.
Johnny kicked his horse into a gallop, and rode ahead of them.
” This is really bothering him sir. It’s not us he’s mad at.”
” I know son. I just pray this doesn’t tear us apart. I can’t lose him again. ”
” That’s the Drovers Cottage over there on the right. ” Johnny said ” We can stay there. ”
” I’ve been to stockyards, but never any as big as this. ” Murdoch said.
” Close to a million head of cattle in a season. The last time I was here, five thousand hands got paid off in one day. ”
” Looks like there are still a lot of cattle to be shipped out. ” Scott said. ” Looks like all the pens are full. ”
” There’s ten places along the tracks on both sides to load the cattle into cars. ” Johnny explained.
” This Marshal Wheeler going to be okay with you coming back son? ”
” I sent him a wire from Colorado Springs telling him I was coming. You’ll like him. He’s a hard ass to work for like you. ” Johnny said before he started down the hill.
Scott couldn’t help but smile as they followed Johnny to the Drovers Cottage, and dismounted.
” McCoy, could you take a message to Marshal Wheeler? ” Johnny asked.
” You want him to come to your room? ” McCoy asked.
” Yeah. I don’t want anyone knowing I’m here yet. ”
” Especially Blackshere. ” he said. ” Don’t worry. I’ll deliver the message. You want me to give you time to clean up first? ”
” Yeah, two hours should be enough time. ” Johnny said.
” Very well. It’s good to see you again Johnny. ” McCoy said as he handed him the key to their room.
” How much for the room? ” Murdoch asked.
” McCoy, this is my father Murdoch Lancer, and my brother Scott. ”
” Pleasure, you have a hell of a son Mister Lancer. A lot of people were upset when you left. ” he said. ” Stay as long as you want, there’s no charge for the room. It’s the least I can do to thank you for what you did for me Johnny. ”
” I was just doing my job. ” Johnny said as he picked up the key.
Marshal Wheeler knocked on the door of hotel room twenty three, and was surprised when an older man opened it. ” I’m sorry, I must have the wrong room. ”
” Marshal Wheeler I presume? I’m Murdoch Lancer, Johnny’s father. ” Murdoch said. ” Please, come in. ”
” Father? ” he said as he walked into the hotel room.
” Hey Cal. ” Johnny said as he came out of one of the sleeping rooms.
” It’s good to see you again Johnny.”
” You too. This is Murdoch, and Scott Lancer. ” Johnny said. ” My father and brother. ”
” Look’s like you got some explaining to do kid. ” the marshal said as he shook their hand.
” Yeah, that’s why I wanted to meet here. I’m hoping Blackshere doesn’t know I’m here. ”
” He was pretty angry when he found out you left. ” Cal said as he walked over and sat down in one of the overstuffed chairs.
” Murdoch….don’t! ” Johnny cut in and said flatly. ” Cal….are you aware he hired three men to hunt me down, kidnap me, and bring me back here to be tortured by him? To feel what his son feels. ”
” No I wasn’t. Who did he hire? ”
” Jake Garcia, Mark Anderson, and Dave Moore. ”
” Wait a minute, didn’t those three work for him when you were my deputy? ”
” Yeah. I guess from what Jake said, he hired them not long after I left. Upon delivery he was going to pay them five thousand dollars. ”
” Can I ask how you found this out? ”
” They found me at my home in California, kidnapped me, and was bringing me back here when we hit snow in the mountains, and a marshal who thought I was there for something else put an end to it. He verified my story while he had me in jail. ”
” Where are they now? ” Cal asked.
” Moore and Anderson are dead. Jake Garcia is in jail headed to prison. I wrote out an affidavit telling all that happened. ”
” How did they come into this? ”
” We were gone to an auction when Johnny was kidnapped. When we got home, a week later, we went after them. ” Murdoch said.
” We caught up to them in Tin Cup, Colorado thanks to the snow. ” Scott added.
Cal stood up. ” Okay, you came here for a reason. Care to let me in on it? ”
” I want to ride out to his ranch and end this Cal. All I want to do is live a normal life as a rancher. ” Johnny responded. ” I don’t want to have to keep looking over my shoulder because this man doesn’t want to accept his son brought what happened that night was his fault, not mine. ”
” I don’t want you riding out there without me. ”
” I hadn’t planned too. I want just me and you riding out there. ”
” Now wait a minute young man…..”
” Murdoch….I told you this is my show. I don’t want you or Scott going with me. ” Johnny said firmly.
” He’s right Mister Lancer, you going out there with us will just make that man angrier than he already is. ” the marshal said.
In 1867, the Kansas Pacific Railway (Union Pacific) pushed westward through Abilene. In the same year, Joseph G. McCoy purchased 250 acres of land north and east of Abilene, on which he built a hotel, the Drover’s Cottage, stockyards equipped for 2,000 heads of cattle, and a stable for their horses. The Kansas Pacific put in a spur line at Abilene that enabled the cattle cars to be loaded and sent on to their destinations. The first twenty carloads left September 5th 1867, en route to Chicago, Illinois, where McCoy was familiar with the market. The town grew quickly and became the first “cow town” of the west.
McCoy encouraged Texas cattlemen to drive their herds to his stockyards. From 1867 to 1871, the Chisholm Trail ended in Abilene, bringing in many travelers and making Abilene one of the wildest towns in the west. The stockyards shipped 35,000 head in 1867 and became the largest stockyards west of Kansas City, Kansas. In 1871, more than 5,000 cowboys herded from 600,000 to 700,000 cows to Abilene and other Kansas rail-heads. Another source reports 440,200 head of cattle were shipped out of Abilene from 1867 to 1871. As railroads were built further south, the end of the Chisholm Trail was slowly moved south toward Caldwell, while Kansas homesteaders concerned with cattle ruining their farm crops moved the trail west toward and past Ellsworth.
” Hello Teresa. ” Agatha Conway said. ” How are you? ”
” I’m good. I’ve been helping Martha Johnson with her new baby. ”
” Have you heard from Murdoch? ”
” They were going to come back, but then I got another wire saying they are going on to Abilene. ”
” Is that where Johnny was taken? ”
” Oh I’m sorry, I thought you knew. They found Johnny in a town called Tin Cup,in Colorado. ” Teresa said.
