I don’t own them. ” sigh ” I’m just taking them out for an adventure. All original characters belong to their rightful owners, any others belong to me, and may not be used without permission..
This story will have a strong R rating for adult content, violence, and language. This story will have warnings in place for adult content I promised some members I would write.
Johnny Madrid – 23
Scott Lancer – 26
Murdoch Lancer – 57
Sam Jenkins – 56
Val Crawford – 31
Teresa O’Brian – 19
Ben Thompson – rancher
Bill Howell – San Bernardino stage station
Joe Hancock – San Bernardino stage station
C.J. Parker – telegrapher
Dangerous Dan Tucker – outlaw
Ed Belcher – outlaw
Andy Belcher – outlaw
Jess – 23
Will Paxton – gunfighter
Word count: 26,000
A lone rider stopped his horse, and dismounted. Late morning he came across a blood trail several miles back, and decided to follow it. Pulling his rifle, he looked around, before moving over to the still figure laying on the ground, a bullet hole thru his right side. Hearing a faint moan, he rolled the man over on his back.
“ I don’t know who you are, or who shot you, but I’ll do what I can for ya kid.” the man said as he stood up, and went to fetch the man’s horse.
Two hours later he finished digging the bullet out of the man’s back, and gleaned the wound out the best he could before stitching it up, and bandaging it. Standing up, he stretched his aching back muscles. ‘ Let’s see if you got anything in your saddlebags to tell me who you are.” he said as he picked them up, and started rummaging thru them. Finding nothing but a picture of a beautiful Mexican woman, Turning the picture over he found a name, and date written on the back, Maria Consuela Lancer, 1852. He could tell the woman was pregnant in the picture of her standing at the bottom of carpeted stairs in what looked like a pretty elaborate house.
“ Who the hell are you mister?” he asked himself aloud. “ Date on the picture would put you at the right age, but it don’t mean she’s yur mother. That gun, and holster tells me yur one of them damn fools who thinks he’s a gunfighter, and all tough. Just what I don’t need.
“ Hello the camp!” a man yelled. “ Can we come in?”
“ Come on in.” the man responded as he picked up his rifle.
“ Names Henry Plummer, and that there’s Tom Pickett. That man over there is our quarry.” Frank said. “ We been tracking him all day. Lost his trail in the dark not far from here. Smelled your smoke, so we thought we would ride in and see if you seen him.”
“ You two lawmen?’ the man asked.
“ Nope.” Tom responded.
“ So yur gunfighters?” he asked.
“ You make it sound like you don’t care for gunfighters mister.” Frank said. “ We’ll just be taking him off your hands now. Tom, go saddle Madrid’s horse.”
“ Madrid……. Johnny Madrid?” he asked.
“ That’s right!” Frank said.
“ You fellas ain’t takin Madrid anywhere.” he said.
“ Mister…..Madrid is ours…..Now why don’t you do the smart thing, and put that there rifle down.” Frank ordered.
“ Can’t do that. I know what vermin like you will do, and I ain’t lettin it happen.” he said as he chambered a round into the rifle.
“ We shot him, and we aim to finish him off mister.” Frank said.
“ Just who the hell are you mister?” Tom demanded.
“Names Val Crawford, and Madrid ain’t goin nowhere with you two. So just turn them crow baits yur ridin around, and leave.”
“ Val Crawford of Visalia?” Frank asked.
“ That’s right.” Val said.
“ There’s two of us, and only one of you. You think you can kill us both?” Tom asked.
“ Question is which one of you wants ta die first?” Val asked.
“ He’s bluffing Tom. He can’t kill us both.” Andy said.
“ Maybe he can’t, but I can!” Madrid said.
Frank looked at Madrid, and then back at Val, anger clearly visible on his face.“ This ain’t over. We’ll see you again Madrid.” he said with anger. “ Let’s go Tom.”
Val turned, and looked at Madrid sitting up, sweat running down his face. “ You best not get that wound bleeding again.”
Johnny turned his gun on Val, and cocked it. “ Who are you?” he asked.
“ As I told them, Val Crawford.” he said. “ You pull that trigger, and those two will come back here, and kill you for sure kid.”
“ Val Crawford from Visalia?” Johnny asked.
“ You deaf or somethin? ” he said. “Why don’t you put that gun away, and lay back down. You lost a heap of blood, and need to rest.”
“ You sure you can handle things son while we’re gone?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes sir. You and Teresa go and have a good visit with your friend.” Scott responded.
“ I just hope he has the bull we need to strengthen our herd.” Murdoch said as he shook his oldest sons hand, and boarded the stage.
“ Miss Teresa, try and keep him out of trouble.” Scott said as he gave her a hug.
“ I will.” she said. “ I’ll miss you.”
“ And I will miss you.” he said as he helped her board the stage. “ Have a good time in San Bernardino.”
Murdoch Lancer thirty years ago married a beautiful woman named Catherine, not a year off the boat from Inverness, Scotland, and moved out west to start a life. Buying what would become the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley. Lancer was one hundred thousand acres, with ten thousand head of cattle, and the finest Capanero de Palomino’s in the San Joaquin. He had in his employ one hundred and fifty vaquero’s to take care of the ranch needs, twenty of them families who lived on or near the ranch. His segundo, Cipriano oversaw that the chores were finished every day by the hands. When he topped the hill, and looked down at Lancer for the first time, he took Catherine’s hand in his, and told her they were home. After a year, Catherine became pregnant with the first, and only child they would have together. Complications from birth took her life right after Scott was born. His cook Maria came to him shortly after he bought Lancer, twenty seven years ago, and helped raise Scott after Catherine’s death.
A few years later, while in Matamoros, Murdoch met his second wife, Maria in a cantina. She got pregnant, they married, and he brought her home to Lancer where she gave birth to what would be his second son, Johnny. Two years after that, he awoke one morning to find her gone, and Johnny with her. Every year since he has searched for his blue-eyed baby boy until five years ago when he had to stop searching, and hired the Pinkerton detective agency to search for him in Mexico, when his foreman Paul O’Brian was killed, and he had to raise Paul’s daughter Teresa. Raising her as his own daughter, Murdoch enjoyed watching the girl grow up. He especially liked watching how Teresa, and Scott got along as brother and sister, even though they were not related by blood. Scott became very protective of her as she got older. Going to San Bernardino would be Teresa’s first trip away from Lancer. A trip she had looked forward too ever since Murdoch asked if she would like to go with him. Ecstatic with excitement, Teresa wrapped her arms around his neck tightly, and said yes.
“ I don’t like getting in another person’s business, but how come those two shot you?” Val asked two weeks later.
“ Never got the chance to ask them.” Johnny said.
“ I seen ya once in Nogales. You faced down two of the best, gunned them down so fast I’d have ta say yur the best.” Val said. “ So what are yur plans now?”
“ Find a job as soon as I’m healed up.” Johnny said. “ You?”
“ Headed to San Bernardino for a job. Yur welcome ta come along, it’s a two man job, and I could really use the help.” he said.
“ Help doing what?” Johnny asked.
“ Guarding the strong box on the stage from San Bernardino to Stockton. Seems a man named Dan Tucker, and his men like robbing it. Butterfield Overland stage has hired me to stop it.” Val explained.
“ Dangerous Dan Tucker?” Johnny asked.
“ You know him?” he asked.
“ I know him. He’s a gunfighter, and a pretty good one. Rides with two brothers named Ed, and Andy Belcher.” Johnny said, and asked.
“ So you want the job kid?” he asked.
“ A job’s a job, as long as it’s legit.” he responded.
“ When I found ya, I went thru yur saddlebags trying ta find out who ya were. Can I ask who Maria is?” Val asked.
Johnny stopped his horse, and pulled his canteen to get a drink. “ My mother.” he said when finished drinking. “ She was murdered when I was ten.”
“ What about yur pappy?” he asked.
“ My mother said he threw us out when I was two. Said he didn’t want a mestizo for a son.” Johnny said with enough coldness in his voice, Val knew he had a strong hate for the man who’s blood ran thru his veins.
“ They catch the man who killed her?” Val asked as they started riding again.
“ In Mexico when a whore gets killed, they don’t care. It’s because of that man my mother had to work in cantina’ to put food in our bellies. She wasn’t a whore, regardless of what others said.” Johnny said. “ I was sent to an orphanage where I spent a year being abused, and starved because I was what the Padre said, a spawn of the devil. I proved him right when I picked up a gun, practiced, and hunted for the sonofabitch that killed my mother. I found him in El Paso two years later. He was in a cantina, I walked up to him, and he told me to go away. I told him who I was, and I was there to kill him. He stood up, went for his gun, but never cleared leather. After that I kept practicing every day, I got better, and faster.”
“ You tellin me you kilt yur first man at only thirteen years old?” Val asked.
“ Twelve.” Johnny said. “ My mother said I was born on December twenty third. I killed him the summer after my twelfth birthday.”
“ Jesus kid, yur what twenty now?” he asked.
“ Twenty three.” Johnny said. “ Had my first woman when only fourteen. Man she knew what she was doing too.”
“ Damn kid, you like doing everything at a young age?” Val said. “ A whorehouse ain’t no place for a kid to be. This woman wouldn’t happen ta be named Rosie would she?”
“ The proprietor of the establishment in Yuma, yeah her name is Rosie.” he said. “ Why?”
“ Well I will be damned. I’ve tried for a long time to lay with that woman, and here she takes a pup to her bed.” Val said.
“ How come you use a fry pan to make your coffee Val?” Johnny asked.
“ Ya don’t like it, don’t drink it.” Val gruffed.
“ I just asked. You don’t have to be grumpy.” he said.
“ I travel light, and a fry pan fits in my saddlebag easier than a pot.” Val said.
“ You doing alright?’ Murdoch asked.
“ I’m fine.” Teresa said with a smile. “ Are they always this rough?”
“ They can be worse. Be thankful you don’t have to ride this to Sacramento. That road will jar every bone in your body loose.” he said.
“ I know, Scott told me the night before we left.” she said. “ Murdoch.”
“ Do you think Johnny is still alive?” she asked.
“ In my heart I do, and until I know otherwise.” he said.
“ I wonder what he’s like now?” she asked.
“ Hopefully Maria had him get an education, and he’s a smart, polite young man like his brother.” he said.
“ What if he’s not…..I mean…what if he doesn’t have an education, and isn’t like Scott?” she asked.
“ Then I will have to teach him manners, and schooling I guess.” he said.
“ He’s twenty three now isn’t he?” she asked as the stage bounced her almost off her seat.
“ You alright?” Murdoch asked as he helped her.
“ I’m okay.”
“ We should be stopping for supper soon in Bakersfield.” Murdoch said. “ And yes, John is twenty three now.”
“ Let me ask you something, If Tucker is hitting the stage on the way to Stockton, is he only hitting the ones with a strong box on board?” Johnny asked as they saddled their horses.
“ Yur thinking maybe it’s an inside job?” Val said.
“ It could be.” Johnny said.
“ Okay. This Tucker, does he know who you are?” he asked.
“ He does. We worked opposite sides of a range war not long ago in Sonora.” Johnny responded.
“ That could be a problem for us you think?” Val asked.
“ Maybe. He’s real good with a gun they say. Personally I never seen him draw.” Johnny responded.
“ Teresa said you have another son you have been searching for for over twenty years?” Esther Thompson asked.
“ Yes, Maria, my second wife’s boy, Johnny. I have a Pinkerton agent searching down along the border, and in Mexico for him.” Murdoch said.
“ How does Scott feel about it?” Ben asked.
“ He wants to find his little brother as much as I do.” Murdoch said. “ I just wish I knew why Maria left me, especially in the middle of the night like she did.”
“ If you do find him, what will you do, ask him to come home to a home he doesn’t know?” Ben asked.
“ His birthright is a third of Lancer just like his brother.” Murdoch said.
“ His brother, you know, there’s a chance she never told him he has an older brother. Have you thought about that? Has Scott?” Ben asked.
“ Yes, we’ve discussed that. Me and Teresa were discussing the possibility of Johnny not having an education, or manners also.” he said.
“ So you will make the arrangements for the bull?” Ben asked.
“ Yes. I’ll have him brought by train, and pick him up at the station in Stockton.” Murdoch said.
“ Well, It’s getting late, and the two of you have a week’s ride on the stage ahead of you.” Esther said.
“ Can I help you two?” Bill asked.
“ I’m looking for Bill Howell, and Joe Hancock.” Val said.
“ That’s us. You must be Val Crawford.” Bill said as he looked at Johnny.
“ I am, and this here is Johnny Madrid.”
“ The gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Joe asked.
“ You got a problem with that?” Madrid asked.
“ No. If Crawford trust you, that’s good enough for us.” Bill said. “ We’re glad you decided to take the job Mister Crawford.”
“ Val please. Calling me mister makes me think I’m old.”
“ Alright…Val. As you already know, we have been hit several times, and stand to lose everything we have built up if it doesn’t stop.” Bill explained.
“ Let me ask you, are they hitting every strongbox shipment, or specific ones?” Madrid asked.
“ Just the large ones. We used to be robbed maybe three, four times a year. Now Mister……..do we call you Johnny, or Madrid?” he asked.
“ Either is fine.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny this year they have hit every large shipment of money, and not touched the smaller ones.” Bill explained.
“ We can’t figure out how the hell they know.” Joe said.
“ By larger shipments, what are we talking about?” Val asked.
“ Anything over five thousand. We ship gold from the miners to Stockton where it goes on to San Francisco, to be minted.” Bill said.
“ Gold is heavy. A standard bar weighs just over twenty seven pounds.” Madrid said.
“ That’s right.” Joe said. “ Can I ask how it is you know the weight of a gold bar?”
“ Did some work down in Mexico for Cerro de San Pedro mine two years ago.” Madrid said. “ How do you contact Stockton about the gold coming?”
“ Like always, by telegraph.” Joe said.
“ Have you contacted them yet?” Val asked.
“ No, we do it when the gold leaves. Why?” Bill asked.
Johnny looked at Val. “ I think we found the how.”
“ What are you talking about?” Bill asked.
“ There’s only two ways they would know. By listening on the line somewhere in hopes of you sending that message.” Val said. “Or your telegraph man is in on it.”
“ You know, now that you mention it, the robberies did start soon after we got that new telegrapher, C.J. Parker.” Joe said.
“ C.J. Is a family man. Surely he wouldn’t be…..he has a new baby.” Bill said.
“ Only one way to find out.” Johnny said.
Val, and Johnny walked with Bill over to the telegraph office, and walked in.
“ Morning Bill. You ready to send your wire?” C.J. asked.
“ Why’d you do it?” Bill asked.
“ Do what Bill?” he asked.
“ Don’t play dumb with me C.J.. We know it’s you telling them. You’re the only one who could be doing it…..Why?” he asked.
“ Bill…….I….I don’t……You…..you don’t understand. He said they would kill my wife and son if I didn’t tell them.” he said.
“ Who said?” Johnny asked.
“ I don’t know his name. He came in here earlier in the year, and……I’m sorry Bill.” C.J. said.
“ This man have a scar on the left side of his chin, and a black powder like mark on the back of his left hand?” Johnny asked.
“ Yeah, that’s him. You know him?” he said.
“ Tucker.” Johnny said.
“ Who?” Bill asked.
“ Dangerous Dan Tucker. He’s the one stealing your gold. He’s a gunfighter. Why he turned to stealing gold is beyond me.” Madrid said.
“ We can ask him that when we catch him.” Val said.
“ I’m sure you will be happy with that bull Murdoch.” Ben said.
“ Teresa, it’s been a pleasure meeting you.” Esther said.
