A Cattleman’s Son by Nancy Marie

Word Count 33,217

All original characters belong to their rightful owners. I’m just borrowing them for some fun, and adventure. Any other characters belong to me, and may not be used without my permission. Johnny has been at Lancer seven years.

Murdoch Lancer
Scott Garrett Lancer – 26
Johnny Madrid Lancer – 23
Michael Lancer – 3
Teresa O’Brian – 19
Harlan Garrett
Val Crawford
Sam Jenkins
Charlie Anderson
Brock Cornett
Juan Cortina
Jim Leavy
Caroline Bender
Paul Bender
Marge Bender
Cathy Bender – 20
Jeff Wilson

Chapter 1

Johnny galloped up to the house, and dismounted before Barranca stopped. Hurrying into the house thru the veranda doors, and started for the stairs when he was stopped by Scott.

“ Sam is in with him now.” he said softly.

“ What the hell happened? ” Johnny demanded.

“ He was shot.” Scott said.

“ Shot!……Shot by who? ” Johnny asked.

“ I wasn’t here. Murdoch had asked me to ride out and check on the foot bridge.” Scott said.

“ Teresa….who did it? ” Johnny asked.

“ I don’t know who they were Johnny.” she said with tears in her eyes. “ I was in the kitchen when I heard shouting, and then a shot.”

“ Shouting, think Teresa, what was said? ” Johnny asked with anger.

“ I don’t know Johnny!” she said.

“ Johnny, take it easy. Teresa said she doesn’t know.” Scott said.

“ Where were you?” Johnny demanded as he looked at Harlan Garrett.

“I was sitting on the couch reading, and like the young lady all I heard was shouting, and then a shot.” Harlan said.

“ You’ve made it no secret how you feel about Murdoch. I find out you have anything to do with his being shot, there wont be anyplace you can hide old man.” Johnny said with coldness dripping from every word.

“ Johnny!….You are out of line accusing grandfather.” Scott said. “ For all we know it could be someone from * your* past who done this.”

“ I haven’t been called out in the six years I’ve been here Scott.” Johnny said as he continued to stare at Harlan. “ I just find it a little odd that a day after he shows up here unannounced, Murdoch gets shot.”

“ My grandfather is allowed to come visit me any time he wishes. He doesn’t need you or Murdoch’s permission to come see me.” Scott said  with anger in his voice.

“ Stop it you two.” Teresa said as she stepped between them. “ Fighting amongst yourselves is not going to change what’s happened.”

“ Why did you come here old man?” Johnny asked as he walked over, and poured a shot of tequila to steady his nerves.

“  I don’t care for your rudeness young man. Obviously Murdoch has not taught you manners.” Harlan said. “ Not that it is of any concern of yours, I was in San Francisco on business, and decided to stop and spend some time with my Scotty.”

“ Johnny……..from now on you will show grandfather the same courtesy any other guest in this house gets.” Scott said firmly. “ You will address him as Mister Garrett. Do I make myself clear?”

Johnny looked at his brother, then back at Harlan. “ It’ll be a cold day in hell before I address him as Mister Garrett, or trust him.” Johnny said firmly as Val walked in the house.

“ Johnny….Scott, how is he?” Sheriff Crawford asked.

“ We don’t know yet.” Johnny said.

Val could feel the tension between the brothers when he walked into the house. “ Johnny, why don’t we go outside while we wait?” he suggested.

“ Just remember what I said old man.” Johnny said before shooting Scott a hard Madrid look, and heading outside.

JML

“ Something going on I should know about buddy?” Val asked.

“ That sonofabitch shows up here unannounced claiming he’s here to see Scott, and Murdoch gets shot the next day. I don’t buy it Val.” Johnny spat. “ I know he had something to do with it.”

“ Calm down Johnny.” Val said. “ I know there’s been  no love lost between the two, but don’t you think yur jumpin o conclusions a might early?”

“ Let me guess, you think it has to do with me.” Johnny snapped back. “ Well not this time Val. I’ve been here seven years, and the last time I was called out was six years ago. Murdoch wasn’t shot because of Madrid. He was shot because that old man in there wants Scott to go back to Boston, and he will do anything to take him away from Murdoch, and me.”

“ Johnny, you know I will need more than what you say to prove he’s responsible.” Val said.

“ Proof, I’ll get you the proof Val.” Johnny said as Teresa came out to them.

“ Sam just finished, and would like you to come inside Johnny.” she said.

“ I don’t care who they are, nobody hurts my family.” Johnny said before going inside.

“ I’m worried about him Val.” Teresa said. “ The look he had in his eyes before you got here.”

“ He’s just upset right now. Lets go see how Mister Lancer is doing.” Val said as they walked inside.

“  Murdoch is alive. The bullet was lodged in his back, near his spine.” Sam explained. “ I was able to remove it. But I’m afraid he will have to stay in bed for a long time to allow time to heal.”

“ Is he paralyzed Sam?” Scott asked.

“ No, but he will have to use a cane for a while when I allow him out of bed, and he will have a permanent limp.” Sam responded.

“ Can I see him?” Johnny asked.

“ Yes. He’s unconscious still, and I want someone with him at all times until he wakes up.”

he said as Johnny headed to the stairs.

“ Mister Garrett, Johnny seems to think you had something to do with his father being shot.” Val said.

“ Sheriff I………”

“ Now hear me out cause I’m only gonna tell ya this once. Scott, I know he’s yur grandfather and all, but if I find out Johnny is right, and you are the one responsible for his father being shot…….I’ll take great pleasure in sending you to Folsom. You are not to leave until this is solved. Do I make myself clear?” Val said with anger.

“ You have no right accusing my………..”

“ As the law I have every right to find out who shot yur father Scott! I would think that would be yur utmost concern young man.” Val cut in.

“ I assure you Sheriff Crawford, I have no intention of provoking.” Harlan said.

JML

Johnny sat wiping the sweat from his fathers face when the door opened, and Sam walked in. “ He’s running a fever.”

“ That’s to be expected.” Sam said as he walked over to check his patient. “ John….I want you to go get some sleep. You’re exhausted, and going to be no good to your father when he wakes up.”

“ I’m alright Sam.” Johnny said as he walked over to the window.

“ John, am I gonna have to sedate you young man?” Sam asked firmly.

“  It’s not my fault he was shot Sam…….It can’t be.” Johnny said softly.

Sam suspected Johnny had been blaming himself for his father being shot. That his past after so many years had come back again. A past the young man so desperately wanted to leave behind, and thought he had finally. “ John, I want you to listen to me. Until Murdoch wakes up, and we know what was said before he was shot, I don’t want you blaming yourself for this.”

“  All I ever wanted was to be his son, and live the life I so desperately wanted.” he said. “ Hell, even Scott thinks it’s my fault.”

“ Surely Scott doesn’t believe that?” Sam asked as he checked the wound.

“ He the same as yesterday. He stood down there and defended that old man Sam, ordering me to show him respect, and call him Mister Garrett. I know he’s behind this, and when I have the proof, that old man is going to see a side of me nobody will like.” Johnny said as he started to the door. “ I’ll kill anyone who hurts my family Sam…..anyone.” he said before walking out of the room.

Harlan stood in the shadows down the hall listening to Johnny, and Sam talking. An evil smile on his face as he watched Johnny come out of the room, and go downstairs. “ I’ve only just started with you half-breed. I’ll get my Scotty back in Boston, and you will be dead when this is all over.” he said before going in his room.

JML

Johnny rode into Green River, stopping Barranca at the jail, he dismounted, and was approached by Agatha Conway. “ Mrs. Conway.”

“ Johnny. How is Murdoch doing?” Aggie asked.

“ Sam is keeping him sedated so he can heal up some.” Johnny said. “ Thanks for asking Mrs. Conway.”

“ If you need anything, you let me know.” Aggie said before bidding him good day.

Johnny opened the door to the jail and walked in. Val was sitting at his desk with his feet propped up on the desk, his eyes closed.

“ Hey!…….That how you earn your money?” he asked as he closed the door.

Val never moved. “ It is when it’s quiet.” he said as he put his feet on the floor, and sat up. “ How’s yur pappy doin?”

“ Still sedated.” he said.

Val stood up, walked over and poured a cup of coffee. “ Want some?”

“ No thanks.” Johnny said as he pushed his hat back.

“ You ever hear of a Charlie Anderson, Brock Cornett, Juan Cortina, and Jim Leavy?” Val asked.

“ Names don’t ring a bell. Who are they?” he asked.

“ Lowlifes as far as I’m concerned. They hire out to different jobs.” he said as he walked back over and sat down at his desk. “ Brock, he’ll pull the trigger if the moneys right.”

“ What are you getting at Val?” he asked.

“ I find it funny that those four show up at the same time as Garrett?” he said.

Johnny walked around the office. “ Sonofabitch, Teresa said when she went out to Murdoch, she seen four riders leaving.”

“ Did anyone else see them besides her?” Val asked.

“ Garrett was there, but he claims he didn’t see or hear anything, yet Teresa said she heard arguing before the shot.” Johnny said.

“ What’s he like….this Garrett fella?” he asked.

“ A  low life who hates Murdoch.” Johnny said. “ He came here once and tried to blackmail Scott with something that happened in Murdoch’s past.”

“ Blackmail Scott, with what?”

“ He wants Scott back in Boston, and brought this woman named Julie with him hoping she would help convince Scott to return to Boston. When she didn’t work, and she left, he threatened to have Murdoch arrested for killing the Deegan brothers father outside Carterville years ago. Seems their old man tried to rob Murdoch, and he shot and killed him. The law cleared him of any wrongdoing. Garrett found out about it, and tried blackmail to get Scott back.” Johnny explained.

“ How’s he feel about you?” Val asked.

“ Garrett hates me. He’s made that clear. He thinks I’m part of the reason Scott won’t leave.” Johnny said.

“ Kid, it sounds like you could be next.” he said. “ Listen, I’m going to keep an eye out for those four. You be careful, and watch yur back.”

JML

“ You’ve been quiet today.” Harlan said as he walked into the grand room, and over to Scott.

“ Sorry grandfather. I have a lot on my mind.” Scott said.

“ What are you doing?” he asked.

“ Finishing the monthly report. All the receipts have to match the amount of money going out, and coming in.” Scott said as he stood up, stretched his back, and walked over to pour a drink. “ Is there any truth to what Johnny said about you?”

“ That I am involved….certainly not.” Harlan said. “ I can’t believe you would think such a thing Scotty.”

“ Scott……..My name is Scott, not Scotty.” he said. “ I’m a grown man now grandfather.”

“ Forgive me. I meant no harm.” Harlan said.

“ It’s just that…….when you came here before with Julie, you tried to blackmail me, and Murdoch so I would go back to Boston with you.” Scott said as he walked back over to the desk.

“ I did, and I know what a mistake that was.” he said. “ Your mother was all I had. When she married Murdoch, and left Boston to come out here to this godforsaken land, I was a lonely old man. Then when she died giving you life, I had a purpose to live again. Raising you meant everything to me.”

“ Even though you stole me away from Murdoch?” he asked.

“ Your father couldn’t raise you. He couldn’t give you everything I have over the years my boy.” Harlan said with anger in his voice. “ I raised you Scott, not him.”

“ Only because you threatened him, and knew he didn’t have the money to fight you in court for me.” Scott said as he sat down. “Money isn’t everything grandfather.”

“ You have an estate of considerable wealth waiting for you back in Boston my boy. A wealth I worked very hard to build up for you.” he responded.

“ How many nights did I eat meals with the servants because you were too busy working? How many holidays did I spend alone because you were too busy building up that wealth?” Scott demanded.

“ I did not raise you up to be disrespectful to me like that half-breed brother of yours.” Harlan snapped back.

“ No sir you didn’t. You brought me up to tell the truth, and always give the benefit of the doubt to someone.” Scott said as he stood up. “ You have hated Johnny from the moment you met him. Making your snide remarks about his mother being a foreigner. Murdoch loved Maria as much as he loved my mother.”

“ Loved……the only reason he married her was because he got her pregnant with that half-breed. He didn’t want a bastard child running around tarnishing his good name.” Harlan said. “ She went right back to being a whore when she left him, and that…….Your brother grew up to be the most deadly gunfighter, and killer in all of Mexico, and the southwest. He’s the reason your father is laying up there recovering from being shot in the back.”

“ How is it you know so much about his mother?” Scott demanded.

“ I know all about that…….I’ve known ever since she left him. I never would have allowed him to be found had I known it would cost me you.” Harlan said as Johnny walked in thru the veranda doors.

“ You sonofabitch.” Johnny said as he walked over to Harlan, and grabbed him by his jacket. “ How much money did you pay them?”

“ Johnny…….stop it! Let go of him now!” Scott ordered.

“ How much you old bastard?” Johnny demanded as he pulled him to within inches of his face, and ignored Scott.

Scott stepped around the desk, and grabbed his brothers hands. “ Let go of grandfather now Johnny!”

Johnny let go long enough to shove Scott away from him, and pull his colt. “ You better answer me now old man!” he ordered.

“ Johnny don’t!” Scott yelled. “ You pull that trigger, and I will personally see you get hanged for cold-blooded murder.”

“ Start talking old man!” Johnny said with coldness as he cocked the colt.

“ I don’t know what you are talking about!” Harlan said.

“ Four men show up the day after you, and it was four men who Teresa said she seen riding away from here after Murdoch was shot. Coincidence…I don’t think so.”

“ Johnny, put the gun away, or so help me I will shoot you.” Scott ordered.

“ I find those four men, I only need one of them to talk, and tell who hired them.” Johnny said with so much coldness, it sent chills down Harlan’s spine as sweat beaded on his forehead. Johnny slowly put the colt away, and turned to face his brother. “ You ever pull a gun on me again….I just might forget we’re brothers.” he said before heading upstairs.

Harlan staggered back a little as he pulled his kerchief to wipe the sweat from his face. “ Your brother is crazy.”

Scott stood there staring at where his brother was standing a minute ago. His hands shaking as he put the pistol on the desk. “ If Johnny is right, and you are responsible…….I’ll take you to San Quentin myself.”

JML

Johnny walked into his fathers room to find Teresa sitting with him. “ Any change?”

“ I think I heard him moan softly earlier.” Teresa said. “ Sam said he would wake him up tomorrow when he comes out if he doesn’t before then.”

“ Teresa….I need you to do something for me.” Johnny said as he walked over to look out the window. “ I need you to keep a close eye on Garrett. I know he’s responsible for this without a doubt now.”

“ Is that what the arguing was about downstairs a few minutes ago?” she asked.

“ Four men showed up the day after Garrett does. You seen four men riding away. It’s not a coincidence.” Johnny said. “ Also, you still got that derringer I got you?”

“ Yes. It’s in the stand by my bed. Why?” she said, and asked.

“ I want you to start keeping it on you at all times.” Johnny said. “ Don’t let anyone know you have it. I don’t trust Garrett.”

“ Johnny…….do you really believe he would do something to me?”

“ I wouldn’t put anything past that old man.”

JML

“ Teresa, open that window please. This chloroform is pretty strong. Try not to let him jerk or move around when he starts to come too.”

Sam said as he opened the small bottle, and waved it around under Murdoch’s nose.

Murdoch jerked his head and moaned as he opened his eyes.

“ Easy Murdoch. Don’t move around.” Johnny said as he held his father down.

“ Wha…what happened….where am I?” Murdoch asked as he tried to focus his eyes. “ Johnny.”

“ Yeah pa, it’s Johnny.” he said. “ You were shot, so you need to lay still.”

“ Scott, get behind him and help me sit him up more so he can drink some water.” Sam said.

Johnny placed some extra pillows behind Murdoch once he was sitting up.

“ Murdoch, I want you to listen too me. I don’t want you out of this bed….not yet.” Sam ordered. “ You were shot in the back, and I want the wound to heal up  more before we let you walk around.”

Johnny poured a glass of water, and held it so his father could drink.

“ Thank you son.” Murdoch said as he welcomed the coolness on his dry throat. “ How long I been out?”

“ Seven days sir.” Scott said.

“ Murdoch…….do you remember anything that happened?” Johnny asked.

“ Now is not the time Johnny.” Scott said as he gave his brother an angry look.

Murdoch looked between his sons, and could tell there was trouble between them. “ It’s alright Scott.” he said.

“ Scott is right. You need to rest.” Sam said. “ Teresa make him up something that will be easy on his stomach. I’ll stop back by in a day or two and check on you.”

“ I’ll see you out Sam.” Scott said.

JML

Harlan walked into the cafe in Green River to get some breakfast. Staying at Lancer, he wasn’t used to eating breakfast at six in the morning. After seating himself at a table by the window, and ordering his breakfast, he started thinking of how to hurt Madrid so bad he would leave Lancer, and be out of Scott’s life for good. He knew having Murdoch shot again couldn’t happen, and cursed under his breath at the imbeciles for botching that up. His orders were simple, so he thought. Ride out to Lancer late morning when everyone was gone except Murdoch, and kill him. Make it clear that the men who did it, did it to get to Madrid. Looking out the window, he watched the sheriff cross the street, and enter the cafe.

“ Mister Garrett.” Val said as he sat down uninvited.

“ What can I do you sheriff?” he asked as the waitress brought him his breakfast.

“ Don’t they serve breakfast at Lancer?” Val asked.

“ They do, but I am not accustomed to eating at six in the morning.” he said.

Val waited until the waitress left before he spoke. “ Why you in town?”

“ Not that it’s any of your business, I sent a wire to my attorney. I told you I would see you and that filthy half-breed charged with defamation of character.” Harlan said. “ Nobody accuses me of………”

“ Nobody accused you. All Johnny did was suspect you’re involved somehow.” Val cut in and said. “There’s a difference.”

“ Sheriff Crawford, if I wanted Murdoch Lancer dead, I could have shot him when I was alone with him.” he said.

“ I recon ya could’ve.” Val said. “ But that would make it obvious you dun it, and I think a man like you likes having someone else do yur dirty work…..See….I’ve dealt with yur kind before. So has Johnny. You pay someone else to do it thinking you won’t get caught.”

“ Once again Sheriff Crawford, you are making false accusations against me.” Harlan said.

Val stood up. “ I don’t make false accusations. I know it….Johnny knows it. Yur the one responsible, and when we have the proof, arresting you will be so much joy. I’ll be keeping my eye on you.”

“ Perhaps it’s Madrid you should be watching. Had it not been for my Scotty stopping him, that half-breed would have shot me down in cold-blood yesterday.” he said.

“ Then I would have to say yur a lucky man then. Because anybody who faces the business end of Johnny Madrid’s gun, and lives to tell about it does so because he allows them to live.” Val said. “ Trust me, Scott couldn’t stop him if he wanted to really kill you.”

JML

“ Well Murdoch, I think another week in bed, and you will be healed up enough to go downstairs.” Sam said.

“ Another week Sam?” Murdoch said as Johnny walked into the room.

“ Yes, another week.” Sam responded. “ Hello John. I now know where you get your stubbornness from when I try to keep you in bed young man.”

“ I’m not being stubborn Sam” Murdoch said. “ A person can only handle being bed ridden for so long.”

“ I’ll remember that the next time you lay into me for getting out of bed pa.” Johnny said. “ Will he need a cane Sam?”

“ I’m afraid he will for a while. Just until your back, and leg muscles are strong again.” Sam responded. “ Now, I have other patients to see. Mind what I said Murdoch. I don’t want you falling.”

“ What about if he walks around here in his room Sam? It could help get his legs strong for going downstairs.” Johnny asked.

“ Alright, but just up here. You can walk the hall, but I don’t want you trying to go downstairs just yet, and when you can, I want either Johnny or Scott with you.” Sam said. “ I’ll see you later.”

“ Thanks Sam.” Johnny said as he walked him to the door.

“ Can I get you anything?” Johnny asked after he closed the door, and walked over to sit down in the chair.

“ Your company is enough.” Murdoch said. “ Something is troubling you. What’s wrong?”