” I bet they’re going on to find out why those men kidnapped Johnny. ” Aggie said. ” Well listen, I need to get back. Let me know if you need anything. ”
” Pa, there’s two riders coming. ” Warren said. ” Looks like one of them is the marshal. ”
When J.R. seen who the other rider was, he hurried in the house and grabbed his shotgun. ” That’s far enough! ”
” Put that down J.R.! ” Marshal Wheeler ordered.
” You got some nerve coming here. ”
” You seem surprised to see me here with the marshal. ” Johnny said. ” Or perhaps you were hoping it would be with the three men you hired to kidnap me. ”
” Get the hell off my land! ”
” J.R. you hired three men to kidnap Johnny, and bring him here so you could torture him for what happened to Warren? ”
” I don’t know what you’re talking about. Get off my land. ”
Johnny dismounted, and walked closer to the man.” Jake Garcia, Mark Anderson, and Dave Moore. You offered them five thousand dollars to bring me back here. Moore and Anderson are dead. Jake Garcia is in jail in Tin Cup, Colorado, facing two years in prison for kidnapping me. ”
J.R. Lashed out, and slapped Johnny hard across the face. ” You crippled my for life! ”
” I shot him yes, but he left me no choice. I gave him every chance to put the gun down! ” Johnny said.
” He told me what happened. He put his gun down, and you shot him anyway. ”
” That’s not true Mister Blackshere. My deputy Rockwell seen it all happen as did several other people. ”
” I could have killed him, but didn’t. It wasn’t my intention to cripple your son Mister Blackshere. I wanted only to wound him. If I could take back what happened that night, I would. ”
” Wanted only to wound him……You lying bastard, you knew what you were doing. I know all about Johnny Madrid, and how deadly you are with that pistol on your hip. ” Blackshere spat.
” You selfish bastard, you selfish bastard, you think you know all about me, when you know nothing. ” Johnny said with anger. ” You don’t ever get to a point where you take killing lightly. It’s not a good thing to kill a man, or cause a man to get killed. It makes you sick inside. ”
”Don’t you stand there and preach to me. ”
” I’m not preaching to you. I’m stating the truth. ” Johnny said. ” You know Mister Blackshere, it’s easy to kill a man, but it’s impossible to bring him back to life again. I could have killed Warren that night, but I didn’t. He’s the one you should be angry at, not me. He’s the one who forced me to shoot him. ”
” Let’s go Johnny. ” the marshal said.
” He’ll be alright sir. ” Scott said as they sat in the Bull’s Head saloon.
” We should have went with him. ”
” Johnny knew your temper could explode, and like it or not, it’s something he has to take care of sir. ”
” You know, I thought your brother wasn’t responsible enough, but I’ve learned these past few weeks how wrong I am. ” Murdoch said.
” He’s been a responsible person ever since his mother was murdered sir. ”
” Half of me hates he had to become Madrid, but the other half is thankful he did, because if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t be alive today. ”
” He’s still wild, but you have to admit, he’s changed a lot since he first came home. ” Scott said.
” I was a little apprehensive about him being around Teresa at first because of his being so wild. ”
” Apprehensive about him, but not me. Why? ”
” Because of how you were brought up son. I knew you would never do anything to her. You didn’t frequent whore houses, and saloon girls.”
Scott sat back in his chair and looked outside the window. ” Will you ever trust him like you do me? ”
” If I didn’t trust him, I wouldn’t have left him in charge of the ranch while we were gone. ”
” You say that, yet countless times you refuse to even consider any suggestion he makes. ” Scott said. ” My brother has more experience than I do, and I think if you would just sit down and ask him about suggestions for the ranch, you would learn a lot about his past experiences, and just how smart he is. ”
” Are you happy where your at now? ” Cal asked as they rode back to town.
” Haven’t really had a chance to know yet. ”
” So if I made you an offer to be my deputy again, you wouldn’t want it? ”
Johnny stopped his horse. ” I liked working for you Cal. Hell the money was damn good, and I probably would have stayed here if………I have a family now. A brother I like having around, a father I’m trying to get to know, and I’m a third owner of the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley. ”
” What’s this ranch like? ”
” One hundred thousand acres, with ten thousand head of cattle, the finest Capanero de Palomino’s, and more wild horses than I could break in a lifetime. ” Johnny said. ” The house has twelve bedrooms upstairs and four downstairs. The great room is as big as the first floor of the Drovers Cottage. ”
” That’s a good sized ranch . I’m happy for you. ”
” The people of the valley have accepted me, knowing who I was, and who I want to be now. ” Johnny said as they rode up to the jail, and dismounted.
” Cal, Johnny, how did it go? ” Rockwell asked.
” I don’t know. ” Johnny said. ” He said he didn’t know what I was talking about. ”
” Your father and brother are at the Bull’s Head. ”
” Thanks. I’ll see you later. ” Johnny said before riding toward the Drovers Cottage to stable his horse.
” So what’s the plan now son? ”
” I gave him a lot to think about today, so we wait and see what he does. ” Johnny said. ” Look Murdoch, I know you wanted to go out there, but it’s something I had to do. ”
” You don’t have to apologize son. If anything, I’m the one who should be apologizing to you. ”
” Me, why? ”
” I don’t give you enough credit for things you have done. When we get back, I’d like the two of us to sit down and have a father, son talk about us, and the ranch. ”
Scott noticed his brothers attention suddenly got drawn to a beautiful woman wearing a blue and white satin dress walking toward their table. ” She’s a beautiful woman. ”
Johnny smiled. ” Yes she is. ”
” You are the last person I ever expected to see in Abilene again. ”
” Hello Pearl, it’s good to see you again. ” Johnny said as he stood up, and walked around the table to give her a hug, and kiss on the cheek.
” What brings you back? ” Pearl asked as she put an arm around him.
” Unfinished business. ”
” This unfinished business involve you wearing a badge again? ”
” No. I’d like you to meet my father and brother Murdoch and Scott Lancer. ”
” Your….I guess a lot’s happened to you since you left here five years ago. ” Pearl said. ” Can you stay long? ”
” You still close at midnight? ” Johnny asked.
” I do. I’ll see you later. It was good meeting you Mister Lancer, Scott. ”
” Ma’am. ” Scott said.
