Word Count 27, 555
I don’t own them and I’m not making any money from them. I’m just taking them out for a ride. CBS owns the Lancer characters, any and all others that were not is the show belong to me.
It was supposed to be a simply task. Ride to the horse auction in Sacramento and pick up three prized cutting horses from the Circle D ranch up north. Since Sacramento was about half way, Johnny was to meet the hand there and pay for the horses and bring them back to Lancer.
“ Murdoch, why do I have to be the one to go?” Johnny asked for what seemed like the hundredth time.
Last night the Lancer patriarch had told his youngest what he wanted him to do. A simple task his son wanted nothing to do with.
“ I told you last night, your brother is going to be tied up doing that surveying for at least a week. That report has to be done and in by the end of the month, so that leaves you. I don’t want to hear any more whining about it. You’re going and that’s final.”
“ Because you call the tune right?” Johnny asked with tone.
“ That’s right, and you’d do good to remember who’s name is on the deed to this ranch.”
“ So me and Scott owning a third of this ranch don’t mean shit…..Well my third anyways.”
Murdoch looked hard at his youngest. “ You got something to say boy, say it. Otherwise I suggest you get ready to leave, Cipriano has your horse saddled and waiting out front.”
Johnny thought about smarting back, but decided it would be of no use. Heading upstairs he mumbled to himself his displeasure in this task his father was bent on him doing.
Murdoch stood outside talking to Cipriano about the cattle needing moved when his youngest came outside. Walking over to Johnny he took out an envelope and handed it to him.
“ Make sure you get a separate bill of sale for each horse John.” he more ordered than asked.
Johnny snatched the envelope from his hand before swinging up in the saddle. “I know how to buy and sell horses old man. I may not be the prodigal son you want like Scott is, but I do know how to do business.”
Murdoch grabbed Barranca’ reins. “ Listen to me son. I know you’re not happy about doing this business deal for me, It’s a simple ride there and back, shouldn’t take you more than ten days. I don’t want those horses out of your site, stay out of the towns understand?” Murdoch ordered as he let go of the reins.
“ You want me to sleep on the cold hard ground for tens days babysitting three horses………You know what….Just forget it old man.” Johnny snapped back as he turned Barranca and took off.
That was seven days ago Murdoch remembered as he sat at his desk rereading the wire he had received from the Circle D.
“ I finished with that surveying sir.” Scott stated as he came in the french doors. “Is that from Johnny?” he asked noting the wire his father held.
Murdoch looked up at him. “ No, it’s from the Circle D. It seems your brother never showed up.”
“ What………Johnny should be on his way back by now.” Scott stated as he walked over.
Murdoch got up and tossed the wire down on his desk. “ Well he hasn’t and something tells me your brother won’t be either.”
“ Why do you say that sir?”
“ Because of what I said the day he left.” He answered, then proceeded to tell his oldest about it.
“ I’m sure that even though Johnny may have been upset he would still do what you asked.”
“ Sometimes I wonder about that boy.”
“ Look, we don’t know what happened out there. Barranca could have thrown a shoe.”
“ Scott……stop making excuses for your brother. He just proved to me he isn’t trust worthy is all…….When he gets back to Lancer I’m going to have a long discussion with that boy and he can either straighten up or get out……….I will not have someone not willing to be responsible working on this ranch.”
“ With all due respect sir, you seem to forget that Johnny has lived by his own rules most of his life. Maybe if you didn’t push or order him around so much.”
Murdoch looked hard at his eldest son. “ If I don’t push that brother of yours son, he will never learn how to be responsible enough to run this ranch.”
“ Okay, I can understand that sir, but you seem to forget that Johnny has not had a stable trust worthy person in his life until now. Johnny wants to make you proud, he wants to be the son you want, but I feel that if you don’t back off just a little sir, Johnny may leave here and never come back.”
“ I say let him then…….If what he had in the past, what he strives for now is so important then let him leave, let it happen now before it’s to late.”
“ To late for what sir?” Scott asked with a raised voice.
“ Nothing.” Murdoch answered before turning and walking over to pour a drink.
“ You don’t give an inch do you? All pride and Johnny’ cut from the same mold. Would it be so bad for you to maybe tell him he did a good job, or to ask him what he thinks of something?”
“ I don’t ask because he doesn’t know the first thing about running this ranch.”
“ With all due respect sir, my little brother knows more about ranching than I do, but yet it’s me you left in control last month while you went to San Francisco the same as it’s me you ask my opinion about something……..Why is that?”
“ I ask you because you have an education and knowledge about such things. All your brother knows about a ranch is how to stampede the stock or kill. That’s all a gunfighter like him did on ranches.”
“ I don’t think so……you don’t even know that it was Johnny who came up with the idea to move the north bridge crossing quarter mile up stream so it stopped washing out. It was also Johnny who came up with the idea for the new foot bridge.” Scott stated with firmness. “ Maybe you need to open your eyes sir and start treating Johnny as a part owner of this ranch like he deserves.”
Murdoch walked over to his eldest and placed a hand on his shoulder. “ Son, I wish I could talk to your brother the way we do, but the truth is, I don’t know how too.”
“ Maybe if the two of you sat down and you told him that, maybe he would start to open up to you like he has me?”
Murdoch let out a big sigh. “ You know, you are a very smart young man, thank you son.”
“ So what do we do about Johnny?”
“ I don’t know son, He never showed up to get the horses, so he is somewhere between this ranch and Sacramento.”
“ Just how much money did he have on him?”
“ Nine hundred dollars.”
“ Who else knew about this buy sir, what I mean is, could someone from the Circle D have maybe met Johnny before Sacramento and stolen the money?”
“ You know as, that the only way anyone would get that money would be to ambush him or……….We’ll leave at first light.”
“ Murdoch, Scott, supper is almost ready.” Teresa said as she walked into the room.
“ I’m going to go wash up.” Scott said before leaving the room.
“ Is everything alright?” Teresa asked.
“ I don’t know darling, Johnny never showed up to retrieve those horses in Sacramento…….He should have them and be half way back to Lancer by now.” Murdoch told his ward. “ Me and Scott are going to ride out at first light and look for him.”
“ Oh no, do you think he’s in trouble or been hurt?” Teresa asked
Murdoch knew his ward and youngest son had grown close to each other. He watched as Johnny would tease her, always with a big smile and how she would laugh at something he said or did. He couldn’t bear the thought of something bad happening to his youngest, not after finally having him home after all those years apart. He also knew it would devastate his oldest son as well if anything were to happen to his brother.
Scott couldn’t sleep, every time he closed his eyes he got a feeling inside that his brother was hurt and needed him desperately. Giving up finally he got up, threw on his clothes and headed down the back stairs finding his father sitting at the kitchen table looking at a map as he sipped on a cup of coffee.
“ Sir, you’re up rather early, or did you not even go to sleep?” Scott asked as he grabbed a cup.
“ Son, I expect like you I didn’t get any sleep. Every time I tried I……..I did a lot of thinking about what you said last night son, I guess you could say I’m afraid of your brother leaving again. I was out of my mind with worry when he left during that Stryker trouble.”
Scott sat down and looking at his father he knew not to say anything.
“ For seventeen long heart breaking years I searched for him. Trying to find one lost wayward boy down below the border isn’t easy son, it took time.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ When Johnny left after he killed that boy, I just couldn’t get the words out son, words I needed to say, words he needed to hear………..When he came back I know that I hurt him with those harsh words I said to him….I just wanted to protect him, I didn’t want him to be killed. I couldn’t bear to watch that happen……..I know I should have been the one to tell him instead of Teresa, I just couldn’t get the words out.”
“ Saying what you did hurt my brother in more ways than you know. To tell him that the only mistake was him.” Scott hated doing this,but he had to make his father realize how he was treating Johnny. “ Haven’t you learned by now that Johnny takes what is said to him to heart? You the same as told you didn’t want him here ever, to get of “ your “ land. He has been verbally abused most of his life, but when that abuse comes from your own father, that sir is something worse than you could ever imagine.
I understand you wanted to keep Johnny safe, but don’t you think you could have said something a little less harsh to him?”
“ I know what I said was wrong son, I know that now more than anything. I have to live with those words I said that day for the rest of my life. I seen the hurt in his eyes. I tried to reconcile with your brother after, chasing a heard of wild mustangs, something I did enjoy doing with him, but I also know that if we had done that before it would have been different. It would have been more of a father and son thing, instead I feel like your brother did it just to please me that day.”
“ Have you even told Johnny you love him sir?” Scott asked.
“ No, I mean, no I haven’t son………I know I’ve said those words to you, but not to your brother.”
“ Why do you think that is?”
“ Honestly, I wish I knew…No I mean that son. I wish I could figure out why I have such a hard time saying what I want to say to your brother, but you, you I can talk to so easy. Whenever I try to talk to Johnny, we end up fighting and one of these times I’m afraid me or him will say the wrong thing.”
“ Don’t you mean you?” Scott asked.
Murdoch looked at him. “ I guess I do son………I’ve been alone for so long now, I guess I’m still not used to having my two sons here with me.”
“So what you’re saying is your pride and stubbornness may cost me my brother?”
“ It will not cost you your brother.” Murdoch snapped back. “ I will not loose that boy or you again. The sun will be up in about an hour, we need to get ready to ride.”
“ Where do we look, If Johnny never made it to Sacramento, there’s a lot of places between here and there to search.”
“ I know, that’s why I’ve been checking the map.” Murdoch stated as he leaned over the table and pulled the map closer. “ We can assume your brother is not on Lancer….the trip would have taken him ten days to get there and back. Seven days into it we learn that he never showed up.”
“ So for three or more days Johnny has been missing………You think this might have something to do with his past?”
“ I don’t know son, I can only pray that he is still alive, past or not, he’s missing and I will not rest until I have your brother back home.”
“ I would say, knowing what I do about my brother, he think he would have rode northeast, then cut back west.”
“ And why would he ride northeast when Sacramento is northwest of here?”
“ Well, Johnny likes to know his terrain, so since he would be bringing three horses back, he would want the easiest terrain to travel………He would be on Lancer land longer and I know he feels safer here.”
“ If you’re right about your brother going that route, there are several abandoned towns up that way. They haven’t been abandoned but a couples years, but they’re there.”
“ How many are we talking?” Scott asked as he started wrapping biscuits in a cloth Teresa had prepared the night before for them.
“ Liberty’s been about two years, there are a few buildings left standing. El Dorado is another but I doubt your brother would ride into an abandoned town.”
“ He would if he was forced to sir……….Look, I don’t care how long it takes me, I am going to search every abandoned town, mine or anything else until I find my brother.” Scott stated firmly.
The night before Davy heard who it would be going to Sacramento from the segundo. Having heard the father and son arguing, something the hands heard a lot since the youngest son had come to Lancer. All of them had expected him to ride out after defeating Pardee, Cipriano himself, Madrid’ uncle, didn’t expect the young man to stay. Everyone who fought beside Madrid that day, and worked with him on the ranch since came to like the young man others called a cold blooded killer. The Madrid Davy watched didn’t scare him at all. Working fence with Johnny one afternoon three weeks past, Davy took a chance and asked if what he had been hearing since coming to work at Lancer was true.
“ Hey Johnny, can I ask you something?”
Johnny walked over and grabbed a post out of the wagon bed. “ Yeah, what’s on your mind Davy?” he answered as he walked back over and dropped the post in a hole and began packing it.
“ Well……I heard some of the men talking while you where bed ridden from that bullet in your back. They say that you’re really Johnny Madrid the gunfighter, but yet Scott calls you his brother.” Davy started.
“ Yeah, so.” Johnny said as he stamped the post in.
“ Well anyone who’s heard of Madrid, Johnny knows he ain’t got no family, that he’s the fastest, deadliest gunfighter west of the Mississippi.”
“ Sounds to me Davy like you know an awful lot about this Madrid. How’s that?”
“ I been below the border two years back, Sonora. I heard how Madrid gunned down three men foolish enough to call him out.”
“ So you ain’t never seen Madrid?” Johnny asked as he wondered if he should tell the kid the truth or let it go.
“ No, but they say that once you look into his icy blue eyes, you’re as good as dead.”
“ Johnny stopped and rested his chin on the shovel handle. “ Davy, how old are you?”
“ You like working here at Lancer, for my old man?”
“ Yeah, it’s okay Johnny. I mean he’s a more than fair man ta work for compared to some I did in the past.”
Johnny turned at the sound of a rider approaching. “ Well Davy, all I can say is, you’ve been working beside Madrid all day and you’re still alive………..Hey brother.” Johnny said as he walked over to his new found older brother.
Scott notice the look on Davy’ face. “ Is everything alright?” he asked as he got down.
Johnny glanced at Davy. “ Yeah, I just told him who I was is all……..what brings you out here, thought you where clearing out washes?”
“ Well I finished that and thought I would ride on over here and see if the two of you needed some help. It is Friday and, I don’t know about you brother, but a cold beer sure would taste good tonight.”
“ Hey Davy, you want to ride into town with us and have a cold beer and a hot woman tonight?” Johnny asked.
“ A cold beer sounds real good Johnny.”
That was three weeks ago, and every day since Davy and Johnny became friends, both being close in age and rambunctious. Knowing who Johnny really was now, didn’t deter Davy from doing what he planned. He could work a lifetime at a dollar a day and never get the chance he had been presented. An opportunity like this one he just couldn’t let go by.
“Hey Johnny.” he said as he stopped his horse in the road ahead of his intended victim.
Johnny reined Barranca in as his hand dropped to his colt, then relaxed when he seen who it was.
“ Davy, Cipriano said you quite last night.” he stated as he walked Barranca up to him.
“ Yeah, I got better offer Johnny, one just too good to pass up…..Mind if I ride a ways with ya Johnny?”
“ No, so where’s this new job at Davy?”
“ Oh just across the border in Nevada.” Davy said.
Johnny and Davy rode and talked until the sun started to sink behind the mountains.
“ I think I’ll make camp here for the night.” Johnny said as he got down. “ You’re welcome to stay if you want.” he said as he started to unsaddle his horse, stopping at a sound he knew all to well.
“ Reach down and unbuckle that gun real slow Johnny.” Davy ordered.
One thing Johnny had learned years ago was to never show all your cards. Turning to face the kid he thought was a friend. Thinking that may have now cost him his life.
“ Why Davy. Why you doing this?”
“ I can think of a thousand reasons why…….Toss that gun belt over here.” he ordered as he stepped a little closer.
“ You’re making a mistake Davy, doing this I promise you Murdoch will have you hunted down.”
“ Maybe so, but I plan on being in Mexico before he knows what’s happened.”
“ Look Davy, running from the law ain’t no life…..If you need money I can give you a loan.”
“ And work the rest of my life at a dollar a day paying it back?…..I don’t think so. That thousand dollars you’re caring is gonna set me up real nice below the border…….Now step away from your horse and keep those hands where I can see them.”
Johnny held his hands out to his sides as he took a couple steps backwards and stopped. A man who was willing to turn on a friend, to steal from that friend was the kind of man he learned a long time ago would kill in the blink of an eye. Davy though, a part of Johnny felt didn’t have killing in him.
“ Look Davy, I’ve been where you are headed if you do this. I’ve been on the edge of rock bottom and stealing that money is going to seal your fate. I guarantee you won’t be able to spend that money because the law will catch you before you get to the Mexican border.”