“ I’ll see you Ben, Esther.” Murdoch said.
“ Better get aboard folks.” the stage driver said. “ You got your shipment ready Bill?’
“ James, got two men riding with you, and the shipment this time.” Bill said as the strongbox was brought out, and put on the floor inside the coach.
“ Good. Names James Wales Miller.”
“ James here started the line between Auburn, and Sacramento. There isn’t a man alive can handle a six horse team, or use a whip better than him.” Bill explained.
Johnny, and Val climbed aboard the stage, and sat across from Murdoch, and Teresa, giving her a slight smile.
“ Jack…Jenny get up there.” James called as he slapped reins, and the stage lurched forward.
“ How far are you going?” Teresa asked later that afternoon.
“ Stockton.” Val said. “ You?”
“ Morro Coyo.” Teresa responded. She couldn’t help but notice how blue the younger mans eyes were.
“ You have a beautiful daughter sir.” Val said.
“ I’m Val, and the young pup here is Johnny. You, and your daughter on a business trip?” Val asked.
“ We came to San Bernardino to purchase a breeding bull, and are on our way back home.” Murdoch responded. “ I couldn’t help but notice you wear your guns low like gunfighters. Have we ever met before?”
“ I doubt it. Not unless you’ve been in Mexico, or down along the border.” Johnny said.
“ I’ve been to several places along the border, and in Mexico. I have several rancher friends in Mexico.” he said. “ I just feel like I’ve seen you before.”
“ If you’ve been along the border, then you’ve probably heard of me. Names Madrid, Johnny Madrid.” Johnny said. He loved seeing the shock in a persons eyes when he said his name. He was a little surprised that this young lady knew his name.
“ The gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Teresa asked.
“ Since when do they hire gunfighters to guard strongboxes?” Murdoch asked.
“ Well you see…..I’m not like other gunfighters. I stay on the right side of the law, and help the law out when they need it.” Johnny explained.
“ I’ve been a lawman. I never knew them to hire killers.” Murdoch said.
“ You seem real quick to judge a man by his profession mister.” Val said.
“ Do you even know what a gunfighter is? Or why I became one?” Johnny demanded.
“ I know all about your kind.” he said.
“ Oh do you now. Well let me tell you something, a gunfighter is nothing but a fallen angels brought down to hell the good book says. Men beyond redemption.” Madrid said with irritation.
“ So you kill men?” Teresa asked.
“ I have, but only those fool enough to call me out.” he said. “ See young lady an old man told me once. He said, Madrid, don’t you ever get to a point where you take killin lightly. It’s not a good thing to kill a man, or cause a man to get killed. Makes you sick inside. So you could say I’ve never hit rock bottom”
“ You don’t look dangerous to me.” she said.
“ I am. You know…. it’s easy to kill a man, but it’s impossible to bring him back to life again. Every man who has ever called me out, I have given the chance to walk away.” Johnny said.
“ Teresa, I don’t want you talking to this man anymore.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Murdoch, I’m just…..”
“ You heard me.” Murdoch cut in. “ A young lady does not fraternize with the likes of him.”
“ The likes of me….. You know old man, I’ve dealt with your type my whole life. You take one look at me, and immediately decided I’m scum because I’m a gunfighter.” Johnny said with irritation. “ Yet when trouble comes along, or killin that men like you can’t handle, you call on men like me to do it. You rich ranchers are always taking advantage of the little guy. You think because you have money it makes you better than the little man, when it don’t. You take what you want, and too hell with how you get it.”
“ I bought what I have, and I have fought to keep it without using men like you. I have a hundred and fifty vaquero’s working for me, some with families, and all live on my ranch. So perhaps it is you who should not judge another by his appearance young man.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ Like I said, I’ve dealt with your kind before.” Madrid said before scooting into the corner, pulling his hat down low over his eyes, crossing his arms, and going to sleep.
“ I’d like to apologize for his rudeness.” Val said. “ He really is a nice guy.”
“ His mother should have taught him respect, and manners.” Murdoch said.
“ His mother was murdered when he was only ten. He had to grow up hard, and fast in Mexico.” Val said.
“ How long have you known him?” Teresa asked.
“ A few weeks. Something about the little .sh…… He has a way of growing on ya.” Val responded. “ I stumbled upon him in the desert bleeding ta death from a bullet hole thru his side. Seems two scoundrels ambushed him. I nursed him back, and we been friends since.”
“ That’s terrible. Why did they ambush him?” Teresa asked.
“ He said men do it all the time tryin ta take his reputation. See, Johnny Madrid is the best, and fastest gunfighter in the southwest. His name is both feared, and loved along the border.” Val explained. “ And before you go saying it, he’s feared because of his speed, and loved because he has helped the little man he talked of. Most of the time for food in his belly. He’s not like others mister, and if you spent time with him you would see that.”
Scott sat down at the desk, and opened a letter from the Pinkerton’s. Reading it, a smile came to his face. “ Thank god.” he said aloud. His happiness was short lived however when he continued to read.
After many years searching, I can tell you I finally have good news about your youngest son Johnny. It would seem the reason he has been so hard to locate is, he changed his last name. I’m sorry to tell you this, but your son is the infamous gunfighter Johnny Madrid. I have verified this with numerous reputable sources. He was last seen headed to Yuma, with another man named Val Crawford. There are many things I have learned about Johnny Madrid that I have enclosed.
Pinkerton Detective Agency
Scott read the second paper, and found himself smiling again when he finished. Every account listed, not once had his little brother murdered someone in cold-blood. Not being wanted by the law for any crimes, except those of broken hearted women his little brother seemed to leave behind in every town.“ You seem to be quit the debonair little brother.”. Reading how his mother was murdered when only ten, and thrown in an orphanage where he was abused countless times angered Scott. Reading how his defenseless little brother was beaten, starved, locked up, and even tortured made him so angry, he wanted to hit something, or someone. “ I bet that’s why you did it brother. I bet that’s why you started using a gun….To stop people from abusing you.” Scott said. “ Come home Johnny. Come home, and let your big brother be your protector from now on.”
“ Bell station folks!” James yelled as he stopped the team. “ Charlie, why the hell don’t ya have a team ready?”
“ Cause it won’t do no good. The road is blocked from a big rock slide up on Pacheco Pass. Been raining like this for the past four days and the side of the mountain came down. A man on horseback can’t even get thru.”
“ How long till it’s open?” Val asked.
“ A week they said, so another two days.” Charlie said as he started helping James unhitch the horses.
“ Got a strongbox on board. These two were hired to guard it.” James said.
“ I’ll show ya where ya can put it.” Charlie said. “ You and the young lady can go on inside. I have a hot pot of rabbit stew on the stove, and biscuits fresh I just took out of the oven.”
“ Thank you. Teresa, you go on inside while I help the driver with the horses.” Murdoch suggested.
Johnny, and Val carried the strongbox inside, and put it in a hole in the floor next to the wall. “ Safest place I have for that much gold.” Charlie said as he flipped the rug back, and slid the hutch back over against the wall.
“ There been anyone around in the last couple days with a scar on his left chin, and a black powder mark on the back of his left hand?” Johnny asked.
“ No, I can’t say anyone looking like that’s been here.” Charlie responded as James and Murdoch walked in. “ Well, we have plenty of cots in that room back there for you all to sleep. Young lady, you can take that room over there if you want. It ain’t much, but it’ll give ya privacy.”
“ Thank you kindly.” she said as she looked at Johnny, and smiled.
Scott rode into Green River, and dismounted at the sheriff’s office. Going inside, he found Gabe sitting at his desk going thru the new wanted posters.
“ The stage never made it to Morro Coyo.” Scott said with worry in his voice.
Gabe stood up. “ The storm took out the telegraph lines, and there’s rock slides all over. Last I heard, Pacheco Pass was closed due to a rock slide that will take several days to get open.” Gabe explained. “ How many men can you spare to ride with me?”
“ A few, why?” Scott asked.
“ There’s a shipment of gold on that stage with your father that has to get thru to Stockton. There’s two men guarding it. A man I know named Val Crawford, and a hired gunfighter with him named Johnny Madrid.” Gabe responded.
“ What name did you just say?” Scott asked.
“ Johnny Madrid.” Gabe said.
“ Just how much gold is on that stage Gabe?” Scott asked as they walked outside.
“ Fifty thousand dollars.” Gabe said. “ I just received a couple of wanted posters on a man named Dangerous Dan Tucker, and two brothers named Ed, and Andy Belcher. They’ve been robbing the stage of the gold shipments.”
“ You going with me?” Scott asked.
“ Nope, not my jurisdiction, and it’s a matter for the army, and the stage line to handle.” Gabe said.
Johnny stood looking out the window into the darkness when he heard a door open behind him. The rain still came down hard, and lightening flashed in the distance, followed by loud thunder.
“ I hate thunderstorms.” Teresa said.
Johnny glanced at her a few seconds. He could tell she was shivering. “ Go stand by the fire, and warm up.”
“ I’m not shivering from being cold.” she said as she checked the coffee, and poured two cups. Walking over, she handed him one.
“ Thanks. That old man won’t much care for you talking to me.” he said as he took the cup of steaming coffee.
“ Murdoch is a good man, he just has a lot on his mind.” she said.
“ That may be, but it don’t give him the right to judge me the way he did on the stage.” Johnny said.
“ Didn’t you do the same thing against him though when you talked about ranchers in Mexico?” she asked softly.
“ I know his kind.” he said softly as he turned to face her. “ So how is it you know of Johnny Madrid?”
“ I’ve read about you in dime store novels. Only I have to say, they don’t do you justice on describing your eyes.” she said.
“ Boy if your father had any sense.”
“ Murdoch’s not my father. I’m his ward. My mother left me when I was a baby, and my father raised me. He was killed by land pirates six years ago. He was Murdoch’s best friend, and foreman of Lancer from the start.” she said.
Johnny grabbed her by the arm. “ What name did you say?”
“ Stop, you’re hurting me.” Teresa said as she tried to free her arm.
“ I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…….”
“ Get your filthy hands off her!” Murdoch ordered as he stormed over to them, and shoved Johnny away from Teresa.
“ Murdoch, he didn’t mean to hurt me.” Teresa pleaded.
Johnny stood up as Val, James, and Charlie came out of the room. “ You’re Murdoch Lancer?” he said with hate in his voice.
Val hurried over to Johnny. He remembered the picture, and the name on the back. “ Johnny, don’t do it kid.”
“ I’m sorry Teresa. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” he said before going outside into the pouring rain.
“ I don’t understand what happened.” she said. “ One minute we were talking, and everything was fine, but as soon as I said Lancer, he grabbed me, and was so angry.”
“ He comes anywhere near you again.” Murdoch said.
“ Your name is Murdoch Lancer?” Val asked.
“ Yes!” Murdoch responded.
Val grabbed Johnny’s saddlebags, and took out the picture. “ Lord almighty. You need to look at this.” he said as he handed him the picture.
“That’s Maria, when she was pregnant with Johnny.” Teresa said. “ How did he get that picture?”
Murdoch took the picture, and walked over to the table to sit down. A look of shock on his face. “ It can’t be.” Murdoch said. “ He can’t be my Johnny.”
“ Why can’t he be?” Val asked. “ I’ll tell ya what Lancer, When I was nursing him from being shot, I poked around in his saddlebags and found that picture. I asked him about it some time later. I also noticed a very distinctive birthmark on his……….”
“ High on his right hip that looks like a butterfly.” Murdoch finished. “ How do I know it’s really him?”
“ What I know is the kid was orphaned when he was ten when his mother was murdered. He’s had a rough life of abuse in orphanages, and a Mexican prison. His mother told him you threw them out. Said you didn’t want a half-breed mestizo for a son.” Val explained.
“ I never threw them out. I awoke one morning and found them gone. I learned later that she ran off with some gambler. I have spent twenty one years looking for him.”
“ Well, all I know is what the kid told me his mother told him. So that’s why he has such a powerful hate for you.” Val said. “ I suggest you give him time to calm down before you try talking to him. Maybe let the young lady talk to him first when he comes back inside.”
“ Teresa….absolutely not!” Murdoch said firmly.
“ She seems to be the one he talks too.” Val said. “ Sometimes it’s easier for a man to talk to a woman. Men talk to whores all the time. Tell them………I’m sorry for being vulgar Miss Teresa. Mister Lancer, I think she’s yur only hope of talking to that boy.”
“ I’m going out to the barn to talk to him. He shouldn’t be alone right now.” Teresa said as she put her coat on.
“ Teresa!” Murdoch said as he reached for her.
“ He won’t hurt me Murdoch.” she said before going outside into the rain.
“ She’s right. Johnny would never hurt her. You have my word on that Mister Lancer.” Val said.
Teresa walked cautiously into the pitch black of the barn. ‘ Johnny.” she said softly as she walked slowly toward the back. “ Johnny, I want to talk to you.”
“ Why? ‘he said from behind her.
Teresa spun around. “ You startled me.” she said. “ It’s so dark in here, I didn’t see you.”
“ What do you want?” he asked as he went further back in the barn, and lit a lamp, keeping the flame low.
Teresa’s breath caught as she seen he had removed his shirt. “ Can I talk to you about Murdoch? ”
Johnny walked up to her. “ You’re soaked, and trembling.” he said as he wrapped a blanket around her.
“ Thank you.” she said as she took hold of the blanket.
“ Murdoch Lancer, you want to know what he did to my mother. He gave her the keys to the road one day, and said what’s your hurry, and just a minute, don’t forget buster here.” Johnny said with anger as he walked over, and sat down on a bale of straw.
“ That’s not true!….That’s not true about Mister Lancer and your mother. Well he never made her leave. She left of her own free will.” Teresa said as she walked back to face him in the dim light.
“ Now look! You don’t know what your….”
“ She ran off with somebody….He was some kind of gambler or something….She just packed up, and left with him.” she said.
“ Did he tell you to say that?” Johnny demanded as he stood up, and went to walk past her.
Teresa reached out, and grabbed his right arm, stopping him. “ No, my father told me….and it’s true. If anybody was done wrong Johnny, it was Murdoch Lancer. And there’s something else you need to know…..”
“ Alright!” he said as he jerked his arm free.
“ No, no listen! When your father wasn’t sure if he would live or die, I sat with him, and he kept saying your mother’s name Johnny, asking for her. So if you want to hate him because he’s stubborn, or wrongheaded lots of the time, or proud, well there faults, but don’t hate him for your mother Johnny, because he loved her.”
“ If he loved her so much, why didn’t he come after us?” he asked.
“ He has searched for you for twenty one years Johnny. Every Pinkerton report that said they hadn’t found you yet, I watched a small part of him die.” she said. “ Please Johnny, give him a chance, and you will see.”
“ Oh I already see. He made it clear how he feels about me on the stage. Remember?” Johnny said.
“ He didn’t know you were his son, and you can change his mind.” she said. “ I already know you’re a good person.”
“ You should go back inside. Wouldn’t want him to think I was disrespecting you or hurting you.” Madrid said.
“ I’m not afraid to be alone with you in this barn.” she said.
Johnny turned to face her. “ Don’t you know gunfighters, and pretty girls don’t mix?” he asked.
“ You don’t look dangerous to me.” she said.
“ Oh I am.” he said. “ Go back inside. I need to be alone for a while to think.”