Johnny noticed his fathers disapproval of Pearl. ” Is a lady friend of mine not worthy enough for you to be courteous? ”
” I’m sorry son. It’s……she’s a beautiful woman. ”
” Yes she is, and no she’s not a whore. ” Johnny said. ” She bought this place to clean it up after the owner was killed in a brawl a year before I came here. ”
” I wasn’t thinking she was son. Can I ask what she is to you? ”
” Why? ”
” She’s considerably older than you. ”
” Older women are better experienced in bed. ” Johnny said suddenly. ” I’ve learned a lot from older women. ”
” How about we have an early supper tonight ” Scott suggested.
Johnny walked into the Bull’s Head saloon just before midnight to find Pearl wearing a thin white robe over a satin chemise that came down to her knees, escorting the last customer to the door.
” You can go on home now Stan. ” she said as she walked back over to the bar.
” Yes ma’am. Have a good night. ” he said before leaving.
Pearl walked back over, locked the doors and extinguished the lamps on each side of the doors. Walking over to Johnny, she placed her hands on his chest. ” Tonight’s been a long time coming. ” she said as her hands ran up and down his chest.
Johnny put his hand under her chin as he lowered his mouth to hers. He could feel her already hard nipples thru his shirt, exciting him more. Sliding his tongue inside, he couldn’t stop the moan from escaping his lips as the kiss deepened, and their hands started roaming, and touching forbidden places.
” Where’s a bed? ” he asked as his hands started roaming over her breast.
” Upstairs. ” Pearl said as she took his hand, and they headed upstairs.
” Morning. ” Johnny said as he sat down at the table to eat breakfast with his brother, and father.
” Nice of you to join us. ” Murdoch said.
Johnny ignored his father as a woman walked over to take his order.
” I’m going back to Lancer. ” Murdoch said as they finished breakfast. ” I’ll take the train since winter has come to the mountains. ”
” I’m not leaving until this is settled. ” Johnny said.
” I know that son. We have a responsibility back home to our ranch, and the people who work for us. ” Murdoch said. ” I’ve been gone too long. ”
” I never asked you to come to Abilene with me. ” Johnny said. ” You could have went back in Colorado Springs. ”
” I know you didn’t son, and I know I could have. ”
” Both of you go back. I have unfinished business here. ”
Johnny walked out of the Drovers Cottage a week after his father, and brother left to go back home. He told Scott he would return to Lancer in the spring, and wanted him to return to California. Though reluctant, Scott boarded the train, and went home. Stepping down off the porch, he headed to the marshals office when he was slammed to the ground by a bullet tearing into his upper right side. Drawing his colt, he fired at the man he seen galloping away on a horse at the end of the corrals.
Marshal Wheeler, and his two deputies ran out of the office at the sound of gunfire. Seeing Johnny on the ground, they ran to his side.
” End of the corrals. ” Johnny said as he laid back on the ground. ” Oh man….I don’t feel too good Cal. ” he said as darkness claimed him.
” Murdoch, Scott, you’re home! ” Teresa said as she ran out of the house and greeted them. ” Where’s Johnny? ”
” In Kansas. ” Murdoch said as they headed inside.
” Kansas, why didn’t he come home with you? ”
” He’ll be coming back in the spring. ” Murdoch said.
” The spring. Why didn’t he come back with you? ” she asked.
” He has unfinished business to take care of. ” Murdoch said. ” With the man who had him kidnapped. ”
” But he is coming back? ”
” That’s the promise he made before we boarded the train. ” Scott responded.
” It don’t take a genius to know who shot him. ” Griffith said. ” He wounded whoever it was. There’s a blood trail leading to where they got on a horse and rode off. ”
” As soon as we get word from the doc, we’ll ride out to the Clover Cliff ranch and have a talk with J.R. and his son. ”
” Warren! You think he could be the one? ” Rockwell asked.
” He has one arm, and that was a rifle shot we heard. ” Griffith said.
” He could if he balanced the rifle on the fence. All he had to do was wait until Johnny came outside. ” the marshal suggested as Pearl came out of the back room.
” The doctor will be out in a minute. ” she said. ” Stan, take these out back and burn them please. ” she said as she handed him a pile of blood soaked bandages and sheets.
” Pearl, how bad is he? ” Cal asked.
Pearl looked at him with tears in her eyes, and started to speak when the doctor came out.
” He was shot with a rifle. A forty four forty to be exact. ” the doctor said as he handed the bullet to the marshal.
” Will he live? ” Cal asked.
” I don’t know. He lost a lot of blood, and is already running a fever. ” he responded. ” he needs moved to a different room. ”
” He can be moved to my room upstairs doc. ” Pearl said.
” Alright. We’ll need a board we can put him on to make moving him easier, and lessen the risk of tearing the stitches out. ”
” You going to send a wire telling his family what happened? ” Rockwell asked.
” No. I don’t think Johnny would want them coming back here. ” the marshal responded.
” And if he dies? ”
” If he dies, then I’ll tell them. ” he said. ” Let’s go. ”
” Where’s that damn son of mine? ”
” He rode to town early this morning. Said he was taking his rifle to the gunsmith. ” the foreman Toby said. ” Want me to saddle your horse for you sir? ”
” Yeah. I told hat boy to stay out of town. ” J.R. Said.
” Mister Blackshere, looks like the marshal and a deputy coming. ”
” I got eyes. Go saddle my horse. ” he ordered. ” What the hell you want now? ”
” You going somewhere J.R. ? ” the marshal demanded.
” What business is it of yours? ”
” It became our business when you gunned Johnny Madrid down a couple hours ago in town. ” Deputy Rockwell said.
” I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve been right here all morning. Ask any of my hands. ”
” Where’s your son….Warren? ”
J.R. Glared at the marshal a minute. ” He left early this morning to go to town. ”
” Does your son have a forty four forty rifle? ” the marshal asked.
” He does. Toby….didn’t you say Warren took his rifle in to the gunsmith? ”
” Yes sir. That’s what he told me he was doing when I saddled his horse for him. ”
The marshal pulled the slug from his pocket and showed it to J.R. ” Johnny was ambushed from the corrals. That’s the slug the doc dug out of his chest. Whoever ambushed him is hurt. Madrid fired back hitting them. ”
” I found blood on the corner post where they shot from, and a blood trail to where they had their horse tied up. ” Rockwell said. ” Johnny hit him good. ”
” Will he live? ” J.R. Asked.
” Doc doesn’t know if he will live or not. He lost a lot of blood, and is already fighting a fever. ” the marshal said.