Davy pulled the pouch of money out and put it in his coat pocket as he turned and faced Johnny.
“ You know, I’ve heard that you’ve killed a lot of men Madrid…..men who called you out and tried to beat you to the draw……..Hell I bet you’ve even been bushwhacked, shot in the back ain’t ya?” Davy asked as he stepped back over to his horse. Receiving no answer he reinforced his question by cocking his pistol. “ I asked you a question Madrid.”
“ I’ve had a few yeah, but I’ve never killed an unarmed man….I’ve never stole what wasn’t rightfully mine and yeah I’ve had cowards shoot me in the back.”
Davy mounted his horse. “ Well hell then this should be a first for you Madrid.” Davy said before pulling the trigger.
Johnny knew what was coming and started to dive to his right when the bullet slammed into him hard, knocking him back.
Davy moved his horse over and seen blood starting to cover Madrid’ left side just below his shoulder.
“ May not be no one around to see, but people will know who killed you Madrid.” Davy said before riding away.
Johnny didn’t know how long he lay there, opening his eyes he could see the moon hi in the sky. White hot pain and burning in his left side greeted him when he tried to move. Sucking in a breath as he rolled onto his side. After a little struggling and loosing what he had in his stomach Johnny finally made it to his feet. Pulling his shirt up he found himself saying a silent prayer of thanks that he had moved when he had, otherwise the bullet would have hit him in the heart instead of putting a deep gouge in his side.
The wound had all but stopped bleeding now, but needed cleaned and bandaged. Looking he seen Barranca was still with him, something he was more than glad of.
“ Barranca.” he called. “Come here amigo.”
Barranca nickered and stepped over to his friend, smelling the blood he snorted and placed his head on Johnny’ shoulder.
“ Yeah buddy. I got suckered good this time amigo and I’m not about to let that sonofabitch get away. We got some hard riding to do boy, just give me time to get this cleaned up and a couple hours rest. That horse he’s riding ain’t got nothing on you boy, we’ll catch him long before he reaches Mexico.”
Johnny pulled the saddlebags off. “ Sorry buddy, but the saddle will have to stay on tonight.” Johnny said as he loosened the cinch.
The first signs of light where just starting to show in the eastern sky as Johnny mounted Barranca and headed south, rifle in hand. He was glad Davy had left both the rifle and his pistol after shooting him down. This Johnny knew wouldn’t set well with his father, something he didn’t care about right now. Stealing the money was one thing, but when a man shoots another man who is unarmed, that alone made Johnny not care what his father felt. This was a matter for Madrid to handle since it was the Madrid part that got him shot. It was Madrid now who headed south into country he knew all to well.
“ There hasn’t been anyone in this town for a long time.” Scott said as he came out of one of the three remaining buildings still standing in Liberty. “ We’ve checked all the mines and four towns sir, Johnny hasn’t been this way.”
“I know son. Something happened to him though.” Murdoch said as he went to his horse. “ Let’s head back toward Lancer, maybe we missed him and he’s back there now.”
“If he is, Teresa would tell him we’re looking for him.” Scott stated as he mounted his horse.
“ He’s still alive, I know that, but for some reason your brother didn’t make it to Sacramento.”
“ What if Johnny went south?” Scott suggested.
“ South, why the devil would he go south?”
“ If, and I’m only guessing here, but what if he was robbed of that money and whoever robbed him headed south? Johnny had a thousand dollars on him right?” Scott suggested and asked.
“ Yes he did son, and that amount of money would last a man a long time, or get him a long ways, but your brother wouldn’t be foolish enough to go back into Mexico, not with the federal-es wanting him dead.”
“ I think he would sir, for Lancer, but more importantly, for you.”
“ Johnny has come to love Lancer and having a home and family. If someone stole from what he has come to love and call his own, I think he would risk it. Look how he risked his life with Pardee.”
“ Damn that boy, I am going to have a serious talk with him if we ever find him.”
“ You told him, Lancer takes care of it’s own remember? That’s exactly what Johnny is doing, taking care of his own.”
“ Let’s go son. If you’re right we got some hard riding to do to try and catch up.”
Two days later Murdoch and Scott rode into the Lancer yard early evening and where met by Teresa.
“ You didn’t find him?” she asked with concern.
“ No.” Scott answered as he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her into his side more.
“ We’re not giving up.” Scott stated firmly. “ I’m going to go get cleaned up.”
Later that night as the three sat at the dinner table Murdoch could tell his oldest had something deep on his mind.
“ Get it said son.”
Scott looked from Teresa to his father. “ I’m leaving at first light………I’m not going to wait around this ranch for my brother to maybe come back.” he said before standing up. “ I am going to look for him and I am not coming back until I find him.”
“ Alright son, You can go on one condition.” Murdoch said.
“ One condition? I am not a little kid Murdoch. My brother is out there somewhere and may need my help and you sit there and tell me I can go on one condition.”
“ Would you calm down, Look all I would like is for you to hold off on leaving for a day.”
“ I’m sorry sir. I guess I’m a little on edge. Why wait another day?” Scott said as he shot a smile to Teresa as he sat back down.
“ Because if something has happened and your brother went south, he may have went back to being Madrid. I have a sheriff friend in Yuma I’ll ride into town first thing in the morning and wire, asking if he has heard if Johnny is in the area.”
“ Alright, one day and that’s all I am waiting before I ride out of here.” Scott said as he stood back up and headed outside.
“ Murdoch, I’m worried about Scott.” Teresa said.
“ He’ll be alright sweetheart.” Murdoch answered.
“ But…….but what if Johnny is dead?………..I don’t want to loose Scott too.” she said as tears ran down her face and her voice quivered.
Murdoch stood up and walked over to her. “ Come here…….I’m sorry we haven’t thought about how this is affecting you darling.”
“ Johnny and Scott are like brothers to me……….Since….since my father was murdered I have you as my father……I don’t want to loose any of you……..I can’t Murdoch.”
“ Teresa you’re not going to loose any of us. Scott will find Johnny, alive and bring him home and we will all be a family again.”
Johnny kept Barranca at an easy lope most of the day four days later so the stallion wouldn’t play out. Skirting around Los Angeles to avoid trouble he didn’t need nor want right now. His wound was healing up, but still reminded him it was there. Late in the afternoon he decided to stop and give the stallion a rest, stopping along a small creek with plenty of green grass for his friend, dismounting he removed his saddlebags and loosened the cinch before pulling the bridle off.
“ There ya go boy. Go eat some of that lush green grass.” Johnny said as he patted the stallions neck and pushed him gently away.
Sitting with his back against a big oak tree, eating some beef jerky and a biscuit, he picked up at a stage stop, wondering if his family knew by now that he had never made it to Sacramento to pick up the three horses.
“ If I know you Boston, you’re going to be looking for me. Guess I should send them a wire letting them know what happened and where I’m headed huh buddy?” Johnny said and asked his stallion as he stood up and walked over to him. “ Bet the old man thought I stole his money.”
Barranca raised his head and blew into Johnny’ chest as he pressed his head into it.
“ Yeah I know buddy, we got a couple hours of light left, so let’s get going and maybe find a place where you can get some oats and hay and I can get a hot bath, bed, woman and a decent meal.”
Riding into a small town at dusk, Johnny started to get Barranca bedded down for the night when the owner came in from the back.
“ How much for the night?” Johnny asked as he swung his saddle over the stall rail and grabbed a burlap and started rubbing his stallions coat down.
“ Four bit’s if you just want the stall, hay and grain cost extra.”
Johnny stepped out of the stall and pulled out a dollar and handed it to the man. “ That saloon down the street serve food?”
“ Yeah,steaks ain’t bad for four bit’s…..got some young ladies working there that can take care of your other needs also if you got a hankering.” the older man stated before walking away.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said with a smile as the man walked away. “ Not much of a town in appearance amigo, but at least it’s got what the two of us want for the night.” Johnny said as the old man walked back in. “ You get anyone in the last couple days about my age, blonde hair, looking like he’s running from something have you?”
“ Don’t you mean someone Madrid?”
Johnny snapped his head toward the man.
“ Yeah I know who you are…….and as to your question yeah, there was a cocky kid in here two days ago…..Funny thing is, he was bragging about how he killed you.”
“ You happen to notice which way he went?” Johnny asked as he stepped closer to the man.
“ Yeah, said he was going to Yuma……Said that once people knew he killed you, he would be real popular……….You know, you look good for a dead man.”
“ I almost was, how’d you know who I am?”
“ You don’t live to be as old as me son without listening.” the old timer said. “ I’ve heard plenty of stories about you. I also know that a man don’t wear a rig like that one like you are and not be able to use it.”
Johnny glanced down at his colt, then back up at the man. “ You got a name?” he asked.
“ Yeah, my friends call me Jackson.” the old man said as he held out his hand.
Johnny took the old mans hand in his and shook it. “ Not many people like having me around, unless they need my gun. I’ll be out of here in the morning.” Johnny told him.
“ Don’t worry about it. I don’t judge a man by his past. If I did, then I wouldn’t have been in business for as long as I have, and I sure wouldn’t have lived as long as I have.”
Johnny grabbed his saddlebags and rifle and headed to the hotel to get a room with a bed more comfortable than the cold hard ground he’d been sleeping on lately.
“ You’re getting soft Madrid.” he said to himself as he relaxed in the hot tub an hour later.
“ You want a shave while you’re in there?” the proprietor of the bathhouse asked.
“ Yeah.” Johnny answered. “ You any good at remembering people?”
“ Oh, I’m pretty good at remembering certain ones. Like you for instance, I know you’re Johnny Madrid.” the man said as he applied shaving cream to Johnny’ face. “ Why you ask? You looking for someone in particular?”
“ Yeah.” Johnny answered as he took a sip of the whiskey he had.
“ Okay, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and bet that you’re hunting a young cocky fellow about your age that was in here day last?”
“ Yeah, can you tell me what he said?” Johnny asked as he laid his head back so the man could shave his neck.
“Sure can. He bragged about killing a person others had tried and failed, also said killing that person got him a thousand dollars, and that he was going to have himself a real good time down south.”
“ He say who this person was he was supposed to have killed?” Johnny asked.
“ Well you know, for a dead man Madrid, you look pretty good.” the man stated as he wiped his razor off and moved to the other side. “ I see from that fresh scar you got, he almost did.”
“ Yeah.” Johnny answered.
“ Mind if I ask how a cocky little shit like him got the better of you?”
Johnny gave a half smile and small laugh. “ He worked for the same person I do. The rancher sent me to fetch some horses he bought and Davy and I crossed paths on the trail and…….”
“ And because you knew and worked with him, you thought he was safe…….So how is it he knew you had all that money?”
“ It wasn’t like it was a secret, Murdoch Lancer had talked about it and Davy knew. He quite Lancer a day or so before I left and waited, watching I guess. We rode together and when I stopped to make camp, that’s when he pulled his gun. I gave him the money and then before he left, he shot me.”
“ I thought you were the fastest though? You saying this kid was faster than you?”
“ No, It’s real easy to shoot a man who’s unarmed.” Johnny remarked.
“ Holly…..so you’re after him more because you were unarmed when he shot you, than for the money?”
“ You could say that.”
“ So Lancer, he sent you after his money?”
“ No, he doesn’t know. It would have gave Davy to big a head start if I rode back to the ranch and told him what happened.”
“ Well, I gotta say, you are the last person I would want hunting me down. Course I wouldn’t be fool enough to do what that kid did in the first place……..All done, I’ll leave you to your bath now….Oh, you need not worry about what was said between us Madrid, I don’t go around telling others. There be enough of those gossip spreaders around already in this town and I expect that you don’t really want him finding out that you’re hunting him.”
“ Thanks. He’ll find out soon enough I reckon….In fact I’m hoping he does because it will make him careless……and I really like it when a man gets careless. Makes tracking him all that much easier.”
“ You gonna kill him when you find him?”
“ Not unless he makes me. I want him to stand trial and go to prison, that would be a better punishment because I’ve been in prison, and since he’s been bragging that he killed me, It won’t be easy for him. A bullet is the easy way out, and I’m not feeling to generous toward him.”
“ I hear that. Well I hope he gets what’s coming to him……I’ll see ya.”
Murdoch stepped out of the telegraph office and seen Sam walking toward him.
“ I thought that was your horse Murdoch. What brings you to town so early?” Sam asked.
“ I needed to send a wire to the sheriff in Yuma.”
“ Yuma,? Has something happened to Johnny?”
“ Let’s go get some breakfast and I’ll tell you about it Sam.”
“ So you think Johnny run into trouble and may have headed south?” Sam asked as the two old friends sat drinking coffee after their breakfast.
“Yeah I do Sam. At first I thought that maybe Johnny had just taken the money and left……Scott was quick to point out my being wrong to even think such a thing…..It’s just that, he’s only been at Lancer a short while and I sill don’t know that boy.”
“ I expect Johnny feels the same way as you do. You know the two of you are cut from the same mold. You my friend are more stubborn than a mule. You’re all pride, just like that boy is. With the life he’s had in the past and the life he has now at Lancer, do you really think that he would take that money and leave?”
“ No……..no I don’t Sam……Scott is going to leave tomorrow and look for him. He thinks Johnny may have headed south. That he was robbed and………”
“ He’s still alive Murdoch. If Johnny was dead, don’t you think, given his reputation that we would be hearing about him being killed?”
“ I know he’s still alive Sam….I feel it in here.” Murdoch said as he touched his chest. “ It’s just that, if he was robbed….Was he shot and is laying out there somewhere hold up, needing a doctor?”
“ You’ve seen the scars that boy has, you know first hand what a fighter he is…..and now that he has a family, Johnny is going to fight harder than ever to stay alive.”
“ I hope you’re right Sam……..I hope you’re right…..I lost him once. I don’t want to loose him again.”
“And how do you feel about Scott going after his brother if Johnny has gone back into Mexico?”
“ I don’t like it, but I know I’m not fit enough to do that kind of hard riding……I told him that “ If ”
Johnny has, he might be going by the name Madrid and not Lancer.”
“ And what about Teresa, how does she feel about all this?”
“ She’s worried about Scott going and scared that Johnny might be……..dead.”
“ Do you think he is?”
“ No. I know Johnny is still alive……..I asked Scott to keep me posted on where he is at and when he finds his brother and they are headed home.”
“ Mister Lancer?”
“ I got that answer you where waiting for sir.” Tim said as he walked over and handed the wire to Murdoch.
“ Thank you Tim.” Murdoch said as he pulled out a coin and gave it to the boy.
After reading the wire, Murdoch let it fall to the table and sat back.
“ From the sheriff in Yuma I presume?” Sam asked.
“ Yeah.” Murdoch answered as he slid the wire across the table.
Sam picked it up and read it.
Murdoch you ask about Johnny Madrid and if he has been in this area recently. I have not seen Madrid around Yuma for two years. I did however hear last night from a young kid who came into town bragging, that he had killed Madrid up north of you. I don’t know if what this kid said was true or not. He is no longer in town. The kids name however is Davy Jones, if this means anything to you.
Sam looked at his longtime friend and could clearly see the heartache on his face.
“ This Davy Jones, do you know him?”
“ Yeah I know him. He worked for me, quite the day before Johnny left………Scott was right. Johnny was robbed.”
“ Yes, and it doesn’t prove that what this kid said is true.”
