Word count 71,328
I don’t own them. I’m just borrowing them for some fun. All characters from Lancer belong to Samuel A. Peeples . No money is being made from this story. Any characters not owned by Samuel A. Peeples or CBS are mine and may not be used without my permission.
This story will have an R rating for some cussing, and sexual conduct, nothing bad.
Main characters in play in this story are Johnny Madrid Lancer ( age 20 ), Scott Lancer ( age 24 ) and Murdoch Lancer.
Murdoch Lancer, a big man stood well over six feet tall owned the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley. Twenty four years ago he married a beautiful woman, Catherine Garrett from Boston. Her family thought she was daft to marry him, a man not a year off the boat from Iverness with nothing to his name. Packing up and coming west, Murdoch took a gamble when he seen Lancer. Him and Catherine worked from sunup until after dark cleaning and fixing the rundown home. A year later his Catherine died giving birth. The baby taken away by her father. The only time he seen his son, was at the boys fifth birthday party, when he traveled back to Boston to try and reason with Harlan Garrett to give his son back. That was until a year ago when his son knocked on his door and came home to Lancer for good.
Murdoch’s second wife Maria Delgado Delavega he met a few years after Catherine died. He was working as a deputy Sheriff and tracked a man to Matamoros. When he learned she was with child, he married her and brought her to Lancer unbeknownst that two years he would wake one morning and find her gone, along with his little blue eyed son Johnny. Learning later she ran off with a gambler. Now eighteen years later, he still had no word on if his youngest son was still in Mexico, alive or dead. All he could do was pray that one day both his sons would be home, helping him run Lancer.
Scott Lancer hated the heat. Having been back at Lancer only a year, he was still learning how to work a cattle ranch. Most of the hands didn’t mind teaching him, since he was the old mans oldest son. Raised back east in Boston by his grandfather, Scott found out the truth about his father one day while in his grandfathers office looking for something. Stumbling on a box in the bottom drawer with Lancer written on the top, he took the box out and opened it. Inside where letters, some never opened from his father Murdoch Lancer. That evening he confronted his grandfather about the letters he had read, went upstairs and packed his bags and boarded a train west the next morning. Now, one week later, Scott Garrett Lancer stepped down from the stage in the dusty town of Morro Coyo and looked around.
“ Definitely not in Boston anymore.” Scott said as the stage driver handed down his bags. “ Thank you. Could you tell me where I can procure a buggy?” he asked.
“ Livery stable across the way might have one.” the stage driver responded as he climbed down. “ Can I give you a piece of friendly advice son. If you plan on staying in these parts, I suggest you get a different wardrobe.”
“ Thanks.” Scott said as he picked up his bags and walked to the livery.
“ I was wondering if you could tell me how to get to a ranch called Lancer?” Scott asked the livery man twenty minutes later as he set his bags in the buggy.
“ Lancer. Sure can. Everybody knows where that ranch is. Hell it’s the biggest spread in all the San Joaquin valley. Just stay on the road east out of town till you get to where the road forks, take the road on the right about ten miles and your find Lancer.” the livery man said.
“ You going to have my rig back tomorrow?” he asked.
“ I assure you. Your horse and buggy will be back tomorrow sir. Than you.” Scott responded as he climbed up in the buggy.
“ Perdón patrón, pero la cena está lista.” Maria said as someone knocked on the door. ( Pardon Patron, but supper is ready )
“ Gracias Maria.” Murdoch responded as he stood up from his desk and walked to the door, and opened it. “ Yes, can I help you?” he asked.
“ Yes sir. I’m looking for a Murdoch Lancer.” Scott responded.
“ I’m Murdoch Lancer. How can I help you?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m your son, Scott Lancer.” Scott replied.
Murdoch stood there speechless as he stared at the boy.
“ May I come in?” Scott asked.
“ Of course.” Murdoch said as he stepped aside and allowed the tall blonde man to enter.
That was one year ago, and in that time Scott had learned a lot, both about his father, ranching, and the biggest shock of all, that he had a little brother somewhere in Mexico. That his father had for years eighteen years had Pinkerton’s searching for the boy. He’d seen the picture of Johnny’s mother, a beautiful Mexican woman his father said he met a few years after his own mother Catherine had died giving birth to him. Taken away when he was only two years old. Growing up in Boston he had always wondered what it would be like to have a little brother, and couldn’t help but wonder if his grandfather knew he did, and never spoke of it.
“ You did good Scott. Fence looks real good.” Frank said.
“ Thanks. I just hope those stupid cows don’t decide to go through it again any time soon. This is the third time this stretch has had to be repaired.”
“ A cow ain’t nothing more than trouble all wrapped up in a leather bag.” Frank said.
“ True, but they sure taste good.” Scott responded as he wiped the sweat from his brow.
“ We can call it a day. Be about supper time by the time we get back.” Frank suggested.
“ That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day Frank.” Scott said as he picked up his tools.
“ Bein’s it’s Saturday, how about you come into town with me and the fellas and have a beer or two and play some cards?” Frank asked.
“ No thank you. Tonight I am going to soak in a hot tub, eat supped and then retire by the fireplace with a Brandy and a book. I appreciate the offer though.” Scott responded.
Murdoch sat at his desk reading the Pinkerton letter he received three weeks ago again. What he read still shocked him totally. There had to be a mistake. His blue eyed son couldn’t be him.
We have located your son, Johnny Lancer. I learned when he was twelve, he changed his name from Lancer to Madrid, Johnny Madrid.
The person you asked our agency to check out, Johnny Madrid, is well known in Mexico. In fact Madrid is wanted by the Rurales down there. An agent I have stationed there had little trouble finding out about this man. What he learned follows.
Age twenty or so.
Madrid is of mixed race. His mother was a Mexican and his father a rich American it is reported from California. Up until eight years ago Johnny Madrid had never been heard of. In finding I have learned that at the age of twelve Madrid killed a man. Shot him several times in fact for the brutal murder of his mother a Maria Conswella Madrid. It would seem that in my asking in the town of Sonora a man believed to be a patron of the late Madrid raped then beat her to death in front of the child. Madrid disappeared after that killing for a year then surfaced again in Cordova were he is said to have started his reputation as a gunfighter by killing three men for beating a prostitute at a bordello he was patronizing. Yes you read right. Madrid frequently goes to a brothel, especially after he kills someone.
I have numerous witness accounts of Madrid being called out on both sides of the border and every time this gunfighter would try and talk the caller out of it. In the end though Madrid would be the one walking away.
I have learned that his childhood was an unsupervised one. The boy ran the streets of the villages he and his mother lived in. He would work in livery stables when he could for pennies. He was beaten as a child I learned from a padre and other children and bares the scars from such beatings. I learned that in the village of Candela some boys beat Madrid badly then one of the boys stabbed him just to see what color his blood was.
I can attest that on my own witnessing Johnny Madrid is the fastest gunfighter in the south. Any man who calls him out will die. I can also attest that Johnny Madrid was not born with said name. Before his mother died a padre told me he heard tell that the boys last name was in fact Lancer and that his father had thrown him and his mother out of his estancia when he was barely two.
I am staying at the Hotel Del Diego in Sonora. I will await word from you on how to proceed in this matter. Enough money paid, I can get Madrid out of that prison alive.
The Rurales caught Madrid and have him in a prison scheduled for execution in two weeks for what he has done to them in the past two years. This agent has learned that he has killed twenty six Federal es, not in cold blood mind you. Madrid has never killed a man in cold blood. Granted killing Federal es is a crime in Mexico punishable by life in prison or death by firing squad. Basically the Rurales like to push the farmers around and take what little they have in peso’s or food. Madrid hired out to these farmers merely for a roof over his head and food in his belly.
Allen Martin, Pinkerton Agent.
Now he sat at his desk reading the latest Letter from the Pinkerton’s.
Your son Johnny Lancer was successfully freed from the prison, just seconds away from execution I advised the young man of who I was and that you had been searching for him for eighteen long years. After saving my life from said Rurales, your son took one of the horses and rode off. I have searched for him, but to no avail. I did learn that he did cross the border into Arizona, but lost his trail after that.
Allen Martin, Pinkerton Agent.
Murdoch sat there holding the report when Scott walked into the grand room.
“ We finished that stretch of fencing in the north pasture.” Scott said as he removed his gloves.
“ That’s good. Tomorrow you can check that foot bridge and see if it needs replaced.” Murdoch said without looking up.
Scott walked over to his father and seen the letters on the desk. “ Are those from the Pinkerton’s?” he asked.
“ I’m sorry, what son?” Murdoch said as he finally looked up.
“ Are those from the Pinkerton’s about my brother?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. Yes they are son.” Murdoch responded.
“ May I read them?” Scott requested.
Murdoch stood up and walked over to the sideboard and poured a drink. “ What you read might shock you son. It did me.” Murdoch said as he poured a drink and downed it.
Scott picked up the reports and read them “ I don’t understand sir! This report says my little brother is a gunfighter.”
“ Not just any gunfighter son. The best, and deadliest. What I’ve heard said about him would give you nightmares.” Murdoch responded.
“ It says here that he was freed and is back across the border in Arizona somewhere. Maybe he is finally coming home.” Scott suggested.
“You read what it says son. Your brother, if he is your brother, thinks I threw him and his mother out of this house eighteen years ago. If he comes here, it may well be to kill me.” Murdoch responded.
“ Surely you don’t believe that.” Scott said.
“ I guess we won’t know until he shows up, if he shows up.” Murdoch said.
Johnny rode north in Arizona, staying away from towns until he reached the settlement called Phoenix. Upon riding in, it looked almost like a small village in Mexico with all the adobe buildings scattered around. Knowing his horse needed a good feed, Johnny stopped at the livery and paid the man to give his horse a good rub down, hay and grain. Removing his saddlebags and rifle, Madrid headed to where the old man said he could get a bath and shave before going to the saloon to have a bottle of tequila and a woman, if there were any decent looking enough to satisfy his urge. For the past week he’d thought about what the Pinkerton agent said about old man Lancer looking for him for the past eighteen years. The man seemed to be telling the truth, but if he was, why would the man who kicked his mother and him out of the house be looking for him for all those years? Or was it just his mother he had kicked out and not expected her to take him with her? What he needed right now was a good whore and a bottle. Both of which he would soon have as he stepped inside the saloon and looked around. Only a few men were in the saloon sitting at a table drinking a beer. Farmers from the looks of their clothes. Standing at the end of the bar in her bloomers with a robe or maybe a dress opened all the way was a woman who looked just right for his needs, about his height, full plump breast and a not so bad looking shape from what he could see. Stepping inside, Madrid walked over to the bar and ordered a bottle of tequila and two glasses as the woman walked over to him.
“ You looking for some company cowboy?” she asked.
“ How much for all night?” Johnny asked.
“ All night huh. Honey, there ain’t never been a man last all night that can satisfy me. You sure you can?” she asked.
“ How much?” Johnny repeated.
“ Five dollars will get you all night. Paid in advance. You want a room with a lock on the door, that will cost you another three dollars. You got that kind of money?” she asked.
“ Johnny paid for the bottle and handed her a ten dollar bill. “ Extra two dollars if you can last all night.” he said as he picked up the bottle and followed her upstairs.
“ Good morning Maria.” Scott said as he walked into the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee.
“ Ah senor Scott, good morning.” Maria said. “ Breakfast will be ready in a few.”
“ Do you know where my father is?” Scott asked.
“ He left early this morning for Green River. He said he would be back this afternoon.” Maria responded. “ Senor Scott, is it true. Did the Pinkerton men find my Juanito?” she asked.
“ That’s what their report said.” Scott responded.
“ I do not understand why the Patron is not happy. He searched so long for him.” Maria said.
“ What did he tell you?” Scott asked.
“ That Juanito was found in Mexico. That he was in a prison about to be executed by the Rurales.” Maria responded.
“ So he didn’t tell you why he couldn’t find Johnny for all these years?” Scott asked.
“ No. Mexico is a big place. Senor Scott, something is wrong. What is the patron not telling me?” Maria asked as she set a plate of bacon and scrambled eggs and potato’s down for him.
“ Thank you.” Scott said. “ You started working for my father shortly after he bought Lancer didn’t you?” Scott asked.
“ Si, he was married to your mother. She was such a beautiful woman. You have her eyes. I helped to deliver Juanito. Your papa, he missed you so much. When he brought Maria home, I could see the evil in her eyes. I knew this woman was not right for him. She was happy at first but after the baby was born, she became distant to him. Always mad if he did anything with the baby.” Maria explained.
“ Did you know about the other man she was seeing?” Scott asked.
“ Si. He came here a couple times when your father was gone. I was ordered to keep quiet or she would have me fired. The morning she left with him, your father was so heartbroken. He wasn’t the same for a long time. He drank a lot for a couple months, and then one day he said he was leaving to go to Mexico to look for Juanito. He was gone for almost a year. When he came home, me and Cipriano knew he had no luck finding him.” Maria responded.
“ You ever hear of a gunfighter in Mexico called Johnny Madrid?” Scott asked.
“ Si, I have heard of a pistolero called Johnny Madrid. He is a patron saint to my people.” Maria said.
“ Maria, come sit down.” Scott requested.
Maria walked over and sat down across from Scott. “ What is wrong/ Why do you ask me about Madrid?”
“ Because the Pinkerton’s found out that my brother, Johnny Lancer has been Johnny Madrid for the past eight years. That’s why Murdoch hasn’t been able to find him until four weeks ago when they found out the truth while searching for him in Sonora.” Scott explained.
“ My Juanito, he is Mexico’s patron saint?” Maria asked.
“ It would seem so. It came as a shock to Murdoch, and myself.” Scott replied.
“ It has to be a mistake. My Juanito would not become a gunfighter.” Maria said as she stood up.
“ Maria, if Johnny does come here. Is there a way we can tell it’s really him, Johnny Lancer?” Scott asked.
Maria walked back over to the stove, grabbed the coffee pot and walked back over to the table to fill his cup. “ Si. He has a birthmark on his right hip. It looks like butterfly wings.” Maria responded. “ I would know my Juanito even if he did not have that birthmark.”
Murdoch rode into Green River and stopped in front of the white house at the end of town. A sign out front read Sam Jenkins, Doctor of Medicine. Dismounting and tying his horse to the rail, Murdoch opened the gate and walked up to the door and knocked. A minute later an older man with somewhat silver hair opened the door and greeted him.
“ Murdoch, is something wrong? Is it Scott?” he asked.
“ No, Scott’s fine. I need to talk to you.” Murdoch responded.
“ Well come on in. It must be important for you to be here this early.” Sam said as he stepped aside and let his longtime friend enter. “ I have a fresh pot of coffee on, so lets go in the kitchen and talk.” Sam suggested as he closed the door and started to the back.
“ I need to talk to someone, and you’re the only one I know I can trust.” Murdoch said as they entered the kitchen.
“ Sit down and tell me what’s going on.” Sam said as he poured two cups of coffee.
Murdoch took the two Pinkerton letters out of his coat pocket and handed them to Sam.
Ten minutes later Sam set the papers down. “ Oh my god. Are they sure about this?”
“ Apparently so. Allen Martin has been working for me for a long time. His reputation precedes him.” Murdoch said.
“ Okay. Granted I’m a little shocked that your Johnny, if he is your Johnny, became this gunfighter Johnny Madrid. I’m sure he had a logical reason for doing it. You’ve been to Mexico, can you think of any reason he would become a gunfighter?” Sam asked.
“ After seeing his mother brutally killed in front of him and hunting that man down a year later, no. A twelve year old child has no business using a gun, especially one in the manner he does.” Murdoch said.
“ But the one letter explains Johnny has been abused by a padre and other children. That he was even stabbed by another child just to see what color his blood was. Maybe that abuse is why.” Sam suggested.
Murdoch stood up. “ In Mexico, a child like Johnny is called a halfbreed or mestizo. Meaning he has a Mexican mother and a gringo father, and with him having blue eyes, I guess the treatments would be harsh against him.” Murdoch said. “ I don’t know what to do Sam. If Johnny comes back here, how do I proceed? How do I treat him?”
“ You treat him like your son Murdoch. Regardless of what he has done in Mexico to stay alive, you treat him like your son. You have searched eighteen years for this boy, don’t let this ruin your chance of getting him back. Don’t ruin Scott’s chance of getting to know his little brother.” Sam responded.
“ How do I tell him I didn’t throw him and his mother out Sam? For eighteen years that boy has believed that lie and probably hates me.” Murdoch asked.
“ You tell him, and you keep telling him you didn’t throw them out. Doesn’t Maria, your cook know the truth also?” Sam asked.
“ Yes. Actually I think Maria knows more about it than I do, but wouldn’t say anything to me.” Murdoch responded.
“ Maybe she didn’t say anything because she was threatened. Maybe your Maria threatened to have her fired if she told you about the other man. She might not have know she was planning to run off with him.” Sam suggested.
“ Could be. I just wish I knew if he was coming home for sure.” Murdoch said as someone knocked on the door.
“ Sam, are you here?”
“ Yes, what is it?” Sam asked as he walked out of the kitchen.
“ It’s my wife, I think she’s in labor.” the man said.
“ Alright, I’ll get my bag. Murdoch, remember what I said.” Sam said.
“ Come out for supper Sunday if you can.” Murdoch said as he walked out with Sam.
“ That sounds good. I’ll be there if I can.” Sam said before walking off with the man.
Buying some supplies for the trail, Johnny rode out of Phoenix, headed northwest to California. Grateful he had cheated death again, he found himself off and on all day as he rode along, wondering if what the Pinkerton man said was true. Had the man his mother said threw them out all those years ago been searching for him, and if so, why? It made no sense, unless the only reason was, the old mans conscious was getting to him for what he did and he thought that maybe he could make things right again. The only way Madrid felt right now that would make what happened right would be when he put a bullet in the old mans head for the pain he caused his mother. That’s how a part of him felt. Another part, the part that kept nagging at him over and over, that was the part he wondered about the most. Pouring another cup of coffee, Madrid sat back and looked at the flames of his small fire dancing. A lite breeze blew, helping to cool down the remaining heat of the day as the sun set. Why……why did she always want to leave? Remembering back to before his mother was murdered, Johnny found himself wondering now if the real reason they moved from village to village, town to town all the time was because the Pinkerton’s were there. That she managed to somehow learn they were looking for them. Again this brought back the same question to him, why. Why would old man Lancer spend eighteen years looking for him if he threw him out? There was only one way Johnny was going to get the answers he needed. Tomorrow he would head toward Morro Coyo and learn some about his adversary before he confronted him.
Standing up, Madrid walked over and checked his horse and looked around for any movement in the remaining light of the day. Seeing nothing, he walked back to the fire and started fixing something to eat.
“ I didn’t expect you back until tomorrow sir.” Scott said as he walked into the grand room. “ How did your trip go?”
“ Good, good. I bought a thousand head of prime Herefords and two bulls. They’ll be delivered next week.” Murdoch responded.
“ That’s a lot of cows.” Scott responded.
“ I figure we can put them in the north pasture for the rest of summer. Some may already be bred.” Murdoch said as he stood up and walked over to the sideboard and poured two drinks. “ How’d it go here? Any trouble?”
“ No, no trouble. All the fence repairs are just about done. I have a crew working on clearing wash beds out before the fall rains start.” Scott responded.
“ That’s good. What about that foot bridge?” Murdoch asked.
“ It’s almost done. I had the crew rebuild it farther up where it’s not as wide. Closer to the rocks for more solid support.” Scott responded. “ How many head are we taking to Fort Bowie” Scott asked.
“ We’re not taking a herd to Fort Bowie. The army wants them delivered to Fort Grant instead.” Murdoch replied. “ We’ll take four hundred head. The army is going to pay us twenty dollars a head for them.”
“ That’s a nice price.” Scott responded.
“ I need to talk to you son. Come over and sit down.” Murdoch requested as he walked over to the couch and sat down.
“ Something wrong?” Scott asked as he sat down in a blue chair across from him.
“ No. It’s about the ranch. You being a half owner I wanted to ask you how you feel about Johnny, if he comes home being a part owner? One third, equal partners.” Murdoch asked.
“ It’s his birthright. I don’t have a problem with it sir. I just hope he comes home.” Scott said. “ I talked to Maria, and she said there is one way of telling if he really is Johnny. She said he has a birthmark on his right hip that looks like a butterfly. She also said she would know her Juanito anywhere from his blue eyes.”
“ Did she say anything else to you?” Murdoch asked.
“ If you mean about Johnny and his mother. I believe you should ask her that question sir. I think it would do her good to finally tell you what went on. What she knows.” Scott responded.
“ Perhaps in the morning you could talk to her about it.” Scott suggested.
“ You know, I never really gave it a thought on how it affected her. I should have talked to her years ago about it son.” Murdoch responded.
“ If he comes here, are you prepared to accept him as your son, my brother?” Scott asked.
“ Honestly son, I don’t know. Ever since I got that letter telling me who he became, I’ve been struggling with that very question.” Murdoch responded.
“ If you are struggling, then perhaps you should talk to someone.” Scott suggested.
“ I did. I talked to Sam.” Murdoch snapped back. “ I’m sorry son. I didn’t mean to get angry at you.”
“ But you are angry?” Scott asked.
“ Yes I’m angry. I’m angry at his mother for the lies she told that boy. For eight years he could have come home to me, but because of the lies she told him, he stayed in Mexico, being abused and having god knows what done to him. Your brother should have never been taken away from me.” Murdoch responded.
“ No he shouldn’t have, but you’re getting a second chance to be his father if he comes home.” Scott responded.
“ If he comes home son.” Murdoch responded.
“ I think I will go get cleaned up before supper.” Scott said as he stood up.
“ Alright son. Oh, Joe Carbohaul from Modesto will be coming by day after tomorrow. He wants to discuss putting some of his cows in with ours when we go to Fort Grant.” Murdoch said
“ As long as he provides some hands to help drive them.” Scott responded.
“ Go clean up son. I’ll see you at supper.” Murdoch said with a smile as he shook his head and walked over to his desk.
Madrid walked out of the saloon in Merced, after having a couple cold beers and a steak. Stepping down to his horse he started to untie the animal when he heard what he hated hearing.
“ Johnny Madrid, I’m calling you out.” a man yelled that stood in the middle of the street.
Patrons on both sides of the street scurried to get someplace safe out of the line of fire. Parents hurried their children inside as doors slammed shut. Some men stayed standing on the sidewalks on both sides of the street, waiting and watching to see who would walk away.
Some whispering amongst themselves about Madrid being in their little town. Others just waited and watched.
Johnny sighed and stepped out away from his horse to the middle of the street to face the one who called him out. About fifty feet away stood a boy no more than Madrid’s age, if that wearing a fancy two holster rig.
“ Go home kid. You can’t beat me.” Johnny said.
“ I think I can. What’s the matter Madrid, you afraid to face me?” the kid asked.
“ Look, you can’t beat me kid, so go home.” Johnny said as he turned to go back to his horse.
The kid drew and fired, hitting the ground at Johnny’s feet. “ I said I’m calling you out Madrid. Now you can either face me like a man, or die like a coward.”
Johnny knew there was no talking this kid out of it, so he turned and faced him head on. “ I just stopped for a cold beer and something to eat boy. Don’t make me kill you.”
“ Hope it was good, because it will be your last.” the kid said.
“ Since you’re so all fired set on dying, how about you tell these good folks your name, since they’re the ones going to have to bury you?” Johnny asked.
“ Walk away kid, Madrid will kill you. Ain’t nobody can beat him.” somebody yelled.
“ The names Cutler, Andy Cutler. I’m seventeen, and I know I can take you. So shut up and draw Madrid.”
“ Your dance kid. You make the first move.” Johnny said as he stood watching for the sign telling him when the kid was going to draw. When he seen it, he drew, fanned the colt one time, hitting the kid square in the heart.
“ I told ya nobody can beat that halfbreed killer.” the same man yelled.
“ He gave the kid every chance to walk away. Madrid ain’t no killer.” someone else yelled.
“ Get out of our town killer!” others started to yell as Johnny holstered his gun, walked to his horse, mounted up and rode out of Merced with one more ghost to haunt his sleep. He could still hear them yelling as he kicked his horse into a gallop at the edge of town.
Rancher Joe Carbohaul of Modesto stood and watched the whole thing go down. Shaking his head as he looked at the still form laying in the street with a red stain on his chest. He’d heard of Madrid, but thought the man worked down along the border. Going to his horse, Joe mounted up and headed back to his ranch. He would talk to Murdoch Lancer later and see if the man knew of a possible range war brewing. Maybe that was why a gunfighter like Madrid came this far north. Could Madrid have learned of the big cattle drive to Fort Grant and maybe knows of someone planning on rustling the herd? Kicking his horse into a gallop, Joe decided he wanted to be at Lancer’s first thing in the morning instead of going home first. Seven hundred head of cattle would be a great deal of money if enough men got together to steal them.
Murdoch sat drinking a cup of coffee when Maria walked into the kitchen. “ Patrón, te levantaste temprano.” Maria said. ( Patron, you are up early.)
“ I need to talk to you Maria. Come sit down please.” Murdoch responded ans he poured her a cup of coffee.
Maria walked over and sat down. She had a feeling this talk would be one that should have happened many years ago.
“ Do you like working here Maria?” Murdoch asked as he handed her a cup of coffee.
“ Si Patrón, you are like family to me. You and senor Scott.” Maria responded.
“ When I awoke that morning and found my Maria had taken Johnny from me, I never gave a thought as to how that affected you. I’m sorry.” Murdoch said with sincerity.
“ I should have told you senor. I should have told you about the other man. The gambler she left with, he came here a couple times when you were away. I wanted to tell you, but she threatened to get me fired if I said anything. Maybe if I had told you, she wouldn’t have left and taken my Juanito from us.” Maria said with tears in her eyes.
Murdoch stood up and walked around the table and sat down next to her, putting an arm around her shoulder for comfort. “ I don’t think it would have mattered really. She was unhappy here and I should have seen that.”
“ He was evil. I could see it in his eyes senor. I tried to warn her, but she laughed it off and told me to keep quiet.” Maria said as she wiped away her tears.
“ Did Scott tell you what we have learned recently about Johnny?” Murdoch asked.
“ Si. I will know he is my Juanito when I see him. His eyes are blue and full of kindness. That is why my people call him their Patron Saint in Mexico.” Maria explained.
“ So you know of Madrid?” Murdoch asked.
“ Si, I just did not know he was our Johnny.” Maria responded. “ Will you welcome him into this house again senor?” she asked as Scott walked into the room.
“ Yes I will. He’s my son, and I want him home safe were he belongs.” Murdoch responded as someone knocked on the front door.
“ I’ll get it.” Scott said.
“ Maria, you have worked for me since before Scott was born. I don’;t want you to ever think anyone in this house other than me can fire you. You are part of this family, and I won’t have anyone threatening or hurting you.” Murdoch explained as Scott walked in followed by Joe Carbohaul.
“ Joe, I wasn’t expecting you for a couple days. Sit down, have some breakfast with us.” Murdoch said.
“ Thanks.” Joe responded as he sat down. “ I need to get a cook as good as Maria is.” he said before taking a sip of coffee.
“ How’d your trip to Fresno go?” Murdoch asked.
“ Good. It went good. I left Merced yesterday morning. Something happened before I left.” Joe said. “ There was a gunfighter in the street, right in front of me and a lot of people.”
“ I’m amazed at how people are so quick to kill another over something like cheating at cards.” Scott said.
“ This wasn’t over no card game. A kid about seventeen stood in the street wearing a fancy two holster rig. He stood there waiting and watching the saloon. When the man he wanted walked out, he called him out and tried to gun him down. This other fella, he tried to walk away when he seen it was a kid, hell, he even tried to talk the kid out of it. Told him twice to go home, but the kid drew and shot at his feet. Everything I heard about him is true. He is the fastest. What I want to know is, who hired him? Is someone going to try and steal our herd Murdoch, because if they are, I can’t afford to lose three hundred head of cattle.” Joe said with anger. “ I need the money to pay off my debts in Modesto Murdoch. Or did you hire him to protect our cattle?”
“ Joe, I have no idea who or what you are talking about. Hired who? Who was this gunfighter you seen kill that kid in Merced?” Murdoch asked.
“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid. If you didn’t hire him, then somebody did. Why else would he be all this way north of the border?” Joe asked.
“ Are you sure it was Johnny Madrid you seen?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m positive. The kid called him out. It was a fare fight, but the people in that town ran him out after. Yelling, calling him a killer. He gave that kid every chance to walk away.” Joe explained.
“ Scott, would you go get the letters on my desk?” Murdoch asked “ Joe, listen to me. I didn’t hire Madrid. The letters Scott went to get will explain to you what is going on. You know I’ve been searching for my youngest son Johnny for eighteen years. The Pinkerton’s found hi, in Mexico.” Murdoch explained as Scott walked back in with the letters and handed them to his father. “ Read these.” Murdoch said as he handed the letters to Joe.
Scott walked over to Maria and put an arm around her shoulder.
“ My Juanito, he is coming home.” Maria said softly.
“ It appears so.” Scott responded.
“ Oh my god Murdoch, Johnny Madrid is you son, Johnny Lancer?” Joe said somewhat shocked.
“ Yes. I assure you, he’s not coming here to steal the cattle. He’s coming home, where he belongs.” Murdoch responded.
“ You know, people in the valley, they might not like this. I mean, he is a gunfighter Murdoch. Some might feel it’s a liability to the valley.” Joe explained. “ What if men learn he’s here and they come and call him out, how do you think people in Morro Coyo, Green River or even Spanish Wells are going to feel about that. Some might even refuse to do business with Lancer because they’ll feel intimidated.”
“ We don’t give a damn what other people think.” Scott cut in as he walked back over to the table. “ Johnny is my brother, and he has every right to live here.”
“ I don’t have a problem with it Scott. I know he’s not the cold blooded killer people say he is. Gossip is all they know and believe. Most of the people in this valley wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them in the ass. Perdóname María, lo siento, maldije. ( Pardon me Maria, I’m sorry I cursed.) I believe facts Murdoch. Facts that that letter proves to be true. I seen Madrid, I know.”
“ Mister Carbohaul, how did he look?” Scott asked.
“ Tired, skinny as all get out. Like he hasn’t eaten in a long time skinny. Guess they starved him while he was in that prison. Aah, he could use a shave and bath. Was probably going to get that before he was called out and forced out of town. I’d say he’s a little shorter than you Scott, dark haired, and those blue eyes. I could see them as far away as I was.”
“ Él tiene los ojos de un ángel. Mi Juanito, no es un asesino de sangre fría. El es mi pueblo patrono de Mexico.” Maria said. ( He has the eyes of an angel. My Juanito, he is not a cold blooded killer. He is my peoples Patron saint of Mexico )
“ Patron Saint. Is that like our Robin Hood?” Joe asked.
“ Something like that.” Murdoch responded.
Maria walked over and set two plates down full of scrambled eggs and bacon, and went back to the stove and brought over a plate full of biscuits.
“ Maria, if you ever want a different job, I’d gladly hire you.” Joe said with a smile. “ Or maybe you could teach my cook how to cook. Her scrambled eggs are brown and most of the time the bacon is burned to a crisp.” Joe explained as both Murdoch and Scott busted out laughing.
Madrid sat in the corner of the saloon in Green River, watching everyone who came and went. He’d been there since late morning. Looking at the clock on the wall behind the bar, Johnny made his decision. Standing up, he walked out to his horse, mounted up and headed southeast. The bartender said to get to Lancer he had to take the east road five miles to where it forked and stay right. That that road would take him right to Lancer. What he had learned from the bartender, Lancer was the biggest spread in the San Joaquin valley. One hundred thousand acres of prime land and twenty thousand head of cattle. Having hired out to ranchers in Texas and along the border, Madrid had never seen a ranch being as big as Lancer. The range wars he had hired out to, most of those were just a couple hundred acres at most. Stopping at the fork in the road the bartender told him about, Johnny went to the right and rode until he came to a fence saying Lancer property, keep out. Knowing the main house was south of him, Johnny turned his horse north and followed the fence line up into the hills before he found a place he could enter Lancer property. For three days he rode around the ranch, never being spotted by a hand as he watched. Riding closer to the main house, around midnight he found what he wanted, a hill overlooking all the buildings below. From this vantage point the moon provided just enough light he could see corrals and a barn away from the house. The house, a huge house with a bell tower to warn of fire or approaching trouble. Anger started to build as he looked at the big fancy home his father lived in while he and his mother lived in squalor in run down shacks with barely a roof and always a dirt floor. Going back to his horse, Johnny led the animal over to an oak tree and removed the saddle. The grass was lush and green, so he tied his rope to the animal so it could graze while he slept a couple hours.
Scott rode out the next morning with Frank to check the fencing in the north section before the herd of cattle his father just bought arrived next week.
“ A thousand head huh. That’s a fare amount of beef. How many we taking to Fort Grant?” Frank asked.
“ Four hundred head. Joe Carbohaul is adding three hundred head and extra hands to go with us.” Scott responded as he stopped his horse. “ You hear that?” he asked.
“ Yeah, sounds like a calf bawling.” Frank said.
“ It’s coming from over that way. Let’s check it out.” Scott said as he kicked his horse.
“ Oh stop your damn bellowing. I’m trying to get you out of this damn fence so your mama over there will stop worrying.” Johnny said. “ You got a nasty cut on your leg from the wire. I can put some salve on it when I get you free, and hope your mom don’t charge me.” Johnny said as he got the calf free and scooped it up in his arms. Walking over to his horse, Johnny swung the calf up over his saddle so he could doctor the leg. “ You just stay still while I get my salve out, and you mamma, you stay the hell over there. You go charging me and I’ll put a bullet in your head.” Johnny said as he reached into his saddlebag and pulled out a small jar of salve. “ An old man in Mexico taught me about this stuff. It works real good. That cut will be healed up in no time little one.” Johnny said as he applied the salve to the cut. “ There, now you stay put while I go try and fix that fence so no cows get out.” Johnny said as he put the salve away and led his horse down next to the fence while he did what he could to fix it. “ You know little one, they should hang the man who invented this shit. Barbed wire don’t belong on the range.” Johnny said as he heard horses approaching. Figuring it would be Lancer hands he walked back over to his horse.
Scott and Frank rode up to the man standing next to his horse. “ You got some explaining to do as to why you have a Lancer calf on your horse mister.” Frank said as he aimed his rifle at Johnny.
“ I’m not stealing the calf if that’s what you think, so I suggest if you want to keep on breathing, you aim that rifle somewhere else.” Johnny said.
Scott dismounted and went and looked at the calf. “ Frank, the calf must have got caught in the fence and he pulled it out. It’s got a cut on it’s leg with what appears to be salve on the cut.” Scott said.
“ I was repairing the fence the best I could so no other cows would get out when you rode up. I ain’t no cow thief mister.” Johnny said as he glared at Frank.
“ I’m much obliged to you mister. My names Scott Lancer, this here is my foreman Frank. We’ve had some cattle stolen, so you’ll have to forgive us for thinking wrongly.” Scott said. “ Frank, see what you can do for the fence. You got a name?” Scott asked as he removed the calf and put it on his horse.
Johnny stood there staring at the blonde man a minute before answering. “ Names Madrid, Johnny Madrid.”
Scott almost dropped the calf as he swung it up onto his saddle. “ What name did you say?” he asked as he turned to look at the man.
“ He said his names Johnny Madrid. He’s a gunfighter Scott.” Frank cut in as he walked over to them. “ I’ve heard of you. Why you here Madrid?”
“ I’m just passing through. Thought I would stop and see my old man.” Johnny said, never taking his eyes off Scott.
“ Your old man, and who would that be?” Frank asked.
“ Lay off Frank. He’s my brother.” Scott said.
“ Your brother. Scott have you gone loco? Didn’t you hear what he said his name is?”
“ I heard. You go on up and check the fence in the north range when done here. Me and Johnny will take the calf back to the house for doctoring. The mother should follow us.” Scott said.
“ Scott, are you sure?” Frank asked.
“ Yeah, I’m sure. Go on, I’ll be alright.” Scott said as he mounted up. “ You will follow me won’t you?” he asked Johnny as he started his horse walking toward the ranch.
Johnny swung up in the saddle. So the old man had another son, older than him. Probably from another marriage before his mother. He thought as they rode along in silence, both men lost in thought.
Murdoch walked out of the house headed to the barn when he seen his son riding in with another man he didn’t recognize riding a big bay. Watching as the riders got closer, he noticed the calf across Scott’s saddle, and a cow trailing behind.
“ Cipriano.” Murdoch called as he walked over to them. “ What happened?” he asked.
“ Murdoch, it would seem the calf got caught in the fence and he freed it. It’s got a deep cut on it’s hind leg Cipriano. He put salve on it.” Scott said as he got down and pulled the calf down, handing it it Cipriano. “ That’s the calf’s mother.”
“ Walt, see if you can get her in the corral while Cipriano takes care of the calf.” Murdoch ordered. “ Thank you young man. If you’re looking for a job……”
“ Actually sir, I think the three of us should go in the house and talk.” Scott suggested.
“ Alright.” Murdoch responded as he turned to walk to the house.
Johnny got down and led his horse to the hitch rail outside the veranda doors, and wrapped the rein around it as Murdoch and Scott walked inside. Stopping just outside the opened doors, Madrid glanced around at what he could see inside.
You might as well come on inside. Nobody is going to shoot you.” Scott said. Causing his father to give him a curious look.