” Where would Warren go? ” Rockwell asked.
” He’s somewhere around town still. He wants Madrid dead. I know you got no reason to believe me, but it wasn’t me who hired those men marshal. ”
” I know, it was your son Warren. ” Cal said. ” We need to get back to town. ”
” I’m going with you. ” J.R. Said.
” Can I get you something to eat or drink deputy? ” Pearl asked.
” No ma’am. I’m fine. ” Griffith responded.
” You know, I don’t even know your first name. ”
” It’s Richard ma’am. ”
” Richard Griffith, that’s a nice name. ” Pearl said.
” What’s your full name? ”
” Just Pearl. My mother was a whore who got pregnant and had me in a whorehouse in Arizona. I don’t know who my father is, she never said. I watched and learned how the business is run. I decided one day I was going to own my own brothel, and it wasn’t going to be run like the ones I grew up in. ” Pearl explained. ” When this place became available, it was a dream come true for me. ”
” The changes you’ve made to the place I think are a huge improvement. ” he said.
” Most of the hands who come in during the summer are only interested in a quick poke. He’s different. ”she said as she sat down on the edge of the bed and wiped the sweat from Johnny’s chest and forehead.
” You and Johnny have a history together? ”
” We were together down in Arizona. ” she said. ” When he was here before, I couldn’t get him to visit me. He said it wouldn’t look good for the marshal to have a deputy visiting a whorehouse. ”
” He is different. ” he said as someone knocked on the outer door.
” That’s probably the doctor coming to check Johnny. ” she said.
” I’ll get it. ” the deputy said as he headed out of the room. Unlocking the outer door, he opened it up. ” Warren, what….”
Warren plunged a knife deep in the deputy’s chest. ” Sorry Griffith. ”he said as he pulled his knife out, stepped over the dying deputy, and headed upstairs.
Pearl heard someone coming up the stairs, and stopping outside her room. Standing up, she started toward the door when she stopped, and looked in fear as Warren Blackshere stepped into the room.
” He’s dead. ” the marshal said. ” He never stood a chance. ”
” How you want to do this? ” Rockwell asked.
” Let me talk to him marshal. ” J.R. said.
” Go ahead and talk to him. ”
J.R. Walked over to the bottom of the stairs. ” Warren, come on out here son! ”
” I can’t do that pa! ” Warren yelled back.
” Yes you can boy. Let the woman go, and come out. ” he pleaded. ” Please son. I don’t want the marshal killing you. ”
” He’s gonna kill me pa. I killed his deputy. ”
” Warren, please listen to him.” Pearl pleaded.
” Shut up whore! ”
” He’s got Pearl in there with him. ” the marshal said.
” Madrid has to die! ” Warren said. ” I lost my arm because of him. ”
” You lost your arm because you were a damn fool and tried to shoot him. ” J.R. Responded. ” He could have killed you that night boy. He only meant to wound you, not cost you your arm. ”
” No he didn’t. ”
” Yes he did. ”
” Warren, what Johnny did to you that night has bothered him ever since. That’s why he left before. ” the marshal said.
” I’m coming up there son. ”
” See if you can get him to let Pearl go. ”
J.R. Walked upstairs and stopped outside the door. ” I’m coming in son. ”
Warren staggered around the bed and pointed his pistol at Johnny.
J.R. Knew talking easy with his son wasn’t getting them anywhere. ” What the hell is wrong with you boy? ” he demanded as he walked into the room. ” Why didn’t you talk to me about this….any of this before you went and did what you did? ”
Warren looked at his father dumbfounded. ” I…..I didn’t want to get you involved pa. This is my problem….not yours. ”
” Not mine….Boy, you’re my son. I became involved that night he shot you after you dropped the gun. ”
” I didn’t drop the gun pa…..I….I was going to shoot him. ” Warren said. ” He told me to drop my gun, but I didn’t….I brought it up to kill him. ”
” Look at you standing there bleeding all over this woman’s room. Please, put that gun down and walk out of this room with me so the doc can take care of you. ” J.R. pleaded.
Warren looked at Pearl, then his father before he brought the pistol up, aimed it at Johnny, and started to squeeze the trigger when a shot rang out, and he felt a white hot pain in his chest. ” Why pa? ”
J.R. watched his son slowly dropped to the floor as a red stain spread across his chest. ” I couldn’t let him do it marshal. ” he said as he slowly lowered his pistol to his side.
Marshal Wheeler reached down and took the pistol from the man. ” Go on back home. ”
” I need to take…..”
” You go on. I’ll take Warren to the undertaker. ”
” Come on Mister Blackshere. ” Deputy Rockwell said.
Cal walked over to Johnny. ” You owe me buddy. ”
” He awake? ” the marshal asked.
” He just finished eating. ” Pearl said. ” If his fever hadn’t broke, I don’t think he would still be here.”
” Yeah, doc said he’s one lucky man. ”
” You going to tell him what happened? ” she asked.
” You haven’t? ”
” Nope, that’s your job. ” Pearl said. ” Go ahead and go in. ”
Cal walked into the room,and closed the door so they wouldn’t be disturbed. ” How you feeling? ”
” Like I was shot. ” Johnny said. ” I think I hit him when I shot back. ”
” Yeah, that’s what I want to talk to you about. ” the marshal said. ” It wasn’t old man Blackshere. ”
Johnny looked at him puzzled. ” Who? ”
” It was Warren. He waited for you to come out of the Drovers Cottage, and shoot you. ” he explained. ” He used a fence rail to brace the rifle on, which is why his shot was a little off from killing you. The doc dug a forty four forty slug out of you. I left Griffith here with you while me and Rockwell rode out to confront Blackshere. He wasn’t the one who shot you. He hadn’t left his ranch that morning. Warren wasn’t there. When we realized who it was, J.R. came back to town with us. When we got here, Griffith was at the front door….dead. He had a knife plunged in his chest. Warren was in the room with you and Pearl. His father tried talking him into coming out, but he wouldn’t. J.R. came to the door, and begged him to give up, and walk out with him. He lowered the gun, then raised it, pointed it at you, and started to pull the trigger when…..J.R. Shot and killed his son to save your life. ”
Johnny swallowed a lump that came to his throat as he looked toward the window. ” He killed Griffith? ”
” Yeah, he never knew what happened. It was straight in the heart. Pearl said they thought it was the doctor coming to check you when he unlocked the door, opened it, and……”
” I’m sorry. He was a damn good man. ”
” Yes he was. ” the marshal said as he tossed Griffith’s badge on the bed. ” I need a deputy just as good, or better. ”
Johnny picked up the badge and rubbed it between his forefinger and thumb. ” You got your deputy as soon as the doc says I can. ”
Cal held out his hand. ” Good. ” he said as they shook hands. ” Same pay as before. ”
” Did you tell them I was shot? ”
” Who your family…..No. I would have if you had died, but not that you were shot. There was nothing they could doabout it, and I got the feeling the trouble with Blackshere isn’t the real reason you stayed
” How’d it go? ” Murdoch asked Scott as he walked into the great room.