“ Wrong….what makes you think something is wrong?” he asked.

“ I’d like to think after seven years I know you better than that son. Scott said you have been very rude to Harlan since I was shot. Can I ask why?” Murdoch said.

“ You remember anything yet?” Johnny asked, changing the subject.

“ Yes, but I would like to know what is bothering you.”

“ His grandfather shows up here unannounced, then the very next day four men never seen before show up here, and shoot you.” Johnny said. “ I don’t think that’s a coincidence Murdoch. That old man has a hate for you and me, and he will do anything to get Scott to go back to Boston. He tried it before.”

“ Johnny, listen to me. I want you to do your best to get along with your brother, and Harlan while he is here……..Can you do that for me?” he asked.

“ I’m trying Murdoch, but Scott hasn’t been the same. I can’t talk to him.” he said.

“ do you think it was a good idea pulling your gun on Harlan?” he asked. “ You put your brother in an uncompromising position that day son.”

“ What was the argument about that day?” Johnny asked.

“ Argument?”

“ Yeah, Teresa said she could hear arguing…….That lying sonofabitch…..I knew it!”

“ John….language. Knew what?”

“ Sorry. Teresa said she was in the kitchen and heard you arguing with someone. Yet Harlan who was right there in the grand room with you said he didn’t hear or see anything.” Johnny explained. “ What were you arguing about pa?”

Murdoch looked to his window and closed his eyes. “ Four men rode up. I didn’t like the looks of them, so I told them Lancer wasn’t hiring, and to leave.”

“ Do you think they were here for me?” Johnny asked.

“ They never mentioned your name.”

“ Murdoch, I’ve been here seven years.” Johnny said. “ I haven’t been called out in six of those seven years.”

“ They never said anything about you son. Fact is, I never gave them the chance too. I stood there facing them, and told them to leave. That’s when I was shot.”

Johnny looked at his father as he let sink in what was just said. Deciding to keep it to himself until the right time.

JML

“ Johnny!” Scott called out as his brother came downstairs. “ I need you to go to Modesto.”

“ What for ?” Johnny said loudly. “

“ We are getting low on grain.” Scott said.

“ Who the hell put you in charge, and why are you sending me?”

“ Because one of us has to go, and as the oldest, and most reliable to run this ranch, you will do what I say. Is that clear?”

Johnny walked over to his brother. “ You go to hell………brother!”

“ Johnny!…..As a third owner of this ranch, it’s your responsibility just like it’s mine. I know how you hate doing the books, and with taxes coming up soon, they have to match all receipts. I talked to Murdoch about it, and it was his suggestion to send you…..not mine.”

“ I bet he did. You tell him how I threatened that old bastard?” Johnny demanded.

“  What I told him was the truth…brother. That since he was shot….*you* have not been thinking straight.” Scott said. “And as for me running this ranch…any time you don’t want to be a part owner because you don’t like what you’re told to do, you can sign over your third and leave.”

“ Alright brother…..Go ahead and be the boss….but let me tell you something….anything happens to Murdoch, or Teresa while I’m gone, you will see a side of me you have never seen.” Johnny said with anger before turning and going upstairs.

“ Scott….why are you treating Johnny the way you are?” Teresa asked.

“ He’s out of control Teresa. Sending him up to get grain will do us both some good to be apart.” Scott responded.

“ You know, I’m not blind Scott Lancer, but you must be. Ever since your grandfather has come here this time, you have been treating Johnny horribly. You just the same as told him to leave Lancer, that he’s not wanted here anymore.” Teresa said.

“ I never said such a thing.” he said as he walked back over to the desk and sat down.

“ You did just now by telling him to sign over his part of the ranch and leave.” she responded with her hands on her hips.

“ I said if he doesn’t like what he’s told to do.” Scott said. “Look, I’m not going to discuss this with you Teresa. It’s none of your concern. Johnny has accused my grandfather of being responsible for Murdoch being shot, and being disrespectful to him. Yesterday he pulled his gun on grandfather, so I don’t really care if he leaves Lancer or not.”

“ You don’t mean that!” Teresa said. “ You care about Johnny, and he cares about you….You’re brothers.”

“ I used to care………Now I’m not so sure.” Scott said. “ Now leave me. I have work to do.”

“ Work, you haven’t once been out there working like Johnny has since your grandfather got here. Maybe it’s you who should leave and go back to Boston.” Teresa spat before turning and heading back to the kitchen.

JML

Johnny came down the back stairs into the kitchen to find Teresa taking biscuits out of the oven. “ You’re up early.” he said as he walked over and poured a cup of coffee.

“ I wanted to make sure * you * got a good hot breakfast before you left.” she said. “I fixed several roast beef sandwiches for you, and put them in your saddlebags. Breakfast is almost ready for you.”

“ You don’t have to do that Teresa. Thank you.”

“ I said something to Scott yesterday after you went upstairs. I was giving him a piece of my mind about how he’s been treating you. He said he had work to do, and to leave him be.” she said as she fixed a plate of bacon, eggs, and potatoes and set it in front of Johnny.  “ I want you to eat all of that.”

“ Thanks. So what did you say to him.” he asked as he started eating.

“ I told him he hasn’t done any work since Mister Garrett got here, and that maybe it should be him to leave and go back to Boston.” she said. “ I know that’s why he came here.”

“ I don’t like leaving you here alone with that old man in this house.” Johnny said.

“ I have the derringer you got me. I’ll be alright.” she said.

“When that old bastard is gone, me and big brother are going to take a ride, and have us a little discussion about family values.”

“ I know more about family values than you will ever know Johnny.” Scott said as he walked into the kitchen. “ You have a long ride to Modesto. I suggest you get going.”

“ Back off Scott.” Johnny said with anger. “ I’ll leave when I’m ready to leave.”

“ He’s eating  breakfast before he leaves Scott.” Teresa said.

“ Try not to forget a receipt.” Scott said.

“ You’re gonna push me too far…..brother!” Johnny said as he stood up. “ Even Murdoch didn’t dig his spurs in me like you’ve been doing.”

“ Grow up Johnny. Start being responsible for your actions. I didn’t ask for this responsibility, but someone has to do it.” Scott said with anger.

“ I’ve been responsible for my actions, and life since I was ten.  I learned my lesson, and grew up the hard way….brother. I didn’t have a rich grandfather to give me everything I wanted.” Johnny spat. “ You keep pushing me, and I promise you won’t like what will happen.”

“ Stop it…….Stop it right now.” Teresa said as she got between them. “ You should be ashamed of yourself Scott Lancer for the way you have been treating Johnny.”

“ Our father was shot because of him.” he said.

Johnny stepped back and glared at his brother a few seconds before grabbing his saddlebags, and leaving. The front door could be heard seconds later slamming shut.

“ What is wrong with you?” Teresa demanded. “ Why are you being so terrible to Johnny? We don’t know who shot Murdoch, and for you to say it’s his fault is wrong, and you know it Scott.”

Scott looked at Teresa a few seconds before going up the back stairs.

                                                                                                    Chapter 2

“ Teresa said you wanted to see me sir.” Scott said two days later as he walked into his fathers bedroom.

“ I did. Sit down son.” Murdoch said. “ I want to know why you are treating your brother like you are, and why you sent him to Modesto?”

“ I sent him to the Modesto because we are low on grain, and to get him out of this house. He’s being disrespectful to grandfather. Making accusations against him, and pulled that dam gun on him.” Scott responded. “ Johnny is out of control Murdoch.”

“ So you lie to him telling him I wanted him to go…..and you accuse him of being the reason I was shot?” Murdoch asked. “ You know what an accusation like that does to him. Your brother would as soon die than have someone he loves and cares about get hurt. He’s been here seven years, you know how much he loves Lancer, and his family.”

“ So you are telling me it’s alright for him to accuse grandfather of bringing those men here?” Scott asked.

“ No I’m not, but don’t you think it’s a little odd they show up here the day after he does? Not to mention it’s been six years…….six years since your brother has been called out, or in any kind of gunfight.” Murdoch said. “ Harlan knows how I feel about him coming here. He has always announced when he was coming. Son……your brothers instincts have kept him alive all these years…….Do you really think he would accuse him if it wasn’t true?”

“ He has no proof sir.” Scott said.

“ And if he’s right, what will you do then?” Murdoch asked.

“  Grandfather wouldn’t do something like this.” Scott said.

“ You forget what he did before to get you to go back to Boston son? Using the Deegan brothers, and almost getting you killed?”

“ No sir I haven’t. Grandfather has changed. He’s not like that anymore.” Scott said.

“ Are you absolutely sure about that?”

JML

Johnny got back to Lancer three days later. The whole time he was gone, it poured down rain. Cold, and hungry, he backed the wagon under the lean-too, and started to unhitch the team when Frank came over.

“ Welcome back Johnny.” Frank said. “ I’ll get the horses. You go on inside. You look like you could use a soak in a hot bath.”

“ Thanks Frank. See that that grain gets unloaded in the morning.” Johnny said as he grabbed his saddlebags, and headed to the house.

Murdoch sat at his desk going over the books Scott had been keeping up on when the veranda door opened, and his youngest walked inside. “ I expected you back yesterday son.”

Johnny walked over and poured a shot of tequila, downing it. “  I would have been back yesterday had Scott let me have someone with me to help load all that damn grain.”

“ He didn’t send anyone with you?” Murdoch asked.

“ Nope. Where is he?” he asked.

“ He went to get some things for me in Spanish Wells.” Teresa said.

“ Look Murdoch, I know he’s the oldest, has a college education and all, but if he don’t stop pushing me…..”

“ Johnny, you’re back.” Teresa said as she came over, and gave him a hug. “ I missed you.”

Johnny gave Teresa a kiss on the cheek. “ Missed you too.”

“ Lunch will be done soon.” she said.

“ I have time to take a hot bath?” he asked.

“  Yes.” she said.

“ Garrett go with him?” Johnny asked.

“ No, I believe he is up in his room resting son.” Murdoch said.

JML

“  I’m tired of waiting. When is Garrett going to show?” Brock asked.

“ Yeah Charlie, it’s been four weeks now!” Jim said.

“ Hey, ain’t that the oldest son just come into town?” Jim asked.

Charlie looked at the rider dismounting in front of the mercantile. “ Yeah, that’s him.”

“ I wonder if he knows what his grandfather is up too?” Juan asked.

“ I doubt it.” Charlie asked.

“ Let’s have us some fun.” Jim said.

“ Messing him up a little, and making him think his brother ordered it?” Charlie said.

“ Yeah?” Jim responded.

“ That old man won’t like us messing his grandson up any.” Brock said.

“ No, but it will get the point across to him about paying us more money.” Jim said.

JML

“ You look much better Johnny.” Teresa said as she set a platter of fried chicken on the table.

“ I feel better.” Johnny said as Harlan walked into the grand room and sat down.

“ Has my Scotty returned from town yet?” he asked.

“ No not yet.” Murdoch said.

“ Tell me something Garrett, you ever plan on going back to Boston?” Johnny asked.

“ Johnny!” Murdoch said.

“ I just want to know how long he plans on staying is all Murdoch. He’s been here what….six weeks now.” Johnny said.

“ Young man, I am enjoying visiting my grandson. If Murdoch wished me to leave, then I will take a room in town. But until he ask me to, I don’t really think it is any of your concern how long I stay.” Harlan said firmly.

“ As a Lancer, and part owner in this ranch, I’m making it my concern.” Johnny responded. “ So why don’t we cute the bull. We all know your motive for being here is to try and get Scott to go back to Boston with you. You tried it before, and almost got him killed. He has no intention of going back there.”

“  Is that why you’re really here Harlan?” Murdoch asked.

“ Certainly not. Though I would love Scott to come home, he has made his choice of where he wishes to live.” Harlan said as he glared at Johnny.

“ Harlan, I told you before, and I will tell you again. If…..and I say if Scott wants to leave Lancer, it has to be his choosing.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ Scott!” Teresa said as she quickly got up.

“ You bastard.” Scott said as he came into the grand room.

“ Son…what happened?” Murdoch asked as he stood up.

“ Why don’t you ask him?” Scott spat as he glared at his brother. “ You brought them here………You brought them here and tried to blame grandfather.”

“ Scott, what are you talking about?” Murdoch demanded.

“ He brought them here Murdoch.” Scott said. “ I had a little run in with your four friends, the same four who shot you Murdoch. They told me * you * brought them here. That * you * wanted Murdoch dead, and me to go back to Boston with grandfather so * you * could have Lancer.”

“ Son, I don’t know what those men said to you, but I do know your brother would never do such a thing.” Murdoch said.

“  You sonofabitch……..”

Scott!….. I will not allow that kind of talk in this house.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ I’m done with you……….all of you.” Scott said. “ Grandfather and I will be leaving in the morning, and returning to Boston by weeks end.”

Johnny stood there in total shock at what he was hearing his brother say. “ Scott, They lied to you. I would never do anything to hurt you, or Murdoch. Don’t you see…it’s him. He wants us against each other.” he said as he stepped closer. “ That bastard wants you to go back to Boston with him, and he’s willing to do whatever he has to do to make that happen. Open your eyes Scott….he’s playing us against each other.”

Scott swung and hit Johnny hard in the mouth, knocking him back against the bookshelves.“ You shut your mouth. Don’t you dare stand there and accuse grandfather of being the reason for this. It’s you, and always has been you.” Scott said before heading upstairs.

Harlan stood there glaring at Johnny a minute before turning to face Murdoch. “ Scotty leaving here is his doing….not mine.” he said before heading upstairs.

Johnny stood there in total shock as blood ran down his chin. Two months ago he had everything he ever wanted, a father, big brother, and a safe place to live where he could stop worrying about being called out as Johnny Madrid. Then in the blink of an eye that safe world all but came to an end.

“ Johnny, let’s go in the kitchen and clean you up.” Teresa said.

Johnny looked from Teresa to Murdoch before turning, and going outside.

“ Johnny1” Teresa called.

“ Let him be sweetheart.” Murdoch said with a quiver in his voice.

“ But he’s hurt.” she said.

“ Teresa, there’s nothing me or you can do for the hurt Johnny has inside him right now.” Murdoch said as he walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot of brandy.

“ I hate that man. I wish he had never come here!” Teresa said before leaving the grand room crying.

JML

“ Scott, please don’t go!” Teresa pleaded the next morning as Scott secured their luggage.

“ I can’t stay here Teresa.” he responded.

“ Son, please. You’re wrong about your brother.” Murdoch said.

Scott walked over to his father. “ I’m sorry it turned out this way sir.” he said as he extended his hand. “ I’ll leave the buggy and horse at the livery .”

Murdoch shook his hand. “ This will always be your home son.”

Walking over to Teresa, he gave her a kiss on the cheek, and a hug goodbye before glancing at his brother, then climbing in the buggy.

“ I’m sorry it worked out this way Murdoch.” Harlan said before Scott slapped the reins, and the buggy pulled away.

Johnny stood there watching the buggy pass under the Lancer arch. A single tear rolled down his cheek as his father came over and placed a hand on his left shoulder. Jerking his shoulder free, he looked up at his father a few seconds before going back inside, and up to his room.

JML

“ He hasn’t been truthful with us.” Juan said.

“ Who hasn’t been truthful with us Juan?” Brock asked.

“ That rich old man about the youngest son.  It’s been bothering me ever since I seen him, and two men in the saloon just confirmed my suspicions.” Juan said. “ His name ain’t Lancer.”

“ If it ain’t Lancer, then what is it?” Jim Leavy asked.

“ You ever hear of a gunfighter named Johnny Madrid?” he asked.

“ Yeah, just about everybody has heard of Madrid.” Brock said.

“ Madrid was killed seven, eight years ago down in Mexico.” Charlie said.

“ Nope.” Juan said. “ Those two men were talking about Madrid, and how he’d settled into the valley becoming a ranchers son.”

“ Wait a minute, are you telling us that the youngest son is Johnny Madrid?” Jim asked.

“ You know, come to think of it, he’s right. It was never confirmed Madrid was killed by the Rurales.” Charlie said. “ I worked a range war with Madrid down along the Texas border about ten years ago.”

“ Brock, he’s right, Madrid is the best. Nobody can beat him.” Jim said.

“ Madrid may be good, but he won’t stand a chance against the four of us.” Brock responded. “ There ain’t a gunfighter alive who can face, and beat four men at once.”

“ We gave him a reason by beating up his brother. Not to mention Madrid thinks it was us who shot his old man.” Juan said.

“ What if that rich old man don’t want to pay us more money?” Jim asked.

“ He’ll pay or else.” Brock said.

“ Remember, we know he’s the one who shot Lancer. All we did was distract him.” Charlie said.

JML

“ I’m worried about Johnny Murdoch. He didn’t eat any breakfast, and is up in his room now saying he’s not hungry.” Teresa said.

“ Give him some time sweetheart.” Murdoch said.

“ How can you accept what’s happened so easy?” she asked. “ Scott is your son too, and you let him leave here without a fight.”

“ Scott is a grown man. He can make his own decisions. I may not like it, but there is nothing I can do to stop him from leaving.” he said.

“ You could have stopped him if you really wanted too.” Johnny said as he came into the grand room.

“ Where are you going?” Murdoch asked.

“ To try and talk to my brother.” Johnny said.

“ I wish you wouldn’t Johnny.” he said.

“ What’s wrong with you Murdoch. That old man is taking Scott away from us. That’s why he came here.” Johnny said with anger.

“ I know that, but Scott is angry, and he’s a grown man. If he wants to leave. Let him.” Murdoch said.

“ What if it was me leaving, would you let me?”

“ No….I wouldn’t because of the Madrid side of you. I don’t want you getting gunned down in some alley, or Mexican town because of Madrid.” Murdoch responded. “ I lost you once, I don’t want to lose you again. I don’t want to lose Scott either.”

“ You’re not going to lose either one of us pa. Not if I have anything to say about it.” Johnny said.

JML

Harlan left the stage station from making their travel arrangements, headed back to the hotel when he was stopped by a kid.

“ Excuse me sir, but this man asked me to give this to you.” he said as he handed him a piece of paper.

“ Thank you.” Harlan said as he took the note, and handed the boy a dollar.

Meet us at the abandoned farmhouse three miles east of town in one hour! The note said. Looking at the hotel, he sighed before turning to acquire a horse and buggy.

“ I bet he doesn’t show.” Brock said.

“ He’ll show if he has any smarts.” Charlie said.

“ That old man must think……..”

“ Here he comes!” Juan cut in.

Harlan stopped the buggy, and climbed down. “ I want to know which one of you decided to hurt my grandson?” he demanded.

“ I did!” Jim said. “ You wanted all this to point to the youngest sons doing, so I figured roughing him up a little would help.”

“ I am in charge of this. You imbeciles could have ruined everything.” Harlan said with anger.

“ How come you and your grandson came into town with your luggage?” Juan asked. “ You going somewhere?”

“ Yes, back to Boston. I won’t be needing your services any longer. My grandson is returning home with me.” he said.

“ Not until you pay us old man.” Charlie said.

“ I already paid you for what you did.” Harlan said.

“ Things have changed. See….we don’t like being lied too, and you lied to us.” Charlie said.

“I never lied to you. I told you what the job was.” he responded.

“ Yeah…you told us….but see, you left out one vital piece of information old man, and because of that, it’s going to cost you a lot more money.” Charlie said.

“ What are you talking about?” Harlan demanded.

“ The one son…….You never told us he was Johnny Madrid, and well…. that changes things.” Charlie said. “ See us beating up your grandson, well that’s to show you we don’t like being played the fool. Madrid being in the picture changes everything.”

“ I’m not paying you anymore money, and I don’t take lightly to being threatened or blackmailed.” Harlan said firmly.

“ We can easily kill that grandson. I mean he’s the reason you’re doing all this. I have no problem putting a bullet right between his eyes.” Jim said. “ You’ll pay, or he will die.”