“ I don’t believe it for a second Sam, but Johnny knew Davy, so he may have dropped his guard just enough to allow Davy to get the upper hand on him.” Murdoch stated as he stood up and picked up the wire. “ I need to get back to the ranch and let Scott and Teresa know.”
“ Alright.” Sam said as he stood up. “ You take care and don’t loose hope.”
“ I’ll see ya Sam.”
Murdoch sat at his desk with the wire when Scott and Teresa walked into the house.
“ You get an answer from the sheriff?” Scott asked as he walked over to the desk.
“ Yes……..why don’t the two of you sit down.”Murdoch said as he stood up and walked over to the couch. Standing there a minute as he looked at his oldest. Finally he handed the wire to Scott to read.
Scott took the wire and after reading it he stood up.
“ What’s it say Scott?” Teresa asked.
Scott handed it to her. “ I don’t believe that kid killed Johnny. I’m riding out in the morning headed to Yuma.”
“ Alright son, but think about this. On the way home I kept asking myself. If what you said the other day was true. How would someone be able to rob your brother. Everyone around here knows who he is. Now we know how. Davy worked here so Johnny wouldn’t think he would do something like that. He worked here until the day before your brother left. He knew Johnny would have that money on him.”
“ But how did he get it from Johnny then, if he didn’t kill him?” Teresa asked.
“ Johnny dropped his guard, because Davy worked for us. I’ll be leaving before first light.” Scott said with firmness. “ The only way Davy would be able to get the money was if he had Johnny unarmed.”
“ Unarmed……..as fast as Johnny is.” Teresa said.
“ If they were riding together and stopped, Johnny may not have suspected Davy would know about the money, let alone be foolish enough to steal it from him.” Scott added.
“ And if that’s the case and he’s going around saying he killed Madrid………then he shot your brother while he was unarmed and that is murder.” Murdoch said angrily.
“ Attempted murder sir, my brother is still alive.”
Johnny walked into the telegraph office the next morning and sent a wire to Lancer.
Robbed by Davy Jones. Stop.
Gone after him. Stop.
Headed to Mexico. Stop.
Headed to Yuma. Stop.
The telegrapher looked up at Johnny, nervousness could be seen on the mans face.
“ You’re Johnny Madrid?” he asked nervously.
“ Yeah I am, why?” Johnny asked as he paid the man.
“ I……..I heard that you were dead.” the man answered.
“ Yeah well I guess you heard wrong.” Johnny said before turning and leaving. Riding out of town, headed to Yuma.
A rider galloped into the Lancer yard and jumped off his horse.
Murdoch and Scott came out of the house at the sound of a horse galloping in.
“ Tim, what is it?” Murdoch asked.
“ I got an urgent wire for you mister Lancer.” Tim said as he handed it to him.
“ Thank you……..Walt take Tim’ horse and give him one of ours to ride back to town. You can pick it up tomorrow.” Murdoch instructed before opening the wire.
“ You were right son. Your brother was robbed by Davy and is headed to Mexico, he says he’s headed to Yuma.”
Scott ran a hand through his hair. “ I’m leaving tonight sir. I need to catch up to Johnny. He’s not traveling at night. If I pace my horse I can catch up to him the day after he rides into Yuma.”
“ Riding at night will be risky.” Murdoch stated.
“ The moon will be good enough light to see, I’m going.”
“ Alright son. I’ll send a wire to the sheriff in Yuma letting him know Johnny is coming and to arrest him.” Murdoch said.
“ Arrest him, why?” Scott asked suddenly.
“ Can you think of a better way to keep your brother in Yuma until you get there?”
“ No, I guess that would be the best way. I just hope Johnny doesn’t do something foolish.”
“So do I son. Remember he’s going by Madrid, not Lancer.”
“ Yeah.” Scott said before turning and going into the house to grab what he would need.
“ I’ll have your horse ready when you come back down son.” Murdoch said as he headed to the barn.
Johnny rode into Yuma early evening two days later. After taking care of Barranca he headed to the hotel and got a room for the night. Stepping outside two hours later, after a hot bath and meal. Madrid headed to the saloon and a cold beer. Paying for the cold beer he picked it up and started to take a drink.
“ Johnny Madrid. I have a double barreled shotgun aimed right at you so don’t try anything stupid. Set the beer down and place both hands on the bar top, now.”
Johnny looked into the mirror and seen a badge on the man holding a shotgun on him. “ Mind telling me what it is I did sheriff?” he asked.
Sheriff Colton walked up and stuck the shotgun in Johnny’ back as he removed the colt from his holster. “ Being Johnny Madrid is enough reason for me to arrest you……….Turn around and start walking to the jail, now.” Colton ordered with a jab of the shotgun.
Everybody in the saloon watched and mumbled amongst themselves as the most feared gunfighter was taken out of the saloon.
“ Inside.” the sheriff ordered as he opened the cell door.
Johnny stepped inside, hands still above his head. “ you gonna tell me what this is all about sheriff? Just because I’m Johnny Madrid, don’t give you a reason to arrest me.”
“ You mean Johnny Lancer don’t you?” Colton answered as he shut and locked the door.
Johnny looked hard at the man.
“ I got a wire from your old man, Murdoch. Your brother is coming here to cross into Mexico with you and he said to make sure you stayed here in Yuma until Scott got here. I got the wire still if you don’t believe me.”
“ No, I believe you sheriff. So……….you’re going to keep me in jail until my brother gets here, is that it?”
“ Pretty much, yeah.” the sheriff answered. “ I know why you’re here and who you’re after. Jones came through here about four days ago. Kid was talking up real big on how he killed you. Said he got paid a thousand dollars for doing it too………You look pretty good for a dead man Madrid, course I’ve heard of you being killed before too.”
“ Yeah I’ve been told that just the other day.” Johnny answered. “ So you gonna keep me locked up?”
“ Yep. I don’t want no trouble in my town and * you * are trouble……..I do have a question for you though.”
“ Go ahead.”
“ How did this kid get the better of you?”
“ Well sheriff, it’s real easy to shoot a man when he’s unarmed.” Johnny answered.
“ You, unarmed?”
“ yeah, he worked for my old man and we crossed paths. The night we met up he was behind me as we stopped to make camp and drew on me. I gave him what he wanted.”
“ The thousand dollars?”
“ Yeah, and before he rode off, he shot me….I’d be dead if I hadn’t moved.” Johnny told him. “ Bullet grazed me.”
“ Well if that’s the case? Then he’s wanted for robbery and attempted murder. You going after him to kill him or bring him back to stand trial?”
“ I’m not a murderer sheriff. I never killed a man who didn’t call me out.”
“ What about when you hired out?”
“ That was just a job and I never broke the law. I hired out in range wars. I stayed within the law sheriff.”
“ You didn’t answer my question. You going to bring him in…….alive to stand trial?”
“ If I can, yeah, cause you see, with him shooting off his mouth that he killed me, well I figure once it’s known that he didn’t, his time in prison will be limited before he gets what’s due him.”
“ Well, as a lawman I can’t officially condone what you plan, but even with you being a gunfighter, I despise a man shooting another man when he’s unarmed.”
“ That makes two of us sheriff.”
“ So you’re Murdoch’ long lost son?”
“ I was never lost sheriff. My mother moved around a lot and she told me the old man had kicked us out when I was a baby.”
“ Well, I don’t know about that, but I do know that Murdoch was here and below the border a lot looking for you. That’s when me and him became friends. So Scott, he the older son Murdoch has?”
“ Yeah, he was raised in Boston by his grandfather I guess after his mother died giving birth to him.”
“ Yeah, Murdoch said his first wife died in child birth. So what made you go back to Lancer?”
“ What do you mean?” Johnny asked.
“ Well, you said your mother told you he threw you out. I’m just curious is all on what changed your mind?”
Johnny told the sheriff about how the Pinkerton had saved him, seconds from a firing squad and the offer made by his father for on hour of his time.
Scott rode into Yuma four days later and dismounted in front of the sheriffs office. Two days before his father had wired him that his brother was in jail in Yuma, waiting for his arrival. Stepping up onto the walkway he opened the door and stepped inside.
“ Sheriff. I’m Scott Lancer.”
Sheriff Colton stood up and stepped around his desk and extended his hand.
Scott shook the mans hand. “ Got a wire from your father telling me you where coming.”
“ Is he here?” Scott asked as he removed his hat.
“ Yeah, he’s in the back.” he said as he grabbed his keys and unlocked the door to the cells. “ Johnny, you got a visitor.”
Johnny, laying on the cot, turned his head and smiled. “ Hey brother.” he said as he threw his legs over the side and stood up.
“ You open the door for me sheriff?” Scott asked.
“ Sure, he’s free to go.” the sheriff stated as he opened the cell door.
Johnny went to step out and found himself knocked flat on his ass by his brothers fist.
“ That’s for letting me and * our * father think that you where dead brother.” Scott vented.
Johnny got up fast. “ I almost was dead Scott.” Johnny answered back with anger.
Scott struck out and hit him again. “ And that’s for not sending a wire sooner, telling us what the hell happened.”
Sheriff Colton stepped aside, not wanting to get in the way of the two.
“ Jesus Johnny, you’re not alone any more……You have people who care about you now and I’ll be damned if I am going to let you ride back across that border just because Davy stole a thousand dollars from you.”
Johnny moved so fast it surprised both the sheriff and Scott, catching him off guard.
“ Like I told the sheriff there, brother…….I’m not after him for the fucking money………….That sonofabitch shot me when I was unarmed and he barely missed killing me. I’m going after him for attempted murder and I am bringing him back to stand trial and go to prison………….You try and stop me and we can finish this right here, right now.”
“ He’s right Scott. Your brother swore out a legal complaint against Davy Jones. I have a warrant for his arrest making it legal for the two of you to extradite him back to California to stand trial.”
“ That may be sheriff, but my little brother here had no right not telling us before he did. It’s been almost two weeks now.” Scott vented as he shoved Johnny back. “ You want to finish this, I’ll be more than glad to teach you some manners.”
Johnny stood glaring at his brother as he started to calm down. “ Look, I’m sorry Scott…….that sonofabitch shot me when I was unarmed. He came real close to killing me.” Johnny told him.
“ How bad was it?” Scott asked.
Johnny undid his shirt and showed his brother and the sheriff just how close he had come to dying. The wound still red as the skin healed.
“ Have you seen a doctor for that Johnny?” Scott asked, knowing how his brother felt about doctors. The look he got gave him his answer. “ Sheriff, you got a doctor in this town?”
“ I don’t need a doctor Boston.” Johnny said firmly. “Look we ride out of here at first light. I paid for a room I never got to use thanks to the sheriff here arresting me. So if you don’t mind I’d like a bath, bed and a whore.” he added as he walked out of the cell to the front. “ Can I have my gun back?”
Sheriff Colton unlocked his desk drawer and retrieved Johnny’ gun and handed it to him.
“ I can’t help but feel sorry for that kid you know?” he stated.
“ Yeah.” Johnny said as he fastened the colt around his hip. “ Why’s that sheriff?” he asked.
“ Well there’s only one man I can think of that I sure as hell wouldn’t want to piss off, or have hunting me.”
“ You know sheriff, I do believe you’re right.” Scott added, knowing who the sheriff meant. “ Come on brother, you get what you need tonight maybe you’ll be in a better mood tomorrow.” Scott added as he headed to the door.
Johnny and Scott rode out of Yuma as the sun broke the eastern sky headed east along the river.
“ Johnny, I know you know the country we’re headed into brother. You got an idea on where he’s headed?”
“ Yeah I do. Davy will cross into Mexico closer to Tuscon.” Johnny told him.
“ Tuscon, then why are we going to cross over here?” Scott asked.
“ We ain’t crossing here Scott.” Johnny said as he stopped Barranca. “ Look, that sheriff announced in the saloon who I was, now nobody knew until he said, so I figure the more we stay out of sight, the better chance I have of living. We stay along the river until this trail I know, then we ride north a little and cut back east to Tuscon. It will also keep us out of Apache territory most of the way.”
“You’re the one who knows this area brother.” Scott stated. “ So you plan to take Davy back to Green River to stand trial?” Scott said and asked.
“ Yeah I do.” Johnny answered. “ Is that hard for you to believe?” Johnny asked a little harsh.
“ No, I was just wondering is all Johnny. You don’t have to get riled up over it.” Scott shot back.
“ Maybe so, but I bet the old man thought I stole his money when I didn’t make it to Sacramento.”
“ You don’t give the old man too much credit do you?” Scott asked.
“ Tell me I’m wrong Scott. Tell me he didn’t think Johnny Madrid rode off with his precious thousand dollars.”
“ Okay, he did think you did at first, but……..”
“ But nothing Scott. He ain’t ever going to trust me, you know it and I know it………All he sees in me is a gunfighter.” Johnny said. “ You know, that first day we met him, you remember what he said about the past?”
“ He said good or bad, right or wrong, it’s in the past and all he cared about was the future. Well brother that only applies to you. He ain’t ever gonna trust me, let alone forget my past…….I ain’t the son he wants, you are.”
“ Johnny that’s bullshit and you know it. It’s only been a year. Maybe if you tried to be a little more understanding toward him, the two of you wouldn’t argue so much.”
Johnny stopped Barranca. “ Me be understanding to him, hell Scott, most of the time he orders me around like I’m one of the hands and not his son………H hasn’t once told me I did a good job or asked me how my day went. He does you all the time. He watched me when I’m around Teresa, like I’m going to do or say something wrong to her……Face it Scott, he don’t want me at Lancer, hell he probably never thought I’d stay after and sign that damn contract.”
“ Okay, let me ask you this. Why did you stay Johnny? Because that day by the lake you told me you stayed because of the money.”
“ At first it was, you know I had planned to kill that sonofabitch that first day?……I was going to kill him because of the lies my mother told me.”
“ I’ll ask again, why did you stay and why did you not kill him?” Scott asked more demanding this time.
“ Because of what Teresa said. I knew she was telling me the truth when she mentioned a gambler because that gambler was my step daddy for a couple years………As to why I didn’t kill him, hell that’s simple, you.”
“ Yeah you Scott. I always wanted me a big brother when I was growing up. Didn’t know I had one. My mother never mentioned you or that the old man was married before her.”
“ Well I can honestly say brother, I’m glad you didn’t kill him. I can also say that, even though you are a pain in the ass and we haven’t known each other all that long. I’m glad to have you for a little brother.”
Johnny, never one to take a compliment, spurred Barranca forward. “ For an eastern dandy, you ain’t so bad yourself.” he said over his shoulder.
Davy rode into Douglas, Arizona, confident and ready to gamble, drink and have company for the night. Tying his horse off at the only saloon in town, he walked into the bar and looked around. A poker game with four players already took place in the far back corner, walking up to the bar he ordered a beer and stood watching the game as he drank the beer.
“ Hey cowboy, you looking for some company?” a girl asked as she walked up to him.
“ I will be later.” he responded before walking over to the game. “ Gentlemen, mind if I join you?”
“ Not at all, we could use fresh money, have a seat.” one of the players said.
“ What’s the limit?”
“ A dollar to open.” the man said.
“ I can handle that.” Davy said as he pulled out some money and placed his anti.
Three hours later, ahead by four hundred dollars, Davy took one card. Raising the pot a hundred dollars, all but three other players folded.
“ I’ll see your hundred, and raise you three hundred.” the man dressed in a black coat with a black vest and white shirt said.
“ I’m out.”
“ Me too, to rich for my blood.”