The sun was starting to break on the horizon when the rooster crowed. Johnny opened his eyes, rubbed his face, and stood up. Last night’s happenings still fresh in his mind. What Teresa told him still shook him, and left him with so many unanswered questions. Questions he knew he would never get answered since his mother was dead. Teresa had said his father had been searching for him the past twenty one years. Could that be why they moved so much? Why they never spent more than a few months, if that in a small town, or village? For several years he thought the man who always wore black was his father until one day he heard his mother, and him arguing. It wasn’t but a few days later, that man was gone from his life forever, and they started moving around a lot. After emptying his bladder in the back corner of the barn, Johnny walked to the front, and opened the door. The sun rising on the horizon as the last clouds from the storm slowly moved on south. Looking at the station, he sighed, and stepped out into the mud. The light of the morning showing where the rain had run right thru the middle between the stage station, and barn, cutting a deep trench. Looking toward the road to the south, he could see it was partially blocked from mud, and small boulders.
“ Was that thunder?” Teresa asked.
“ No….That was a rifle shot.” Val said as he went to the window, and looked out. “ Johnny!” he said as he seen Madrid on the ground. Opening the door he went out onto the porch.
“ I can kill him where he lays!” Tucker yelled. “ You know what we want. Bring it out, and he lives!”
“ Teresa get in that room, and stay there.” Murdoch ordered.
“ What about Johnny?” she asked.
“ Do as I say now!” he ordered as he grabbed a rifle, and went to the window.
“ You got one minute before I put another bullet in him!” Tucker yelled.
“ Alright!” Val yelled. “ We’ll bring it out!”
Murdoch went to the hutch, moved it aside, pulled the rug back, and removed the boards.
“ Bring it out, and set it on the ground next to Madrid!” he ordered.
James, and Charlie brought the strongbox out, and set it down next to Madrid. James could see blood on the back of Madrid’s left shoulder.
“ Step away!” Dan ordered.
Ed, and Andy Belcher, leading a pack horse, came over to the strongbox. “ I guess you ain’t so tough after all Madrid.” Andy said before kicking Madrid in the back.
“ Leave him, and get the gold loaded on that horse!” Tucker ordered.
“ We have to do something.” Murdoch said.
“ Johnny’s still alive because he’s moving, so don’t go doin anything that will get him kilt!” Val ordered. “ You got the gold, now leave!”
“Johnny Madrid, I know you’re still alive. I’m challenging you right here, right now. I hear you’re the best. Stand up, and face me Madrid! I’m calling you out!” Tucker yelled.
Johnny could feel the blood soaking his back, his left arm numb. Pushing himself up on his knees, he watched as Dangerous Dan Tucker walked out from behind the stagecoach, stopped, and faced him.
“ Get up Madrid……Stand up, and face me!” Dan ordered. “ Stand up, or I’ll shoot you dead right there!”
Johnny seen movement to his left, looking he seen Val, and Lancer on the porch. “ Stay out of it!” he ordered as he stood up.
“ Oh my god…..he can’t be serious.” Murdoch said.
“ I’m afraid so Mister Lancer.” Val said.
“ I’m not going to let this happen.” Murdoch said as he started toward Johnny, but was stopped by Val.
“ You go out there, and you’ll get him killed for sure.” Val said.
“ I guess you got more guts than I figured Madrid. That bullet in your shoulder, looks like it messed that left arm up some the way it’s just hangin there” Tucker said.
“ Dan….we got the gold…..leave Madrid….let’s get out of here!” Ed Belcher yelled.
“ Shut up!” Dan ordered. “ I want his reputation, and I’m going to have it before I leave here.”
Johnny stood there getting weaker in the knees as blood continued to soak his back, and chest, his left shoulder burning like fire. Staggering a little as he tried to prepare himself for the inevitable. Pushing the pain aside as best he could, he stood up straighter, and glared at Tucker.
“ You ain’t leaving here.” Johnny said as he summoned all his strength from deep down inside.
“ Oh sure I am. See, you’re about to pass out from all that blood you’re losing. I know there’s no way you can beat me Madrid.” Tucker said.
Madrid knew he wouldn’t last much longer on his feet. Seeing the flinch in Dan’s right hand, both men drew, and fired at the same time, both bullets hitting their mark, both men knocked backwards to the ground, but only one would still be breathing.
Val ran to his friends side, praying he was still alive. He could see the blood soaking his back, and left side from where Tucker’s bullet hit him. “ Hold on kid. I’ll get ya inside. Don’t ya go dyin’ on me.” he said.
Murdoch rushed over to them. “ Let me carry him inside.” he said as he scooped Johnny up in his arms, and carried him inside the station.
“ Put him on the bed in there.” Charlie said. “ I’ll get some water heating to remove the bullets.”
“ Is there a doctor close?” Val asked.
“ Even if he could get thru, the closest doc is in Gilroy, and that’s thirty miles from here.” Charlie said.
“ Do any of you know how to remove a bullet?” Val asked as he started removing Johnny’s shirt.
“ I do.” Teresa said. “ I’ve helped Sam back home when Murdoch was shot.
“ I ain’t got no doctors instruments for removing no bullets.” Charlie said.
“ He does, in his saddlebags. I seen em.” Val said. “ Kid’s removed bullets from himself before.” he added before going to get Johnny’s saddlebags.
“ Teresa…….are you sure you can do this?” Murdoch asked.
“ He needs help Murdoch. He’s your son.” she said. “ I’m not about to not try and help him. I want all of you out of the room except Mister Crawford. He can help me.”
Scott, Cipriano, Frank, and Wade stopped their horses next to the corral where the stagecoach was.
“ Señor Scott, look!” Cipriano said as he pointed to a dead body.
“ That’s far enough!” Charlie yelled from the porch. “ Who are ya, and what’s your business here?”
“ My names Scott Lancer, I’m looking for my father.” Scott yelled.
Murdoch stepped out onto the porch as Scott rode up. “ Son, I’m glad you’re here.”
“ Got worried when the stage didn’t show up sir. Are you, and Teresa alright?” Scott asked.
“ We’re fine. I’m glad you’re here. Come inside.” Murdoch responded.
“ Where is Teresa?” Scott asked.
“ She’s in that room removing two bullets from your brother.” Murdoch said.
“ So you know about Johnny?” he asked as he removed his coat.
“ I found out last night.” Murdoch said as the door to the bedroom opened, and Val walked out.
“ He’s alive.” he said. “ She did a right good job removing both bullets.” Val said.
“ You must be Val Crawford?” Scott asked. “ Gabe said there were two men guarding the gold named Crawford, and Johnny Madrid.”
“ Gabe didn’t come with you?” Murdoch asked.
“ No sir. He said he couldn’t because it’s not in his jurisdiction.” Scott explained. “ And that the gold was the responsibility of the army, and stage line unless it was in his town.”
Johnny opened his eyes three days later, and looked up at the ceiling. He was in a bed, but who’s bed, and where. Looking around he could see the figure of someone sitting in a chair by the window looking out at the darkness. Trying to move brought a wave of pain to his left shoulder, and arm which he found were bound up to his chest to prevent them from moving. Squinting his eyes shut, he waited until the pain subsided before moving his right arm to try and sit up.
“ Here, let me help you.” the figure at the window said.
“ Teresa?” he said softly as she helped him to sit up and placed some pillows behind him.
“ Yes. I’m glad to see you remember me.” she said softly. “ You had me worried with the fever you had after I removed the bullets.”
“ I always get a fever after I get shot.” he said. “ You removed the bullets?”
“ Yes I did. There was nobody else to do it.” she said as she poured some water in a glass. “ I don’t have any laudanum for the pain.”
“ Don’t take laudanum.” Johnny said as he drank the cool water. “ How long I been out?”
“ Three days.” she said as she sat down next to him.
“ It’s dark outside.” he said. “ Where’s Val?”
“ Yes. The sun will be coming up in a couple hours.” she said. “ Mister Crawford, took some men, and went after the gold. Everyone else that are still here are sleeping.”
Johnny closed his eyes as he remembered what happened.
“ You should rest.” Teresa said.
“ I’m sorry you had to see.” Johnny said.
“ I’ve seen men shot before.”
“ I meant my scars. I haven’t had an easy life after my mother died.” he said softly.
“ You have a chance at a good life now if you want it?”
“ He made it clear how he feels about gunfighters that day on the stage. He won’t change, and I will always be Johnny Madrid.”
“ He doesn’t hate you Johnny. Murdoch wants to love you. Give it a chance, and you will see.” she suggested.
Johnny was sitting up in bed when the door opened, and Teresa walked into the room, followed by a young blonde haired tall man.
“ What do you want?” he asked.
“ Johnny…..there’s something you need to know, or rather someone you need to meet.” she responded. “ This is Scott Lancer, your older brother.”
Johnny stared at the young man. “ My mother only had one kid, and that was me.”
“ Likewise.” Scott said.
“ You’re right, it’s Mister Lancer who had two.” she said.
“ Two what Teresa?” Johnny asked.
“ Wives…..and sons…..You two.” she said.
Johnny shook his head in disbelief. When growing up, he had often wished for an older brother. Someone who would protect him, and stop the abuse, but sadly the only big brother he got, was named Sam Colt.
“ We’ll be leaving tomorrow, and I thought the two of you would like to get acquainted some.” she suggested.
“ Teresa, he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want too. Perhaps on the way home he will feel up to it.” Scott said.
“ So the old man wanted you huh?” Johnny asked.
“ Johnny, I told you what happened.” Teresa cut in, and said.
“ My mother died giving me life.” Scott said.
“ I’m sorry. I didn’t mean no disrespect toward her.” Johnny said. “ Look….Teresa…I don’t think it’s going to work out. I don’t think you fully understand the risk involved if I came to Lancer.”
“ Johnny please.” she pleaded.
“ Men will come looking for me. Men like Tucker will come, and call me out. A man in my profession can’t afford……….”
“ Your friend Mister Crawford explained all that to us.” Scott cut in, and said. “ Let me tell you something little brother….. I was five years old when your mother took you away from Murdoch, and me. We have searched twenty one years for you, so if you think I am going to let you get away from me again, you are sorely mistaken.”
The bedroom door opened, and Val walked inside. “ Glad to see you awake kid.”
“ Hey. You catch them?” Johnny asked.
“ Sure did. Pack-horse broke a leg. They were kind enough to shoot it, and the shot led me right to them.” Val explained.
“ They dead?” Scott asked.
“ They gave me no choice. I tried to get them to surrender, but they wouldn’t have it. Got the gold back, and that’s all I care about.” Val said.
Johnny slowly climbed down from the coach in Green River, and looked around. “ So this is where you’re gonna be sheriff?” he asked.
“ Just as soon as I get back from delivering this dang gold.” Val said.
“ Excuse me, Mister Crawford, I’m Captain Quinn. I was sent to relieve you of the strongbox. Me and my men will take it the rest of the way.” the captain said.
“ That’s fine with me, but not until I get verification first.” Val said.
“ The sheriff can verify, or you can send a wire to San Bernardino to Mister Howell or Mister Hancock.” the captain said.
“ Let them have it Val.” Johnny said.
“ You must be Johnny Madrid.” the captain said as he extended his hand.
“ You’ll forgive me if I don’t shake your hand captain. If the army had done their job and been guarding the gold in the first place…..”
“ Easy kid.” Val said.
“ Madrid!……..You being a gunfighter, I wouldn’t expect you to know anything about the army. If you did, you wouldn’t have made such a remark.” the captain said.
“ I do captain.” Scott said. “ I was in the army sir, and I know gold shipments are the responsibility of the army when over a certain amount. It falls under your purview to guard.”
“ Can I ask what your rank was, and who you served under?” he asked.
“ I was in the Cavalry unit, and served under General Phil Sheridan.” Scott responded.
“ Can I ask your name, and rank?” the captain asked.
“ Scott Garrett Lancer, I was a captain. And spent the last year of the war in Libby prison.”
“ Now I remember you. Harvard graduate from Boston. You were captured at Chancellorsville I believe?”
“ I was, but that has no bearing on the matter at hand captain.” Scott said. “ What does is your rudeness toward my brother.”
Johnny stood there admiring his newfound big brother. Not many people had ever stood up for him before. He noticed his father just stood there letting Scott handle the matter.
“ Forget it Boston. I’ve dealt with his kind before.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny, let’s get you over to Sam, so he can check your wounds.” Teresa suggested.
“ I suggest you rest young man. Riding on that stage four days after being shot twice was not a smart idea.” Sam said. “ Can I ask who removed the bullets, and stitched you up?”
“ The young lady did. Said she learned how from you.” Johnny said.
“ Teresa is a very smart young lady.” Sam said. “ Can I ask about your other scars? Some of them appear to not be that old.”
“ Had a rough life doc. Can I put my shirt back on?” Madrid said, and asked.
“ You can. I want you to rest, and no riding for at least a month. That shoulder needs time to heal up.” Sam instructed. “ Do you have a place you can stay?”
“ Ask Teresa.” Johnny said.
Sam opened the door, and walked out ahead of Johnny. “ He needs to rest that shoulder for at least a month.” Sam said. “ He said to ask you about him resting?”
“ There’s something you need to know about Johnny Sam.” Murdoch said.
“ That he’s the gunfighter Johnny Madrid? I already knew that. I seen him kill a man in Barstow once. I must say, I was a little shocked at how you tried to talk the man out of the fight. What I witnessed that day was the complete opposite of what I have heard, and read about you Mister Madrid.” Sam said.
“ Sam, Johnny is my John.” Murdoch said.
“ Your John? What do you mean your John?” Sam asked.
“ Maria’s boy.” Murdoch said. “ Listen, it’s a long story. Perhaps you could come to Sunday supper, and we will explain it.” he suggested.
“ I think I will.” Sam said. “ If you are Murdoch’s long lost boy, welcome home. Twenty three, almost twenty four years ago, I delivered you.”
“ It’s him Sam. He has the birthmark on his right hip.” Murdoch said as Scott walked into the office.
“ I have a wagon waiting outside full of straw in the back to make your ride home much more comfortable than on the stagecoach little brother.” Scott said.
Scott stopped the wagon on the hill overlooking Lancer. Johnny sat up, and looked out across the valley below.
“ There it is, as far as the eye can see. The most beautiful place in the whole wide world, Lancer.” Teresa said.
“ From here, all the way to those mountains in the distance.” Scott added.
“ Just how big is this estancia?” Johnny asked.
“ One hundred thousand acres, with ten thousand head of beef, and the finest Capanero de Palomino’s in the San Joaquin. I have a gray hair for every good blade of grass you see down there.” Murdoch said. “ When I bought Lancer, it was in shambles. Nobody had lived in it for several years. To the left you can see the main house. I have a hundred and fifty vaquero’s working for me. Some with a family, and all live on Lancer. Most are single, and live in the three big bunkhouses.”
Johnny looked in awe as he listened to his father describe Lancer. He couldn’t understand why his mother would leave such a place.
“ Let’s go home so Johnny can rest.” Teresa said.
Thirty minutes later Johnny slowly climbed out of the wagon, and looked at the size of the house.
“ Don’t let the size intimidate you brother.” Scott said.
“ It’s big.” he said.
“ Eleven bedrooms upstairs, three downstairs. The grand room, dining room , and kitchen. There are stairs to the kitchen at the far end, and a huge root cellar.” Murdoch said.
“ Come on inside Johnny.” Teresa said.
“ Let’s let John come inside when he’s ready?” Murdoch suggested.
Johnny stood there looking at the size of the windows. The veranda doors that led to the portico to the right of the main door. A small adobe wall ran between the pillars. Flat stones were laid for the patio. Roses stood in bloom in front of the walls, and around the house. He remembered how his mother loved roses, and even cried when he gave her one for her birthday once.
“ He’s just standing out there.” Teresa said.
“ It’s a lot for him to take in.” Scott said.
“ I hope he stays.” she said.