Harlan reached into his coat pocket like he was going to take out his billfold, but instead pulled out a small pistol, aimed it at Jim Leavy, and pulled the trigger. “ Now hear me, I may be old, but I am not a fool. I never gave you orders t touch my grandson, and I will not be paying you anymore money. I am a very wealthy, powerful man with many friends in high places. So don’t even think about blackmailing me.”

“ You seem to forget….we know it was you who shot old man Lancer in the back. I wonder what that grandson of yours would think if he knew the truth.” Charlie said.

Harlan aimed the gun at Charlie. “ I can kill all of you right now, and nobody would know a thing.”

“ You want to make a wager on that? See, that boy who brought you the note, well, he has another one to give the sheriff telling everything if we don’t come back to town.” Charlie said. “ Now I don’t care how you do it, but you ain’t leaving town, not until you pay us twenty thousand dollars.”

“ That’s preposterous!” Harlan said.

“ I suggest you wire your bank first thing Monday. Let’s go boys.” Charlie said.

“ What about Jim?” Juan asked.

“ Someone will find his body and give him a burial.” Brock said.

JML

Scott was laying on the bed trying to wrap his head around everything that has happened in the past few weeks. Thinking back to the beginning, he started to remember what his father had said happened that day. Four men rode up, and he went out to see what they wanted. An argument ensued, he ordered them off the property, and was shot in the back. Scott stood up and started walking around the room. “ That’s it!” he said as he put his gun on, grabbed his coat, scribbled a note telling he would be back, and headed out the door.

JML

Val sat at his desk relaxing when his door opened, and Zeb Miller walked in.

“ Sheriff Crawford, there’s a dead man out at that old abandoned farmhouse three miles east of town.” Zeb Miller said.

Val stood up. “ You sure he’s dead?” he asked as he strapped on his gun.

“ He’s dead. Shot clean thru the heart from the looks of it.” Zeb responded. “ I would’ve brought the body in, but I can’t lift him by myself.”

“ That’s alright Zeb. Go tell Harvey to bring his wagon out there would ya?” Val asked as they walked out the door.

“ Sure thing sheriff.” he said before heading down the street.

Val noticed Scott Lancer leaving the hotel without his grandfather. Mounting up, he headed east to see who the dead man was.

JML

Scott dismounted, and walked into the house. He found his father sitting at the table eating supper. “ Which way were you facing when you were shot?” he asked as he walked over to the table.

“ Son….I was facing away from the house looking at the four riders.” Murdoch said.

“ What’s going on?” Johnny asked.

“ I owe you……all of you an apology. Especially you brother.” Scott said.

“ You finally figure it out Boston?” Johnny asked.

“ You have no idea how good it is to hear you all me that.” he said. “ I’ve been thinking about it all day in my hotel room.”

“ Would one of you please tell me what the devil is going on?” Murdoch demanded.

“ Go ahead.” Johnny said as he went to the sideboard and poured them all a drink.

“ Grandfather shot you in the back!” Scott said. “ You were facing those men when you were shot in the back. There’s only one person who could have done it.”

“ Teresa said she heard arguing and then the shot a short time later. When she got to you, she seen four riders leaving so naturally we assumed it was them.” Johnny said. “ When you told us what happened, I thought maybe I heard you wrong. The argument Teresa heard, that was between you and Garrett wasn’t it? ”

“ I don’t remember for sure, but I think we were arguing about Scott going back to Boston.” Murdoch said. “ He didn’t like you being here around your brother.”

“ Johnny, I said some pretty harsh things to you, can you ever forgive me?” Scott asked.

“ Seems to me I remember my big brother telling me once not long after I came here that families have disagreements, and squabbles. That’s all we had brother was a disagreement.” Johnny said. “ So what are you going to do?”

“ I’m not going back with him. It’s up to you sir. He shot you in the back. He should be punished for it.” Scott responded.

“ Where is he now?” Murdoch asked as he stood up, and walked around the desk.

“ He said he was going to take care of our travel arrangements, but when I borrowed a horse from the livery, I learned he left in a buggy, and went east of town.” Scott said.

“ There’s nothing east of town…….unless he went to meet those four at that abandoned farmhouse three miles out.” Johnny suggested.

JML

Val dismounted and walked over to the body. Turning it over, he knew who the man was. “ Damn!” he said as a wagon approached.

“ Sheriff, you know him?” Harvey asked as he climbed down.

“ Just his name, Jim Leavy. Been hanging around Green River last two months with three other fellas.” Val responded.

“ Looks like he took a single shot right thru his heart.” the undertaker said. “ You gonna look up them other three to pay for his funeral, or is the town paying?”

“ Just get him outta here, and buried, nothin fancy.” Val ordered as he checked Jim’s pockets. “ Rules out robbery as a motive.” he said as he pulled out several hundred dollars from the mans front right pocket.

“ Looks like he can pay for his own funeral.” he said. “ Help me get him in my wagon sheriff.”

“ Take him on back, and don’t talk to anyone about him.” Val ordered. “ I’ll be along later to collect his personal belongings.” he said as he mounted up. Looking around on the ground, he could see three other riders had been there as well as someone in a buggy. “ Garrett!” he said as he turned his horse, and headed toward Lancer.

JML

“ You don’t come back, you think he’ll come looking here for you?” Teresa asked.

“ I don’t know. He might.” Scott said. “ I don’t know how you did it brother, but your knack for knowing……”

“ I just seen what you couldn’t see at the time brother. I’m sorry.” Johnny said as they all sat in the grand room.

“ Son, you need to tell Val first thing in the morning about this.” Murdoch said.

“ Looks like you won’t have too. Sheriff Crawford just rode up.” Teresa said.

“ Val, what brings you out here?” Johnny asked.

“ A dead body.” Val said, and then proceeded to tell them about Jim Leavy’ body being found just outside of town.

“ Grandfather!” Scott said. “He rented a buggy and went east out of town.”

“ It was Harlan who shot Murdoch in the back Val.” Johnny said.

“ You have proof of that?” Val asked.

“ Murdoch was facing away from the house looking at the four riders when he was shot.” Scott said. “ The argument Teresa heard he was having with grandfather when they rode up.”

“ So he’s been lying this whole time to me, and all of you about what happened.” Val said. “ Why……What would make him do such a thing?”

“ Me…..he’s tried it before, and almost got me killed. Grandfather wants me back in Boston with him.” Scott said.

“ Harlan has never liked the fact that Catherine came out west with me after we got married.” Murdoch said. “ When she died giving birth to Scott, he hated me even more.”

“ No offense Scott, but I’d heard them eastern folks could be a might strange.” Val said. “ Where’s he at now?”

“ We were checked into the hotel in Green River.” Scott said.

“ You do realize I’ll have to arrest him for attempted murder?” Val asked.

“ And murder.” Johnny said.

“ I don’t know it was him who kilt Leavy. I’ll be questioning those three the next time I see them in town.” Sheriff Crawford said. “ You riding back with me tonight?”

“ I’ll go. I need to confront grandfather about this.”

“ That’s not a wise decision brother.” Johnny said.

“ He’s right Scott. I know he’s your grandfather and all, but he’s dangerous. He may hurt you.” Val said.

“ He won’t hurt me.” Scott said. “ I need to do this.”

JML

“ I say it’s crazy.” Juan said.

“ Charlie, there’s no way we can beat Madrid. We need to ride out now while we still can.” Brock added.

“ I told you, the three of us can beat Madrid.” Charlie responded.

“ Just because Madrid has been out of the game for seven years don’t mean he’s not still the fastest.” Brock said.

“ Look! Most men who call Madrid out are alone. Three of us call him out, one of us is bound to get him.” Charlie said.

“ One of three, I don’t much care for those odds Charlie.” Juan said.

“ I’ll face him while you two are on the rooftops on each side of the street behind him. He can’t kill all three of us.” Charlie said.

“ And what about the law?” Brock asked.

“ There’s only the one badge.” Charlie said. “ He ain’t nothin to worry about. Besides, gunfighting ain’t against the law.  Juan, you ride into town tomorrow and keep an eye out for that old man going to the bank. I have a feeling he’s not going to take us serious.”

JML

“ You want me to come up?” Val asked as Scott dismounted in front of the hotel.

“ No, I’ll be alright.” Scott said. “ Like I said, he won’t hurt me.”

“ Alright, I’ll be over at the jail waiting.” he said before he turned, and headed to the jail.

Scott went into the hotel, and up to his room. Opening the door, he found his grandfather dressed.

“ You going somewhere grandfather?” Scott asked.

“ I have some business I need to take care of at the bank when it opens, so I thought I would eat an early breakfast. Where did you go last night?” Harlan said and asked.

“ You did it didn’t you?” Scott asked.

“ I’m afraid I have no idea what you are talking about.” he said.

“ Don’t play dumb with me grandfather.” Scott said with anger. “ Murdoch was shot in the back. He was facing those men when he was shot. You were the only one who could have done it. Teresa heard arguing, and then a shot a few minutes later. The two of you were arguing about me. You came here to try and get me to go back to Boston with you.”

“ Boston is your home!” Harlan said angrily. “ Not this godforsaken place.”

“ My home……and my place is here with my family.” Scott said. “ A family you knew I had, but never told me about.”

“ I’m your family….I raised you, not Murdoch, and that half-breed……..”

Scott took three steps, grabbed his grandfather by his jacket, and pulled him closer. “ Don’t you ever…..ever call my brother a half-breed again!” he said with anger before letting him go. “ Sheriff Crawford is waiting for us over at the jail.”

“ So that’s it, you’re going to have your own grandfather arrested?” Harlan asked as he fixed his jacket.

“ You tried to kill my father.” Scott said as he walked to the door, opened it, and turned back to face his grandfather.

JML

Val paced around his office worried about Scott when the door opened, and Harlan walked in, followed by Scott.

“ I was starting to worry.” Val said as he removed the keys from the desk drawer, and walked over to unlock the door to the cells.

“  Thanks. When will the judge be here?” Scott asked.

“ Not for three weeks. He was just here last week.” Val said as he opened the cell door at the back. “ Okay Mister Garrett. It’s ain’t got all the luxury yur used too, but ya got a rope cot ta sleep on which is more than some jails have.”

“ Scotty…..I’m your grandfather……..Please don’t do this to me!” Harlan pleaded.

“ You made the decision to do shoot Murdoch in the back.” Scott said as he pushed him toward the cell. “ You made the decision to come here and do what you did.”

“ I did what I did because I love you my boy. Why can’t you understand that?” Harlan asked as he stopped outside his cell.

“ Love me…….You sure have a funny way of showing it.” Scott said. “ I’m grateful for you raising me even though I should have grown up, and been raised by my father. One thing you showed me that I will never do if I ever have a family. I will always put them first, especially at holiday time, and birthdays. You don’t even know how many of them I spent with the staff because you were always to busy working. How many nights I ate alone. It’s because of you I went to college, and then joined the army to fight in the war. They got me away from you.”

“ Inside Garrett.” Val ordered as he gently pushed the man inside.

“ Wait a minute Val.” Scott said. “ I almost forgot, grandfather carries a derringer in his vest pocket.”

Val patted Harlan down and found the derringer, and a small pistol inside his coat in a pocket. “ A twenty two. You know Scott, that Leavy fella, he was shot with a small caliber pistol. I bet it was this pistol that kilt him.”

“ I need to send a wire to my attorney back in Boston.” Harlan said as Val closed the cell door, and locked it.

“ I’ll send him a wire, and I will also tell him why you request his services.” Scott said before walking back out into the office.

Val walked out, and closed the door, locking it. “ You alright?”

“ You think he’ll hang?” Scott asked.

“ Murder is a hanging offense, but given his age, the judge might sentence him to prison instead.” Val responded. “ We don’t know it was him for sure that shot Leavy. The judge may not even want it to go to trial.”

“ I better get back to the ranch. I’ll see you later Val.” Scott said before leaving the jail.

JML

“ He get the money?” Charlie asked as Juan dismounted, and walked over to the fire.

“ There isn’t gonna be any money. The old man was arrested this morning.” Juan said. “ His grandson walked him out of the hotel, and straight over to the jail.”

“ That’s it, I’m out of here!” Brock said. “ That old man can tie us into all this.”

“ We’ve done nothing wrong. All we did was ride out to Lancer looking for a job when he shot him in the back.” Charlie said.

“ He’s right Brock.” Juan said. “ We can tell how he murdered Jim.”

“ And then what, have him tell how we were paid to come here, and how he was to pay us another twenty thousand because of Madrid?” Brock demanded. “ That’s called extortion, and it’s against the law.”

“ It’s his word against ours.” Charlie said.

“ Wait a minute Charlie. They’ve found Jim’s body by now. That sheriff is gonna want us for questioning in his death.” Juan said.

“ We’ll tell him we didn’t know he was dead. That he said he was going back to Texas, and rode out that morning.” Charlie explained. “ We got nothing to worry about boys. Trust me.”

“ Instead of waiting around here, why don’t we leave while we still have money?” Brock suggested.

“ And go where?” Charlie asked.

“  Winter’s coming. We could go down to Yuma or even back to Texas.” Juan said.

JML

Scott walked into the house late afternoon, and went straight to the sideboard.

“ You alright son?’ Murdoch asked.

“ Where’s Johnny?” he asked as he poured a shot and downed it.

“ In the kitchen with Teresa.” his father said as he stood up, and walked over to him.

“ Grandfather is in jail.” Scott said. “ The judge will be here in three weeks. He asked me to contact his attorney in Boston, so I did, and I also told him why?”

“ I’m sorry this happened son.”

“ It’s not your fault sir. If you don’t mind, I think I will go lay down before supper.” Scott said before heading to the stairs as Johnny walked into the room.

“ He alright?” he asked.

“ Harlan is in jail. The circuit judge will be here in three weeks.” Murdoch responded.

“ That just leaves the three others.” Johnny said. “ They may leave if they find out he’s been arrested.”

“ Nothing really to charge them with. All they did was ride out here. We will never know he brought them here.” Murdoch said as he walked back over to his desk.

                                                                                                   Chapter 3

“ Johnny, I need you to help your brother with the surveying today.” Murdoch said two weeks later as they ate breakfast.

“ I thought I was helping with the round-up?” Johnny asked.

“ I need the surveying finished son. That report has to go in by next week.” his father said.

“ Have you heard back from that lawyer in Boston yet?” Teresa asked.

“ He hasn’t responded back yet, so I imagine he is not coming.” Scott said.

“  What are you going to do son if he doesn’t come?” Murdoch asked.

“ Nothing. He’s not my responsibility. I didn’t make him come here and try and kill you sir.” he said firmly.

“ You think it will go to trial?” Johnny asked.

“ The only way it wouldn’t is if he pleads guilty at his arraignment.” Scott said. “ If he does that, he would be sentenced right then and there.”

Johnny looked at his brother siting across from him. He could see the sadness in his eyes.

JML

“ Has there been any word from my attorney yet?” Harlan asked Val as he brought him his breakfast.

“ Nope, and I expect he’s not coming after reading what Scott told him you did.” Val said. “ I’ll be back later for the dishes.”

“ I have a right to be defended.” Harlan said.

“ Defended, why? I may not have  evidence to convict you of killing Leavy, but I have enough to send you away for a few years for trying to kill Mister Lancer. Just like I know you brought those men here. I don’t know why you kilt the one, but I know’d it was you. All a trial will do is cost the good folks of this town money. So do us all a favor and plead guilty at your arraignment” Val said before shutting the door.

Harlan glared at the  closed door. Not once had his grandson come to see him. Every day he hoped he would, and every day was the same as the last. He had lost his Scotty forever and had nobody to blame but himself. “ Damn you Murdoch Lancer. You cost me everything.”

JML

“ Listen….I think we need to talk brother.” Johnny said as they ate lunch under a huge oak tree.

“ I’d rather not talk about it Johnny.” Scott said.

“ I think you need to. I can see it’s eating you up inside, and that’s not good. Trust me, I know.” Johnny said.

“ Thank you for your concern, but I’m fine.” he said.

“ Scott, when I came back to Lancer, I was full of hate for Murdoch. That hatred I had inside was because of the lies my mother told me about him throwing us out when I was a baby because he didn’t want a half-breed for a son. I’m almost twenty two years old, and for twelve of those years I spent hating him.” Johnny said. “ All I’m saying is, deal with it, talk to me, Murdoch……hell talk to Sam….Just don’t keep your emotions inside, not about this. I don’t want to see it destroy you like it almost destroyed me.”

“ Destroy me!” Scott said as he stood up. “ Johnny, my whole life with that man has been a lie. I don’t know him, and it seems I never did.”

“ Surely you have good memories of growing up?” he asked.

“ Spending holidays, and eating meals with the hired help…..yes! Grandfather was always too busy to be bothered with me when I got older.” he said firmly. “ He’s the reason I went to college…..and grandfather is the reason I joined the army. I had to get away from him…..away from the loneliness of that house.”

Johnny stood up. “ Have you told him how you feel?”

“ I have, and he doesn’t care. Don’t you get it……..He says he did this because he loves me, and wanted me back in Boston with him. What the hell is wrong with him…….with me?”

“ There’s nothing wrong with you brother. Nothing that confronting him head on won’t help fix.” Johnny said as he walked over, and placed a hand on his brothers left shoulder. “ I think you should confront him next week….after the arraignment.”

“ I already told you I did, and he won’t talk about it.” he said.

“ Then make him……..Make him talk to you Scott. You have a right to know why he did this.” Johnny said. “ Doing something like this to get you back to Boston……I don’t buy it, and neither should you. There has to be another reason.”

“ Would you be there with me?” he asked.

“ If you want me to be there, I’ll be there brother.” Johnny said.

Scott placed his left hand on Johnny’s right shoulder.“ Thanks. Guess we better get this surveying done.” Scott said.

JML

“ Let’s go Garrett!” Val said as he unlocked the cell door. “ Judge Strong doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

“ I’m not exactly presentable sheriff. My clothes could have used a good cleaning.” Harlan said.

“ Just don’t you worry about yur clothes, and don’t go tryin anythin foolish. Now hold out yur hands.” Val said as he held up a pair of cuffs.

“ I assure you Sheriff Crawford, I have no intention of giving you the satisfaction of shooting me.” Harlan said as he held his arms out. “ Does Murdoch Lancer have to be at the arraignment?”

“ He does, and since ya got no lawyer, I expect the judge will find ya one.” Val said as the front door opened, and Johnny walked in.

“ That’s a good look on you.” he said.

“ What are you doing here?” Val asked.

“ I need a word with him before he sees the judge.” Johnny said.

“ I have nothing to say to this half-breed.” Harlan spat.

“ That’s fine, because I do.” Johnny said as he stepped closer. “ See, what you’ve dome has messed my brother up inside, and I don’t like that. You hurt him in the worst possible way old man. Now, regardless of what happens with the judge…..* you * are going to tell Scott the truth. He has a right to know why. And don’t go saying it’s because you wanted him back in Boston, because he’s not buying it, and neither am I. You tell him, or so help me your time in San Quentin…….I have a couple friends in there, and they got nothing to lose making your life hell.”

“Are you going to just stand there and let this…….let him threaten me Sheriff Crawford?” Harlan demanded.

“ What threat……I didn’t hear him make any threats.” Val said. “ Lets go.”

JML

“ Murdoch, it’s been a long time.” Judge Strong said as the two men shook hands.

“ Ten years I think.” Murdoch said. “ You look good. How’s Mary?”

“ Good. Counting the days until I retire.” he said.

“ Retire?”

“ I figure twenty five years is long enough serving justice.” the judge said. “ What brings you here?”

Murdoch explained what happened to his friend.

“ God almighty. This must be your oldest son Scott?” the judge asked.

“ It’s a pleasure to meet you Judge Strong. “ Scott said.

“ You have another boy don’t you?” he asked.

“ Johnny…..it took a long time, but he’s home also. He’ll be here shortly.” Murdoch said.