Johnny stepped inside the doors and let his eyes adjust. “ My line of work, I can’t be to careful.” Johnny said.
“ You care for a drink?” Scott asked as he went to the sideboard and poured him and his father one.
“ Yeah sure, tequila if you got it.” Johnny responded as he stepped on inside more and looked around at the fancy things decorating the room. A map of Lancer hung on the wall to his left next to a big bay window. A big Lancer L in a circle was above the fireplace. He could only assume that being the Lancer brand. Along another wall was a long table, he assumed would be the dining room table. Behind it were several rows of books from the floor almost to the ceiling.
“ It’s a might early for a drink don’t you think son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t think so. Do you want to tell him, or should I?” Scott responded and asked as he handed Johnny a glass with tequila in it. Getting no response, Scott walked over and handed his father his drink. “ I believe the last time you two seen each other, you were only two years old.”
Murdoch dropped his drink, the glass shattering on the floor as he looked at the young man standing there watching him with a cocky smile on his face.
“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid. Course you know me under a different name old man.” Johnny said coldly. “ The name I had when you threw my mother and me out of this big fancy house of yours eighteen years ago.”
“ Aren’t you going to say anything Murdoch?” Scott asked.
“ Tell me something old man, did it make you feel good to get my mother pregnant with me, marry her, fill her head with lies when you brought her back here only to throw her out two years later?” Johnny asked with coldness before he downed the tequila, and walked over to the sideboard, and poured another.
“ I never threw your mother out of this house. I awoke one morning and found her gone, you along with her.” Murdoch finally managed to say as he walked over to Johnny. “ Your mother was unhappy here, and I didn’t know it. She started seeing another man, a gambler. She ran off with him. I have searched for you for eighteen years.” Murdoch explained. “ As long as you are in this house, you will show me some respect. You can call me anything you like, but I will not stand for being called an old man. Is that understood?”
“ Yeah sure, old man.” Johnny said as he walked over to the desk and noticed the pictures. “ This must be your mother. You got her eyes.” he said as he picked the frame up and looked at the picture. “ He marry her before he got her pregnant, or did he do like he did with my mother?” Johnny asked as he set the picture down.
Scott walked over to the desk. “ My mother died giving birth to me. I would appreciate it if you didn’t speak ill of her.”
“ Died giving birth to you huh. I’m sorry. My mother was beaten to death in front of me, so I guess we were both motherless growing up, and one of us fatherless.” Johnny said as he picked up the picture of his mother.
“ Pardon senor Lancer, Oh senor Scott, I did not expect you to be back. Will you be staying for lunch?” Maria asked when she walked into the room.
“ Maria.” Scott said as he gestured a hand toward Johnny.
Maria looked at Johnny and walked closer. “Madre de dios eres tú, nuestro santo patrón. Mi pequeño Juanito ha vuelto a casa.” Maria said with tears in her eyes. ( mother of god it is you, our patron saint. My little juanito hs come home. )
“ No te conozco señora. No soy el santo patrón de nadie.” Johnny said. ( I don’t know you lady. I’m nobody’s patron saint.)
“ Tú eres mi Juanito, mi Johnny. Te ayudé a liberarte. Yo sabría esos ojos azules en cualquier parte. Etes nendecido con una marca de nacimiento de mariposa en tu cadera derecha si no me crees.” Maria explained ( You are my Juanito, my Johnny. I helped deliver you. I would know those blue eyes anywhere. You are blessed with a butterfly birthmark on your right hip if you do not believe me.)
“ Maria, there will be three of us for lunch.” Murdoch said as he walked over to her. “ Could you leave us alone to talk please?”
“ Si. Today is a blessed day.” Maria said before reaching out and giving Johnny a hug and kissing him on his right cheek before leaving the room.
“ I imagine what she just said comes as somewhat of a shock to you?” Murdoch asked as he sat down at his desk. “ Forgive me for asking this, but where were you, and who contacted you, and what did they tell you?” Murdoch asked.
“ You don’t believe it’s me is that it old man. Okay, you want proof, I’ll give you proof. Yeah I have the birthmark on my right hip. I was in a Mexican prison, actually ready to die in front of a firing squad when a Pinkerton agent named Allen Martin came hustling up in a wagon and paid the Rurales off to not kill me. When I asked him why he was doing it, buying my freedom, he told me who he was and that he worked for you. He also said you had been searching for me for eighteen years. Now, I’m real good at reading people old man, so don’t even think of lying to me. I’ve had enough of that shit in my life.” Johnny said coldly as he walked over to the desk and glared at the man sitting there. The man whose blood flowed through his veins. How come it took you so long to find me?”
“ It took so long to find you because your mother, when she was alive probably kept moving around, hiding from me and the Pinkerton’s. It wasn’t until a couple weeks before you were freed that I learned who you were. Both me and the Pinkerton’s had been searching for Johnny Lancer, not Johnny Madrid.”
“ Did he tell you about me?” Johnny asked Scott.
“ I only learned I had a brother when I came back here last year. I was raised in Boston by my grandfather.” Scott responded.
“ You seem to be real good at letting someone else raise you sons. What’s the matter, you too busy with this big ole ranch that you couldn’t be bothered with two sons, especially one that’s a halfbreed?” Johnny asked.
“ I think you better start keeping a civil tongue in that unprepossessing mouth of yours boy.” Murdoch ordered as he stood up and walked around to face Johnny. “ I know who you became, and it doesn’t scare me one bit. As long as you are in this house you will keep a civil tongue, you will speak in a manner appropriate for around Maria and any other women. I don’t care what you heard, it’s past, bad or good, right or wrong, it’s past and gone. We’re strangers to each other. All I can do is try and be the father to you I never got the chance to be when you were growing up. It’s up to you.” Murdoch said firmly as he glared down at the boy.
“ Okay, lets say I decide to stay, what’s in it for me?” Johnny asked.
Murdoch glanced at Scott who smiled. “ One third.”
“ Of what?” Johnny asked.
“ Everything you see out there.” Murdoch said as he waved an arm toward the big bay window behind his desk. “ One hundred thousand acres, twenty thousand head of beef and the finest Capanero De Palomino’s in the San Joaquin.”
Johnny walked over and looked out the window. “ One third huh? You wouldn’t mind putting that in writing would you. No offense.” Johnny said as he turned and faced the man.
Murdoch walked over and took out a piece of paper from the top desk drawer. “ One third, equal partners, all three of us.” he said as he walked over and handed the paper to Johnny to read. “ Only I call the tune.”
Johnny looked at Scott as he walked over to them. “ Pretty sweet deal. You ready to give up being a half owner?”
Scott nodded. “ I would rather be a third owner with my brother and father, than a half owner.” he said.
“ What do you want from me really?” Johnny asked.
“ What do I want from you? I want your arms, legs and guts if you got any.” Murdoch responded.
“ Arms, legs and guts huh. You must think I’m stupid or something old man. You expect me to believe that you’re willing to make me a third owner of this ranch? Me, Johnny Madrid. I haven’t lived as long as I have by being a fool old man.”
“ Johnny, I assure you, our father’s offer is real. No tricks. The arms, legs and guts he is referring to pertains to the back breaking hard work it takes to run this ranch six days a week.” Scott said. “ I assure you, he does not wish to hire your gun. Murdoch is making you this offer so you no longer have to be a gun for hire. Why is that so hard for you to accept?”
“ Because I’ve been offered before, only it was all a lie. Course they didn’t have no fancy paper written up. Like an idiot, I took the man for his word. I won’t be suckered again.” Johnny responded.
“ Listen, why don’t we eat some lunch now, and after I can show you around the ranch if you want.” Scott suggested.
“ Already seen your ranch. Been on it for three days now.” Johnny said as he removed his hat. “ You need to fix the fence in that south pasture before those cows get out. Also, your line-shack roof is in need of repairs.”
“ If you’ve been on Lancer for three days, one of the hands would have seen you.” Murdoch said as they walked into the kitchen to eat lunch. “ We only eat supper in the dining room.”
“ Your hands didn’t see me because I didn’t want them to see me. Oh, incidentally, you need to keep your elbow closer to your side when you work a lasso, and throw straight, snapping your wrist as you let go.” Johnny said.
“ Thanks. I’ll try and remember that.” Scott said as he sat down.
“ I hope warmed up stew from last night is alright Juanito. Tonight I will fix you a feast. Tamales and stuffed peppers.” Maria said as she set the bowl of stew on the table.
“ Gracias. Mientras esté caliente y picante.” Johnny responded. “ Así que me conociste de bebé,¿eh?” ( As long as it’s hot and spicy. So you knew me as a baby huh?)
“ Si, I knew you and your mother before she left. I have worked for senor Lancer for twenty five years now.” Maria responded.
“ Tal vez algún tiempo podamos hablar de eso?” Johnny asked. ( Maybe some time we can talk about that?)
“ Me gustaria eso.” Maria said with a smile. ( I would like that.)
“ You do realize what you’re setting yourself up for if I stay here?” Johnny said as he reached for a biscuit.
“ No, what.” Murdoch asked.
Johnny couldn’t help but laugh at the old mans response. “ What, those Pinkerton reports didn’t tell you about me? I mean the real me?” Johnny asked.
“ If you mean Johnny Madrid the gunfighter, yes, we know about that.” Murdoch responded.
“ Maybe he means something else sir.” Scott suggested.
“ You read the reports son.” Murdoch said.
Johnny found himself wondering if the old man would ever call him his son. Several times he had said it to Scott since they entered the house. Granted, they just met, but how long would it take for him to say that word, or could he.
“ Look, I’m the best there is. I have a reputation others want, and they will come here and try and kill me for that reputation. If that happens, are you ready to accept that? Are you ready to watch me face another man and possibly get gunned down?” Johnny asked.
“ Reputation?” Scott asked.
“ Where’d you go to school at?” Johnny asked.
“ In Boston. I attended Harvard University. Why?” Scott responded.
“ Well Boston, out here a man lives by or dies by his gun. See, I became the best, and by that I mean the fastest. I bring in the highest money in a range war. My gun ain’t cheap. I’ve never murdered anyone. I’ve always stayed on the side of the law when I hire my gun out. I honed my skills and built my reputation over the years, and unfortunately there are some men out there that want my reputation, and the only way they can get it, is if they kill me.”
“ You’re joking right?” Scott asked.
“ No son, he’s not. I wish he was, but he’s not. That’s the way it is out here.” Murdoch said before Johnny could answer.
“ What ever happened to the code of the west?” Scott asked.
“ Well now you see, you have to do it to them, before they do it to you. It’s just the way it is.” Johnny responded. “ Look, if I get called out and either one of you are with me, stay out of it. I need to focus on whoever called me out. I can’t go worrying about either of you getting in the way and getting me killed.”
“ Now wait a minute. If you think I’m going to stand by and watch some stranger call you out and gun you down, you are sorely mistaken brother.” Scott said.
Almost all his life he had wanted to hear those words. Hear someone call him his brother. Swallowing the lump that came to his throat, Johnny looked down at his plate and refused to look at Scott.
“ So if you’ve seen the ranch over the past three days I believe you said you’ve been here, what would you like to do after lunch then?” Scott asked.
“ Well Boston, this is a working ranch isn’t it? I figured I would go see if that man that was with you fixed that section of fence right so no more cows or calves get caught in the fence.” Johnny responded.
“ My name is Scott, not Boston. I would appreciate it if you would call me that.” Scott requested.
“ Sure thing……….Boston.” Johnny said as he looked up finally and gave a slight smile.
“ Frank has worked for my………our father for many years. He knows how to fix a fence.” Scott said.
“ Apparently he doesn’t if he did that section, because if he had, that calf wouldn’t have gotten through.” Johnny said.
“ And just how do you do fence then……little brother?” Scott asked as he glanced at his father. He could tell the man was enjoying hearing his two son finally together bantering back and forth.
“ When you have calves you do like they do at ranches in Texas. You run the wire closer together and add two or three strands. A cow is the stupidest animal on earth in a leather bag. A horse, now he will put his head over the fence to get to the grass on the other side, not a cow. No sir, that cow will go through the fence if it can. Also, your post are way too far apart. When running cattle you should sink them post every twenty feet, not fifty like in that section.” Johnny suggested.
“ Your brother may be right about that son. Maybe that’s why you are always having to repair that section. Tell Cipriano and Frank to set more post. Remember we have that thousand head coming in next week. I don’t want them getting out. Those are prime Herefords I bought.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Herefords huh. You ever think of cross breeding Black Angus and Herefords? Their temperament is better and they make excellent mothers.” Johnny asked.
“ No. How is it if you don’t mind my asking, you know so much about cattle?” Murdoch asked.
“ I may be a gunfighter old man, but I know a thing or two about ranching, cattle and horses. The best ranches around you’ll find in Mexico, with the best cattle and horses anywhere. I’ve worked for a man named Don Luis Terrazas, in Chihuahua. He has the biggest spread in all of Mexico.” Johnny said. “ I also worked for Sierra Bonita Ranch in Arizona.”
“ I’ve heard of the Sierra Bonita Ranch. It’s down by Fort Grant.” Murdoch said “ It’s said to be one of the finest Ranches in the southwest.”
“ Fort Grant, that’s were we are taking seven hundred head of cattle is it not?” Scott asked.
“ Yes it is. Why?” Murdoch responded and asked.
“ Why is the army buying Lancer cattle when there’s ranches a lot closer to buy from?” Scott asked.
“ You’ve never seen desert cattle have you Boston? They’re scrawny. If the army is buy the old mans cattle, it’s because they want meat to feed all the miners. You see, the ranchers down there, they don’t like the miners. They dynamite the streams and cut off water supply. No water, no cattle. Range wars happen all the time down there. I know, because I’m a gun for hire.” Johnny said.
“ Were a gun for hire. You’re not anymore. Unless you don’t want the offer I made you.” Murdoch said.
“ Let me think on it. Right now I don’t have a better offer.” Johnny said.
“ That’s a good looking bay you’re riding. Had him long?” Scott asked.
“ I didn’t steal him if that’s what you’re thinking.” Johnny said.
“ I wasn’t thinking that at all. Look, I was merely trying to make small talk. That’s all.” Scott said.
“ Not one for small talk Boston. You got something to say, say it. Otherwise it’s not important.” Johnny said. “ If you don’t mind.” Johnny said as he stood up and left.
Scott dabbed at the sides of his mouth and set his napkin down. “ That went well.” he said as he picked up his glass of water.
“ He has a lot of manners he needs to be taught if he is going to live in this house.” Murdoch said. “ I won’t have him calling me old man every time we speak, and he will not be wearing that gun to the supper table anymore.”
“ Wait a minute sir, he needs to learn proper etiquette, but I hardly doubt you will get him to not wear that gun in the house. Not until he feels safe enough to take it off. He’s only been her a couple hours, give him some time before you start slamming him with rules. Remember, he’s been on his own all those years. He’s had to answer to nobody but himself.” Scott suggested.
“ Alright, were you going into Spanish Wells tonight with some of the hands?” Murdoch asked.
“ That was the plan since it’s Saturday. You think Johnny would want to come along?” Scott asked.
“ Why don’t you go ask him……Boston.” Murdoch suggested with a smile.
“ You know, thinking about that, I think I like having a little brother to get on my nerves and call me Boston.” Scott said as he stood up. “ I think I will go catch up to him, I wouldn’t want a hand to shoot him.”
“ Alright son. I’ll see you for supper.” Murdoch said as he leaned back in his chair. Finally, finally he had both his sons home. Though one was wild, he still had them both where he wanted them. It did his heart good to hear Johnny deliberately egg his brother on calling him Boston. Now if he could just get the boy to not call him his old man. Time, that’s what he needed. Time and patience.
Scott rode out and caught up with Johnny. Watching the big bay, and how he stepped, Scott smiled at how well his brother handled the horse. Light on the reins, yet firm enough to keep the horse in control. A trait not many men could do with a headstrong animal.
“ He carries his head good.” Scott said.
“ Yeah, he likes to prance around and show off. He’s a good horse.” Johnny responded. “ So the old man said Lancer has the finest Capanero De Palominos in the San Joaquin here. Know where they run at?” he asked.
“ Black Mesa is where the biggest herd of them I’ve seen run. The stallion is a big fella, bigger than him. His mane hangs down below his neck and his tail drags the ground. He’s as gold as they get with four white socks up to his knees, and the mane and tail as white as can be. Magnificent looking horse.” Scott responded.
“ How many mares he have?” Johnny asked.
“ About hundred or so, not counting the foals and yearlings. I seen them last week in fact. He’s cunning and smart. I was on a rise half a mile away and he spotted he and took off.” Scott said as he stopped his horse. “ Johnny, me and the hands are going into town tonight for some beers and play some cards. I was wondering if you would like to come along since it’s Saturday and we don’t have to work tomorrow?”
Johnny stopped the bay. You think your hands are going to want to have a beer or play cards with me once they know who I am?” Johnny asked.
“ You’re my brother, a Lancer. They won’t say anything, and they won’t know about Madrid, unless you tell them.” Scott responded.
“ Your man Frank, he probably already told them who I am. He wasn’t to keen on me being here remember?” Johnny asked.
“ That’s because he was protecting me Johnny. Look, Frank didn’t know you are my brother.” Scott suggested.
“ So where you going?”
“ Spanish Wells.” Scott responded.
“ Spanish Wells. They got any whores in that town?”
“ There are women to entertain yes. Though I don’t frequent them.” Scott responded.
“ You afraid of me Boston?” Johnny asked as he started riding again.
“ No, should I be?” Scott asked.
“ Maybe. You don’t know me, the old man sure as hell don’t know me, yet the two of you want to make me a third owner of this ranch. I can’t help but wonder why?” Johnny said.
“ You’ve had a pretty rough life haven’t you?” Scott asked.
“ You read the Pinkerton reports so you know.” Johnny responded.
“ Those reports don’t tell everything brother.”
“ Look, I don’t know you okay. I don’t trust easy. I can’t in my line of work. My life has been hard Scott. I’ve been beaten by people who were supposed to protect me. I’ve been beaten by Rurales. I’ve been shot seven times, three times in the back, stabbed four times, beaten with a whip, beaten with a fist while held so I couldn’t fight back. So you tell me why I’m so cautious and find this offer he made so damn hard to believe.” Johnny said as he stopped the bay and got down.
“ The report said you were stabbed when a kid by another kid just to see what color your blood was.” Scott said.
“ Yeah. See, they figured since I had a gringo father and a Mexican mother, they thought maybe my blood was brown like the color of my skin.” Johnny explained as he untied his canteen, removed the cap and took a swig. “ Being a Mestizo in Mexico is the worst thing you can be.”
“ A Mestizo? I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“ Mestizo is just another hate word for halfbreed. See, while you were back in Boston all nice and cozy in your rich grandfathers house, attending all those fancy parties and sweet talking those snobbish rich women, I was in a hell fighting for my life every day.” Johnny explained. “ You know, while I was coming here, I thought about how I was going to kill that old man. I thought about how I could make him pay for throwing me and my mother out.”
“ What changed your mind?” Scott asked.
“ Who says I’ve changed my mind……No, I’m not going to kill him. I got to thinking about something that Pinkerton said to me. He said the old man had been searching for me for eighteen years, and I remembered back to every time we would settle in a new village or town, my mother would move again. Just pack up and run in the middle of the night. I didn’t know why until that night sitting by the campfire. She ran every time the Pinkerton’s got too close to us, and as I sat there, I couldn’t help but wonder why a man who was supposed to have thrown us out, would have Pinkerton agents looking for us.” Johnny explained.
“ How did you know they were hired by Murdoch?”
“ I overheard one once. My mother never told me anything about him except that he was a gringo and that he threw us out because he didn’t want a Mexican whore for a wife or a halfbreed kid for a son. Imagine a little kid thinking his father thought that about him for all those years.” Johnny said.
“ When I was in Boston, I always wanted a little brother. Someone I could protect, do stuff with. I never knew about you until I came home Johnny. I learned about my father when I was looking for something and found a box full of letters from him. Some had been opened, and some had not. I confronted my grandfather about them and left that night catching the train the next morning west. When I confronted him, he told me my father didn’t want me because he had married a Mexican woman. I think he knew about you, and never told me I had a brother.” Scott said. “ I can’t do anything about how I was raised and what you went through growing up. If I could I would, but I can’t. All I can do is try and be the big brother you more than deserve Johnny. Will you give me a chance at doing that?”
Johnny looked as a rider topped the hill and started toward them. “ Yeah Boston, I can give it a try. But I’ll tell ya right now, if you want my respect, you have to earn it. I don’t give it away.”
“ Likewise.” Scott said as Frank rode up.
“ Scott, we have the fence about finished for that thousand head coming in next week.” Frank said as he glanced at Johnny.
“ Take a crew and set post between the ones you have now and add two strands of wire.” Johnny ordered before Scott could respond to what Frank said.
“ I don’t know who you think you are Madrid, but I don;t take orders from you.” Frank said.
“ You will now Frank. Johnny is my brother. The lost son Murdoch has been looking for all those years. When he gives an order, I want it done. Murdoch wants the extra post and wire done, so have a crew start on it right away.” Scott ordered.
“ You’re really Johnny Lancer?” Frank asked.
“ Johnny Madrid Lancer. You have a problem with that?”
“ No, no problem. Scott, you might want to let the other men know so they don’t try and kill this pup.” Frank suggested.
Johnny worked harder than he ever had the past month. Getting up by six every morning six days a week was the hardest part. He knew the old man didn’t like him wearing his gun in the house. He could tell by the frown on his face every morning when he came downstairs with it on, and every evening when they sat down to eat supper. This morning, waking before dawn, Johnny got up and slipped his pants on and shirt and decided to go wake his brother up. Walking to Scott’s room, he opened the door without knocking and walked on in.
Scott stood at the mirror shaving when his back bedroom door opened“ Come right in.” Scott said. “ Sleep well?” he asked.
“ I always sleep well. “ Johnny said as he walked in with his shirt half on.
“ So have you given any thought to signing that paper and becoming a part owner of the biggest spread in the San Joaquin?” Scott asked.
“ You talking about that paper he showed me?” Johnny asked as he walked over and picked up a hat with the side pinned up and a feather stuck in it. “ Let me tell you something about paper………touch a match to it……..burns right up.”
“ You don’t give the old man too much credit do you?” Scott asked.
“ Well I’ll tell ya, I don’t give nobody too much credit. Saves a lot of disappointment.” Johnny said as he tossed the hat down in a chair and walked over to the dresser and picked up a picture and sat down on the bed. “ Well will you look at that. Hey who’s this other officer all smarted up?”
“ General Phil Sheridan. I was in his unit during the war.” Scott responded.
“ You’re very pretty.” Johnny responded.
“ I photograph well.” Scott said as he walked over to sit down and put his boots on.
“ Yeah you are a snappy dresser at that.” Johnny said. “ What kind of a unit did you say that was?”
“ It was the cavalry unit I was in.” Scott responded.
Johnny walked over to the door. “ Look, I tell ya….”
“ Get it said brother.”
“ I just might start trusting you. Especially if you don’t wear those plaid pants outside the house.” Johnny responded before walking out.
“ Morning son.” Murdoch said as Scott walked into the kitchen. “ Your brother up yet?”
“ Yes sir. He was just in my room.” Scott responded as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ I want to start getting the herd ready for the drive. I want you and Frank to go into Green River with the wagon and get the supplies I have on this list for us.” Murdoch said as he handed the list to Scott as Johnny walked into the kitchen whistling softly.
“ Make sure you get plenty of coffee. I don’t want us running out of that if we can help it.” Murdoch instructed. “ You’re in a good mood this morning son.”
Johnny stopped. That was the first time the old man had actually called him his son. “ I slept well last night.” he said as he poured a cup of coffee. “ So when does this cattle drive start?” he asked as he walked over and sat down next to Scott.
“ Joe Carbohaul is finishing up branding and should be ready the end of the month. We’ll start the herd that way when he sends word he’s ready.”
“ He’s sending extra hands to help with his stock?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. Extra hands and a chuck wagon.” Murdoch responded.
“ Who’s going to be the cook on this drive?”Scott asked.
“ I’ll hire a cook. I already put the word out. Cipriano will run the ranch while we are gone.” Murdoch responded.
“ How many men we taking?” Johnny asked.
“ Thirty men and sixty horses, plus whatever Joe has.” Murdoch said.
“ How come we’re driving cows all the way to Fort Grant to sell instead of selling them at the rail head in Sacramento to go back east” Johnny asked.
“ Because people are starving. The Indians have stolen or killed most of the cattle.” Murdoch explained.
“ By Indians, he means Apache, the devil of the desert. They catch ya, they won’t kill ya right away. Apache like to make the white man suffer. He’ll dig a hole, put you in it so just your head is showing, pour honey on your head, and they do this close to a ant hill.” Johnny explained.
“ John, explaining what the Apache does is not necessary. Maria doesn’t need to hear it.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ Just stating the truth old man. Crossing Apache country isn’t going to be no easy task. Especially with seven hundred head of cattle.” Johnny responded.
“ He visto lo que puede hacer el Apache. Son salvajes. Necesitas un buen cocinero para que no te veas flaco.” Maria said as she set a platter of eggs down. ( I have seen what the Apache can do. They are savages. You need a good cook so you don’t get skinny.)
“ No hay nadie que pueda cocinar tan bien como tú mamacita.” Johnny said as he started scooping eggs onto his plate.( There ain’t nobody can cook as good as you mamacita.)
“ Juanito, ya eres muy flaco.” Maria said as she brought a platter of ham over and set it down.( Juanito, you are already too skinny.)
“ Las damas como yo flacas.” Johnny said with a smile.( The ladies like me skinny.)
“ No deberías hablar así.” Maria said as she gave him a swat.( You should not talk like that.)
“ Extrañaré tu cocina mamacita.” Johnny said. ( I will miss your cooking mamacita.)
“ Te haré un banquete cuando vuelvas.” Maria said before walking back over to the stove.( I will fix you a feast when you come back.)
“ We start rounding up the cattle, where we going to keep that many head?” Johnny asked.
“ South Mesa. There’s a line shack there the hands can stay in while doing it. Cipriano will help. I don’t want any cows with a this year at her side going, so son, make sure none get mixed in.” Murdoch suggested.
‘Twice this morning he called me his son’ Johnny thought. “ You feeling alright?” Johnny asked.
“ I feel fine son, why?” Murdoch asked.
“ No reason. I’ll go get the horses saddled and make sure the wagon is hitched up.” Johnny responded as he stood up and walked out of the kitchen.
“ You don’t get it do you sir?” Scott asked after he heard Johnny close the front door.
“ Get what? What did I say wrong to him?” Murdoch asked.
“ It’s not what you said wrong. It’s what you said. Judging from the look on his face, I think this morning is the first time you have called Johnny your son.” Scott responded.
“ I never realized I hadn’t until this morning son. I’m sorry.” Murdoch responded.
“ It’s not me you should be telling that too sir.” Scott said.
“ You’re right.” Murdoch said as he stood up.
Johnny was tightening his cinch when Murdoch walked into the barn. “ Boston ever been on a cattle drive old man?” he asked.
Murdoch sighed as he walked over to the stall. “ Could you call me Murdoch instead of old man please?” he asked.
“ Okay Murdoch, now answer my question. Has Boston ever been on a cattle drive?” Johnny asked as he came out of the stall and went to saddle Scott’s horse.
“ To the best of my knowledge, no he has not. Your brother has only been here a year. I doubt they had cattle drives back in Boston.” Murdoch responded.
“ Okay, then why did you tell me to not say anything about what the Apache can and will do to a white man if he catches him?” Johnny asked.
“ If you want to tell your brother something like that, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s a proper discussion to have when there is a lady present.” Murdoch explained.
“ Maria knows all to well what the Apache can do. She’s no fool Murdoch. You want that eastern dandy brother of mine to survive out here, you better start telling him how it is. This ain’t some dime store novel he’s living. I’ve noticed a lot he does working with him this past month that will get him hurt if he doesn’t stop doing it.” Johnny responded.
“ Like what for instance?” Murdoch asked.
“ Like working with barbed wire without your damn gloves, or getting off his horse with an angry cow nearby.” Johnny said.
“ Your brother is learning the best he can. Surely you can’t expect him to remember everything he has to learn overnight? You didn’t learn to use that gun overnight.” Murdoch asked.
“ That why you came out here, to chew me out for telling the truth Murdoch?” Johnny asked as he tightened the cinch. “ Let me tell you something, I don’t sugar coat anything. I tell it like it is where it will do the least harm. You start sugar coating shit, and the likes of which will stick in your crawl.”
“ No, that’s not why I came out here. I came out here because I realized that until this morning, I never called you my son. I’ve always called you by your name, and for that I’m sorry.” Murdoch responded.
“ You mean Boston pointed it out to you. I’ve been here over a month now. It shouldn’t have taken you that long to realize you hadn’t, but I appreciate you being man enough to owe up to it and apologize.” Johnny said as he led Scott’s horse out of the stall and handed the reins to Murdoch. “ We all make mistakes Old man. The true test is if you’re man enough to owe up to that mistake.” Johnny said as he led his horse out of the stall. “ Why don’t you have Frank and one of the other hands go into town and get the supplies? Scott could learn some roundup skills.” Johnny suggested.
“ I have a better idea, why don’t you and me go into town and get the supplies instead, and your brother help round up the cattle.” Murdoch suggested.
“ You call the tune.” Johnny said as he led the horses outside as Scott walked out of the house.
“ Son, you help round up the cattle with Frank while me and Johnny go to Green River to get the supplies we need.” Murdoch said.
“ Alright.” Scott said as he pulled the list out of his pocket. “ Is everything alright?”
“ Everything is fine son. I just decided to go and have your brother go with me.” Murdoch explained. “ Oh, would you do me a favor and wear your gloves…..Also, watch out for the cows if you get off your horse.” Murdoch added before walking to the wagon.
Johnny went to mount up, only to be stopped by Scott grabbing his arm. “ If you have a problem with something I do, I suggest you talk to me about it instead of reporting it to our father.”
“ I can say the same thing about you.” Johnny said as he jerked his arm free. “ Don’t ever grab me again.” he said coldly before mounting up.
Scott grabbed the reins. “ Look…….I’m sorry. I know I’m new to this ranching business. Maybe you and I could talk tonight in my room after supper. You can tell me what you’ve seen me do wrong because I don’t think the hands are going to do it. Quit frankly, I think they are just waiting for me to fall on my face.”
“ Alright. I’ll tell you what I know, after that, it’s up to you to remember.” Johnny said. “ I’ll see ya.” he added before riding off to catch up with Murdoch in the wagon.
“ This here’s the last of it Murdoch.” Stan said as he carried out a wooden box full of coffee beans.
“ Thanks Stan. My segundo Cipriano will be in charge while I’m gone.” Murdoch said.
“ You don’t have to say another word. Anything they need, they can come in and get it. You be careful and I’ll see you when you get back.” Stan said before waling back inside.
“ Lancer’s a sound investment around these parts huh?” Johnny asked as he too the box from his father and set it in the wagon with the rest of the supplies before covering it up with a tarp and tying it down.
“ Yes, being the biggest ranch in the valley helps.” Murdoch said as he climbed up in the wagon.
“ We got time for a cold beer before we head back?” Johnny asked as he climbed down to finish securing the rope before going and untying the bay.
“ I guess one beer wouldn’t hurt son., but only if you let me buy.” Murdoch said.
“ Deal.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle.
“ Hey Scott, let me ask you something. Is what I heard true that your brother is the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Pedro asked.
“ So what if it is. Johnny’s a good hard worker. I like him. I don’t think it should matter what a man has done in his past as long as he hasn’t broken no laws.” Rob said.
“ And I agree. I was just curious is all. I didn’t mean no disrespect. Hell I like Johnny too.” Pedro responded.
“ Yes my brother is also known as Johnny Madrid. He wants to give that life up and be my brother, and the long lost son of Murdoch Lancer.” Scott said.
“ I heard his mother took him away from here when he was two, man to search eighteen years for your kid, and learn the reason why he couldn’t be found all those years.” Rob said.
“ I heard he was just seconds away from being executed by a Mexican firing squad when the Pinkerton found him.” Pedro added.
“ You sure seem to know a lot about my brother.” Scott said.
“ Hey I’m just repeating what Frank said he learned from someone else in town last Saturday night.” Pedro said.
“ Who?” Scott asked.
“ I don’t know. Some guy I’ve never seen him before. We were playing cards and out of the blue he starts talking about Madrid and asked if any of us had seen him. Frank went to get a beer a little while later and this fella followed him up to the bar. I seen them talking. When they came back to the table, I asked this guy if he knew Madrid personally and he said he did from a long time ago in Texas. You want to know more, go ask Frank.” Pedro responded.
“ Tell me about the guy Pedro.” Scott ordered.
“ I just told you.” Pedro said.
“ His looks, how he wore his gun, any distinguishable scars. The color of his hair, or his eyes.” Scott demanded.
“ Rob, you seen him better than I did when he walked in.” Pedro said.
“ He wore his gun low like Johnny does. It was well kept too. Colt double action it looked like with something silver inlaid in the grip. I remember seeing it when the light hit it from the overhead lantern. He wore a coat like a slicker, but not full length. His hair was somewhat curly, what showed under his hat, dark I think. His eyes though……his eyes were weird. A Grey blue that gave me a weird feeling just looking at the man. He talked with an accent I think…..let me think…….yeah, he had a southern accent.”
“ You have an eye for detail.” Scott said.
“ You think he’s trouble for Johnny?” Pedro asked.
“ I don’t know. I’ll talk to Johnny about him tonight. Don’t mention this guy to anyone else okay, and don’t ask Frank about him either.” Scott requested.
“ Sure Scott, no problem.” Pedro and Rob said as Frank rode up.
“ Just because your Lancer’s pup don’t give you the right to sit around and not work. Get your ass after those cows that went up that wash. You two, get over there and start them toward South Mesa.” Frank ordered.
“ Go ahead Pedro……Rob.” Scott said. “ Let me tell you something Frank, you are not in charge out here, I am. Don’t you ever speak to me like that again.” Scott ordered after Pedro and Rob rode off.
“ Or what, you gonna have that halfbreed brother of yours shoot me?” Frank asked.
“ I suggest you remember who it is you are talking to Frank.” Scott said as he tried to remain calm.
“ An eastern tenderfoot who has no business out here. Go back to Boston.” Frank said before turning his horse and galloping off.
Murdoch drove the wagon into the yard late afternoon and got down. He enjoyed spending the day with his youngest son. Though Johnny didn’t talk much the whole trip or while they had a cold beer, he still enjoyed the day. Climbing down as Cipriano walked over.
“ I spoke to Stan at the general store and he said any time you need something for the ranch to just come in and sign for it.” Murdoch stated
“ Thank you senor Lancer. I need to have a word with you about senor Frank, if I may?” Cipriano responded.
“ Alright, come inside.” Murdoch responded.
“ I’ll take care of the team Johnny if you want to take care of your horse.” Jeff suggested.
“ Hey Jeff, has Scott come back yet?” Johnny asked.
“ No, not yet.” Jeff responded as he unhitched the team.
Murdoch walked over to the sideboard and poured two drinks and offered one to his segundo. “ Now what’s this about Frank?”
“ Gracias senor.” Cipriano said as he took the offered drink. “ It is how he has been acting around your son. Things he has said to the other men.”
“ I know Scott forgets…..”
“ Excuse, but it is not about Senor Scott. It is about Johnny. Ever since he comes home, Frank has said things that are not right. A couple of the men have noticed this also, and they are concerned for Johnny’s safety senor.”
“ Frank’s been with me a couple years now. Are you sure about this?” Murdoch asked.
“ I wish I was not, but it is true. He has a problem with Johnny being here.” Cipriano said.
“ Who has a problem with me being here Cipriano?” Johnny asked from the foyer as he stepped down into the grand room.
“ Thank you Cipriano. I’ll take care of it.” Murdoch said.
“Te hice una pregunta. ¿ Quién tiene un problema con que yo etsé aquí?” Johnny asked as he walked over to Cip. ( I asked you a question. Who has a problem with me being here?)
“ Johnny, I’ll handle it.” Murdoch said. “ Go on back to work Cipriano.”
“ Just because you call the tune, that don’t give you no right to interfere in my life. If someone has a problem with me being here, I have a right to know who it is and why!” Johnny said firmly.
“ When I know more about this situation, if it is true, then I will be the one handling it. Is that clear?” Murdoch asked.
“ So what you gonna do now old man, you gonna fight all my battles for me now?” Johnny asked sarcastically. “ I’ve been taking care of myself most of my life, I don’t need you handling my affairs.”
“ I wasn’t in most of your life son, so I will fight any battles I have to fight to keep you safe. So I suggest you get used to it.” Murdoch responded.
“ I’m going to go clean up.” Johnny said before turning and heading toward the stairs. “ You might want to remember, I haven’t signed that agreement yet.” he added before going upstairs.
Scott rode into the yard with Frank, Pedro and Rob. Dismounting he handed his horse to Pedro. “ Take care of him for me would you, Frank, would you please come with me to the house.” Scott ordered.
“ You got something to say to me boy, you say it here and now, otherwise go eat your fancy cooked meal with your pa and gunfighter brother.” Frank responded.
Scott stepped closer to the man. “ When I ask you to do something, I expect it to be done. Now I asked you nicely.”
“ I don’t care how nice you ask boy. I ain’t coming with you.”