“ So do I.” Murdoch said. “ I know I spoke ill of him on the stage about being a gunfighter, but seeing him face down that man, especially wounded, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone with that much courage.”
“ Wait, are you saying Johnny faced Tucker when he was already shot?” Scott asked.
“ Yes.” Murdoch said, and then proceeded to tell him what happened.
Scott shook his head in disbelief. Walking over to the desk, he took out the letter from the Pinkerton agent, and handed it to his father.
“ This might help explain him some.” he said as he handed it to him. “ I have to say, I was shocked at the treatment he’s had. The cruelty that has been inflicted on him. It’s no wonder he became Johnny Madrid.”
Murdoch walked over to his desk, and sat down to read the letter. When he got to the second page, his heart broke as he read all the abuse his youngest endured growing up. The cruel punishments he was forced to endure while in the orphanage because of him having a Mexican mother, and gringo father.
“ It angers me knowing how he was treated growing up, and here I was worrying about frivolous things.” Scott said with sadness.
Murdoch cleared his throat, and tried to swallow a lump that just wouldn’t go down. “ I…..my god. I can’t believe what’s been done to him.”
“ Why?” Johnny asked from the foyer. “ A mestizo is fair game to abuse in Mexico.”
“ Son….I……I’m sorry. You should have never had a childhood like that. I’m sorry.” Murdoch said as he walked over to him.
“ I’m kinda tired. Is there a room I can use?” Johnny asked.
“ Your bedroom is upstairs.” Scott said. “ I’ll show you.”
“ Son….I’m glad you’re home finally, and I hope you decide to stay.” he said.
“ Are you sure it was Madrid?” Will asked.
“ Positive. It’s right here in the paper.” Earl said.
“ She’s not going to be happy about this.” Carl said.
“ Especially since she was with Madrid when we were down in Sonora working that range war.” Will said. “ She thought he was dead, so this could shock her.”
“ Jess and Madrid……..oh man.” Carl said.
“ I guess I better go tell her.” Will said.
“ Don’t have too. Here she comes.” Carl said.
“ Hey, is there a problem?” she asked
“ Hey Jess…….Madrid is still alive.” Will said.
“ What do you mean he’s still alive?” she asked. “ Johnny was killed by the Rurales three years ago.”
“ Apparently not Jess. He got into a gunfight with Dan Tucker, who I guess was trying to steal a strongbox full of gold Madrid was guarding.” Earl said. “ It’s right here in the paper.”
Jess snatched the paper from him, and read it. Throwing the paper in the fire, she scattered the embers, and went to saddle her horse.
“ Where you going?” Earl asked.
“ California. I don’t care how long it takes me. I’m going to find Madrid, and when I do!” she spat as she saddled her horse.
“ Jess, California is a long ways from Texas, and you don’t even know where to look for Madrid.” Will said.
“ I’ll start where he killed Tucker. Station master might know where he went.” she said as she mounted up. “ I don’t expect you boys to go with me.”
“ You take care of yourself Jess.” Earl, and Carl said as they walked over, and shook her hand.
“ I’m going with you.” Will said. “ I’m not going to let you face Madrid alone.”
Johnny woke up, and found the sun shining into his room. Climbing out of bed, he walked over to the window, and looked out. He could see men down by the corrals working with some horses. Turning, he looked around the room. “ Best bed I’ve slept in ever.” he said as he walked over, and found his saddlebags, and a package sitting on a hope chest at the end of his bed. Undoing the string around the package, he opened it up to find a couple of brand new shirts inside, along with a note.
Teresa picked these out for you in town this morning.
Taking the shirts out, he smiled as he put the tan colored one on, and slipped into his leather pants with silver conchos up the sides. After putting socks, and his boots on, he stood up, and looked at himself in the mirror.
“ I’m sure he will be awake for supper Maria.” Teresa said as she helped prepare supper.
“ Can I get a cup of coffee?” Johnny asked from behind her.
Maria spun around, and stared at Johnny a few seconds before taking her right hand and making a cross symbol and mumbling something under her breath.
“ Of course you can.” Teresa said. “ I’ll get it for you. Sit down.”
“ Thank you for the shirts.” Johnny said as he sat down. “ Is she alright?”
“ Recé todos los días para que regresaras con nosotros.” ( I prayed every day that you would come back to us.) Maria said.
“ Maria helped Sam deliver you.” Teresa said as she gave him a cup of coffee. “ In fact, you were born in the bedroom you slept in last night.
“ No te recuerdo ni estando aquí.” ( I don’t remember you, or being here.) Johnny said.
“ She understands. Why don’t you go look around the house while we finish preparing supper.” Teresa suggested.
Johnny stood up, picked up his cup of coffee, smiled at Teresa, before leaving the kitchen. “ Nineteen, and unattached Madrid.” he said softly as he walked into the grand room. The tall grandfather clock by the veranda doors rang four times. Walking over to the sideboard, he poured a shot of tequila to steady his nerves as he looked around the room at all the beautiful furniture. A huge L in a circle stood out to him above the fireplace. Next to it was a map of Lancer. Walking over to it, he could see all the roads, creeks, stream, ponds, and lakes located on the ranch.
“ When you’re feeling better, perhaps you would care to go for a buggy ride around the ranch to see things?” Scott suggested.
“ Yeah, maybe.” Johnny said.
“ I tried to wake you for supper last night, and this morning for breakfast, but you were sound, so I just let you sleep.” Scott said as he walked over to the sideboard to pour a drink. “ Want one?”
“ Yeah sure. Tequila if he has it.” Johnny said. “ So where’s the old man at?”
“ He had to go to Sacramento to make arrangements for the bull he bought to be brought here.” Scott said. “ He should be back Friday.”
“ Thanks. He always such a hard ass?” Johnny asked as he took the drink.
“ About the ranch, yes. Breakfast, and supper are served at six sharp every day except Sundays. We work six days a week for a dollar a day. Saturday nights, and Sundays are ours to do as we wish.” Scott explained. “ Sundays we attend church in Morro Coyo. You are welcomed to join us.”
“ Have no reason to go to a church.” Johnny said. “ I have wants, and needs, is there a whorehouse in town?”
“ I believe there are available ladies in Spanish Wells, and Green River.” Scott said with a smile. “ But you won’t be going to see the ladies until Sam says you can ride.”
“ Let’s get one thing straight Boston, I’ve been taking care of myself pretty much my whole life….So don’t go thinking that because I came here that gives you or the old man the right to tell me what I can, and cannot do. I know my body, and I know what I can do.”
“ You’re right, my mistake. I’m sorry.” Scott said.
( ADULT CONTENT )
“ Can I help you?” Charlie asked.
“ Need to water our horses.” Jess said.
“ Help yourself.” Charlie said.
“ Thanks.” Jess said as she dismounted, and walked her horse over to the trough.
“ Looking for a man. We heard he was here a couple months back?” Will asked.
“ A lot of men have been here.” he said.
“ This one you would know. Goes by the name of Johnny Madrid.” Jess said. “ Paper said he was here, and he killed a man.”
“ He was, and he did. Madrid was guarding a gold shipment, and was stuck here due to the road being blocked from a rock slide. A damn fool tried stealing the gold with two other fellas.” Charlie said. “ Shot Madrid in the back. Damnedest thing I ever seen. Madrid bleeding stood up to him. They both fired at the same time. Madrid took a bullet in the side, and his bullet went right thru the other mans heart.”
“ You happen to know where Madrid went?” Jess asked.
“ Why you looking for Madrid?” Charlie asked.
“ That’s my business.” she said as she pulled her pistol.
“ Hey….easy Jess. You kill this man, and they’ll hunt you down, and hang you for murder.” Will said.
“ I’m going to ask you one last time….where did Madrid go?”
“ He left on the stage a few days later….headed to a town called Morro Coyo.” Charlie said.
“ Thank you.” Jess said as she holstered her colt, mounted up, and rode away.
“ I’m sorry about that mister.” Will said.
“ You can do lite work. I don’t think you should be lifting anything heavy yet. Those muscles are going to be weak, and tight from not being used. Just take it easy, and you should get your strength back.” Sam instructed. “ Teresa did a right fine job stitching those wounds up, and removing the bullets.”
“ Yeah. I’ve been trying to think of a way to thank her.” Johnny said.
“ Well, I know young ladies like trinkets. Maybe you could find something in town she would like.” Sam suggested. “ Come on downstairs after you get dressed.”
“ How’s his arm Sam?” Teresa asked.
“ He can do lite work, and gradually build his strength back up.” Sam said as Johnny came downstairs.
“ Sam told us he released you to lite duty.” Scott said.
“ Figure I should start earning my keep.” Johnny said.
“ Stay for supper Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’d like to, but I have a baby due to be born tonight, or tomorrow.” Sam said. “ Just remember what I said Johnny. No heavy lifting.”
“ Murdoch, maybe Johnny could take me up to the mine tomorrow?” Teresa asked.
“ Do what?” Johnny asked.
“ Teresa does missionary work. She takes supplies to the miners, and the children up at Salt Canyon Mine.” Murdoch said. “ Scott has to go to Modesto on business, and I have a cattleman’s meeting here I have to attend Would you mind driving her up there?”
“ Go on inside at get a fire started while I take care of the team.” Johnny said as he helped Teresa down from the wagon.
Teresa hurried inside, and closed the door. Top Mesa line-shack was only used in the spring during round-up, so supplies was always kept in the cabin. A stack of wood sat in a basket next toe the cook stove. Finding matches, she set to getting a fire going, and a pot of coffee brewing. Once done, she set about removing her soaked clothes, and wrapped herself up in a blanket.
Johnny finished feeding the team, and headed to the cabin. The rain coming down hard, and stinging as the wind blew it around. Making his way to the cabin, he opened the door, and hurried inside as lightening flashed, splitting a tree in half not far from the cabin. The sound reverberating, Looking around, he was surprised to find Teresa wrapped in a blanket, holding a hot cup of coffee for him.
“ Thanks.” he said as he took the cup, and took a sip. “ This storm is here for all night it looks like.”
“ At least we have a dry place to stay until it’s over.” Teresa said with a smile. “ There’s a blanket for you to wrap up in on the bed in the other room. Go get out of those wet clothes, and bring them back out here so they can dry.” she ordered.
Johnny smiled. “ Murdoch ain’t gonna be too happy about this.” Johnny said. “ You being alone with me in a cabin.”
“ Murdoch will be fine. He’ll probably come looking for us when the storm is gone.” she said as she watched Johnny remove his gunbelt and sit down to take his boots off. Standing back up, he pulled his shirt out of his pants, and started to unbutton it, but found his hands shaking too much.
“ Here, let me help you.” Teresa said as she started unbuttoning his shirt for him.
Johnny stood there watching her face as she unbuttoned his shirt. “ Thank you.” he said.
Teresa looked up into his blue eyes, and smiled. “ If you’re hungry….I can fix us something to eat. There’s canned beef, and I can make up some biscuits.” she suggested.
Johnny put his hands on her shoulders. “ It’s whatever you want to do.” he said.
“ Go get out of those wet pants so they can dry.” she said as her stomach got queasy, and her legs felt weak.
Johnny went into the bedroom, and found three cots, and one bed big enough for two people. Smiling as he started removing his pants. Stepping out of them, he picked up the blanket, and wrapped it around his waist. Picking up his pants, he turned to go back out into the other room, and found Teresa standing in the door, her blanket down at her feet.
“ You said whatever I wanted to do.” she said. “ I want you Johnny….I want you to make love to me.”
Johnny walked over to her, placed his right hand under her chin, he brought his lips down to hers, and gently kissed her.
“ Are you sure this is what you want?” he asked softly.
Teresa felt like she was floating on air when she felt Johnny’s lips touch hers. When he pulled away, but not to far, she smiled as parts of her body started feeling strange inside.
“ I’m sure.” she said.
Johnny lowered his lips to hers again, but this time he slid his tongue inside her mouth as he pulled her to him tighter. Moaning as he felt himself arousing. When Teresa wrapped her arms around him, and raked her fingernails up and down his back, he pressed into her as he ran his hands down to feel the heat between her legs. His own body heating up as he picked her up, turned, and carried her over to the bed, laying her down on the mattress. Standing up, he removed his blanket, letting her see all of him. Laying down on the bed next to her, he ran his right hand down between her legs, and started working her, to prepare her for him. One thing he’d learned from being with women, is it can be very painful for a woman her first time if the man didn’t prepare her, and take his time. Time he had plenty of thanks to the storm, and he planned on making Teresa his at least twice before the sun came up.
Teresa pressed her head back into the pillow as her body experienced a wave of new sensations. Moaning, she started running her hands down pressing his hand into her tighter as her thighs clenched tightly.
Johnny started sucking on her breast, pulling on the nipples as his hand worked getting her wetter. Knowing she was ready, he positioned himself above her, and guided himself to her entrance. Gently he pushed inside, and withdrew, going deeper every time until he felt her barrier. Holding himself still he claimed her mouth with hunger as his body started to quiver.
“ It’s not too late to stop.” he said.
Teresa wrapped her legs tightly around his waist, giving him the answer he wanted. With one fast thrust, he entered her all the way, and held still, allowing her body to adjust to the intrusion. “ It will get easier the more we do it.” he said as he started moving, pumping his hips faster as he felt himself close to exploding. He could feel Teresa’ muscles tighten around him, and then loosen as she dug her fingers into his back, pressed her head back into the pillow and all but screamed in ecstasy as her body exploded with his.
Johnny pumped her as hard as he could as he climaxed, raising up above her, the bed moving with every thrust, the headboard hitting the wall. When his climax finally stopped, he dropped down onto her, his breathing fast, and labored as he stayed inside her, feeling her muscles contract around him.
“ Cipriano, saddle my horse, and get a couple men. Johnny, and Teresa didn’t come home last night.” Murdoch ordered.
“ The storm. They probably held up at the mine, or the Top Mesa line-shack.” Cipriano said. “ We will be ready to ride in ten minutes señor.”
Most of the night Murdoch stayed awake, worried about Teresa, and Johnny. Not knowing if someone had ambushed him. At only four years older than Teresa, and fearing his lust of saloon girls, he feared for Teresa being taken advantage of by Johnny, or her innocence taken for all the wrong reasons. He knew Teresa would never do anything to question her honor, it was Johnny he wasn’t sure about. Having only known the boy a couple months, he would watch, and see how the two of them acted around each other. He had planned on having a talk with his youngest about Teresa, but every time he wanted too, something else would come up. Tonight he would have that talk.
“ Teresa….there’s something you need to know.” Johnny said as he drove the team. “ Right now there’s only two reasons I’m staying at Lancer…You…..and Scott.”
“ What about Murdoch? Don’t you care about him at all?” she asked.
“ He made it clear how he feels about gunfighters, and that’s what I am.” Johnny said.
“ Which would you like to be more?” she asked.
“ What do you mean?” he asked.
“ Stop the wagon, and look at me.” she ordered.
Johnny stopped the wagon, and looked at her.
“ If you got the chance, which would you like to be more, Johnny Madrid, or Johnny Lancer?” she asked.
“ Which one means I can have you?” he asked.
“ You’ve already had me.” she said. “ I’m being serious Johnny.”
“ So am I.” he said. “ Look, I’ve only really cared about one other girl in my life. Saloon girls mean nothing to me except someone to have sex with. Then along comes you, and…….Jesus I can’t stop thinking about you when we’re apart.”
“ I feel the same way about you too Johnny.” she said before their mouths came together.
Murdoch stopped his horse on the rise. “ Cipriano, you and the men go on back to work.” he said as he watched the wagon below.
“ Oh boy.” Johnny said.