Davy sat there looking at his cards and the pot, four aces with a king. Almost a thousand dollars lay on the table now.
“ It’ll cost you three hundred more boy to stay in.”
“ Mister, I ain’t no boy. In fact you may have heard of me.” Davy stated.
“ I doubt it.” the other man responded.
“ Davy Jones, the man who three weeks ago killed Johnny Madrid.”
This statement brought the bar to silence.
“ You expect us to believe you killed Johnny Madrid?” the gambler asked.
“ I’ll see your three hundred and raise you five hundred more.” Davy responded.
“ Kid, I think you’re bluffing on both counts. I’ll see your five and call. I don’t believe you killed Johnny Madrid, he’s the fastest gunfighter both sides of the border.” the gambler said as he laid down a full house of jacks over queens.
Davy laid down his hand. “ Sorry gentlemen but four aces.” he said with a smile.
The gambler couldn’t believe the kids luck, tossing his cards into the pot. “ Beats a full house.” he told Davy. “ Gentlemen, if you will excuse me, it’s late so I think I will retire for the night……Oh….Davy is it………I got some friendly advice for you.”
“ Yeah, and what would that be mister?” Davy asked as he gathered up his money.
“ You like living because if you do, I wouldn’t go around telling people you killed Madrid, because you see kid, there’s gonna be someone out there faster than you who will want what you say you took from Madrid……Oh and if you’re saying this just to try and be important…….Don’t, because you see I knew Madrid and he was a friend.” the gambler said as he stood up, showing the kid and everyone else at the table the gunfighter rig he wore. “ If you killed him in a fair call out fine, but if you bushwhacked him like others have done., I’ll hunt you down and kill you myself.” he said with a cold tone.
“ Dead is dead, how I killed Madrid ain’t none of your business mister.” Davy said with a grin.
“ You’ll do good to remember my name boy, because you see, I know where Madrid’ been for the past year and I’ll be checking out what you said.”
“ And just who the fuck are you?” Davy demanded.
“ Val Crawford.”
Murdoch opened the wire he received as he stood on the walkway outside the telegraph office. A smile came to his face and some of the worry he had dissipated. Heading across the street to the general store to check on his ward and tell her the news.
“ I’m all done Murdoch.” Teresa said as she walked over to him.
“ I got a wire from Scott. He’s with Johnny now headed into Mexico.”
“ Oh thank god. At least now Johnny won’t be alone.” she said.
“So how much did you spend this time darling daughter?”
“ I got what we needed, I did buy some new fabric so I can make a pretty dress to wear for when Johnny and Scott come home.” she told him with a smile.
“ Oh Teresa, you know I can never say no to you when you smile like that…….I’m sure Johnny and Scott will like it.”
“ I was thinking, how about we have a party when they get back? You know, to celebrate there coming home.” she suggested as the two headed back to Lancer.
“ I think that would be a good idea, that is if Johnny comes home.”
“ Oh he will. I know he will.”
“ I’m not so sure Johnny likes me.”
“ Oh he don’t hate you, he want’s to love you.”
“ I can’t seem to say the right things to that boy. All we do is argue.”
“ Johnny wants to love you. He just doesn’t know how to and I think you’re the same way about him.” she told him. “ I see you with Scott and the two of you laugh and talk, but you never do that with Johnny. You never ask him how his day went or how he’s doing…..You always ask him if he got the job done and get mad at him if he didn’t.”
“ Johnny has had no supervision in growing up, no manners taught to him. You’ve seen how he is at the supper table.”
“ I think you are forgetting Johnny raised himself most of his life, remember? He didn’t have anyone to teach him how to behave at a table…..I watched him watch Scott, you and me on what fork to use. He needs patience, but more than that, he needs his father to be more patient with him and instead of getting angry at Johnny all the time, you need to try talking to him more.”
“ Young lady, how is it you know Johnny so much better than I do?”
“ Maybe it’s because I spend time with him. Did you know that almost every night he brings me a rose or when he comes back from town, he brings me a small bag of candy.”
“ A rose, that boy better not be having notions about you.”
“ Johnny has never been disrespectful to me. He talks to me, tells me something funny. I ask him if he’s alright. I know when he’s hurting……A couple months ago you chewed Johnny out for being late coming in for supper. You never once asked him why he was late, instead you got angry with him and he went to his room without eating any supper…….I can count on both my hands the times Johnny has went to bed without eating, and he does it because he doesn’t want to fight with you.”
“ I don’t need to ask, I know. The boy is lazy Teresa, he over sleeps, goes to town and doesn’t get back until the early hours of morning. He has no idea how to be responsible.”
“ You’re wrong, Johnny is responsible. He was late that night because he got hurt. He begged me to not tell you or Scott. You didn’t even notice your own son was injured.”
“ Injured, how?”
“ He was getting a calf out of the brush when it’s mother charged and got him in the leg with her horn. He had a bad bruise on his right thigh for a long time.”
“ All he had to do was tell me.”
“ So you can yell at him more?” Teresa asked as they passed under the Lancer arch.
“ You do the planning for this party and we’ll throw it for the boys, invite the whole valley.”
“ You know Johnny doesn’t like crowds. He won’t make himself seen. He’ll hide in the house.”
“ He’s just going to have to get used to crowds if he’s going to be on this ranch.”
“ Murdoch, you can’t force Johnny to do that. You know he is afraid of being called out and killed in front of us, or getting one of us hurt.”
“ I’m not going to force him, but he will be respectful and make a presence.”
“ You have got to be the most stubborn man I know, besides Johnny.” Teresa sassed back before getting of the wagon. “ Men.”
Johnny and Scott pushed it and rode into Douglas, Arizona three days later late afternoon, stopping in front of the saloon, Johnny sat on Barranca and looked around before getting down.
“ Town doesn’t seem to have very many people in it.” Scott said as he dismounted.
“ Nope and I like it that way.” Johnny said as he stepped up onto the boardwalk.
“ Come on brother, I’ll buy you a cold beer, if they have it that is.”
Johnny grabbed Scott’ arm as he walked past. “ It’s not Lancer down here Scott, it’s Madrid and if people ask, your last name is Garrett, understand? You go saying a name like Lancer and it will bring us a whole lot of trouble we don’t need.” Johnny said with firmness.
“ Okay. What’s the chances of you getting called out while we’re in this town?” Scott asked.
“ Pretty good since I’ve only been gone a year.” Johnny said softly as he walked past and inside the saloon, stopping just inside the bat winged doors and looking around.
Scott walked up to the bar and ordered two beers and two shots of tequila, knowing his brother liked the fire water.
Johnny stepped up to the bar and took the cold beer his brother handed him as the bartender set two shot glasses down and poured the tequila as he looked at Madrid.
“ Leave the bottle.” Johnny ordered.
“ I don’t want no trouble in my bar Madrid, from you or him.” the bartender said with a quiver to his voice.
“ Ain’t gonna be no trouble unless someone else comes looking for it.” Johnny said as he grabbed the bottle and went to a table in the corner, left of the doors so he could see who comes in.
Scott mentally noted how his brother changed the minute he walked into the saloon. Madrid had clearly taken over now and the Johnny Lancer he knew was gone. Sitting down on his left, Scott removed his gloves before downing the shot of tequila.
“ Mind if I ask what we are doing?” Scott asked as he leaned back in the chair.
“ He was here, I can feel it. He had a thousand dollars on him.” Johnny said soft enough for only Scott to hear. “ If he was here, chances are he gambled or flashed that money around, hell maybe he even bragged about killing me. Why don’t you go ask the bartender?”
Scott stood up and walked over to the bar. Just as he turned to walk back over to his brother a man came into the saloon.
“ Johnny Madrid.” the man said as he turned toward him.
Scott looked and watched as his brother raised his head and pushed his hat back to hang between his shoulders by the stampede strap.
“ You know just the other night I heard you were dead.” the man said as he walked over to Madrid.
Johnny stood up and walked around the table, stopping two feet from the man. “ Guess you heard wrong.”
“ Guess I did.” the man answered.
Scott was ready, hand by his gun, to protect his brother at any and all cost. What happened next totally caught him by surprise.
Johnny smiled and grabbed the man and gave him a hug. “ How the hell are you Val?” he asked.
“ Oh ya know, bout the same I guess, you?”
“ A lots changed for me since we last met. Come sit down and I’ll tell you. Bartender bring a round of cold beers.” Johnny yelled as he slapped his good friend on the back.
Scott walked over and sat down, choosing to remain quiet about what the bartender said until his brother asked. Having only known him a year, any and all he could find out about his past, Scott was more than ready to learn, and this man was clearly from his past.
“ You look pretty good for a dead man.” Val said.
Johnny laughed softly. “ Val I’d like you to meet my brother Scott.” Johnny said quietly.
Val looked at Scott and extended his hand. “ So you’re riding with Madrid huh?” he asked noting how Johnny wanted it kept quiet about them being brothers. “ You must have a good reason to hire the best?”
Scott went along with what Val said. “ I have my reasons.” he answered as he shook the mans hand.
Val leaned forward. “ So what are you really doing?” he asked.
“Tell you what, let us get a room for the night and I’ll tell you.” Johnny said.
“ Hell I got a room upstairs. We can go up there and talk. Corner room, no balcony, just like you prefer.”
“ Sounds good.” Johnny answered back as he stood up.
“ Okay, give it up Johnny, why are you really here, and with him?” Val asked as he gestured toward Scott as the three sat in his room.
“ Like I said, Scott here is my brother. I went back to Lancer a year ago and have been there ever since.” Johnny started, leaving out the part about Pardee and the raid. “ Three weeks ago I was headed to Sacramento to pick up some horses for the old man. I had about a thousand dollars on me and this kid who had worked for us, me and him crossed paths and rode together. That night when we stopped to make camp……….he got the jump on me.” Johnny said as he remembered how close he’d come to dying.
“ Wait a minute, this kid got the better of you? Johnny Madrid, the fastest gun both sides of the border, got bamboozled by a kid.”
“It’s not hard when you work with that person and trust them, is it Johnny?” Scott interjected.
“ He was behind me and when I got off Barranca, he pulled his gun on me. I gave him what he wanted.”
“ Kids name wouldn’t happen to be Davy Jones would it?” Val asked.
“ Yeah, why?” Johnny asked.
“ I played poker with the little shit two nights ago. He started bragging about how he had killed you.”
“ He almost did……..After I gave him the money he shot me. I’d be dead if I hadn’t moved.”
“ So you’re saying this kid beat you to the draw?”
“ No Val, he didn’t. I was unarmed and that sonofabitch shot me.”
Scott stood up, anger quickly surfacing. The thought of his brother being shot or killed in a gunfight was something he feared, being shot down when unarmed angered him more than he had ever been before.
“ So, you’re on a man hunt for this kid, is that it?”
“ Yeah I am.” Johnny answered.
“ You said you played poker with this kid the other night?” Scott cut in. “ Is that bastard still in town?”
“ Nope, rode out this morning, headed south into Mexico.”
“ The horses need a rest, we’ll ride out before first light.” Johnny said.
“ Look buddy, I told that kid he would answer to me if I found out he was lying……How you plan on handling this when you catch up to him?”
“ I plan to bring him in alive to stand trial. I figure once the word gets out about him bragging that he killed me and he goes to prison.”
“ What he gets in prison will be justice enough?……….You’re getting soft in your old age Amigo. Time was you’d have killed a man for that…..What made you change?”
“ A lot of things. Killing is killing Val, you know that. I won’t kill him unless he leaves me no other choice.”
“ Well buddy, you care if I ride along?” Val asked.
Johnny looked at Scott, then back at Val. “ Nope, in fact I was gonna suggest it. Only two men I trust with my life, and they’re both in this room.” Johnny stated.
Scott was floored at the words his brother just spoke. In just the year the two have been together, to hear Johnny say he trusted him with his life, something Scott would hold dear to his dying day, there were no better words to hear his brother say, especially to a man he had just met.
Johnny,Scott and Val Crawford rode out of Douglas at daybreak the next morning headed toward El Paso. Johnny just ahead to a person who didn’t know better, looked like he was just riding,not paying attention, but they would be wrong. Johnny’ eyes scanned everything as they rode along. Barranca’ ears twitched forward and back, also listening.
“ How did you and Johnny meet Val?” Scott asked.
“ I met that little shit about three years ago. We ended up on the same job. I’d heard about Johnny Madrid, hell everybody in our line of work heard of him. He was a scrawny little kid hell bent for making a name for himself. He got the reputation he wanted,and fast. Fact is, I ain’t nev’r seen anyone as fast as he is, including me. In the line of business we was in, you had to be good. If’n ya wasn’t, you didn’t make the money.” Val started. “Johnny there ended up pissing another man off who was supposed to be on the same side in this range war we was working here in Arizona.”
“ How did he do that?”
“ Well this guy wanted to kill the other rancher, I think this is when Johnny started to change, you know, not be so hell bent for leather. He started to check out both sides with the locals and the law if there was law. Turns out we hired out to the right side and Johnny came up with a plan of harassment against the other rancher,running off his stock, burning down a barn or poisoning his water holes. This other fella got impatient and didn’t like the fact that he wasn’t in charge. He wanted to kill,well he and Johnny butted heads and Johnny run him off the job. Should’ve killed the bastard because he ambushed Johnny when the job was done. I found him on the trail with a bullet in his side. I nursed him back ta health and we been friends ever since.”
“ You talk to much Val.” Johnny said over his shoulder.
“ Yeah well he asked, so I’s just telling him. You still got a chip on your shoulder over that boy.” Val said back gruffly.
Johnny stopped Barranca. “ The only chip I got on my shoulder is for the sonofabitch who shot me down when I was unarmed.”he stated before kicking Barranca and riding ahead again.
“ Whatever happened to the guy who ambushed him?” Scott asked.
“ I think it was two weeks later, we rode into a town and he was there. We walked into the saloon, Johnny spotted him at the back playin’ poker. He walked over to that table and stood there. You should’a seen the look on that mans face. Madrid standing there in front of him, alive. Damn near piss’d his pants. Johnny told him that when he ambushes a man, he better make damn sure that man is dead. The guy stood up and went for his gun, hell his hand never got to it and he had a bullet right through his heart.”
“ Val, you think Johnny will try and kill Davy, for shooting him down when he was unarmed?”
“ You don’t know much about him do you?”
“ No, I’ve only known him a year. He doesn’t talk about his past much.”
“ That’s cause most gunfighters ain’t to proud of their past. Look for him to say what he did last night about trusting you with his life, you must of made a good impression on him, he must care about you to say that.”
“ I’d gladly give my life to protect his Val. He’s had enough abuse in his past, that and not being able to trust people.”
“ So how’s him and the old man get along?”
“ They butt heads almost every day, mostly our fathers part. He’s having a hard time accepting Johnny for who he was. Johnny’ having a hard time, well at first, with the rules. Our father keeps a tight schedule for meals. Breakfast at six sharp, dinner at seven and if Johnny is late, he’s expressed his unpleasantness about it. Demanding to know why he’s late. Course there’s the trips to town on a week night that my little brother tends to take to be with a female………..Butt I’ll tell you something Val, Johnny works harder than any other man on that ranch, including me. He doesn’t quite until his job is finished. I just wish our father would start seeing what I see in him.”
“Yeah, the little shit has a way of getting under ya’r skin don’t he?” Val asked with a laugh.