Scott grabbed Frank by his shirt and pulled him to him. “ You got two choices, one, you can walk up to the house with me, or two, this boy is going to teach you some manners.”
“ Scott, let him go.” Murdoch ordered as he walked up. “ Go take care of your horse with Pedro and Rob while I have a talk with Frank.”
Scott let go of Frank and shoved him back a little before hitting the man square in the mouth. “ You ever disrespect me or my brother again and I’ll finish this.” Scott said as he glanced up and seen his brother watching from his bedroom window, before heading to the barn.
“ You’ve worked for me for a couple years now. Would you mind telling me why you have a problem with my sons?” Murdoch asked.
“That one needs to go back to Boston before he gets someone killed. He’s got no business being here.” Frank said firmly.
“ I see, and the fact that he’s my son has no bearing on the matter, is that it?” Murdoch asked. “ What about my other son, Johnny. Should he have been put to death by that Mexican firing squad for trying to help innocent people stand up against wrong doing?”
“ He’s nothing but a killer. Hell the men are afraid to work with him. They don’t want him here. He’s trouble and he will bring trouble to the ranch.” Frank responded.
“ I see….Well since the name of this ranch is Lancer, and Scott and Johnny are both my sons, I say they have every right to be here, You on the other hand are fired. I have your final pay right here. I want you off Lancer property and don’t ever come back.” Murdoch ordered as he pulled money from his pocket and handed it to the man. “ I never thought you of all people would be this way toward my sons coming home Frank.” Murdoch added.
“ That killers days are numbered, and you know what, I’m going to enjoy watching him die.” Frank said before turning, mounting up and riding away.
Murdoch turned and seen his youngest standing at his window. He knew Johnny had heard everything that had been said. Sighing, he walked back to the house.
Johnny came downstairs just as his father entered the house. “ That him?” he asked.
“ Yes son, that’s him. I never thought Frank would be like that. He’s worked for me for a couple years now.” Murdoch responded.
“ Sooner or later a person always shows their true color old man. No you know why I don’t trust so easy.” Johnny said as Scott walked inside.
“ The three of us need to have a talk.” Scott said as he walked over to the sideboard and poured three drinks.
“ I fired Frank son, so there’s no need…….”
“ I’m afraid there is sir. Something happened last Saturday night, Pedro and Rob told me about it this afternoon. Brother, do you know a man who wears a duster like coat, dark curly black hair? He wears his rig like you, carries a colt double action with something silver inlaid in the grip. His eyes were Grey Blue and he talked with a southern accent?”
Johnny ran a hand through his hair as he turned and walked over to the window to look out. “ You sure about the description?”
“ Rob and Pedro played cards with him. Said he was real interested in talking about you.” Scott responded. “ Said he talked with Frank for a few minutes at the bar and then said nothing more about you when he came back to the table.”
“ Do you know this man son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, I know him. He’s a gunfighter, a damn good one too.” Johnny responded. “ Why the hell he’s all the way out here is what I can’t figure out.”
“ Johnny, could he be here to try and kill you?” Scott asked as he walked over to him.
Johnny glanced at his father, then looked at Scott. “ Possibly, though I don’t know why. He’s a different type of gunfighter. He only goes where the money is. He don’t hire out like I did to range wars or to try and help a village in Mexico. If he’s here, somebody with a lot of money brought him here.”
“ Did the two of you ever cross paths in your line of work son?” Murdoch asked.
“ No, he worked Louisiana area mostly. I was in Arkansas once and seen him in a saloon. We had a beer, talked some and that was it. I left the next day with the man I was hired to protect to Austin.”
“ Do you know his name?” Murdoch asked.
“ Dalton.” Johnny responded.
“ I know you heard what was said outside with Frank, and I don’t want you to believe any of it brother. The hands like you. Pedro and Rob like you a lot.” Scott said.
“ Thanks. Look, I’ve dealt with people hating me my whole life. I don’t let it bother me anymore. If I do, then I’m as good as dead.” Johnny said.
“ I think I’ll go wash up for supper.” Scott said as he headed to the stairs.
Johnny sat looking out his window when he heard a lite knock at his door before it opened. “ Can I come in?” Scott asked. When he got no reply, he walked in and closed the door. “ I think me and you need to have a brother to brother talk!”
“ I already told you all I know about that man Scott.” Johnny responded.
“ I didn’t come up here to talk about Slade. I came to talk to you about the drive coming up. I thought that since you’ve been on one, you could give me some pointers.” Scott suggested.
“ Sure. What do you want to know?” Johnny asked.
“ What will it be like?” Scott asked as he walked over and sat down on the bed.
“ Dusty as hell. A cow will lose a pound of weight a mile if the pace is to fast, and that’s money out of our pocket. That’s why at night, you try to stop where they have grazing and water. Some place they’ll bed down at for the night with less chance of wandering off.”
“ Rob mentioned a stampede he seen once.” Scott said.
“ If those cows stampede, It’s best to try and turn them into themselves to stop them. A cow will spook at just the sound of a nighthawk or an owl. Hell in the daytime they could spook from a rattler. Just remember this, if they spook, never ride into the center of the herd. Pray your horse don’t go down and try to keep them tightly together. Don’t try and rope any of them thinking that will stop ’em. All that will get you is dead. It’s like when we work them in a pasture or move them here. Only real difference is out there, there won’t be no fence, not that it would stop them anyway.” Johnny explained.
“ So, what about at night. What do we do?” Scott asked.
“ Several hands will work night shift for so many hours and then switch off with someone else. You never leave the herd unguarded at night. The worst part of a trail drive is riding the drag. Everybody will have to do it, and nobody likes it.” Johnny explained.
“ Drag, that’s at the back of the herd isn’t it?” Scott asked.
“ You got it. The remuda will be at the side out away from the herd. Usually close to the chuck wagon.” Johnny said.
“ You know, forgive me for saying this, and I hope you don’t take it the wrong way brother, but you are no fool. You may not have an education like me, but you are smart. I wish I knew just half the things you do.”
Johnny laughed. “ No you don’t Scott. You see, I learned my lessons the hard way.” Johnny said.
“ Tell me something brother. Where you born that cynical?” Scott asked.
“ No. Do you know the difference between a shotgun and a pistol?” Johnny asked.
“ It’s pretty obvious.” Scott responded.
“ A shotgun is just window dressing. Nothing like the sight of a scatter gun to show you mean business.” Johnny said as he walked over and pulled his colt out of the holster. “ This one, this is the hit or miss kind of gun. Gives you a little hope, but not always. You stand up to it, you figure maybe you got a chance.” Johnny said as he handed his colt to him. “ A scatter gun wipes a whole street.”
“ And this kind separates the men from the boys?” Scott asked as he held Johnny’s colt.
“ Now you’re learning brother. You know, with a little work, I think I could make a professional out of you.” Johnny said.
“ I think maybe you could brother.” Scott said as he looked at the colt. “ You seem to be missing a sight.”
“ I filled it off. It gives me a faster draw. The trigger is honed down too.” Johnny said as he went and got his holster. “ I cut away part of the holster here to allow me to clear leather faster.”
Scott handed the colt back to Johnny. “ I must say, this has been a very educational talk brother. Thank you.” Scott said as he stood up.
“ Listen, I’ll do everything I can to help you during the drive.” Johnny said.
“ Alright. I’ll see you in the morning.” Scott said as he walked to the door, opened it and walked out with a smile on his face, because tonight, another had been made between the brothers.
Joe Carbohaul rode into the Lancer yard and dismounted as Murdoch walked outside with Johnny and Scott.
“ Joe, come on inside.” Murdoch said.
“ Thanks.” Joe said as he followed Murdoch inside.
“ How’s the round-up coming?” Scott asked.
“ Actually that’s why I’m here.” Joe said as he looked at Johnny. “ I had two men ride up to my house the other day. He warned me to not put my cattle with yours for the drive.”
“ What, who were they?” Murdoch asked.
“ The one man works for you,his name is Frank, the other man I’ve never seen before. They said that if my cattle join yours, they would never make it to Fort Grant and neither would I.” Joe responded. “ Look, I don’t know what you are trying to do Murdoch, hiring another gunfighter, but I won’t lose my ranch, not because of you, and certainly not because of him and his friends. You want to threaten me, do it now Johnny. Don’t send your friends to do your dirty work.”
“ What the hell are you talking about Joe? Johnny would never do something like that. He has just as much at stake as the rest of us on that herd making it to the fort.” Murdoch demanded.
“ Frank.” Johnny said.
“ It has to be. If the other man is Dalton.”
“ Did the other man wear a rig like mine, but have silver inlay on the grip?” Johnny asked.
“ Yeah. He made sure I seen it…….right before he killed one of my hands. Said that was compliments of Johnny Madrid, and a warning to me from you.” Joe said.
“ Joe, I fired Frank a couple weeks ago. This other man, Dalton rode into town last month and started asking questions about Johnny when Frank and a couple other hands were in town playing poker. I assure you, Johnny had nothing to do with this.” Murdoch said.
“ Mister Carbohaul, you have my word, I had nothing to do with what happened at your place.” Johnny said.
“ Murdoch, I told you I will lose my ranch if I don’t sell these cows at that price. What are we going to do about this?” Joe asked.
“ Why would Frank and this man tell him this Johnny?” Murdoch asked.
“ Like I should know. Look, I told you all I know about Dalton. Somebody with a lot of money brought him here. There’s no way Frank could afford him.”
“ Just how much money are we talking?” Scott asked.
“ Expenses to come all the way from Louisiana, plus doing the job, at least five big ones. Like I said, Dalton isn’t cheap.” Johnny responded.
“ Okay, that narrows it down. Which ranchers in the valley can afford to hire someone like Dalton for that kind of money?” Scott asked, looking at his father.
“ None of the ranchers in the valley would do that. It has to be someone outside the valley.” Murdoch said.
“ None of the ranchers around here are mad that Lancer got the deal to sell cattle to the army at forty dollars a head?” Johnny asked.
“ Every rancher in the San Joaquin had the same opportunity as Lancer did to bid on the contract. Lancer is the only one that can provide the number of cattle they need.” Murdoch responded.
“ What about McCalls Crossing?” Johnny asked.
“ McCalls Crossing, where’s McCalls Crossing?” Scott asked.
“ It’s about fifty miles south of here. There’s two ranchers down there, Dan Marvin’s M brand and Toby Jenks Bar Cross they’re both big enough ranches.” Johnny responded.
“ I know both those ranchers son, neither one of them would do this.” Murdoch responded.
“ Well somebody is, and that somebody is trying to use me as the downfall old man. So you better figure it out.” Johnny ordered before leaving the room.
“ I’m sorry Murdoch, I……I was wrong about Johnny.” Joe said. “ After what I witnessed him do in Merced, I should have known he wouldn’t do something like that.”
“ It’s alright Joe. With his past, people are bound to think wrong of him.” Murdoch responded.
“ Well, I’ll see you in a few days then where we agreed to meet up.” Joe said as he headed to the door.
Scott stood there and waited until Joe had left before turning on his father. “ Where the hell do you get off saying that about Johnny?” he demanded.
“ Don’t you dare raise you voice and speak to me like that.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Don’t speak to you like that, but it’s alright for you to belittle your own son in front of that man. I’m just glad Johnny wasn’t in here to hear you talk that way of him.” Scott said with anger. “ His past has nothing to do with this. Whoever is doing this, is using my brother to get to you. This is about you, not Johnny, and not his past.” Scott said before turning and storming out of the house.
“ You got heavy steps brother.” Johnny said softly.
“ Joe apologized Johnny.” Scott said as he walked over and sat down in the rose garden.
“ Yeah. I bet the old man don’t, I mean, someone with my past people are going to think wrong of me. I believe were his exact words he said.” Johnny said softly.
“ Johnny, I’m sorry. He had no right to speak of you like that.” Scott said.
“ It’ll only get worse once I sign that agreement Scott. My past is going to keep him from treating me like a son.” Johnny said.
“ Don’t talk like that Johnny. You two have been getting along. Murdoch was way out of line saying what he did.”
“ No he wasn’t. All my life I’ve put up with people like him. People are real quick to judge a man on appearance when they don’t know them. Why should he be any different.” Johnny responded.
“ Because he’s your father. He’s supposed to defend you.” Scott said.
“ You did a pretty good job of that. I didn’t think you would ever lose your temper to him. For what it’s worth, thanks.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ Somebody with a lot of money brought Dalton here.”
“ Yes they did, and it has to do with our father and Lancer, not you.” Scott replied. “ Somebody out there has it in for him.”
Murdoch stood in the shadows listening to his sons talk. He knew what he said to Joe about Johnny was wrong, and wished he hadn’t, and really wished his son hadn’t heard him say it. They had become close the short time his son has been back home, and now all that may be destroyed.
“ You gonna stand in the shadows eavesdropping all afternoon old man?” Johnny asked.
Murdoch stepped out of the shadows. “ How did you know I was there?”
“ You got heavier footsteps than he does.” Johnny said as he started to walk away.
“ Son wait, please. I would like to talk to you.” Murdoch pleaded.
“ I think you did all your talking inside. There’s nothing more to talk about.” Johnny responded.
“ Yes there is. What I said to Joe was wrong. I never should have said it, and for that I’m sorry.” Murdoch said.
“ You better start thinking about who the hell has it in for you old man, because this has nothing to do with me.” Johnny said.
“ I have no idea who it could be son. I wish I did, but I don’t.” Murdoch responded.
“ You can’t think of anyone from the California Cattle Growers Association who might do this?” Scott asked.
“ No I don’t.” Murdoch responded.
“ What about Porter? After all he was voted out as President because of you.” Johnny said.
“ Porter was voted out because of me yes, but that had nothing to do with this cattle drive that starts in a couple days.”
“ He may want Lancer to fail.” Johnny suggested.
“ Maybe he wants the land. Doesn’t Porter have land in Modesto also?” Scott asked.
“ Yes, but I still don’t think he’s behind this. I don’t think he has that kind of money to spend on a gunfighter.” Murdoch responded.
“ Maybe it’s not anyone in California. Maybe it’s a rancher in Arizona.” Johnny suggested.
“ It could be. There is a ranch in Arizona seven times bigger than Lancer.” Murdoch responded.
“ Why doesn’t the army get cattle from him then instead of us in California?” Scott asked.
“ Because the man won’t sell his cattle for less than seventy dollars a head.”
“ People not that far from him are starving to death and he’s more concerned about making money, than saving lives.” Scott said with anger.
“ It’s hard to understand son, but with a spread as big as his, he has to think like I do about covering cost and what he would lose.” Murdoch explained.
“ It’s like Dalton. He came here for five thousand dollars to try and keep us from making it to Fort Grant, where if it was me, and I wasn’t a Lancer, I would hire out for a job like that at a thousand, maybe fifteen hundred.” Johnny explained.
“ You hire your gun out at………You would actually do that………….. Keep a man from selling his cattle?” Murdoch asked.
“ I never broke the law old man. I always hired out to the right side. When you want the best, you have to pay for it.” Johnny responded.
“ Whoever is behind this, maybe it’s not the cattle making it to Fort Grant. Maybe it’s more personal.” Johnny suggested.
“ You mean someone who wants to maybe see me or Lancer fail?” Murdoch asked.
“ Could be. Who would hate you so much, that they could and would spend that kind of money?” Johnny asked.
“ My grandfather.” Scott suggested out of the blue, causing both Murdoch and Johnny to look at him in shock.
“ Son, I haven’t for one second thought your grandfather would be behind this.” Murdoch said.
“ I know that sir. I also know how angry he was when I confronted him the night before I left to come here. I think he is the one responsible for this.” Scott responded.
“ There’s no chance of Frank knowing your grandfather. So how did he meet this Dalton?”Murdoch asked.
“ From what Pedro and Rob said, Frank acted like he didn’t know him. At least not at first, but now that you mention it, it is a little odd that Frank would talk to the man when he was at the bar getting another beer, and then the guy doesn’t ask about Madrid anymore.” Scott responded.
“ Maybe one of us should stay here.” Johnny suggested.
“ You mean instead of going on the drive son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah. Look, I know you’re leaving Cipriano in charge, but Lancer will be shorthanded what thirty hands or so. What if Dalton tries something here, and not out on the drive?” Johnny asked.
“ What’s one of us staying here going to prevent? Lancer will still be shorthanded.” Scott responded.
“ Nobody is staying here. I will need both of you with me. If…….and I say if this man Dalton was hired by Harlan Garrett, he will try something out on the trail. Remember, he threatened Joe to not put his cattle with ours. That right there says he will try something between here and Fort Grant.”
“ Nine hundred miles and seven hundred cattle. It sure won’t be a dull cattle drive that’s for sure.” Scott said.
“ I think I’ll ride out and see how the herd is coming. Care to take a ride with me Murdoch?” Johnny asked.
“ I’d like that son. Scott, we should be back by supper time. Could you finish the ledger for me? I was entering the receipts from the drive purchase.” Murdoch asked.
“ Alright. I’ll see you in a few hours.” Scott said before turning to head inside.
“ I’d say we have been going about the right pace with the herd.” Scott said as he sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee and plate of bacon, beans and biscuits.
“ The right speed son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, why’s the right speed so important Scott?” Pedro asked.
“ A cow will lose a pound a mile at the speed we are traveling. Bedding them down at night were they have good grazing gives them a chance to gain the previous days weight loss back. Any weight a cow loses in a drive because it’s being driven to hard or fast, that’s money out of Lancer’s pocket.” Scott said as he glanced at Johnny across the fire.
“ I gotta hand it to you Boston, you’re getting pretty smart being around cows all the time.” Johnny said with a wink.
“ Why thank you brother. Having a good teacher helps.” Scott responded.
“ Johnny, I want you taking the midnight guard with Walt, Rob, Pedro and Jose.” Murdoch ordered. “ Joe will have some hands out also watching over the herd.” he added.
“ How far are we from crossing into Arizona?” Scott asked.
“ About a day. There’s a place I crossed just down from Parker Landing. Steamboats run up and down the river delivering supplies so crossing the cattle and chuck wagons might be tricky.” Johnny said.
“ Any chance of running into trouble when we cross there son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t think so. There’s a fort there to protect the miners and supplies brought in by the steamships.” Johnny said. “ Since I have the midnight guard, I think I’ll try and get some sleep.” Johnny said as he stood up.
“ I’ll see you in the morning brother.” Scott said.
“ How many head of cattle you have?” Captain Greeley asked.
“ Seven hundred head of cattle, two chuck wagons and about one hundred horses.” Murdoch responded.
“ These cattle, you’re taking them to Fort Grant?” Captain Greeley asked.
“ Yes. I have a letter here from Colonel James H. Carleton of the First California Column. Miner’s and settlers are starving to death Captain. The Apache have depleted their food supply.” Murdoch responded.
“ The letter isn’t necessary Mister Lancer. You look like a man of your word. How long will it take you to get all the cattle and horses across?”
“ Most of the morning I’d say. I would like the two chuck wagons to cross first, followed by the horses and then the cattle.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Your chuck wagons won’t be able to cross. The channel in the middle is too deep and the current to strong. We can take them across on the ferry one at a time. Have them here at first light. I have two steamships making deliveries tomorrow afternoon. I want your cattle across by the time they get here.” Captain Greeley requested. “ Where is your herd now?”
“ About two miles from here.” Murdoch responded.
“ Bring them to a half mile from the camp for the night. Sergeant Muldane pass the word to the men about the herd coming in that will be crossing in the morning.”
“ Yes sir.” the Sergeant said before turning and walking away.
“ You do know the Apache will be watching you. They hit a settlement three nights ago and killed the whole family.” Captain Greeley said. “ There’s not too much me and my men can do for you once you cross the river.”
“ I thought Indians only attacked during the daytime?” Murdoch asked.
“ Usually they do, but I think the Apache is getting desperate as more of the white man comes west. Time was, they didn’t bother the few settlers that were here. They even traded with them for basic things they could use.”
“ Thank you Captain Greeley. I appreciate your time. We’ll try and get the cattle across as quickly as possible tomorrow.” Murdoch said as he started to mount his horse.
“ Mister Lancer, not many ranchers would do what you’re doing. I know because I’ve asked several around these parts. All they care about is making a profit at the expense of human life.”
“ I’m a rancher Captain Greeley, making a profit is natural, but I couldn’t sleep at night if I didn’t help people who are starving to death. That….is the difference between me and those other ranchers.” Murdoch said before mounting his horse.
“ Oh, one more thing. I would make sure your water barrels and canteens are full. It might be a few days before you find enough water for the herd.” the Captain added.
“ Sounds like this Captain Greeley isn’t real happy we’re doing this?” Joe said.
“ I think the man is afraid the Apache will get the cattle and horses.” Murdoch responded.
“ What about Apache activity? Did he say anything about that?” Walt asked.
“ He said a settlement was hit in the middle of the night three nights ago across the river. Everyone was killed.” Murdoch said.
“ That’s not Apache then. Look Murdoch, I’ve spent my life down around the borders. Apache will not attack at night. It’s a bad omen. No Indian will attack at night.” Johnny cut in.
“ Any why’s that?” Joe Carbohaul asked.
“ An Indian may be a savage as we like to call them, but they are very superstitious. They fear the ghost of the dead and believe they resent the living. They bury corpse swiftly and burn the deceased house and possessions.” Johnny explained.
“ I thought they buried their dead up on platforms above ground so the spirit can reach the sacred ground?” Scott asked.
“ If you read that in a book, it’s wrong brother. Apache only bury their deceased above ground if the ground is too hard to dig a grave in. If they bury them in a shallow grave, or one that is just covered up by a big rock, they put them in and move the rock or even a tree stump back in place and place stones around the base to keep the coyotes out. They then sprinkle ashes and pollen around the grave starting at the southwest corner, it’s a prayer that the soul would safely enter the O’zho, heaven.” Johnny explained.
“ How is it you know so much about the Apache?” Joe Carbohaul asked.
“ The Apache is like most other Indians. They just want to live in peace on their land and not have the white man tell them they can’t.” Johnny held up his left arm, revealing several blue beaded bands around his wrist. “ I was saved by Yaqui Indians, who like the Apache are a fierce but noble breed just trying to survive.”
“ Would you care to elaborate on that son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Working a job in Sonora, they saved my life. Their medicine man said I should have died, but my will to live and a strong spirit proved him wrong. These are supposed to ward off evil spirits from me.” Johnny explained.
Murdoch cringed at hearing what his son was saying. “ How old were you?” he asked.
“ Fifteen.” Johnny responded.
Murdoch stood up and looked at his son, hurt in his eyes. “ I’m sorry.” he said softly before walking away.
“ It hurts him to know you went through what you did, and he couldn’t protect you from it.” Scott said.
“ What’s done is done. The sooner he accepts that, the better off we will all be.” Johnny said before walking to his horse, mounting up and riding out to the herd.
“ Walt, I want you and Rob to go across with the chuck wagons. Make sure all the water barrels are full. I want all canteens full before we leave the river. The Captain said it might be a few days before we reach water again.” Murdoch ordered. “ We’ll start the horses across down from the ferry with the last wagon.”
“ Sure thing Mister Lancer.” Walt responded before getting off his horse, and leading it over to the loading ramp.
Johnny rode over to Scott. “ I smelled smoke last night. I think Frank and Dalton are trailing us.” Johnny said.
“ Have you told Murdoch?” Scott asked.
“ No. Listen, when all the cattle get across and we start moving, I’m gonna hang back. If someone is following us, I want to know who.” Johnny responded.
“ Why not leave word with the Captain?” Scott asked.
“ Because I don’t want whoever it is knowing we know they’re there. The element of surprise works good.” Johnny said.
Around mid-day the last of the herd crossed the Colorado river into Arizona. Both Johnny and Scott brought up the rear as their drenched horses climbed the soaked bank up out of the river. “ How far you recon we have to go?” Scott asked as the two got off their horses to check their cinches.
“ Less than four hundred miles.” Johnny said as Walt rode up to them.
“ Mister Lancer wants to see the two of you.” Walt said.
“ Let me have that spyglass thing you have.” Johnny said as he mounted up. “ Keep the herd moving toward that cut in the mountains ahead. It’s a real easy pass to go over and there’s good water and grazing on the other side at a place called Alamo Lake.”
“ What do you want me to tell him?” Scott asked as he removed the spyglass from his saddlebag.
“ The truth. I’ll be back either tonight or in the morning.” Johnny said before turning his horse and riding north.
“ Be careful brother.” Scott said before heading to the front of the herd, leaving a couple of other hands to ride drag. “ He knew his father would not be happy with what Johnny was doing alone, but he could understand that one man stood a better chance of not being seen, and something told him that his little brother was very good at not being seen.
“ Where’s your brother?” Murdoch demanded as Scott rode up with Walt.
“ He rode out to check on something. Said he would be back either tonight or in the morning.” Scott responded.
“ He did what? Damn that boy. He knows this area and can tell us the best way to go with that mountain range ahead.” Murdoch responded with anger.
“ Johnny told me which way to go.” Scott said. “ That cut in the mountain range is a pass. Johnny said it’s real easy to go over and there will be ample water and graze for the stock at a place called Alamo Lake.”
“ That boy needs to learn he’s not alone anymore. He can’t just take off whenever he wishes. He has a responsibility to me and this herd.” Murdoch said.
“ My brother is being responsible for you and this herd. He rode out because someone is following us. He knows how to take care of himself.” Scott snapped back.
“ It’s a foolish thing for him to do alone. He should have told me. I am the boss on this drive after all.” Murdoch responded.
“ You’ve made that quit clear that you call the tune, but not out here. You go trying to order Johnny around instead of asking him, and you will be the reason he leaves, and quit frankly, if my brother does leave, I will be leaving with him.” Scott said before turning his horse and going back to ride drag.
“ Both your sons are like you.” Walt said.
“ They’re nothing like me Walt.” Murdoch said.
“ Yeah they are. They’re both stubborn and headstrong just like their old man. You should be proud of that instead of angry.” Walt said before turning his horse and going back to ride with Scott.
Johnny eased his horse up a draw to an advantage point in the Buckskin Mountains were he knew he could see for miles, anyone who crossed the river. “ Sorry boy, no grazing up here.” Johnny said as he got down and loosened the cinch before removing his rifle, canteen and the spyglass. “ He knew if anyone or anything came around, the horse would let him know. Staying low, he moved over to a rock foundation and sat down. Beef jerky in his coat pocket would be supper tonight for him if whoever was trailing the herd didn’t cross until morning.
The sun now starting to set on the horizon, Johnny watched as about a dozen riders crossed the river north of Camp Parker. Looking through the spyglass, he could clearly see Frank and Dalton out in front. Seeing the men stop and make camp just as the sun sank below the horizon, Johnny decided he would ride back to the herd now. There was still enough light his horse could see to get down to the valley floor.
Murdoch stood looking out into the darkness, hoping to hear his youngest riding in as the last rays of light disappeared from the sky.
“ He’s alright.” Joe said as he walked up to his friend. “ Johnny knows how to take care of himself.”
“ I should have sent someone after him so he wasn’t alone.” Murdoch said.
“ It’s hard for you to accept isn’t it?” Joe asked.
“ What?” Murdoch responded.
“ The fact that he’s grown up without you, and knows how to take care of himself. I know I would be the same way if my boy had lived to see his age.” Joe responded. “ It’s what a parent does, worry about their children.”
“ I told Scott his brother is irresponsible. What kind of father says that about his own child Joe?” Murdoch asked.
“ A father who never got the chance to be a father. You and Johnny are still learning each other. From what I’ve seen, you need to learn to have more faith in that boy. Trust him more on what he does.” Joe suggested.
“ I’m not that way with Scott. I have no trouble trusting him.” Murdoch said.
“ You think maybe that’s because of Scott’s upbringing? I mean, he grew up in Boston, and was taught all the proper things a young man should know, where Johnny had to learn what he knows on his own. Maybe that’s the problem Murdoch.” Joe suggested.
“ He hasn’t even reached his majority yet, and he’s been through so much. What those Pinkerton reports say has been done to him……I just can’t believe my son has had to endure that kind of treatment.” Murdoch responded.
“ Well, I know from what I witnessed in Merced, Johnny is a good person. He’s not a cold blooded killer like some people say. He gave that kid every chance to walk away. I still feel ashamed for thinking he could be responsible when Frank and that Dalton character came to my ranch.” Joe said.
“ You had every right to be upset Joe. You had no way of knowing Johnny wasn’t responsible. What I said about it being bound to happen with someone with his past, that was wrong of me to say, and the sad part is, Johnny heard me.” Murdoch said.
“ You two are so much alike. You’re bound to have disagreements or fights Murdoch. Johnny is a third owner in the ranch. That should tell you he wants to stay and be your son.” Joe suggested.
“ He hasn’t signed the agreement yet and may not from what he told Scott before we left.” Murdoch explained.
“ Do you really think he wants to go back to a life of living by a gun?” Joe asked.
“ I just don’t know Joe. You heard him say how much money he would make from a job. That’s more than he will make in a year at Lancer.”
“ Yes, but not as dangerous. Just give it some time. Give him room. He’s not used to being told what to do. Johnny is like a newly broke horse, rein him to tight, and he will shy and buck.” Joe explained.
“ I don’t think I have ever heard it put quit like that Joe. Thank you.” Murdoch responded before letting out a sigh. “ I guess we better go eat.” he suggested.
“ Just make me a promise that you won’t lite into the boy when he gets back. His intentions are good.” Joe requested.
Johnny rode up easy toward the herd, being dark he didn’t want to spook the dumb animals. Watching a night guard approaching, he waited to see if it was one of the Lancer hands. Seeing who it was, he rode out of the shadows.
“ You should be more aware of what’s around you brother.” Johnny said.
“ Sneaking around like you are, you could have got yourself shot little brother.” Scott responded. “ Did you see who it is?”
“ Yeah.” Johnny said as he pulled the spyglass from his saddlebag and handed it to Scott. “ Thanks. So how mad was the old man when you told him?”
“ He was a bit upset at first that you went alone. Ever since we made camp he watched for you until it got to dark to see.” Scott responded. “ I believe he is still awake waiting for you.”
Thanks. I’ll see ya.” Johnny said as he reined his horse toward the glow of the campfire to his right.
Murdoch seen Johnny finally ride up and dismount at the picket line. Pouring a cup of coffee he walked over knowing his son would be a while taking care of his horse.
“ I’m glad you made it back son.” Murdoch said as he handed him the cup of coffee. He could tell his son found out what he wanted to know by the way he was acting. “ Scott told me what you did and why. Did you see who it is?”
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he took the cup of coffee. “ Yeah, I seen. It’s Frank and Dalton with ten other riders.” Johnny responded.
“ What are you not saying son?” Murdoch asked calmly as Scott rode up.
“ Look, lets get something straight. I have no problem killing a man when he’s trying to kill me or stealing from the one I work for. I don’t murder people in cold blood. I’ve never broke the law and I’m not wanted by the law.”
“ I never implied you had son. Look, there’s so much about your past we don’t know about. When something comes up, it’s a surprise is all.”
“ There are some things you will never know about from my past old man. Not as long as I’m breathing.” Johnny said before walking away toward the fire.
“ We just need to give him some time. It’s only been two months. He doesn’t trust easy.” Scott said.
“ He trust you it seems more than he does me son.” Murdoch responded.
“ Maybe because I’m willing to listen to him instead of judging him.” Scott responded.
“ I figure the chuck wagons can go into Phoenix and get supplies while we take the herd around.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I spent a night there. It’s a mostly a farming community, but they should have what we need.” Johnny stated.
“ Alright son. Why don’t you and Scott go in with them?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t think so. Scott can go in with Pedro.” Johnny responded.
“ Johnny, I asked………..alright son. I guess you have your reasons for not wanting to go in.” Murdoch said.
“ Mister Lancer, riders.” Pedro said as he pointed. “ Coming this way.”
“ You think it’s Indians?” Rob asked.
“ No. That’s a military detachment. Probably from Fort Whipple.” Johnny said as the detachment rode up and stopped.
“ Major, what can we do for you?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m Major Howard, and this is Captain Butler. You mind telling me why you are here?” the Major asked as he dismounted.
“ I’m Murdoch Lancer, and this is Joe Carbohaul, we own these cattle and are taking them to Fort Grant per Colonel James Carlton’s request for beef.”
“ Yes, I heard people were sick and dying from lack of food.” Captain Butler said.
“ Are you aware the Yavapai have been attacking and killing? That they broke their treaty with us several times. General Crook has me and my men scouting for any renegade bands.” Major Howard explained.
“ General George Crook?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. Do you know him?” Captain Butler asked.
“ I met him once at The Battle of Appomattox Court House. He’s a very distinguished General.” Scott responded. “ I didn’t know he was stationed out west here.”
“ The General was sent to fight Indians in the Pacific Northwest after the war. He’s been a resilient force in fighting against the Indians since he was to take command in December eighteen sixty six.” Captain Butler explained. “ Who did you serve under?”
“ General Phil Sheridan sir.” Scott responded.
“ So you were in a cavalry unit then. When did you get out?” Major Howard asked.
“ January sixty seven.” Scott responded.
“ The war ended in sixty five. Which prison were you in?” Captain Butler asked.
“ Libby, just over a year.” Scott answered as he glanced at his brother.
“ Libby was a hell hole prison. A lot of good soldiers perished behind those walls.” Captain Butler stated.
“ We came upon the bodies of some men northwest of here. They had been killed by Yavapai. From the tracks, it looks like one of them got away.”
“ How many men Major?” Murdoch asked.
“ Eleven.” the Major responded.
“ You said the Yavapai broke their treaty. Don’t you mean the white man broke the treaty Major?” Johnny said coldly.
Major Howard walked over and looked at Johnny. “ Do I know you?”
“ I don’t think so Major.” Johnny said.
“ That’s my son Johnny and this is my other son Scott.” Murdoch said.
“ It’s kind of hard for someone whose hunted these lands their whole life to all the sudden be told they have to go live on some uninhabitable piece of land the government says is fit for them.” Johnny said.
“ Four years ago,you gunned a man down in the streets of Laredo. Only your name wasn’t Lancer, it was Madrid, Johnny Madrid.” the Major said.
Johnny turned and faced the Major, his eyes as cold as ice.
“ You rode out of there with a bullet in you. Left before the sheriff got there.” the Major said.
“ I don’t miss when I shoot Major, especially when someone ambushes me.” Johnny said firmly.
“ An innocent man don’t run either.” Major Howard said.
Murdoch cringed at the thought of his youngest son riding out of a town wounded and no medical help. He didn’t remember reading in any of the reports about an incident in Laredo. There was so much he didn’t know about his youngest, so much he knew his son would never tell him about.
“ I would post extra guards at night around your herd, especially your horses Mister Lancer. Once you leave here, there won’t be any significant water again until you get to the Salt River Valley. There’s plenty of grazing outside Fort McDowell where you can rest.” Major Howard said as he mounted up. “ Try to keep in the open, less chance of an ambush.”
“ Will there be any other patrols Major?” Scott asked.
“ Fort Bowie, Fort McDowell and your Fort Grant are out patrolling.” the Major responded. “ Just remember to stay in the open as much as possible, and be ready for trouble. Let’s move out Captain………..Oh Madrid, I wouldn’t plan on going back to Texas. Not unless you want to swing from a gallows. You see, the man you killed…well he was the sheriff’s brother, and he’d love nothing better than to watch your neck snap at the end of a rope.” Major Howard said before riding off.
One week later Murdoch sat watching his youngest across the fire sharpening a knife he carried on the inside of his right boot as he talked to his brother. In three days they would be at Fort Grant and deliver the cattle, rest a few days and then head back home. All week he kept thinking about what Major Howard said happened in Laredo.
“ What happened in Laredo four years ago?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny looked across the fire at his father. He knew it was a matter of time before he asked. He was actually surprised the old man hadn’t asked before now. What happened four years ago in Laredo he had worked so hard to forget, now the nightmare came flooding back to him. Closing his eyes, he could see it all like it just happened. “ What happened in Laredo four years ago is no concern of yours old man.” Johnny said firmly.
“ It is if you committed a murder. Did you murder a man four years ago in Laredo?” Murdoch demanded before standing up.
“ I guess you didn’t hear me, so I’ll say it again, leave it alone.” Johnny ordered.
“ I won’t leave it alone son. I’m asking you if you murdered that man in cold blood.” Murdoch said.
Johnny stood up and stepped over to his father. He seen Scott stand up also and move a little closer, ready to step in if needed. “ I told you I have never broke the law, and I have never killed anyone who didn’t try killing me first. If you think you have a right to know what happened in Laredo four years ago, you don’t. Leave it the fuck alone.”
Murdoch slapped Johnny hard across the face, and found himself looking at the business end of Johnny’s colt.
“ What the hell is wrong with you?” Scott demanded. “ You had no right to hit him. Johnny, you don’t want to do this. You’re not a cold blooded killer, you told me so, and I know my little brother doesn’t lie.”
“ I swore nobody would ever lay a hand on me again old man. You think that just because I got your blood in me that that gives you the right to hit me!” Johnny said as he stepped closer and brought his pistol up to within a foot of Murdoch’s face. “ I don’t need you or your ranch.” Johnny said coldly as he slowly lowered his gun, and slid it in the holster. Standing there a few seconds longer before turning and walking over to grab his saddle and gear.
Scott glared at his father. He couldn’t believe what he just witnessed. What they all just witnessed. Turning, Scott went to try and stop his brother from leaving.