“ The man charged is Harlan Garrett….my grandfather.” Scott explained.

“ You mean Catherine’s father. I knew he had a hatred for you, but I didn’t know it would go so far as him trying to kill you.” the judge said as Val escorted Harlan into the room.

Judge Strong went to his desk and sat down. “ This arraignment is for a Harlan Garrett. Are you that man?”

“ I am.” Harlan responded.

“ You are being charged with the attempted murder of Murdoch Lancer. It is my decision to see if this warrants a trial. Now…..I have read the report from Sheriff Crawford, and the statements of all parties involved except yours Mister Garrett. Can I ask why you have not given a statement, and why you have no attorney present?”

“ My statement of what happened does not matter. As for an attorney, the only man I trust was unable to come here from Boston judge.” Harlan said.

“ So you have no legal representation?” the judge asked.

“ Uh…Judge Strong, I asked the only two lawyers around, and neither of them wish to have Mister Garrett as their client.” Val said.

“ I see. Well you put me in a position I don’t like being in Mister Garrett. Judge Strong said. “ How do you plead?”

Harlan turned to look at Murdoch, and Johnny a few seconds before looking at his grandson. He could see the hurt, and disappointment in his eyes as the words Johnny said to him came back to his mind.

“ Mister Garrett….How do you plead?’ the judge asked again.

Harlan turned to face the judge. “ I’m a foolish old man your honor. What I did cost me the most precious thing I ever loved besides my dearest Catherine.” Harlan said. “ Therefore I feel it is only right that I plead guilty to the charges. It was me. I shot Murdoch Lancer in the back. My reasons are of no reasonable excuse sir. I did so solely with the purpose of having my grandson come back to Boston with me. I felt that if his father was dead, he would not stay in this desolate place. I know now how wrong I was in what I did, and I can only hope that some day before I die, my grandson will find it in his heart to forgive a foolish old man.”

“ Mister Garrett…you do understand that by pleading guilty….I can sentence you to spend the rest of your life in prison?” Judge Strong asked.

“ I do sir.” Harlan said.

“ Very well then…..In accordance with the state of California laws, I sentence you too ten years at San Quentin.” Judge Strong ordered. “ This arraignment is over. Sheriff Crawford, remove the prisoner.”

Scott stood up and walked over to his grandfather. “ One thing my little brother taught me is that everyone deserves a second chance. I gave you that second chance when you tried blackmailing me with the Deegan brothers years ago. I thought you had changed, but I was wrong. You are nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing sir. I will no longer have anything to do with you, and I * cannot * forgive you for what you almost took from me…….ever.”

“ Scotty….you don’t mean that. Give it some time.” Harlan said.

“ Everything I need I have with my father and little brother. You mean  nothing to me. Good day sir.” Scott said before turning, and walking out of the courthouse.

“ What I told the judge was the truth Johnny. The reason why I did what I did.” Harlan said.

“ Lets go Garrett.” Val said.

“ I’m sorry it had to turn out this way Harlan. We both could have had Scott’s love.” Murdoch said.

“ I lost him a long time ago Murdoch. Long before he came here.” Harlan said with sadness before turning, and walking out of the courtroom with Val.

“ Johnny, I want you to meet a dear old friend, Judge Strong.” Murdoch said.

“ Judge.” Johnny said as he shook the mans hand.

“ So you’re the long lost son who’s come home. It’s good to finally meet you.” he said.

“ How long can you stay?’ Murdoch asked.

“ I’m afraid I have to leave in the morning.” the judge said.

“ In that case, lets all have supper at the cafe. They serve very good food there.” Murdoch suggested.

“ Murdoch, I think I’ll head on back to the ranch. Scott shouldn’t be alone right now.” Johnny said. “ It was a pleasure meeting you sir.”

“ Did I say something wrong Murdoch?” he asked.

“ No. Johnny and Scott are close.” Murdoch said.

“ Listen lets go have supper, and you can tell me what that boy has been doing, and where he’s been all these years.” Judge Strong said.

JML

Six months passed and Murdoch found himself smiling every time he seen his sons bantering back and forth like they did before all the trouble started. For the first few months his oldest took every hard job he could to work out his frustration. His brother was even able to talk him into visiting the saloon ladies with him a couple times. Something he wished neither of his sons would do. Both of them were eligible for marriage, yet neither one seemed to have a young lady of interest.

“ You know I’m not getting any younger.” he said as he played a game of checkers with his youngest.

“ Meaning?” Johnny asked as he jumped one of his fathers checkers.

“ Meaning little brother….Our father is wondering if we ever plan on taking a bride, and giving him grandchildren.” Scott said from the couch where he sat reading a book.

“ Grandchildren, that’s up to you Boston.” Johnny said.

Scott stood up. “ Why me?” he asked as he walked over to them.

“ Because we all know there isn’t a woman in this valley who would marry me.” Johnny responded.

“ And why do you say that little brother?” Scott asked.

“ You know why Scott. No father is going to let his daughter marry Johnny Madrid.” he said.

“ But you are not Johnny Madrid any longer. You are Johnny Lancer.” Scott said.

“ He’s right son.” Murdoch said.

“ Look, as long as I’m alive, a part of me will always be Madrid. The minute I stop, I’m dead.” Johnny said. “ The Madrid part of me will always be there.”

“ That may be true son, but it doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to find love, and happiness with a wife.”  Murdoch said. “ I would prefer you court some young lady as opposed to your Saturday nights with the saloon girls.”

“ And there it is big brother.” Johnny said. “ The real reason….Our old man don’t like us fraternizing with the young ladies at the saloon.”

“ You think maybe he wants to join us?” Scott asked with a smile.

“ I most certainly do not young man.” his father said.

“ Look Murdoch, me and Scott don’t sleep with them every Saturday night. Scott’s only went upstairs I think twice. Me, I have my favorite girl, and yeah I visit her a couple times a month. I have needs, and she fills them.” Johnny explained.

JML

“ This rain keeps up, we’re gonna have serious flooding.” Scott said. “ The streams are ready to come out of their banks now.”

“ I don’t remember the valley having this much rain in the thirty years I’ve been here.” Murdoch said as Johnny came in the veranda doors, soaked and covered in mud.

“ What happened to you?” Scott asked.

“ Barranca took a spill.” Johnny said as he walked over to the sideboard, and poured a shot of tequila. “We lost the foot bridge, and a rock slide has blocked Cantua creek up at North Mesa.”

“ Are you alright?” Murdoch asked.

“ Yeah, sore, but I’m alright. Just got the wind knocked out of me when he fell.”

“ Is Barranca alright?” Scott asked.

“ I hope so. I Walked him all the way back. That’s why I’m soaked, and so muddy.” Johnny said before downing the shot.

“  Why don’t you go get cleaned up so you can warm up son.” Murdoch suggested.

“ Yeah I think I will.” Johnny said as he headed to the stairs. “ Teresa I’m sorry for the mud, and water I tracked in.”

“ It will clean up. Set your muddy clothes in the hall, and I’ll get them washed.” Teresa said as Johnny headed upstairs.

“ I think Johnny had more than the wind knocked out of him sir.” Scott said.

“ So do I son.” Murdoch said. “ I’ll give him a little time to get in the tub before I go up.”

JML

Johnny looked at his left side in the mirror, bruising could already be seen. Taking a deep breath hurt, but he couldn’t feel any of the ribs fractured or broke from when Barranca rolled over him. Walking over to the tub of hot water, he slowly lowered himself in and welcomed the feel on his chilled, achy body. Sitting there, leaned back with his eyes closed, Johnny never heard the door open, and his brother and father walk into the room.

“ How bad are your ribs son?”

Johnny opened his eyes. “ How did you know?”

“ A father has a way of knowing when one of his children is hurt.” Murdoch said.

“ I’m just bruised up. Nothing is broke.” Johnny said

“ Did Barranca throw you when he fell?” Scott asked.

Johnny sighed. “ No, he rolled over me. I was on my stomach when I felt him.” he said.

“ He rolled over the top of you! Jesus, he could have broke your back!” Scott said.

“ Finish your bath, then I want to check you out.” Murdoch said.

“ I just hope Barranca is alright. He wasn’t limping so I don’t think he pulled any muscles.” Johnny said.

“ I know what that horse means to you.  I’m sure he will be alright.” Murdoch said.

“ I hope so pa. First good horse I’ve ever had.” Johnny said softly.

Murdoch knew that if Johnny lost Barranca it would hurt his son more than anything. The two had a bond that started from the time his son caught, and broke the horse not long after coming home.

JML

“ I’m leaving tomorrow. I’m sick of Yuma.” Charlie said.

“ Leaving…..to go where?” Brock asked.

“ After Madrid. That old man may be in prison now, but Madrid cost us, and I can’t let that go.” he said.

“ Why is killing Madrid so important to you Charlie?” Juan asked.

“ Yeah…how about you tell us the real reason?” Brock asked.

“I ever tell you two I was married once?” Charlie asked.

“ Married…..you…No you never told us that.” Juan said.

“ Where is she?” Brock asked.

“ A year before I met you two I came home from a cattle drive and……It seems that while I was gone, she decided to take this man who had been shot into our home….and our bed.” Charlie said.

“ And that man was Madrid?” Juan asked.

“ Yeah……..I learned about it from a trusting friend who I had asked to stop by and check on her. It seems that when she didn’t answer the door, he went inside and caught them in bed together.” Charlie said.

“ So he told you?” Brock asked.

“ Yeah, but not till a couple months later when I went to see him, and tell him I was going to be a father.” Charlie said.

“ You got a kid?” Juan asked.

“ I talked to the doc and what he told me, I drew my own conclusion, she was carrying his kid. I confronted her, and beat her.”

“ You beat the woman you married when she was pregnant………..Man that’s just wrong Charlie.” Juan said.

“ I guess you didn’t hear me……..She took that half-breed into our bed, and was carrying his kid……not mine.” Charlie said with anger.  “ When the kid was born……I made her get rid of it, and then I got rid of her. I wasn’t raising another mans kid, and I sure as hell wasn’t staying married to a whore.”

“  The law looking for you for her death?” Brock asked.

“ Nope, we left just before the baby was born. Left it at the orphanage in San Angelo. Told the padre there that she died giving birth, and I couldn’t raise no baby.” Charlie explained. “So you go with me to kill that bastard?”

“ I’ll go with you.” Brock said.

“ Not me…….I won’t have no part in it.” Juan said. “ I’m sorry Charlie for what Madrid did and all, but………I won’t be a part of killing him.”

“ Fine……You leave, and I find out you go and warn Madrid…….I’ll hunt you down and kill you the Apache way.” Charlie said firmly.

JML

“ I don’t want you doing any work, or riding for a few days son.” Murdoch said. “ Those ribs are badly bruised. You’re lucky Barranca didn’t break your back when he rolled over you.”

“ I can still work Murdoch. This weather, you’re going to need every hand you have.” Johnny said as he laid down in bed.

“ We will manage without you for a week or so.” he said. “ I want you to rest.”

“ You will really feel it in the morning little brother. Trust me I know. I had a horse do the same thing to me during the war. Every muscle in my body ached the next day, and made it hard for me to do anything.” Scott said.

“ So you did what…..stayed in bed?” he asked.

“ I spent a week in a hospital resting.” his brother said. “ Look at it this way, you get to have some time off to relax while the rest of us are out there in the mud and rain working.”

“ I’m sure when you are well enough to work son, there will still be plenty of repairs to do.” Murdoch said. “ For now, I want you to rest.”

JML

“ Johnny, while you’re in town with Teresa, I want you to go by the bank and deposit this money for me.” Murdoch said as he handed the money to his son.

“ Okay. I was thinking since Teresa will be shopping most of the day, I would take her to lunch at that new restaurant that opened up last week.” Johnny said as he climbed up in the buggy.

“ You sure it’s not to check out the new waitress working there?” Teresa asked as Scott helped her climb in. “ My friend Marcy says she’s real pretty, and she’s about your age too Johnny.”

“ Hey….If there happens to be a pretty new girl in town…..I see no reason why I shouldn’t be nice and welcome her to the valley.” he said.

“ Just have a good time, and be careful.” Murdoch said. “ Maybe you could invite her and her family out here for supper some night.” Scott suggested.

Johnny stopped the buggy outside the general store in Green River two hours later, climbed down, and helped Teresa down. “ I’ll go deposit this money for Murdoch, and then visit with Val while you do your shopping. I’ll come get you around noon to have lunch.”

“ Okay. That will give me time to visit with Marcy, and look at the new fabrics.” Teresa said as she climbed down.

Johnny wasn’t aware he was being watched closely from down the street as he helped Teresa down, and walked her to the store before bidding her farewell, and heading to the bank. 

“ What are you doing in town?” Val asked when Johnny walked into his office thirty minutes later.

“ Brought Teresa in to do some shopping, and thought we would have lunch at that new restaurant in town.” Johnny said. “ Care to join us?”

“ You can forget about that new waitress working there. I already warned her about you.” Val said.

“ Why’d ya go and do that?” Johnny asked.

“ How’s the ribs?” Val asked.

“ Don’t change the subject Val.”

“ She ain’t yur type kid. So forget it.” Val said gruffly. “ She ain’t any single man in this towns type either.”

“ What’s that mean?” Johnny asked.

“ It means the poor girl has been hit on by every single man around.” Val said.

“ Look, I told Teresa I would pick her up at noon for lunch. You coming?” Johnny asked as he opened the door.

JML

“ So this is Johnny?” the waitress asked as she smiled at him. “ I’ve heard all about you.”

“ You can’t believe everything the sheriff tells you.” Johnny said.

“ Actually I was referring to what Teresa’s friend Marcy said about you.” she said. “ My names Cathy Bender. My parents own this place.”

“ Miss. Bender, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Johnny Lancer.” he said. “ Can I ask where you’re from?”

“ St. Louis. It got to big. Too many people so my father thought he would come out west.” Cathy said. “ Will you be going to the dance Saturday?”

“ I will if you’ll be there.” Johnny said.

“ Cathy, we have other guest who need attention.” an older woman said.

“ Yes ma’am. This is Johnny Lancer, and his sister Teresa.” Cathy said as she smiled at Johnny before walking away.

“ Mister Lancer, I have heard from others about you.” Mrs. Bender said. “ I expect you to respect Cathy, and any intentions you have, I expect you to conduct them in a gentleman’s manner. Do I make myself clear?”

“ Yes ma’am.” Johnny said. “ Only intention I have is asking your permission to escort your daughter to the dance on Saturday night.”

“ This Saturday night?” she asked.

“ Yes ma’am. I’ll be attending it with my father, brother, and Teresa.” he responded.

“ I will have to ask her father.” she said before walking away.

“ Well I will be damned….excuse my French Miss Teresa.” Val said. “ I don’t know how you done it, but others have asked, and been told no.”

“ Maybe it’s because he’s a Lancer.” Teresa said.

“ What’s that mean?” Johnny asked.

“ Kid, every single fella in town has asked that girl out, and you come along and she accepts on your first meeting.” Val said.

“ Yeah…..so?” he said.

“ So…….So she’s a gold digger. Her parents come out west from St. Louis and open a restaurant here. I’d bet you a years wages she knows all about you…..and Scott, and is interested in you because you are the son of the richest, and biggest rancher in the San Joaquin valley.” Val explained.

“ Only one way I’m going to find that out.” Johnny said as they stood up to leave.

“ What are you going to do while I finish shopping?” Teresa asked as they walked outside.

“ Walk you back down to the store, and then I don’t know. I’ll find something to do. How long you recon you’ll you be?” he asked.

“ Another two hours. But only if that’s okay.” she said.

“ Two hours. I’ll go have a cold beer, and be back to get you at three.” he said as they walked.

“ You going to have a beer too Sheriff Crawford?” she asked.

“ I’d like to, but I’m on duty. Thanks for lunch. I’ll see you later Johnny….Miss Teresa.” Val said before walking away.

Johnny walked Teresa back to the store, then headed to the saloon. He had two hours to kill, and knew how he could kill that time.

Walking past the restaurant, he was stopped by Cathy.  “ My father said I could go to the dance with you Johnny.”

“ Great. I’ll pick you up at six.” Johnny said.

“ I shall be ready.” Cathy said before going back inside.

JML

“ I was starting to get worried about you two.” Murdoch said as he walked out to the buggy to help Teresa down.

“ Wheel broke just outside town.” Johnny said as he hopped down. “ Took Hank, and me a little time to fix it.”

“  Well, I’m glad you two are okay.” Murdoch said as they walked into the house.

“ So tell us little brother….Did you have any luck?”

“ Any luck with what?” Johnny asked.

“ You know perfectly well what I am talking about.” Scott said.

“ Oh you mean with the gold digger…..Well at least that’s what Val and Teresa think she is.” he said.

“ Gold digger?” Murdoch asked.

“ It would seem every single man in town has asked her out, and she’s turned them down.” Teresa said. “ I think she’s interested in Johnny because he’s a Lancer.”

“ Teresa, you of all people are the last person I expected to say such things about a young lady.” Murdoch said.

“ She may be right Murdoch. The family came here from St. Louis. Seems according to Cathy…. that’s her name by the way…She said her parents wanted to come out west to start over. Said St. Louis was getting too big.” Johnny said. “ Anyhow….I’ll find out if what Teresa thinks is true Saturday. I’m taking her to the dance.”

“ That’s only if her father says you can.” Teresa said. “ Her mother said she would have to ask him.”

“ Son, please don’t take this wrong, but does she know…….”

“ About Madrid………I don’t know. If she does, she sure wasn’t acting like it with the looks I was getting.” Johnny said. “ I think I will turn  in. I’m a little tired.”

“ Alright son. I’ll see you in the morning.” Murdoch said.

“ Night brother.” Scott said as he watched him go upstairs.

“ Did anything happen Teresa?” Scott asked.

“ No, we had lunch with Val, then I did a couple more hours shopping with Marcy while Johnny went to the saloon and had a cold beer.” she said. “ I think I too will turn in for the night.”

“ Teresa, what is the young ladies last name?” Scott asked.

“ Bender, Cathy Bender. I don’t know her father or mothers names. She never said.”

“ Thank you. I will see you in the morning.” Scott said.

“ Do you know them son?” Murdoch asked.

“ I do if her fathers name is Paul.” he said. “ They had a freight shipping company on the Mississippi river. He was very successful. So it makes no sense them coming out here.” Scott said.

“ Well, lets just hope Teresa is wrong.” Murdoch said.

JML

“You look very nice Johnny.” Teresa said. “ I’m sure Cathy will be very impressed.”

“ I’m not too sure about the tie though.” Johnny said.

“ The tie little brother makes you look distinguished. As a gentleman.” Scott said.

“ You want me to come with you son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Murdoch, I’m not a little kid. I think I can manage.” Johnny said as he climbed up in the buggy.

“ We’ll see you at the dance son.” his father said as he drove away.

Johnny stopped the buggy an hour later outside the Bender house, and climbed down. Walking up to the door, he knocked and nervously waited a few seconds before it opened, and an older gentleman stood there.

“ I’m Paul Bender, you must be Johnny Lancer, the young man who is taking my daughter to the dance?” he asked.

“ Yes sir.” Johnny said as he extended his hand.

“ My daughter is my world young man. I expect you to be a gentleman when with her, and keep her safe.” Mister Bender said as Cathy walked to the door.

“ Father….I hope you are not making Johnny have second thoughts about taking me to the dance.” she said.

“ Not at all my dear. I was just telling him how much you mean to me.” her father said.

“ Having a beautiful daughter like you would make any father be protective.” Johnny said. “ You look beautiful.”

“ Why thank you Johnny. Shall we….Good night father. I’ll see you in the morning.” Cathy said as she let Johnny help her up into the Barouche.

“ Young man, I want her home by midnight.” Mister Bender said firmly.

“ Yes sir….She will be.” Johnny said as he climbed into the Buggy, and slapped the reins.