“ What?” Teresa asked as she turned to see what he was looking at. “ Murdoch.”
“ Been worried about you two.” Murdoch said as he rode up, and stopped his horse.
“ We got caught in the storm yesterday afternoon.” Teresa said.
“ Where did you stay?” he asked.
“ Top Mesa line-shack. It was the closest place.” Teresa said.
Murdoch dismounted. “ Johnny, take my horse, and ride on back to the ranch. I want to talk to Teresa alone.”
Johnny climbed down from the wagon. “ Murdoch….”
“ We’ll talk tonight son.” Murdoch said as he handed him the reins. “ Go on home, and get cleaned up.”
Johnny swung up in the saddle, smiled at Teresa, and headed home.
“ Young lady…..I’ve done the best I could raising you up to be a lady, and conduct yourself accordingly.” Murdoch said. “ What I seen from the top of the rise, should I be concerned?”
“ Johnny kissed me, and I kissed him back.” she said.
“ Teresa, has he…..last night, alone in the cabin….did he dishonor you?” Murdoch asked.
“ Johnny didn’t do anything I didn’t want him to do Murdoch.” she responded.
“ Teresa, what the two of you did…That is for on your wedding night. He could have got you with child.” Murdoch explained.
“ You didn’t with Maria. You married her because you got her pregnant with Johnny.” Teresa responded.
“ Young lady, I loved Maria.” Murdoch said. “ Yes I got her pregnant with Johnny before we were married, but it makes no difference in how I loved her.”
“ Then why does it matter so much with me and Johnny?” she asked.
“ Because of who he is. I don’t want to see you get hurt.” he said.
“ Who he is…….He’s your son.” she said.
“ He’s Johnny Madrid, and as long as he is, he could be killed. Do you think that’s a life for you, or any children the two of you have? To raise them without a father?” he asked.
“ Murdoch, I love being with Johnny, and he loves being with me.” she responded. “ He told me that the only reason he’s staying is because of me, and Scott.”
Murdoch looked at her. “ He said that?”
Jess, and Will rode into Spanish Wells, and stopped at the saloon. Dismounting, she noticed men, and women looking at her as she tied her horse.
“ Guess they’re not used to seeing a woman wearing pants, and a gun in this town.” Will said.
“ To hell with them. If Madrid is here, I’ll find him.” Jess said before walking into the saloon.
“ Go sit down, I’ll get us a couple beers.” Will said.
Jess walked over to an empty table, and sat down. All the way there from Texas she plotted a way to get to Madrid, a way he wouldn’t suspect anything. The night he seduced her in Sonora, he had killed a man during the range war the night before. Finding him camped alone, away from the others, she had rode into his camp, and soon found herself naked, and having the best, wild sex she had ever had that first time they came together. The second time, she found herself alone with Madrid at an abandoned house. Closing her eyes, Jess could still feel his lips on hers, his hands wandering over her body, touching her between her legs. His hardness moving in and out of her as they both sought ecstasy. Four times Madrid had taken her over the top, and all four times brought them closer than the last. When the range war was over, everybody left, and went their own ways. All except her and Johnny. They went to a hotel where they spent a week making love. Never once leaving their room. Then she awoke one morning, and found him gone. She still had the note he had left her telling her he loved her, and because he loved her, he couldn’t stay. They couldn’t have a future together ever. Only that day he didn’t leave her.
“ You alright?” Will asked as he handed her her beer, and sat down.
“ I’m fine.” Jess said. “ We need to find a place we can take him too. Someplace nobody goes too anymore.”
“ How about that old abandoned town we stayed in? Hell it’s got everything we would need.” Will said.
“ That just might work. All we need now is for Madrid to show up.” she said.
“ Bartender said Madrid is living with his old man, and brother on a ranch called Lancer, outside Morro Coyo, about twenty miles from here.”
“ Johnny, I want to talk to you!” Murdoch said as Johnny came downstairs.
Johnny sighed, and dropped his shoulders. He knew what was coming, and during his bath had mentally prepared himself. Walking into the grand room, he walked over, and poured a shot of tequila, and downed it to steady his nerves. This would be the first confrontation he had with his father since coming to Lancer.
“ Come over here, and sit down son.” Murdoch requested as he walked over to the couch, and sat down.
Johnny walked over, and sat down in a chair across from him.
“ I had an interesting talk with Teresa on the way home.” his father said. “ Though I don’t condone what happened between the two of you, and I am a bit disappointed in you for allowing it to happen, I want to know what your intentions are with Teresa?”
“ Murdoch….I….I’ve been with a few women in my time, but none of them have ever made me feel like I do when I’m with Teresa. When we’re together talking, she makes me feel so much different inside. None of the saloon women, or whores I’ve bedded ever made me feel like that.” he said. “ I don’t know how to explain it.”
“ I asked you what your intentions are with her now son?” Murdoch asked again. “ Have you thought about what the two of you will do if she is with child now?”
“ I wanted to come to you, but……” Johnny said as he stood up, and walked over to the fireplace. “ I gave her plenty of chances to stop. I have no regrets about making love to her…..I love her.”
“ Are you sure it’s love, and not lust?” he asked.
Johnny turned around to face him. “ You bedded my mother, and got her pregnant with me, then married her. What happened between me and Teresa is no different.”
“ There’s a big difference son. John….I’m not trying to pick a fight with you. I want to know what you and Teresa plan on doing now?”
“ I want to spend the rest of my life with her……I want her as my wife.” Johnny responded.
“ Okay, let me ask you this. Do you want to as John Lancer, or as Johnny Madrid?” his father asked.
“ And there it is. Because of who I am, I’m not good enough for her.” Johnny said with anger.
“ I never said that.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and walked over to him. “ Do you want to provide for her, and if you do, how will you? Will you make your money with that colt on your hip? Or would you do it with arms, legs, and guts?”
“ Murdoch, a part of me will always be Madrid.”
“ What if I could offer you a life…..with Teresa, here at Lancer, as a Lancer?” he asked.
“ What are you asking me?”
“ A third of this ranch is your birthright. I’ve already discussed this with Scott, and he agrees with what I am going to offer you.” Murdoch said as he walked over to his desk, and took out a piece of paper. “ Equal shares, only I call the tune.”
Johnny walked over, and took the paper from him to read.
“ If you agree to accept this partnership, it will mean working six days a week, sunup to sundown for a dollar a day, Sundays off. Will you accept my offer?”
Johnny looked at the paper, and noticed it said Johnny Lancer, and not Johnny Madrid. “ Because of………All I ever wanted growing up was a family. A big brother who could protect me, and stop the abuse. A father who wanted me, and loved me.” he said softly.
“ I’m offering you that very thing son. I’m offering you a way to get out of being a gunfighter.” Murdoch said. “ I know a part of you will always be Madrid, and I know I said some pretty harsh things to you on the stage, for that I’m sorry…..I would like a chance to be your father. I can’t do anything about your mother taking you away from me. It’s past, bad or good, right or wrong, it’s past and gone. All I can do is hope for a future with you here son.”
“ Murdoch, you realize that if I stay here, there’s the chance of my past showing up. Of men coming to call me out. Men like Tucker.” Johnny said.
“ Son, one thing you need to start realizing right now, Lancer takes care of it’s own.” Murdoch said. “ Now, about you and Teresa….I will not permit you sleeping together in this house unmarried. So I suggest the two of you decide when you are getting married.”
“ Johnny, have you ever loved another woman like you do me?” Teresa asked as she lay in the sun, her head in his lap on a warm Sunday afternoon.
“ Just one.” he said. “ We rode together in Mexico. We were working this range war and came together. When it was over, we spent a week making love in a hotel.”
“ What ever happened to her?” she asked as she sat up.
“ I woke up one morning and decided I couldn’t give her what she deserved, and I left. I haven’t seen her since.” he said as he sat up.
“ Did you love her?” Teresa asked.
“ I loved her enough to know when to leave.” Johnny said.
“ So if she rode up to the house, or you seen her again, you would have no feelings for her?” she asked.
Johnny laid back, and looked up at the sky. “ She’ll never show up here Teresa.”
“ Can I help you?” Scott asked.
“ I’m looking for an old friend named Johnny Madrid. I was told he lives here now.” Jess said.
“ Jess!” Johnny said as he walked out of the house with Murdoch, and Teresa. “ What are you doing here?”
“ Hello Johnny. We heard you were here, so we thought we would stop by and see and old friend.” Jess said.
“ Aren’t you going to introduce us son?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny shot his father a look that clearly said he had no intentions of introducing them.
“ Listen, we’re staying in Spanish Wells at the hotel for a couple days. I’d like to talk to you. You know, about the old days?” Jess suggested.
“ Jess, I can’t.” Johnny said. “ My past is just that, my past. I have a new life now.”
“ Not even for old friends?” she asked.
“ I’m sorry……I can’t.” Johnny said before turning, and going back inside.
“ I apologize for my sons rudeness young lady.” Murdoch said.
“ Who are you?” Jess asked.
“ I’m his father. Now if you don’t mind.” Murdoch said before turning to go inside.
“ Mister Lancer, tell Johnny it would be in his best interest to come talk to me….please.” she said.
“ My brother told you he does not wish to speak to you.” Scott said. “ Kindly respect that, and leave.”
Jess glared at Scott a few seconds before turning her horse, and riding away.
Teresa followed Johnny inside, and watched as he poured a tall shot of tequila, and downed it in two gulps.
“ Getting drunk isn’t going to make it go away.” she said.
Johnny turned, and looked at her. “ I swear I didn’t know she was here.”
“ I didn’t think you did.” she said. “ I would have to say, you seem to still have feelings for her though. Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be drinking tequila like you are.”
“ You’re out of line saying that Teresa. What we had is in the past.” he said as he walked over to her. “ What I have, and want now is a future with you.” he added before walking past her, and going upstairs. The sound of his bedroom door slamming could be heard a few seconds later as Murdoch, and Scott walked into the house.
“ Teresa, who is she, and why did she affect Johnny like she did?” Murdoch asked.
“ Her and Johnny were lovers a few years ago. He told me about her just the other day.” she said. “ They used to ride together, and worked a range war together. I guess during that range war, they became lovers until he left her one morning after a week in a hotel room.”
“So he still has feelings for her?” Murdoch asked.
“ It would appear so.” Scott said. “ Maybe he should ride into Spanish Wells, and see her.”
“ Why, so he can sleep with her?” Teresa asked.
“ Do you not trust him?” Scott asked.
“ Teresa, do you honestly believe Johnny would sleep with her? He loves you. If he still has feelings for this woman, I don’t believe he would go so far as to sleep with her. Not when he’s set to marry you in two months.” Murdoch said. “ I don’t think he would risk losing everything he has now for a woman from his past.”
“ I hope you’re right Murdoch.” she said. “ I seen the look in his eyes. I hope you’re right.”
“ Now what the hell do we do?” Will asked as they rode away from Lancer.
“ We follow thru with our plan.” Jess said. “ Did you see the look in his eyes when he seen me? He still has feelings for me, and it’s those feelings that will bring him right to us.”
“ So what do we do now?” he asked.
“ We watch him from a safe distance, and when the time is right, we grab him.” she said.
Teresa opened Johnny’s bedroom door, and walked in, closing it behind her. “ Are you alright?” she asked as she walked over closer to him.
Johnny turned around to face her. “ I told you downstairs I was.”
“ I don’t think you are.” she said. “ I think seeing her again stirred up old memories. Perhaps even an old flame you had for her?”
Johnny walked over to her. “ Teresa, as I said downstairs, I have everything I want right here.”
“ We are to be married in two months. Are you sure it’s over between the two of you?” she asked.
Johnny stepped closer, and pulled her to him. “ I’m positive.” he said before claiming her mouth with hunger.
“ Good morning.” Scott said.
“ Morning. I’m sorry I wasn’t down earlier to help with breakfast.” Teresa said.
“ Is everything alright?” he asked.
“ We are fine.” she said.
“ So you have no more doubts about where Johnny’s heart lies?” Murdoch asked.
“ No, and I never should have.” she said.
“ Does he know about your doubts?” Scott asked.
“ Yes he does. Me and Johnny have an open relationship Scott. We keep nothing from each other.” she responded.
“ That’s good.” Murdoch said. “ I wish I had had that with his mother. Maybe then I would have seen she wasn’t happy here.”
“ I doubt that old man.” Johnny said as he walked into the kitchen. “ I don’t think my mother was happy with anything.”
“ Son, maybe some time when you feel like it, we could talk about your mother?” Murdoch asked. “ I mean, you did spend more time with her than me.”
“ Maybe.” Johnny said. “ I’m going to ride up, and check for any strays we may have missed moving down from the high country.”
“ You don’t have to. I can send a hand to do it son.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Nope, I’ll do it.” Johnny said as he grabbed some bacon, and a couple biscuits. “ I’ll see you tonight.” he said before giving Teresa a kiss, and leaving the kitchen.
Johnny watched at two riders approached him from the west. “ Sonofabitch.” he said when he could make out who it was. “ What are you doing here Jess?”
“ A hand said you were out here. I just want to talk to you.” she said.
“ We have nothing to talk about. You need to leave. I have work to do.” Johnny said.
“ That’s too bad.” Jess said as she pulled her gun, and cocked it.
“ What the hell are you doing?” Johnny demanded.
“ Unbuckle that gunbelt and toss it away.” she ordered. “ We already know you’re up here all alone, so do what I say and drop the gunbelt.”
“ Go to hell.” Johnny said.
Will rode up to Johnny, and glared down at him before hitting him over the head with his rifle butt.
“ Damn it Will, don’t kill him.” Jess ordered. “ Get him on his horse so we can get out of here.”
“ It’s getting dark out. Johnny should have been back by now.” Teresa said with concern in her voice.
“ His horse could have thrown a shoe, or come up lame.” Murdoch said.
“ I’m going to go look for him.” Scott said.
“ Scott, it’s storming out. He’s probably hold up at the line shack till daylight.” his father said.
“ Or he could be laying out there hurt.” Scott responded.
“ Be reasonable son, there’s no way you will be able to find him in this storm. We’ll go looking for him at first light.” Murdoch said as he walked over to Teresa. “ I’m sure he’s alright. Why don’t you try and get some sleep.”
“ I can’t sleep knowing Johnny could be out there hurt.” Teresa said.
“ We’ve checked everywhere señor Lancer. There’s no sign of him.” Cipriano said. “ Top Mesa line-shack is empty.”
“ Storm last night washed out any tracks we could follow.” Scott said.
“ Frank, go check the North Mesa line-shack. Walt, you go check South Mesa, Cipriano, check out Fern Falls.” Murdoch ordered. “ Pedro, you and Jesús check out Old Cumbre Alto. Me and Scott will ride into Spanish Wells, and see if those two who came to the ranch to see Johnny are still around.”
( WARNING, STRONG ADULT CONTENT )
Teresa hurried out of the house when Murdoch, and Scott rode up, and dismounted. “ You didn’t find him?” she asked.
“ No. There’s no sign of him anywhere.” Murdoch said.
“ She took him.” she said. “ That woman, Jess. I know it was her.”
“ They left Teresa. The hotel said they checked out the next morning.” Scott said.
“ Scott, she shows up here to see Johnny, and he disappears the next day. It was her, I know it in my heart. Johnny wouldn’t just leave.” she sobbed.
“ It’s starting to rain again, let’s go inside.” Murdoch said.
“ I want you to go try and rest young lady.” Murdoch ordered.
“ I can’t rest until Johnny is found.” she said.
“ Teresa, you need to rest. You’re doing Johnny no good being like this. Now either you go lay down, or I will send for Sam, and have him give you some sleeping powder.” Murdoch ordered.