Scott walked over to Johnny. “ Where you going?”
“ Anywhere but here Scott.” Johnny responded as he headed to his horse.
“ Have you got any plans?” Scott asked.
“ There’s always a need for men like me to help settle a range war.” Johnny said as he tightened his cinch.
“ So you’re just going to kill time, amongst other things?” Scott asked
“ That’s right.” Johnny said as he slipped the bridle on the bay.
“You’ll be dead before your thirty!” Scott said.
“ That comes to us all, don’t it brother?” Johnny responded.
“ But when you go, you won’t even leave a small ripple.” Scott said
“ That it brother……..I mean uh, the sermons over ain’t it?”
“ It’s the only good thing to happen to you your whole life, and your going to just ride away from it, and all for nothing. But I guess that’s all you got going for you from now on.” Scott said as he picked up Johnny’s rifle and slid it in the scabbard. “ It’s been nice to have met you brother.” he said as he offered his hand.
Johnny reached out and accepted Scott’s hand, pulling his brother in for a hug. “ You take care of yourself brother.”
“ Write to me when you can. I want to know you’re alright.” Scott requested as Johnny swung up in the saddle.
“ You belong at Lancer Scott. You’re the perfect son. The one who isn’t an embarrassment to the old man. He won’t judge your past like he does me and mine.” Johnny said. “ I’m glad to have known you brother.” Johnny said before turning the bay and riding off into the dark. “ O don’t trust easy brother, but I’d trust you with my life Scott Garrett Lancer.” Johnny said from the darkness.
Scott smiled slightly as he kicked the dirt. “ Stay safe brother.” he said softly before heading to his father to have words.
“ Have you gone mad? I hope to hell you’re happy Murdoch, because you just lost Johnny.” Scott fumed.
“ He left?” Joe asked.
“ Yes, he left. Why should he stay if his own father is going to add to the abuse he’s already suffered in the past eighteen years. You know, of all the scars my little brother has, I don’t think any of them hurt him as much as what you just did. You just possibly sent him to an early grave.”
“ I didn’t force him to ride away from here. If he goes back to living by that damn gun, it will not be my fault if he gets killed. He made his decision. The matter is closed. It’s not open for further discussion.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ You don’t give at all do you? All pride and Johnny’s cut from the same mold. Not one inch of give” Scott responded.
“ Want me to go after him? Beg him into coming back here?” Murdoch asked.
“ Is that so bad?” Scott asked.
“ And how long do you think it would last? If he’s willing to let go that easily. If nothing has gotten through to him. If he hasn’t learned anything. If what he’s running to out there is so important……then let it happen…..let it happen now.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ I hope it was worth it. Tell me something Murdoch, if you found out or knew what I did during the war, would you slap me like you did Johnny?” Scott demanded.
“ There was a war going on. What you did, you did for this country. You followed orders.” Murdoch responded.
“ And what….my little brother hasn’t been fighting a war trying to stay alive. Trying to stop the abuse he’s been dealt since he was taken away from Lancer. You sir are biased. You stand there and say it was alright for me to do what I did because there was a war going on, yet when someone ambushes my brother and he shoots back defending himself, that’s not alright with you. I wonder just how many times you broke the law or did something others would judge against you on without knowing all the facts.” Scott said before turning to leave.
“ Wait son, don’t go. Please. I need you.” Murdoch pleaded as he grabbed Scott’s left arm.
“ You don’t need me. If you did, you never would have done what you did to my brother.” Scott responded as he jerked his arm free.
“You’re a damn fool Murdoch Lancer. You just lost both your sons, and for what……something that happened in Johnny’s past.” Joe said with anger. “ Something you couldn’t prevent from happening, but you sure as hell could have prevented what happened here tonight from happening.” Joe said before walking away.
Murdoch Lancer walked out of the Fort Grant telegraph office. Murdoch having paid his hands and wired the remaining money to the bank in Morro Coyo, wanted the Pinkerton’s to start a search as soon as possible on the incident that happened four years ago in Laredo involving his youngest son. Receiving a look from the telegraph agent as he read the wire.
“ Let’s see, that will be a dollar six bits Mister Lancer.” the telegraph agent said.
Murdoch pulled the money out and paid the man. Before turning to walk out.
“ Johnny Madrid really your son?” the man asked.
Murdoch turned and looked at the man hard before turning back and leaving. All the hands except Walt, Pedro, Jose, and Rob left, having hired on for the drive only. It saddened him that only seven would be riding back together instead of nine.
“ You ready to head back to Lancer in the morning?” Joe asked.
“ Might as well. I wired Cipriano letting him know we made it.” Murdoch responded.
“ You tell him about Scott and Johnny?” Walt asked.
“ No. I guess I’m hoping they will both come back.” Murdoch said.
“ I don’t think Johnny will come back sir. He’s a hard man and don’t trust easy like Scott said, and any trust he may have had for you, I think you lost that when you slapped him.” Walt responded.
“ There’s so damn much I don’t know about that boy, and to learn about something like that by pure accident………….It makes me wonder if he has committed murder.”
“ Murdoch, none of those Pinkerton reports you have say anything about Johnny being wanted for murder. He even told you he’s not wanted by the law. Tell me why you took the word of that Major over your own son?” Joe asked.
“ You heard every word that was said by the Major, and you heard what I asked. All he had to do was answer my question with the truth Joe. I slapped Johnny because he was being disrespectful to me and I warned him about using that kind of language.” Murdoch responded.
“ I guess you didn’t hear what Johnny said. That that man he killed ambushed him. Hell Murdoch, I would have done the same thing if someone had ambushed me, and you would have too. There’s more to this than what was said.” Joe responded.
“ That’s why I have the Pinkerton’s doing a full investigation into this killing. I want the truth.” Murdoch said.
“ Even if it condemns your son? Is that a price you’re willing to pay Murdoch?” Walt asked.
“ I think Murdoch should be asking himself if what Johnny said is true and this man did ambush him, why did he do it, and why is the sheriff calling it murder?” Rob asked.
“ Maybe because the man was his brother.” Pedro suggested.
“ Maybe, but maybe Johnny seen something he shouldn’t have seen, or knows something the two were doing and the one was using a badge to do it.” Walt suggested.
“ The only way you’re ever going to find out the truth now is if the Pinkerton’s find out.” Joe said.
“You think Scott will find him?” Rob asked.
“ I doubt it. Something tells me, Johnny don’t want to be found right now, by anyone.” Walt said.
“ My son didn’t live to be Johnny or Scott’s age, but one thing I do know from the short time my son was alive, I never would have judged him, and I sure as hell wouldn’t have taken a strangers word over his like you did.” Joe said before walking off.
“ Colonel Carlton.” Murdoch said.
“ Mister Lancer, I was wondering if I could have a word with you in private?” the Colonel asked.
“ Certainly. I’ll see you for supper men.” Murdoch said before following the Colonel to his office.
“ I received a most interesting telegram fro Fort Whipple. It seems Major Howard came across you on your way here?” the Colonel inquired.
“ Yes, though not impressed with the man, we did meet Colonel.” Murdoch responded.
“ He said you had two sons with you, Scott and Johnny.” the Colonel said as he brought the wire in his desk drawer out to read again. “ He says your one son Johnny is wanted for murder in Laredo. Now whether that is true or not is of no concern of mine. What is my concern is taking care of the people in my territory that I am responsible for. Therefore I must inform you that the United States army will no longer purchase beef or horses from Lancer. We will not be associated with a ranch that harbors a killer.”
“ Now wait a minute Colonel Carlton, you have no right to accuse Lancer or my son of these accusations.” Murdoch snapped back.
“ Mister Lancer, I assure you that these accusations do not come lightly. Your son Johnny is he or is he not also known as the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Colonel Carlton demanded.
“ My son did what he had to do to stay alive in Mexico when he was growing up Colonel You and this Major Howard I wouldn’t expect to understand that since neither of you were there. Don’t think Lancer will take this sitting down sir. I have friends in high places, and I will fight you on this Colonel.” Murdoch said firmly before turning to leave.
“ I noticed you sons are not with you. Major Howard has been instructed to capture Madrid if seen again and hold him for a a U.S. Marshal to come and take him back to Laredo to hang for murder.” Colonel Carlton said.
“ Like hell he will Colonel.” Murdoch said with anger before walking away.
Dalton couldn’t believe his eyes as he watched a lone rider on a big bay horse ride up to the Apache Pass Stage Station and dismount. Stepping back around the corner just enough to not be seen, Dalton watched Madrid loosen his cinch as he let the horse drink.
“ There’s only one man I know loosens his cinch so his horse can drink.” the station operator said. “ How the hell are ya kid?” he asked.
“ You know me, take care of your horse, and he’ll take care of you. I thought you would have left this place long ago Clay.” Johnny said as he turned and shook the mans hand.
“ It’s good here. The Apache don’t bother me none. I’m an old man, they know I’m no threat to them. You just passing through or you staying the night to let this here horse of yours rest?” Clay asked.
“ You got anything resembles meat in there I might stay.” Johnny responded.
“ Pot of Jack Rabbit stew been brewing all afternoon. Just you, me, this other fella that’s around here someplace and a lady inside to eat it, unless a stage comes in.” Clay said.
“ Who’s the other fella?” Johnny asked.
“ Don’t know, never seen him before. Talks with an accent or something. Like he’s from the south.” Clay responded. “ Why don’t you go on inside and freshen up. I’ll take care of your horse. I’ll give him some hay and grain, and a good rubdown.” Clay suggested.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he handed the reins to Clay.
Dalton watched Madrid walk inside before he came around the corner.
“ Oh, there you are. We have another guest for supper tonight. He went inside to clean up. I’ll just be a few minutes as I take care of the mans horse.” Clay said.
Dalton headed to the front door and stopped at the window, looking inside he could see Johnny washing his face at the sink as the woman set plates on the table. Opening the door, Dalton stepped inside and closed the door.
“ I don’t believe I got your name earlier ma’am.” Dalton said as he watched Madrid.
“ Sarah, Mister…….?”
“ Dalton ma’am.”
“ Just Dalton?” Sarah asked.
“ Yes ma’am. How about you friend, you got a name?” Dalton asked as Johnny walked over to the table as the station master came in.
“ Why don’t we just stop the games right here Dalton. You know who I am and I know who you are. I also know someone paid you five thousand dollars to go to California to either try and kill me or old man Lancer, and since you’re here, and I’m here, it must be me you were hired to try and kill.” Johnny said.
“ I was hired to kill you Madrid, by some rich old man back east, Boston I believe. Guess he neglected to tell me who you were because he thought I wouldn’t do it.” Dalton explained. “ You can relax . You have my word, I’m not going to do it. Listen, when I took the job I didn’t know it was you. The man who hired me said he wanted the youngest Lancer killed. I didn’t know it was you at first until I seen you in Green River with the old man picking up supplies. I could have killed you then, but didn’t.” Joe added. “ You seemed pretty chummy with old man Lancer. More than as an employer. He that rich daddy I heard others say you had that threw you and your mother out when you were a baby?”
“ How come?” Clay asked.
“ How come what old man?” Dalton asked.
“ How come you didn’t kill him when you had the chance in Green River?” Clay asked.
“ Because I don’t kill my own kind. I may be a lot of things to some people, but to kill another gunfighter, that goes against my morals. Especially someone as good as the kid here is.” Dalton responded.
“ A gunfighter with morals, now there’s something you don’t here every day.” Clay said. “ How about you Johnny, you have any morals?”
“ Yeah, minding my own business.” Johnny responded.
Clay knew Johnny well enough to know something had him upset for him to respond like he did. “ Well, I always said a mans business is his own. I’ll get supper for ya all. Now, I got plenty of beds and you’re all welcome to sleep in them, but I should warn ya, the mattresses are pretty thin.” Clay said as he brought the pot of rabbit stew over and set it on the table. “ Oh Johnny, that horse of yours has need of new shoes. I know how you are with your horse so just help yourself whenever before you leave. You know where the stuff is.”
“ So of you knew who I was, how come you followed us?” Johnny asked.
“ I didn’t follow you. I left after we crossed the river into Arizona and went to Santa Fe then came down here. I’m working my way back to Louisiana.” Dalton said.
“ I watched you cross the river with Frank, and ten others I didn’t know.” Johnny said.
“ I seen ya up on the hill with your spyglass watching us. The sun reflected off the glass and gave ya away. I went northeast like I said to Santa Fe.” Dalton said. “ Pissed that fella Frank off, but I didn’t give a damn. That man is colder than a winters night in Colorado. I’ll be leaving before sunrise in the morning.” Dalton added.
Johnny rasped and trimmed his horses foot and was putting the last nail in when he heard soft footsteps.
“ You look good Johnny. What’s it been five years?” Sarah asked.
“ About. What are you doing here?” Johnny asked as he twisted off the extra nails and worked the rasp over them to remove any sharpness.
“ Headed to Mexico to get some horses to bring back and trade.” Sarah responded.
“ So where’s your husband? Last time I seen ya, you were married.” Johnny asked.
“I divorced him after ten years and two kids. Met another who wanted to beat on me. They won’t ever find his body.” Sarah said coldly. “ Won’t stand for a man hitting me.”
Johnny let go of the foot and straightened up. “ I won’t say I told you so.”
“ Never has been anyone like you. Probably never will be either.” Sarah said as Johnny picked up the tools and put them back in the tool box.
Johnny turned and just stood there looking at Sarah. “ A lot’s changed since we……”
Sarah walked over to Johnny and put her arms around his neck. “ I’ve changed too Johnny. I know I hurt you when I married Colby. You were fourteen and I was twenty two. People would have talked.”
“ You think I give a damn what people say about me?” Johnny asked. “ I loved you Sarah, and I thought you loved me too. Guess I thought wrong.”
“ I’m sorry Johnny. Look, come with me to Sonora.” Sarah asked.
“ Sonora is a big place.” Johnny said.
“ There’s an estancia down by Hermosillo where I get my horses from to trade up here.” Sarah responded. “ We can leave after breakfast. Unless you have something else to do. It’ll only take a couple days, a week at the most.”
“ That wouldn’t happen to be Don Louis Terrazas estancia would it?” Johnny asked as he walked over to a bat mare just smaller than his.
“ This your horse?” Johnny asked as he walked over to a bay mare a little smaller than his.
“ That’s Jenny. I got her just after the last time I seen you. She’s trained to me only so nobody can steal her.” Sarah said as she watched Johnny check the mare over real good. “ And yes that’s the estancia I’m going to. President Diaz has many horses there. To many horses for one man.”
“ How long ago was she shod?” Johnny asked.
“ Two days ago. I always run new shoes when I’m going across the border to pick up horses.” Sarah responded.
“ Hey, you two the coffee is hot and breakfast is cooking.” Clay yelled from the porch.
Sarah walked over to the barn door. “ Alright, we’ll be right in.” she said before turning to face Johnny. “ So how about it?”
Johnny walked up to Sarah and placed his right hand gently under her chin, and raised it up as he lowered his lips to hers.
“ Wow, I guess you have changed. You never kissed me like that before.” Sarah said as she tried to get her breathing under control.
“ If I go with you, we’re gonna do more than kiss.” Johnny said before he claimed her mouth again with more hunger. The sound of a wagon approaching was the only thing stopping him. “ Damn.” he said.
“ Yeah, lousy timing.” Sarah said as she took a couple deep breaths. “ You sure know how to take a girls breath away. I don’t remember you kissing like that before.”
“ That’s because I’m not a fourteen year old eager kid anymore.” Johnny said before walking past Sarah and toward the house.
Sarah stood there watching Johnny walk away. A smile slowly appeared on her face. “ This will definitely be a fun week.” she said aloud. She hated lying to Johnny like she did, but stealing horses in Mexico, especially horses from a rich estancia like Don Luis Terrazas, to help the Mayo and Yaqui Indians. Maybe, just maybe he would believe in her cause and would help fight against a man who became so callous, he would basically steal pesos from the people of Sonora, saying it was to fund something, when all it did was make the man rich and spiteful to anyone who had the guts to stand up to him. It saddened Sarah to think of the thousands President Diaz has already murdered of the Mayo and Yaqui. Most remaining remained safe as long as they stayed on the ranches were they worked. Sarah knew Johnny had a big heart for helping the little man, she just hoped he hadn’t changed so much in the last five years, that he would help fight again.
Scott rode southeast hoping to find some recent sign of his brother. Buying supplies in Paradise, he couldn’t believe his luck when two men came in the store talking about Madrid and how they seen him headed toward Apache Pass. At least he knew he was still alive, something that weighed heavy on his mind with his little brother being so close to Mexico, even though the Pinkerton’s bought his freedom from execution. Riding up to the station, Scott dismounted and was met by a somewhat elderly man with graying hair.
“ Welcome to the Butterfield Stage Station at Apache Pass. Names Clay. I got some hot food on the stove if’n you’re hungry. There’s a storm brewing.” Clay said.
“ Scott Lancer. How much to bed my horse down in the barn?” Scott asked.
“ No charge. You’ll find hay and grain. Come on inside when you’re done. Just make sure the barn doors are closed up so the wind don’t rip ’em off.” Clay said before heading back inside.
Scott stripped the gear from his horse and gave him a good rubdown, hay and oats before heading inside to a hot cup of coffee. No other saddle horses were in the barn, and the horses outside were clearly stage teams recently switched out from the sweat marks on them. Getting both barn doors closed and latched, Scott held onto his hat as he made his way to the station as he battled the wind.
“ Come on in and clean up.” Clay said as Scott fought to close the door. “ Looks like that storm could be here a day or two.”
“ Thanks. You haven’t had anyone else come by in the last few days have you?” Scott asked.
“ Mister, this is a stage station. I get a lot of people through here. If you’re lookin for someone particular, you’ll have to be more specific.” Clay said as he poured a cup of coffee and handed it to Scott.
“ A little shorter than me, dark hair, blue eyes, riding a big bay gelding.” Scott responded.
“ What’s this fella to you?” Clay asked as he sat down across from Scott.
“ He’s my brother.” Scott said.
“ Brother. I ain’t had no Lancer’s here until you.” Clay stated.
“ His name is Johnny Lancer, but he might be going by another name. Someone he used to be………Johnny Madrid.” Scott explained.
Clay remembered what Dalton said to Johnny just two days ago. How he described this Lancer.
“ Look, I know he was here. Some men seen him here. Please, It’s important that I find him.” Scott pleaded.
“ Why?” Clay asked.
“ Excuse me?” Scott retorted.
“ Why is it so important that you find him?” Clay repeated.
“ Because he’s my brother, and I would like to keep him from making a huge mistake.” Scott explained.
“ Huge mistake huh. What would that be?” Clay asked.
Scott stood up and ran a hand through his hair. “ I don’t want my brother going back to living by a gun. I don’t want him gunned down somewhere just because someone else wants his reputation.” Scott pleaded.
“ You know, I do believe you’re telling me the truth. I know Madrid, have for a few years now.” Clay said. “ He was here, but he left yesterday about mid-morning with a lady friend he ran into.”
“ Do you know where they went?” Scott asked.
“ Hermosillo, Mexico to get some horses and come back. They’ll be back here in about three four days. Sarah always stops here to rest the horses before she takes them on up into the hills to the Yaqui Indians.” Clay explained.
“ Sarah, and you say she’s an old friend of my brothers?” Scott asked.
“ Old friend hell, those two were so close I thought they were gonna get married, but she wouldn’t have it. She left him here with a broken heart five years ago. Said she didn’t want him people talking given she was eight years older than him. I say to hell with age. If a man and woman love each other, to hell with what others think.”
“ I quit agree with you, to a point. I don’t think a fourteen year old boy has any business with a twenty three year old woman, especially romantically.” Scott responded.
“ True, but most fourteen year old boys weren’t forced to grow up fast like Johnny was.” Clay replied. “ So what drove him away from his old man and you?”
Scott explained what happened between Johnny and Murdoch, telling how he felt about having a little brother, how he wanted to protect him from any more hurt. Both men talked well into the night. Scott relieved he had someone who knew and understood both how he felt and how his brother felt. All he could do now is wait until his brother showed back up at the station and would listen to him.
“ Damn, we’re not going to make it before that storm hits. There’s an abandoned church not far we can take shelter in until this storm passes.” Sarah said.
“ San Miguel Arcángel De Oposura.” Johnny said.
“ How did you know that?” Sarah asked.
“ That was what it used to be called ever since it was started in seventeen twenty four and finally finished in seventeen thirty eight. They changed the name to Moctezuma in eighteen twenty eight. It’s a large burnt brick church with vaulted ceiling, side bays and an octagonal chapel with a wooden roof. I believe it was built by unidentified Maestros brought to the site at great expense by a Father Daniel Janusque before his death in seventeen twenty four.” Johnny explained. “ Do you know what Oposura means?”
“ Oposura, Doesn’t it have something to do with the land the church is built on?” Sarah asked.
“ Close, but no. Oposura means place of a lot of ironwood.” Johnny responded.
“ Ironwood. So that’s why the roof looks like it’s been burnt. Well, there’s a lean to we can put the horses in out of the rain and a shack we can stay in. I ain’t sleeping in no church.” Sarah said.
“ Afraid of committing sin in a church with me?” Johnny asked with a smile.
“ Hell, I’ve been committing sin damn near my whole life Johnny. Why should making love with you in a church be any fucking different? ” Sarah responded.
“ You always did have a mouth on you.” Johnny said as they rode up to the lean to and got down.
“ I’ll find us some firewood to stay warm while you take care of the horses.” Sarah said as she untied her saddlebags. “ There’s a stream not far behind the church that should have water in it.”
“ You seem to know what’s around here pretty good.” Johnny said as he stripped the saddle from his horse.
“ Yeah I do. I just never knew the history of the church until you told me.” Sarah responded as she grabbed her rifle from the scabbard.
Johnny walked over and pulled her to him. “ Hope you don’t plan on a lot of sleep tonight.” he said before claiming her mouth.
Sarah moaned as she kissed Johnny back. The fire deep down inside her starting to ride as the heat between her legs intensified as he pressed into her. Five long years she had never felt the way she did with another man like the way Johnny made her feel. Hell, even though he didn’t really know a lot back then, he could turn her on with just a smile or an innocent kiss that would quickly, like now, turn into one of hunger and passion. Raising her left leg up as Johnny ran his hands all over her body, between her legs, over her back, all the while pressing into her harder as he got harder.
“ Wait, Johnny………….Johnny stop. We need to get the horses taken care of before the storm hits……….and I need to get us some firewood so we can eat and have coffee.” Sarah panted as she backed away from Johnny, but stayed within arms reach. “ Jesus you sure know how to turn me on.” she said before picking up her saddlebags, bedroll and rifle, and heading to the shack.
Johnny stood watching Sarah walk away. Tonight he would have the best time of his life in a long time. Sarah Newman was the only girl he ever really fell in love with. Sarah wasn’t like all those saloon girls he’d paid to bed. No, she was class that not many knew existed with her. Having only seen her in a dress a couple of times, Johnny smiled as he remembered one of those times. It was an exceptionally warm evening , he had camped at a lake with a waterfall at one end and plenty of lush green grass for his horse to graze when she rode up in a dress made of cotton that when she dismounted and the sun shined down on her, he could see every curve of her body. Tucked back away out of sight, he watched as she removed the dress and waded into the water letting every inch of her naked body show. At almost fourteen years of age, He had never seen a naked woman like this one before. The few whores he’d been with were in a smoke filled noisy back room of a saloon or in an alley in a dark corner with a married woman wanting lust or to get even with her husband for whatever reason. He didn’t care, as he learned fast that one thing a woman always wanted, even a married woman, was satisfied in bed. If her husband didn’t do that, then she would find satisfaction elsewhere. Satisfaction was something Johnny learned real fast to give a woman. He learned real fast what to do and how to please a woman. Hell he was still learning how to please a woman almost seven years now since his first time.
Checking the horses one last time, Johnny headed to the shack and a night of long over due pleasure. Walking inside, he found Sarah standing at the sink totally naked with her back to him. Closing the door, Johnny undid his gun belt and hung it on the back of the chair before sitting down to remove his boots. Looking around as he stood and undid his belt and slid his pants down, Johnny seen she had a blanket on the floor for them. Stepping out of his pants, he pulled his shirt up over his head as he walked over and stopped behind Sarah. Already hard, Johnny pressed into her as he reached around and started touching familiar places of long ago.
Sarah relished in the feel Johnny was causing her to have. Feelings she hadn’t felt for so long. Her husband never made her feel like Johnny did. Even after ten years of marriage and two kids. No, Johnny knew how to please her, and he always made sure he did before he himself was pleased. Something most men never cared to do. Turning around, Sarah moaned as she felt him press against her.
“ We got all night.” she said before she claimed his body and mouth right there.
Scott woke to pouring rain outside. At least he was in a dry warm place and his horse had feed. The smell of coffee rousing him from his bed.
“ Morning. Looks like you might be stuck here another day.” Clay said.
“ That’s alright. I imagine Johnny and Sarah are holed up somewhere out of this storm too.” Scott said as he sat down at the table.
“ You know, I’m sixty three years old, and talking to you last night I learned a lot young man. I learned a lot about a friend we both think dearly of. He’s lucky to have a brother like you.” Clay said.
“ Why thank you. How serious do you think my brother will be about this Sarah after being apart for five years?” Scott asked.
“ The way they were clinging to each other in the barn, it was almost like they were never apart. She’s good for him, and he’s good for her.” Clay said.
“ Somehow I just don’t see Johnny settling down with a woman. At least not yet. He’s only twenty years old.” Scott said.
“ You never seen those two together before or now. You do, and you’ll see. Why don’t you go on out and get us some eggs for breakfast while I cook up this here bacon.” Clay suggested. “ Rain slicker by the door you can wear to stay dry.”
“ You want me to go ahead and feed all the stock and chickens while I am out there?” Scott asked.
“ Why thank you young man. My old bones would greatly appreciate that. They hurt in this damn rain.” Clay responded.
Johnny woke and found Sarah curled up next to him sound asleep. He could hear it was still storming outside, which meant they wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon. Last night he was surprised he maintained control the way he did every time they made love. Every time Sarah pushed him over the limit more and more until finally they both had to curl up and get some sleep. Smiling Johnny looked down at Sarah, he couldn’t believe his luck of finding her again. Would he lose her again, or would they forever stay together this time? Sighing, he didn’t know if he could handle losing her again.
Later that evening Sarah stood looking out the window watching Johnny as he took care of the horses for the night. The rains finally eased to just a drizzle and would hopefully be gone by morning. Tonight, she had to tell him that the horses they were going after were being stolen and then traded to Carlos Conant to fight against Governor Ignacio Pesqueira and President Porfirio Diaz. Would she lose him again once he knows the truth, or will he stay and help her try and save the lives of so many innocent she wondered as the door opened and Johnny came inside.
“ Hey beautiful.” Johnny said as he walked over and gave her a kiss as he removed his rain slicker. “ You alright?” he asked.
“ Johnny………..I need to have a talk with you…….A serious talk with you.” Sarah said.
Johnny noticed the look on her face, and the sadness in her eyes. “ Okay, this sounds serious. Please tell me I’m not going to wake up in the morning and find you gone again. I can’t take losing you again Sarah.” Johnny said as he walked over to her and put his arms on her shoulders. “ I’ll do whatever I have to do to keep from losing you again.”
“ You might think otherwise after you hear what I have to say!” Sarah responded. Unable to look him in the eyes.
Johnny placed a hand under her chin and could see tears in her eyes. “ I know what you’re going to tell me. I knew before we left the Stage station.”
“ How?” Sarah asked softly.
“ I know Mexico, especially Sonora. The only estancia in or around Hermosillo, would be that of Don Luis Terrazas. He has been a major contributor to President Diaz.” Johnny said.
“There’s several of us that on different days of the week at least once a month go down and steal horses from Diaz.” Sarah responded. “ We bring them back across the border and trade them to Comancheros for rifles that we give the Yaqui and Mayo Indians to fight. Diaz alone has ordered the innocent slaughter of thousands of Yaqui and Mayo. He’s had many deported and taken their possessions and land. Money that was supposed to go to Alamos went into his pocket. Villages can’t keep shelling out pesos to a man who lies. He’s not for the people of Sonora like he says. Presidente Diaz needs to be stopped Johnny, and I’m doing my part to help the good people of Sonora stop him.”
“ Do you really think you can stop him by stealing some horses?” Johnny asked.
“ Eventually yes. Enough attacks happen and the Mexican government will finally take notice of what Diaz is doing.”
“ You want a Mexican civil war?” Johnny asked.
“ More like a Mexican revolt.” Sarah said. “ I know I should have told you before we left……I’m sorry. I don’t blame you if you want to go back and have nothing to do with this.”
“ I’m not going anywhere except with you.” Johnny said before kissing her gently on the lips. “ I’ll help however I can.”
“ My man should be coming soon.” Sarah said as she dismounted.
“ Full moon might be trouble for us.” Johnny said. “ How many runs you done so far?”
“ Five years. Colby was doing this when I met him Selling guns to the Indians. About three years into our marriage, he started giving them whiskey and cheating them, I said something and that’s when he started beating me. I took it for almost a year before I’d had enough. My contact is solid and trusting. I’ve been doing it on my own for just over a year now once a week. Jenny was one of his breeding mares. I took a liking to her and decided to keep her. I usually don’t do this during a full moon, but the storm put me behind.”
“ How many horses will he be bringing?” Johnny asked.
“ It varies every time. It just depends on what he can get.” Sarah responded.
“ You’re not worried the Comancheros will steal from you?” Johnny asked.
“ No. I mean, yeah they could, but I think they like the money they’re making selling the horses up north.” Sarah said as the sound of horses approaching could be heard.
“ Esto es lo último que puedo hacer. El Presidente está sospechando. No puedo arriesgarme a que me atrapen. Él matará a mi familia.” ( This is the last I can do. El Presidente is getting suspicious. I cannot risk getting caught. He will kill my family.)
“ It’s alright. I understand. Do the others know?” Sarah asked as she took the lead lines.
“ Si, a los otros también se les dice. Se está volviendo peligroso seguir robando sus caballos.” ( Yes, the others are being told also. It’s just getting to dangerous to keep stealing his horses.)
“ Let’s get them across now! They can get a drink and rest at that stream we crossed. That will put us a days ride from the station.” Sarah said as she led her string of horses into the water. The full moon danced on the ripples as she walked her mare into the water easy so they wouldn’t make a lot of noise.
Once she was halfway across, Johnny led his string into the river just up from were Sarah entered. The current was strong enough it would wash away any signs of the horses crossing here, and when they reached the other side, he would come back and wipe out any signs on the bank while the horses drank at the stream. Two days ride from the river back to the stage station and then north into the Peloncillo Mountains where they will meet up with the Comancheros and trade. Johnny had a gut feeling they were being followed, or at east watched from the Mexico side of the river. Glancing downstream there were a few places someone could ambush from, but upstream, that bothered him deeply. Tules and trees provided ample cover with limited access except along the rivers edge in the water, and even that was risky due to all the downed tree stumps and logs a horse could break a leg on.
Noticing Sarah’s horse was climbing the bank up out of the river, Johnny kicked his bay to pick up the pace just as vaqueros and Rurales approached behind him.
“ Get them out of here!” Johnny yelled as he started slapping the bay as bullets started hitting the water around him
“ No golpees los caballos del presidente.” a Rurale yelled. ( Don’t hit the President’s horses.)
“ Eso es Madrid, mátalo ahora.” ( That’s Madrid, kill him now.) the Captain yelled as he started shooting.
Johnny got the horses up the bank and handed the lead to Sarah. “ Get them the hell out of here now. I’ll catch up.” Johnny ordered as he dismounted and pulled his rifle.
“ Johnny, let them go. They won’t cross the river.” Sarah pleaded.
“ Get out of here now!” Johnny ordered as he slapped Sarah’s horse before running to the edge of the upper bank and returning fire.
Captain Munoz kept ordering his men and the vaqueros to keep firing. Fully aware Madrid’s freedom had been bought months ago angered the man. “ Sigue disparando. No me importan los caballos. Quuiero Madrid muerto.” ( Keep firing. I don’t care about the horses. I want Madrid dead.)
“ Capitán Muñoz, mis hombres y yo solo estamos interesados en recuperar a los presidentes de los caballos. No pienses que no diré cómo te arriesgaste a sufrir lesiones e incluso a la muerte de sus magnificos animales.” the head vaquero said firmly. ( Captain Munoz, me and my men are only interested in getting the President’s horses back. Don’t think I will not tell how you risked injury and even death to his magnificent animals.)
“ No me digas qué hacer campesino. Puedo hacer que te derriben como a un perro.” Captain Munoz stated firmly. ( You do not tell me what to do peasant. I can have you shot down like a dog.)
“ Si, puedes, pero tanbién tendrías que matarlos a todos para evitar que el presidente lo sepa.” the vaquero responded. ( Yes you can, but you would have to kill all of them to keep the president from knowing.)
“ Entonces vete, todos ustedes. Iré tras el Madrid yo mismo.” the Captain ordered. ( Then leave, all of you. I will go after Madrid myself.)
Johnny lay on in the sand listening to the older vaquero stand up to Captain Munoz. Something not many men ever dared to do. At least not if they wanted to see the sunrise the next day. Smiling, Johnny just couldn’t resist having a little fun with the Captain.
“ Hola Capitán, te dije que volvería.” Johnny yelled before firing, hitting the ground at Captain Munoz feet. ( Hey Captain, I told you I would be back.)
“ ¡Tráeme mi caballo! Voy a cruzarte para matarte de Madrid. Tráeme mi caballo ahora!” Captain Munoz ordered. ( Bring me my horse! I am coming across to kill you Madrid. Bring me my horse now!)
“ No tienes autoridad aquí capitán. Puedo y te mataré si te cruzas.” Johnny yelled as he fired another shot. ( You got not authority over here Captain. I can and will kill you if you come across.)
“ Capitán Muñoz, no se puede cruzar el rio. Está prohibido a menos que se ordene. Serás juzgado por la corte.” ( Captain Munoz, you cannot cross the river. It is forbidden unless ordered. You will be court-martial-ed.)
Captain Munoz ignored his men’s pleas and rode his horse into the river, shooting at where he last seen Madrid fire from.
“ Senior Madrid, por favor, no mates al Capitán. Salir ahora. No te seguiremos.” the older vaquero pleaded. ( Senor Madrid, please, do not kill the captain. Ride out now. We will not follow you.)
Johnny lost sight of the captain crossing the river so he raised up just enough to see over the bank, bringing his rifle up just as the captain rode up the bank, almost on top of him. Rolling to his right before firing several shots, hitting Captain Munoz, knocking him from his horse. Not taking any chances, Johnny went to his bay and mounted up just as one last shot rang out and he felt a bullet slam into the back of his left shoulder, knocking him forward.
Sarah waited for Johnny. She cringed and got a sick feeling inside when she heard that last single shot and no more. Grabbing her rifle when she heard a horse approaching, seeing it was Johnny, she stepped out.
“ Get mounted, we need to put miles between us and that river.” Johnny ordered.
“ What happened back there?” Sarah asked as she mounted up.
“ An old nemesis named Munoz.” Johnny said as he ignored the pain in his back.
“ If we ride all night we can be back at the station by mid-day tomorrow.” Sarah said.
“ That’s fine.” Johnny answered as he felt the blood running down his back, soaking his shirt.
Scott led his horse out of the barn and was stopped by Clay.
“ You take the road back west about a mile and you will see a trail that goes south. Take that for about twenty miles and you’ll come to the river. Cross that and you’ll be in Mexico. You;ll come to a stream to cross, that’s your halfway point from the river to here.” Clay instructed.
“ I hope you’re right, but something tells me something is wrong.” Scott said as he mounted his horse. “ I can’t thank you enough for your kindness.” Scott said as he reached down to shake the mans hand before turning his horse and and heading west on the stage road at a gallop. Coming to the road south, Scott stopped his horse and looked around on the ground. No tracks could be seen since the storm.
“ Well little brother, at least I can track you thanks to the rain.” he said as he headed south.
Sarah crossed the stream and stopped, waiting on Johnny. “ Clay’s station is half a days ride from here.” she said. “ Why don’t we give them a break here for an hour or so?” she asked.
“ Let’s keep going.” Johnny said as he fought to stay conscious.
“ My ass is tired and I want to rest the horses here for an hour, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.” Sarah ordered as she got down, walked over and took the lead line from him. “ So get your ass off that horse now Johnny!”
Johnny reached around and felt his shirt under his coat, sweat running down his face and neck as he brought his blood soaked hand back around. “ Sarah.” he said before falling from his horse.
“ Oh my god, Johnny.” Sarah cried out as she ran to him. “ Johnny, what’s wrong?” she asked as went to lift him up. It was then she seen the blood on his hand. “ Johnny, where are you hit?” Sarah asked as she started checking his body.
“ Back.” Johnny said.
Sarah found the wound. “ Why didn’t you say something sooner? Can you get up and walk over to the stream? I need to clean that wound out now and stop the bleeding.”
Johnny struggled and finally made it to his feet, barely as Sarah helped him stagger over to a tree close to the stream. Helping Johnny sit down before she went to his saddlebags and pulled them off. “ I know you carry stuff for gunshot wounds.” Sarah said as she hurried back to his side.
“ There’s………there’s a small leather pouch with a needle and fishing line in it in the bottom of the left bag.” Johnny said.