                                                                                                Chapter 4

“ Johnny, can you stop the Buggy?” Cathy asked ten minutes after leaving her house.

Johnny stopped the buggy. “ Is something wrong?” he asked.

“ Not at all. Lets not go to the dance.” Cathy said.

“ Not go to the dance…….Why?” Johnny asked.

“Because I want to be alone with you.” Cathy said. “ There’s an abandoned farm house three miles east of town.”

“ What if your father shows up and finds we’re not there?” he asked.

“ He won’t. Trust me, I know my father won’t.” she said.

Johnny got an uneasy feeling inside. “ I don’t know Cathy…….I…….”

Cathy reached between Johnny’s legs and started touching him, catching him totally off guard.

“ What……whoa……..what are ……..Cathy…..what are you doing?”

“ I think it’s obvious what I was doing Johnny.” She said. “ I’m not the innocent little girl my father thinks I am.” she said as she unbuttoned her dress to show her breast. “ We can pull off the road over there and make love, or we can go to that abandoned farmhouse where nobody will see us.” she said as she leaned closer to him.

“ Look….Cathy…I…I like to know a girl a little before I get romantic with them. I didn’t ask you to the dance for this.” Johnny said. “ Please button your dress back up.”

“ So you don’t want me?” she asked as she moved away from him.

“ Maybe…I…I don’t know.” Johnny stammered.

“ I heard Johnny Madrid liked women who were fresh.” she said as she leaned closer, and reached between his legs again.

“ Cathy stop! I’m not Johnny Madrid. My name is Johnny Lancer!” Johnny said with anger as he picked up the rein. “ Look…I’m sorry but I think this was a mistake. I’m going to take you home.”

“ The only mistake was me thinking I could have a good time with Johnny Madrid. The girls at the saloon said you’re great, and I wanted to see if what they said about you is true.” she said as she sat back, and buttoned her dress back up.

“ Man do you ever have a lot of growing up to do.” Johnny said as they approached her house.

“ My father made me grow up a long time ago, so I’m more grown up than you think.” Cathy snapped back.

Johnny stopped the buggy outside her house ten minutes later. “ I’m sorry but sleeping with men don’t make you grown up.” he said as she climbed down.

“ And being a gunfighter don’t make you grown up either..” Cathy said before heading inside.

JML

“ Have you seen your brother?” Murdoch asked.

“ Come to think of it, no I haven’t sir.” Scott said.

“ I wonder what’s keeping them?” he asked.

“ Dance with me Scott? ” Teresa asked.

“ There he is.” Murdoch said.

“ I wonder where Cathy is?” Teresa asked.

“ You forget your date little brother?”

“ I’m going to ride your horse back to the ranch. I don’t feel much like dancing tonight. You take the buggy back Scott?” Johnny said and asked.

“ Are you alright son?” Murdoch asked.

“ I’m fine. I’ll see you in the morning.” he said before leaving.

“ Something happened. Johnny was looking forward to this dance.” Teresa said.

“ I’m sure if he wants to talk about it, he will tell us when he’s ready.” Murdoch said as Val walked over to them.

“ Was that Johnny I seen?” Val asked.

“ Yes it was.” Scott said. “ Teresa, I do believe you asked me to dance.”

“ Something wrong?” Val asked.

“ What do you know about the Bender family Val?” Murdoch asked.

“ Not much really. Why?”

“Scott knows them from St. Louis. He said they were very wealthy there.” Murdoch said.

“ I know Johnny, and I know something had ta have happened fur him ta not bring that young lady here, and leave the dance.” Val said.

JML

Val knocked on the door of the Bender house and fidgeted with his hat as he waited.

“ Mister Bender, I’m Sheriff Crawford. Can I come in?” Val asked.

“ I know who you are. Why you here so early? Has something happened at my restaurant?” he asked.

“ No sir. Can I come in?” Val said, and asked again.

“ Who is it Paul?” Mrs. Bender asked.

“ It’s the sheriff.” Paul said as he let Val come inside.

“ Ma’am…I’m sorry ta have ta be the one ta tell you both this…….I’m afraid yur daughter Cathy was found dead this morning.” Val said.

“ Oh dear god no!” Paul said as he went to his wife.

“ There has to be a mistake sheriff.” Marge Bender said.

“ I wish there was.” Val said.

“ How did she die?” Paul demanded.

“ Sir, I don’t think…..”

“ I asked you how my daughter died sheriff!”

“ It appears she was raped and murdered.” he said.

“ I’ll kill him…….I swear as god as my witness I will kill him!” Mister Bender said as he went to grab his coat.

“ Now hold on a minute…….Who ya talking about?…..Kill who?” Val demanded.

“ Johnny Lancer. He took our daughter to the dance last night.” he snapped back. “ I knew I should never have let her go with him.”

“ Now hold on. I’ve known Johnny a long time. He would never do something like this to a young lady, or any woman.” Val said. “ You go doin somethin stupid and I will arrest you.”

“ Arrest me……..arrest me. That bastard killed my daughter. I want him locked up.” he said with anger.

“ If he needs arrested I’ll arrest him. This is a murder investigation Mister Bender. The law will handle it.” Val said firmly.

“ Where is my niece?” Marge asked.

“ She’s at the docs office until the undertaker opens.” he said. Why don’t you both meet me there in an hour?”

JML

Johnny came downstairs the next morning and found his father sitting at the table.“ Murdoch.”

“ Son, you look like you got very little sleep last night. Is everything alright?”

“ I need to talk to you about last night.” Johnny said as he sat down, and poured a cup of coffee. He was glad it was Sunday, and Maria was off. “ I picked Cathy up last night, and we started for the dance when she asked me to stop the buggy. I did, and……….she became this totally different person. She undid the top of her dress and started……..She said she’s not the innocent girl her father thinks she is.”

“ Can I ask what you did son?”

“I refused her, made her angry, and took her back home.” Johnny said. “ I was going to escort her to the door, but she was so angry with me she got down, and ordered me to leave, so I left.” Johnny said before standing up, and walking over to look out the veranda door. His arms wrapped around him tightly. “ Pa…..I’ve never had a woman be like she was last night. I mean, yeah women have offered themselves to me, but how she was last night………I don’t know, it was like she was a totally different person than the girl I met at the restaurant the other day.”

Murdoch stood up and walked over to him. “ I don’t have any answers for you son other than she seems to be a very troubled young lady, and maybe she’s doing what she is as a way of asking for help?”

“ A part of me feels like I should tell her parents.”

“ You know what your problem is son………You care too much.” Murdoch said. “ I may not have raised you, or been around to most of your life, but the time you have been back here, I have watched you, and you care about others more than you do yourself.”

“ And what……that’s a bad thing?” he asked.

“ To an extent…..no.” his father said. “ I know you don’t like talking about your past, but I’m going to ask. When you were abused by the other children in the orphanage, how did it make you feel after?”

“ I felt sorry for them.” he said softly.

“ And when someone called you a mestizo or half-breed when growing up?’ his father asked.

“ It bothered me, but then I stopped letting it bother me. I stopped the verbal and physical abuse by becoming Madrid.” Johnny said. “ Are  you saying she could…….that her father……..”

“ He could very well be son.” his father said softly, and with sadness.

“ That’s what she meant.” he said.

“ What who meant son?”

“ Cathy…. last night when I refused her, I told her she had a lot of growing up to do. She said she was grown up, that her father made her grow up a long time ago.” Johnny explained.

JML

Val walked back to the Sam’s office. “ Doc, I need you to check that girl over for me.”

“ Can I ask what I’m looking for Val?” Sam asked.

“ She was raped, so maybe she fought back.” Val said.

“ Let’s see.” Sam said as he walked to the back room where Cathy’s body was laying in a bed covered up.

“ Check her hands doc.” Val said.

Sam carefully checked both hands and looked up at Val when he was finished. “ She scratched whoever attacked her. She’s got blood, and what appears to be flesh under her fingernails.”

“ Good.” Val said as Sam covered the girl up again. “ Mister Bender seems ta think Johnny did this. I’m going ta ride out there and have a talk with him about last night. Listen, when they come here, don;t say anything about this to them, or anyone else. Make sure the undertaker doesn’t either.”

“  Johnny Lancer would never do something like this Val.” Sam said.

“ I know doc. Somethin happened between him and this young lady last night though because he showed up at the dance without her, and went home.” Val said.

“ That doesn’t seem like the Johnny we know. He looks forward to the dances. Why I seen him the day before and he told me he was looking forward to taking her to the dance.” Sam said as his door opened and Cathy’s parents walked in.

“ I’ll see ya later doc.” Val said.

“ You riding out to arrest that killer sheriff?” Mister Bender asked.

“ I’m riding out to talk to Johnny Lancer. There’s no proof yet he killed her.” Val responded.

“ I’m going with you.” Paul said.

“ You should stay here with your wife.” Val suggested.

“ Marge can handle things here.” he said.

“ Mister Bender, this is a murder investigation. I won’t have you interfering with it.” Val said firmly before leaving.

JML

“ I want you boys to ride out and check Cantua creek. See what we need to fix the problem, or if it can be fixed.” Murdoch said.

‘ A box of dynamite will fix it.” Johnny said with a laugh as he mounted Barranca.

“ Is that Val?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah and Cathy’s father.” Johnny said.

“ Johnny, go back inside.” Murdoch ordered.

“ Why?” he asked. “ I’ve done nothing wrong Murdoch.”

“ What’s going on?” Scott asked. “ Are they here because of why you came to the dance without Cathy last night?”

“ Only reason they would be.” Johnny said.

“ Val, what brings you out here this early?” Murdoch asked.

“ Mister Lancer, I need to speak to Johnny.” Val said.

“ Speak hell sheriff……Arrest that murdering bastard now!” Paul demanded.

“ Mister Bender…..that will be enough out of you!” Val yelled. “ I’m not gonna warn ya again.”

“ What the hell is he talking about Val?” Johnny demanded.

“ We need to talk in private Johnny.” Val said as he dismounted.

“ I have nothing to hide from Murdoch or Scott. So whatever it is, just say it.” Johnny said.

“ Alright…..Why did you show up at the dance without his daughter last night?” Val asked.

Johnny looked at his father, then back at Val. “ Because I took Cathy back home about a half hour after I picked her up. Why?”

“ You lying sonofabitch.” Paul said. “ You raped and murdered my daughter last night!”

“ What?……. Cathy was very much alive when I left her. I never touched your daughter.” Johnny said.

“ Johnny, go inside the house now!” Murdoch ordered. “ Mister Bender, I’m sorry your daughter was killed last night. She wasn’t killed by my son, and I won’t have you coming here accusing him of such a thing. I want you off my land now!”

“ Hear me mister high and mighty. Your son did it, and I’m going to make sure he hangs for her murder.” Mister Bender said before leaving.

“ Damn that man!” Val said. “ I need to talk to Johnny.”

“ Val……..my brother would never do such a thing.” Scott said as they walked inside to find Johnny pacing around the grand room.

“ John, settle down.” Murdoch ordered.

“ Settle down. Murdoch, did you hear what he said. I was the last one with her before she was killed.”

“ Did you do it?” Scott asked.

Johnny glared at his brother. “ No!”

“ There’s one way to clear you of this Johnny.” Val said. “Take off yur shirt.”

“ Take off my shirt……..Why?”

“ Cathy was raped and it appears strangled ta death. Doc found blood and skin under her fingernails. She fought back against whoever did it, and she left marks on them.” Val explained.

Johnny removed his coat, and shirt so Val could check for scratches.

“ I’m sorry buddy, but I had to check.” Val said.

“ Val…..Johnny told me what happened last night. Let’s go sit down, and have some coffee while he tells you.” Murdoch suggested.

Val sat back in his chair as he shook his head. “ I never figured that young lady to be like that.”

“ I think there’s a reason she was like that Val.” Murdoch said.

“ Okay, I’m listening.” Val said.

“ I think the young lady was abused………by her father.” Murdoch said.

“ Abused…….you mean?” he said.

“ She’s been to the saloon, and talked to the girls there about me Val.” Johnny said. “ She knew about Madrid. I think you should talk to them about her.”

“ Kid….you’re a target for that man right now. He’s going to do whatever he can to make you the guilty one in this.” Val said.

“ I knew the family when I was in St. Louis.” Scott said. “ They had a very successful freight business there. It makes no sense them coming out here.”

“ It does if someone found out what he was doing to her.” Johnny said.

“ I’ll send a wire to the town constable there and ask about them.” Val said. “ In the meantime, Johnny, I want you to stay at Lancer. I don’t want you coming into town for any reason until this is over.”

“ Now hold on Val, I haven’t done anything wrong.” Johnny said.

“ I know that, but Paul Bender is bent on making you pay for this, so do as I say, or I’ll throw your ass in jail.” Val ordered. “ I’ll let you know as soon as I get word.”

“ I’ll ride into town with you Val. I have a friend in St. Louis, I’ll send him a wire and see if he knows anything.” Scott said.

“ I have work to do on this ranch Val.” Johnny said. “ I’m not going to sit around here doing nothing.”

“ Did I say ya had ta? No……..I said stay at Lancer, ya damn fool. Murdoch, see if you can talk some sense into that boy. Let’s go Scott.”

“ Don’t worry brother. We’ll get to the bottom of this.” Scott said before following Val outside.

“ I’m trusting you with my life Scott.” Johnny said.

JML

Paul Bender walked into his house, and went straight upstairs to his bedroom.

“ What’s happening?” Marge Bender asked.

“ Not a damn thing. The sheriff is friends with the Lancers, so he’s not going to do a damn thing.”

“ What are you doing?” she asked.

“ I’m going to do what needs to be done.” he said.

“ Why did we leave St. Louis so suddenly Paul?” she asked.

“ I told you why woman. Now leave me be.”

“No I won’t. My sister was going to tell me something….Something about you the night she was killed.” Marge said. “ You have people in this town thinking I am Cathy’s mother, and you forbid her to talk about her mother to me, or anyone. Why is that Paul? Did you kill Caroline?”

“ You’ll shut your mouth and stop talking this foolish talk if you know what’s good for you!” Paul ordered.

“ No I won’t. You were abusing your daughter, my niece weren’t you?” Marge asked. “ That’s what Caroline wanted to talk to me about. You sick bastard. You…….your own daughter. How could you?”

Paul walked over to Marge. “ I told you to shut your mouth.” he said before he grabbed her around the throat, and strangled her. When he knew she was still, he let her limp body fall to the floor. Grabbing her by the hand, he pulled her out of the room to the top of the stairs where he let her body tumble to the bottom. Thirty minutes later, Paul Bender walked out of the root cellar in his house, went outside, mounted his horse, and rode off.

JML

Val, and Scott rode into town and dismounted in front of the sheriff’s office.

“ Sheriff, I need a word with you.” Harvey the undertaker said.

“ Hold yur britches.” Val said as he unlocked his office, and walked inside.

“ Alright, what’s so all fire important?” Val asked.

“ It’s that woman, Mrs. Bender.” Harvey said.

“ What do you mean?” Scott asked.

“ She was asking me questions that a lady should never ask. I told her she would have to ask the doc.” he said.

“ What kind of questions?” Val asked.

“ I’d rather not repeat them sheriff…..But I can tell you she asked if I knew if the girl had possibly bitten or scratched her assailant.” Harvey said.

“ Bitten, or scratched.” Val said as he looked at Scott.

“ That’s what she asked.” Harvey said.

“ Have you told anyone else this?” Scott asked.

“ No, just you two.” he said.

“ Don’t….Go back and don’t let anyone see her body.” Val ordered.

“ Okay.” he said.

“ Hold off on burying her just yet Harvey. Her death is a murder investigation.” Val ordered.

“ Keeping her body will cost sheriff.” Harvey said.

“ I’ll pay whatever it cost, and for her funeral too.” Scott said as he took out some money, and handed him a twenty dollar bill.. “ See that she has a real nice headstone.”

“ Okay. I’ll get started on it right away.” he said before leaving.

“ Why’d ya do that?” Val asked.

“ She deserves something nice after the life she’s had.” Scott said.

“ I guess yur right. Lets go send them telegrams.”

JML

“ John….would you settle down, and stop that pacing.” the Lancer patriarch said.

“ I didn’t do it Murdoch.” Johnny said.

“ I know you didn’t son. Pacing around like you are isn’t going to help.” Murdoch said.

“ What can make a father do what he did……I mean…his own daughter.” Johnny said.

“ I don’t know son.  It’s clear he is sick, and needs help. Hopefully Val or your brother will find out why they left St. Louis.” his father said.

“ Lunch is ready.” Teresa said.

“ I’m not hungry.” Johnny said.

“ You need to eat son. Worrying like you are is only going to make you sick.” Murdoch said.

Johnny sighed before he walked over to the table, and sat down. “ Thanks Teresa.”

JML

“ Sheriff, I got that reply you were waiting for.” Ben said as he handed the wire to Val. “ I haven’t got one back on yours yet Scott.”

“ Thanks.” Scott said.

“ Ben!…..Not a word to anyone about this.” Val ordered.

“ I wouldn’t do that sheriff. I’ll see you.” Ben said before leaving.

“ Looks like Mister Bender is wanted in St. Louis for the murder of his wife Caroline Bender. Seems she was found strangled ta death a year ago, and they been looking for him. Let’s take a ride out to their place and arrest him.”

Twenty minutes later Val opened the front door of the Bender house, and slowly walked in. “ Paul Bender….it’s Sheriff Crawford…..I need ta speak ta ya!” Val yelled as he pulled his pistol. “ Check down here. I’ll check the upstairs.”

Scott drew his pistol, and slowly walked thru the downstairs, checking every room to find them empty.

“ Upstairs is empty. Looks like he was here though. Bedroom is a shambles.” Val said.

“ Same down here.” Scott said as he walked toward the kitchen.

“ Hold on Scott…..You see that?” Val said and asked as he pointed to the floor.

“ Looks like something was dragged across this floor recently.” Scott said.

“ Yeah, whatever it was, It was dragged from upstairs, and into the kitchen.” Val said.

“ This place has a root cellar in the kitchen.” Scott said.

“ Lets see what’s in there.” Val said as they walked over to the cellar door, and opened it. “ Light that lamp over there.”

Scott lit the lamp, and shined it down into the darkness. “ Guess we know now.” he said as Val went down the stairs.

“ She’s dead. Looks like she was strangled, probably upstairs, and then dragged down here.” Val said as he came back up the stairs.

“ You thinking she was killed because of what she knows?” Scott asked.

“ I’m thinking that, and that maybe she confronted him.” Val said. “ He’s long gone, and most likely not coming back here. I’ll go get Harvey. You stay here and see if you can find anything in her room to tell us what he did.”

JML

“ Sheriff, what can I do for you?” Clay, the bank manager asked.

“ I need to know if Paul Bender has been in, and if so, what his business was?” Val asked.

“ Sheriff, that’s….”

“ Don’t give me excuses. Just answer the questions.” Val cut in.

“ Yes he was in a few hours ago. He cleaned out his account. Sad he was going back to St. Louis.” Clay said. “ I said I could wire the money to a bank for him. That carrying that much money was dangerous but he wouldn’t have it.”

“ How much money did he take?” Val asked.

“  Thirty thousand dollars from his account, plus another ten thousand for the restaurant.” Clay said. “ What’s going on Val?”

“ He sold the restaurant?” Val asked.

“ Yeah. It’s being very successful, so it makes no sense to me.” Clay said.

“ Much obliged.” Val said before leaving.

JML

Scott hated going thru someone else’s personal belongings, but he need to find something to tell them why Marge Bender was killed. He found nothing in the chest or wardrobe closet. Then he remembered a girl he dated back in Boston telling him once she kept a diary under her mattress so her father wouldn’t find it. Walking over to the bed, he lifted up the mattress and found the small book. Sitting down on the bed, he the book, and skimmed thru the pages, reading what Marge had written, and the dates. What he read made him sick to his stomach. She had written how she had noticed how Paul had changed toward his daughter a year before Caroline was murdered, and her suspicions about her sisters death in St. Louis. How Paul had beaten her on numerous occasions in the year since coming west. How he would force himself on her at night while holding a knife to her throat. Her last entry had been made the night Johnny took Cathy to the dance.