“ Sometimes I think he enjoys angering our father. When Johnny didn’t show up in Sacramento, Murdoch thought he took off with the money. I quickly changed his mind about that………It’s pretty clear that he wants to leave his past behind……..I just wish others would let him.”
“ Yeah, being a gunfighter is not a profession one can walk away from too easily, especially when you’re the best like he is.”
“ I’ve never seen him face down another man.” Scott informed.
“ No, well let me give you a strong word of advice. If you’re ever with him and he get’s called out. Unless you want to get him killed, stay out of it. Don’t talk to him, don’t distract him in any way. He has a way of knowing when the other is going to draw and takes them down first. Now for some reason,Johnny always tries to talk them out of it, but in the end, they end up dead. That gun and holster of his, he had costumed out for him. You ever get a chance to look at his gun, you see the barrel is shorter and the sight has been filed off. The holster is cut away allowing for quicker clearance also. Johnny is deadly with a gun, whether it’s his colt or a long rifle. The boy knows weapons and how to use them. He hits what he aims at and is not one I would care to be one the wrong end of the barrel.”
“ You two done with your jawing? Or the two of you writing a book?”
“ I don’t know Johnny, hell I just might write me a book about you, call it the life and times of Johnny Madrid………or maybe a gunfighter turned rancher.” Val said with a laugh. “ Am I gonna have to knock that chip off your shoulder boy?”
“ Go to hell Val.”
“ I’s already been to hell Johnny, just like you. Don’t reckon the devil would want me back none to soon.” Val snapped back gruffly.
“ Brother, you think Davy is headed to El Paso, why?”
Johnny stopped Barranca and got down to check his cinch. “ He told me about a sister he had that lived there once when we were working fence line together.”
“ A sister? I thought Davy had no family?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah well Boston, sometimes people will slip up and tell you something they don’t aim to tell.”
“ How come he calls you Boston?” Val asked.
“ Because that’s where I grew up.” Scott answered.
“ So you didn’t grow up with your old man neither?”
“ No, my grandfather took me back east after my mother died giving birth to me.” Scott informed Val as he dismounted and removed his canteen to take a swig.
“ Sounds to me like your old man ain’t too good at raising his sons. You grows up in Boston and Johnny there in Mexico. How come he threw you and your momma out?”
“ He didn’t Val, she lied to me.”Johnny answered.
“ Well I’ll be damned. You mean she took you away from your daddy and all his money to live a life of poverty? What kind of mother would do something like that to a child?”
Johnny shot him a look that clearly said to drop the subject as he swung back on Barranca. “ We’ll camp along the Rio Grande tonight. I want to cross into Mexico in the morning.”
“ Mexico?………I thought you said Davy was headed to El Paso?” Scott asked.
“ He is, but his sister lives in Villa Nueva,Mexico, just across the border from El Paso in a small village there.”
“ So she’s Mexican?”
“ Nope, married to a Mexican rancher.” Johnny informed. “ You know Scott, maybe you should start talking to the hands a little more, getting to know them some?”
“ Maybe I will brother.”
Davy rode into El Paso and put his horse up in the livery for the night. Sitting in the saloon playing poker, his ears picked up on a conversation that made him have a sick feeling deep down inside.
“ I’m out fellas.” he said as he tossed in his cards and stood up, walking over to the bar, next to the two men talking. “ Excuse me, but did I hear you say that Johnny Madrid is alive?”
“ Sure did. I guess some kid shot him down up in California and stole some money from him. He’s tracking this kid and I’ll tell ya what mister, If I was that kid, I’d be hunting me a hole big enough to hide in, because Madrid is the last person I’d want tracking me down.”
“ Yeah Madrid and Val Crawford both. They’re riding together with some other fella.”
“ And how do you fellas know this?” Davy asked.
“ I seen ’em yesterday. Why you so concerned about it mister?”
“ Just curious is all. I mean, hell everyone’s heard of Johnny Madrid. He disappeared though so most thought he was dead.”
“ Nope, but I bet that kid will be when Madrid’ done with him.”
“ Yeah,why’s that?” Davy asked, already knowing the answer.
“ Cause that kid shot Madrid I heard when he was unarmed.”
“ Unarmed huh. Sounds like bullshit to me mister. I mean everybody knows Johnny Madrid ain’t gonna be unarmed around nobody.”
“ He would if the kid was someone he thought he could trust, someone he knew for a while. Maybe the kid got the drop on him. Hell nobody’s perfect, even Madrid.”
“ Yeah, I heard Madrid went soft. That he went and found his old man somewhere in California. Supposed to be some rich rancher there.”
“ Rich hell. Why old man Lancer has the biggest spread in all of the San Joaquin valley they say. Madrid landed himself a nice little nest egg, he did.”
“ Yeah well if that’s true, It must be pretty serious for him to come out of retirement to go after that kid?”
“ Madrid never killed a man who didn’t call him out, and he sure as hell never shot anyone unarmed before.”
“ I bet that wannabe kid shot him unarmed like you say cause he knew he couldn’t beat him in a fair fight.”
“ Gunfighter or not, Madrid didn’t deserve to be shot down like that. Fact is, I’m glad he isn’t dead, he did a lot of good for good folks around the border towns. He also made it to where there’s less range wars happening. Hell nobody wants to face the business end of that mans gun.”
Davy left the saloon and headed to the livery, saddled up and headed out across the border as the moon shined down providing enough light to see. Figuring Madrid would never enter back into Mexico and risk the rurales catching him.
Johnny sat on his blanket, leaned back against his saddle sipping on a hot cup of coffee, his plate of biscuits and beans hardly touched lay on the ground next to him.
“ Something wrong with the food Johnny?” Scott asked.
“No, just not very hungry tonight I guess.” he responded.
“ You, not hungry. You feeling alright Johnny?”
“ I feel fine Scott.” Johnny snapped back as he got up fast and went to Barranca.
“ Something’s not right Val.” Scott said as he put his plate down and stood up.
Val stood up. “ Let me go Scott.”
“ He’s my brother.”
“ And it’s me that’s the problem Scott.”
“ You, why?”
“ For telling you what I did…..You gotta remember, Johnny don’t like people knowing about his past….I think with you, he feels that if you know how he was, you won’t want him for a brother.”
“ That’s bullshit Val.” Scott snapped back. “But I can understand.”
Val walked cautiously over to his friend. He found Johnny standing behind his horse a few feet, arms wrapped around him, trying to make himself smaller. Val could tell his friend was troubled, and shacking a little.
“ Johnny, I know what’s bothering you kid.”
Johnny spun around and hit Val hard in the mouth, knocking him backwards on his ass.
“You sonofabitch, you had no right telling him about my past.” Johnny vented.
Val got up. “ Why? Do you really think that brother of your will stop caring about you if he knows what your past was like………Hell kid, you keep to much of your past locked up inside.”
“ You had no right.” Johnny snapped back.
“I had every right. Boy if you don’t let your past go, it’s going to drive you crazy.”
Johnny glanced past Val at his brother walking up to them before turning around and walking away.
Scott looked at Val. “ You alright?” he asked.
“ Yeah, he can sure hit hard when he wants to.” Val said rubbing his jaw.
“ My turn Val.”
“ I wouldn’t, you might find yourself getting hit like me.”
“ I’ll take that chance Val. Me and Johnny have something in common about our past.” Scott told him before walking away.
Scott walked cautiously up close to his brother, but stayed back just enough so he could react if need be.
“ Johnny, talk to me brother, please.”
“ Go away Scott, just go away and leave me alone.”
“ I can’t do that brother.” Scott said softly. “ Look, I know you don’t want me to know about your past Johnny, but let me tell you something little brother……..I was in the war as you know……..Johnny I did things during that war, things that I know are far more worse than what you did to stay alive.”
“ That’s bullshit Scott……….You were following orders…….I wasn’t. I………….I was a hot headed kid hell bent on making a reputation for myself and I didn’t care how I got it.” Johnny said as he turned around.
“ You don’t know anything about me following orders Johnny………I wasn’t following orders when me and my men went on our own and butchered a small regiment of men……Men hell, they were nothing more than boys, fighting for what they thought was right. I ordered my men to shoot them boys down, I myself killed a boy about your age. He had surrendered Johnny, put his rifle down, but I still shot him….I killed a boy who was unarmed Johnny, and I used that stupid war as the excuse……You want to be ashamed of * your * past? Fine. You think that if I know about what you did back then that I won’t want you for a brother, you’re wrong…….it’s past, right or wrong, good or bad,it’s past and gone. There’s nothing we can do to change it. All we can do brother, is move on with our life and put it behind us.”
“ How do you make ghost stay in the past Scott?”
“ You can’t Johnny. You know sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat crying because of that damn war, but mostly because I still see that boys face like it just happened. I’ve had nobody I could talk to for four years. Four years of keeping what I did bottled up inside me Johnny…..Hell you’re the first and only person I have ever told what I did too……That’s what you mean to me brother……I would give my life to keep you alive…….I love you Johnny.” Scott said as he stepped closer and placed a hand on Johnny’ left shoulder. He could feel his brother trembling. “ Johnny, I love you……I don’t know any other way than to say it……I know little brother that it’s only been a year, but what you said in Val’ room made me feel so proud to think you would think enough of me to say that. Look I know this hasn’t been easy for you, having a family that cares about you, people who love you. God knows you’ve been hurt enough in that past, and I wish to hell I could have been there to keep you from harm, but I wasn’t, therefore you did the only thing you knew to do to stop the abuse and survive.
You’re used to being your own boss, sleeping till noon, going where you want, when you want up until a year ago. One year ago brother, you made the best choice of your life coming back to Lancer and staying, because it has given me a chance to know to get to know a special man. A man I am proud to call my brother.”
Johnny reached out and grabbed Scott by his coat. “ You killed an unarmed man……..a kid.” Johnny vented before shoving Scott back.
“ Yes I did, and I have to live with that the rest of my life Johnny.”
“ I wonder…..I wonder if our father would think you’re still so great if he knew his perfect son isn’t so perfect. Bet he don’t hold it against you like he does my past.”
“ Go ahead and tell him Johnny, tell Murdoch what I did if that will make you feel better.” Scott vented before turning and walking away.
Johnny stood there watching his brother walk away. Kicking at a rock, he couldn’t help but feel anger toward his brother for what he did. The same thing Davy did to him two weeks ago, shot down an unarmed man. Sliding his hands in his pockets, Johnny walked slowly back to the fire and found both Scott and Val sitting there sipping on hot coffee. Both men looked up at him as he walked over and sat down next to Scott.
“ You know brother, they have a saying for men like me and Val……..They say we are fallen angels sent down from above. I kept myself from hitting rock bottom by coming to Lancer. I stayed because of you. Scott, if you can accept me as a brother, knowing I’ve done some bad things in my past……I reckon I can accept you as my big brother.” Johnny said. “ Val……I’m sorry I hit you.”
“ Hardly felt it Johnny.” Val said as he poured his friend a cup of coffee and handed it to him.
“ You know, you really are a pain in the ass Johnny……..I don’t want anyone else for my brother but you.” Scott said with a slight smile.
Johnny let a small smile curve his mouth up just enough that his brother seen it. Never one able to take compliments of any kind, Johnny set his cup of coffee down and stretched out on his bedroll and rolled onto his left side, placing his colt just under his saddle, within easy reach, yet unseen.
“Johnny, what I told you last night.” Scott started. “I’ve never told anyone that before.”
Johnny stopped Barranca and pushed his hat back off his head to hang by the stampede strap.
“ Scott, I know I’m not an easy person to get to know, I know you have a lot of questions you want to ask me about my past.” Johnny said as he looked at Val.
“ I think I’ll ride on ahead to the river and wait for you two.” Val said.
Johnny waited a minute for Val to be out of earshot. “ I’m going to let you ask me one question about my past brother, just one.”
Scott looked at his brother shocked at what his brother just offered him.
“You telling me I can ask you anything I want about your past and you will answer it?” Scott inquired.
“ Yeah, I may not answer it right now, but yeah Scott anything question you want.” Johnny told him.
“ Okay brother,I know something happened in your past that haunts you today. I want to know what it is you did that is so damn bad that you won’t forgive yourself for it, and you let it make you sick inside?”
Johnny tried to swallow a lump that came in his throat. The one question he silently prayed his brother wouldn’t ask, he did. How to answer it, he knew would be the hardest thing he ever did. Telling him the truth could cost him their relationship,but lying about it would hurt both him and his brother later if Scott was to ever find out the truth.
“ I know you well enough brother, to know you’ll have to think this out on how to tell me, so I don’t expect you to answer me right now.”Scott told him,knowing what he asked was something his brother really didn’t want him to know,but he couldn’t stop himself from asking it none the same.
Johnny spurred Barranca into a lope to catch up to Val,waiting at the river. Riding on by him he grabbed the saddle horn as Barranca jumped off the bank into the river. The stallions powerful muscles and legs got them across in no time. Climbing up the bank on Mexico’s side, Johnny dismounted and waited for the other two to come across.
“ I take it from the way he rode by me, you asked him the one question he hoped you wouldn’t ask?” Val said as Scott rode up next to him.
“ Yes I did. I knew it would be Val, but he opened the door, so I asked.” Scott responded.
“ Let’s just hope you can handle what he tells you, because I don’t wanna have to come between you two. Let alone see him hurt anymore if he tells you and you decide you don’t want him as a brother no more.”
“ So I take it you know then?”Scott inquired as he moved his horse into the river to cross. He could see Johnny waiting on the other side, checking his cinch.
“ I do….I think I’m the only one he’s ever told it to, until now.” Val answered as his horse followed Scott’ into the river. “ And that’s cause I made him after what I heard him say while fightin’ a fever from that bullet he had in him……..Fact is, I don’t think you can handle it. That is * if * he tells ya.”
“ Nothing he tells me Val, can be that bad….I know from the scars I’ve seen, he’s had a rough childhood. That things have been done to him that should have never been done.”
“ Yeah well sometimes it’s the scars on the inside that are worse than what you see on the outside, especially with him.”
“ Well, no matter what Val,Johnny will not lose me as a brother………I just want to know what it is that is haunting him. I’ve heard him cry out in the middle of the night. One time I heard him clearly scream his mothers name and no. I asked him about it the next day and he told me it was none of my business and rode off. I want to help him get over it Val, and maybe put that ghost to rest.”Scott said as their horses climbed out of the river.
“ Yeah, you’re a good boy.” Johnny said as the stallion pressed his face into Johnny’ chest………Took you long enough, thought maybe me and Barranca were gonna have to come fetch you two.” he said as he took a swig from his canteen.
“ Not hardly.” Val answered.
“ How far to where this sister is at brother?” Scott asked as he got down and checked his cinch.
“ She was in Metamoros Davy said.” Johnny answered. “ Don’t know if she’s still there though.” he added as he swung up on Barranca and the stallion pranced around. Sweat already had his red shirt clinging to his back as the sun got higher in the sky.
“ I hate this damn land.” Val gruff-ed as he got down to check his cinch. “ Cross that damn river and it seems ta get hotter.”
“ You’re the one who wanted to come along. You can turn around and go back any time.” Johnny said before moving Barranca out.
“ If’n I thought you wouldn’t be needing my help I would.” Val yelled back before getting on his horse. “ Your brother needs his head busted ta knock some sense into ‘im at times.”
“ You know Val, I do believe you’re right there.” Scott answered before getting back on his horse and taking off after his brother.