“ You don’t have anything for removing a bullet?” Sarah asked.
“ Inside my right boot.” Johnny responded.
Sarah pulled his right pant leg up enough to reach inside the boot and remove the knife. “ Johnny, I’ve never removed a bullet. I don’t know how to do it.” Sarah said.
“ Cauterize the wound to stop the bleeding.” Johnny said before he passed out.
Sarah went to the stream and mad a mud poultice to pack the wound with. Tearing a shirt to use as a bandage she heard a horse approaching from the north. Going over to her horse, she removed her rifle and waited.
“ That’s far enough mister.” Sarah yelled.
Scott jerked his horse to a stop. “ I mean you know trouble ma’am. I’m on this road because I’m looking for my brother. I was told he would be coming back this way with a woman named Sarah and some horses.” Scott said as he kept his hands visible. “ Are you Sarah?”
“ What’s your brother’s name mister?” Sarah demanded.
“ Johnny, Johnny Lancer.” Scott responded.
“ Don’t know no Johnny Lancer. Be on your way.” Sarah ordered.
“ He might be going by another name…….Johnny Madrid.” Scott said.
“ Now I know you’re lying. Anyone who knows him knows Madrid ain’t got no brother. You got about ten more seconds to breath if you don’t get out of here now.” Sarah responded.
“ Wait, my name is Scott Lancer. Johnny didn’t know he had a brother until about four months ago. Please, I’m telling you the truth. Johnny Madrid is my brother.” Scott pleaded.
“ How’d you know to look on this road?”
“ Clay at the Stage stop told me. That’s how I know your name is Sarah Newman.” Scott responded. “ Is Johnny here?”
“ I guess you’re telling the truth. Only a fool would claim he was Johnny Madrid’s brother. If you’re not, I swear I will kill you. He’s over in the shade of that tree by the stream. He was shot in the back last night by the damn Rurales when we were crossing the river coming back.” Sarah explained as Scott dismounted and ran to his brother.
“ Johnny, I’m here brother.” Scott said as he looked at the wound.
“ He just passed out right before you got here. I didn’t know he was shot until earlier when we got here. The damn fool rode all night with that bullet in him.” Sarah said.
“ We need to get that bullet out and the wound cleaned. What is this you put on it, a mud poultice?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. He wanted me to cauterize the wound to stop the bleeding. The poultice packed in there will help keep infection out until I could get him back to the station.” Sarah explained.
“ I don’t know about you little brother. I leave you alone for a few days and you go and get yourself shot. We got to have a serious talk when you’re better.” Scott said. “ Can you help get him on my horse?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. We get him to the station, Clay can fix him up. He’s removed bullets from Johnny before.” Sarah said as they got Johnny on Scott’s horse.
“ Can you manage the horses?” Scott asked as he got on behind Johnny.
“ Yes, I’ve led more than this before by myself.” Sarah said as she tired the string Johnny was leading to his horse and mounted up. “ Jenny, follow.” Sarah said to her mare.
Scott shook his head. Sarah was riding Johnny’s horse, leading ten horses, and her mare Jenny, with ten horses tied to her, was following with no rider.
“ You have a very well trained horse.” Scott said as they crossed the stream.
“ Johnny taught me to train my horse for me only and to come when called. Jenny has been with me four years.” Sarah said.
Clay helped switch out the eastbound horses and just finished helping the last passenger re-board and close the door when he seen Scott and Sarah coming up the road. “ I’ll see ya next week Charlie.” Clay said as the stage surged forward.
“ Clay, we need your help.” Scott said.
Clay hurried over and helped Scott get Johnny down and into the station. “ Let’s take him into the back room. How long ago was he shot Sarah?”
“ Last night at the river. Rurales and vaqueros showed up. Captain Munoz was there.” Sarah said. “ I begged Johnny to let they go, that they can’t come across the river, but he ordered me to take the horses and leave. I should have known he was hurt.”
“ You didn’t know he was shot in the back?” Clay asked as he started to clean the wound p some. “ Go heat me some water. You’ll find a medical bag under the sink and a bunch of bandages, would bring them here please?” Clay asked Scott.
“ He never let on that he was hurt Clay. I didn’t know until we got to the stream and he collapsed.” Sarah said.
“ Damn boy is so damn stubborn. He don’t trust easy.” Clay said.
“ Can you blame him, look what’s been done to him Clay. You’ve seen his scars.” Sarah said as Scott came back in the room. “ Why don’t the two of you go take care of those horses. I have a westbound stage with passengers coming in about an hour. I already have the horses harnessed for the switch.
Johnny lay motionless for the last four days. Scott only leaving his side when Clay ordered him to sleep. Sarah left to deliver the horses two days ago, and said she would be back in a week. He learned more about her from Clay than he did from her. He also learned some about his little brother he knew Johnny would never tell him. The main thing Clay told him was about the man who shot him in the back, Manuel Pineda Munoz, Captain of the Rurales in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. It was no secret to anyone who knew Madrid or the Captain for that matter, and the feud between the two. Countless times Madrid had killed or wounded Rurales fighting against President Diaz and Governor Pesqueira, and the onslaught against the Yaqui and Mayo Indians. It gave him a feeling of pride knowing his little brother was willing to risk his life for the life of others less fortunate. No wonder Maria had said the people of Mexico called Johnny their Patron Saint, a personal protector of the people.
Clay had told how he was a union doctor during the war and left soon after to get away from the memories. He also told Scott about Don Luis Terrazas, and how he had the biggest estancia in all of Mexico. Scott couldn’t believe one man could lay claim to eight million acres of land, and not care about the people except those who worked for him. The year he had been at Lancer, he knew his father cared about not only those who worked for him, but also the other ranchers in the valley. Thinking about Sarah, Scott found himself smiling at her tenacious attitude toward him when he rode up. Not easily trusting of strangers, protective, beautiful, and deadly all in one. He couldn’t blame the man for wanting to get as far away from the memories as he could. He himself had haunting memories he wished would go away from time served in Libby Prison and what he had seen on the battlefield. Things nobody tells you about when you enlist. Sometimes at night he would be awakened by a reoccurring dream he’d have of his best friend from college being blown up.
“ I guess I can’t blame either one of you for not being to trusting little brother.” Scott said aloud as he tried to push the dark memory away.
‘ I know that voice ‘ Johnny thought as he struggled to open his eyes. Trying to focus on the sounds around him. A bed, he was laying in a bed, but whose bed? Did he make it back to the station, or is he back in Mexico in a prison again……….Sarah, where was she? That wasn’t her voice he heard. That sounded like………..it couldn’t be. It has to be the fever maybe causing him to hear that voice.
“ How’s he doing?” Clay asked as he brought a tray of food in.
“ Still no change. I wish he would wake up so I can see those blue eyes again.” Scott said.
That was Clay’s voice he knew, but how could he be hearing Clay and his brother. Forcing his eyes open, Johnny looked and let out a sigh as he realized he wasn’t hallucinating, his brother was here. His brother and Clay were here, but where was Sarah?
“ Sarah.” he said softly as he tried to move to sit up.
“ Hey, easy brother. Take it easy. You rip those stitches out and Clay just might not sew you up again.” Scott said.
“ Sarah?” Johnny said again. “ Where is she?”
“ She’ll be back day after tomorrow. She took the horses to trade.” Clay said. “ See if you can get him to drink some water. I gotta go switch out teams for the westbound stage.”
Scott poured a glass of water. “ Here, let me help you sit up more.”
Johnny rolled onto his side and let Scott help him sit up and scoot back.
“ Here, not to fast.” Scott said as he held the glass of water for Johnny to drink.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he sipped the cool water.
“ You’re welcome. We just about gave up on you boy.” Scott said as he set the glass down o the table.
“ How’d you find me?” Johnny asked. “ Why are you here?”
“ Finding you wasn’t all that hard little brother. After what Murdoch did to you, I had a heated argument with him and left about an hour after you did.” Scott responded.
“ Go back, Lancer is your home Scott.” Johnny said.
“ I thought it was, but after witnessing our father think so little of you that he would take the word of a stranger over his own son, that’s wrong, and striking you was even more wrong to do.” Scott said.
“ I don’t have time to be watching over you Scott.” Johnny said. “ Not where I’m going.”
“ I know where you are going Johnny, and I’m going with you. Like it or not brother, you are stuck with me.” Scott said firmly. “ Going back to Laredo to face that sheriff is madness brother.”
“ Who says I’m going back to Laredo. I have something to do but it’s not in Laredo.” Johnny said
“ Clay said Dalton was here. That he told you who hired him. Care to elaborate on that?” Scott asked.
“ I’m tired, maybe later Scott.” Johnny said as he scooted down and closed his eyes.
“ Alright brother. Tomorrow then.” Scott said as he stood up and walked out of the room.
Dalton rode into El Paso and dismounted in front of the telegraph office. Looking around before he went inside to send a wire to his employer telling him the job was done. That Johnny Madrid was dead.
“ Is it……” the telegraph agent started to ask.
“ Just send the wire old man if you want to keep breathing.” Dalton ordered. He knew when he rode out of El Paso the telegrapher would most likely spread the news, regardless if it was true or not. Walking outside, Dalton decided to go have a bath and shave before he left. Smiling when not two hours after sending the wire, everybody on the street stopped and glared at him, some going out of their way to avoid him on the street altogether, others brave enough to spit at his feet as he walked past. One man foolish enough, spat on his clean shirt and called him a murderer. Dalton stopped and glared at the man hard before grabbing him by his shirt and slugging and shoving him into a water trough. The next morning Dalton smiled when he seen the front page of the El Paso Herald newspaper in bold letters.
Johnny Madrid is dead.
The fastest, deadliest Gunfighter, of the west is dead. Gunned down by one of his own kind, faster and more deadly, a man who rode into El Paso yesterday afternoon and sent a wire to who we can only assume was his employer telling the man his job was completed, that Johnny Madrid was dead. This reporter has learned the name of the man is Dalton, who comes from Louisiana, New Orleans to be exact. This mans price alone for a job in a staggering five thousand dollars our local sheriff says is payable up front to the man before he even does the job. Many people knew the infamous gunfighter Madrid, Some across the border called him their Patron Saint, a Robin Hood type if you will, who always helped the poor. Nobody knows for sure, but some claim Madrid became a gunfighter at the age of ten so he could gun down the man who murdered his mother in a small Mexican village in Sonora. There is no record of anyone witnessing the death of Madrid, but this reporter has it on good word that he is in fact dead.
Dalton smiled at what he just read. He so loved how a reporter would print lies just to sell a newspaper. He himself had his own reasons for sending the wire, knowing it was a lie, personal reasons you could say. Dalton didn’t take it to lightly when his employer Harlan Garrett neglected to tell him who he wanted dead. A mistake that will cost the man dearly when all is done.
Harlan Garrett sat in his office at home going over shipping records for the past week. Something his grandson used to do for him before he packed up and left in the middle of the night to go west to that godforsaken desolate land and a father he never knew was still alive until that careless night everything changed.
“ Mister Garrett sir!”
“ I asked to not be disturbed Patrick. What is so important you disobey my request?” Harlan demanded.
“ A wire was just delivered for you sir. It’s marked urgent.” Patrick responded as he walked over and handed the wire to him.
“ Thank you.” Harlan said as he opened the wire and read it. An evil smile coming to his face as he read the words. Every servant at Garrett manor hated the old man. He was vindictive, cruel and very demanding. When Scott left almost everyone suffered the constant barrage of anger from the old man. Several business acquaintances walked out of meetings due to Harlan Garrett’s temper. The man didn’t care who he hurt, and was not above blackmailing people either. Money in Boston was power, and power meant everything to Harlan Garrett. “ It’s just a matter of time now and I will break you Murdoch Lancer. Your half-breed bastard is dead, and I will soon have my Scotty back home with me here in Boston.”
“ Clay tell you it was alright to get out of bed?” Scott asked as he walked up onto the porch.
“He’s known me long enough to know I pretty much do what I want, when I want.” Johnny responded.
“ Nice attitude you have toward the man considering he’s the one who saved your life by digging that bullet out of you.” Scott said as he sat down and removed his hat to wipe the sweat from his brow.
“ How the hell did you find me?” Johnny demanded. “ And don’t tell me it wasn’t hard Scott!”
“ It wasn’t. I had a hunch you would be heading to Laredo.” Scott said.
“ I told you, I have no intention of going back to Laredo. So drop it.” Johnny ordered.
“ Well now, you see, I just can’t do that brother. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking after you left, and something just wouldn’t stop bothering me. Care to take a guess on what that would be?” Scott responded.
“ Leave it alone Scott.” Johnny said firmly.
“ I can’t do that. You’re my brother and I will not stand by and let you go and do something foolish. It’s my job as your big brother to protect you by any and all means possible. Now you care to explain to me what it is between you and Major Howard? And don’t you dare sit there and tell me to leave it be, because that isn’t going to happen, brother.” Scott said firmly.
“ You really are a pain in my ass.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ I know Major Howard from before. I don’t know how he became a Major in the Union Army in just four years though.”
“ It’s almost impossible unless he had rank when you seen him four years ago and was promoted.” Scott responded.
“ Promoted, lets talk about that Scott. Why do you get a promotion in the army?” Johnny asked.
“ Usually it’s a reward for gallantry or meritorious conduct during battle. During the war some where rewarded what’s called a brevet. It’s a warrant giving a commissioned officer a higher rank title as a reward. Unless assigned by the President of the United States, he would still receive original pay. If the president rewarded the higher rank then said officer would command with the brevet rank and receive the higher rank pay.” Scott explained.
“ Jesus, can’t you just answer a fucking question without all that college bullshit?” Johnny asked angrily.
“ Johnny, are you saying he’s not a Major?” Scott asked.
“ Take a walk with me.” Johnny said as he stepped off the porch.
Scott stood up and followed his brother over to the stream that runs down from the rocks, and through the backside of the corrals.
“ Your friend Clay has a pretty good setup here. The stream running like it does, he doesn’t have to haul water to the horses.” Scott said.
“ That was my idea. He didn’t know a stream was here it was so overgrown with brush.” Johnny said as he sat down on a rock.
“ So that’s why there’s corrals and a trough on the other side of the barn next to the road.” Scott said.
“ His name isn’t Major Howard. At least it wasn’t four years ago when he was butchering innocent Yaqui in Mexico.” Johnny said. “ He worked for Governor Pesqueira as his number one in slaughtering innocent women and children. He found it real easy to kill them because they couldn’t really fight back. He’s also raped more than his share of Yaqui women Scott. The man is a fucking animal.” Johnny explained.
“ Johnny, you’re saying this Major Howard, four years ago was raping and murdering innocent Yaqui Indians in Mexico. That he was under then Governor Pesqueira. Are you absolutely positive about this?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah I’m sure. You ride to Hermosillo and ask any priest around there, around any part of Sonora and they will tell you I’m not lying.” Johnny responded.
“ Okay, so what about Laredo. Why did he mention it like he was there?” Scott asked.
“ Because he was there, as were several of his butchering men he rode with.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to the stream knelt down and used his right hand to get a drink. “ I did murder someone in Laredo Scott, and I’d do it again if I could , but it would be two men, not one.”
“ I take it one of those men would be Major Howard?” Scott asked.
“ His real name is John Riley.” Johnny said. “ He’s credited with the butcher of hundreds of women and children.”
“ What happened in Laredo Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ There were two Yaqui women, one of them had a baby, maybe a couple months old. They came into town to get some supplies. They worked for a rancher on the border. Riley…………..I was shot when I rode out of Laredo. Riley shot me in the back right after I killed the man with him They raped and murdered both those women and Riley took his sword and chopped that baby up Scott. That’s what kind of man he is. He needs to be punished for what he’s done.”
“ I think I can help you do that brother. I have good reliable friends back in Boston and from the army. I can contact a friend I went to college with, his father happens to work for the War Department. I’ll ask him to check for records of a Major Howard.” Scott responded.
“ And if he doesn’t find a record?” Johnny asked.
“ Then I will have the Pinkerton’s find out about this John Riley. Every Officer in the army has his picture taken. So I will request a picture of him.” Scott explained. “ Now would you care to tell me about Dalton? Clay said you know who hired him.”
“ Dalton said a man with a lot of money from back east hired him to kill me. Said he wanted the youngest Lancer killed and gave a description.” Johnny said.
“ From back east, as in Boston?” Scott asked with anger as he stood up. “ Is that what he said?”
“ Yeah. I’m sorry brother. I guess your grandfather hates me enough to want me killed, though I’ve never met the man before.” Johnny said.
“ It’s not your fault. We had a pretty heated argument the night I left Boston. It’s my fault Johnny, not yours.” Scott said.
“ How low will he go?” Johnny asked.
“ I’m afraid my grandfather will not stop until he is stopped or you are dead.” Scott said softly.
“ If he thought I was dead, what would he do? I mean, what does he have to gain from me being dead?” Johnny asked.
“ Me. I think he feels that with you dead, I will return to Boston. I don’t think he feels Murdoch is sufficient enough reason to stay.” Scott responded.
“ I know he’s your grandfather, and he raised you Scott, but it sounds to me like the old man is a real cold hearted bastard.”
“ You don’t know the half of it little brother.” Scott said. “ What about Sarah? She seems like a very nice lady.”
“ I’ve known Sarah a few years. I was fourteen the first time I met her. It was getting pretty serious between us, and one day I woke up and found her gone. Seems she wanted to spare me the cruel words others would say about us being together. I guess she got married when she was sixteen and had two kids. He divorced her after ten years. She married another man and killed him for beating on her.” Johnny explained.
“ So she’s twenty seven or eight?” Scott asked.
“ I’m twenty eight. Just turned last month.” Sarah said. “ Used to be you would hear someone approaching. You’re slippin’ Madrid.”
“ I knew you were there. Jenny has a loose shoe on her left hind leg.” Johnny said.
“ I stand corrected. How’s the shoulder feeling?” Sarah asked.
“ If you two will excuse me, I think I will go see if Clay needs help with anything.” Scott said.
“ You have some explaining to do mister!” Sarah said firmly.
“ Oh yeah, like what?” Johnny asked.
“ Your brother for starts. All the time we spent together, you never once said you had a brother.” Sarah said as she sat down on a rock.
“ We didn’t know about each other. Scott learned about me from letters he found that our old man wrote to him that his grandfather kept from him. I only learned for the first time just over four months ago I had an older brother.” Johnny explained.
“ And your father?” Sarah asked.
“ My mother lied. He didn’t throw us out. She packed up and left with a gambler in the middle of the night, taking me with her. He awoke and found us gone. It seems the sonofabitch had been spending money the last eighteen years looking for me. That’s why my mother moved from village to village so much, the Pinkerton’s were getting to close.” Johnny said as he came over and sat down next to her.
“ So if you found out what she told you about your father were all lies, why are you here and not with your father?” Sarah asked.
“ Lancer is one hundred thousand acres of prime land in the San Joaquin valley. Hell it’s the biggest ranch in the valley. He offered me and Scott a third owner partnership in what he built up in the last twenty six years.” Johnny responded.
“ Still doesn’t tell me why you two are here.” Sarah said.
“ We brought seven hundred head of cattle to Fort Grant, to feed the miners and starving people. The Apache killed off all their stock I guess. About two days from delivery I got in a heated argument with the old man about my past. He was demanding I tell him about it, and I told him it was none of his fucking business. He slapped me. If Scott hadn’t been there, I think I might have shot him. He was looking at the business end of my colt Sarah. I drew on my father and wanted to kill him for hitting me. I swore no man would ever lay a hand on me again regardless of who he is.” Johnny explained. “ I left and I guess Scott got in an argument with him after and decided to leave and look for me.”
“ You’ve suffered a lot of abuse Johnny. I can understand your reaction to your father hitting you. Hell I would have done the same thing. I almost killed your brother when he found us at the stream.” Sarah said.
“ Why didn’t you?” Johnny asked.
“ I figured anyone crazy enough to claim to be your brother had to be telling the truth. He was really concerned about you.” Sarah said.
“ He’s alright I guess. I told him what Dalton said. He’s pretty hurt over it.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ The man raised him.”
“ So what was it about your past that caused you to leave?” Sarah asked.
“ You remember John Riley?” Johnny asked.
“ The Yaqui Butcher of Sonora, yeah why?”
“ When we were bringing the cattle to Fort Grant, we crossed paths with him. It seems he’s now Major Howard in the Union Army at Fort Whipple, Arizona. He brought up what I told you he did in Laredo, except he didn’t tell it all. Said I was wanted for the cold blooded murder of the sheriffs brother, a prominent citizen of Laredo.” Johnny explained.
“ Wasn’t the sheriff and his brother with Riley when he raped and murdered those two Yaqui women and killed the baby?” Sarah asked.
“ Yeah. Scott has some friends who are going to try and help put that sonofabitch where he belongs.” Johnny said.
“ He belongs dead, not in prison.” Sarah said.
“ Nothing says a bullet won’t find him in time.” Johnny said.
One week later Clay brought the mail in from the westbound stage. “ You look pretty damn good for a dead man Madrid.” he said.
“ What the hell you talking about?” Johnny asked.
“ This!” Clay said as he handed him a copy of the El Paso Herald newspaper.
Johnny Madrid is dead.
The fastest, deadliest Gunfighter, of the west is dead. Gunned down by one of his own kind, faster and more deadly, a man who rode into El Paso yesterday afternoon and sent a wire to Boston telling who we can only assume to be his employer that his job was completed, that Johnny Madrid was dead. This reporter has learned the name of the man is Dalton, who comes from Louisiana, New Orleans to be exact. This mans price alone for a job in a staggering five thousand dollars our local sheriff says is payable up front to the man before he even does the job. Many people knew the infamous gunfighter Madrid, Some across the border called him their Patron Saint, a Robin Hood type if you will, who always helped the poor. Nobody knows for sure, but some claim Madrid became a gunfighter at the age of ten so he could gun down the man who murdered his mother in a small Mexican village in Sonora. There is no record of anyone witnessing the death of Madrid, but this reporter has it on good word that he is in fact dead.
“ Dalton did this, why?” Sarah asked as Johnny walked outside.
“ Actually he did Johnny a favor doing this.” Scott said as he walked outside to find his brother.
“ What you think of him?” Clay asked.
“ Who Scott, he’s okay I guess. Johnny doesn’t trust easy, but he seems to be alright with him. They’ve only known each other what five months. Still feeling each other I think.” Sarah responded.
“ So you gonna leave that boy again and break his heart, or are you going to stay with him this time?” Clay asked.
“ I don’t know. He has a brother now, and a father. I think he should go back and give his old man a second chance at being a father to him.” Sarah said as she looked out the window and watched Scott put an arm around Johnny in a brotherly way. “ He don’t need me.” she said softly.
“ There be nothing wrong with my hearing girl. You are a damn fool if you think he don’t need you. That boy needs a woman in his life more than ever right now. Have you even talked to him about going back home?” Clay asked.
“ I started to yesterday, but……What if he doesn’t want to go back?”
“ What if he does and he’s staying here because of you. I think the two of you really need to do some serious talking.” Clay suggested.
“ Did he tell you about Riley?” Sarah asked.
“ The Butcher of Sonora Riley?”
“ The one and only. Seems he’s a major in the Union Army out of Fort Whipple. Or at least he’s pretending to be one. Johnny ran into him bringing a herd of cattle to Fort Grant.” Sarah said.
“ Oh lord. I was hoping that man was long dead.” Clay said.
“ He will be soon enough. They have something in the works for him to get his just dues, and if it doesn’t work, Johnny said a bullet will.” Sarah explained.
Murdoch Lancer rode under the Lancer arch with Walt, Pedro, Rob and Jose, four weeks after delivering the herd. He knew he would receive a scolding from Maria, coming back without his sons. Cipriano hurried over from the corrals to greet him.
“ Welcome home Senor Lancer. It is good to see you again.” Cipriano said. “ I will take care of your horse for you. Where are Senor Johnny and Scott?” he asked.
“ Thank you. Scott and Johnny didn’t come back with me.” Murdoch said before heading inside.
“ If either one of those boys come back here, it will be a miracle.” Walt said as he dismounted and led his horse to the barn.
“ They’ll come back, you’ll see. Scott will get Johnny to come back here. Lancer is his home.” Rob said.
Walt stopped. “ Why, so the old man can slap him around some more. I thought for sure Johnny was going to kill him. Probably would have if it hadn’t been for Scott being there.” Walt stated.
Murdoch walked into the grand room and over to the sideboard, pouring himself a drink.
“ Patron, you are home.” Maria said as she walked into the room. “ Where are senor Scott and Juanito?” she asked.
“ I’m afraid they didn’t come back with me Maria.” Murdoch said after downing a shot.
“ But they will be home si?” she asked.
Murdoch shook his head before pouring another shot and walking over to look out the big bay window behind his desk. “ I don’t blame them if they never come home.”
“Eres un tonto y terco hombre Murdoch Lancer. Necesitas a esos chicos tanto como ellos te necesitan a ti.” Maria said before turning and going back to the kitchen. ( You are a foolish, stubborn man Murdoch Lancer. You need those boys just as much as they need you.)
“ How could I have been so foolish.” Murdoch said aloud to an empty room.
The next morning Murdoch rode into Green River to get the mail and see an old friend.
“ Murdoch, I didn’t expect to see you in town so soon. I want you to know that even though I didn’t know him that well, I thought the world of that boy.” Sam said.
“ I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about Sam.” Murdoch said.
“ You mean you don’t know?” Sam asked.
“ Know what.” Murdoch asked.
“ Here, I’ll show you. This came in on the stage last week.”
Johnny Madrid is dead.
The fastest, deadliest Gunfighter, of the west is dead. Gunned down by one of his own kind, faster and more deadly, a man who rode into El Paso yesterday afternoon and sent a wire to Boston, telling who we can only assume to be his employer that his job was completed, that Johnny Madrid was dead. This reporter has learned the name of the man is Dalton, who comes from Louisiana, New Orleans to be exact. This mans price alone for a job in a staggering five thousand dollars our local sheriff says is payable up front to the man before he even does the job. Many people knew the infamous gunfighter Madrid, Some across the border called him their Patron Saint, a Robin Hood type if you will, who always helped the poor. Nobody knows for sure, but some claim Madrid became a gunfighter at the age of ten so he could gun down the man who murdered his mother in a small Mexican village in Sonora. There is no record of anyone witnessing the death of Madrid, but this reporter has it on good word that he is in fact dead.
“ This has to be a mistake.” Murdoch said.
“ That’s what I thought too, but a man came in on the stage a couple days ago and said it was true. Said he seen the man who done it in El Paso when he sent the wire to whoever hired him.” Sam said.
“ It’s my fault he’s dead.” Murdoch said as he slid down into a chair in Sam’s kitchen.
“ Tell me what happened on the drive to make you say that.” Sam requested.
Murdoch told him everything that happened the night Johnny left and why. He told Sam about hiring the Pinkerton’s to learn all they can about what happened in Laredo four years ago, what Colonel Carlton said at Fort Grant.
“ My god, have you gone mad. What on earth would make you do such a thing? You know what that boy has been through. His death may not be your fault directly, but indirectly you played a big part in it even though we know it was going to happen sooner or later.” Sam said.
“ I don’t need your sarcasm Sam. I know what I did was wrong. I would give anything if I could take it back, but I can’t. He’s gone and his brother if he knows, will probably never come home. He’ll probably go back to Boston.” Murdoch said.
“ Can you blame him? I will never understand how you could want both those boys home, only to treat them like you did. No amout of medicine in the world can fix what you have done my friend.” Sam said.
“ What about Murdoch? He’s bound to have seen that story in a newspaper by now.” Scott asked.
“ Nothing we can do about that. You’ll have to think of a way of telling him I’m not dead without anyone else knowing until ready.” Johnny said.
“ Why do I have to be the one to do it?” Scott asked.
“ Sorry brother, but that’s the price you pay for going to college.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ Is Sarah going with us to Lancer?” Scott asked.
“ Sarah left early this morning Scott. I probably won’t see her again.” Johnny said.
“ I’m sorry. I know she was special to you.” Scott said.
“ It’s not the first time she’s rode away from me. It’s just not meant to be for us I guess.” Johnny stated.
“ How’s the shoulder sand arm feel?” Scott asked to change the subject.
“ Stiff a little, but I can ride. I want to leave before first light.” Johnny suggested.
“ Alright. Will we be going back the way we brought the herd?” Scott inquired.
“ Yeah. Listen, can you to write a letter to Murdoch explaining what is going on? Tell him the news is not true, but to keep acting like it is. That you will explain when you get there.” Johnny asked.
“ What if he hasn’t seen the newspaper article Johnny?”
“ Then tell him something like…….there’s a report going around that I’m dead that isn’t true. I don’t know Scott. Hell, you’re the one who went to college.”
Murdoch sat at his desk trying to go over the expense reports and enter the expenses from the trip and what was purchased for the ranch while he was away, but every time his mind would drift off to that night he slapped his son.
“ You know, usually I don’t have to stand at the door after I knock.” Sam said as he stepped into the grand room.
“ I’m sorry Sam, I didn’t hear you.” Murdoch said. “ What brings you out here?”
“ You have a letter from Scott. I was picking up my mail and seen it on the desk. I told Jack you wouldn’t be in for a few days and that I could bring it out to you.” Sam responded.
Murdoch stood up and walked over to Sam and took the letter. “ Can you stay for supper?”
“ Yes I can. I figured you could use the company. Eating alone can be depressing.” Sam responded.
Murdoch opened the letter.
Murdoch, what you have read is not true. We are coming back to Lancer, but you must continue to act like he is dead. I will explain when we return. Please, do not tell anyone he is still alive.
“ Thank god.” Murdoch said as he handed the letter to Sam, the only man he trusted as Maria walked into the room.
“ Senor Lancer, will the doctor be joining you for supper tonight?” Maria asked.
“ Yes Maria, he will.” Murdoch responded as he walked over to the sideboard and poured two shots of Brandy.
“ I wonder why the secrecy?” Sam said as he set the letter on the desk and took the drink from Murdoch.
“ From what the newspaper article said I would be willing to bet it has something to do with whoever hired Dalton and Major Howard that I told you about.” Murdoch responded.
“ When this Major Howard rode up, you talked to him before he noticed Johnny?” Sam asked.
“ Yes. Now that I think about it, Johnny went as cold as ice in his eyes Sam. You could tell something was wrong, and now that I’ve had time to think about it, that something is Major Howard. How could I have been so blind. It was right there in front of me. How could I do that to my own son.” Murdoch said with anger.
“ Stop beating yourself up over spilled milk Murdoch. Scott says they are coming home, so I suggest you do some serious thinking about how you are going to get that boy to stay here.” Sam suggested.
Johnny and Scott rode into Phoenix ten days after leaving Apache Pass. Skirting around the town to the Express office for the stage line at the west end of town.
“ Johnny, what if your friend seen the story?” Scott asked as they dismounted behind the office.
“ Then I guess he’ll find out it’s a lie when he opens the door.” Johnny said as he opened the back door.
Jo Evans liked working for Wells Fargo. Phoenix seemed to suit him fine. The summers, though hot, were dry without the humidity like Fayetteville would have. Though barren, the desert in the rainy season he found to be quit beautiful. The cactus and their colorful flowers. What he found most fascinating was how some areas would come alive with vibrant wildflowers from seeds dropped long ago just waiting for rain to spring alive again. Remembering one time two years ago when he was coming to Phoenix, how a scorpion stung him when he was gathering firewood, and how this man, a kid really, rode up and knew what to do immediately and saved his life. That was two years ago and now the newspapers were saying his friend was dead. Outgunned by another gunfighter, someone named Dalton. It had to be wrong. Jo knew his friend Johnny was the fastest in the southwest. The man was just to smart to be gunned down. Slamming the ledger book closed, Jo sat back in his chair and felt something cold and metal press against his right temple.
“ You really should keep that back door locked.” Johnny said as his friend stood up and spun around.
“ I knew it was wrong. I know you weren’t dead.” Jo said as he reached for Johnny and hugged him. How the hell are ya kid?”
“ Easy there. My brother was shot recently in the back.” Scott said as he notice the grimace on his brothers face.
“ Shot. Damn Johnny, I’m sorry……….Wait a minute, did I hear him say my brother?” Jo asked.
“ You did. Scott, this is Jo Evans. Jo, Scott Lancer, my brother.” Johnny said as he removed his hat.
“ Well I’ll be damned. You went and got yourself a brother. This calls for a celebration. Let me close up and we can go have a few drinks.” Jo suggested.
“ I can’t. I need to stay dead for now Jo. Can you put us up at your place for a couple days?” Johnny asked.
“ Sure. Yeah I have plenty of room. Is it both or just you?” he asked
“ Hiding……. just me. Scott’s got a couple wires to send and we need to wait on a reply.” Johnny responded.
“ Okay, the house has a small barn and corral out back where your horses can stay. Come on, I’ll show you.” Jo said as he locked the front door. “ We’ll go out the back.”
Murdoch hated not being able to tell Maria that Johnny was still alive. He did tell her that Scott was coming home soon. Something he didn’t think would hurt to do.
“ How is that new bull looking Walt?” Murdoch asked.
“ He’s looking real good Mister Lancer. I’m not seeing any signs of sickness at all in him. I think it’s safe to put him out with the cows.” Walt responded.
“ Let’s wait a couple more weeks, I can’t afford to lose any of my cows if he has something that hasn’t showed up yet.” Murdoch instructed.
“ Yes sir. If he is good, he sure will sire some good calves. You did good buying this one.” Walt said as he patted the bulls head. “ He’s as gentle as a puppy.”
“ Let’s just hope he stays that way.” Murdoch said.
“ Riders coming!” Walt said as he started to lead the bull back into his pen.
Murdoch could see the glimmer as the sun reflected off the badge on the riders chest. “ What now?” he said as he walked toward the three men. “ Can I help you men?”
“ I’m California Ranger Harry Love and these are U.S. Marshal Deputies William Osborn and T.W. McIntosh from Arizona, are you Murdoch Lancer?”
“ Yes I am. I’m a busy man so state your business here Ranger?” Murdoch ordered.
“ It’s been a long ride from Sacramento, may we get down?” Ranger Love asked.
“ If you’re looking for my son he’s dead!” Murdoch blurted.
“ Now why would you think we were here for your son?” Ranger Love asked as he dismounted. “ Lying to a Ranger can get you a year in prison Mister Lancer, so how about we start over. We are here looking for Johnny Madrid. We know he is working for you. Him and your son Scott were both seen together with you a few months ago taking a herd of cattle to Fort Grant. He’s wanted for murder in Laredo, Texas. I was contacted by U.S. Marshal Crawley P. Dake on behalf of a Major Howard at Fort Whipple to arrest and help extradite him to Camp Parker, where Marshal Crawley will take him.” Ranger Love said.
“ Get the hell of my land.” Murdoch ordered. “ Now!”
“ You just made a huge mistake Lancer. We’ll leave for now, but I promise you, we will be back and I might not be in a nice mood next time.” Ranger Love said as he mounted his horse.
“ Hear me Ranger, if you think you can come here and threaten me, you thought wrong. I am very close friends with the Governor and several other very important people in this state. Don’t come back here again.” Murdoch said firmly before turning and heading toward the house.
“ What do you want to do now sir?” Osborn asked.
“ I’ve never failed to arrest someone, I don’t intend to start now. Lancer thinks he can threaten me, he has another thing coming.” Ranger Love said.
“ Why’d he say his son is dead?” McIntosh asked.
“ Saying that he thinks will save his son from hanging. Let’s go back to Green River and get a room, clean up and approach this from a different angle tomorrow.” Ranger Love suggested.
“ Sounds good to us sir.” Osborn responded.
“ So you’re Johnny’s brother huh?” Jo asked. “ You look nothing alike.”
“ Our father married twice. My mother died right after I was born, and I guess a couple years later he met Johnny’s mother in Matamoros, Mexico. We didn’t know about each other until a few months ago. I was raised in Boston by my grandfather.” Scott explained.
“ I’m happy for him. Your brother is one hell of a nice guy. Hard to believe he’s a gunfighter as nice as he is.” Jo said. “ So do you think you’ll be able to put a rest to this?”
“ All we can do is try. We’re really hoping my friend can find out what we need for proof.” Scott responded.
“ If you don’t mind my asking, what’s your grandfathers name?”
“ Harlan Garrett. Why?” Scott responded.
“ Of Garrett Enterprises in Boston, Massachusetts?” Jo asked.
“ How do you know my grandfather?” Scott asked.
“ I lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina. My father worked for a shipping company on the Cape Fear river. He would come home at night and tells us about the crates he would load or unload and the names of the companies shipping them, and what countries they were coming from or going to.”
“ So how did you and my brother meet?” Scott asked.
“ It’s funny you should ask that. I was thinking about that very thing yesterday when the two of you came in.” Jo said.. “I was on my way out here two years ago and it was getting toward dark so I stopped to make camp for the night. I was gathering firewood when I felt a sharp sting, like wasp on my left palm by my thumb. I thought nothing of it and continued gathering wood. Later I was sick, sweating like you wouldn’t believe, yet chilled. Anyhow, Johnny rides up and I was so out of it I thought I was hallucinating. I guess I told him what happened cause when I was able to talk a couple days later he told me it was a scorpion that stung me. He didn’t have to do it, but your brother stayed with me until I was well enough to continue my trip………I would have died for sure had he not showed up when he did.”