Tonight Cathy went on a date with a very nice young man from the Lancer ranch. His name is Johnny Lancer, and he comes from wealth. It is my solemn wish that Cathy find a young man to settle down with and get her away from her father. Perhaps Johnny is that man. Cathy is the only reason I stay and take the abuse Paul gives me. Numerous times I have wanted to go to the sheriff of Green River, and tell him what is happening, but have learned that women out west have a certain place, and must obey. They are treated with no respect like the women back in St. Louis are. This truly is a wild, and untamed country we have come too, even with the towns, and what law there is. I look forward to hearing all about my nieces night at her first dance.

“ You find anything?” Val asked.

“ Yeah.” Scott said as he stood up. “ I found her diary under the mattress. She tells it all Val right up to the night of the dance.”

“ Id say from the look on your face, it’s pretty bad.” Val said.

“ I’d like to kill that sonofabitch for what he did to his daughter…….and Marge.” Scott said as he handed the book to him.

“ Harvey is coming to get the body. I stopped by the bank. It would seem he cleaned out his bank account, and even sold the restaurant. Told Clay he was going back to St. Louis.” Val said as they headed downstairs.

“ So he’s gone?” Scott asked.

“ It would appear so. He’s got about thirty thousand dollars on him. I sent a telegram to the sheriff in Stockton, and one to the Marshal in Sacramento to keep an eye out for him. There’s not much else we can do.” Val said as Harvey came in. “ She’s in the cellar in the kitchen.”

“ You want her body kept like the daughters?” Harvey asked.

“ No, we know who killed them both. Go ahead and make all the arrangements for their funerals. Put up a notice so the towns folks can attend if they wish.” Val said. “ Listen, why don’t you ride on back to Lancer and let them know what’s happened. I got paperwork ta do. I’ll come by tomorrow to have Johnny give a statement.”

“ Alright. You read what’s in that, it will make you sick to your stomach.” Scott said before walking outside, mounting up, and going home.

JML

Scott walked into the house, and went straight to the sideboard, pouring himself a shot of tequila, and downing it to settle his nerves.

“ Marge Bender is dead.” he said. “ We found her in the cellar.”

“ My god, how?” Murdoch asked.

“  She appears to have been strangled to death upstairs, and then dragged downstairs. Nearest we can figure, she confronted her brother-in-law about Cathy.”

“ Brother-in-law…….I thought she was his wife?” Teresa asked.

“ Nope. She’s Caroline Benders older sister. Val got a wire back from the law in St. Louis. Paul Bender murdered his wife, Cathy’s mother and then packed up a few things, and came out here.” Scott responded. “ Teresa….would you excuse us. I don’t think you should hear what I’m about to say.”

“ I’ll go check on supper.” Teresa said as she stood up, and headed to the kitchen.

“ I found Marge Benders diary. She has everything written down that has happened clear back to when Cathy’s mother married Paul. It seems he changed a year before coming out here. What I read would make you sick to your stomach Murdoch.” Scott said.

“ I take it he’s gone?” his father asked.

“ Cleaned out his bank account, sold the restaurant to the bank, and left.” Scott said. “ Val sent out telegrams to the law in Stockton and Sacramento. Not much else we can do until he’s spotted.”

“ I wonder where he went?” Johnny asked.

“ He told Clay he was going back to St. Louis. He’s got over thirty thousand dollars, so he can go just about anywhere and start over.” Scott said. “ Johnny, Val said he would be out to take your statement about what happened. I think I will go clean up.”

“ Alright son.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and walked over to Johnny. “ I see that look in your eyes son. None of this is your fault.”

“ I just can’t help but feel partially to blame Murdoch. Maybe if I hadn’t refused Cathy’s advances that night, they would still be alive.” Johnny said.

“ That is something we will never know.” Murdoch said.

“ I hope you don’t want grandchildren anytime soon because I’m done with women for some time.” Johnny said.

“ Can I ask why?” he asked.

“ Because I don’t need two reputations Murdoch. I’m going to go check on Barranca.” Johnny said before walking out.

Murdoch smiled as he walked back over to his desk. He was glad his son wouldn’t be going upstairs at the saloon anytime soon to be with the women there, but a part of him was sad because of the reasons he wouldn’t be.

JML

It had been three months since Val took Johnny’s statement of what happened the night Cathy was killed. At the funeral most of the town showed up to pay their respects to Cathy, and her Aunt Marge. The undertaker was able to finish both headstones in time for the funerals, and was pleased with how they turned out. Nobody had noticed a lone figure in the trees watching from a distance as Cathy and Marge Bender were laid to rest side by side. The newspaper in Stockton ran a story with a picture of Paul Bender on the front page, and Val had wanted for murder posters made up, and circulated as far east as Arizona. Especially in the towns along the railroad and stage routes. There had been no sightings of the man since he left. Val figured he went north or maybe to the coast to get on a ship somewhere. Little did they know, Paul Bender had never left the valley at all. Now sporting a beard, and longer hair, the man was unrecognizable to those who knew him before.

“ What are you doing today?” Teresa asked Johnny as they ate breakfast.

“ Murdoch, Scott, and the hands will be back day after tomorrow. I need to get that bad spot on the barn roof fixed before it rains again.” Johnny said. “ What are you doing?”

“ I thought I would bake some cookies for you after breakfast.” she said with a smile.

“ You know, it’s sure gonna be a sad day when you get married and leave Lancer.” Johnny said as he stood up.

“ Of really. Well something tells me it won’t be so much for me leaving as it will be for me not being here to bake sweets, and fix your favorite meals.” Teresa said playfully.

“ Okay….you know me. I’ll see you for lunch.” he said before giving her a kiss on the cheek, and heading out to start on the barn roof.

Little did Johnny know that today both he and Teresa would be faced with something they never knew would happen.

JML

Paul Bender stopped outside a door on the side of the house, and slowly opened it. Stepping inside he found he was in a smaller room with another door. Opening the second door, he peered into a huge room. Stepping inside he looked around and found the huge room lavishly furnished with overstuffed chairs, and a long couch. “ Rich.” he said softly as he made his way to his right around a long dining table that would seat ten people. Hearing footsteps coming down the hall toward him, he froze until the figure walked just past him.

“ Don’t move!” he ordered.

Teresa froze in fear as she heard a pistol being cocked. “ What do you want?” she asked.

“ Who else is in the house with you?” he asked.

“ Nobody.” she said with a tremble in her voice.

“ Where’s Johnny?” Paul demanded.

“ He’s not here.” she said.

Paul grabbed her by the arm, and spun  her around. “ Young lady, don’t lie to me. I know most of the men are gone on a cattle drive, and the others are out working. Now I’ll ask you again……Where is he?”

“ Mister Bender……. He’s out working on the barn roof.” she said as tears began to fall. “ You’re hurting my arm.”

“ I’ll break your arm if you’re lying to me.” he said as he yanked her over to look out the veranda window. “ He coming in for lunch?”

Teresa tried to get her arm free. “ Let go of me!” she demanded.

Paul lashed out with his left hand and backhanded Teresa hard across the mouth. “ You better answer me.”

Teresa could taste the blood in her mouth and feel it trickling down her chin. “ Why are you doing this?”

Paul slapped her again as he jerked her over to the couch, slapping her again. “ Answer me…..Is he coming into the house?”

“ Yes……….I was going to tell him lunch was ready.” she sobbed. “ Please don’t do this Mister Bender.”

“ When I’m finished with him……I’ll teach you to not be disobedient.” he said before he hit her so hard, it knocked her out.

                                                                                 Chapter 5

Johnny stood up to stretch his aching back muscles. Shielding his eyes he looked at the sun, and figured it to be time for lunch. Climbing down from the barn roof, he went to the hand pump and washed some of the sweat off his face and chest before slipping his shirt back on before going inside. Walking inside, the smell of fresh baked cookies greeted him.

“ Teresa……those cookies smell………..”

“ Don’t!” Paul said as he cocked his pistol.

“ What do you want?………..Where’s Teresa?” Johnny demanded.

“ Over there on the couch.” Paul said.

Johnny hurried over to the couch. “ Teresa!” he said as he dropped to his knees and gently moved her face.

“ I gave her a small taste of what happens when you’re disobedient to me.” Paul said.

Johnny stood up. “ I’ll make you pay for hurting her!” he said with anger. “ So help me god I’ll make you pay you sorry sonofabitch! ”

Paul pulled the trigger, hitting Johnny in his left thigh, dropping him to the floor. “ I’m the one in charge here. I’m going to make you pay for what you did to my Cathy.”

“ I never touched your daughter!” Johnny said with anger as he tried to stop the bleeding. “ I dropped her off at your house she was fine!”

“ Why did you not take her to the dance?” he demanded.

“ Because she wanted to go to that abandoned farmhouse outside town.” Johnny said. “ Your daughter tried to get me to make love to her, but I wouldn’t and it angered her. I took her back home. I never touched her.”

“ You lie!” he yelled. “ It was you who raped her, and then strangled her to death!”

“ You’re wrong…….It was you who killed your own daughter!……..It was you who’s been abusing her.!” Johnny said as he tried to sit up. “ Sheriff Crawford has the diary Marge kept……It tells everything about what you did to your own daughter!”

“ She had to grow up…….Her mother was too weak…….to soft on the girl……I had to show her what it would be like when she took a husband……..How to respect and obey him!” he spat. “ I taught her mother to respect me, and what happens when she didn’t!”

“ You killed her mother, just like you killed your own daughter, and Marge!” Johnny yelled.

“ Stand up!” Paul ordered. “ I said stand up!”

Johnny rolled onto his side, and used the couch to push himself up, keeping the weight off his leg. “ You’ll hang for this.” he said. “ You kill me and Teresa, my father, and brother won’t rest until you’re either shot dead, or caught and hung.”

“ Shut up and get over here in this chair.” Paul ordered as he went and yanked the rope off that was holding the drape back. “ I’ll let you watch while I teach that one how to respect.” he said as he roughly jerked Johnny’s arms behind the chair, and tied them.

JML

“ Sheriff Crawford!” Sam said.

“ Doc….Where ya headed?” Val asked.

“ I thought I would take a ride out and see how Johnny, and Teresa are doing. Maybe have supper with them. Care to come along?”

“ I was just headed out there ta talk to Johnny.” Val said.

“ Any word on where Bender is at?” Sam asked.

“ No, nothing yet.” Val said. “ I expect he’s still around.”

“You think he’s still going to come after Johnny?” doc asked.

“ Yeah I do doc. That man ain’t right in the head.” Val said. “ In all my years, I have never heard of a man……..His own daughter. What the hell possesses a man to do that?”

“ In all my years as a doctor, this is the first time I have ever had to deal with something like this Sheriff Crawford. The man clearly belongs in an insane asylum.” Sam said.

“ How long we known each other doc?” Val asked.

“ A few years….Why?” Sam responded.

“ Then stop callin me Sheriff Crawford. It’s Val.” he said.

“ Only if you start callin me Sam instead of doc.” Sam responded.

JML

Teresa opened her eyes and immediately felt a sharp pain in her face. Sitting up she felt her face and the dried blood.

“ Teresa.” Johnny said softly.

Teresa looked and seen Johnny tied to a chair. His left thigh soaked in blood. “ Where is he?” she asked as she went to Johnny, and untied him.

“ Upstairs. Listen to me…..I want you to get out of here now.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ Get to the barn, get a horse, and  go get help.”

“ I can’t leave you alone with him.” she said.

“ Teresa….do as I said. He comes back down here, what he’s going to do to you……..GO……please.” Johnny pleaded.

“ Let me get you a gun at least.” she said.

“ There’s no time. I’ll let him think I’m still tied up……..Now go.” he ordered.

Teresa went to the veranda door, opened it, and left.

Johnny watched as Teresa walked her horse out of the barn a few minutes later, and took off.

Paul heard a horse galloping away, and rushed downstairs. Seeing Teresa gone he got angry.

“ You can do what you want to me, but you will never touch her again you sonofabitch!” Johnny said with anger.

Paul walked over to Johnny and brought the pistol down across his left temple. “ She won’t help you. I’ll kill you before anyone gets here!”

Johnny lunged at Paul, grabbing his right arm as the two men crashed to the floor. Holding on with all his strength as the two men rolled around on the floor as the pistol fired, the bullet hitting a lamp on the table by the couch, shattering the glass. Dizzy and weak from loss of blood, Johnny tried with all he had to get the pistol from the man when he felt something hit him on the right side of his head, making him loosen his grip just enough to give Paul the upper edge, and push him away. Struggling to stay conscious, he staggered to his feet as he heard the pistol being cocked again.

JML

“ Someone is in a hurry.” Val said.

“ That looks like Teresa.” Sam said.

Teresa yanked her horse to a stop, and almost fell off.

“ What on earth happened to you child?” Sam asked as he quickly climbed from his buggy.

“ Help him Val………please. He’s going to kill him.” she said.

“ Kill who…….what are you talking about?” Val asked. “ Who hit you?”

“ Paul Bender…..He’s at the house….He’s already shot Johnny once…….Please.” she pleaded.

“ Take care of her doc.” Val said as he got back on his horse.

“ Go….I’ll be along directly.” Sam said. “ Come on, get in the buggy.”

JML

Johnny watched helplessly as Bender cocked the pistol, and squeezed the trigger. White hot pain immediately hit him as the bullet tore thru flesh.

“ You fucking bastard……I swear to god you’re a dead man!” Johnny spat.

Johnny watched as Bender cocked the pistol again. “ I don’t think so boy.” he said as he started to pull the trigger when a shot rang out. Johnny watched as the pistol fell from his hand, dropped to his knees, and fell forward, dead. Looking toward the door, he seen Val standing there. “ What took you so long?” he asked as blackness claimed him.

Val rushed to his friends side, “ Don’t you die on me kid.” he said as he removed his kerchief and tied it around Johnny’s left thigh. Picking him up he carried him over to the couch. “ Doc….get in here!” he yelled as Sam pulled up.

“ Johnny!” Teresa said as she hurried inside followed by Sam.

“ Teresa are there any hands close by that can help carry him up to his room?” Sam asked.

“ No, they’re all out working.” she said. “  We can move him to a bedroom down here.”

“ Can you carry him Val?” Sam asked.

Val picked Johnny up and followed Teresa to a bedroom.

“ I’ll get hot water and bandages.” Teresa said as she left the room.

JML

Murdoch and Scott dismounted, and hurried into the house.

“ Murdoch…Scott, slow down. He’ll be alright.” Sam said.

“ We seen Val in town. He told us what happened.” Scott said.

“ How is he?” Murdoch asked.

“ He won’t be riding or doing much for some time.” Sam said. “ He was shot in his left thigh, and shoulder. He has a concussion from being pistol whipped.”

“ And Teresa?” Scott asked.

“ She was beaten up pretty good.” Sam said. “ She hasn’t talked about what’s happened.”

“ Did he……?” Murdoch asked.

“ No…just hit and slapped her a couple times. Johnny said when he came in he found Paul Bender with a gun aimed at him, and she was on the couch unconscious.” Sam said.

“ Where is she?” Scott asked.

“ In her room. She hasn’t been around much after I fixed Johnny up.” Sam said.

“ I’ll go see her.” Scott said.

“ I don’t want Johnny getting out of that bed for at least a week. He falls and hits his head again before he’s healed up, it could kill him.” Sam said.

“ I’ll make sure he follows your orders Sam.” Murdoch said. “ Can you stay for supper?”

“ I’d like to, but I have a couple other patients I need to see too.” Sam said as he headed out to his buggy.

JML

Teresa was laying on her bed when she heard a knock on her door. Standing up, she walked over and opened the door. “ Scott!” she said as she quickly wrapped her arms around him, and started sobbing.

“ Hey…..It’s alright.” Scott said as he consoled her. “ Come sit down and tell me what happened.”

“ I don’t want to talk about it Scott.” Teresa said as they walked over to the table by her window and sat down.

“ I know you don’t, but you need too Teresa.” Scott said. “ Trust me. One thing I learned from Johnny is to talk about something that’s bothering you. I felt the same way about grandfather, but he got me to talk about it, and I felt so much better after. It helped me confront him at his arraignment.”

“ I didn’t know he was in the house….I was headed out to tell Johnny lunch was ready.” she said. “ He grabbed me, and demanded…..he slapped me, and hit me……He said he was going to teach me to respect him, and do what he said. That he was going to kill Johnny, and then……Oh Scott…..I was so afraid, but not for me…..I was afraid for Johnny. When I came too, Johnny was tied up in a chair. I untied him, and he made me leave to get help…..I didn’t want to leave him, but he made me.” she sobbed.

Scott stood up, and went around the table to her. Getting down on his knees in front of her. “ Teresa…….you saved his life. From what Val told us, if he hadn’t got there when he had…my little brother would be dead. Johnny is still alive because of you, and what you did.” he said. “ Now, why don’t you freshen up, dry those tears, and come out and see Murdoch?”

“ He was right.” she said as she wiped away her tears. “ I do feel a little better.”

“ It will take time, but I know you are a strong girl, and you will be able to put this behind you and move on.” Scott said as he stood up.

JML

“ Hey Murdoch.” Johnny said as his father walked into his room.

Murdoch’s heart sank as he walked into the room, and seen the deep bruise that showed on the right side of his sons face. His left thigh wrapped in a bandage, and his arm in a sling. “ Son. I talked to Val in town.” he said as he walked over to sit down on the bed next to him. “ And Sam just told me how bad you were hurt.”

“ I’ll be alright pa. Just need a couple days to rest.” Johnny said.

“That is not what Sam said. A concussion takes time to heal, and so will that leg, and shoulder.” his father said.

“ How’d the drive go?” Johnny asked as he sat up straighter.

“ Went good, real good son. Sold the whole herd for sixty two dollars a head to some gentlemen from Chicago.” he said.

“ Sixty two…….that’s…….eighteen thousand, six hundred dollars.” Johnny said. “ Too bad we couldn’t sell our cows to them every year at that price, or more.”

“ As a matter of fact, Lancer now sells directly to the Union Stock Yards in Chicago.” Murdoch said. “ Conway, Hackett, Nelson, and Santee ranches are also selling their beef directly to them as well.”

“ I bet that made ole Jim Porter mad as a wet hen?” Johnny asked.

“ He wasn’t happy about it. But selling our beef directly, and not having to pay shipping fees because the cattle will be shipped on their own cars will save a considerable amount of money over time.” Murdoch explained.

“ Listen….I’m sorry I didn’t get that roof fixed on the barn.” he said.

“ The barn roof is the least of my worries son.” Murdoch responded. “ I’m just thankful you and Teresa will be okay. You rest, and maybe later we’ll play some checkers.”

“ Alright pa….I’d like that.” Johnny said as he scooted down in bed, and was soon fast asleep.

JML

“ You know, that sheriff might remember us from last year.” Brock said as they stopped at the livery, and dismounted.

“ Madrid comes here more than Morro Coyo, or Green River, and there ain’t no law here.” Charlie said.

“ Hey Sam, ready to make your rounds?” Gus asked.

“  Unfortunately yes.” Sam responded.

“ How’s Johnny doing?” Gus asked.

“ He’s doing better.” Sam said. “ I’m headed out to check his progress today.”

“ I bet that boy will be glad to lose them sticks.” she said. “ What can I do for you fellas?” she asked.

“ Never seen a woman farrier before.” Brock said.

“ I assure you gentlemen, Gus is as good as any man when it comes to shoeing horses.” Sam said.

“ How much to board them?” Charlie asked.

“ That depends on how long, and what kind of feed ya want them having?” Gus said.