Johnny woke up, and found himself spread eagle on a bed totally naked except for a blanket thrown hastily over his waste. The ropes binding him to the bed frame cutting into his flesh to inflict pain.
“ I wouldn’t move around too much. She’s got them ropes tight.” Will said as he stood up, walked over to the table, poured a glass of water, and gave it to him.
Johnny welcomed the coolness of the water on his parched. “ Thanks,”
“ You’re welcome.” he said.
“ Where is she?” Johnny asked hoarsely.
“ Downstairs getting drunk.” he said.
“ Why am I tied to a bed naked?” Johnny asked.
“ I’d think that would be obvious to you. That’s why she’s downstairs getting drunk. She’s gonna come up here any time now, order me out, and…..”
“ She’s your wife….why don’t you stop her?” he asked.
“ No she’s not. We just ride together. I’ve asked her, but it’s you she was always in love with, even after you left her.” Will said. “ Here she comes. Just do what she wants.” he pleaded as the door opened.
“ Get out!” Jess ordered.
Will stood up, and walked to the door, looked at Johnny, and sighed before leaving the room.
“ Jess, why you doing this?” he asked.
“ Because of what you did to me.” she responded.
“ What I did to you? What the hell are you talking about Jess?” Johnny demanded.
“ Four years ago remember Johnny?” she demanded. “ Four years ago you used me, and then you left me. You fucked me for a week straight in a hotel room, and then like a coward, you ran off, and left me all alone….only you didn’t leave me. And then I hear you were killed by the Rurales.”
“ I was almost killed.” Johnny spat.
“ You know, I think about that week all the time. The way you kissed me, and made love to me. The aggression you had. You know, I think it was our third night you lasted well over an hour fucking me. I couldn’t believe how many times you made me climax that night. Jesus just thinking about it turns me on.”
“ It’s because I loved you that I left!” he spat. “ Jesus Jess, I couldn’t offer you anything, and you deserved more than that.”
“ Lies!!!!!” Jess yelled.
“ Go on, kill me then bitch!” Madrid yelled. “ Kill me if that’s what you really want to do!!!”
Jess undressed, and walked over to the bed. “ You remember that week we spent making love? I didn’t think you could do it that many times in a night. Boy was I wrong. I’m going to see if you’re still that good.” she said as she pulled the blanket off him, and climbed in bed. “ If my memory is right, you liked me doing this to you,” she said.
Johnny laid there trying to ignore what she was doing to him, but found he couldn’t as his body started responding to what she was doing. “ Untie me Jess………Untie me so I can make love to you like I used too.”
Jess ignored Johnny’s pleas as she raised up, and pressed herself down on his hardness, rubbing him as she moved her hips. Raising up every time his tip entered her. Bending down, she claimed his mouth with hunger, her tongue slipping in and out of his mouth as she moaned aloud.
“ Jess!” Johnny said as he couldn’t stop his body from exploding, and started thrusting his hips up into her as he climaxed.
“ Damn, I thought you had better control over yourself than that.” she said as she raised up, but didn’t move off of him.
“ You always did know how to excite me.” he said. “ Untie me so I can have you……Please Jess.”
“ Who was that girl with you the other day?” she asked as she cut his ankles free.
Johnny waited until his wrist were cut free, grabbed Jess, and shoved her down into the mattress as he moved up behind her. “ Nobody.” he said as he started groping her all over. “ God I loved you.” he said as he pulled her up, and claimed her mouth with hunger. Feeling himself getting hard again, he pushed her down, and shoved it in her, slamming her so rough, the bed started moving.
“ Oh yeah, that’s what I like.” Jess said as she rose up, and reached back, pulling his mouth back down to hers, biting his bottom lip as he pumped in and out of her.
Johnny put his weight on her back as he reached down and started pinching her folds, driving her that much more crazy as she started to climax, screaming out in pure ecstasy. “ Don’t stop!” Jess pleaded as Johnny stopped, and flipped her over, shoving into her again. Lowering his mouth to her breast, he sucked, bit, and pulled on them. “ God you drive me crazy!” he said as he pumped her harder. Feeling himself ready to explode again, he rose up on shaky arms as he released deep inside her.
Johnny woke to the sun shining in on him, and a cool breeze coming in the open window. Realizing he was alone, he sat up, and swung his legs over the bed. Memories of last night flooding his mind. He couldn’t believe he still loved her, still wanted her. Then his mind went to Teresa. He was supposed to marry her in two months. What would she say? Would she even want to marry him still? Did he still love her, or was he still in love with Jess enough to risk losing everything he had now at Lancer?
“ Good morning.” Jess said as she walked into the room with a tray of food. “ I thought after last night you would be hungry.”
Johnny watched her walk over and set the tray down on the table. “ I’m starved.”
“ Johnny, put your clothes on. I want to talk to you.” Jess said as she unlocked his shackle, and tossed it aside. “ Remember I said you didn’t really leave me?”
Johnny put his pants, and shirt on, walked over to the table, and sat down across from her. “ Yeah.”
“ You left more than a broken heart behind when you left me four years ago.” Jess said.
“ Jess, I’m sorry.” he said. “ I told you why I……..”
“ We have a daughter Johnny.” Jess cut in.
Johnny stared at Jess, unable to speak. His hands started shaking. Standing up, he ran his right hand thru his hair. “ That’s why you did this? Why you kidnapped me, and chained me up like an animal?”
“ If you had come to town to see me like I had asked, I wouldn’t have had to do it this way.” she said as she stood up.
“ Where is she?” he asked.
“ At a mission in El Paso.” Jess responded. “ The padre there knows who the father is, and I left instructions to find you in the event of my death. I never changed it because in my heart I didn’t want to believe you were dead.”
Johnny walked over to her. “ What do you want from me Jess?” Johnny asked.
“ I want you to meet your daughter.” she said. “ I know this was wrong, kidnapping you, but I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t ride up and say you have a kid. Not in front of those other people that were there.”
“ Those other people are my family.” Johnny said. “ My father Murdoch, and older brother Scott Lancer.”
“ I’m confused. I thought your father threw you and your mother out when you were a baby?” she asked.
“ Turns out she lied to me. She lied about a lot of things Jess.” he said. “ My father has been searching for me for twenty one years.”
“ So you go by Lancer now, and not Madrid?” she asked.
“ And what about us?” she asked.
Johnny put his hand under her chin. “ I’ve been with a lot of women Jess, but you were the first woman I ever loved, and I still love.”
“ You love me enough to give up what you have at Lancer?”
“ If I have too…yes.” he said. “ I don’t want to lose you again Jess. I never stopped loving you.”
Jess put her arms around his neck. “ You keep making love to me like you did last night you won’t ever lose me.”
Johnny smiled as he started walking her backwards to the bed. “ I’m going to make love to you every chance I can, anywhere I can.” he said before claiming her mouth as his hands ran down between her legs.
“ It’s been two weeks, and no sign of him.” Val said.
“ He’s still alive. I know it in my heart.” Murdoch said. “ Johnny will come back home to us.”
“ Is there a chance Johnny could have went back to Mexico?” Val asked.
“ Why would he do that? He was happy right here Val. We were to be married in two months. Johnny wouldn’t just up and leave me.” Teresa said.
“ Did he get a telegram, or letter from someone?” Val asked.
“ No. We told you, the only thing that happened was those two people from his past showing up here the day before.” Scott said with irritation in his voice.
“ Look, I’m just trying to do my job. I’m as worried about him as you are.” Val said gruffly. “ Did any of you have words with him? Maybe say something that made him leave?”
“ No………Damn it Val, I know you’re just trying to do your job.” Murdoch said angrily.
“ I have some friends down along the border. I’ll ride back to town, and send out some wires asking them to let me know if they see or hear anything.” Val said before turning to leave.
“ Val!…..I’m sorry. It’s just that I just got him back. I can’t lose Johnny again.” Murdoch said.
“ He’ll be back, and when he does, I’m gonna tan that kids hide.” Val said before leaving.
“ You ready to go meet your daughter?” Jess asked.
Johnny finished tightening his cinch. “ More than ready.”
“ Listen Johnny, maybe you should send a wire to your family to let them know you’re alive.” Will suggested.
“ No. I don’t want them looking for me.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle.
“ You wouldn’t have to tell them anything except you’re alive, and to not look for you.” Jess said.
“ I’ve been gone two weeks. If I know Val Crawford, he has people looking for me along the border.”
“ Val Crawford of Visalia?” Jess asked.
“ Yeah. He saved my life when I was ambushed. It’s him I was working with guarding the gold when I met my father.” Johnny responded.
“ If we ride hard, we can be in El Paso in about twenty five days.” Jess said.
Scott walked into the grand room.“ It’s been over a month, and nobody has seen him.” Scott said as he walked over to the sideboard to pour a drink.
“ Val’s received no word?” Murdoch asked.
“ No, nothing.” he said. “ If he went back south, he must be staying out of the towns.”
“ Could be.” Murdoch said. “ I think we should just get back to our lives, and accept he’s gone son.”
“ Is this ranch all you care about?” Scott asked with anger.
“ No damn it, it’s not!” Murdoch bellowed as he stood up. “ He’s gone, and we don’t know if he’s alive, or dead.”
“ And until I do, I will not give up on him sir.” Scott responded.
“ Neither will I son, but we have a responsibility to this ranch, and the people who work it.” Murdoch said.
“ I know……..I just hate not knowing where he’s at.” Scott said as Carl, the telegraph operators son rode up. Both men hurried outside.
“ Mister Lancer, Scott. I got a wire for you.” Carl said as he handed Murdoch the envelope.
“ Thank you Carl.” Murdoch said as he took the envelope, and opened it.
“ I gotta get back.” Carl said as he turned his horse, and rode off.
Murdoch read the wire, and handed it to Scott.
I’m alive. Stop.
Don’t look for me. Stop.
“ Don’t look for him?” he said.
“ He went back to Mexico son. Look how he signed it.”
“ I don’t believe that. Johnny was too happy living here.” he said. “ You heard him. He wanted to get out of the business. Something else is going on sir.”
“ Son, Unless he comes back here, we will never know.” Murdoch said before going back inside.
Johnny stopped his horse, and dismounted. “ We have to walk them in from here.” he said.
“ Walk them in to where?” Jess asked.
Johnny pointed. “ Up there. We can dry off, and the horses won’t be able to spook, and run off if this storm gets worse.”
“ Holy……..I never would have seen that up there.” Will said as he looked at the cliff dwellings.
“ How on earth did you ever find this place?” Jess asked.
“ I was brought to it one day when I was shot, and looking for a place to hold up.” Johnny said as he started walking up toward the dwellings. “ This place is called Montezuma Castle. It was built several hundred years ago by Sinagua people, and then the Hopi, and Yavapai Indians lived here. Each tribe gradually building it up.”
“ You mean to tell me Indians built this?” Will said.
“ Yeah. There’s another bigger one off over there a little ways around the corner.” Johnny said. “ We can keep the horses in here, and bed down over there.”
“ I’ll look around for some firewood, and get a fire going.” Jess said.
“ What’s her name?” Johnny asked two hours later as they sat around the fire eating.
“ Mary Elizabeth.” Jess said.
“ She looks just like Jess too Johnny.” Will said. “ Long blonde, curly hair, and the bluest eyes. I think she got them from you.”
“ I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me the most Jess.” Johnny said softly. “ I still can’t believe I have a daughter.”
“ Well we do, and she is going to love you. I told her all about her father, and she can’t wait to meet you.” Jess said.
“ You told her about me?” he asked.
“ Yes. She wanted to know about her papa. Why he wasn’t around. She knew Will wasn’t her father. I wasn’t going to lie to her.”
“ Does she know what a gunfighter is?” he asked.
“ Johnny, that little girl is so smart.” Will said.
“ She knows you help people just like we do, and that sometimes you have to use your gun to do it.” she said.
“ I think I will turn in. I’ll see you two in the morning.” Will said as he stood up, and walked back to his bedroll.
Johnny stood up. “ Excuse me.” he said before walking off into the darkness.
Jess sighed as she watched Johnny walk away. Knowing he was full of mixed emotions, she stood up, and walked over to him. “ Winds picking up. Looks like that storm might be a good one.”
“ Maybe.” Johnny said.
“ Do you love her?” Jess asked. “ That other woman?”
Johnny turned to face her. “ We were supposed to be married.”
“Back at the hotel when I asked you, you said she meant nothing to you.” Jess said softly. “ She obviously meant something if you were going to get married.”
“ Jess, I never stopped loving you. I told Teresa about us.” he said. “ Of all the women I’ve took to bed, Teresa included, you are the one who made me feel the best. The one I felt alive with the most when making love.” he said.
“ Wow, I don’t know what to say to that Johnny.”
Johnny took her by the hand, and walked off under a ledge away from the fire, and Will. Removing his gunbelt, he smiled. “ I told you I would make love to you any time, anywhere.” he said as he undid his belt.
Jess smiled as she removed her coat, and gunbelt. “ So you did.”
“ Murdoch, I want to leave Lancer.” Teresa said. “ I want to attend that nursing school you talked about in San Francisco.”
Murdoch sat back in his chair. “ Can I ask why?”
“ There’s memories here that hurt me, and…..I feel like if I don’t get away, those memories will continue to make me bitter.” she said.
“ Johnny will come back, and the two of you will get married Teresa.” Murdoch said.
“ Murdoch, I don’t know if I can marry Johnny still.” she said.
“ Can I ask why?”
“ I know he’s with that woman. I know he’s sleeping with her. Why else would he have sent that telegram telling us he’s alive, and not to look for him.” Teresa said.
“ Young lady, it’s clear to me that you have a lot of growing up to do still.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and walked over to her.
“ I am grown up Murdoch. I’m almost twenty years old.” she said.
“ I disagree young lady. If you were grown up, you would have never let Johnny take you to bed before your wedding night.” he said. “ You would have let him court you the proper way, and not let the heat of the moment take away the most precious thing you can give your husband on your wedding night.”
“ You didn’t with his mother.” she said hastily.
“ We were both adults, and I will not discuss my relationship with Johnny’s mother with you.” Murdoch said as he walked over to pour a drink.
“ Can I go?” she asked.
“ Alright, I will make all the arrangements.” Murdoch said.
“ There’s a doctor in Silver City. I want him to check you over.” Johnny said.
“ I’ll be alright. Just caught a cold from this damn rain.” Jess said before stopping her horse, and coughing really bad.
“ You’re wheezing when you breath Jess. I can hear it in your chest when you breath.” Johnny said.
“ He’s right Jess. You could have caught pneumonia.” Will said.
Johnny knew her breathing was getting worse. Riding in the cold and rain was only making her sicker. He’d heard people could get pneumonia from being in the rain, and cold too long. For the past week they had been riding in cold rain during the day, and the night temps got cold enough the rain changed to snow. A days ride out of El Paso, they stopped because Jess started running a high fever, and was coughing more. Checking into a hotel, Will went for the doctor while Johnny stayed in the room with Jess.
“ Hold me.” Jess said softly.
Johnny climbed in bed, and brought Jess into his lap. “ The doctor will be here soon. He’ll fix you up.” he said softly as he felt her forehead. He could feel the heat from her body.
“ Johnny….I…..I… want you to promise me……promise me you will raise our daughter up to be a young lady. Don’t…..don’t let her be like I was.” Jess said as breathing got harder.
“ We’ll raise her together Jess.” he said as he held her tighter. “ I love you Jess…..you’re gonna be okay.”
“ I love you too Johnny………Madr……” Jess said before coughing really bad.