“ The short time I’ve known my brother, two things I’ve learned about him, one, he don’t talk about his past, and two, he don’t trust easy. I still don’t think he trust me completely.” Scott said.
“ We had slaves back home and one thing my father taught me when growing up, if you want a slave to work good for you, treat them with respect. Don’t treat them like they are less than you just because their skin is a different color. Treat all humans like you want to be treated.” Jo explained as Johnny walked into the kitchen yawning.
“ Well, I thought maybe you had decided to sleep all day brother.” Scott joked.
“ Probably would have if I had a woman with me last night.” Johnny joked back. “ So what are you two talking about?”
“ You, if you must know. Jo told me how the two of you met and he just finished telling me some very good sound advice his father told him once.” Scott responded.
“ You hear anything back yet from your friend?” Johnny asked as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ No, It will take a day or two probably.” Scott responded.
“ I hate this waiting around Scott.” Johnny said as he sat down.
“ So why wait, why don’t you go on home? Send your friend a wire telling him where he can send any information he gets on this Riley character. If you’re afraid of running into him again, before you want to, go to Quartzsite and then on over to the new landing called Ehrenburg. You can cross into California there. It’s about a two days ride from here.” Jo suggested.
“ They get a stage station built at Quartzsite yet?” Johnny asked.
“ I believe so since Ehrenburg has a permanent landing now thanks to the steamboat captains.” Jo responded as someone knocked on the front door. “ That must be Mary. She stops by sometimes on Sundays after church.” he said as he went to open the door. “ Sheriff Barnum, what can I do for you?”
“ Jo, I need to speak to your guest.” Sheriff Barnum requested.
“ Guest?” Jo asked.
“ Look, I know Johnny Madrid and another man are here. I’m here as a friend Jo, not as the sheriff.”
“ Okay, come on in. They’re in the kitchen.” Jo said as he stepped aside so the sheriff could enter.
Johnny and Scott sat at the kitchen table when Jo walked in with the sheriff.
“ Johnny, Scott, this is Sheriff Tom Barnum. He wants to talk to you.” Jo said. “ Want a cup of coffee Tom?”
“ Sure. Relax boys. I’m here as a friend of Jo’ that’s all. I seen you two ride in yesterday evening.” Tom said as he removed his hat and sat down. “ It’s you I need to speak to Madrid.”
“ About what?” Johnny asked harshly.
“ Easy brother. Let’s hear what the man has to say.” Scott said.
“ And you are?” Sheriff Barnum asked.
“ Scott Lancer. I’m Johnny’ brother.” Scott replied.
“ I never knew Madrid had a brother. Wait a minute, you said Lancer. How can you two be brothers?” Sheriff Barnum asked.
“ We have the same father but different mothers. Murdoch Lancer of Morro Coyo, California. We have a ranch there called Lancer.” Scott responded.
“ Alright. You’re either crazy or telling the truth to say Johnny Madrid is your brother.” Sheriff Barnum said.
“ Here ya go Tom. Nice and hot.” Jo said as he set a cup of coffee down for him.
“ Thanks. What I want to talk to you about Madrid, is two things. First, there’s a man in town who also seen you come in yesterday afternoon. He was in the saloon last night drinking and talking about how he’s gonna call you out and kill you. I don’t think anyone really believed him because of the newspaper article saying you were killed, and unless I’ve been drinking, you look pretty damn good for a dead man.” Barnum said.
“ This man have a name sheriff?” Johnny asked.
“ Dan Bogan.” Sheriff Barnum responded.
“ Name sound familiar Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah, I know the name. I thought he only ran in Texas?” Johnny responded.
“ Usually, but for some reason he’s here in Phoenix, and he’s gunning for you. Now I run a nice quiet town Madrid. I won’t stand for no gun play in my streets. So I’m going to have to ask you and your brother to leave town. I want you both gone by morning.” Sheriff Barnum ordered.
“ How come you’re not making this Bogan character leave town Tom? My friends have done nothing wrong.” Jo stated.
“ Because I don’t want a man like him in my town. Madrid only brings trouble anywhere his type goes. And I sure as hell don’t need the army coming in here looking for you.” Tom responded.
“ The army, what the hell are you talking about?” Scott demanded.
“ Forget it Scott. The sheriff wants me out of his town I’ll leave.” Johnny cut in.
“ I’m sorry Madrid, but this town is trying to become a respectable town. There’s no place for a person like you in a decent town. As for the army, they seem real interested in talking to you about a murder you were supposed to have committed in Laredo, Texas. It’s because of Jo there why I don’t arrest you right now.” Sheriff Barnum said as he stood up. “ Remember, I want you gone by morning.”
“ The newspaper report is wrong Colonel. He’s alive and in Arizona!” Major Howard said firmly.
“ Major Howard, as I have told you before, you will not take men and go chasing after this Johnny Madrid. If he is wanted in Texas, then it is the responsibility of Texas to go after him.” Colonel Golding said. “ Our responsibility is Indians, not gunfighters.”
“ With all due respect Colonel, Johnny Madrid is wanted for murder in Laredo. He killed a man and brutally murdered a Yaqui woman and her baby sir.” Major Howard said with a slight raised voice.
“ And just how do you know this?” Colonel Golding asked.
“ How I know isn’t important sir.” Major Howard responded.
“ Major, until further notice you are restricted to post. I will have no more talk of this Johnny Madrid. The army does not involve themselves in matters that should be handled by the law.” Colonel Golding ordered.
“ What the hell am I restricted to post for?” Major Howard demanded.
“ Need I remind you who you are speaking to Major. I don’t know how the army does things in Texas, where you came from, but here in Arizona we do as we are told, when we are told and we don’t keep dredging on something a civilian did or did not do. I will not address this issue any further, and If you so chose to say one more word about this, I will have you thrown in the stockade for thirty days. Do I make myself clear?” Colonel Golding ordered.
“ Yes sir.” Major Howard said. “ Will there be anything else sir?” he asked snidely.
“ Yes. Starting tomorrow morning you will report to the Ordinance Sergeant and do whatever he tells you to do. That is all.” Colonel Golding ordered.
“ I’m a Major. I will not take orders from the Ordinance Sergeant!” Major Howard snapped back.
“ You will or I will bust you down to a private. Is that clear?” Colonel Golding ordered as he stood up.
Major Howard turned and stormed out of Colonel Golding’s office. He knew the newspaper article about Madrid being killed was wrong, he was seen headed toward Phoenix. There was only one way Madrid would be caught, and that was if he did it himself. He couldn’t risk the army finding out * he * was a wanted man and had murdered the real Major Howard and taken his identity. If Madrid wasn’t stopped he would be hung for the murder in Laredo and the murder of the real Major Howard.
“ I’ll wait for you about five miles out of town.” Johnny said as he saddling his horse early Monday morning.
“ I don’t like you leaving alone brother. What if he sees you leave and follows, or he’s out there now just waiting to ambush you?” Scott asked.
“ Look, I appreciate your concern Scott, but I’ve been taking care of myself for a long time. I promise you I’ll be careful.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle, turned his horse and started to ride away.
“ Johnny Madrid……where ya going Madrid?” Dan Bogan yelled. “ You running away like a coward? I heard that about you. That you like to shoot men in the back.”
Johnny turned his horse and faced Bogan. “ Move away Scott.”
Scott stood there with Jo. “ Want I should go get the sheriff?” Jo asked.
“ Yeah, and hurry.” Scott said as he stepped away from Johnny’s horse.
“ I’m going to enjoy killing the half-breed Johnny Madrid.” Bogan yelled as he walked closer
“ I got no beef with you Bogan. I’ve never seen you until now. Turn around and walk away.” Johnny said.
“ I got one with you Madrid. I knew it was all a lie. That Dalton didn’t kill you, but I will.”
Sheriff Barnum and a deputy ran up with a scatter gun each in their hands. “ Alright, that will be enough of this. I told you I wanted no gun play in my town Madrid!”
“ Sheriff, I told you Johnny was leaving when Bogan came up.” Jo said
“ Ride out now Madrid, and don’t you ever come back to Phoenix!” Sheriff Barnum ordered. “ Don’t worry, he won’t do anything. I’ll hold Bogan one hour.”
Johnny looked at the sheriff finally, then at Scott, nodding slightly before he put spur to his horse and headed west.
Scott watched his brother gallop away knowing now they wouldn’t be meeting up at the designated place. Not with Bogan possibly following.
“ Let’s go Bogan.” Sheriff Barnum ordered.
“ You got no call to arrest me sheriff. I ain’t broke no laws.” Dan stated as the deputy shoved him.
“ As long as I wear this badge, I’ll arrest whoever I want, when I want, for whatever reason I want. I told you I wouldn’t allow gun play in my town. It may not be against the law elsewhere, but here inside Phoenix town limits it is. Now shut up and move.”
“ Damn, will you be able to find Johnny?” Jo asked.
“ We were supposed to meet up five miles out. I recon he’ll keep riding. Maybe I can catch up to him at Quartzsite.” Scott said.
“ They have a telegraph in Quartzsite. Go after your brother before he gets to far ahead of you.” Jo suggested.
Scott went to his horse and started saddling him. “ I’m grateful for you being a friend to my brother.”
“ He saved my life Scott. Johnny will always be my friend. You take care of him. He’s a pretty special guy.” Jo responded.
“ I plan to do just that.” Scott said as he tightened his cinch. “ If you’re ever in California. Our ranch is just outside Morro Coyo. You’ll always be welcome there.”
“ I’ll remember that.” Jo said as Scott swung up in the saddle and took off to hopefully catch up with his brother.
Murdoch Lancer got off his horse in Sacramento in front of the courthouse. Governor Booth, a longtime friend could put a stop to California Ranger Harry Love trying to arrest his youngest for a murder he never committed. Or at least that’s what he hopes will happen.
“ Can I help you?” a deputy asked.
“ I’m here to speak to Governor Booth.” Murdoch replied.
“ Do you have an appointment with the Governor?” the deputy asked.
“ No. I’m a longtime friend and I rode all the way here from Morro Coyo to see him about a pressing matter.” Murdoch responded.
“ Unless you have an appointment, I can’t let you in.” the deputy said.
“ Maybe I didn’t make myself clear. I need to see Governor Booth now, today……….”
“ Murdoch…….Murdoch Lancer…….what in tarnation are you doing in Sacramento?” a balding burly man in a sharp three piece suit asked as he walked over and shook Murdoch’ hand.
“ I’m here to see you. It’s important. It’s about one of your rangers.” Murdoch explained.
“ Well I’m on my way to lunch at the hotel, why don’t you join me and we can talk.” Governor Booth suggested.
“ Governor, you have a three o’clock with Senator Casserly sir.” the deputy said.
“ Alright, that gives us three hours. Come, it’s so good to see you. What’s it been, five years?” Governor Booth asked.
“ It’s been a long time yes.” Murdoch said as they walked to the hotel.
“ I think the last time we seen each other I was at my swearing in celebration..” Governor Booth said as they walked into the hotel and were escorted to a private area in the back.
“ You’ve come a long way since then. I never would have expected you would one day be Governor of California.” Murdoch said as they sat down. “ Course I never would have expected you to be a Senator either.”
“ You know, they’re talking of me going to the United States Senate.” Governor Booth said.
“ In Washington DC?” Murdoch asked.
“ Unless you know another.” Governor Booth said with a smile. “ I never thought I would go this far Murdoch.”
“ Well I’m happy for you Newton.”Murdoch said.
“ Have you heard from you boy Scott, In Boston at all?” Governor Booth asked.
“ Scott came home to Lancer just over a year ago. You can’t imagine the shocked look on my face when I opened the door and seen him standing there.” Murdoch said with a smile.
“ He came home huh. Well I’m real happy for you Murdoch. What about your other son Johnny. Have the Pinkerton’s had any luck finding him?” Governor Booth asked.
“ Yes. He came home about five months ago. In fact Johnny is why I’m here.” Murdoch said. “ A short while ago I had a visitor to the ranch. A California Ranger named Harry Love, along with two United States Deputy Marshals. Love claims he was there on behalf of Texas to extradite my son to the Arizona line where a U.S. Marshal Crawley P. Drake will take him to Texas with the two deputies.
Newton, I know my son, he didn’t commit the murder Major Howard says he committed.”
“ Who is Major Howard?” Governor Booth asked.
“ From Fort Whipple in Arizona. We came across him when we took a herd of cattle to Fort Grant. Johnny says he has never murdered anyone and I believe him.” Murdoch explained.
“ And how does this Major Howard know your son?” Governor Booth asked.
“ He says he seen him do it. That Johnny was shot in the back and rode out of there before he could be lynched. He says someone ambushed him and he shot back in self defense.” Murdoch responded.
“ What are you not telling me Murdoch?” Governor Booth asked.
“ My son goes by another name. It was hard for him growing up in Mexico. His mother was brutally murdered in front of him when he was ten. He became a gunfighter to stay alive. I have several Pinkerton reports I brought with me telling what they learned about him and why it took so long to find him.” Murdoch explained.
“ And what is this other name he went by?” the Governor asked.
Murdoch leaned closer to the Governor. “ Johnny Madrid.”
“ Johnny……..Good god man, even I heard of him and how he helped the peasants and always took the right side in a range war. Wait a minute. Wasn’t there an article printed not to long ago about him being gunned down?” the Governor asked.
“ Yes, but that article is not true. Johnny and Scott are on their way home now from Arizona. The man in the article who says he killed my son was a friend of his and hired by someone back east. I think the boys know who it was.” Murdoch stated.
“ Well, I can stop Ranger Love, but I can do nothing bout the deputies. They may try without Love to arrest him. I’m going to stick my neck out for you on this Murdoch, because I know you wouldn’t lie to me. I’ll do everything I can.” the Governor said.
“ Excuse me Governor, we need to go sir so Senator Hager isn’t kept waiting.” the Governors assistant said.
“ Very well. Duty calls. I will let you know as soon as I can about this matter Murdoch.” the Governor said as they stood up and started toward the door.
“ That’s all I can ask. It was good seeing you. Stop by the ranch sometime.” Murdoch said.
Harlan Garrett since learning of Madrid’s death thought of a way to get his grandson to finally come home. He despised Murdoch Lancer for taking his beautiful daughter Catherine away from him all those years ago to a god forsaken land of nothing.
“ Patrick, I will be going to California to bring my grandson back home where he belongs. I will be leaving on the train Friday.” Harlan said.
“ Yes sir. How many bags will you be needing packed sir?” Patrick asked.
“ I should think four would be enough. If my plan works, and it should, I won’t be staying in that god forsaken place that long.” Harlan responded.
“ Very well sir.” Patrick said. “ Do you wish me to send a wire letting your grandson know you are coming?” he asked.
“ No, I want to surprise Scotty.” Harlan responded.
“ Very well sir. I will have everything ready for you to leave.” Patrick said. “ Will there be anything else tonight sir?”
“ No, that’s all.” Harlan responded.
Scott rode west at a hard pace for about five miles with no sign of his brother. Slowing down to give his horse a breather. Scouting the ground for any sign of tracks as he rode down into a wash.
“ You looking for something?” Johnny said from behind him.
Scott stopped his horse. “ No, I just thought I would look for supper.” Scott responded with a smile. “ Sheriff Barnum arrested Bogan. The man wasn’t all to happy about it either.”
“ He’ll either come after me, or go back to Texas.” Johnny said as he rode down into the wash. “ We can follow this wash north or south for a few miles, or keep going west.”
“ If he comes after you, what do you thing he would do?” Scott asked as he dismounted to check his cinch.
“ Head west. If he goes to Jo like I think he will. He’ll tell him we are headed to Quartzsite.” Johnny responded.
“ How far is the next town if we go north?” Scott asked as he got back on his horse.
“ Wickenburg, it’s about sixty miles from here. We can go there then head northwest and cross the Colorado River into California at Topock.” Johnny responded.
“ Sounds good. But you do realize going that way, we run a chance of running into Major Howard again?” Scott asked.
“ I know, but we can hide easier from him now. There’s plenty of deep washes running west we can ride in and water too.”
“ Would you be offended if I asked how you know this land so well?” Scott asked as they started north.
“ Stay toward the middle of the wash. Rattlesnakes like to hide along the bank in the shade in the afternoons.” Johnny suggested. “ No, I don’t mind. I didn’t always run along the border and in Mexico. I handled a couple of range wars up here between ranchers and miners. One mine in particular called the Vulture Mine, started by a man named Henry Wickenburg. The town is named after him. He started it back in sixty three. It was a dry mine and the ranchers were afraid he would block their cattle from water in the spring and early summer. It sprouted up as more people came in search of gold and eventually the ranchers moved their cattle east of there.”
“ You know, with all you’ve been through, range wars and such. Have you ever thought of keeping a journal of everything to maybe have it published later?” Scott asked.
“ No. I have it all right up here in my head Scott.” Johnny responded.
“ I can write it for you if you want to share with me someday brother.” Scott suggested.
“ And what, call it the Life and Times of Johnny Madrid?” Johnny asked with a laugh.
“ Why not. You could possibly make a lot of money.” Scott suggested.
“ And what, be mocked like a lot of gunfighters and outlaws are from those damn dime store novels? Thanks, but no thanks brother.” Johnny said.
“ It wouldn’t be like those dime store novels Johnny. Those are nothing more than inventions or fabrications as opposed to facts, beliefs or statements that are false, but believed to be true because it sells. Yours would be what is called Non-fiction, prose writing that is based on facts, real events, and real people, such as biography or history.” Scott explained.
“ And what, I’m supposed to tell you all this stuff so you can write it down and find some fool willing to publish it?” Johnny asked.
“ You know what your problem is brother. Your to cynical. You need to start being a little more trusting.” Scott suggested.
“ I thought I already was. I’m trusting you now. Five months ago I sure as hell wouldn’t have. That should account for something.” Johnny responded.
“ Indeed it does.” Scott responded.
“ That day Major Howard showed up. You said you spent a year in Libby Prison. Where did you get caught?” Johnny asked.
“ Kelly’s Ford, Virginia, March seventeenth of sixty three. I was wounded and Confederates found me. All Union Officers were taken to that hell hole. We were lucky to have any kind of clothing on us. Very little if any food and half a cup of water twice a day that a horse wouldn’t drink. Men were walking skeletons. During the second week of February 1864, 109 Union officers took part in what was later dubbed by the press as the Libby Prison Escape led by Captain Morton Tower of Company B, 13th Mass Infantry” Scott said before becoming quiet.
Johnny knew all to well the feelings his brother was having right now remembering his time in a hell hole prison. While in Mexico, he’d heard nightmare stories about both Libby and Andersonville Prisons and how they treated the prisoners. Not much different than how a Mexican Prison treated theirs.
“ On the night of February 9th, as soon as it was sufficiently dark, the exodus from the prison commenced. Major Hamilton, Captain Tower, Col. Rose, and some of the projectors were the first to pass through. Col. Davis of the 4th Maine and myself had passed through the tunnel to the yard just as the clocks of Richmond were striking twelve. Near daybreak we reached a thicket of woods where we stopped to rest.. Capt. Tower and Col. Davis eluded recapture and soon joined 57 other escapees who also made it to the Union lines.” Scott explained.
Johnny’s heart sank knowing his brother went through that.
“ Do you have nightmares Johnny. You know, from when you were in a Mexican Prison?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah I do Scott.” he responded.
“ So do I. I dream about the men who couldn’t get out that night. The men who were so wasted away, they couldn’t even stand up, and those that could, could only do so with help.” Scott said softly.
“ I know it’s hard, but you need to remember that one hundred and nine of you made it out of there alive that night Scott.” Johnny said.
“ My grandfather didn’t even know me he said when he came to see me in a hospital. Hell I still don’t remember how I got there. All I remember is waking up in a bed with a bandage on my wound and a nurse was wiping me down with cool water when he walked in. I spent a week there before grandfather took me home to Boston where I went in the hospital there for further treatment before I could finally go home.” Scott explained.
The brothers remained quiet until the sun started to sink behind the mountains. “ We can stop if you want?” Johnny asked.
“ How far is Wickenburg?” Scott asked.
“ There’s enough moon we could be there by midnight.” Johnny responded.
“ A hot bath and bed to sleep in sounds good to me.” Scott said.
“ Won’t be getting no bath at that time of night brother. We can stop here for the night if you want instead. Then go on in to Wickenburg in the morning and get a bath, meal and supplies.” Johnny suggested.
“ No bed, I guess beggars can’t be choosers.” Scott responded as he stopped his horse. “ I’ll get us some firewood. We can have beans and coffee at least.”
“ Sounds good. I’ll tend the horses.” Johnny said as he dismounted.
“ Doesn’t look much bigger than Morro Coyo.” Scott said as they rode into Wickenburg about ten the next morning.
“ It’s about double it’s size from when I was here last.” Johnny said. “ There’s a bath house on the other end of town and a mercantile where we can get supplies.”
“ How far to the Colorado River from here?” Scott asked as they dismounted in front of the bathhouse.
“ Two days ride if we take the road.” Johnny responded.
“ Well I will be damned. Either my eyes have gone bad, or the hottest looking man to ever grace this flea bitten town just rode in.” a scarcely clad woman said from the bath house entrance.
“ You were damned years ago girl.” Johnny said as he stepped up onto the boardwalk and pulled her into a hug.
“ I heard you were killed by Rurales six, seven months ago down in Mexico.” she said.
“ Thought you knew better than to believe everything you hear.” Johnny said. “ Mary, I want you to meet my brother Scott….Scott, this is Mary, a good dear friend.”
“ Mary, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Scott said as he extended his hand.
“ I didn’t know you had a brother. He’s as good looking as you.” Mary said. “ You here for a bath and shave?” she asked.
“ Why else would I stop here. Give us the works.” Johnny responded.
“ Honey, I aim to do just that…….Charlene, take Scott here and give him a real good bath and shave.” Mary ordered.
“ Uh Johnny……..”
“ Relax Scott. I promise you will enjoy it.” Johnny said as he disappeared in the back with Mary.
“ You got some explaining to do.” Mary said as they entered her room.
“ You got all fancy in here now I see.” Johnny said as he closed the door.
“ Yeah, I decided to add a woman’s touch to my room. Now, what about this brother of yours. Where did you find him?” she asked as she poured a bucket of hot water in the tub.
“ About five months ago. A Pinkerton bought my freedom, courtesy of my old man. I decided to go home with the plans of killing him, but learned the truth instead.” Johnny said as he pulled his boots off. “ My mother lied to me. He didn’t throw us out. Turns out he had been looking for me ever since. I learned about Scott when I was there. Seems he didn’t grow up at Lancer either. He was raised by his grandfather in Boston. His mother died giving birth to him.” Johnny explained as he removed his gunbelt and set it on the chair by the bed.
“ So, your mother decides to leave California and live in squalor in Mexico. That makes no sense. I mean, why did she leave your old man?” Mary asked as she poured another bucket of hot water in the tub.
“ Only thing me and the old man could think of is she wasn’t happy at Lancer.” Johnny responded as he started removing his clothes.
“ I’ve heard that name before…………Lancer, now where the hell did I hear it….Oh I know, Murdoch Lancer, is that your old mans name?” she asked.
“ Yeah, why?”
“ I had a miner in here who said a man named Lancer delivered seven hundred head of cattle to Fort Grant to feed the miners and town folks so they wouldn’t starve. That must be some ranch your old man has.”
“ One hundred thousand acres and twenty thousand head of beef. He wants to make me and Scott third owners, but he calls the tune.” Johnny said as he slipped out of his long johns.
“ Oh my. It’s been a long time since I had a man like you Johnny. Too damn long.” Mary said as she walked over and put her arms around him. “ I’m going to clean you inside and out before you leave.”
“ I hope so.” Johnny said before kissing her.
“ He’s gone sir.” Captain Butler said.
“ Who’s gone Captain?” Colonel Golding asked.
“ Major Howard. He left sometime in the night. A guard was found unconscious at the gate, and another at the corrals. His horse is gone too.” Captain Butler responded.
“ Damn that man, damn him. How bad are the two men?” the Colonel asked.
“ They’re both in the infirmary sir. Johnson has a concussion and Peters has a concussion and a pretty deep laceration on his head too sir.” Captain Butler said.
“ How long has Major Howard been here?” Colonel Golding asked.
“ About nine months I believe sir.” the Captain responded.
“ I’ve been going over his papers, and something just doesn’t seem right with him.” Colonel Golding said.
“ Like what sir?” the Captain asked.
“ His age. According to the papers he brought with him, he was born in eighteen eighteen, which would put him fifty four years old. Major Howard, or whoever he is is not that old.” Colonel Golding stated.
“ Now that you mention it sir, it was a little strange when he got here. He didn’t know what any of the bugler calls meant. Said what they use at Fort Bliss are different sir.” Captain Butler explained.
“ Nonsense. The army has used the same calls ever since the Revolutionary War.” Colonel Golding stated firmly.
“ You think he’s an imposture sir?” Captain Butler asked.
“ I’m beginning to think that maybe he’s lying about Madrid killing a man in Laredo. I’m starting to think that he killed the man and also killed the real Major Howard. Wire Fort Bliss and see if anyone there can give a description of the real Major Howard Captain.” Colonel Golding ordered. “ And Captain, not a word to anyone about this. Make sure the telegrapher knows also.”
“ Yes sir. I’ll go do it right now sir.” Captain Butler said before saluting, turning and leaving the Colonel’s office.
Major Howard pulled his rifle out of the scabbard as he watched a man fill his canteen. Riding up to the man he cocked the rifle.
“ I ain’t got no money mister.” the man said.
“ I don’t want your money. Get them there clothes off.” Major Howard ordered.
“ What the hell. You’re a Union Soldier and you’re going to take my clothes?” the man asked as he stood there.
Major Howard fired a shot at the mans feet, spraying rocks and dirt. “ I’m not going to tell you again mister!”
The man removed his shirt and sat down to pull his boots off. “ I think I have a right to know why you’re doing this?” the man asked as he stood up to remove his pants.
Major Howard got down and stepped closer to the man. “ Because I don’t want no blood on them there clothes.” he said before pulling the trigger. “ Army comes looking for me now, they won’t spot me as easy wearing your clothes and riding your horse.”
Thirty minutes later John Riley looked down at the man laying on the ground, a red stain spread across his chest. Having stripped all the gear off the army horse and run it off, he now rode a long legged sorrel with a white face and four white socks. Heading west to Topock to cross the river into California. Having learned the Lancer ranch was located outside a town called Morro Coyo in the San Joaquin valley. Riding along he relished in the fact of not wearing an army uniform any longer. He was actually surprised he’d gotten away with being an imposture in the Union Army for nine months.
Captain Butler entered Colonel Golding’s office. “ He’s an imposture sir.” he said as he handed the wire to the Colonel. “ Also Sergeant Andrews said he was asking a lot of questions around town about a ranch called Lancer. It seems he learned that that is where Madrid is living sir.”
Colonel Golding read the description of the real Major Howard given by the Colonel at Fort Bliss. “ Where is this ranch located Captain?”
“ Outside a town called Morro Coyo, in the San Joaquin valley sir.” the Captain responded.
“ Most likely he’s changed clothes and got rid of the army horse he stole. Send a wire to the nearest law to this Morro Coyo and give them a description of this man, whoever the hell he is. Tell them he’s wanted for murder.” the Colonel ordered.
“ Yes sir. Do you want me to take some men and go after him sir?” the Captain asked.
“ Yes. Take two men and find him if you can. I want this man caught. We know he killed the real Major Howard, and possibly killed the man he says this Madrid killed also. Send a wire to Laredo and ask what happened that night.”
“ I took the liberty of already doing that sir. It would seem a Yaqui woman and baby were killed. Witnesses say Madrid killed a man who was seen in Laredo with this John Riley. That it was Riley and the other man who killed the woman.” the Captain explained.
“ Who is John Riley?”
“ That’s his real name sir. John Riley. He came from Mexico where he is known as the Yaqui Butcher sir.” Captain Butler said as he handed the Colonel two more telegrams. “ The only thing he told that day that was true was that Madrid did ride out of Laredo wounded. A witness came forward the next day, but Riley was already gone sir.”
“ Send a wire to this Lancer ranch telling them this John Riley is coming there looking for Madrid. Tell them we know Madrid is innocent and that Riley is the killer.” the Colonel ordered.
“ Already done sir.” Captain Butler responded.
“ It would seem you are two steps ahead of me Captain. Good job. Now take two men and go after this Riley.”
“ Yes sir.” Captain Butler said before saluting and leaving.
“ Did you enjoy your bath yesterday brother?” Johnny asked as put the fire out.
“ I must say I most certainly did brother.” Scott responded with a smile.
“ Getting washed from the inside out is good sometimes. Mary’s girls are real good at what they do. She runs a good clean place.” he said.
“ Nice choice of words there brother.” Scott said with a smile as he finished putting the two plates in his saddlebag. “ So how long have you known Mary?”
“ I’ve known Mary about seven years now. She found me shot and nursed me back. Taught me a lot about women.” Johnny said as he saddled his horse.
“ You couldn’t have been more than what……..twelve or thirteen?” Scott asked as he tightened his cinch.
“ Thirteen when I was shot, and fourteen my first time with a woman.” Johnny responded. “ How old where you your first time?”
Scott stopped what he was doing and looked at his brother. “ Nineteen. A girl named Barbara back in Boston. We snuck away from a friend of hers cotillion and I must say, it was the best time I ever had at a party.”
“ I bet you miss all those fancy parties and rich people you hung around and had for friends?” Johnny asked as he slid his rifle into the scabbard.
“ Some of them I miss. The ladies back in Boston are much different than out west, and I’m not talking about the entertaining kind out here either.” Scott said as he got on his horse. “ A lot of them wouldn’t even speak to a person if they didn’t know them. I remember this one day it was raining and this woman’s carriage had lost a wheel. I offered to help the driver get it back on and she would have none of it. She all but told me to take a flying leap.”
“ Why’d she do that?” Johnny asked as he mounted up.
“ She didn’t know me. That and the fact that she was Frederic W. Lincoln Jr’s daughter, a Miss Harriet Lincoln. I have to say though, if political people’s daughters are that snobbish, I want nothing to do with them.” Scott explained.
“ So what do you do at these cotillion things Scott?” Johnny asked.
“ You really want to know this stuff Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. I’d like to know what rich people do at parties. Hell I might get invited to one some day.” Johnny responded with a laugh.
“ Well, basically you wear fancy clothes. Usually the ladies wear beautiful gowns with more stuff underneath than you can imagine. It’s no wonder it takes a lady so long to get ready. The men usually wear a nice three piece suit or tux. You stand around talking and looking at the ladies. Asking them politely if they would like to dance and always offer them a cup of punch after, and if she is using her fan, then ask if she would like to go outside to get some fresh air.”
“ Man, sounds to me like a lot of work. Getting all gussied up so you can dance with some girl that probably wouldn’t even let you touch her or kiss her.” Johnny said.
“ Well little brother, I’m afraid that if you are looking for saloon type girls, you won’t find them at cotillions or balls.” Scott said with a laugh.
“ They got whorehouses in Boston?” he asked.
“ Whether they do or do not, I wouldn’t know anything about such a place brother. To tell the truth, I never heard of one until I came out here.” Scott responded.
“ You’re kidding me right?”
Scott shook his head.
“ Well hell. I don’t want to go to no big fancy city that ain’t got no whorehouse. I have needs that need took care of.” Johnny said.
“ Tell me what it’s like in Mexico. How the people live down there.” Scott asked.
“ Poverty Scott. There’s a lot of poor farmers in Mexico. Men like President Diaz not caring about anyone but the rich estancias, ad Captain Munoz, at least he won’t be killing any peasant farmers anymore.” Johnny said with some anger.
“ What do you mean?” Scott asked.
“ Because I killed the sonofabitch. Captain Munoz is the one who shot me in the back after I crossed the river. So I sent him to hell.” Johnny responded.
Scott could tell by the sound in his brothers voice, he hated the man. He was sorry he had asked, but still wanted to learn what he could about his brother.
“ President Diaz initiated a war against the Yaqui Indians in Mexico. He’s had thousands killed and many others deported out of Mexico. The few still remaining do so because they are protected by ranch owners. Most of the people in Mexico are good hard working people Scott. They don’t have much, but always share what little they have. Hell, most of the time when I hired my gun out, it was for nothing more than a place to sleep and a plate of beans. Mexico is a poor country because of men like President Diaz.”
“ Would you tell me about your mother? I never got to know mine. All I know is what grandfather and Murdoch have told me about her. I seen the picture he has of her. She looks like she was a beautiful lady.” Scott said.
“ My mother…….she was a beautiful Mexican woman at first, until to much drinking and selling her body for pesos so we could eat and have a shack with a roof over our head. At first she was good to me, then it seemed like I was always in the way. Sometimes the men she would bring home would slap me around. There were a couple who were nice to me though. I remember this one who lived with us for a while. He took care of us until he came home one day and my mother had another man in bed with her. He left and needles to say, It was my fault and I was beaten by her for it.” Johnny said.
“ Your mother beat you for something she did wrong. I’m sorry Johnny.”
“ It’s no big deal Scott. After a while you get used to being hit and slapped around. When I got older, I stayed away, and only came back when I knew she was alone, usually passed out.”
Scott couldn’t believe what he was hearing his brother tell him about his mother. “ What did you do? I mean, you were just a kid. Didn’t you have any friends you could play with, hang out with?” Scott asked.
Johnny busted out laughing.
“ Something funny?”
“ You brother. You forget I’m a mestizo, a half-breed. Kids in Mexico want only one thing with me, and that was to beat me up. If you have a gringo father and a Mexican mother in Mexico, your a worthless half-breed. Hell even the priest punished me after my mother died. I put up with their shit for two years before one day I ran away and they just stopped looking for me.”
“ I seen the scars on your back. I’m sorry. That should have never happened to you.” Scott said with sadness in his voice.
“ You know, growing up I always wished I had a big brother or someone who would protect me. Someone who would stop the beatings. I finally found him one day when I was twelve. He’s been my best friend and savior ever since. His name is Sam Colt. I grew up hard, and I grew up mean Scott. I wasn’t going to let anyone hit me again. The whip marks on my back, they’re from Captain Munoz, when he had me in his prison. The day that Pinkerton bought my freedom, Munoz was gone to Juarez. I would have loved to have seen his face when he got back and found I was gone.”
“ Johnny, was he still in Mexico when you killed him?” Scott asked.
“ No. He crossed the river when I shot him.” Johnny responded. “ He had no authority on this side of the Rio Grande Scott. His men told him that, and he wouldn’t listen. I have no regrets about killing that sonofabitch.”
“ Do you have any regrets about Sarah?” he asked.
“ The only regret I have about Sarah is I was stupid enough to think she loved me enough to not leave me the second time.” Johnny responded.
Murdoch read one of three telegrams he received again from Captain Butler at Fort Whipple. Shaking his head in disgust at how he questioned his son about something he never did. Now this man found to be an imposture was after his boy, but why? Did Johnny witness this man do the killing in Laredo? Could that be the reason he talked like he did that day on the trail, he didn’t want anyone to find out the truth, and now that the truth was out, was he coming after Johnny, to silence him? Damage had been done between father and son, damage he only hoped he could repair when his son came home again. Did Scott and Johnny know the army knows now that Major Howard is in fact John Riley, a killer? Murdoch had a feeling Johnny knew this John Riley before whatever happened in Laredo that night.
The second telegram was from his friend the Governor was able to stop California Ranger Harry Love from pursuing his son to send back to Laredo for a crime he did not do. Arriving home from Sacramento, Murdoch learned that the ranger and two deputies had once again come to the ranch and were promptly ordered to leave by several hands with rifles. Before he had left, he told Walt and Cipriano, both of which had witnessed the encounter before when he run them off Lancer.
The third telegram from a man named Patrick in Boston, a servant for Harlan Garrett, telling that Mister Garrett left Boston that morning headed to California to try and get Scott to go back to Boston with him. He also gave his condolences on the loss of Scott’ brother. There was only one way this man Patrick could know Johnny was supposed to be dead, and the man was coming to Lancer. Why? Was Harlan so desperate to get Scott to come back to Boston, that he would hire a man to kill Johnny, thinking Scott would leave? Did he have so much hate since Scott found out the truth in the letters, or could it all possibly be because of his beautiful Catherine, Scott mother marrying Murdoch Lancer, not a year off the boat from Iverness, Scotland and coming out west with him to start a life in California? If he is responsible for hiring this Dalton gunfighter, he would have some serious questions to answer when he arrives. Murdoch just wished Scott would be here.
Harlan Garrett got off the train in Chicago where he would switch trains and continue on west. The porter told him he would have a two hour delay due to a problem with his next train, and if he wished, he could get a fine meal at the cafe across from the train station. All the way to Chicago from Boston he had to listen to people talking about how great it was that they could now travel to California in just a weeks time compared to months and months in a wagon out in the elements, and being attacked by Indians, robbed or killed. Another man stated that now that the west was open, more people would go west to stake their claim in farming, ranching or mining. None of which he could understand why any person would want to do. During dinner, he expressed his feelings about California and how god awful desolate it was, and that he was going out there to bring his grandson home to a more civilized place to live. The man and his wife were not at all pleased with what he said and the rest of the trip to Chicago remained for the best part, quiet.
Arriving in Denver he received more news he was not happy with. A snowstorm in the mountains ahead had the tracks closed for an undetermined amount of time due to several avalanches. Acquiring a room at a luxurious hotel seemed to be the only good thing about his trip so far.