“ Hay is good enough. Not sure how long we’ll be here yet. Got some business to attend too.” Charlie said.

“ Well….I charge four bits a day per horse with hay and grain…..Since you fellas don’t want them having grain….I’ll charge ya six bits a day for both.” she said.

“ Sounds fare to me.” Brock said.

“ Should only be four bits for the both a day since we’re not giving them grain.” Charlie said.

“ That’s my price mister. Six bits, and they’re inside out of the weather.” Gus said.

“ Ease up Charlie. The price is fine ma’am. I’ll pay ya for a week.” Brock said as he paid the lady. “ If it looks like we’ll be here longer, I’ll come pay ya.”

“ Much obliged.” Gus said. “ I need to hitch up the docs buggy. You can put your horses in the two stalls over there.”

JML

Johnny went out on the veranda, and found Teresa sitting in a chair doing needlepoint.

“ Teresa…..is there a reason you’re avoiding me?’ Johnny asked.

“ I’m not avoiding you Johnny.” she said.

“ Then why do I feel like you are?” he asked. “ I think we need to talk about what happened.”

“ I’ve already talked to Scott about it. I’m fine now. My bruises are gone.” she said.

“ Teresa…it happened because of me.” Johnny said. “ What he did to you was because of me. I would never do anything to get you hurt, and…..It hurts me that he hurt you.”

Setting her sewing down, Teresa stood up. “ Johnny, I don’t blame you for what happened. I am…or I should say I was angry at you for making me leave you. But I’ve had time to think about it, and I know it was to protect me. That man was evil and I was so scared he was going to kill you.”

Johnny reached out and pulled her to him. “ Little sister….I would gladly give my life to protect you, Scott, or Murdoch.”

Teresa hugged him tightly as a lone tear ran down her cheek. “ Looks like Sam is coming.” she said as she wiped the tear away.

“ Hopefully he will spring me. I’m sick of being cooped up.” he said.

“ But Murdoch isn’t going to let you ride yet because of your concussion.” she said.

“ I can ride in a buckboard.” Johnny said as Sam stopped his buggy, and got down.

“ Young man, I believe I did not say you could leave the house yet.” Sam said.

“ Oh come on Sam. I was just right here on the veranda talking to Teresa.” Johnny said.

“ He’s been being good Sam.” Teresa said.

“ I’ll be the judge of that. Let’s go inside.” Sam said with a smile.

“ Johnny….two men rode into Spanish Wells this morning when I was at the livery.” Sam said as he closed his bag an hour later.

“ A lot of people stop in Spanish Wells Sam.” he responded.

“ Yes, but these two have been here before.” Sam said. “ It’s two of the four Scott’s grandfather brought here.”

“ Are you sure?” Johnny asked as he put his shirt back on.

“ I’m sure. The one’s name is Charlie. Don’t know the other fellas name.” Sam said.

“ Tall…brown hair and eyes?” he asked.

“ Yes, and the other one had blonde hair.” Sam said.

“ Do me a favor Sam…..Don’t say anything to Murdoch or Scott about them.” Johnny requested.

“ Those men came back here to kill you.” the old doc said.

“  I don’t know that for sure, and until I do, I don’t want Murdoch or Scott knowing.” Johnny said firmly.

“ Young man…..I specifically hears them tell Gus they were here on unfinished business.” Sam said.

“ You told me that whatever is discussed between a doctor and his patient……”

“ Is confidential I know.” Sam cut in saying. “ Too bad your memory isn’t as good on following orders.

“ I want to ask you one last question, and I want you to be truthful with me.” Sam said.

“ I don’t lie Sam.”

“ Alright, have you felt sick to your stomach, or been dizzy when you stand up?” he asked.

“ No., not for a couple weeks now.” Johnny said.

“ Alright then, I’ll cut you loose, but with restrictions. I don’t want you riding a horse yet, or climbing ladders.” Sam ordered. “ That leg and shoulder still need time to heal.”

“ Thanks Sam, I won’t.” Johnny said with a smile.

JML

“ Can I come in son?” Murdoch asked.

Scott stood looking out his bedroom window at the stars. A letter from San Quentin prison laying on his bed. Turning, he walked back over to his bed, and picked up the letter.

“ You were awful quiet at supper tonight. Is everything alright?” he asked.

Scott handed him the letter as he sat down on the bed.

Murdoch took the letter and read it. “ What are you going to do?”

“ I’ve been thinking about it a couple days now, and to be honest…..I don’t know what to do sir.” he said.

“ I can’t tell you to go see him son.” Murdoch said.

“ I thought I had put all this behind me and moved on. Now here it is just over a year later coming right back to haunt me.” Scott said.

“ What do you want to do?” Murdoch asked as he sat down on the bed.

“ That’s just it. I don’t want to see him again.” Scott said.

“ Then I would say you have your answer.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ Son…regardless of what others say or do, always make sure that what * you * do is for the right reasons.”

JML

“ I’m glad you decided to come with me to Stockton little brother.” Scott said.

“  Gets me away from the ranch, even if it is in a wagon.” Johnny said. “ I put an extra canvas under there for us in case it rains.”

 “ Johnny….can I ask you something personal?” Scott asked.

“ I guess so.” he said.

“ What was it like for you in Mexico before your mother died?” he asked.

“ You’ve read the Pinkerton reports. You know what it was like.” Johnny responded.

“ Those reports don’t tell me what your childhood was like.” Scott said. “ Look it’s just me and you brother. Whatever you tell me I swear I will never tell Murdoch.”

“ Scott…..I……..It was rough for both of us.” Johnny said. “ There were no Christmas or birthdays celebrated. She did what she had to do so we had a roof over our heads. Especially in the cold, rainy months. It wasn’t too bad when I was little, but then as I got older….it became harder for us…for my mother because of me.”

“ I don’t understand.” he said.

“ It’s getting late, you better find us a place to camp for the night.” Johnny said.

JML

“ I just heard something that will interest you.” Brock said.

“ What?” Charlie said.

“ I was buying some tobacco in the store and overheard a hand from Lancer saying Madrid left this morning with a wagon headed to Stockton.” Brock said.

“ That means he’ll be camping out somewhere along the road.” Charlie said.

“ Yeah….There’s something else you should know……He’s not alone.” Brock said.

“ Don’t matter. It’s Madrid I want.” Charlie said. “ Let’s go get the horses, and some supplies.”

“ Horses are saddled and waiting outside.” Brock said. “ I got us provisions for four days.”

“ Let’s go.” Charlie said as he stood up and headed to the door.

JML

“ When I said earlier it got harder because of me, I meant because I’m a half-breed, a mestizo. Most of her men wanted nothing to do with me. They beat me when they felt like it. Which was a lot.” Johnny said. “ My mother decided having a man to satisfy her needs was more important than protecting me………So I started running off, sleeping wherever I could, stealing food when I could. I’ve never broke the law Scott. I know stealing is wrong, but when you’re a kid alone in Mexico, you do whatever you have to do to stay alive.”

“ That’s why you became Madrid….to stay alive?” he asked.

“ Yeah. After my mother was killed, I was put in an orphanage until I was twelve. I kept running away, but they would find me, and take me back  until one day I ran away and they couldn’t find me. That day I vowed nobody would ever beat me again. I got me a gun, and practiced whenever I could. It didn’t take long and I started getting better so I decided to put my new trade to a good use helping those less fortunate like I was.” he explained. “ I found the man who killed my mother sitting in a cantina in Laredo. He didn’t recognize me until he looked in my eyes. I told him I was going to send him to hell for murdering my mother, and that’s exactly what I did.”

“ How old were you?” Scott asked.

“ Thirteen.” he said.

“ You know…. you didn’t have to tell me, but I’m glad you did because it explains a lot about you.” Scott said. “ You care about others, and have a big heart little brother.”

“ When I seen Teresa unconscious on the couch, and the bruises from him beating her, I didn’t care about me. All I wanted to do was kill that bastard for hurting her, and for what he did to his daughter.” Johnny said. “ I would give my life in a second if it meant saving someone I love and care about.”

“ You didn’t really want to come along did you?” Scott asked.

“ So how come Murdoch is sending us to Stockton?” Johnny asked.

“ That little brother I do not know.” Scott responded.

“ There has to be a reason?” Johnny said.

“ I am sure there is, but our father did not care to tell us why, and I did not see a reason to ask.” Scott said as he stood up. “ I think I will turn in now.”

“  I’m going to check the team, and then I’ll turn in too .” Johnny said.

JML

“ Murdoch, how come you had the boys go to Stockton instead of a hand to get supplies?” Teresa asked.

“ Because Johnny needed to get away from the ranch, and since he can’t ride a horse yet, I figured a wagon ride wouldn’t hurt him.”

“ I can’t imagine what it was like for Johnny after his mother died.” she said.

“ Being of mixed heritage, it was rough for him. Children in orphanages are lucky if they get a hot meal, or anything at all.” Murdoch said. “Mexico is a brutal country to the less fortunate.”

“ Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what would have happened had Johnny not become Johnny Madrid.” Teresa said.

“ I don’t think he would still be alive.” Murdoch said. “ I have to admit, I had a hard time at first accepting what he did to stay alive.”

“ But now you accept it?” she asked.

“ I think it’s more of me knowing a part of him will always be Madrid regardless than it is of me accepting him as Madrid.” Murdoch said.

JML

“ You ready to go?” Johnny asked.

“ Ready if you are.” Scott said as he poured his remaining coffee on the fire.

“ You so much as move and I’ll blow you away!” Charlie yelled from the trees. “ You next to the fire…. real slow like, take out your pistol and toss it away…..You try anything and I’ll blow you away!”

Scott looked at his brother, then slowly removed his pistol and tossed it away.

“ Now…I want you to slowly remove Madrid’s gun and toss it away also. You try anything….and my friend will blow you away!”

Scott walked over and removed his brothers colt, tossing it over next to his near the wagon.

Johnny kept his arms out away from his side as his brother removed his colt and tossed it away. The last thing he wanted was to get his brother shot because of him. “ Who are you?…..What do you want?”

“ You!” Charlie said as he walked out of the darkness with Brock. “ I’ve waited three years to have my revenge on you.”

“ I don’t even know you!” Johnny said.

“ You know me you lousy sonofabitch!” Charlie said before hitting Madrid hard in the ribs with his rifle butt. “ I’m going to make you pay for what you did. Brock, keep your rifle aimed at that one. He can watch me beat this piece of shit to death.”

“ Do whatever they want Scott.” Johnny said as he tried to will away the pain in his side.

“ That’s exactly what you did with my wife isn’t it.” Charlie demanded. “ Did whatever you wanted.”

“ I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” Johnny said.

Charlie walked around behind Madrid and hit him as hard as he could in the small of his back with the rifle butt, dropping him to the ground. “  You should really be careful with who you sleep with!” he said with anger before he kicked Johnny hard in the ribs.

Scott ignored the rifle pointed at him and ran to his brothers side. “ Stop it!” he ordered.

“ Get….back…Scott.” Johnny said between gasp of air.

“ You showed up at my ranch….shot…and my wife nursed you back to health. In our bed…….You fucked my wife.” Charlie vented. “ My neighbor seen you two together. I was gone on a cattle drive. I found out about it a few months later when she told me she was pregnant. Only it wasn’t my kid she was carrying…..It was yours. I fixed her though. I taught her what happens when you cheat on me. I let her have your kid, and then I killed her.”

“ Maybe he doesn’t remember her name Charlie?” Brock said.

Charlie grabbed Johnny by the hair and yanked his head back.“ Her name was  Elizabeth Anderson….You remember her now breed?”

“ She told me she was a widow. That her husband was killed in the war.” Johnny said. “ I never would have slept with her if I’d a known she was lying to me.”

“ Now why do I have a hard time believing you?” Charlie asked before he kicked Johnny in the ribs again.

Johnny felt his ribs break. Curling up into a ball on his right side, he brought his knees up to his chest just as Charlie delivered another blow to the small of his back causing him to cry out in pain.

“ I’m going to make you bleed now. Only I ain’t gonna shoot you…..No….I’m going to carve on you.” Charlie said as he went to his horse, and pulled a knife from his saddlebag.

Scott watched as his brother slowly moved his right hand down and pulled the knife he carried on the inside of his left boot. He knew he would have to be ready when his brother made his move. Silently he said a prayer that whatever his brother planned….worked.

Charlie held the knife out in front of him as he slowly walked back over to Madrid. Kneeling down at his side, he had no time to react when Johnny brought his knife up and buried it deep in his gut.

Johnny thrust the knife up and into Charlie’s gut and twisted the blade as he yanked it upwards before pulling it out, and thrusting it again deep in the mans chest, right thru his heart.

Scott lunged out and grabbed the rifle barrel, pushing it aside as he swung and hit Brock hard in the jaw, knocking him down. Scrambling for the rifle, he froze when he seen Brock stop and look down. A knife was sticking out of his chest as blood started to soak his shirt. Scott hurried to the man. “ What did he do with the baby?” he demanded.

“ L..ft it a…t orph…age in San Angelo…a boy.” Brock said as his life slipped from him.

Scott hurried to his brothers side. “ I got you. Just stay still.”

“ He broke a couple ribs. I felt them snap.” Johnny said.

“ I’ll get some bandages ad get you wrapped up.” Scott said. “ Green River is the closest town. You think you can make it to there?”

“ I can make it.” Johnny said as he unbuttoned his shirt. “ Just wrap me up tight.”

“ How’s your breathing?’ Scott asked as he removed the shirt.

“ Only hurts if I take deep breaths.” he said.

Scott helped his brother climb into the wagon, and get settled on the seat.

“ Get my knife.” Johnny said.

Scott went over and pulled the knife from Brock’s chest, and wiped the blood off on the mans shirt. “ Hell of a throw brother.”

“ Knife is well balanced. That’s why I wanted it back.” Johnny said as his brother climbed up in the wagon.

JML

“ Toby, what has you riding in here like that?” Murdoch demanded.

“ It’s your son Johnny, he’s been hurt Mister Lancer.” Toby said.

“ Where is he?” Murdoch asked.

“ Green River at docs.” he said.

“ Have my horse saddled. I’ll be ready to go in ten minutes.” Murdoch said before heading inside to tell Teresa.

                                                                                         Chapter 6

“ Hey Sam.” Johnny said.

“ I’m afraid he might have broken ribs Sam.” Scott said.

“ I told you no riding.” Sam said as he helped Johnny to a room, and up on the bed.

“ I wasn’t riding Sam.” Johnny said as he opened his shirt to show him.

“ He was beaten Sam.” Scott added.

“ My god.” Sam said as he seen the bruising. “ Scott get me a pitcher of water as cold as you can get it.”

“ What’s the cold water for Sam?” Johnny asked.

“ Cold water will help diminish those bruises, and ease the pain.” Sam said as he started unwrapping Johnny’s ribs. “ Does this beating have anything to do with those two men?” Sam asked.

“ Yeah. Maybe some day I’ll tell ya why Sam.” Johnny said as his brother came back in with cold water.

“ Okay, lay down on your side. Scott get these soaked and ring out the excess water. Then drape them over the bruises. You didn’t get hit in the head did you?”

“ No, just got hit and kicked in my back and side doc. Damn that’s cold.” Johnny said.

“How you doing?’ Scott asked an hour later.

“ Been better. My back feels like it’s been stomped on.” Johnny said.

“  So do you think what he said was true?” Scott asked.

“ About what?” Johnny asked.

“ You having a child left in an orphanage in San Angelo.” he asked.

“ I didn’t know she lied to me Scott. I never knew her husband was still alive.” Johnny said. “ Man, I can just hear the old man when he finds out.”

“ He doesn’t have to know the reason why this happened.” Scott said. “ He knows those men came here because of……..He doesn’t have to know any more than that. Are you going to answer my question?”

“ He’ll know Scott.” Johnny said. “ He’ll know and he’ll get angry at me because it was because of Madrid.”

“ Okay….Then tell him what you told me.” his brother said. “ Now answer my question. Do you think you have a child from this woman?”

“ Hell I don’t know Boston. I could have kids all over in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico. Even in Mexico.” Johnny responded with irritation.

 “  Look, tell him you didn’t know she lied to you.” Scott said.

“ The men who did this to you, what happened to them?” doc asked when he walked back into the room.

“ They’re beyond help doc. I sent them to hell.” Johnny said as his father entered the room.

“ Sent who to hell young man?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny looked at his father. “ Hey pa.”

“ Who beat you son?” Murdoch asked as he walked over and looked at the bruises on his sons chest.

“ He’ll be alright Murdoch. He has three broken ribs, and I’m using cold compresses to help diminish the bruising.” Sam said.

“ Can he ride in a wagon back to Lancer Sam?” Murdoch asked.

“ I would prefer he ride in a buggy back to the ranch. It will be a smoother ride for him than in a freight wagon.” Sam said.

JML

Harlan stayed away from the other inmates as much as he could. When he first arrived at San Quentin, the smell alone turned his stomach. He couldn’t believe the filthy conditions. Only allowed to bath once a month, food that he considered only fit for hogs to eat, and thin cotton pants and a shirt that did no good to keep the cold from his old tired bones. The stone floor reeked of bodily fluids, and rats roamed the cells at all hours day and night biting inmates while they slept. It had been just over two years now since he had been sent to this place. Two years with not one letter from his Scotty found him losing all hope of ever seeing him again. The spring rains continued to pelt the walls, drip thru the cracks and seep inside making finding a dry spot to sleep nearly impossible.

“ Outside Garrett.” a guard ordered as he unlocked the cell.

Harlan stood up and followed the other inmates in his cell outside. Stopping at the door, hesitant to go out into the pelting cold rain.

“ Move it old man.” the guard ordered as he shoved him out into the rain.

Harlan walked over to where the roof hung out enough to block some of the rain.

“ Hey old man. I hear you tried to kill a good friend of mines old man?” an inmate asked as he walked over to him.

“ Leave me alone.” Harlan ordered. “ I do not fraternize with the sorts like you.”

“ Yeah, well maybe you will fraternize with this!’ the inmate said as he pulled a sharp piece of wood and stabbed him in the chest with it. “ That’s for trying to hurt Johnny Madrid.”

Harlan slid down the wall as he clutched his chest. A red stain slowly spreading across his chest.

JML

Johnny sat in bed at Lancer reading a book his brother recommended he would like called Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. At first he wasn’t too sure about reading the book based on what his brother told him it was about. But after the first couple pages, he found to be drawn to the book, and enjoying it.

“ Yeah!” Johnny said as he closed the book.

“ Son, I thought we could eat lunch together.” Murdoch said as he carried a tray of food over and set it down on the table. 

“ Listen Murdoch…….Pa, I know why you’re here, and it’s okay. I mean, I’ll eat lunch with you. I’m glad for the company, but I know the real reason.” Johnny said.

“ I would, but one thing I have learned these past few years we have been together is to not pressure you into telling me something until you are ready to talk about it.” Murdoch responded.

“ It was two of the four men Garrett brought here. Charlie Anderson, and Brock Cornett.” Johnny said. “ I didn’t know either of them, but Charlie knew me. He knew me because…….I……A  year before I came home, I got shot up and made it to a ranch in Texas. This woman nursed me back…..and…..she told me she was a widow. That her husband had been killed in the war. I had no reason not to believe her. When I got stringer, I started fixing things around the place for her. The well pump, windmill, fence. Then this one night she came to me…and we made love that night and every night for a week. What we didn’t know was a neighbor had come over to check on her and he seen us together in bed. I guess her husband came home two months later from a cattle drive and found out from the neighbor about us being together.”

“ You had no way of knowing son.” Murdoch said.

“ He beat her, and then killed her seven months later Murdoch.” Johnny said. “ He killed her not long after she gave birth to my child.”

Murdoch stared at his son, unable to speak as he let the words sink in. Standing up, he walked over to look out the window. “ Are you saying you have a child by this woman?”