Johnny looked as the door opened, and Will walked in with the doctor. “ Help her doc…….please.” he pleaded.
The doctor set his bag down, and took out his stethoscope. Listening to her lungs he glanced at Johnny, and could see the worry in his eyes. “ She has pneumonia. Her lungs are full of fluid.” he said. “ How long has she been sick?”
“ About a week ago she started sneezing, and coughing doc.” Johnny said. “ Her breathing started becoming labored three days ago.”
“ Her fever was worse this morning doc.” Will added.
“ I’ll do all I can.” the doctor said.
“ Val got a wire from a sheriff in Silver City, New Mexico.” Scott said as he walked into the grand room. “ Johnny was seen there a couple days ago. He rode in with a man, and woman.” Scott said as he took the wire out, and handed it to him.
“ I wish we knew the reason for your brother doing this son.”
“ He has a good reason for doing this. You know how happy he was here.” Scott said. “ I refuse to believe my brother went back to living by his gun.”
“ I don’t want to believe it either son, but it’s been over two months, and the only wire we got from him said to not try and find him.” Murdoch said as Teresa walked into the room.
“ Teresa….you need to read this.” Murdoch said as he handed her the telegram.
“ He used me Murdoch……….Why else would he leave with her, and go back to the border!” she said before turning to leave the room.
“ Teresa, I received word from that school. You will stay with Mrs. Amanda Brown, and her daughter Adelaide, at the Pacific Dispensary for Women and Children. It’s a hospital run by all women. They have an excellent training program there.” Murdoch said.
“ When do I leave?” she asked.
“ It happens that Agatha has to go to San Francisco on business, and has agreed to escort you there, so be packed, and ready to leave by the end of the week.” Murdoch said. “ Someone from the school will meet you at the train station Monday morning.”
Johnny sat on a bench in the garden of the Ysleta Mission. His stomach doing flops as he got more nervous as the minutes past. He still couldn’t believe Jess was gone. How would his family take the news when he came back home with a daughter he never knew he had? So many questions flooded his mind.
“ Johnny.” Will said. “ This is Father Michael.”
Johnny stood up, and walked over to the man. “ Father, it’s good to see you again.”
“ It is good to see you again too.” Father Michael said. “Imagine my surprise when Jess told me who the father was.”
“ You two know each other?” Will asked.
“ Johnny saved my life once.” he said.
“ It was nothing.” Johnny said. “ Does she know?”
“ No. I figured it would be best if you told her what happened.” Will said.
“ Can I ask what your intentions are?” Father Michael asked.
“ If she wants me as much as I want her, I’m hoping she’ll go home with me.” Johnny said.
“ Where is home?” he asked.
“ Morro Coyo, California, to a ranch there called Lancer.” Johnny said.
“ Trust me Father Michael, Mary will be fine there. She will have an uncle, and grandfather to spoil her rotten.” Will said.
“ So you found your father. That is good.” Father Michael said as a little girl walked out to the garden.
‘ Mary…come here. There’s someone I want you too meet.” Father Michael said.
Johnny watched the little girl walk over to them. He could see she looked just like her mother with long curly, blonde hair.
“ Are you my papa/” she asked.
“ Yes I am.” he said as he knelled down.
Mary ran into his arms. “ Mama told me we have the same blue eyes.”
Johnny picked his daughter up, and hugged her.
“ We will leave the two of you to get better acquainted.” Father Michael said.
Johnny walked back over to the bench, and sat down. He knew if he tried to talk, his voice would fail him.
“ Where’s mama?” she asked.
Johnny cleared his throat as he fought back tears. “ Mary…..I need to tell you something, and I need you to be a brave little girl.” he said with a shaky voice. “ Can you do that for me?”
“ I can be brave.” she said.
“ Jess….your mama got real bad sick when we were riding here……she’s not with us any longer.” he said with a shaky voice.
“ You mean my mommy is in heaven?” she asked.
“ Yes.” Johnny said softly as he fought to keep the tears from falling, and hugged her tighter.
“ What’s going to happen to me now with mommy gone?” she asked as tears ran down her cheeks.
“ I would like to take you home with me if you would let me?”
“ Yes she did.” he said. “ But I’m back, and this will be your home now, just like it’s mine.”
Scott closed the book he was reading, stood up, and walked over to his father sitting at his desk going over the monthly paperwork.“ I think I’m going to turn in sir.” Scott said.
Murdoch sat back in his chair as the grandfather clock chimed nine o’clock. “ Alright son.”
“ Don’t stay up too late. We have that cattleman’s meeting tomorrow.” Scott said.
“ I won’t be much longer.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and froze, staring past his oldest. “ Johnny!”
Scott turned around to find his little brother standing just inside the veranda doors. “ I knew you would come back.” he said as he walked over, and shook his brothers hand.
“ Murdoch!” Johnny said softly as Mary stepped from behind him.
“ Son…..welcome home.” Murdoch said as he walked over to his youngest. “ Who do we have here?”
“ Murdoch….Scott, this is Mary Elizabeth…….my daughter.” Johnny said.
Murdoch looked from the child to his son. “ Your daughter?”
“ Yeah.” Johnny said wit sadness in his eyes.
“ Well young lady, you are beautiful.” Murdoch said with a smile. “ I’m glad you came back home son.”
“ Got nowhere else to go.” he said.
“ There’s leftover roast beef in the kitchen if you two are hungry.” Scott said.
“ Actually, I’m more tired than hungry. Haven’t got much sleep since we left El Paso over two months ago.” Johnny said.
“ Papa, I’m hungry.” Mary said.
“ Well young lady, if you would accompany your uncle to the kitchen, I bet I can find a piece of cake, and a glass of milk for you.” Scott said.
“ What’s cake?” Mary asked.
Scott looked at his brother. “ You mean you have never had chocolate cake. Well, Maria makes the best in the valley.” Scott said as he picked her up, and walked to the kitchen.
Johnny walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot of tequila. Looking at the clock, he seen it was just after nine. “ Where’s Teresa?”
“ Teresa left two months ago son. She’s in San Francisco attending nursing school.” Murdoch said as he walked over to him. He could see his son was shaking.
Johnny downed the shot, and set the glass down, his hand shaking. “ Guess I can’t blame her.”
Murdoch turned his son around, and pulled him into a hug.
Johnny stiffened a few seconds as his father hugged him, and then relaxed, and welcomed the contact. “ I’m sorry Murdoch.” he said with a shaky voice.
“ I thought I had lost you again.” Murdoch said. “ When we got your telegram, Teresa thought you went back to living by your gun.”
“Guess I now know she never believed a man like me could ever change. I’m done with that. My life is here with my family, and now my daughter.” Johnny said as Scott walked back in the room with Mary.
“ Somebody is pretty tired.” Scott said.
“ You ready to go to bed young lady?” Johnny asked.
“ She sleeping in your room son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah.” Johnny said as he picked Mary up.
Murdoch sat at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee when Mary came down the back stairs into the kitchen.
“ Papa said I should come downstairs because he’s real tired.” Mary said.
“ Well come on over here and sit by your grandpa.” Murdoch said.
“Maria, this is Johnny’s daughter Mary.” Murdoch said.
“ Daughter! I did not know he had a daughter. She is beautiful.” Maria said.
“ Johnny will explain everything when he’s ready. They got here late last night, so I don’t expect he will be down for breakfast.” he said.
“ Or lunch.” Scott said as he entered the kitchen. “I looked in on him, and he is sound asleep.”
“ Papa stayed awake a lot at night to make sure I didn’t wander off, or some animal come and hurt me.” Mary said. “ I told him he could sleep. That I wouldn’t wonder off in the dark.”
“ Can I ask how old you are?” Murdoch asked.
“Three.” she said.
“ ¿Dónde está su madre?”( Whereis her mother?) Maria asked.
“ Debo asumir que está muerta.” ( I have to assume she is dead.) Murdoch responded.
“ Is Maria your wife?”
“ No…no, she’s not my wife. Maria has been my cook since before your father was born.” Murdoch said. “ In fact, she helped deliver Johnny, and took care of him until his mother left me.”
“ Papa said she took him away from you when he was a baby.” she said.
“ Maria, we have the cattleman’s meeting today. Can Mary stay with you in the kitchen if Johnny is still sleeping?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes. She can help me bake some cookies, and prepare supper.” Maria responded.
Johnny opened his eyes, and stretched. Looking out his open window, he could tell it wasn’t morning since no sun shined in. Getting up, he dressed, and went down the back stairs into the kitchen.
“ Duermes tarde.” ( You sleep late.) Maria said.
“ Yeah, I was really tired.” Johnny said.
“ Tu hija es hermosa.” ( Your daughter is beautiful.) Maria said as she started preparing scrambled eggs for him.
“ Just like her mother was.” Johnny said.
“ ¿Cómo es que no dijiste antes que tienes una hija?” ( How come you not say before that you have a daughter?) she asked.
“ I didn’t know. If I had, I would have been in her life from the start.” Johnny said as he sat down.
“ Tu padre, está tan feliz. No tuvo la oportunidad de verte crecer, pero tiene una con tu hija si te quedas.” ( Your father, he is so happy. He did not get a chance to watch you grow up, but he has one with your daughter if you stay.) Maria said as she set a plate of biscuits, eggs, and bacon on the table. “ Estás muy flaco. Te comes todo eso.” ( You are too skinny. You eat all of that.)
“Thank you.” he said as he started eating. “ I’m not going anywhere. Murdoch still in the meeting?”
“ Si. Es su almuerzo lo que estoy preparando.” ( Yes. It is their lunch I am preparing.) she responded.
“ Do you know where my daughter is?” Johnny asked.
“ Con su tío en los corrales.” ( With her uncle down at the corrals.) Maria said as Murdoch walked into the kitchen. “ ( Your lunch is almost ready.)
“ Thank you Maria.” Murdoch said. “ Son, how’d you sleep?”
“ I don’t think I woke up once all night. I’m sorry I slept so late Murdoch.” Johnny said.
“ That’s alright. You needed the sleep.” he said.
“ Listen, I need to take Mary to town to buy her some clothes. It’s too late to do it today. Would you like to go with us tomorrow?”
“ Son, I would love to go with you and my granddaughter.” Murdoch said with a smile. “ Well, I better get back in there. We won’t be but a couple more hours.”
“ Okay. I think I will go see what bad habits Boston is teaching his niece.” Johnny said with a smile as he stood up.
“ You going somewhere Ben?” Cole asked.
“ I’m quitting Cole.” Ben said. “ I have a kid at a mission in El Paso I rode away from when she was a baby.”
“ You have a kid?” Cole asked.
“ Yeah. I did a foolish thing almost four years ago.” he said.
“ What….get married?” Cole asked.
“ No…I got drunk, and raped a girl. Git her pregnant.” he said.
“ How do you know you did?” he asked.
“ Cause I’ve been keeping track of her. The kid is mine, she weren’t with anyone before I raped her.”
“ How you figure on taking care of a kid Ben? An outlaw life ain’t no way to bring a kid up.”
“ She’s my daughter, and I want her.” Ben said as he swung up in the saddle.
“ Ben, what if she’s not there any longer? What if someone adopted her?” Cole asked.
“ Then I’ll find out who it was, and get her from them. Nobody takes my daughter from me…..nobody. I’ve missed the first three years of her life. I’ll find her, and I’ll get her…..I’ll see ya Cole.”
“ She asleep?’ Scott asked as Johnny walked into the grand room.
“ Yeah. Thanks for today Boston.” Johnny said.
“ Not a problem. You needed the rest.” Scott said.
“ Yeah, listen, why don’t we go sit down over there.” Johnny suggested.
“ Son, if you’re not ready to tell us, you don’t have to yet.” Murdoch said as he walked over, and sat down on the couch.
“ No, I need to. Just…..bear with me.” he said. “ Some of what I’m going to say isn’t easy for me……When I went out to look for strays, Jess, and Will rode up on me, he cold-cocked me with his rifle butt. When I woke up, I was in Hardesty. Jess kept me there two weeks before she told me why she did it. Murdoch…I had no idea she had a baby. If I had, I never would have left her like I did.” he said. “ I met Jess and Will when working a range war in Mexico. We became close, and when the war was over, we spent a week in a hotel making love…..I woke up one morning seven days later and decided I couldn’t give her what she wanted, so I left. Never to see her again until she came here that day. During the three years we were apart, she had heard I was killed in Mexico by the Rurales.” he said as he walked over, poured a shot of tequila, and downed it to steady his nerves.
“ She learned I was still alive from the stage robbery where I met you Murdoch. When she told me I had a daughter, I was shocked, and knew I had to see her. She was at a mission in El Paso. That’s part of the reason why I sent the wire telling you to not look for me.” Johnny said.
“ Part of the reason?” Murdoch asked.
“ I wasn’t sure how you would react learning I had a daughter.” Johnny said. “On the way there, it started storming, rain in the daytime, snow at night. Jess caught pneumonia from it, and……….she died by the time we got to a doctor.” he said with a shaky voice. “ I rode on with Will a couple days later to Ysleta Mission in El Paso, met my daughter, and brought her home…….Murdoch, I never got the chance to marry Jess. I don’t want my daughter growing up treated like a bastard child like I was.”
“ Now just one minute young man…..You are not a bastard.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ Murdoch any child created out of wedlock is. You know that.” Johnny responded. “ There are only four people who know me and Jess were never married. You two, Will, and Father Michael at the mission. I want to keep it that way. I want Mary to have a last name. I want her to have Lancer as her last name. Can we do that without people knowing?”
“ I can write to Judge Bates, and have him come here to discuss the matter with you son.”
“ Thanks.” Johnny said.
“ Can I help you?” Father Michael asked.
“ Names Ben Jackson. I’m looking for my daughter.” the man said. “ I was told she’s here.”
“ Your daughter? We have no children here sir.” Father Michael said.
“ Don’t lie to me father.” Ben said. “ She was left her by her mother.”
“ We have no children here.”
Ben hit Father Michael again in the face. “ She was here though wasn’t she?” When he got no reply, he jerked the father up, and hit him in the face again.
“ This is a house of God sir!” Father Michael pleaded.
“ You think I care. Where’s my daughter?” he demanded as he pulled his pistol, and cocked it.
“ For the love of God.” Father Michael pleaded right before he was shot in the shoulder.
“ For the love of God, please don’t do this!” he pleaded.
Jackson shot Father Michael again. “ Next bullet kills you. What’s it going to be?”
“ She was here, but left six months ago.” the father said.
“ Where did she go, and who took her?” he demanded.
“ Her father took her.”
“His name?” he demanded.
“ Johnny Lancer, she said he was the father.”
“I’m her father, so she he lied to you.” Jackson said. “ Where?”
“ California. She’s on a ranch there called Lancer.” Father Michael said.
“ Lancer huh…….Now that wasn’t so hard to tell me now was it Father.” Jackson said before he shot Father Michael again, killing him. “ I never did like churches.” he said before leaving the mission.
“ Johnny, want to go town tonight, play some poker. drink a few beers?” Scott asked.
“ I don’t know Boston. I think my fun, rowdy days are over.” Johnny said.
“ I can watch my granddaughter if you want to son. You haven’t seen Val but twice since you got back.” Murdoch said.
“ You sure?” he asked.
“ Mary is asleep, go have some fun. We’ll be fine.”
Johnny and Scott sat at a table playing poker with a couple hands from the Conway, and Nelson ranches. One of the girls came over, happy to see Johnny in town again.
“ Been a while since I seen you in town Johnny.” she said as she stood behind him, and put her hands on his shoulders.
“ Not tonight Carla.” Johnny said.