” Good. We got the herd moved into the south pasture, and the fence-line is fixed along the salt flats. ”
” A letter came for you today. ”
” Thanks. ” he said as he took the letter and put it in his shirt pocket. ” I’m going to go get cleaned up before supper. ”
Scott sat on his bed after his bath, and opened the letter he got from his brother.
I know I said I would come back home in the spring, but there’s something you should know. Something that has been going on ever since I set foot in that house. I’m not wanted there Scott. I know I am by you, and Teresa, but the one I wish, and so desperately want to want me….doesn’t. Murdoch doesn’t want me there. If he did, he wouldn’t treat me the way he does. I’m not treated as an equal partner, and because of that, I can’t come back. I accepted death a long time ago, but when I had what I always wanted, I found myself praying that death didn’t find me.
I know we’ve only known each other for a short time, and during that time I tried, really I did, but it wasn’t meant to be. I will never be seen as his son. One thing I want you to know is that that day in the saloon when I left Lancer after only three months there, those words you said to me were the greatest challenge I ever faced in proving you wrong. I don’t want to be dead before I’m thirty, and I want to leave more than a ripple behind me when I do go.
I know you would always be there for me and always have my back, just like I would always have yours, because that’s what brothers do. You proved that once again when you came after me the last time. I will say, I was shocked to see the old man with you though.
I loved having someone to joke around with more than you will ever know. I knew that someday it could happen, my past come back to haunt me. I will cherish the time I had with you Boston.
You may be an eastern dandy, but now you are the best big brother I could ever have. You don’t judge me, you accepted my past and that alone isn’t easy to do. I owe you in more ways than you know brother, thanks.
When he finished, he couldn’t stop his anger from building. What his brother said in the letter hurt. He didn’t feel like he was really wanted at Lancer by his father, and that that was why they never got along. Finishing getting dressed, Scott headed downstairs.
Scott set his fork down, and dabbed at the corners of his mouth. ” He’s not coming back in the spring. ”
” What…..who? ” Murdoch asked.
” You know damn well who I mean. ” Scott said. ” Tell me something Murdoch, did you like making Johnny feel like he wasn’t really wanted here? Did you like making him feel like he wasn’t an equal partner? ”
” I don’t know what the devil you are talking about! ” Murdoch said.
” Every day you put him down every chance you got. You never listened to him, or treated him as an equal partner. ” Scott said. ” You never really treated him like a son. ”
” I treated him the way he deserved to be treated. ”
” Is that why you always got angry with him if he didn’t get a job finished in the amount of time you thought it would take to do it? ” Scott demanded. ” Instead of asking him what went wrong, or how long it would take……No, you always yelled at him. ”
” Enough! ” Murdoch said with anger as he tossed his napkin down, stood up, and went outside.
” Scott, what happened while you guys were gone? ” she asked.
” He’s never going to accept my brother as an equal partner in this ranch, and Johnny knows it. ” Scott said. ” I tried talking to him about how he treats him, but you know how he is. I don’t blame Johnny for not wanting to come back. I don’t think I would if it was me. ”
” Scott, we have to get Johnny to come back here. ” Teresa pleaded. ” Lancer is where he belongs, not some cow town wearing a badge. ”
Chapter 5 ( final chapter )
” Let me ask you guys something. Most of the trouble happens at night when the hands come into town to have fun right? ”
” Yeah, they come riding in hell bent for leather shooting their guns in the air, scaring the people on the streets. ” Cal said.
” We have what,a month before the first herds start arriving. Why not make Abilene a gun free town? ” Johnny asked.
” Gun free? ” Rockwell asked.
” They did it in Tombstone, why can’t we here? ” Johnny asked. ” Make it a city ordinance. ”
” It’s worth a try. I’ll have two big signs made and we’ll put them up at each end of town. ” the marshal said.
” Will the town council go for it though? ” Rockwell asked.
” They will if they want their town tamed. ” the marshal said.
” The signs could say, City Ordinance. No carrying of firearms within city limits! ” Johnny suggested.
” We have a problem though. ” Rockwell said. ” Drovers Cottage is on the edge of the city limits. ”
” Inside or out? ” Johnny asked.
” Out. ” Cal said. ”
” We can ask Joseph to enforce a no gun policy in his establishment? ”
” We can. ”
” Why have you not wrote a letter to Johnny telling him how you feel? That you want him to come home? ”
” I’ve tried. I just can’t get the words to come out. ” Murdoch said.
” Maybe if you started acting more like a father instead he would. ” Scott said firmly.
” I want him back son. I just…..I don’t know why I can’t talk to him like I can you. ”
” If you can’t tell him in person, then tell him in a letter how you feel. Words have a way of bringing comfort to people in times of need. ”
Johnny looked in the Bull’s Head saloon and noticed two men at the bar, both wearing their gun. Walking inside, he walked past them, stopped, and turned around to face them. ” Hand them over boys. ”
” What? ”
” We have a new law in town, no firearms within city limits. Hand them over. ”
” To hell with your law. Go bother someone else…..deputy. ” the one man said.
” That’s the gunfighter, Johnny Madrid. ” the other man said. ” I’m sorry deputy. ” he said as he removed his gun,and handed it to Johnny.
” I don’t care who he is, he ain’t taking my gun. ” the man said before turning around.
Johnny slammed the man up against the bar, took took the mans gun, and pulled his colt. ” Let’s go. You just got a night in jail. ”
” Get your hands off me! ” the man yelled as Johnny shoved him out the door into the street.
” Mister, you can either walk to the jail, or be carried. Either way you’re going. ” Johnny said as he aimed his colt at the man.
” You’re not taking my man anywhere. ” another man said from the street.