“ The hotel clerk said he had seen early winter storms that hit in August, have the line closed a good month before they could get it opened up again to travel. Many passengers chose to take a stage south to Pueblo or farther south and around the higher mountains. The thought of riding on a stage coach for days on end over what was sure to be rough terrain had very little appeal to him. He would take his chances and wait it out in Denver.
Johnny and Scott rode into Topock two days later and paid the ferry operator to take them across. Both eager to get back to Lancer where they could sleep in a soft bed and eat good home cooked food.
“ You know. I believe the closer we get, the more anxious I get to be home.” Scott said.
“ Yeah me too I guess. You think the old man will let us sleep a couple days?” Johnny asked as they led their horses onto the ferry.
“ He might if we ask him nicely.” Scott responded.
“ I have to admit, I’ve missed Maria’s spicy cooking.” Johnny stated.
“ You had much business today?” Scott asked the ferry operator.
“ You two are my first today. Had a man yesterday who was. in a real hurry. Said he needed to get across because he was tracking a killer named Johnny Madrid. Told him he was wasting his time because Madrid was killed a while back.” the operator said.
“ You remember what this fella looked like?” Scott asked.
“ Oh about your size I’d say, maybe a little stockier, dark brown hair, needed a shave and a bath.” the man said.
Johnny knew the man had just described John Riley. “ Damn.” he said.
“ Take it easy. Let’s wait until we’re across the river.” Scott said.
Thirty minutes later the brothers led their horses off the ferry and mounted up.
“ He’s headed for Lancer.” Johnny said.
“ He probably found out from someone where it’s at.” Scott stated.
“ He’s a day ahead of us. We can make good time if we ride toward Modest and cut across. It’s mostly flat land.” Johnny suggested.
“ You mean the way we brought the herd down. Sounds good to me.” Scott responded.
Eleven days steady hard riding the brothers rode into Modesto and stopped at the livery.
“ These horses need a rest and I cold use a bath Johnny.” Scott said.
“ Yeah. Lets get them settled and go send a wire to Murdoch telling him where we are. We can get a room for the night.” Johnny suggested.
“ You sent that wire, Murdoch should get it today.” Johnny said as he led his horse out of the livery.
“ He should. We should be there by tomorrow evening.” Scott responded as he followed Johnny out with his horse.
“ Soak in a nice hot bath and eat Maria’s great cooking, sounds good to me. You think he’ll tell her we’re coming?” Johnny asked
“ Oh I expect he might. I don’t think he wants her mad at him if she found out he knew and didn’t tell her.” Scott responded.
“ Good point…..Let me ask you something. Growing up back in Boston, what did you do in the winter when you had snow?” Johnny asked.
“ Well, when I was young, I was out playing in it with my childhood friends. You know, making snowmen, having snowball fights, sledding down the hills. When I got older I would go for sleigh rides with a girl and drink hot apple cider or hot chocolate after as we sat by a fire either at her parents house or my grandfathers.”
“ Heard of it, but never had that apple cider stuff. Is it any good?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes it is brother. Warmed up just right with a cinnamon stick in it.” Scott replied. “ You’ve been in snow before haven’t you Johnny?”
“ Nope. Only seen it way off on top of the mountains. Heard it was cold though.” Johnny responded. “ Maybe sometime we can go to the mountains in Colorado so I can see and touch it.” Johnny suggested. “ What were your Christmas’s like? Did ya get a lot of stuff?”
“ Johnny, I don’t feel right talking about how I had it easy and a great time when you were barely surviving.”
“ Oh come on Scott. It’s not your fault. I just wanted to know what your childhood was like brother. You know, how the other side lives.” Johnny said. “ Besides, you didn’t know you had a little brother, so stop feeling sorry for me. I survived.”
Scott stopped his horse, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. “ I remember Patrick went all out when I was little. He and the other servants would get the Christmas stuff out and we would decorate a tree he would go and purchase. I think stringing popcorn was my favorite thing to do as he would sit and tell me stories of his family and how they migrated from Ireland. His childhood was really fascinating.” Scott told.
“ Didn’t you decorate with your grandfather?” Johnny asked.
“ Grandfather was always to busy working. He would come home on Christmas eve and stay in his den working until the early hours on Christmas morning. Come to think of it, I don’t think Grandfather ever spent Christmas eve with me and I can only remember him there a couple times on Christmas morning. As I got older, he would just have Patrick take me shopping to buy whatever I wanted.” Scott explained as he got his horse moving again.
“ I guess he never realized what you really wanted was him!” Johnny said. Hell Christmas’s in Mexico are usually cold and wet. No snow, but a lot of rain sometimes. I would sit below a window and listen to Christmas Mass. I’d see families together celebrating and wish I could have a family like that. A few times I stole a pie or loaf of bread someone had sitting in a window to cool so I could have something to eat. The only friend I had was a little puppy I found with a hurt paw. He was with me two years and watching me, learned to steal food and bring it to me so we could share it. Damn good dog.”
“ What happened to him?” Scott asked.
“ He was killed by some kids because he was my dog. I found him that night. He had his throat cut. I guess he was just to friendly, because it cost him his life. That’s one reason why I don’t trust so easy Scott. I’ve been hurt to damn much growing up.” Johnny explained.
“ Bullies can be cruel. I remember these two fellas I thought were cool to hand out with. I was about sixteen. This one night they asked me to go out with them for some fun. I didn’t know the kind of fun they had in mind until it was too late. We took a cab to this one section of town where my grandfather told me to stay away from, now mind you I was only sixteen, and when my grandfather told me to stay away from that section of Boston, I didn’t understand what he meant until that night I went with Jo and Jesse. It seems they liked to go there and break things. The night I went with them, an old man came out of his house with his son to try and stop them from breaking things. Jesse started beating the kid for no reason, Jo just stood there laughing. I grabbed Jesse to stop him and my so called friends turned on me and beat me. My grandfather was furious with me for being in that section after he told me not too, but understood once he calmed down and learned the truth.” Scott explained.
“ What about Jo and Jesse, what happened to them?” Johnny asked.
“ Nothing really. They had to clean the park stone fence and benches during the summer. Which incidentally is full of pigeons in the summer. You know, the sad part of it is why they did it…….They told the judge because anyone who lives in that section of town isn’t worth anything.”
“ I’ve had that my whole life Scott. What you just told me is what happened to me almost every day of my life until Sam Colt came along and changed the odds.” Johnny responded.
Harlan Garrett walked out of the Brown Palace Hotel after a hearty hot breakfast and headed to the train depot to see if there was any new news on getting over the mountains. Being stuck in Denver for the past week has taken it’s toll on the mans patience, as well as many others trying to go west.
“ Alright, those of you heading west. The train will be departing at seven am, in the morning. If you miss the departure time, then you will have to wait three days fro another train headed west if the passes don’t get closed again because of avalanches.”
Harlan smiled. One more day in this town is one more day too long. The Hotel clerk said the air is thin because Denver is located exactly one mile up in elevation from sea level. That if they were in New Orleans, they would be below sea level there. It would seem the man came from New Orleans because of the humidity there was taking a toll on his wife’s health so they moved to Denver where they run the grandest Hotel in the city. The rooms were decorated with exquisite taste and the linens fresh daily. He was surprised his room had it’s own water closet, and not one he would have to share with others down the hall Harlan was also surprised some of the things he had back in Boston have actually made their way as far west as Denver. The hotels towels and wash cloths were always fresh and clean, and his bed made every morning when he came back from breakfast. Since the train would be leaving finally tomorrow morning, he figured he would look around the little shops not far from his hotel for a good book to read on the rest of his journey.
Murdoch walked into the kitchen and stopped. Maria was busy preparing that nights supper. Since he came back from the drive, he told her she didn’t need to fix such a big meal since it would be just him, but she would have none of it. Every time she would mumble that her boys would come home and they would be hungry.
“ Maria. Can I have a word with you?” Murdoch asked.
Maria stopped what she was doing and turned to face him. “ They are coming home si!” she said with a smile.
“ Yes, they’re were in Modesto last night and will be home sometime tomorrow.” Murdoch responded.
“ Both?” she asked, giving thanks when Murdoch nodded yes. “ I will prepare a feast for my boys. My Juanito, he will be too skinny.”
“ You fix as big a feast as you want Maria.” Murdoch said before turning and leaving the kitchen. Harlan Garrett having not showed up yet could only mean snow in the Rockies had closed the line and the man was probably stuck in Denver. Sitting down at his desk, Murdoch picked up the picture of Scott’s mother and sat back in his chair, just looking at her. Scott had her eyes, that he was certain. He also inherited his mothers calmness. In the year Scott had been at Lancer, he couldn’t remember him ever losing his temper but that one time the night Johnny left three days from finishing the drive. He had to give Harlan credit, the man did an excellent job bringing Scott up with all the proper manners and education. Looking at the picture of his Catherine, just one of the small momentos left him when she died in Carterville giving birth to their son.
“ You would be so proud of our son Catherine. He’s grown into a fine young man.” Murdoch said softly.
“ You look like a man deep in thought, or should I say, lost in a memory!” Sam said as he walked into the grand room.
“ I’m sorry Sam, I never heard the door.” Murdoch said as he put the picture back on his desk and stood up. “ You’re practically family, so you don’t have to knock anyways.”
“ Good memories I hope.” Sam said.
“ Catherine. Just wondering if she knows just how good our son has turned out to be.” Murdoch responded. “ And you are family. You are welcome here anytime.”
“ I thought I would come and see how you were doing. The last time I seen you in town…….”
“ He’s alive Sam. The newspaper was wrong. I don’t know why, or have all the answers yet, but Johnny is alive. They will be home tomorrow. Scott sent a wire from Modesto last night.” Murdoch explained. “ Actually , a lot has happened since we last seen each other.” Murdoch said as he walked over to the sideboard for a drink and told Sam about going to see the governor, the wire from Colonel Golding and how Captain Butler is coming to arrest Riley.
“ What are you going to do about this Riley?” Sam asked. “ And Scott’s grandfather?”
“ I’ll let the law handle Riley, unless he comes on Lancer property and tries to kill my son. Scott doesn’t know Harlan is coming here. Harlan doesn’t even know I know he’s coming here. A servant of his named Patrick sent me that wire telling me he was.” Murdoch explained.
“ Tomorrow some time. May I suggest you tread lightly with them. Especially Johnny.” Sam suggested.
“ I plan too Sam. I also plan on apologizing to my son for ever doubting him like I did. I took the word of a stranger over my own sons.”
“ Have you ever figured out why you did it?” Sam asked.
“ No. The only thing I can think of is maybe because he was wearing an army uniform, but even that sounds pathetic for an excuse Sam.”
“ Can I make a suggestion?” Sam asked. “ I think I told you this before, but maybe this time you will listen to my words……Don’t be the mighty Murdoch Lancer when they come home. Instead be their father. Johnny has had no stable male in his life growing up. He’s going to buck. If you want him tamed down, then ease up on the reins and be more like Scott is with him. Maybe then you and Johnny can get along.”
“ I fully intend to do just that Sam. Stay and have supper with me. I’ve been eating alone since I got back and it would be nice to have the company.”
Scott and Johnny stopped on the hill and looked down at Lancer. “ From here all the way to those mountains in the distance brother. You think you can handle being a third owner of it now?” Scott asked.
“ He calls the tune, which means any suggestions or ideas we happen to have, he will most likely disapprove of and or flat out tell us no on.” Johnny said.
“ All we can do little brother is make suggestions. Present him with ideas that would be beneficial to Lancer.” Scott suggested.
“ I heard a rancher once say that a majority rules. Especially when voted on. Now don’t that mean we would win if we both voted the same against the old man?” Johnny asked.
? Yes it does. A majority always wins little brother. But that won’t apply to us as third owners of the ranch.” Scott stated.
“ Why the hell not?” Johnny demanded.
“ I believe he will have it in the agreement saying that any and all decisions made, he has the final word on. Any and all changes must be approved by him. If you think about it, you can’t blame him. He’s built Lancer up these last twenty six years at the cost of two wives and almost two sons.” Scot responded.
“ No……I guess I see what you’re saying. Tell ya what, any ideas I have I’ll pitch them to you and you can present them to him.” Johnny said as they rode down the hill.
“ Me…….why me? If it’s your idea, you should present it to him. Not me.” Scott said
“ Sorry brother, but your the oldest, and you have that fancy Harvard education to help you.” Johnny responded.
Murdoch watched as his two sons rode down the hill together and couldn’t help but smile.
“ Welcome home boys. You look tired.” Murdoch said as Johnny and Scott rode into the yard and dismounted. “ Walt, Pedro, take care of their horses.”
“ Senor Johnny. It is so good to see you again.” Pedro said as he took Johnny’s horse. “ I’ll take good care of him for you.”
“ Thanks Pedro. Give him a double ration of oats, he’s earned it.” Johnny said as he removed his rifle and saddlebags.
“ Mine too Walt.” Scott added as he removed his as well.
“ We’ll rub them down real good for ya. Good to see you again Scott. Welcome home Johnny.” Walt said as he led Scott’s horse away.
“ Oh hey, we don’t want a lot of people knowing we’re back. So……”
“ Don’t worry Johnny, we won’t say anything.” Walt said.
“ Maria is preparing a feast for you both tonight, so I hope you are hungry.” Murdoch said.
“ Good, because we haven’t ate since we left Modesto.” Johnny said.
“ I have a lot of questions, but they can wait until you boys are rested. Go ahead and go clean up and I’ll see you both at supper.” Murdoch said.
“ ¿ Es aqui donde un hombre hambriento puede obtener una buena comida?” Johnny asked as he walked into the kitchen. ( Is this where a hungry man can get a good meal?)
“ Mi Juanito, llegaste a casa. Te preparo un festin para ti. Ve a limpiar.” Maria responded as she hugged him.( My Juanito, you came home. I prepare a feast for you. Go clean up.)
“ No he hecho nada más que pensar en tu buena cocina mamcita. Te extrañé.” ( I’ve done nothing but think about your good cooking mamacita. I missed you.)
“ Te quedas en casa. Tu padre, él ha aprendido su lección. No te va a echar de nuevo.”( You stay home. Your father, he has learned his lesson. He won’t run you off again.)
Johnny hugged Maria tightly and gave her a kiss on the head before letting her go. “ It was my fault mamacita. He didn’t run me off. He asked me a question about my past and……….”
“ Shhh, I know. Your father, he loves you very much. He told me what happened. He had tears in his eyes.” Maria said. “ Now go, let me finish your meal.”
“ No confío en lo fácil. Me han hecho mal y me han dolido tantas veces, es difícil para mí. He estado solo la mayor parte de mi vida. Sin reglas, nadie que se preocupara por mí. Lo único que realmente tuve que preocuparme por mí fue salir de mi vida en Apache Pass.” ( I don’t trust easy. I’ve been done wrong and hurt so many times, it’s hard for me. I’ve been alone most my life. No rules, nobody who cared about me. The only thing I’ve ever really had to care about me, rode out of my life at Apache Pass.)
“ Tienes un hermano y un padre que te aman y se preocupan por ti.” ( You have a brother and father who love and care about you.)
“ No sé si yo y el viejo alguna vez podemos llevarnos bien.” ( I don’t know if me and the old man can ever get along.)
“Puedes si quieres en tu corazón Juanito.” (You can if you want to in your heart Juanito.)
“ A veces me mira como si fuera una desgracia para el nombre Lancer. Como se quisiera que no estuviera vivo.” ( Sometimes he looks at me like I’m a disgrace to the Lancer name. Like he wishes I wasn’t alive.)
“ Eres untonto si crees eso. Tu padre te buscó por tanto tiempo. Nunca pienses que él no te ama ni te quiere.” ( You are a fool if you believe that. Your father searched for you for so long. Don;t you ever think he doesn’t want or love you.)
“ Am I interrupting something?” Scott asked as he walked into the kitchen.
“ No, I was just telling Mamacita she better cook you up a big steak tonight.” Johnny responded.
“ It smells delicious in here. My stomach can handle her Mexican food tonight.” Scott said as he peaked into a pot.
“ Go now, both of you.” Maria said firmly. “ Juanito, recuerdas lo que digo.” ( Juanito, you remember what I say.)
Johnny walked over and put his arms around Maria, hugging her tightly before he picked her up of the floor and swirled her around. “ Thanks mamacita.” he said as he set her down and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“ Supper was delicious Maria. Gracias.” Scott said. “ Little brother, I honestly don’t know where you can put all that food.”
“ And here I thought you were and educated man Boston. I put it in my stomach the same as you and Murdoch.” Johnny said with a laugh.
“ With as much as you can eat, you should weigh three hundred pounds.” Scott joked back.
Murdoch sat there enjoying hearing his sons banter back and forth like they were. He himself had wondered how Johnny could eat so much, yet remain so skinny.
“ I think maybe Maria thought you boys hadn’t been eating so she wanted to feed you up right.” Murdoch said with a laugh. “ If you’ve had enough son, how about we have an after dinner brandy and go out on the veranda.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Sounds good to me.” Scott said as he put his napkin down, stood up and followed his father to the sideboard.
“ There are a couple telegrams I want you both to read that I received.” Murdoch said as he poured three glasses of brandy. “ I must say, you can’t know the hurt I felt when Sam told me you were dead son. It was two days before I got your short letter telling me to ignore what the papers were saying.”
“ We know who the back east money is that paid Dalton to come kill me.” Johnny said as he walked over, took his glass of brandy, and gave Scott a look that clearly said for him to tell their father who it was.
“ I guess I angered grandfather more than I thought when I confronted him about you not wanting me being a lie. He is the person responsible for hiring Dalton to kill Johnny. I guess he figured that with Johnny dead, I would go back to Boston.” Scott explained.
“ Just a minute son.” Murdoch said as he set his drink down and went to his desk, pulling out the telegrams he’d received. Walking back over, he handed the one to Scott.
“ Of all the………I can’t believe that man has the audacity to come here.” Scott said with anger.
“ When did he send the telegram?” Johnny asked.
“ He didn’t. Someone named Patrick did.” Murdoch said. I got it over a week ago.”
Scott looked at the telegram again. “ He always did watch out for me when I was in Boston.”
“ Who’s Patrick?” Johnny asked.
“ Grandfathers oldest servant. He was like a father to me growing up.” Scott responded, glancing at Murdoch
“ He’s the one you were talking about when you told me about Christmas’s and such when the old man was too busy to spend time with you.”
“ Yes. Patrick is a dear friend and very loyal servant who unfortunately my grandfather treats like………. If any of the servants mess up, grandfather reprimands or fires them.”
“ That’s no way to be to the help. You should write Patrick and see if he would like to come live out here with you.” Johnny suggested.
“ Maybe I will, but right now I have to decide what to do about grandfather coming here Johnny.”
“ We don’t know when he will arrive. It seems a snowstorm closed the pass and they had several avalanches to clear. He’s been in Denver for at least a week now.” Murdoch explained.
“ Him coming here, he must believe I’m dead. We just have to figure out what he’s going to try and do to get you to go back to Boston with him…………or do you want to go back to that fancy way of living you told me you had brother?”
“ I miss Boston, my friends and yes I miss the parties and clothes, but none of that can compare to what I have found out here brother.” Scott said as he walked over and wrapped his left arm around Johnny’s neck and put him in a playful headlock.
“ You have no idea how hearing you say that makes me feel son.” Murdoch said.
“ I love my grandfather, don’t get me wrong, but I have a father he said didn’t want me, and a little brother whom I am going to have to teach some serious manners too.”
“ You don’t want to get your clothes all dirty do you?” Johnny asked playfully.
Scott shook his head as they both laughed.
“ A colonel Golding and Captain Butler sent a wire telling that they know he is an impostor, and that he is on his way here to kill you. Captain Butler is on his way here with some men to try and arrest him for murdering the real Major Hunter.” Murdoch explained. “ I also had a visit from a California Ranger from Sacramento named Harry Love and two Arizona Deputy Marshals. They were here to arrest you for murder in Laredo and extradite you back to there to stand trial for this so called murder. I went to Sacramento and seen Governor Booth and had the charges dismissed against you. Now I can’t confirm outside California, But I’m prepared to do whatever I have to do to prove your innocent son. That night in Arizona, when you left. I was so wrong in how I asked you about Laredo. I’m ashamed to say I took the word of a stranger over my own son. You told me you have never committed a murder. The Pinkerton reports also say you have never committed a murder. Son I’m sorry, and I fully understand if you don’t want to forgive your old man for being so foolish that night.”
Johnny looked at his father as he spoke. He could see the hurt in his eyes and hear the faint quiver in his voice as he talked. One thing he learned growing up was how to tell if a person was telling the truth or not. Watching his father, he knew the man was speaking from the heart.
“ Old man, a wise person told me that as a family, we’re bond to have our fights and or disagreements. It’s me who should be apologizing to you. I didn’t like the way you asked me that night, and I should have answered your question then. I shouldn’t have left. I think the only good that came out of me leaving that night, is a big brother who followed me, and I got the chance to know him a little better. I don’t trust easy Murdoch. I can’t. I’ve been hurt to many times in the past. It’s not easy for me to talk to you about my past. There’s some things I pray you never learn happened to me, and that I did, but I stand here right now and swear to you and Scott, I have never murdered anyone in cold blood before. What John Riley said that day was only partially true. I did kill a man in Laredo the night in question. I don’t know his name, but Riley does because they were together. Him and the man I killed raped and murdered a Yaqui woman and her baby. Unfortunately Riley was able to shoot me in the back before I killed the sonofabitch.” Johnny said before taking a drink of his brandy. “ John Riley is known as The Butcher in Mexico. President Diaz had him and others doing his dirty work of murdering Yaqui Indians when they didn’t flee the state of Sonora. He took pride in killing women, children and babies. He a rope with scalps he’d taken that he used to carry in view of others.” Johnny said with disgust.
“ Sounds like killing that man would be doing a great justice.” Scott said.
“ I’ve killed my share of men, and some deserved it, but none deserve to be killed more than John Riley does. If I get the chance to send him to hell, I will, and nobody can stop me from doing it.” Johnny said firmly as he looked at his father. “ You got nothing to say now that you know the truth old man?”
“ Johnny.” Scott said.
“ I just want to know is all Scott. You still want to know about parts of my past?” he asked.
“ If it helps me to understand you better, yes. I don’t expect you to tell me everything about your past son. Just, promise me that if something like this ever happens again, where someone from your past comes up and tells about something, promise me we will talk about it if possible and not let what happened in Arizona happen again?” Murdoch asked.
“ I guess I owe you that at least since you shelled out all that money looking for me for eighteen years.”
“ You don’t owe me anything for that son. I did that because I love you and I wanted my blue eyed little boy back home where he belonged.”
“ You got him, just not as a little boy.” Scott said with a laugh and smile.
“ I got both my sons home and I couldn’t be prouder.” Murdoch said.
“ Any chance of being allowed to sleep tomorrow?” Johnny asked.
“ As long as you are up by lunch. I’ve ate enough meals alone in this house.” Murdoch responded.
Harlan Garrett got off the train in Stockton and wiped the sweat from his brow.
You’ll find a livery across the way were you can procure a buggy.” the train clerk said. “ It would be best to leave in the morning since it’s so late in the day now, otherwise you’ll be camping out.”
“ Thank you. Can you tell me what the best hotel is in this dusty town?” Harlan asked.
“ Well if you want a private in room water closet and bath complete with running water, that would be the Occidental Hotel over on Weber Street, two blocks down and three blocks over. Foods real good in the restaurant inside. A couple of German immigrants run it, and they keep that place spotless.” the train conductor said.
“ Is there by chance a way of getting there besides walking?” Harlan asked.
“ Hey Davy, this gentleman wants to go to the Occidental Hotel. He’ll take you there. Just let him know what time you want to leave for the livery in the morning and he will be there to pick you up.” the conductor said.
“ Why thank you very much. I appreciate your kindness.” Harlan said as he picked up his suitcases and started toward the buggy.
“ I’ll get those for yu mister.” Davy said as he took the suitcases from Harlan.
“ You be good to Mister Garrett, Davy. He’s come all the way from Boston. Try and be home on time for supper tonight.” the conductor ordered.
“ I’ll try pa.” Davy said. “ You come all the way from Boston huh? I want to leave here and go back east some day. My pa, he don’t think it’s wise of me. I told him there ain’t nothing out here for me. By the time we get anything here, it’s been back east for months, or longer.” Davy said as he secured the suitcases. “ I mean, we just last year got water closets and running water in some businesses. I bet you’ve had that in Boston for a long time.”
Harlan climbed up in the buggy. “ Yes, we’ve had inside running water and water closets for a few years now. I take it the conductor is your father?” Harlan asked.
“ Step father.” Davy said as he climbed in the buggy. “ He’s been real good to me and my ma. My old man was killed robbing a bank in San Francisco when I was about three. Ma came here to start over, to get away from the stares and snide remarks some made even though we had nothing to do with what my pa done. Ma works at the hotel as a waitress. The owner treats her real good. You have any kids Mister Garrett?”
“ No, just my Grandson I’ve come to take back to Boston where he belongs.” Harlan responded.
“ He here around Stockton?” Davy asked.
“ No, a ranch outside Morro Coyo called Lancer. That’s where I will be going in the morning.”
“ Mister Grey’s, he isn’t gonna let you take his only buggy that far. He only rents it out for a day at a time. It’s the only one he has.” Davy explained.
“ How far is it to this Morro Coyo from here?” Harlan asked.
“ Close to fifty miles. I can take ya. We could use the money really bad. That’s if you don’t mind.” Davy suggested.
“ Is your mother working?”
“ She sure is.” Davy responded.
“ Alright, while I get checked in, you have her come to the front desk so I can ask her. Don’t tell her why I want to see her.” Harlan instructed.
“ Okay. Well here we are. I’ll get your bags and bring them inside.” Davy said as he jumped down.
“ Good afternoon sir. I take it my brother is still asleep?” Scott asked as he walked into the grand room.
“ I believe so yes. How did you sleep?” Murdoch responded and asked.
“ Good, best sleep I’ve had in a while.” Scott responded.
“ Anything happen while you two were away that you can talk about?” Murdoch asked.
“ Just got to know my brother better. He shared a little about his past to me and I told him about my childhood back in Boston.” scott said as he walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot.
“ A might early for that isn’t it son.” Murdoch stated. He knew something was bothering his oldest, and he had a pretty good idea what it was. “ It’s not your fault son. You are no more responsible for what your grandfather did than I am. Your brother doesn’t blame you.. You shouldn’t either.”
“ I want to confront him. I want to know how he could care so little of me that he would kill my brother.” Scott said.
“ He worth you getting all angry over brother?” Johnny asked.
“ How can you ask that after what he has done Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Your grandfather is a cold hard bastard. You told me that, but………he loves you Scott. It’s been just you and him for what……twenty four years. Then one day his world is turned upside down and he’s all alone. You have me and Murdoch, who does he have now, nobody. You yourself told me how even the servants don’t like him. Don’t hate him for what he’s done Scott, forgive him.” Johnny said.
“ You can forget what he did that easy?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah I can Scott. Hell I’ve had people trying to kill me for a long time. Mostly because they want my reputation. I can’t blame them just like I can’t blame your grandfather.” Johnny responded. “ Shuttin’ off your old life’s not an easy thing to do. The past has a way of coming up and nudging you sometimes.”
Murdoch listened with a deep feeling of pride as hos youngest explained how he could forgive someone so easy who is bent on killing him.
“ I just realized how wrong I’ve been about you son. Most men your age would be angry if they had done to them what you have. I’m proud of you.”
“ Oh I can be angry with someone and hold a grudge Murdoch. Munoz found that out, and so will John Riley.” Johnny responded.
“ Munoz, who’s that?” Murdoch asked.
“ A dead Captain in the Mexican Army. Well he was.” Johnny responded.
“ Was son?” Yeah, Maybe some day I’ll tell you about him.” Johnny responded.
“ Fair enough.” Murdoch said.
“ What’s with the calf in the barn Murdoch?” Johnny asked.
“ The prized breeding bull we had was killed as well as that calves mother. Cipriano has been nursing him along. He’s he last of that bloodline.”
“ A cat?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. There’s a sale week long cattle sale this fall in Sacramento. Why don’t the three of us go to it?”
“ I’m game, how about you Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Don’t much care for big cities. To many people, but I’ll go with you two.” Johnny said as Walt rode up.
“ There was no mail Mister Lancer. Just this note I was handed to give to Scott.” Walt said as he handed the note to Scott.
“ Thank you Walt.” Scott said as he took the note and opened it. “ Grandfather is in Morro Coyo and would like me to pick him up in the morning.”
“ Alright son. Would you like me to go along?” Murdoch asked.
“ Maybe it’s best if you stay here with Johnny. I’ll take a couple hands with me just to be safe since Riley is around somewhere.” Scott responded.
“ Walt and Pedro can go in with you. Make sure you talk to them on the way in about what’s going on.” Murdoch said.
“ How about some checkers before supper brother. It’ll take your mind off tomorrow.” Johnny suggested as the three walked into the house.
Johnny came down the back stairs to the kitchen and found his father sitting there drinking a cup of coffee. Maria was at the stove finishing up breakfast.
“ Morning.” he said as he walked over and poured a cup of coffee. “ Scott already leave to go get the old man?”
Murdoch cringed hearing his youngest say those words. Clearing his throat and setting his cup of coffee down a little harder than expected, Murdoch glared at his son.
“ You know, I’m going to ask you this one time, and one time only son, from this moment forward you will not call me an old man and you will not call Scott’s Grandfather an old man either. Now I know you have manners, and I would like you to use them around those older than you.” Murdoch said firmly.
Johnny laughed before taking a sip of his coffee. Glancing at Maria, he swore she had daggers in her eyes burning t him. Then he remembered the talk he had with her the night they came home. Winking at her he set his cup down.
“ You’re right Murdoch. I’m sorry. I meant no disrespect to you. I’ll be on my best behavior to Scott’s Grandfather when he gets here. But I will warn you now, if that man says anything disrespectful toward me, I won’t be respectful.” Johnny warned.
“ Your brother wishes us to not say anything about the wire Patrick sent telling us he was coming. Scott believes Harlan will fire the man if he finds out.”
“ Coming home he told me how if one of the servants screwed up he did one of two things to them, Reprimanded them severely or fired them.” Johnny stated. “ You know he spent most Christmas with the servants. I was usually alone at Christmas, but for someone who has a home and everything to spend it alone because the old man raising him would rather work, that’s wrong. Scott said to this day his grandfather would rather work either at the office or tucked away in his den office than be with him. He said even at those fancy parties they had, he would hardly see the man.”
“ It takes a lot of hard work to provide for a family son. If you want to live a life of luxury like they do in Boston, you have to make sacrifices to achieve that. I don’t know what kind of business Harlan is in exactly, but I think that whatever it is, it could have waited one day. I went eighteen years without you here for Christmas, twenty four years without your brother. I can’t explain the emptiness I had every Christmas when I would wake up and come downstairs to an empty house.”
“ Did you do that to my mother?” Johnny asked.
“ Do what son?”
“ Put this ranch over her…….and me?”
“ I was busy with this ranch a lot yes. I was here every morning and every night with your mother son. I only got two Christmas’s with you before she took you away from me. If I was out on the ranch, she knew where at all times and could send a hand to get me if she needed something.”
“ What she needed wasn’t something………it was you Murdoch. She told me she was so lonely before you kicked us out. That none of your friends liked her, and only spoke nice to her if you were around. She told me that one of your so called friends wife came b y one day and spat at her feet and called her terrible names because you got her pregnant with me before you married her. That I was the devils child spawned out of wedlock from a whore.” Johnny said as he tried to keep his voice from failing him and anger down.
“ My god Johnny, I had no idea she was being treated that way son. All she had to do was say something.”
“ And what would you have done Murdoch, told them to leave. That they were no longer welcomed in your home because they disapproved of your marrying a Mexican?”
“ Yes. I don’t need friends like that. If your mother was that unhappy with me and being at this ranch, she should have told me so in person, not run away in the middle of the night like a coward.”
“ Maybe she was a coward, I don’t know. I do know I hate her for lying to me about you and robbing me of a life I deserved.”
“ Son, don’t hate your mother for what she did. She was young and adventurous. That gambler she left with said and did all the right things to get her to leave with him. Granted I would have loved having you here growing up, but you weren’t and who you were in Mexico helped you become who you are today.”
“ A gunfighter!”
“ My son.” Murdoch said with sincerity in his voice.
Scott stopped the buggy outside the hotel and climbed down. “ I shouldn’t be too long Why don’t you go see if there is any mail while I see if my grandfather is ready.” Scott suggested to Walt and Pedro before walking inside the hotel lobby.
“ Something I can do for you?” the hotel desk clerk asked.
“ No thank you. I’m looking for somebody.” Scott responded as he walked past the desk. “ Grandfather!”
Harlan Garrett sat at a table eating a ham and egg breakfast, turning to the voice he knew. “ Scotty!”
“ How are you sir?” Scott asked as he walked over and removed his hat.
“ Sit down boy, sit down. Some breakfast?” Harlan asked.
“ I had mine at sunup.” Scott responded as he sat down.
“ Aah, have a cup of coffee.” Harlan said as he turned and looked at the waiter. “Sunup?”
“ You’ll find that life starts a little earlier out here than in Boston.”
“ And life must be a lot more rustic. Those clothes, this town.”
“ I like it out here sir.”
“ Yes, I assumed that since you refused to acknowledge numerous invitations to come home.”
“ Well, I think it will be a little time before I get back to Boston.
“ Yeah, well we’ll see.” Harlan said. “ Only time and distance dim the hurt. At least for some people.”
“ I have the buggy right outside whenever you are ready sir.” Scott said. “ Where’s your luggage?”
“ Uh, by the door.” Harlan responded as he stood up.
Scott grabbed the bags and took them out to the buggy and secured them as Harlan walked out. “ It’s a two hour ride so we should probably get going sir so we can get back so you can rest up before supper.” he said as he secured the bags. “ Walt, Pedro, this is my Grandfather Mister Garrett. Walt and Pedro are two of our very good hands”
“ Yes, I’m sure they are.” Harlan said snidely as he climbed into the buggy.
John Riley couldn’t believe his luck when he walked out of the hotel just as Scott Lancer pulled up in a buggy and got down. Having a beard and civilian clothes helped him not be recognized as the Lancer son walked right past him into the hotel.
“ So you have two riders with you huh. That’s alright. I’ll let you take me to your brother.” he said as he walked to the livery to saddle his horse. Having gotten rid of the clothes he stole off the man he killed and growing a beard made him look like just another cowboy looking for work.
Two hours later Scott stopped on top of the hill to let his grandfather see for the first time what he has come to love so much.
“ From here all the way to those mountains.” Scott responded.
“ Well I’ve never seen it, but I seem to know it so well.” Harlan said as he looked down at the valley below. “ This wilderness. What a naive young girl came to search for her sugar dreams.”
“ Well she loved him sir. That’s why she came out here, to share her life with him.” Scott stated.
“ I’ve often wondered what it is that drives a man so hard. Makes him put ambition above all else. Even his own family.” Harlan said.
“ Murdoch didn’t have a family when he came here.” Scott said.
“ Precisely. Murdoch had to force himself to make the trade!” Harlan responded.
“ Trade?” Scott asked.
“ I raised you Scotty, not Murdoch. I took care of you for twenty four years while he was carving out his little empire.”
“ With all due respect sir, I’ve tried to show my gratitude.”
“ Gratitude! Gratitude is something I don’t want from you my boy………Well forgive me. I guess I’m getting to be a silly, mottled old man. Let’s get on.” Harlan said as he sat back in the buggy.
Murdoch watched as the buggy came under the Lancer arch. Johnny had gone to his room and Maria was asked to stay in the kitchen and not say anything about him being there.
Scott stopped the buggy outside the front door and got down.
“ Murdoch.” Harlan said as he got down.
“ Harlan, your room is ready. He can stay in the room across from yours son.” Murdoch said.
Scott knew Johnny was probably up in his room staying out of sight. “ I’ll take your bags up for you sir.”
“ Thank you Scotty.” Harlan said.
“ Lunch will be in about an hour if you would like to freshen up before we eat.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Thank you. That would be nice. It was a little dusty coming here.” Harlan said as he followed Scott into the house.
“ Mister Lancer, can I speak to you sir?” Walt asked.
Murdoch walked over to the man. “ Something wrong Walt?”
“ He’s here sir. He walked out of the hotel when Scott went in. He’s not in uniform and has a scraggly beard, but I know it was him.”
“ Who?” Murdoch asked.
“ The one from Arizona sir that talked to Johnny about Laredo. The one called Major Hunter. I know it was him sir. I’d bet my life on it.” Walt said.
“ His real name is John Riley. He’s here to kill Johnny. I received a wire from Colonel Golding. Captain Butler and some men are on their way here to arrest him. He killed the real Major Hunter and took his identity. If he was in Morro Coyo, chances are he followed you back here and knows where Johnny is at.” Murdoch responded.
“ Every hand on this ranch would give their life to protect Johnny sir. We like him. He’s a good decent person. None of us hold what he’s done in his past against him. Mexico is a rough country. You gotta to do what you have to do to survive down there.” Walt said.
“ Alright. Tell Cipriano and post guards. Be sure to let them know what he looks like now. And Walt, thank you. Your a good man.” Murdoch said.