“ Damn kid, it’s a wonder you’ve stayed alive this long.” Val said as he took off to catch up with them.
“ You having spent all your life down here, where’s a safe place to stay the night at brother?” Scott asked as he seen the lights of a town in the distance as the sun barely showed above the horizon, lighting the sky with beautiful gold and red off the few clouds around it.
Johnny stopped Barranca and ignored his brother a minute as he looked around for something.
“ Yeah this is it.” he said finally as he moved the stallion right up what appeared to be a dried up wash, but led to a wash unseen by a passer by. “ This leads to a place we can stay the night at and nobody will know about us being here. Especially the rural es.”
“The rural es?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah the Mexican army. I ain’t exactly welcome around these parts by some people brother.” Johnny told him as the wash veered away from town.
“Some people hell.”Val gruff-ed “Hell the whole Mexican army wants you dead from what I heard.”
“ Johnny, are you wanted by the Mexican army?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah, dead brother.” Johnny joked back. “ They didn’t like how I killed some of their men and fought against them in the Mexican war.”
Scott stopped his horse. “ Wait a minute, are you wanted just in Mexico, or the states as well Johnny?”
“ Never done anything to be wanted for in the states Scott, just down here. I always stayed on the right side of the law when I took a job.”
“ I’m not implying that you committed a crime. I just wanted to know if a disgruntled rancher you hired out against, maybe has a private bounty on you.” Scott stated.
“ Not that I’ve heard, course I haven’t hired my gun out or been Johnny Madrid since coming to Lancer.” Johnny answered as he stopped Barranca and got down, walking through the mesquite and disappearing in the dark. “ You might want to get down and lead them in.” he stated over his shoulder.
Just barely visible in the darkness was a cave of some sort in front of them. Poles were erected around the entrance giving it support and to help keep it from collapsing. Mesquite brush had the entrance hidden. Scott led his horse in, followed by Val as Johnny lit a lamp. Looking around,Scott was amazed at the size of the cave.
“Mind my asking how you knew about this place little brother?”
“ I built it about three years ago. I have a couple other places pretty much the same. I needed somewhere I could lay up if wounded” Johnny told him as he stripped the saddle from Barranca.
Scott suddenly got an uneasy feeling in his gut as he glanced at his brother. A part of him wanted to tell him to forget answering his question, but yet a greater part of him wanted to know what it was that would wake him up in the middle of the night, crying for his mother and pleading with her to not do whatever it was she made him do. Another feeling started. Would he, once told, be able to handle what his brother tells him? Just from the indication in Val’ voice, and the look on his brothers face when he asked, Scott knew the answer would not be easy for Johnny to tell.
Johnny put his plate down and picked up his coffee cup and took a sip, looking across at his brother, his brother. One year ago he never would have imagined having a big brother, something he had always wanted, even prayed for at one time. Sitting his cup down he knew that now was the time.
“ I was ten when it happened.” he began. “ I’d been out trapping a rabbit for supper…….when I got to the door I heard glass breaking and my mother scream. I dropped the rabbit and opened the door and this man had her on the floor and he……….he was raping her viciously.” he said before standing up.
Both Scott and Val set their plates down and just listened.
“ I remember her eyes finding me. The fear I seen that day was like no other. She had blood all over her as this gringo fucked her so hard her head was hitting the wall. I jumped on his back and started beating on him to stop, but he grabbed me and threw me against the wall……….I don’t know how long I was out,but when I came too, my mother was laying in a pool of her own blood from where he had cut her face, arms and chest up. I crawled to her and found her still alive. I had tears running down my face as I tried to stop the bleeding. My pants were soaked in it, both my hands were red. She reached up and touched my cheek and told me to stop crying, that she needed me to be a man and do something for her.
………I told her I was going to go get help, and she grabbed my arm and said no………said nobody could help her now but me.” Johnny said, letting out a deep quivering sigh.
“ She asked me to be strong for her, to help her. She asked me to get the pistol we had and bring it to her………I thought it was because that man might come back, so I did. What she asked me next………is what haunts me to this day. My mother pleaded and begged me to end her suffering. To end her life. She said she couldn’t goon living after the way he cut her up. You want to know why I was so hell bent on making a reputation for myself Scott? Because of what I did……..I was ten years old,and I couldn’t save my mother from that vicious attack…….All I could do was end her suffering. She took that pistol, cocked it and placed the barrel at her heart and begged me to pull the trigger.” Johnny said as tears ran down his face. “ Her blood splattered all over my face and soaked the floor………I dropped that gun and ran from there covered in my mothers blood…..I ran until I couldn’t run any longer. Ten years old and I killed my mother………Now tell me brother, just how the fuck do I make * that * ghost go away? How do I stop the dreams I have almost every night of my mother laying on that dirt floor as her blood ran from her body, cuts all over her face and body?” Johnny asked with his anger building at the end.
Scott tried to swallow, but couldn’t. Never in his wildest dreams would he have ever imagined that something as horrible as what his little brother just told him, would be the reason for his dreams.
Johnny wrapped his arms around his chest, trying to make himself smaller and dropped his head.
Scott stood up and looked at Val, motioning with his head to leave them alone as he stepped over behind Johnny.
Val stood up. “ I need to go outside.” he said before turning and walking out of the cave.
Scott cautiously placed a hand on his brothers left shoulder and could feel his body trembling.
“ Johnny, I’m sorry……..I shouldn’t have asked you, but listen to me little brother………You didn’t kill your mother. The man who cut her up and………….he’s the one who killed her, not you.”
Johnny spun around. “ Yes I did Scott………I pulled the trigger……..not you……not Val……not even that fucking bastard who raped her and cut her up.” he yelled. “ You still want me as a brother now, knowing I murdered my own mother………….Fuck, the old man sure as hell won’t when he finds out what I did.” Johnny said with anger before walking over to Barranca.
“ There is no one else in this whole world I would want………I am damn proud to have Johnny Madrid Lancer as * my * brother.” Scott said with firmness as he walked over and grabbed his brother, spinning him around. “ You were a ten year old boy, asked by your mother to do something she should never have asked you to do Johnny, but because you loved her, you did and it has haunted you ever since.”
Johnny dropped his head and tried to stop the tears from falling. “ He won’t want me……..Everything I have wanted, I’ll loose it Scott if Murdoch finds out what I did.”
“ He won’t find out from me Johnny. Look whatever you tell me brother, stays between us, and I know Val isn’t going to tell him.”
“ Got that right buddy, and I don’t even know the man.” Val informed as he walked back into the cave.
“ Are you alright?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be alright…….I’m gonna go outside for a bit. You two get some sleep.” Johnny said as he walked past Scott and headed outside.
“ He cares about you, and telling you that wasn’t easy for him to do Scott.”
“ I know…..I never dreamed it would be that bad, but it’s not going to make me * not * want him for my brother, nothing will ever make that happen………..Johnny’ been alone long enough. It’s time my little brother started having someone he can trust and talk to.” Scott said with firmness.
“ That boy has had a life so damned rough, had so much bad happen to him to last twenty men a lifetime.” Val said.
Scott woke the next morning just as the sun was coming up, sitting up he found his brother sitting at the fire with his head down, slowly moving his cup of coffee in a circular motion.
“ You get any sleep Johnny?” he asked as he threw his blanket back off his legs and reached for his boots. Receiving no answer by the time his boots where on, Scott stood up and started toward his brother.
“ Scott, don’t.” Val said. “ He’s not with us right now. I’ve seen it before in him. You go over there, and you’re liable ta get shot.”
“ So what do we do then?” Scott asked, stepping over to Val.
“ Let’s get the horses ready, maybe by the time we’re done, he’ll be back with us.” Val stated.
“ And if he isn’t?” Scott asked softly as he watched his brother.
“ Last night brought back some bad memories for him, you know that. I don’t think Johnny has ever really faced what he did.”
“ Val, we have got to help him. If that terrible memory is eating him up inside…..I want to help him move past it so he can get on with his life.” Scott said before walking over and picking up his saddle and blankets.
“ Trouble is, he’s kept it locked up inside all these years, just like everything else……..You see, one thing I’ve learned about your brother, he don’t like to share what is bothering him……..Johnny figures he has to deal with it on his own, work whatever it is out by himself.”
“ But he’s not alone anymore….He can talk to me, hell he can talk to you even.” Scott said as he placed his blanket on his horse.
“Tell me something. Is your old man just like he is, you know, stubborn as a jackass?” Val asked as he swung his saddle onto his horse.
“ Our father, I’m afraid is all pride and not one ounce of give….Murdoch and Johnny are just alike.”
“ Boy, I’ll feel sorry for you I do. Having those two being so much alike. That’s one house I wouldn’t want to be in when those two butt heads.”
“ Trust me Val, they have. Like I said, our father is all pride and Johnny’ cut from the same mold.”
Movement caught both men’ attention, looking they seen the subject of their conversation stand up, grab his saddle and walk over to Barranca and start saddling the stallion.
“ I suggest you two get moving, instead of standing there looking at me.” Johnny said firmly as he tightened his cinch.
“ You’re the one lollygagging around. Hell we tried getting your attention, but you was off in that damn place you take Madrid too.” Val snapped back.
Johnny swung up in the saddle. “ You might want to remember who you’re talking too old man.” Johnny said before spurring Barranca and riding out.
“ Scott, I swear, I am going to knock that boy on his ass before this is all over.” Val vented as he mounted up.
“ I just might beat you too that Val.” Scott said as he mounted up.
Johnny, Scott and Val rode into Cordoba and stopped at the cantina late morning. Johnny got down and dropped the reins to Barranca and walked over to another horse tied in front of the small adobe establishment.
“ Why we stopping here Johnny?” Scott asked as he got down. “ I thought Davy would be with his sister? You said we were on her husbands land when we crossed into Mexico.”
“ He’s here.” Johnny said as he stepped up onto the porch and pulled his colt and checked the cylinder.
“ Val, go around back, Davy’ inside and this place has a back door.” Johnny said. “ You do remember what he looks like don’t you?”
“ I ain’t old, despite what you might think. Course I remember what he looks like. He is the one who bragged about killing you.” Val said as he pulled his rifle out of the scabbard and headed around back.
“Scott, go on inside, if you see him in there walk to the bar. There’s a mirror behind the bar. You don’t come out, I’ll know and come in. Keep your eyes on him when I do walk in.” Johnny said as he spun the cylinder before un-cocking the colt and putting it back in the holster.
“ Okay.” Scott answered as he turned to step inside the cantina.
“ Scott, don’t trust this bastard for one second………..Remember, he shot me and I was unarmed.”
“ I remember Johnny………You just remember that we want to take him back alive.”
“ Yeah, well that’s up to Davy. Taking him back alive is fine with me, but hear me Scott, if he moves toward his gun…… at all……..I will kill him.” Johnny said with firmness at the end, letting his brother know he meant what he said before heading into the cantina.
Johnny looked up and down the street, looking for rurales. The last thing he wanted, or needed was to be seen by Mexican army. Getting in and out of Mexico without trouble was the only thing he strive-ed for right now. Especially with his still tender footed brother in tow. He could just hear their old man now if he had to return to Lancer with his brother draped over the saddle telling him it was all his fault that his oldest son was dead,and how he wasn’t responsible and couldn’t be trusted. The few months he’d been at Lancer, him and the old man had come to blows numerous times. Several of which Scott had stepped up and sided with him, something he still wasn’t used to having someone do. Always having to fend for himself in the past, now having a brother to stand up for him would take some getting used to.
Scott walked into the cantina and glanced around, spotting Davy sitting at a table on his right with a woman about his age. Even though his back was too him, Scott knew it was him. Anger started to rise inside him seeing the man who robbed his brother then shot him down while he was unarmed. Taking every bit of strength he had, Scott walked on over to the bar and ordered a shot of whiskey. A mirror behind the bar, a rarity in a small cantina like this one, Scott was glad of. It allowed him to see his brother come in and watch Davy also.
Johnny stepped into the cantina and stopped just inside the door, letting his eyes scan left, then right, he spotted Davy sitting with a woman. Glancing at his brother before turning and walking over to the table.
“ When you shoot an unarmed man down after robbing him, you better make sure he’s dead.” Johnny said coldly. “ Stand up real slow like, and don’t try anything stupid Davy.” he ordered.
Davy set down his shot of tequila and placed both hands on the table.
“ Johnny Madrid, I heard you were still alive…….Didn’t think you would have the guts to come after me below the border though.”
“ Stand up.” Johnny ordered.
The few patrons in the cantina stood up and moved back against the wall, hearing the name Madrid, and seeing the legend standing there, clearly after the one he spoke too. They wanted no part of, especially if bullets went to flying.
“ And if I don’t?” Davy asked.
“ You got to choices on how you go back to California. I got no problem killing you.” Johnny stated firmly.
“ You got no jurisdiction down here Madrid.” Davy said as he pushed out from the table and stood up, turning slowly to face Johnny. “ In fact, I bet the rurales would be real interested to know you where back down here.”
“ You want your sister there to watch you die, go ahead and try for that gun, otherwise reach down with your left hand and take it out of the holster, real slow, and toss it over here.”
Davy started to reach for his gun with his left hand, then grabbed it with his right and started to pull it out when a bullet slammed into his right shoulder causing him to fall backwards, hitting the table and toppling it as he fell to the floor with the whiskey bottle that shattered.
His sister jumped up and screamed as she watched her brother fall to the floor.
“ I thought you were going to kill me?” he asked as he grabbed at his shoulder to try and stop the bleeding.
“ I decided to let you live instead.” Johnny said as he stepped over and picked up Davy’ gun and handed it to Scott. “ You see Davy, I’m gonna haul your sorry ass all the way back to Lancer where you will stay locked up in the guard house until you stand trial for robbery and attempted murder…The time you spend in prison will be a much better punishment than my bullet killing you…….Now get up.” Johnny said and ordered.
“ You just try and get me back to stand trial……..You got no proof I robbed you, or shot you……..You think a jury is going to believe the likes of you Madrid?” Davy said as he stood up, wincing from the pain. “ Ain’t no law gonna believe a half breed gunfighter.”
Scott lashed out and hit Davy as hard as he could, knocking him down again as Val came in the back door.
“ That’s for shooting my brother.” he said as Val walked over.
“ I told you what I would do if what you told me was true kid back in Yuma. It’s a long ride back to Lancer.” Val said as Davy stood up again.
Johnny knew what was coming and stepped back and watched as Val hit Davy, splitting his lip and knocking him to the floor again.
“ If you two are through, we need to get out of here.” Johnny stated as he grabbed Davy by his right arm and jerked him up.
“ Hey, that hurts Madrid.” he yelled.
“ I expect it would. Probably hurt like hell all the way back. Riding a horse with a bullet hole in you isn’t the most pleasant thing to do.”
“ I need a doctor…….You….you can’t make me ride a horse like this.”
“ You got two choices Davy.” Scott cut in. “ Shut up and take the pain……..or ride back strapped across the saddle.”
The four men crossed back into Arizona late that night. Davy moaned and cussed as they rode along.
“ We’ll camp here.” Johnny said as he stopped Barranca and got down. “ The horses need a rest.”
“ What you gonna do about him?” Val asked as he got down.
“ Change his bandage and make sure he can’t get away while we sleep.” Johnny answered.
“ You want me to do it?” Scott asked.