” You can join him mister. ” Johnny said.
” You’re all alone boy, and there’s three of us. ” the man said.
” Who are you? ” Johnny demanded.
” Stu Clemons. Jeb works for me. ”
” He says I broke the law wearing my gun in town, Mister Clemons. Said it’s a new law. ” Jeb said.
” There ain’t no law for the Clemons crew. ”
” We got some new laws since you boys were here last. ”
” What’s the trouble here? ” the marshal demanded as he came up, and handed a sawed-off scatter-gun to Johnny.
” You gonna try and stop us boy? ” Clemons asked as his hand went down to his gun.
Johnny walked over to the man and pressed the barrel of the shotgun into his belly. ” Mister Clemons, your men respect you, and I don’t want to take anything away from that, but if you refuse to obey the new laws, I’m going to open you up, and your whole crew can see what you had for breakfast. ”
” Mister Clemons, he means it sir. That’s Johnny Madrid. ” Joseph McCoy said.
Clemson stared hard at Johnny, and could tell the man was serious. ” You heard the man, give up your guns boys. The only one you’re going to need tonight is between your legs. ”
Marshal Wheeler walked up to Johnny, and placed a hand on his left shoulder. ” You alright? ”
” Yeah. ” he responded. ” I need to lock him up. ”
” You’re one crazy sonofabitch Johnny. ” Rockwell said.
Murdoch sat at his desk writing a letter to his son. Scott and Teresa had gone to bed hours ago. The grandfather clock chimed midnight. Standing up, he walked over to the sideboard, poured a drink, and walked back over to his desk, and sat down. Picking up the letter, he read what he had written so far.
I used to watch you sleep at night, so small and fragile. That day I held you for the very first time, I had tears in my eyes. Your tiny little fingers could only wrap part way around my finger, but boy once you did you didn’t want to let go. You opened those eyes of yours and when I looked into them I knew of only one other time I had seen eyes so blue, your grandfather had the same blue eyes, and I found myself smiling as I thought back to that other time in a land so far away.
As you grew bigger I would show you off to my rancher friends, so proud to have an heir. Each day I would ride with you in my lap when you were big enough, your mother at first was not to happy for fear you would get hurt, but as you got bigger her worries subsided. I think she enjoyed the freedom we gave her when we would ride all day. Little did I know my blue eyed son that my spending more time with you your mother became distant to us and lonely.
On that morning that changed my life and yours forever when I woke and found you gone was like a bullet to my heart. I searched for you for so long, I felt I would never see you again. I knew in my heart you were still alive, and I would never stop searching this. I had vow to my last dying breath. Oh how I miss that soft laugh you have and the way you would smile up at me with your arms extended saying “Papa” as you would bound up to me unafraid of anything around you.
I could only hope and pray that you grew into the kind of man I wanted you to be, and I pray that someday you would find your way back to me.
It took twenty years of searching, but I finally got my blue eyed boy back, and our time together has been trying at times. I guess you could say most of it has been my fault son. I haven’t exactly been a father to you, and for that I’m sorry. I made you a third owner of this ranch, but thinking back, I see how I have not treated you as an equal partner, and I want that to change. So this is what I did. I had Mister Randall write out a new partnership agreement that states you will be treated as an equal partner. Emphasis on equal son. Your brother and me have signed it. All it needs is your signature.
Johnny, this is long overdue of me saying to you. I want you here son. I love you, and I need you. I don’t need you for working this ranch, or your gun. I need you because you are my son, and I want you here. Please come back home to me. Please give a foolish old man a second chance at being a father to you.
” Storm last night
” He’s not happy here Cal. ” Pearl said.
” I know. Ever since he got a letter from his father, he’s been quiet. ”
” The only reason he’s here is because he feels an obligation to you for Griffith being killed protecting him. ”
” Did he tell you that? ” the marshal asked.
” He didn’t have to. ” Pearl said. ” Here he comes now. Talk to him Cal. Tell him to go home to his family. ”
” Didn’t expect to see you up yet. ” Cal said.
” Couldn’t sleep. ”
” I’ll get you something to eat. ” Pearl said as she stood up.
Johnny poured a cup of coffee, and took a sip.
” You look like hell kid. You sleeping alright? ”
” Yeah. Just couldn’t last night with the damn wind and rain. ” he said. ” I need to talk to you. ”
” What’s on your mind? ”
” My family, and my home back in California. ”
” You going to go back to them? ” the marshal asked as Pearl brought Johnny a plate of ham, eggs, biscuits, and potato’s.
” Thanks. ” Johnny said.
” When you going to leave? ”
” First of the week. ” he said as he looked at Pearl. He could see the disappointment in her eyes that he was leaving.
” You going to tell them you’re coming back? ” Pearl asked.
” No. I figured I would just show up. ”
” Johnny, I have to go to Topeka. I’ll be gone a week. I need you to stay until I get back. Rockwell can’t…..”
” Yeah, I know. ” Johnny said with frustration in his voice.
” I’m sorry. I’ve been trying to hire more deputies, but nobody seems interested in wearing a badge in this town. ”
Johnny stood up. ” Thanks for breakfast Pearl. Go to Topeka. If you’re not back by Monday, I’m still leaving. ” he said before walking away.
” I wish Johnny would come back. I miss him so much. ” Teresa said as she sat in the blue chair doing needlepoint.
” So do I. ” Murdoch said softly before standing up.
” It’s getting late, I think I will turn in. ” she said.
” Teresa, I haven’t seen Paul and Vera Johnson for some time. I was wondering if you would like to go over there tomorrow and see how they are doing with the new baby? ”
” I’d like that Murdoch. Goodnight. ” she said as she gave him a hug, and kiss on the cheek.
” Train should be coming any time now. ” Rockwell said.
” It should. ” Johnny responded.
” Johnny Madrid! ” a man yelled from the street. ” Come on out here and face me Madrid! ”
Rockwell looked out the window. ” Who the hell is that? ”
Johnny looked out the window. ” Damn. Someone I thought was dead. ” Johnny said.
” Obviously he’s not. Why’s he calling you out? ”
” His names Bill Langley seven years ago I killed his brother down in Mexico. ” Johnny responded as he pulled his colt and spun the cylinder. ” Stay here. ”
” Come on out and face me Madrid! ” Bill yelled.
Johnny opened the door and walked outside the jail.