“ I like working for you sir. So do the men. There isn’t a ranch anywhere else that treats it’s hands as good as Lancer does.” Walt said before turning to do what Murdoch asked.
Murdoch turned to go inside and caught movement at his sons window. He knew Johnny heard what Walt said. Cursing to himself as he walked into the house.
“ Grandfather decided to take a nap after he freshens up. He said he will join us at supper.” Scott said as he came downstairs and walked into the grand room. “ Is something wrong sir?” he asked.
“ John Riley is here. Walt seen him in Morro Coyo. It seems he walked right past you when you went into the hotel. He’s changed his appearance and Walt is certain it was him. I have him telling Cipriano and posting guards.” Murdoch responded.
“ Grandfather couldn’t have picked a worst time to come here.” Scott said. “ Want me to tell Johnny?”
“ Won’t be necessary. He heard what was said from his bedroom window.” Murdoch responded.
“ What can I do for you Captain?” the livery owner asked.
“ My horse has a loose shoe I was wondering if you would take a look at?” Captain Butler said as he dismounted.
“ Sure thing Captain. Don’t get much army around here. You just passing through?” the livery man asked as he checked the horses shoes.
“ We are looking for a man who may be in the area.” Captain Butler said, then described the man. “ He will most likely be wearing civilian clothes now and riding a different horse.”
“ He was here alright. Left a few hours ago headed southeast. This right rear shoe is loose. I’ll fix it right up for you.”
“ Thank you. Can you tell me where I might find the Lancer ranch? I was told it was around Morro Coyo.”
“ Sure is. You take the road out of town headed southeast and after about eight miles or so you will come to a fork in the road. Stay to the right and it will take you right to Lancer.” the livery man responded. “ Known Murdoch Lancer a long time. He’s a really good man, and a happy one since his two boys came home. He searched eighteen long years for his youngest boy Johnny. At least he got a few months with him before he was gunned down.”
“ Gunned down?” Yeah. It was in the paper. Some gunfighter named Dalton killed him somewhere over by El Paso. Paid by some rich person back east in Boston I believe to do it.” the man explained.
“ Why would a man back east want Johnny Madrid dead?” the Captain asked.
“ Got me. The only thing bein’ is maybe Madrid killed his son or something. Who knows about those people back there. They’re a weird lot. They come out here thinking they can fence off the range and waterholes. They got no clue what it takes to live out here.” the man responded as he pulled the old shoe off and put a new one on. “ There ya go Captain. Good as new.”
“ I appreciate it, thank you. How much?” the Captain asked.
“ Six bits. Listen, Murdoch ain’t been around town much since he got the news about his boy, but his other boy Scott was in town this morning and picked up some rich looking fella to take out to the ranch.”
“ Much obliged for the information.” Captain Butler said as he paid the man and mounted up. “ Sergeant Wallace, lets go.”
Johnny sat looking out his window when he heard his door open. “ Can I come in brother?” Scott asked.
“ Come on in.” he responded.
Scott walked in and closed the door. “ I’ve been thinking brother, and I don;t think you should be a prisoner so to speak in your own home.”
“ I planned on coming down for supper Scott. Has he said anything about why he’s here?” Johnny asked.
“ No, but I know he’s here to get me to go back to Boston with him. Which I am not doing. I like it out here and I told him so.” Scott responded. “ We had an interesting conversation when I stopped up on the hill to let him see Lancer. I haven’t talked to Murdoch about it yet. I wanted to ask what you think since your an outside party to it so to speak!”
“ Sure brother. I’ll give it a listen.” Johnny said. “ Have a seat.”
Scott sat down. “ He said my mother was a naive young girl who came out here searching for her sugar dreams. I told him my mother came out here because she loved Murdoch and wanted to share her life with him out here. He said he often wondered what it is that drives a man so hard to put his ambitions above all else. Even his family.”
“ Murdoch didn’t have a family when he came out here.” Johnny said. “ It was just him and your mother.”
“ Exactly, and I told him that. His response was, precisely. That Murdoch had to force himself to make the trade.”
“ Trade, what trade Scott?”
“ Grandfather response when I asked him that very same thing was he raised me, not Murdoch. That he took care of me for twenty four years while our father carved out his little empire.” Scott explained.
“ You mean Lancer.”
Scott stood up and looked out the window. “ I told him I tried to show my gratitude and he got angry. He said he didn’t want my gratitude. Then he said to forgive me, I’m a silly mottled old man.”
“ Where is he now?” Johnny asked.
“ Resting until supper. He wants me to go back with him, I know he does. I just can’t figure out how he plans to try and get me to do it?”
“ You don’t think he will use Murdoch do you?” Johnny asked.
“ What do you mean?”
“ Threaten to have someone kill him or do something to the little empire he carved out of you don’t go back with him? He already paid to have me killed and thinks I was.” Johnny suggested.
“ At this point I wouldn’t put anything past the man. He may be my grandfather, but his methods of getting what he wants are totally unorthodox at times.”
“ You thinking maybe Murdoch traded raising you for the ranch?” Johnny asked.
“ I don’t know. I have all the letters he wrote me that grandfather kept from me.”
“ Go get them. We can go over them together and see if there is anything worded to say that.”
“ I already read them.” Scott said.
Johnny stood up. “ Yeah, but that was before he told you that.”
“ Alright brother. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Murdoch went upstairs to Johnny’s room and knocked softly on the door before opening it and stepping inside. Closing the door he looked at his two sons sitting on the bed with letters spread out that they had been reading. “ I figured you would be up here with your brother. What’s all this?” he asked as he walked over to the bed.
“ The letters you wrote to me that grandfather kept from me all those years sir.” Scott responded.
“ You know Murdoch, I know it was hard for you to locate me down in Mexico after all those years. You know trying to locate one stray boy.” Johnny said as he set a letter down.
“ It took time.”
Yeah. What I’m wondering about is you know, where Scott was all the time? What took you so long………..Murdoch?”
“ Is that what this is all about son?” Murdoch asked as he sat down on the bed. “ I tried…….I tried so hard to get you from him. I showed up on your fifth birthday party. You were with your friends. I believe there was a clown with a small monkey. Your grandfather took you back east and left your mother. He didn’t even have the decency to bury her. He just took off. By the time I got to Carterville, she was buried and you were long gone.”
Scott stood up and walked over to the window with his hands behind his back. “ My fifth birthday. I remember that because I was bit by that monkey.” he said as he turned around. “ You were the man with grandfather in the other room. He introduced you as a friend of his to me. I hook your hand. Why didn’t you say something to me then? Why didn’t you tell me you were my father?”
“ I wanted to son. I asked Harlan if he told you about me and his response was, Well that would be a bit premature wouldn’t it? The boys only five years old.” is what he said.
“ I told him you were old enough to know your own father and he said he was your father. That you accept him as that. He told me he was prepared to drag out a court battle for years over his guardianship of you, and went on to tell me you have everything you need from him.” Murdoch responded. “ He said all I would be able to offer you would be a desolate strip of sand and rock to play on instead of grass. A mud hut to live in instead of a comfortable home. There was no way I could fight him in court. I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t think it would be fare to you to have you endlessly dragged in court as a key witness. So I left you in his care. If that makes me a bad father, then so be it son. I had no choice in the matter.”
“ What about my choice? What about asking me if I wanted to come live with you? Don’t you think I had that right sir?”
“ Yes you did, and I’m sorry. It cost me twenty four years of your life son. Years I can never know.” Murdoch responded.
“ Grandfather is a ruthless man. Johnny suggested he may try and use you against me to get me to go back to Boston with him. To threaten you and your little empire you were to busy carving out to be bothered with raising a son. His words not mine sir.”
“ There is nothing that man can do to hurt me except take you away from me again. I can’t bare to lose either of you again.”
“ You won’t. Not if we have anything to say about it. I’m not a child anymore. I won’t be having grandfather thinking he can tell me what to do, or where to live. This ends tonight.” Scott said firmly. “ He had no right keeping these from me all these years. Just like he had no right hiring that man to kill my brother.” Scott said as he walked over to his father. “You had no right not telling me who you were that day, but I do understand why you did it.”
“ Riders coming in.” Johnny said as he looked out his window. “ It’s Captain Butler and three other army boys.”
“ He’s here looking for Riley.” Murdoch said as he headed to the door followed by Scott and Johnny. “ Do you think you should show yourself son?”
“ I’m not going to run or hide Murdoch. I’ve done nothing wrong.” Johnny said firmly.
Captain Butler rode up to the Lancer front door and dismounted as the door open. “ Mister Lancer, I got here as soon as I could…….” he started as Johnny and Scott followed their father outside.
“ Something wrong Captain?” Scott asked.
“ I was told in town that you were killed. Gunned down by another gunfighter around El Paso. I’m glad to see it’s not true.” Captain Butler said. “ John Riley is here sir.”
“ We know. He was seen this morning in Morro Coyo. He’s out there somewhere just waiting for the chance to kill my son. Come inside Captain and my son will explain everything that happened in Laredo.”
“ Sergeant Wallace, you come with me. You two stay here with the horses.” the Captain ordered.
“ I’ll have some cold drinks brought out to your men Captain.” Murdoch said as they walked in the house.
“ You have a nice home Mister Lancer. Not like some of the ranches I’ve seen.” Captain Butler said.
“ Thank you Captain. May I offer you gentlemen a drink or some cold lemonade perhaps?” Murdoch asked.
“ Lemonade will be fine. This is Sergeant Wallace.” the Captain said.
“ Have a seat gentlemen.” Murdoch suggested. “ Scott, would you ask Maria to bring in some lemonade for our guest please?”
“ Yes sir.” Scott said before heading to the kitchen.
“ So Riley killed the real Major Howard and took his identity?” Johnny asked after explaining what happened in Laredo.
“ Yes. From what you just told me about the man, he’s brutal.” Captain Butler said.
“ He worked for President Diez and didn’t care how he did his job Captain. That woman in Laredo was just there getting supplies, nothing more. Yaqui often come across the border in the evenings to shop or trade in the summer when it’s cooler.” Johnny responded.
“ If at all possible I would like to take him alive. I understand he’s come here to kill you, but the family of Major Hunter deserves to see the man punished.” Captain Butler said.
“ A man like that won’t be taken alive Captain. I’ve dealt with his type before. The family will have justice, but it won’t be from a rope.” Johnny said firmly.
“ I’m asking you as a favor to the army.” the Captain responded. “ Did you deliver the cattle alright?”
“ Yes. They were very grateful to see the herd.” Murdoch responded.
“ I imagine that’s a nice contract you have now supplying beef to the army?” Sergeant Wallace asked.
“ Colonel Carlton canceled the contract. Said he would be wiring Washington telling them to no longer purchase Lancer beef.” Murdoch said.
“ Why?” Scott asked.
“ Because of me.” Johnny cut in.
“ It seems the Colonel seen the newspaper article. He said the army will not do business with anyone who harbors a killer.” Murdoch said with disgust as he looked at his youngest. “ My son is not a killer. He does what he has to do to stay alive like any other man.”
“ I can get you that contract Mister Lancer Colonel Carlton doesn’t speak for all the forts.” Captain Butler said as he stood up.
“ Captain, you and your men can stay right here at Lancer. We have plenty of bedrooms.” Scott suggested.
“ Seems logical since this is where Riley will be coming.” Murdoch added.
“Your offer is very generous Mister Lancer. Thank you.” the Captain responded.
“ I’ll have Walt show you where you can put your horses and let my cook know there will be four more joining us for supper.” Murdoch said.
“Corporal James and Corporal Andrews can sleep outside sir. There’s no need for them to be inside.”
“ Nonsense Captain. I have guards posted and a hundred and fifty vaqueros working for me. I’ll double the guards around the house and have one posted at the front, back and side entrances to the house.” Murdoch instructed.
Harlan Garrett splashed water on his face and combed his hair to be more presentable for supper. Looking at the small clock on his dresser, he couldn’t believe he slept five hours. Hearing a lite knock on his door as he dried his hands. “ Come in.”
Scott opened the door and stepped inside. “ Supper is in an hour. I wanted to make sure you were awake sir.”
“ You should have woke me sooner my boy. I didn’t mean to sleep five hours.” he responded.
“ You were tired from your trip sir. You needed the rest.” Scott said. “ We have four guest staying with us a few days.”
“ Guest? Are they here for the memorial services?” Harlan asked.
“ Memorial services sir. What memorial services?” Scott asked.
“ For your half brother Johnny. Wasn’t he gunned down outside El Paso not too long ago?” Harlan asked.
“ No. Johnny is fine, and downstairs with Captain Butler and Sergeant Wallace. There are also two Corporals with them.” Scott responded.
“ Army. What on earth are the Army doing here?” Harlan asked as he walked to the door.
“ They are here to capture a killer. A man who killed a Major and took his identity.” Scott explained.
“ And this man they are after, he’s coming here because of your brother isn’t he?” Harlan demanded.
“ Why the man is coming here sir is of no concern of yours.” Scott said as they reached the bottom of the stairs.
“ I did not raise you to speak disrespectfully to me like this Scotty.” Harlan said.
“ You brought me up to be respectful of others and always tell the truth sir. You have no call speaking about my father or brother in the disrespectful ways yo do. You will not call Johnny my half-breed brother ever again. If you cannot show respect to the people in this house, then you can return to Boston, because I will not stand by and allow it anymore.” Scott said firmly before walking into the grand room. “ And another thing. We know it was you who hired a man named Dalton to come here and kill Johnny. He told us so in Arizona when we crossed paths. Upstairs you said our other guest where here for a memorial service and I asked you what memorial service? Your response was for my brother. There is only one way you would know and that was if Dalton had contacted you telling you he was dead. The newspaper article was false, and you are very lucky my brother does not wish to have you arrested for your part in trying to have him killed.” Scott said with anger.
“ You have no proof I did this. Do you think the law will take the word of him, a gunfighter over that of a respectable business man like me. I think not my boy.”
“ Mister Garrett, you seem to forget one thing.” Johnny said as he walked over to the man. “ You see, the reason Dalton didn’t try to kill me is simple. You didn’t tell him who I really was. He doesn’t like being lied to, and he is prepared to testify in a court of law with the bank draft in hand I might add, that you hired him to try and kill me. You see, I may be just a half-breed no good gunfighter to you, but we have a code we live by. Oh sure there are some who don’t, but most respectable gunfighters live by this code, and that includes Dalton.” Johnny said.
“ Captain Butler, I would like to offer my apologies for you having to witness this. My grandfather is a very scrupulous man. He has lied to me for twenty four years about my father and thought having my brother killed would get me to go back to Boston with him. Which I assure you grandfather, I will not be returning to Boston. What you have done to both me and my family is appalling to say the least.”
“ Do I need to remind you that you have a legacy waiting for you in Boston? An estate of considerable worth?” Harlan asked Scott.
“ Johnny, Scott, please take our guest outside and show them around.” Murdoch ordered.
Johnny and Scott both knew what was about to happen was something long over due.
“ He has an estate right here Harlan.” Murdoch said as the front door closed.
“ To be shared with his half-breed brother. No Murdoch, there’s no comparison between what each of us can give Scotty. He belongs in the world where he grew up. With the right people. Where he can make something worthwhile of his life.”
“ You’re forgetting one thing Harlan, he’s not a child anymore, he’s a grown man with a will of his own.” Murdoch responded. “Whether Scotty returns to Boston or not should be solely his decision. Without any outside influence. Not yours, not mine. You paying five thousand dollars to have Johnny killed in the hopes that Scott would go back to Boston with you is lower than I thought you could ever go.” Murdoch said.
“ You have no idea just what I am capable of doing to keep Scotty with me in Boston where he belongs Murdoch.” Harlan said.
“ I think you better go back to Boston in the morning. You’re not welcome here any longer Harlan. I’ll have one of the hands drive you in to town.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ I think Scotty will have something to say about that Murdoch. I have come a considerable distance to see him.” Harlan responded.
“ I agree with Murdoch, grandfather. I’m sorry sir. I know you wanted me out of the house, but I’m a part of this and think I have a say also. I already asked a hand to take you back to town in the morning. Whether you leave or not is up to you. I just don’t want to see you right now………To tell the truth, I don;t know if I want to see you ever again.” Scott said before turning and going back outside.
“ You have only you to blame for this Harlan. This was all your doing. Not mine, not Johnny’s and most certainly not Scott’s.” Murdoch said before walking out the veranda doors to leave the man to think about what he had done and what it cost him.
“ Cipriano, I want to know why the tower guard never seen anything last night? Check with the other guards also.” Murdoch ordered as Johnny and Scott came outside.
“ What’s going on?” Johnny asked.
“ Corporals James and Andrews were killed last night. Their throats had been cut.” Murdoch responded.
“ Nobody else was killed?” Scott asked.
“ Riley, if it was him, also killed all four army horses.” Murdoch responded as Captain Butler came out of the barn.
“ I don’t get it. Why kill your horses?” Scott asked.
“ He’s making a statement Scott. He knows the Captain is here and he’s basically laughing at him for being able to fool them for however long posing as Major Howard.” Johnny responded.
“ I need Sergeant Wallace to send a wire to Fort Whipple, letting Colonel Golding know what has happened. I would appreciate the loan of a horse for him Mister Lancer?” the Captain requested.
“ Do you think that’s wise Captain? What if Riley is out there watching and sees the Sergeant leave?” Scott asked.
“ I see your point.” the Captain said. “ Where on your ranch could he hide?”
“ The closest line-shack would be South Mesa. It’s fully stocked with supplies for the fall branding coming up.” Murdoch responded.
“ There’s some caves up around Bone Mountain that are big enough he could keep his horse in and the grounds hard to he wouldn’t leave any tracks.” Scott added.
“ Johnny, you stay here with Scott, while me and Captain Butler ride out and check the South Mesa line-shack.” Murdoch requested.
“ I don’t think you should do that. If he’s there, he can see you coming from a distance and kill you.” Scott said.
“ Not if we come in from the north side he won’t son. Stay in the house until we get back.” Murdoch requested. “ Rob, saddle my horse and two others.” Murdoch ordered before turning to go inside.
Scott and Johnny followed them inside. “ I don’t think you should go Murdoch.” Johnny pleaded.
“ I promise I will be careful son. You stay in the house until we get back.” Murdoch responded as he grabbed a rifle from the cabinet and started toward the door.
“ Forget it Johnny. I’m afraid you’re wasting your breath. Our father is a very determined and sometimes stubborn man who won’t listen to reason.” Scott cut in.
John Riley watched from the trees through a telescope as the old man, Captain and Sergeant rode out headed south. He already knew there was a guard in the tower and nobody on the roof to keep watch. “ That back door will be my ticket in.” he said as he put the telescope in his saddlebag and mounted up.
“ That’s far enough.” Riley ordered as Scott and Johnny walked into the kitchen. His arm around Maria’s neck with a pistol held to her head.
Scott and Johnny stopped in the entryway. “ Let her go!” Johnny ordered.
“ Can’t do that. She’s going to be my ticket out of here alive.” Riley responded. “ You,……. Scott, Unbuckle that gunbelt and toss it over here.”
Scott reached down and unbuckled his gunbelt and tossed it over to Riley’s feet. “ You won’t get out of here alive.” he said.
“ I will with her as my hostage. Now down on your knees, hands on top of your head.” Riley ordered. “ You so much as move and I’ll put a bullet in her head.”
Scott did as he was told. The fear in Maria’s eyes as tears ran down her face angered him.
“ Reach down and pick up the gunbelt.” Riley ordered Maria to do.
Maria slowly reached down and picked up Scott’s gunbelt.
“ Take the gun out and hand it to me.” he ordered.
Maria removed Scott’s pistol and handed it to him as she stood back up.
Riley grabbed the gun with his left hand as he pulled Maria back against his chest.
“ Now you Madrid. With your left hand only, unbuckle that gunbelt and toss it over here.” Riley ordered.
Johnny stood there glaring at the man. “ It’s me you want. Let them go and I’ll ride out of here with you.”
Riley cocked Scott’s pistol and fired, hitting Scott in the right shoulder.
Maria screamed and started ranting. “ Madre de dios no. Scott mayor. No.” ( Mother of God no. Senior Scott. No )
“ Shut up or I’ll kill you right now.” Riley yelled.
“ You sonofabitch.” Johnny yelled as he went to his brother and seen the bullet had went clean through his right shoulder.
“ Get away from him Madrid, or I’ll put a bullet in his head.” Riley ordered.
“ Hold on Scott. Just hold on.” Johnny said as he stood up and stepped away from him. “ You won’t get out of here alive now. That shot was heard as well as her screams. You’re as good as dead. Let her go Riley. It’s over.”
“ Nope. I got what I want and when I’m done, I’ll ride out of here with her. Less chance of being shot in the back with a woman hostage. I know you have four guards on the roof and one in the tower. Another four out front around the buildings……..Now unbuckle that gunbelt like I told you to do.” Riley responded.
Johnny continued to stand there not moving. Just glaring at the man. He knew it was risky, and would cost him a bullet, but he couldn’t let the man leave with Maria. He knew what Riley would do to her once he got away. “ I’m not letting you take her out of here.” he said as he became all Madrid. “¿ Confías en mí mamacita?” ( You trust me mamacita?) “ There’s no way you’re getting out of here alive.” Johnny said with total coldness in his words. Reaching deep down inside he summoned all of Madrid when he seen Riley bring his pistol around and aim at him. Drawing his colt, he fanned it twice as a bullet slammed into his lower left side. Maria’s screams could be heard as the back door burst open and Cipriano, Rob and Walt came into the kitchen.
“ Help Scott.” Johnny ordered. “ Cipriano, take Maria out of here.” he ordered as he ignored the white hot pain in his side. “ Walt, send someone for Sam and someone to the South Mesa line-shack to get my father back here.”
“ I already did Johnny.” Rob said as him and Walt helped Scott up.
“ Ven Maria. Vamos afuera.” Cipriano said. ( Come Maria. Let’s go outside.)
“ No, el senior Scott y Johnny me necesitan.” ( No, senior Scott and Johnny need me.)
“ Johnny y Walt cuidarán de Scott hasta que venga el médico.” ( Johnny and Walt will take care of Scott until the doctor comes.)
Maria was having none of it as she grabbed a pan and started pumping water into it to heat. “ Hay vendajes en el armario del pasillo. Tráelos llévalos arriba a Juanito.” ( There are bandages in the hall closet. Get them and take them up to Juanito.) Maria ordered.
Cipriano learned years ago not to argue with his wife when her mind was set on something. “Si mamacita. Inmediatamente.” ( Yes mamacita. Right away.)
Pedro stopped his horse on the hill and spotted Murdoch and the Captain in the pasture below. Taking out his pistol, he fired three shots in the air and waved to get them to stop. Kicking his horse into a gallop down the hill.
Murdoch stopped his horse and looked up on the hill.
“ What’s going on?” the Captain asked.
“ That’s one of my hands signaling for help.” Murdoch said as they started riding toward Pedro.
“ Mister Lancer, Scott’s been shot.” Pedro yelled.
“ What?” Murdoch asked.
“ That man. He was in the house. He shot senor Scott. A hand went for the doctor.” Pedro explained.
“ Oh my God. How bad is it?” Murdoch asked.
“ I do not know senor. I didn’t see. Rob, Walt and Cipriano are with them.” Pedro responded.
“ Lets go.” Murdoch said as he kicked his horse into a gallop as fear ran through his mind of his oldest son dying.
Sam entered the house and went upstairs to Scott’s room were he found Johnny sitting on the bed pressing a bandage to Scott’s right shoulder.
“ The bullet went clean through his shoulder Sam.” Johnny said.
“ Let me in there Johnny.” Sam ordered as he walked around the bed and set his bag down on the table as Cipriano and Maria came in with a pan of hot water and more bandages.
“ Where’s Murdoch?” he asked as he sat down on the bed to look at the wound.
“ He’s coming.” Walt said.
“ Everybody but Maria out.” Sam ordered.
“ I’m staying Sam.” Johnny said firmly as a wave of dizziness hit him. “ It’s my fault he was shot.”
“ Out Johnny, now. There’s nothing you can do for him. Go wait downstairs.” Sam ordered.
“ Come on Johnny.” Walt said as he took Johnny’s right arm and guided him to the door. “ Lo siento hermano. Esto es mi culpa. Lo siento.” ( I’m sorry brother. This is my fault. I’m sorry.) Johnny said before walking out of the room.
“ It’s not your fault Johnny.” Walt said.
“ No es culpa tu sobrino. María me contó lo que pasó. Ese hombre era malvado. Le disparó al mayor Scott cuando estaba desarmado y de rodillas.” ( It is not your fault nephew. Maria told me what happened. That man was evil. He shot senor Scott when he was unarmed and down on his knees.) Cipriano added.
Johnny looked at his uncle. “ Todo los que cuido se lastiman o mueren por mi tio.” ( Everyone I care for gets hurt or dies because of me uncle.) Johnny said before starting to walk away when a sharp pain and dizziness hit him again, dropping him to his knees.
“ Johnny!” Walt yelled as him and Cipriano hurried to his side. “ Oh man, why didn’t you tell us you were shot?”
“ Scott’s more important.” Johnny responded.
“ Let’s get him into his room.” Cipriano said as they helped him up just as Murdoch came up the stairs.
“ We didn’t know he was shot. He never said anything Murdoch.” Walt said as they helped Johnny into his room.
“ I’ll go let Sam know he has two patients.” Walt said after they got Johnny into bed.
Murdoch pulled his sons shirt up and seen the hole in his left side oozing blood. “ Cipriano, go get me some bandages so we can slow this bleeding down. The bullet is still in there.”
“ Si patron.” Cipriano said before leaving the room.
“ He had Maria. I couldn’t let him leave with her.” Johnny said as Murdoch removed his shirt. “ He was in the kitchen when we walked in. Scott…….was unarmed and he shot him Murdoch.” Johnny said as he started to pass out. “ Lo siento hermano.” was the last thing he said before darkness claimed him.
Sam came downstairs four hours later wiping his hands on a towel. “ Scott is going to be fine. The bullet passed through muscle only. He won’t be able to use that arm for some time though.”
“ What about Johnny, Sam? Will he be alright?” Murdoch asked
“ Why he was even on his feet when I got here is beyond me Murdoch. The bullet fractured the number ten rib and lodged in the intercostal space. He has to stay still and in bed. I don’t want him tearing the stitches out. I have him bound up tight to help with the pain he will be feeling when he breaths. I didn’t even know he was shot when I got here. He was in with Scott, and showed no signs of being injured.”
“ He’s gotten real good at hiding his injuries Sam from when he was alone and had nobody to care for him. Will he live?”
“ He will. We just have to watch him for infection. He’s started a fever, so he’ll have to be closely watched for the next day or so.” Sam explained. “ I’ll stay the night to keep watch over both boys.” Sam said.
“ Alright Sam. I’ll have a room fixed up for you next to Scott’s.” Murdoch said. “ How about a hot cup of coffee?”
“ That sounds good.” Sam responded. “ I don’t believe we’ve been introduced Captain.”
“ I’m sorry, this is Captain Butler and Sergeant Wallace. They were after the man who shot my boys.” Murdoch responded.
“ Perhaps you can explain over that hot cup of coffee?” Sam requested.
“ Mister Lancer, I need to send a wire to Fort Whipple, letting the Colonel know what has happened sir. Could we have the use of a horse?” Captain Butler asked.
“ Certainly. Just go out and tell one of the hands and they will get you both a horse. Uh Captain, I know you wanted Riley alive so he could stand trial and hang for killing Major Howard. I’m sorry it turned out the way it did. I hope you can understand?” Murdoch responded.
“ I most certainly do sir. Riley was a vicious man, as your son told me. I’m just sorry both your boys were shot. We will make arrangements for Corporals James and Andrews bodies to get back to their families while I’m in town.” the Captain responded.
“ There’s a place in Spanish Wells where you can take the bodies to be embalmed for transportation back to Fort Whipple Captain.” Murdoch stated. “ I can have a wagon hitched up and you can take them there if you like?” he asked.
“ Thank you. That’s very kind of you to do Mister Lancer.” Captain Butler responded.
Scott opened his eyes and tried to focus. A cool cloth removed from his forehead made him turn his head to the right and find his father sitting in a chair next to the bed.
“ Maria?” he asked.
“ Maria is fine son.” Murdoch responded.
Murdoch poured a glass of water. “ Here drink this. You need fluids son.”
Scott drank the water, relishing the coolness on his parched throat. “ Where’s Johnny?” he asked as his father set the glass down on the table.
“ Sam’s with him changing his bandages.” Murdoch responded as he stood up. “ Lets fix your pillows so you can sit up a little.”
“ What happened? Where’s Johnny?” Scott demanded as his father helped him sit up so he could adjust the pillows.
“ Your brother was shot when he killed Riley. The bullet fractured a rib. He’s going to be alright.” Murdoch said as he helped Scott lean back against the pillows.
“ Is he alright?” Scott asked.
“ I told you son, Johnny will be fine.”
“ He’ll blame himself for this Murdoch. It wasn’t his fault I got shot.” Scott said as he tried to adjust his back against the pillows.
“ He knows it wasn’t his fault son. He won’t blame himself for this.” Murdoch said.
“ Yes he will Murdoch. You don;t know him like I do. Johnny will blame himself for all of it. You have got to talk to him.” Scott demanded as he became upset.
“ Take it easy son. Take it easy. Are you telling me your brother will blame himself for this happening?”
“ Yes. He doesn’t like the people he cares about and loves getting hurt because of him. Riley wanted to kill Johnny because of Madrid and what he seen happen in Laredo.”
“ Well I see my other patient is awake now!” Sam said as he walked into the room. “ How do you feel Scott?”
“ How’s Johnny doing Sam?” Scott asked.
“ I just changed his bandages. He’s awake if you want to go see him Murdoch while I change Scott’s.” Sam said.
“ Did he talk to you at all about what happened?” Scott asked.
“ No, he just stared off out the window. I tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t respond. He didn’t even ask how you were doing.” Sam responded.
“ I need to see him Sam.” Scott said as he tried to get out of bed.
“ Whoa, you’re in no condition to be out of bed yet young man.” Sam instructed as he gently pushed against Scott’s chest.
“ I have to. Johnny will leave Lancer when he’s well enough Sam if I don;t go talk to him now.” Scott said firmly.
“ He may be right Sam. We can help him to his brothers room.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Alright, after I change your bandages.” Sam ordered.
Johnny lay in his bed watching the dust particles dance in the morning sun coming in the window. Hearing his door open, he figured it was Murdoch coming to see him now that he was awake.
“ You feel up to a visitor son?” Murdoch asked as him and Sam helped Scott into the room.
“ Leave us alone Murdoch.” Scott said as he sat down on the bed.
“ Alright. I’ll check on you both later.” Murdoch said as he helped Scott sit down on the bed.
Scott waited until the door was closed before he spoke.
“ I know what you’re thinking brother, and you can stop it right now.” he ordered. “ You had no way of knowing Riley would shoot me or come here and take Maria hostage to get at you. You have a big heart little brother, and you’re a damn good man, but blaming yourself for something someone else did is wrong and you know it. Maria is alive because of you.”
“ You were shot because of Madrid, and she almost died because of Madrid. Everywhere I go, Madrid causes someone to die Scott.” Johnny said with anger.
“ That’s bullshit and you know it Johnny……I didn’t die. Riley was a vicious, sick, sadistic man who’s days were numbered. He made his choice Johnny when he came in this house. Nobody forced him to do anything he’s done. Not here, not in Laredo or down in Mexico.”
“ My mother was killed because of me. Countless men have died because of me. So you tell me Scott, how is what happened to you and Maria not my fault? Because I’ve been laying here thinking about it, and I keep coming up with the same answer……Madrid is why.”
“ You’re not Madrid anymore. You’re Johnny Lancer. What’s it going to take to get that through that thick skull of yours?” Scott asked angrily.
“ A part of me will always be Madrid Scott. Until I die, men will come looking for me. I’m kidding myself thinking I could ever be the son of a rancher, and own a third of the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley.”
Scott stood up. “ Okay, ask yourself these two questions then Johnny. Which one are you more, Madrid or Lancer? And which one does your heart want you to be more?” he asked before walking to the door and opening it. Turning back to his brother. “ The person I see laying in that bed is my brother Johnny Lancer, the man who only becomes Johnny Madrid when he has to so he can stay alive and live his life as a ranchers son and my brother.” he said before walking out and closing the door as Murdoch and Sam came up the stairs.
“ Lets get you back in bed young man.” Sam ordered.
“ How’d it go son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m surprised you didn’t stand outside his room and listen.” Scott said as they walked into his room.
“ Don’t think the thought didn’t cross my mind son. Is he alright?” Murdoch responded.
“ I don’t know. He’s blaming himself and won’t listen to reason. I’m hoping the two questions I asked him before I left do the trick.” Scott responded as he lay back down in bed. “ Has Maria been up to see him, to talk to him at all about what happened?”
“ No. I gave her time off to get over this. Why, do you think her coming to see him would help?”
“ It might. You know how he feels about her.” Scott responded.
“ I’ll speak to her about it.” Murdoch said. “ Do you think he’ll try and leave son?” he asked.
“ Right now, yes I do.” Scott responded.
“ Okay, I want you to rest now. I’ll bring some soup up for you later.”
Maria opened Johnny’s bedroom door and looked inside. He was sitting at the table looking out the window.
“¿Le dijo el doctor que podía levantarse de la cama?” ( Did the doctor say you could get out of bed?)
“ No pero nunca fui bueno tomando órdenes de mamacita.” ( No, but I never was any good at taking orders mamacita.)
“ Tu hermano y tu padre están preocupados por ti.” ( Your brother and father are worried about you.)
“¿Estás bien?” ( Are you alright?)
“Si. Estoy bien. No creas que te culpo por lo que pasó. Es por ti que todavía estoy vivo. Por favor no te vayas. Te rompería muchos corazones si lo hicieras.” ( Yes I am fine. Do not think I blame you for what happened. It is because of you I am still alive. Please do not leave. It would break so many hearts if you did.)
Johnny stood up and faced the woman he loved dearly. A lone tear ran down his cheek. Something he never did in the presence of others, but with Maria, what they had for a friendship was stronger than any bond he ever had with anyone before.
“ Eres como una segunda madre para mí. Te amo com todo mi corazón. Nunca haría nada para lastimarte. Lo siento.” ( You are like a second mother to me. O love you with all my heart. I would never do anything to hurt you. I’m sorry.)
“ Sé que no lo harías y te amo y desde la primera vez que te abracé justo después de que nacieras. Te traeré tu cena esta noche. Podemos comer juntos y hablar,¿ Si?” ( I know you wouldn’t and I love you and have from the first time I held you right after you were born. I will bring you your supper tonight. We can eat together and talk, yes?)
For three weeks Johnny stayed in his room, hardly speaking to anyone except Maria when she brought him his meals. Every word she said to him that day they talked and had supper together ran through his mind. Every day that day played out in his mind like it was happening all over again, and every time he would see the same thing. It wasn’t his fault. There was absolutely nothing he could have done to stop Riley from shooting his unarmed brother without risking Maria’s life they way the man was standing behind her. Two other things ran through his mind every day also, sometimes waking him up at night, and those were the two questions his brother asked him. Getting dressed, he decided to go downstairs. Sam had given him permission last week to walk around and go downstairs with help if needed, but he just wasn’t quit ready to do that yet. That is until now. Slipping on his boots, Johnny headed downstairs.
“I think it’s a good idea. It will bring water down to that pasture during the rainy season and fill it up so we can have the cows and calves in there during the summer.” Scott said.
“ I don’t know son. You’re talking a lot of manpower to dig that ditch……….Now I’m not saying no to the idea. I just would like to think on it a while. Tell you what, you figure the board footage we will need and other supplies to start next year. But that’s only if I agree to this idea of yours.” Murdoch responded.
“ Actually sir, it was Johnny’s idea. Not mine. I can’t take the credit for something I didn’t think of.”
“ That’s real big of you brother.” Johnny said as he walked into the grand room.
“ Are you alright son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, just been doing some serious thinking. A lot of it actually. I need to talk to the two of you.” Johnny responded.
“ You got the floor.” Murdoch said as him and Scott sat down to listen to what he had to say.
“ I didn’t mean to bust up your little party, but like I said, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since this trouble with Riley started, and I’ve come to a conclusion. With talking to Maria a lot and thinking about those two questions you asked me Scott, I have an answer to my dilemma.” Johnny said as he walked over and poured three glasses of brandy, walked over, and handed them each a glass. “ You remember what you asked me brother?”
“ You asked me which am I more, Madrid or Lancer and then you asked me which one does my heart want me to be more, Johnny Madrid the gunfighter or the ranchers son Johnny Lancer. Shutting off my old life is not an easy thing to do. The past has a way of coming up, and nudging at you sometimes. Johnny Lancer is a proud name for a son to have, and I think that’s what I want more than anything Murdoch. I want to be your son and Scott’s little brother Johnny Lancer.” Johnny said.
“ I don’t know Murdoch. I don’t know if I can stand having a little brother around who’s as good as he is at chess and checkers.” Scott said playfully as he stood up and walked over to Johnny as he wrapped an arm around his brother and gave him a gentle hug.
Murdoch turned away. He didn’t want his youngest to see the tears of joy in his eyes.
“ Murdoch?” Johnny said.
Murdoch cleared his throat and wiped his eyes before turning around. “ You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say that son.”
“ Well, I figured it was time for me make an honest living and stop being a gun for hire.” Johnny responded.
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