“ Brock said the baby was left at a church in San Angelo.” he said. “ Murdoch….I didn’t know she wasn’t a widow, and I didn’t know she was pregnant when I left.”

“ Would it have made a difference if you had known?” he asked.

“ About what?” Johnny asked.

“ You took a married woman to bed and got her with child, and now you supposedly have a child that was left by this Charlie Anderson at a church in San Angelo, Texas. If you had known she was, would it have made a difference?’ his father asked.

“ Yes….I wouldn’t have left her.” he said.

“ Even though she was married to another man at the time?” he asked.

“ She told me she was a widow Murdoch……Jesus…..I never would have took her to bed had I known she lied to me.” Johnny responded with irritation in his voice.

“ I’m not angry with you son…..I am just trying to find out what you intend to do?” his father said.

“ I have to know Murdoch.” Johnny said as his brother came into the room. “ I know what those places are like.”

“ Can I make a suggestion son?” he asked. “ Write a letter to this orphanage and ask them. Find out if your son is there still.”

“ It couldn’t hurt brother. You have eight weeks to let those ribs heal up.” Scott added.

“ And if my son is still there?” he asked.

“ Then we go get my grandchild and bring him home where he should be.” Murdoch said.

JML

Johnny sat playing checkers with his father when Scott walked into the house.

“ Something wrong son?” his father asked.

“ Grandfather was murdered.” Scott said as he walked over and poured a shot or whiskey and downed it.

Murdoch stood up, and walked over to his oldest. “ Murdered?”

“ Warden says another inmate stabbed him in the heart. Said that inmate did it as a favor to you brother.” Scott said as he handed the letter to his father. “ Said he learned what grandfather did, and didn’t like him trying to hurt you.”

“ What?” Johnny asked as he slowly stood up, and walked over to them. “ Scott I…….”

“I know you had nothing to do with it. He had been in there just over two years. In actuality, he lasted longer than I thought he would.” Scott said.

“ I’m sorry son.” Murdoch said as he handed the letter back to him.

“ So who is winning?” he asked.

“ Murdoch, but I think he’s been cheating.” Johnny said with a smile.

JML

Murdoch walked in the house and found his youngest sitting on the couch reading a book. “ You still reading that book by Charles Dickens son?”

“ Yeah. It’s a pretty good book.” Johnny said.

“ There’s a letter for you from the church.” his father said as he walked over, and handed him the letter.

Johnny took the letter as his stomach got tight, and he found it hard to swallow. With a shaky hand he opened the letter and read it.

Mister Lancer

My name is Father Francisco Ortega. I found your letter to me quiet intriguing. The year in question I did in fact receive a newborn child from a man passing thru. This man said his wife had been unfaithful to him, and had given birth on the trail to a beautiful boy. Dying shortly after his birth. The child in question is the only newborn child we received  that year. I have prayed for you to find your son, and I feel it is only right that your son grows up with his father, and not in an orphanage. Therefore I have made arrangements to bring the child to you. I will be arriving by stage in a town called Morro Coyo. I look forward to meeting you.

Sincerely, Father Francisco Ortega.

“ Is everything alright son?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny stood up, walked over to his father, and handed his father the letter. Walking over to the sideboard, he poured a shot of whiskey to calm his nerves.

“ He’s coming here.” Murdoch said.

“ Yeah. He didn’t say when he would be arriving though.” Johnny said.

“ Who will be arriving?” Teresa asked as she walked into the room.

“ Father Francisco Ortega from the orphanage in San Angelo.” Murdoch said. “ He’s bringing my grandson here.”

“ Oh Johnny that’s wonderful news.” she said.

“ Yeah.” Johnny said before walking outside.

“ Did I say something wrong Murdoch?” she asked.

“ No sweetheart. I think he’s just real nervous.” Murdoch said.

“ Little brother is about to become a father.” Scott said. “ And you sir will be a grandfather.” he added with a smile.

“ I’ve been waiting a long time for the sound of grandchildren in this house.” Murdoch said.

“ How old is the boy?” Teresa asked.

“ I believe he’s around ten. It happened before Johnny came home.” Scott said.

JML

“ Sister, you stay here with Michael while I go ask where this ranch is, and meet with the young man. I shall be back this evening.” Father Ortega said before closing the hotel room door, and heading downstairs.

“ Can you tell me where a ranch called Lancer is?” he asked the hotel clerk.

“ Lancer, it’s about ten miles out of town.” the clerk said.

“ Excuse me, but are you Father Ortega?” Scott asked.

Father Ortega turned around. “ Yes.”

“ My name is Scott Lancer.”

“ Scott Lancer? I received a letter from a Johnny Lancer.” Father Ortega said.

“ Yes sir. Johnny is my younger brother.” Scott said.

“ Why did he not meet the stage?” he asked.

“ My brother is healing up from having broken ribs sir.” Scott explained.

“ How unfortunate. Will he be alright?” he asked.

“ Yes sir. I have a buggy across the street to take you to Lancer.” Scott said.

JML

“ Son….would you sit down and try to relax.” Murdoch suggested.

“ How can you be so calm pa.” he asked.

“ Because I had many years to practice waiting for you to come home.” his father said. “ In fact, the last time I was as nervous as you are right now was waiting for you to be born. When I heard you cry, it was the happiest moment in my life.”

“ What do I do if he doesn’t want me?” he asked.

“ Give him time son. The two of you will have to get to know each other.” his father said.

“ Johnny, there is no way he won’t want to stay here and be your son. Just take it one day at a time.” Teresa suggested. “ There here.”

“ Oh man, I can’t do this.” Johnny said before heading upstairs to his room.

“ Give him some time. He’ll come back down when he’s ready.” Murdoch said as the front door opened and Scott walked in followed by Father Ortega.

“ Where’s Johnny?” Scott asked.

“ I’m afraid he went upstairs. Your brother is really nervous right now.” Murdoch said.

“ Murdoch, Teresa this is Father Ortega.” Scott said.

“ Father, welcome to our home.” Murdoch said.

“ It is a lovely home you have Mister Lancer.” Father Ortega said. “ Could you ask your son to please have the courtesy to join us? Me and Sister Mary have traveled such a long way with the child.”

“ I’ll get him sir.” Scott said before heading upstairs.

“ Is this your daughter?” he asked.

“ Teresa is my ward. Her father was my best friend and foreman for many years.” Murdoch said.

“ And where is he?”

“ My father was killed by some men when I was a child.” Teresa said. “ Murdoch is like a second father to me, and Scott and Johnny are my big brothers.”

“ Can I ask Father Ortega, where is the boy now?” Murdoch asked.

“ He is at the hotel in town with Sister Mary. I need to speak to your son Johnny, first before they meet. I have some serious concerns I wish to address with the young man.” Father Ortega said.

“ Father, I assure you my son…….”

“ It’s alright Murdoch.” Johnny said from the bottom of the stairs. “ I got nothing to hide. The Father can ask me anything he wants.”

“ If you’re sure son then I think Teresa, Scott and I  should go to the kitchen.” Murdoch suggested.

“ Hold on Murdoch. Get the Pinkerton reports you have on me out of your desk please.” Johnny requested.

“ Son I…….”

“ I want no secrets kept from him Murdoch.” Johnny said firmly.

“ I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me son.” his father said as he set the files on the desk, and headed to the kitchen.

“ I’m sure you can understand my concerns about the boys well being?” Father Ortega asked.

“ I can.” Johnny said. “ You need to read these reports about me before we go any further.”

“ I would rather hear from you instead of reading what others say.” Father Ortega said. “ I find looking in a mans eyes as he talks to me tells me a great deal about that man. Like if he is telling me the truth or not.”

“ Let’s get one thing straight right here, right now Father Ortega, I don’t. Yeah I picked up a gun when I was twelve, Yeah I killed my first man in a gunfight when I was thirteen. I’ve never hit rock bottom, or broke the law. I never killed anyone who was foolish enough to call me out without trying to talk them out of it.” Johnny said.

“ A might defensive are you not?” he asked.

“ I’ve dealt with men judging me for who I was all my life. Men who question my being. There’s no difference between them and you except that robe you’re wearing.” Johnny said with irritation.

“ I sense you have a hatred toward men like me. Men in a robe?” the father asked.

“ I spent two years in an orphanage in Mexico. I was starved, and beaten because I’m a half-breed. So don’t expect me to be all warm and forgiving father.”

“ How is it you grew up in Mexico and not here with your brother and father?”

“ My mother took me away from Murdoch when I was a baby. She ran off with a gambler. Murdoch searched for me for sixteen years.” Johnny said. “ I learned my mother lied to me and I came home, and have been home almost ten years now.”

“ I see. What are your plans in the future?” Father Ortega asked as he walked around the grand room looking at the different things.

“ I’m a third owner of this ranch.” he said.

“ Is there a Mrs. Lancer in the future?”

“ I don’t know. I might find someone to fall in love with and marry some day. Why?” Johnny asked.

“ Because your son, if I decide to let him stay here will need a mother figure in his life.” he responded.

“ My son will have everything he needs. He won’t grow up wondering where his next meal is coming from, or how to get clothes to stay warm. People who will love him, and a roof over his head.” he said.

“ I must say, I wasn’t expecting your home to be so lavish.” Father Ortega said. “ Is breaking horses how you broke your ribs?”

Johnny stared at the man as he pondered telling him the truth. “ No it’s not. I was beaten by Charlie Anderson.”

“ And who is Charlie Anderson?” he asked.

“Elizabeth Anderson’s husband. My sons mother. He’d been looking for me. I only learned I had a son that day he attacked me.” Johnny said. “ He told me he found out she was carrying my child, not his. He said he beat her, took her north, killed her shortly after she gave birth, and left my son with you.”

“ The man said she died giving birth and he could not raise the child alone.” Father Ortega said. “ Can I ask where he is at now?”

“ I killed him. If you don’t believe what I just told you, go ask my brother. He was there also.” Johnny responded.

“ That won’t be necessary. I can tell everything you have told me is the truth.” he said.

JML

“ Where did Father Ortega go?” Michael asked Sister Mary.

“ He went to meet with some people we came out here to see.” she said.

“ Are these people going to adopt me?” he asked.

“ Possibly….yes. Father is asking them questions and making sure they will be good parents for you.” she said.

“ Sister….do you think someday I would learn who my father is and see him?” Michael asked.

“ If it is gods will for you to you shall.” she told him.

“ How come he didn’t want me when I was born? Father Ortega said my mother died having me. Why didn’t he want me?” he asked.

“ A man cannot raise a newborn baby by himself. Most men are unable to know what a mother knows.” she said. “ When a woman gives birth, there is something inside her that tells her what to do. Motherly instincts on how to care for you. It is a gift that God gave women.”

“ Kinda like when that goat gave birth for the first time, she knew to dry the baby, feed , and nurture it?”  he asked.

“ Yes. A human baby has the same needs as a baby animal. A father is the protector of his children, but it is the mother who raises them to grow up strong.” she explained. “ Let’s go down and have some lunch shall we?”

“ I could eat. My stomach is rock bottom empty.” Michael said with a smile as they left the hotel room.

JML

“ Father Ortega, is lunch alright?” Teresa asked.

“ It is fine my child. I’m not used to such a feast for lunch.” he said. “ Do you attend church?”

“ Every Sunday we attend the church in Morro Coyo.” Teresa said.

“ Yes, Father Vincent is very well liked. He has many who attend.” Scott said.

“ So you are catholic?”  he asked.

“ Yes. Johnny was baptized when he was seven months old. Scott’s mother Catherine was catholic as well.” Murdoch responded.

“ Where you born here Mister Lancer?”

“ No, I came here from Inverness, Scotland. I married Catherine not a year off the boat, and brought her out here. I bought Lancer, and built it up to be the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin.”

“ Before you ask, Scott’s mother died giving birth to him. Murdoch met my mother down in Matamoros, Mexico, a couple years later, and brought her back here to live..” Johnny said.

“ So your mother was of Spanish decent?” he asked.

“ She was a Mexican.” he responded.

“ Maria was a beautiful woman.” Murdoch said. He could sense his youngest was getting irritated with all the questions, and truth be known, so was he. “ Can I ask how my grandsons life has been so far?”

“ Michael is a very intelligent young man. He excels in his learning, and loves to read. I believe he has read every book we have several times.” he said.

“ Sounds like you Boston.” Johnny said with a smile.

“ I noticed you have a few books. Can I ask how big your ranch is?’ Father Ortega asked.

“ One hundred thousand acres, with roughly ten thousand head of cattle.” Murdoch said. “ I have one hundred and fifty Vaqueros, some with families who work for me.”

“ So much land and cattle.” he said.

“ We work it six days a week, sunup to sundown. The men get Sundays and Christmas off.” Murdoch said.

Father Ortega stood up. “ Well I thank you for a fine lunch and conversation. I must be getting back to the hotel now.”

“ I’ll drive you back father.” Scott said.

“ I will take you up on your offer Johnny, and bring the boy out here at ten tomorrow morning.” he said as they headed outside. “ I will see you then.”

Johnny stood on the portico watching the buggy pass under the Lancer arch. One more day he had to wait. One more day before he would see his son.

“ You alright son?” Murdoch asked.

“ That man…….I know he means well pa, but…….”

“ He ask a lot of questions?” he asked.

“ Yeah. Including how I busted my ribs.” Johnny said.

“ What did you tell him?’

“ The truth. I told him the truth about everything Murdoch. About my mother, Mexico, coming here. Everything.”

“ Did he read the files?” he asked.

“ Nope. Never touched them. Said he wanted to hear it from me.”

“ Well I think you can relax son. He said he’s bringing the boy here tomorrow morning.” his father said.

JML

“ How did you feel when you learned your brother was a gunfighter?” Father Ortega asked.

“ I was a little apprehensive at first, but then I got to know him.” Scott said as he stopped the buggy in front of the hotel. “ My brother did what he had to do to stay alive Father. Regardless of what some might say, he’s a good, hardworking, decent man, and I am proud to have him as my little brother.”

“ I got the feeling talking to him….he doesn’t like to talk about his past. Like he’s ashamed of it.” he said.

“ He’s never broke the law, and isn’t wanted by the law for anything.” Scott said. “ My brother believes his past should be just that. That the only thing that matters is the present, and future.”

“ I couldn’t agree more. Johnny Madrid is well know in Texas. He has helped many people there in what they call range wars. I have a feeling he will be a good father.” he said.

“ I’ll pick you up at eight in the morning.” Scott said before leaving.

JML

“ Mister Lancer, that cats back. It killed a cow early this morning.” Walt said.

“ Where?” Johnny asked.

“ Cedar Canyon.” Walt said.

“ I’ll go.” Johnny said as he stood up.

“ Son, Sam hasn’t cleared you to ride yet, and Father Ortega will be here at ten.” Murdoch said.

“ Murdoch, my ribs are fine. We can’t afford to lose a cow to this cat. It’s a fresh kill, so she’ll come back to it.” Johnny said. “ Has anyone bothered the kill?”

“ No, we moved the herd out of the pasture to be safe.” Walt said. “ She hasn’t fed on it yet.”

“ Go saddle my horse.” he said as he went over to the gun rack and removed a Henry rifle and box of shells. “ She has babies she’s going to bring back to that kill.”

“ How do you know that?” Walt asked.

“ She killed it, but hasn’t fed on it yet. It won’t take me long.” Johnny said. “ Besides, I’m the best shot you have to kill it.”

“ Alright. I want you to be careful.” Murdoch said.

“ I’ll be back by early afternoon.” Johnny said before leaving.

JML

“  Frank see that our guest luggage is taken to their rooms.” Murdoch requested. “ Please, come inside.”

“ Your son said Johnny had some business come up, and will be joining us later?” Father Ortega asked.

“ Yes. We had a cat kill a cow this morning out by Cedar Canyon. Johnny will be back by early afternoon.” Murdoch said.

“ Mister Lancer, this is Sister Mary, and this is Michael.” the father said. “ Michael, this is Mister Lancer, your grandfather.”

“ Pleased to meet you sir.” Michael said. “ Are you the one who is adopting me?”

“ I haven’t told Michael yet.” Father Ortega said.

“ My son Johnny will be adopting you Michael.” Murdoch said.

“ Michael, come sit down. There’s something I need to tell you about the Lancer’s, and Johnny.” he said.

JML

Johnny rode into the yard, and dismounted, handing Barranca off to Frank before heading into the house. Stopping outside the veranda doors, he watched as a dark haired little boy sat in a chair talking to his father. “ It’s now or never Madrid.” he said before walking inside.

“ Son, you have any trouble?” Murdoch asked.

“ Nope. She had two kittens with her.” Johnny said as he put the rifle back in the gun rack.

“ John, this is your son Michael.” Father Ortega said.

Johnny looked at the boy standing before him. Walking over to the boy, he knelled down and noticed his son had blue eyes just like him.

“ You’re tall for only being ten.” he said.

“ You’re my father?” Michael asked.

“ Yes I am.” he said.

Michael stepped closer, and wrapped his arms around Johnny’s neck, hugging him. “ Sister Mary said I would find my father if it was Gods wish.”

Johnny wrapped his arms around his son, and picked him up. “ I never knew about you.”

“ I know. Father Ortega told me.” Michael said. “ I’ve dreamed of this day for a long time.”

“ We have a lot of catching up to do.” Johnny said. “ How about I show you your room upstairs?”

“ Is that okay?” Michael asked Father Ortega.

“ This will be your home from now on.” he said.

Father Ortega and Sister Mary stayed two days and then left to go back to Texas. Michael was sad to see them go, and promised to write often.

Johnny picked out a real gentle horse for him to be his very own, and gave the mare to him for his eleventh birthday. Murdoch and Teresa threw a huge birthday party for him . Val and Sam were both shocked to learn Johnny had a son. Val even grumbled about not being told sooner.

Johnny took Michael with him to repair fence whenever he could, and started teaching him, or the boy would sit atop a hill with Murdoch while he watched his father, and his uncle move a herd. Every Sunday after church, Johnny would show his son another part of the ranch,  the swimming hole they used., and where they went to fish.

“ You are a remarkable young man.” Johnny said.

“ Just like his father is.” Scott said.

“ He’s a cattleman’s son.” Murdoch said with a smile.

Finished
1 – 2 – 2022

Research Notes:

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens:
Serialized 1860-61
Book form 1861

Great Expectations is the thirteenth novel by Charles Dickens and his penultimate completed novel. It depicts the education of an orphan nicknamed Pip (the book is a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story). It is Dickens’s second novel, after David Copperfield, to be fully narrated in the first person. The novel was first published as a serial in Dickens’s weekly periodical All the Year Round, from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. In October 1861, Chapman and Hall published the novel in three volumes.

Research Notes:

The meaning of the name Micheal:
Michael was first derived from the name Mikha’el, meaning “who is like God?” in Hebrew. This rhetorical question was posed to reiterate no person was like God.

In Hebrew tradition, Michael was one of the archangels. Michael is listed as the only archangel in the Bible, where he appears in the Old Testament’s Book of Daniel as a protector of Israel.

The saint’s popularity brought the name Michael to prominence centuries ago. Michael has been commonly used in Western Europe since the Middle Ages and in England since the 12th century.

Origin: The name Michael is of Hebrew origin and means ” who is like God? ” or  ” gift from God.” It is found in the Old Testament, notably in the Book of Daniel.

Gender: Michael is historically the masculine form of the name. Feminine variations, such as Michelle, Michaela, or Mila, are common.

Pronunciation: mye-kehl

The name Michael was commonly used for emperors, kings, and saints.

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PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment. Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here. You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Nancy Marie directly.

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5 thoughts on “A Cattleman’s Son by Nancy Marie

  1. I love all your stories and was so happy to read this one. I’m glad Harlan Garrett got what he deserved. Your stories are such a blessing-thank you for sharing your talent with us.

    Like

    1. It’s my pleasure to. Writing is something I love to do. Old man Harlan sure did get what he deserved. That man is pure evil. I’m glad you liked it and my others. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      Like

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