” I heard you were here hiding behind a badge. ” Bill spat. ” I came here to kill you for killing my brother down in Mexico. ”
” Your brother called me out and lost, just like you’re going to do unless you turn around and leave Abilene. ”
” I’m not leaving here until you’re dead. ”
Marshal Wheeler stepped off the train, and started toward the jail when he was stopped by Rockwell. ” What’s going on? ”
” Man called Johnny out. Seems Madrid killed his brother seven years ago down in Mexico, and he’s come here looking for revenge. ” Rockwell explained.
” I’ll say it one last time, turn around and leave. ”
” Cal, aren’t you going to stop this? ” Pearl asked.
” The man called him out Pearl. ” the marshal said.
” Looks to me like Johnny is trying to talk him out of it. ” Rockwell said.
” He is. That’s what Madrid does. ” Cal said. ” He doesn’t like killing a man. ”
” You go to hell. That badge don’t mean shit to me. ”
Johnny stepped put into the street and faced Langley. Blocking out everything around him, he summoned all of Madrid as he waited for the one sign that would tell him to draw.
” What’s the matter Madrid, you look like you’re scared of me! ” Langley said. ” My brother was the only family I had, and you took him away from me. Now I’m going to kill you. ”
Johnny seen his eyes change, drew, and fired his colt before Bill Langley’s gun cleared the holster.
Johnny rode up to the house and dismounted. He could see his father sitting at his desk going over the books. Walking over to the open veranda door, he stepped inside
” Johnny! ” Teresa squealed as she ran to him, and wrapped her arms around him.
” Whoa easy querida. ” Johnny said as he hugged her.
” Oh Johnny, I missed you so much. ”
” I missed you too Teresa. ” Johnny said as he looked at his father. ” You going to say anything old man? ” he asked with a smile.
Murdoch stood up, and walked over to his youngest, reaching out, he pulled him into a hug. ” Please tell me you’re home to stay son? ”
” I am if you still want me here? ”
” Yes I….we do son. ”
” Where’s Scott? ”
” He’s out at South Mesa clearing streams. ”
” I’ll be back. ”
” You want me to go with you son? ”
”No. Whatever happens, I deserve. ” Johnny said before walking out.
” What does he mean? ” Teresa asked.
” Johnny said he would be home in the spring, so Scott feels he lied to him. ”
Scott wiped the sweat from his brow, and looked at what he had left to clear from the stream bed. Tired of pulling brush, he climbed up the bank to eat the lunch Teresa made him. Grabbing the sandwich from his saddlebag, and canteen, he walked over to sit in the shade. Sitting down, he remembered something his brother had said that first morning in his bedroom after they arrived at Lancer, something his little brother said that at the time seemed not to be important.
” Well I tell ya, I don’t give anybody to much credit. Saves a lot of disappointment.” That statement seemed so true, especially with what his brother had wrote and said in the letter about how he feels when at Lancer.
” Better not let the old man catch you sleeping. ” Johnny said as he rode up, and dismounted, and held out his hand.
Scott turned around, and smiled. ” I wasn’t sleeping, I was remembering something you said once brother. ” he said as he walked over and put his canteen back on the saddle.
Johnny could sense his brother wasn’t happy with him when he refused to shake his hand. Figuring he wasn’t wanted, he turned to mount up when he was stopped, spun around, and pulled into a hug. ” I’m sorry I didn’t come back when I said I would in the spring Boston. ”
”You’re back now, and that’s all that matters. ” Scott said.
” I don’t blame you if you’re mad at me, but I had to stay and take care of some business. ”
” Your letter bothered me, and I had a not too pleasant talk with our father about how he has been treating you. ” Scott said. ” I think he understands now though. ”
” Was it your idea on that new partnership agreement or his Scott? ”
” His. ” he responded. ” Did you sign it? ”
” Not yet. There’s some things that need cleared up between us before I do. ” Johnny said. ” So what was it I said that you were thinking about when I rode up? ”
” You told me you don’t give anybody to much credit. That it saves a lot of disappointment.”
” It does. ”
” Is that how you feel when you came here, disappointed? Especially with they way our father made you feel not wanted? ”
” At first no, but as time went on I started too. ” Johnny said. ” Mainly because he wouldn’t listen to any suggestions I made, or got angry when I didn’t get a job finished instead of asking me why, or how much longer it would take. ”
” I mentioned that very thing to him. ” Scott said.
” If he wants me to stay this time….It’s gonna take more than words on a piece of paper Scott. ”
Scott couldn’t help but laugh.
” Something funny? ”
” Do you remember what you said to me that morning in my bedroom? ” he asked. ” We were talking about the partnership agreement. ”
” I said light a match to it, and it burns right up. ”
” So what will it take to keep you here? ”
” Besides being treated as an equal partner…..compassion, understanding, and trust. Mainly trust. ” Johnny said.
” That seems like a fair enough request. ”
” I’m so happy Johnny came back. ” Teresa said. ” I bet Scott will be too. ”
” I expect they will have some differences they’ll have to settle between them. ”
” Because Johnny didn’t come home in the spring like he said he would? ” she asked.
” Possibly. ”
” You don’t think they will get into a fight do you? ”
” No…I doubt that will happen. They’re probably sitting under an oak tree talking right now. ”
” So you going to tell me what happened in Abilene? ”
Johnny leaned back against the oak tree. ” I was wrong. It wasn’t the old man, it was his son, Warren. A week after you left, I came out of the Drovers Cottage. Warren was waiting for me at the corrals to come out. I took a bullet in the chest…..and almost died. Cal and Rockwell rode out to the Blackshere ranch to confront J.R. and arrest him for shooting me. They found out he didn’t do it. ” Johnny said as he played with the spur on his left boot.
” We never knew you were shot. ”
” Yeah, Cal wasn’t impressed with Murdoch, and told me he would have told you if I died. ” he responded. ” Griffith was left to guard me. I was unconscious when this happened, so what I’m about to tell you, Pearl told me happened. They heard someone at the door of the Bulls Head saloon where I was at. They thought it was the doctor coming to check on me. Griffith opened the door, and Warren plunged a knife in his chest, killing him. Cal showed up with J.R. and tried to talk Warren into coming out of the room I was in. Pearl was in there with me. I guess Warren wouldn’t listen to him, and was going to kill me. J.R. shot and killed his son to save my life. ”
Scott stood up and took a couple steps away from his brother. ” Is that why you didn’t come home? ”
” Griffith gave his life to protect me. I felt I owed him, so I put his badge on. ” Johnny said as he stood up.