“ Nope, I’ll do it after I take care of my horse.” Johnny told him as he walked over, reached up and pulled Davy down, keeping him from falling. “ Go sit down over there by that tree, and don’t even think about trying to get away, because the next time I will kill you.”Johnny said as he shoved the man toward the tree.
Two hours later Davy sat panting with sweat running down his face as Johnny bound his ankles together and then wrapped rope around his waist and tree, securing him sitting up so he couldn’t sleep, or get away.
“ I’m a real light sleeper, so……….” he told him.
“ I won’t fail next time Madrid. I will kill you.” Davy said.
Just over a week later the four men rode into the Lancer yard. Three of them getting down, bone tired.
Johnny yanked Davy down and shoved him toward the guard shack.
“ Hank, I want a man on guard at all times with that man.” Scott ordered. “ He’s being charged with armed robbery and attempted murder.” Scott informed the man as Murdoch walked out of the house.
“ Son, I was starting to worry about you…….Where’s your brother?”
“ Johnny took Davy to the guard house to lock him up………..Oh Hank, send a man for Sam, Davy has a bullet wound in his shoulder that will need tending to.”
“ Did he try and escape?” Murdoch asked.
“ No, Johnny shot him in Cordoba, the day we caught him.” Scott informed him as Teresa came out and greeted him. “ Welcome home Scott. I missed you.” she told him as she gave him a hug.
“ We missed you too………Uh Murdoch, Teresa, this is Val Crawford, a good friend of Johnny’. He rode with us from Yuma to Cordoba to catch Davy.”
“ Mister Crawford, I’m grateful for you helping my sons.” Murdoch said as he extended his right hand.
Val shook the mans hand. “ So you be Johnny’ old man huh.” he said more than asked.
“ Teresa, would you fix up a guest room for Val please?” Scott asked.
“ I don’t want to impose none on you folks.” Val stated.
“ Nonsense, it’s the least I could do.” Murdoch said as Johnny walked out of the barn.
“ I’d go easy on him over this sir. It wasn’t his fault.” Scott said before walking away.
“Son, good to have you back in one piece…..Are you alright?”
“ I’m fine……Val bring your horse into the barn with me.” Johnny said as he took Barranca’ reins and led the stallion to the barn, not giving his father a chance to say anything else to him.
Murdoch sat at his desk when Johnny and Val walked in an hour later. Walking over to the side bar, Johnny poured him and Val a shot of tequila.
“ I got your money back.” Johnny said as he pulled it from his coat pocket and tossed it on the desk.
“ All but fifty that Davy blew on whores and such.” Johnny said as he walked over and sat down on the couch. “ I bet you thought I took your precious money and left, didn’t you old man?”
Val walked over and sat down in one of the two chairs across from him.
“You’re obviously tired son. I am not going to banter words with you over what is done and in the past. I’m grateful you are still alive.”
“ Yeah, I just bet you are.” Johnny answered snidely.
“ Boy, am I gonna have to take you outside and teach you some manners? Your pa didn’t say anything to deserve you being rude to him.” Val cut in.
Johnny shot Val a hard look. “ You know nothing about me and him Val, so you’ll do good to stay out of this.”
Val stood up and stepped over to Johnny. “ You got a chip on your shoulder still boy,and your pa don’t deserve to be talked to like that, nor do I.”
Johnny stood up. “ Shut up Val.”
Val lashed out and hit Johnny hard, square in the mouth just as Sam entered the room. Murdoch stood there and did nothing as his son was hit.
“ You get up and I’ll hit you again. Now you apologize to your old man now or get ready for a beating.”
Johnny wiped at the blood on his mouth as he glared at Val, the only man to ever lay a hand on him and still breath after.
“ Enough, I will not have fighting in this house. If I am to understand correctly, Val you are my sons friend and a guest in my home. Stop this now.”
“ With all due respect mister Lancer, your boy has a chip on his shoulder and he needs it knocked off now, before it gets worse.”
“ What my son has and needs, is a family matter, not for you……”
“ Well now you see, that’s where you’re wrong……Johnny here needs to tell you something about his past. If he doesn’t tell you, it will keep eating at him until it kills him.”
“ Enough Val.” Johnny said firmly. “ You always did have a big mouth.” he said before leaving the room and heading to the stairs.
Sam reached out and stopped him. “ May I come up and check that in a few Johnny?”
“ I’m fine Sam.” Johnny said softly to him. “ That…….did you check Davy?”
“ Yes, his wound is a little infected, but as you yourself know, that’s to be expected………So he’s the man who robbed you and shot you when you where unarmed?”
“ Yeah Sam, he is.” Johnny answered as he looked at his father standing at his desk. “ I’ll see you upstairs.” he said before heading on up to his room.
Johnny sat at the table looking out at the corrals when he heard his door open. “ Come on in Sam.” he said without looking.
“ I’m not Sam.” Murdoch said.
Johnny looked at his father standing there, just inside the room. “ I can see that. Look, I don’t want to fight with you old man, so……”
“ I didn’t come up here to fight with you. I came up here to talk to you, and see if you are alright. Your friend Val hit you pretty hard.”
“ Hell, that wasn’t hard, me and Val have fought worse since we met.” Johnny said. “ What do you want.”
“ I told you son. I’m concerned about you is all.”
“ Look, I know you don’t want me here. I know I’m not the perfect son you want me to be like Scott is.”
“ Is that what you think I want in you?”
“ Ain’t it. I know you’re ashamed to have me for a son because of who I am, but let me tell you something. Johnny Madrid kept me alive for five years. I am who I am. If you can’t accept that, then we got nothing in common and I see no reason to stay here.”
“ Are you done now?” Murdoch asked as he walked over to him and sat down. “ If you think for one second that I want you to be like your brother, you’re wrong. Johnny, you did what you had to do to stay alive and for that I’m grateful. I lost you once, I don’t want to loose you again. Sure we’re going to have our disagreements son and fights, but if you think I’m going to let you leave this ranch and go back to the life you had. You young man are sorely mistaken. You are my son and I will fight to keep you here where you belong…You think about that and come morning, if you still want to leave here, you better be ready to try and get through me.” Murdoch said as he stood up and headed to the door.
“ Murdoch.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to him. “ I need to tell you something, something I’ve kept inside me for a long time.”
“ Alright son, you can talk to me any time you need to.” Murdoch told him as he placed his right hand on Johnny’ shoulder.
“ Not tonight, tomorrow, maybe we could take a ride.”
“ Alright, tomorrow it is. I’ll see you in the morning go ahead and sleep in, you’ve earned it.” Murdoch told him before leaving the room.
Johnny went over and flopped down on his bed and thought about how he would tell his father what he did to his mother when just a child.
Chapter 7 ( Final )
THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS A CHILDHOOD FLASHBACK THAT IS GRAFFIC AND SOME MAY FIND DISTURBING. THAT PART IS MARKED IN BOLD BLACK LETTERS LIKE HERE BEFORE AND AFTER SO IF THAT ISN’T YOUR CUP OF TEA, SKIP IT.
Johnny woke the next morning tired, sleep evaded him until the early hours, laying in bed thinking about how to tell his father what he did. Johnny Madrid had faced many challenges in his life as a gunfighter, but none where as great as the challenge he would face on this day. How did a man barely know as a son tell a father he barely knew, that he had to kill his mother to end her suffering. The thought of having to relive that day, that moment he pulled the trigger gave him a sick feeling in his stomach.
Getting dressed, Johnny headed downstairs and found his father and brother already up and eating breakfast.
“ Morning son.” Murdoch said. “ I didn’t expect you to be up for a while yet.”
“ You alright Johnny?” Scott asked. “ You look like you didn’t get much sleep.” he added, noticing the dark circles under his brothers eyes.
“ You seen Val this morning?” Johnny asked as he poured a cup of coffee and sat down next to his brother.
“ No son. I don’t believe he’s up yet.” Murdoch answered.
“ Val always did like to be lazy in the mornings.” Johnny said as he sipped his coffee.
Maria set a plate full of ham, eggs and potatoes down in front of him. “ You eat all of that. You need to keep up your strength.” she said before going back to the stove.
“ Thanks Maria.” he said as he picked up his fork and started to eat.
Val walked into the kitchen. “ You folks always up this early?” he asked as he sat down.
“ It is a ranch after all Val. Course I could take you to a retirement home where you can get all the sleep you want.” Johnny said softly.
“ Retirement home huh? Reckon that would be better than here with a young pup like you who don’t respect his elders.” Val answered with a laugh. “ You in a better mood this morning amigo?”
Johnny gave him a look and slight smile, answering his question.
“ Johnny, you plan on having Davy taken to Green River, to stay in jail there until the trial?” Scott asked as he stood up.
“ Me and Val will be taking him.” Johnny answered.
“ Green River have law there?” Val asked.
“ No, but it has a jail.” Murdoch answered.
“ With no law, just how do you plan on him staying in jail then?” Val inquired.
“ I can have a couple of hands stay with him until the Marshal arrives from Sacramento.” Murdoch informed. “ I plan on having Scott ride in this morning and wire him. The judge is in Green River now.”
“ And if the marshal can’t come? What then?” Val asked.
“ I’ll have the judge deputize a man,that is unless we could find someone to be sheriff of Green River?” Murdoch said.
“ You where a lawman once Val. Why don’t you take the job……You are getting a little old to be riding around, hiring your gun out.” Johnny asked.
“ You don’t quite calling me old, I’m gonna teach you some manners again.” Val said with a smile.
“ You want the job or not?” Johnny asked as he shoved his half eatin plate away.
“ Can I finish my coffee first?” Val barked.
“ Of course you can Val, Maria fix mister Crawford a plate of food por favor.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ Maria, fix up a plate of food so I can take it out to the prisoner please.”
“ Si patron.” Maria answered.
Murdoch walked into the barn and set the plate of food down so he could unlock the guard house door. Taking out his pistol as he opened the door. Davy sat on the bed, metal shackles around his wrist.
“ Well, well, well, I must be special having the high and mighty old man Lancer himself bring me my breakfast. What’s the matter, Johnny not have the guts to do it?” Davy asked.
Murdoch set the plate down on the small table next to the bed and glared at the man who almost killed his son. “ Johnny has other matters to attend to this morning.” he said finally.
“ Yeah, I just bet he does. You know, it’s too bad I * didn’t * kill him.” Davy said with hatred in his voice.
Murdoch stepped back over to the door. “ If you had, I promise you, I would have hunted you down myself and killed you.”
“ He ain’t nothing but a killer himself. I guess now I know where he gets it from.” Davy remarked.
“ You’ll be taken to Green River, where you will stand trial for robbery and attempted murder.” Murdoch said before walking out and closing the door, locking it.
“ Hows the lip?” Val asked as he and Johnny walked outside toward the barn.
“ It’s alright. You could have hit me harder.” Johnny answered.
“ Yeah, I could have, but I reckon I got my point across……..So, you gonna tell him today?”
Johnny stopped. “ Yeah, I need to get it over with. I can’t keep this inside me no more Val. He has a right to know. I just wished I knew how he was going to take it when I do tell him.”
“ Look buddy, your old man loves you, any fool can see that. He may be a little hurt……….hell he could even be angry, but I’d be willin’ ta bet he will still want you for his son.” Val said with seriousness.
“I’m not so sure about that Val.”
“ Well I am………and just in case I’m wrong and you want to leave here, I’ll ride with you anywhere you want ta go.”
“ All I want to do is put my past behind me Val.”
“ So’s you can live a life as Johnny Lancer, instead of Johnny Madrid right?”
“ Well buddy, I hate to tell you, but a part of you will always be Madrid.”
“ I know Val. I just wish she hadn’t lied to me you know.”
“ Your Mother you mean?”
Johnny shook his head as he watched his father walk out of the guard house and over toward his segundo.
“ Yeah, look Val, take the job in Green River, please.” Johnny asked his friend, changing the subject.
“ Boy will you ever stop doing that?”
“ Doing what?”
“ Changing the subject whenever it gets to close for you.” Val answered as Murdoch walked over.
“ Probably not.” Johnny answered.
“ Probably not what son?”
“ Nothing. Look Val’s gonna take the job in Green River as the new sheriff there.”
“ That’s good, then I won’t need to wire the marshal in Sacramento to come here.” Murdoch said, pleased his sons one true friend from his past would be staying around.
“ Look Val, me and……….”
“ I know buddy. Just remember what I told you.” Val said.
“ You don’t have to do this son. Tell me whatever it is.”
“ Yeah I do Murdoch because if I don’t………Look you may not like what you’ll hear, but it’s got to be said.” Johnny said before heading to the barn to saddle his horse.
“ Mister Lancer, what he’s gonna tell you is something I know won’t be easy for him to say,let alone you hear. Jest try and keep an open mind and watch how you respond to it, because that boy is ready to run from here he’s so ashamed of it.”
“ So I take it you know what it is he’s going to tell me?”
“ Yes sir, I do. I’ll also tell you that if he does leave here, I’ll leave with him.” Val said firmly before walking away.
Johnny and Murdoch rode to the south line shack. One place they both knew they could talk and not be bothered. Murdoch having already told his segundo he would be gone with his son most of the morning and to address Scott if a matter should come up he couldn’t handle.
“ I’ll get a fire started, if you want to take care of the horses son?” Murdoch suggested as he got down, figuring his son would need a little time alone to think about whatever it was he was going to tell him.
“ Yeah sure.” Johnny said as he got down and took his fathers horse with his to the lean too and unsaddled them. Thirty minutes later he patted the golden stallions neck, and headed to the line shack, stepping upon the porch, he removed his hat and opened the door. Murdoch was knelt down putting wood in the stove.
“ I have a pot of coffee started son.”Murdoch said.
“I think I’m gonna need something a little stronger.” Johnny told him as he headed to the supply room and got a bottle of tequila and came back out with it.
“ It’s a little early for that isn’t it?”
Johnny ignored him as he set the bottle on the table and went over to the fire place and stood there to warm up, keeping his back to his father., wrapping his arms around himself as he heard his father walk over.
“ You alright?” Murdoch asked as he placed a hand on Johnny’s shoulder.
Johnny turned away from him,walking over to look out the window, not answering, wrapping his arms around himself tightly as he fought to keep the fear he had from showing.
Murdoch had learned in the short time his youngest has been back home, that when something really heavy needed said, he would do it in his own time. Walking back over to the table, Murdoch sat down and waited. He could see that whatever it was, it clearly troubled him and that thought alone made the big and powerful Lancer patriarch feel helpless.
“ I did something as a child, something so horrible, you won’t want me as your son anymore after I tell you.”
Murdoch sat there and immediately tried to think of what his son could have done that would make him ever think he wouldn’t want him for a son any longer. His past as a gunfighter he had accepted. No wait, Johnny said as a child. Could he mean before he became Johnny Madrid. Now Murdoch was worried as fear started to grip his chest.
“ Nothing you’ve ever done could make me never want you as my son.” he found himself saying.
“ I wouldn’t be so sure about that old man.” Johnny said with firmness.
“ Well I am. I know you had to do some things in your past as Johnny Madrid to stay alive son.”
“ Johnny Madrid wasn’t born yet.” Johnny informed him. “ It’s……..It’s about the day my mother died.” he said with a quiver to his voice.
Murdoch’ chest tightened and he found it suddenly hard to swallow. His son was about to tell him one of the many things he wanted to know about the woman who all those years ago, stole his son and changed his life forever,robbing him of the most precious thing a father could ever have. Now, hearing his son say he was going to tell him about the day she died, scared the big man partly.