“ Oh come on Johnny, you know you want to go upstairs with me.” Carla said.
Johnny grabbed her hands, and pushed them off his shoulders. “ I said not tonight.”
“ Well excuse me for trying to make a living.” Carla said before walking away as Val walked over to the table.
“ We gotta talk kid.” Val said.
“ After this hand.” Johnny said. “ Two cards.”
“ Now kid.” Val said.
Johnny looked at Val, and could see he was serious. “ I’m out guys.” he said as he stood up, finished his beer, and followed Val out of the saloon.
“ Okay Val, what’s so important?” Johnny said as they walked into the jail.
“ Sorry kid. I was fixin ta ride out ta Lancer when I seen yur horses outside the saloon.” Val said.
“ Do ya know a Father Michael at a mission in El Paso?” Val asked.
Johnny’s head shot up as he looked at Scott. “Yeah…….Why?” Johnny asked as Scott entered the jail.
“ Got this letter from El Paso.” he said as he handed the letter to Johnny. “ Seems he was murdered by a man named Ben Jackson last month.” the sheriff said.
Johnny took the letter and read it.
“ Do ya know this Jackson?” Scott asked.
Johnny read the letter, then handed it back to Val. “ No.”
“ I heard of him.. He’s fast kid. Damn fast.” Val said.
“ Johnny, what’s going on?” Scott asked. “ Why is he coming after you?”
“ Something I didn’t tell you and Murdoch.” he responded. “ About two months after I left Jess, she was raped by this Ben Jackson. The only reason I know is Will told me about it after she died when we were on our way to the mission. That’s how she found out she was already pregnant.”
“ Val, this Jackson, does he have any rights?” Scott asked.
“ Nope.” Val said. “ He’s wanted for murdering father Michael. I can’t find any dodgers on him.”
“ She’s not his daughter Val!” Johnny said firmly.
“ Don’t go getting upset at me kid. I’m on yur side, and so is the law.” Val said gruffly. “ So just don’t go doin nuthin stupid ta lose that little girl.”
“ I won’t let anyone take her from me Val.” Johnny said with coldness.
“ Why’s he so interested in her?” Scott asked.
“ I guess we’ll find that out if he shows up here.” Johnny said. “ I’ll see ya Val.”
“ You boys are back early.” Murdoch said.
“ Yeah. Is Mary asleep?” Johnny asked.
“ I just checked on her a few minutes ago and she was. Why, what’s wrong son?” he asked.
“ You better sit down Murdoch.” Johnny said.
“ There’s something I didn’t tell you about Jess. Something that needs said now.” Johnny said.
Murdoch could tell by his sons tone, and how he was drumming his fingers along the edge of the desk whatever he needed to say was serious.
“ Two months after I left Jess……she…….she was raped by a man named Ben Jackson.” Johnny said. “ Jess never told me about it. Will did after she died when we were going to the mission.” he said. “ Val got a letter from El Paso. It seems this Jackson showed up there and killed Father Michael, but not before he found out where Mary went.”
Murdoch stood up and walked around to his son. “ You think he’s coming here to take her away from you?”
“ Why else would he.” Johnny said with a shaky voice.
“ Son, Mary is a Lancer. Judge Bates granted you the right to give her your last name. This man cannot take Mary from you.” Murdoch said firmly. “ Do you know this…..Jackson, or what he looks like?”
“ Val does.” he said. “ Said he’s a gunfighter.”
“ Val said he’s faster than you Johnny.” Scott said.
“ He said he could be Boston. I’m not going to hide from him, or any man who wants to call Johnny Madrid out.” Johnny said firmly. “ It’s who I am, and I don’t run from anyone.”
“ You’re not Johnny Madrid anymore son.”
“ Murdoch, as long as I’m alive, a part of me will always be Johnny Madrid.”
“ What’ll it be?’ the bartender asked.
“ Whiskey and some information.” Jackson said.
The bartender poured a shot of whiskey. “ Two bits.” he said. “ What info you want?”
“ I’m looking for a ranch I was told was here in California. A ranch called Lancer. You ever hear of it?” Jackson asked.
“ Lancer………no ranch by that name around here. Maybe it’s up north. I here they have some pretty big ranches up around Stockton area in the San Joaquin valley.” the bartender said.
“ Much obliged.” Jackson said before turning and walking out.
“ Cut that Palomino stallion out Frank.” Johnny said. “ Put him in the big pen.”
“ That’s a lot of horse Johnny. You sure you want to try and break him?” Scott asked.
“ I’m sure. I need a good reliable horse, and he’s the one.”
Murdoch sat on the veranda porch with Mary when he heard a commotion coming from the corrals. “ What say me and you walk down and see what your father is doing young lady.”
Mary stood up, and put her little left hand in Murdoch’s right hand, and walked down to the corrals. “ Little brother thinks he’s found the horse he wants.” Scott said as he picked Mary up so she could watch.
“ Will papa get hurt doing that?” she asked.
“ He could, but your father seems to have a special way with horses. See how the horse is already slowing down on bucking. That means Johnny has won.” Murdoch said.
All the hands watching cheered, and waved their hats as Johnny won the battle, and the stallion stopped bucking, and started galloping around the corral. When he stopped, and dismounted. Scott smiled as the stallion followed Johnny over to the corral fence.
“Looks like you were right, and I was wrong about this one brother.” Scott said. “ Nice ride.”
“ Can I ride him papa?’ Mary asked.
“ Not yet. He’s still not broke all the way yet.” Johnny said. “ I’ll tell ya what. How about I find a good gentle horse just for you to start riding?”
“ She would be safe riding Bunny. She’s old, but there’s not a mean bone in her. Teresa rode her when she was small.” Murdoch said.
“ Alright. I guess grandpa has you a horse to learn on.” Johnny said.
“ Looks like we have a visitor coming.” Scott said.
“ That’s not Sam’s buggy.” Murdoch said as they watched the buggy pass under the Lancer arch.
“ Maybe it’s Judge Bates?’ Scott suggested.
“ No, it’s not the judge.” Johnny said. “ That’s Teresa.”
“ Teresa….I wonder what she’s doing here?” Murdoch said as they walked toward the house.
Teresa stopped the buggy, and climbed down. “ Hello Murdoch, Scott.” she said.
“ Teresa, I wasn’t expecting you.” Murdoch said. “ Is everything alright?”
“ Everything is fine. School is out until the new year, so I thought I would come visit you, but if you don’t want me here.” she said as she watched Johnny walking toward her. “ Hello Johnny.”
“ Teresa.” Johnny said.
“ What a beautiful little girl. What’s your name sweetie?”
“ This is Mary Elizabeth.” Johnny said. “ My daughter.”
Teresa gave Johnny a shocked look. “ Hello Mary. My name is Teresa.”
“ Hello.” Mary said.
“ I’m going to take Mary in, and get cleaned up for supper.” Johnny said.
“ Murdoch, maybe I should leave.” Teresa said.
“ You don’t have too.” he said. “ But I will warn you, I will have no harsh words between you and Johnny.”
“ That must be why he left/” she asked.
“ It is, and If he wants to tell you about Mary, he will.” Murdoch said.
Teresa walked out to the rose garden, and found Johnny sitting in the sun with his eyes closed. For two days she avoided Johnny except for casual conversation during meals..
Johnny opened his eyes and sat up. “ Why’d you leave?”
“ How did you know it was me?” she asked.
“ Your footsteps….Why’d you leave?”
“ I knew you left me to be with her, and there were too many painful memories here for me.” she said.
“ Painful memories?” he asked. “ You could have waited until I came back to find out why I left.”
“ I already knew it was over between us Johnny. I seen the look in your eyes that day you seen her. I knew you still loved her. Loved her more than you loved me.” she said.
Johnny stood up. “ You know what makes a relationship work Teresa….trust. Something you clearly didn’t ever have in me, because if you did, you never would have thought I went back to living by my gun.” he said. “ I had everything I ever wanted right here.”
“ What was I supposed to think Johnny….Tell me….because I don’t know. You leave with that woman two months before we were to get married, and the only word I get is I’m alive, don’t look for me.” she snapped back.
“ You could have waited.” he said with anger. “ Instead you assumed I went back to living by my gun….You never gave me a chance to come back, and explain anything to you.”
“ Did you sleep with her?” she asked demanded.
“ Yes I slept with her……I told you long before she showed up here, Jess was my first real love.” he responded.
“ And if she had showed up after we were married. Would you still have went to bed with her?” she demanded.
“ I don’t know.” Johnny said.
“ And I’m supposed to wait for you to come back to me when you’re done sleeping with her?” she asked.
“ You obviously don’t understand what Jess meant to me. Or what you meant to me.” he said.
“ You made me feel like you used me Johnny.” she said.
“ I didn’t use you Teresa. I loved you. I wanted to marry you.” he said as he stepped closer to her, then started to walk away.
“ So the time we spent making love in the line-shack at Top Mesa, or when we went swimming, that meant nothing to you?” she asked with tears in her eyes.
Johnny stopped, and turned around. “ At the time I thought what we had did.” he said before pulling her to him, and claiming her mouth with hunger, and passion.
Teresa welcomed the feel of Johnny kissing her, moaning as her body started to respond as she clung to him, and started running her right hand down his torso to touch him between his legs.
Johnny broke the kiss off, and grabbed Teresa’s hand to stop her. “ I won’t be played a fool ever again by no woman Teresa….It’s over between us.” he said before walking away.
Teresa went to the bench, sat down, and started crying.
“ You can’t blame him for how he feels.” Scott said. “ I know I would feel the same way.” he said before turning, and heading inside.
Teresa packed her things and left the next morning before Johnny woke up. Murdoch was in the kitchen with Maria when she walked in.
“ I’m leaving Murdoch, and I will never come back as long as Johnny is here.” she said. “ I can’t because I will want what I know I can never have.” she said.
Murdoch looked up at her, and seen the tears in her eyes. “ I’m sorry you feel that way. This is his home, I won’t ask him to leave his home just because you want to act immature.”
“ I don’t want to argue with you over this Murdoch. I don’t belong here.” she said before walking out.
Murdoch glanced at Maria as he sat there.
“ It is best for Johnny that she leaves, and never comes back.” Maria said as Scott, and Johnny came downstairs.
“ That’s the last of it.” Scott said as he wiped the sweat from his brow.
“ That leaves the stuff Murdoch, and Mary are getting at the mercantile.” Johnny said as he climbed up in the wagon, and took up the reins as his brother climbed up, and sat next to him.
“ Johnny, there’s something I need to say to you.” Scott said.
“ Okay.” Johnny said as he got the team moving.
“ Last night, I heard what was said between you and Teresa. Not all of it, but what you said to her before walking away.” Scott said. “ I want you to know, you are not a fool little brother. Women can be……how should I say it……”
“ A royal pain in the backside?” Johnny cut in, and said.
“ Exactly. She was crying after you walked away. I walked over to her, and told her, she couldn’t blame you for how you feel, and that I would feel the same way had it happened to me.” Scott responded. When I was in college, I dated this girl named Barbara, she had the looks, and the body. What she didn’t have were the brains. Even though her family was well off, she only seen dollar signs in me because of my grandfather being so wealthy. That’s the only reason she was seeing me.”
“ What’d ya do?” Johnny asked.
“ Seduced her, then left her on my last night in Boston.” he said.
“ I….I thought me and Teresa had something. Guess I was wrong.” Johnny said as he stopped the team as Murdoch came out of the mercantile.
Ben Jackson rode into Green River, stopped in front of the saloon, and dismounted. “ Excuse me, you tell me where a ranch called Lancer is at?” he asked a man walking past.
“ I can do ya one better than that stranger. See that wagon down the street, that’s old man Lancer and his two sons, Scott, and Johnny.”
“ Which one is Johnny?” he asked.
“ The dark haired one.” the man said.
“ Much obliged.” Jackson said as he walked down the street, and stopped. A small smile came to his face when he seen a blonde-haired little girl standing next to an older man. “ Lancer….Johnny Lancer!”
“ Son, don’t.” Murdoch pleaded.
Johnny pulled his colt, and spun the cylinder. “ Stay out of it old man.”
“ Johnny Lancer……..You stole my daughter from me, and I want her back…..now!” Jackson yelled as people on the street stopped, watched, and waited. “
Johnny stepped out from behind the wagon. “ Do I know you mister?”
“ Names Ben Jackson….I heard from the mission in El Paso it was you who took my daughter…..I want her handed over to me right now!” he ordered.
“ She’s not your daughter. Jess was already pregnant two months when you raped her you sonofabitch!” Johnny said.
“ The hell you say. She’s my kid, and I want her!” he demanded as Val came up the street, and stopped by Murdoch.
“ You have no idea who yur facing!” Val yelled.
“ A child thief by the name of Johnny Lancer!” Jackson responded.
“ You ever hear of a gunfighter by the name of Johnny Madrid?” Val asked.
“Yeah I heard of him. A half-breed kid killed by Rurales down in Mexico.” he responded.
“ No he wasn’t. Ask any man on the street!” Val said.
“ If you’re Madrid, why you got the law fighting your battles?” Jackson demanded.
“He’s not!” Johnny said as the street erupted in gunfire.
Sam came out of his office, and hurried down the street with his bag to the crowd of people gathered on the street in front of the mercantile. Reaching the crowd he pushed thru to find Sheriff Crawford holding his right arm, blood seeping thru his fingers. “ Get him up, and to my office.” Sam ordered.
“ I’m alright doc. It’s just a scratch. It’s Johnny needs yur help more than I do.” Val said.
Sam looked around and found Johnny at the back of wagon with Murdoch, and Scott. Walking over he could see blood on Johnny’s right hand. “ How bad is it John?”
“ Sam, it’s in his lower right side.” Murdoch said.
“ The bullet still in there?’ Sam asked as he looked at the wound.
“ No. It went all the way thru Sam.” Johnny said softly.
“ Alright, help him to my office.” Sam ordered.
“ Take care of Val first doc. I can wait.” Johnny said as he stood up, and pushed his brothers offered hand away. “ I can make it.”
Scott watched his brother take a few steps, and falter. Stepping in front of him, he let his brother pass out over his right shoulder.
“ I’ll bring the wagon, and horses down son.” Murdoch said.
Johnny sat on the portico with his daughter when he seen a rider approaching.
“ Mary, go on inside, and tell Maria I said you could have a cookie.” Johnny said as he slowly stood up. “ Just one.”
“ Okay Papa.” Mary said before heading inside.
“ How’s the arm?” Johnny asked as Val rode up, and dismounted.
“ Just a scratch. Listen kid….I….”
“ You’re welcome. I knew you couldn’t beat him Val.” Johnny said. “ Besides….I owed Father Michael, and Jess for what he did to them.”
“ Listen, there’s a reason I rode out here.” Val said as Murdoch, and Scott came out of the house. “ Seems there was a reward of five hundred dollars for Jackson, dead or alive.”
“ I don’t want it Val.” Johnny said. “ Give it to Father Michael’s mission.”
“ Alright. I had a feeling you might say that.” Val said.
“ Stay for supper Sheriff Crawford?” Scott asked.
“ I’d like ta, but bein it’s Saturday, I better be in town to keep the hands in line.” Val said as he mounted up.
“ Val!” Johnny said as he walked over to him, and looked up. “ Thanks for backing me up that day.”
“ That’s what buddy’s do. I’ll see ya kid.” he said before riding away.
“ He’s a good man son.” Murdoch said as he walked up behind him.
“ You know Murdoch, my life changed when I came here.” he said. “ Then it changed again, both times for the better, but this last time because of a jilted woman.”
11 / 18 / 2021
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