” What made you decide to come back? ”
Johnny walked over to his horse, and took the letter Murdoch wrote him out of his saddlebag. ” Are you aware of the letter he wrote me? ”
” I knew he was going to write to you, but what he said, no, I don’t know what he said. ”
Johnny handed the letter to Scott to read.
” I had no idea he wrote this to you. ” he said as he handed it back to him. ” I know he was up well past midnight a couple nights. ”
” Scott….I know there’s things he wants to know about my mother before she was killed, but….if I tell him….some of it will hurt him to know. ”
” I think he can handle it. ” Scott said. ” Let’s head back so we can clean up before supper. ”
” That’s another thing. I’ve been working nights, and sleeping during the day. It’s going to take a bit to get my body back to sleeping nights, and working days. ”
Johnny walked into the great room two days after coming back home to find his father at his desk. Walking over to the sideboard, grabbed the decanter of brandy, two glasses, and walked over to the couch. ” Murdoch, can you join me over here? We need to have a talk. ”
” I’m sorry son, I didn’t hear you come in. ” his father said as he sat back in his chair. His heart told him this would be a sensitive talk he was about to have with his son. Standing up, he walked over and sat down on the couch.
Johnny poured two brandy’s and handed his father one. Setting the decanter down, he put the cap back on and sat back.
” When I first walked into this room and looked around at how nice it is compared to what I grew up living in….I couldn’t understand why my mother wasn’t happy here. Why she took me away from such a…..paradise to live in dirt floor shacks, some with barely a roof on them, or holes in the wall letting the cold in during the winter. At first I was too young to understand I guess, but when I got older, I started asking her questions about you. ” he said before taking a sip of the brandy.
” She lashed out at me one night, and beat me. Forbidding me to ever speak about my worthless gringo father again. She had a lot of men in and out of her life. Most didn’t stay long though. I remember this one man though. I think I was three. I remember he wore all black, and was always playing with a deck of cards. He taught me a few card tricks, and treated me good. I was woke up one night by them fighting. She was drunk as usual, and was ordering him to get out. Said she was tired of him spending more time with me, than her. Murdoch, you need to know, my mother was a whore. She didn’t care who she brought home. As long as she had a man every night in her bed, she was happy. Most nights I was forced to leave the shack so her man wouldn’t know she had a half-breed son. ”
Murdoch’s heart sank when he heard what the woman he married did to there son, what she put him thru, and how she became angry with him when he asked about his father.
” Go ahead and say what you’re thinking. ” Johnny said softly.
” I don’t know what to say son. ” he said as he looked down at the floor.
” You said you met her in a cantina in Matamoros. Was she a whore then? ” he asked bluntly.
Murdoch jerked his head up, and glared at his son.
” Was she a whore when you slept with her? ”
” I loved your mother. What she was when I met her son shouldn’t matter. ”
” I’m asking because it will help answer a question I have always had of how a woman as beautiful as her could turn to that profession. ”
” Son, you know how hard it is to live in Mexico. Even here a woman with a child and no husband can’t always find work that’s decent. ” his father said. ” Your mother….when I walked into the cantina…..she was dancing. I walked over to the bar, ordered a beer, sat down and watched her dance. When she finished, she walked over and sat down at my table, and we talked for a long time. It wasn’t my intention of sleeping with her son…..but your mother……she was very seductive. ”
” You married her because of me? ”
” I married Maria because I loved her. ”
” I’m not stupid Murdoch. Your wedding date and my birth says you got her pregnant four months before you married her. ”
” Yes. I came back to Lancer, and couldn’t stop thinking about her, so I went back to Matamoros and asked her to marry me. That’s when she told me she was with child. I brought her back here to live, and thought she was happy, but I was wrong. She ran off in the middle of the night with that gambler you mentioned. ”
” A part of me hates her for taking me away from here, from you. ”
” You’re a hard man to get to know son, and I thank you for telling me what you just did. I know it wasn’t easy for you. ”
” Why do you find it so hard to treat me as an equal partner in this ranch? ”
Murdoch sighed. He knew learning anymore about his sons past had just been stopped. ” I have asked myself that very question so many times since coming back home. I think it’s because I’m all pride, and you’re cut from the same mold. Not one inch of give. I never got a chance to learn how to be a father as you or your brother grew up. I was robbed of all that by Harlan, and Maria taking you boys away from me.”
” It wasn’t easy for you not knowing if I was dead or alive for all those years was it? ”
” No it wasn’t. Every Pinkerton report I got telling me they still had not located you crushed my heart all that more. ” his father said. ” Then the one came telling me they finally found you. It was like the day you were born, I was so relieved and happy. ”
” What you said in your letter is why I came back, and I’m not talking about the agreement. ” Johnny said. ” You said, this is long overdue of you saying to me. You said I want you here son. I love you, and I need you. I don’t need you for working this ranch, or my gun. You said you need me because I’m your son, and you want me here. You asked me to please come back home, and to please give a foolish old man a second chance at being a father to me. ”
” It took me two days, or I should say nights to write that letter to you son. I mean every word I said in it. ”
” You need to know why I didn’t come home in the spring like I said I would. ”
” You don’ have to tell me why if you don’t want to son. ”
” It was the son, Warren. He ambushed me a week after you left. Shot me in the chest, and I almost died. A long story short, his father ended up killing him to save my life. Warren murdered Griffith, and was in my room with me and Pearl. He wouldn’t come out, and was going to shoot me when his father shot and killed him. ”
” I’m sorry son. ” Murdoch said as Scott walked into the house.
” I haven’t signed the agreement yet. ” Johnny said as he stood up, pulled the agreement from his pocket, and walked over to the desk to sign it.
Scott looked at his father to find him smiling.
Johnny signed the agreement, and put the pen down. ” Hey brother. ”
” Everything alright brother? ” Scott asked.
” Yeah, just signing my guaranteed Survival. ” Johnny said with a smile.
1 / 5 / 2023
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One thought on “ Survival by Nancy Marie”
Great read don’t know how I missed this one. You had the way they talked down perfectly, which made reading the story easier. Thanks for sharing your talent and keeping Lancer land alive. JML always ♥️