Johnny battled with himself inside silently. If he tells his father what he was forced to do as a child to his mother, would he still want him as a son, or would he be so disgusted, he would turn his back on him and tell him to leave the one place he had come to love and call home? Standing there wrapping his arms around himself as tight as he could, trying to stop his body from shaking, Johnny knew only one way he could do this. He had to summon Madrid as that terrible memory came flooding back to his mind. Turning around, Johnny walked over and grabbed the bottle of tequila and removed the stopper and poured the coffee cup half full before setting the bottle down hard on the table. Picking up the cup, his hands shaking, Johnny downed the clear liquid as Madrid was now in full play.
“ We were living in this run down shack in this small Mexican town.” he began, not looking at his father and keeping his voice low.
“ There were these three men rode into the village…..gringo’s and momma seen them ride in and told me to go away.” Johnny stated. Taking a big breath and letting it out slowly he continued. “ It was new money for us, so I knew I had to disappear. She would hang a white cloth on the back door so I’d know it was safe to come home.” he told his father as he fought to keep his voice from quivering.
Murdoch never felt as helpless as he was right now. Watching his son clearly struggle with what he was trying to tell him. He knew Johnny bringing back whatever it was he was trying to tell him, had to be bad. He could see his sons shoulders trembling from where he sat. Wanting so bad to get up and walk over and wrap his arms around him, making all the hurt and pain he was feeling right now go away.
How is it a man as big as Murdoch Lancer is could feel so helpless and small right now watching his son struggle to tell him something.
“ These men stayed around for some time. This one day the white cloth got blown away by a storm that was coming in, so with it not there, I opened the door just as my mother screamed……….One of these men was raping her and cutting her up with a knife. I ran to her and tried to stop him, hitting him in the back as hard as I could, yelling for him to stop hurting momma. He got up and grabbed me and punched me in the face and threw me across the room into the wall. I heard momma scream again and I could see the man was kicking her in the chest and then pulled her up by her hair and slugged her in the face, knocking her unconscious.” Johnny said as his voice failed him and tears began to fall. Turning, he stormed over to the table, grabbed the bottle of tequila and poured the cup about half full and downed the clear liquid, never once looking at his father sitting there watching him. Hands shaking, Johnny set the cup down and dropped his chin to his chest, closed his eyes and tried desperately to summon Madrid back so he could continue, but this one time he needed that part of him more than ever, he couldn’t. Instead a voice in his head started telling him this had to do with Johnny Lancer, not Johnny Madrid, the infamous, tough as nails gunfighter. A man who had learned the hard way to become tough to survive.
(Flashback between Johnny and his mother. If you read past this warning, what you read may disturb you. DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DON’T LIKE THAT SORT OF THING)
“ I tried to get up, but my head hurt and no matter how hard I tried, my eyes closed and I found the darkness…….When I came to a short time later, I crawled over to momma laying on the floor, blood was pooled around her from all the cuts she had. Every inch of her chest was covered in blood. Her face was all cut up and I could see her jaw bone. She opened her eyes and brought her left hand up to my cheek…….I remember looking and her right arm was all twisted funny…….Sh…..she wiped at the tears I had falling and smiled up at me.
“ My little Juanito, don’t cry my son.” Maria asked through the pain
“I’ll go get help momma.” Johnny said between sobs.
“ No my son. That man could still be out there………There is nothing anyone can do to help me.” Maria said as pain wracked her body and she arched her back upward.
“ Momma,please.” Johnny pleaded. “ Let me go get help……..It’s dark out and I can make it to the mission without being seen.”
“ No…..it is too late for me……I need you to be strong……..I need you to do something for me.” Maria said before coughing up blood.
“ Wha…..what momma?” Johnny asked as he wiped at the tears running down his face.
“ I need you to go get the pistol I have in the box under the floor board…….Can you do that for me?”
Johnny crawled the few feet over to the back left corner of the one room shack and removed the two boards, pulling a wooden box out and hurried back to his mothers side. Opening the box he took the small pistol into his little hands.
“ I have it momma.”
“ Look at me Juanito……..I am hurt bad…..I cannot live looking like this……I need you to end this for me my son. I need you to become a man and end my suffering.”
“ Momma no, please…it’ll be alright…..I’ll get you better and we can move someplace else. Someplace where nobody will bother us. Maybe my gringo father would take us back.” Johnny pleaded as the tears again ran down his face.
Maria found the strength to slap Johnny hard across the face with her left hand.
“ Stop this crying now and become a man. You never listen to me and do as you’re told……..I don’t ever want you going to that gringo…………never……He doesn’t love you or want you.” Maria vented. “ Take the gun and pull the hammer back……I do not have the strength to do this.”
Johnny sucked in air and held it a few seconds before lifting the small pistol up and with both hands, pulled the hammer back three clicks.
Maria reached out and wrapped her blood covered fingers around his wrist and brought the gun up close to her chin. She could feel her son shaking as the metal lay on her bloody flesh.
“ Your gringo blue eyes will cause you nothing but trouble as you grow up. Doing this will make you the man you need to be to survive.” Maria told him as she made sure the barrel was pointed right. “ Pull the trigger for me Juanito……..Pull the trigger now and end my suffering.”
“ I can’t momma.” Johnny sobbed.
“ Yes you can..If you love your mother, you will do this for me.”
Johnny put his little finger on the trigger and with both hands holding the pistol, ended his mothers suffering.
( End of flashback )
Johnny spun around and headed to the door, jerking it open he ran outside, stopping a few feet off the porch as his stomach rebelled and the breakfast he’d eaten came up. Wiping at his mouth with his shirt sleeve, Johnny turned and took a few steps before his legs gave out and he dropped to his knees as his body shook uncontrollably
Murdoch got up as fast as he could and went after his son. The shock of what he’d just heard his son was forced to do angering him deeply. Spotting his son down on his knees, shaking uncontrollably, the big man hurried to his side and dropped to his knees as he wrapped his arms around him, pulling him into his chest and holding him. No words were spoken. Just a father trying to comfort the son he barely knew.
Johnny shoved away from his father and got up, walking a few feet away, wrapping his arms around himself as he tried to make himself smaller.
“ I’m not fit to be your son.” drifted to the big mans ears as he stood up and walked over and stopped just behind Johnny on his right.
“I’m nothing but a cold blooded killer.”
“ No you’re not.” Murdoch said with force. “ You are my son.”
Johnny spun around and anger and hurt could both clearly be seen in his eyes as the tears fell. “ Didn’t you hear what I said in there………….I murdered my own mother.” Johnny yelled.
“ You were just a boy, a child forced to do something no child should ever have to do……..You are not a murderer…….What your mother asked and had you do that day was wrong……..No parent should ever put their child in that position…….ask that child to do what she did.” Murdoch vented as his anger rose. Reaching out he grabbed Johnny’s right shoulder and spun his around, facing him. “ I don’t ever want to hear you say you’re nothing but a cold blooded killer again………You are my son Johnny Madrid Lancer…….and it’s the Madrid part in you that kept you alive so I could have you back. I may not have been the father I should have at first when you came back here. I may not treat you like I do Scott, but I love you no less than him. I went all those years not knowing if you were alive or not……Now that I finally have my youngest son back home where he belongs I’m not about to let you go…….I didn’t have the luxury of raising my two sons, so being a father to two grown men is going to take some getting used to.”
“ You know, you and me are so much alike…..We are both stubborn and won’t give an inch. We both have a pretty good temper. We both loved a woman deeply who broke our hearts badly. The day I woke and found the two of you gone I was crushed. All those years being alone in that big house, a house that some day I hope you and your brother fill with grandchildren. Oh sure I had Teresa, but she isn’t my flesh and blood like you and Scott are. When her father got killed and she became my ward, it helped, but my heart was still empty without my two sons.”
“ I know it wasn’t easy for you to tell me how your mother died son………I have wondered about that ever since I learned you were on your own down in Mexico. It took great courage to tell me that,and for that I’m grateful.”
Johnny looked up into his fathers eyes and could see tears were running down his face as well.
“ I wish she had never lied to me about you……….I wish she had never taken me away from my home. Lancer is the only place I have ever had to call a home……I don’t ever want to leave here…….to loose you, but my past isn’t going to go away. My past could show up one day, and it will,and take me away from what I’ve come to cherish and love.” Johnny said as he wiped at the tears that fell freely now.
“ Son, there isn’t a man on this ranch who wouldn’t fight to keep you alive and home where you belong. I’ve heard the hands talking about you and how much they like you…….Hell I’ve heard Walt saying how he can’t believe you’re Johnny Madrid with the way you are working long hard hours right beside them. The men love and respect you son.”
“ I’ve been alone for so long……I don’t want it any more……I don’t want this.” Johnny said as he pulled his colt and held it up to see. “I want my family….Lancer…..I want to be able to ride into town and not have to worry about someone calling me out…….I don’t want to be shot down in front of you or Scott.”
“ That’s not going to happen son…….Not if I have any say in the matter it won’t.” Murdoch enforced.
“ You can’t stop a bullet in the back……Nobody can, and trust me, there are men out there who want me dead so they can have my reputation. Men who know they can’t take me down face to face. Men like that do it only one way, and that’s in the back.”
“ That’s it isn’t it? Why men call you out?” Murdoch inquired.
“ For my reputation, yeah……As long as I’m alive, they can’t get top dollar on a job.”
“ But you’re out of the game…….You don’t do that no more son.”
“ Doesn’t matter. Johnny Madrid has a reputation. One I worked hard at getting, that is until I came here and learned my mother lied about you to me all those years.” Johnny told said, noting the sincerity in his fathers voice when he called him son.
“ Son, lets go back inside……please?”Murdoch suggested.
Johnny stayed where he was a moment longer before turning and walking with his fathers right arm strongly around him back into the line shack.
Scott looked at the clock when he came into the great room and couldn’t help but wonder like he had been doing all morning, how it was going between his hard as nails father and new found brother. The words his brother told him that day came flooding back into his mind. How could any mother ever ask her child to do something like that. Having his own mother die shortly after he himself was born, Scott could feel for and relate to his brother a little about this. Being raised by his grandfather, never knowing his own father for twenty four years, Scott could feel the anger starting as he thought about how his grandfather had kept him away from his father. Lies, just like his little brother. Lies told to him as well about a man both boys soon found out were just that, lies.
“ Scott, you want some lunch?” Teresa asked as she walked into the room and seen her older brother standing there. “ Scott.”
Teresa calling to him brought Scott out of his thoughts. “ I’m sorry, what did you say Teresa?”
“ I asked if you wanted some lunch.” she said as she walked closer. “ Are you alright?”
Scott looked at her and smiled. “ Yeah, I was just remembering something my grandfather told me. Something that is almost the same thing Johnny’s mother told him.”
“ About how Murdoch didn’t want either of you?”Teresa asked.
Scott stepped up and pulled his little sister into a hug. “ Yeah, that and something Johnny told me he was forced to do as a child.” he told her before kissing her forehead.
“ Is that why Johnny and Murdoch left so early this morning? Is Johnny telling Murdoch something from his past?”
“ Come on, lets go eat some lunch.” Scott said as he put an arm around her tiny waist and started toward the kitchen. “ And yes it is. Don’t ask me what it is, but yes……….I just pray that Murdoch doesn’t push Johnny away after hearing it, because my little brother will leave here forever if he does.”
Teresa knew what Johnny had done in his past, being a gunfighter and all. She had seen the Pinkerton report’s, read them in fact when Murdoch was bed ridden from the land pirates bullet. It was her hounding in fact that pushed Murdoch to make his offer to see if his sons would come home. Having grown up on Lancer, Teresa learned how to listen a long time ago. After the boys came home, she listened a lot to the brothers banter, but it was Johnny she felt for the most. Her brother having been told lies,lies he had believed until that day by the lake, when he and Scott were fighting and she stopped them. Stopping Johnny from possibly riding away from his birthright into certain death that day telling him the truth about his mother and what his father had done when fever ridden, Teresa knew those words were what kept him from leaving. An accomplishment she would cherish for the rest of her life.
Johnny sat at the table with his elbows near the edge, hands in a fist pressed against his forehead. Both afraid and ashamed to look at his father now. How could he after telling him what he was forced to do to his mother to end her suffering.
Murdoch knew his son felt shame for what he told him. One thing the big man could do, was read another persons attitude by how their body posture was. Well usually, Johnny he couldn’t do this with most times, but right now without a doubt he knew his son was punishing himself for what was clearly not his fault. Hearing how the woman he had loved had died saddened him deeply. Desperate to keep his son from shutting him out completely, Murdoch asked a question he could only hope his son would answer.
“ Son……..whatever happened to the man who…………?” he asked, unable to finish.
Johnny never looked up at him. “ I kept him in my mind until I found him one day.”
“ So you killed him?”
“ Oh yeah, I killed him……….I made sure he suffered worse than my mother did.” Johnny stated, finally looking up at his father. “ I found him in a small cantina passed out. Nobody said anything when I took him out of there. Nobody messed with Johnny Madrid.”
“ Madrid?” Murdoch said aloud.
“ Yeah Madrid. It took me seven years, but I kept my promise to my mother.” Johnny stated.
“ Are you saying you looked for this man for seven years son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah I am. I made a promise to my mother I intended to keep……You see whether you believe it or not,I’m a man of my word.”
“ I know that son. I may not have showed it………hell believed it, but this old man does now. That I’ve learned the hard way about you.”
Johnny looked at his father a few seconds before standing up.
“ I found him just two years ago in Juarez……..His death was bloodier and more painful than my mothers was. He was begging me to shoot him in the head to end his agony.” Johnny told his father as he poured himself some coffee. “ Funny thing was though. I didn’t feel any compassion for him. I cut his tongue out so he couldn’t scream…..I then carved him up real good and stood there watching that fucking sonofabitch bleed out, making sure he knew who was killing him and why. A bullet was the easy way out and he didn’t deserve that, not after what he did to my mother.” Johnny said with anger before throwing his cup against the wall. “ You still think I’m not a cold blooded killer?” he asked.
“ Yes I do.” Murdoch answered back, keeping his tone down so his son wouldn’t think he was angry.
“ Fact is son, I think I would have done the same, if not worse to that man for what he did to you and your mother.”
Johnny looked at him again,anger still showed in his deep blue eyes. “ Where do we go from here?” he found himself asking.
Murdoch walked over and placed a hand on his youngest shoulder. “ We go home son. Home to your brother and sister and this ranch.” Murdoch said as he gave Johnny’s shoulder a slight gentle squeeze.
“ About Teresa……..that girl has got to start knocking instead of just bursting into me or Scott’ room. Hell I sleep naked I don’t need her doing that.”
“ Son, I’ll have a talk with her about that, but don’t you think you could sleep in a night shirt or your long johns?”
“I could, but I won’t.” Johnny said with a smile. “ Look, you talk to her and I promise you I’ll try and sleep in my long johns.”
“ Deal.” Murdoch answered. “ You ready?”
“ Yeah, let’s go home pa.” Johnny said as he headed to the door. Deep down in side he knew Lancer was now and would be the place he would call home. A loving, caring brother. A little sister he loved and a father, that with time, Johnny knew the two of them would be able to talk about his past more and that one day Johnny Madrid Lancer would never be The Striving Son of a Rancher.
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