Bannack by Nancy Marie

I don’t own them, and no money is being made from this. I’m just taking them out for some creative fun. Any and all characters from the TV show Lancer belong to their rightful owners, any others are mine, and cannot be used without permission.

I have always loved Montana, and even wrote stories putting Johnny in Montana. There are several ghost towns in Montana, two of which I love along the continental divide. These towns are not far from each other, and came to be from the discovery of gold in the mid to late 1800’s. Bannack, gold was discovered there on July 28th, 1862. Virginia City had gold discovered not long after. There is a lot of 19th century history that goes with these two towns, and still have a lot of the original buildings still standing. Bannack is haunted , as are most ghost towns today with its residents of the past.

This story will be rated R for language and content.

Johnny Madrid ( gunfighter)
Scott Garrett Lancer
Murdoch Lancer
Harlan Garrett
Maria de Guadalupe Saldaña Lancer
Don Luis Saldaña (Grandfather )
Alejandra Muñoz (Grandmother)
Anna Petra Pérez
Carlos López
Juan Garcia López
Manuel González Garcia
Val Crawford (gunfighter)
William Fairweather (business owner/rancher)
Martha Fairweather
Ben Hughes (rancher)
Doris Hughes
Thomas Carver (bank owner)
Henry Rodgers (business owner)
Cecilia Rodgers
Bill Sweeney (bartender)

Erastus ” Red ” Yager (outlaw)
George Brown (outlaw)
Henry Plummer (sheriff of Bannack )
Don Luis Saldaña (grandfather )
Anna Petra Pérez (Wife )
Alejandra Muñoz (grandmother)
Carlos López (rich, spoiled, son )
Nicholas Garza (loyal servant )
Juan Garcia López  (father )
Ben Nodean (gunfighter)
Dan Brogan (gunfighter)
Captain Ruiz ( Rurale )
Captain Romero (Rurale )
Colonel Comofort (Rurale )
Lieutenant Múrillo (Rurale )

Major Cervello (Rurale )
Sergeant Martin ( Rurale )
Guard Salvado ( Rurale )
Davy Colson ( Inmate )
Frank Colson ( Inmate )
Seth Watson ( Gunfighter )
Walt Murphy ( Gunfighter )
Joe Hughes ( Gunfighter )
Tom Walker ( Gunfighter )
Bob Olinger ( Gunfighter )
Dallas Stoudenmire (United States Marshal )
Kyle Rockwell ( Deputy, United States Marshal )
Andrew Wilkins ( Judge )
Addison Niles ( attorney )
William T. McNealy ( District Attorney )

(WARNING: Chapter 11 contains torture, and male sexual assault, but no detail )

Wordcount: 106,490

Chapter 1

“I tell ya they will hire us.” Val Crawford said before taking a swig of his beer.

“Montana is a long ride Val. It snows up there, and gets damn cold.” Pete said.

“With all the money we could make, a little cold, and snow won’t hurt us none.” Val responded.

“Gold’s risky business Val. Why you want to ride all the way to Montana for?” Johnny asked.

“Kid, you got a lo a learning to do.” Val said. “ They have ta ship that gold out, and that will me men will be robbing those shipments. We could hire out to protect that gold, and make a nice sum of money doing it. Sides, I heard Montana has grass so green, trees as far as the eye can see,  water so clear, and wild horses just waiting to be rounded up, and broke. Why a man could build himself a nice ranch, and do right well living up there.”

“It’s got to be over a thousand miles up there!” Johnny said.

“Sounds too good to be true if ya ask me. I think I’ll stay in the south where it don’t snow.” Pete said.

“Seems ta me I remember you sayin you always wanted to start a horse ranch some day. This could be your ticket kid.” Val said.

“Well, I’ll see ya.” Pete said as he stood up, and shook their hand. “ I’ll be heading back down around Laredo tomorrow.”

“Look at it this way, nobody up there will know who Johnny Madrid is.” Val said “Ya won’t be called out.”

Johnny stood up. “I’m gonna get us a couple more beers.” he said before walking away. For three years, Val and him have rode together. Hiring out in water disputes, range wars, guarding shipments of both money, and gold on the overland stage. Ordering two beers, Johnny thought back to a job they did escorting two sisters from El Paso to Amarillo, something he really enjoyed after about three days. The younger of the sisters showed her appreciation to him every chance she could when they could be alone. No stranger to being with a man, Sara Ingles knew how to tease to get what she wanted, and she made it very clear she wanted Johnny. So clear in fact that on their third night on the trail, Johnny heard a noise, and got up to investigate. Finding her standing off in the dark with a blanket wrapped around her.

“ It’s not safe for you to go wandering around in the dark Sara.” Johnny said.

Sara turned, looked toward her sleeping sister and Val before smiling as she opened the blanket to revel her naked body in the light of the full moon.

Johnny, being a gentleman, and always determined to please a lady, took her hand and guided her back into the trees more. Spreading the blanket before removing his pants as he watched her lay down, reveling everything to him in the moonlight. Dropping to his knees between her legs, he moaned as he claimed her mouth as she guided him to her. For twenty long, hard minutes Johnny made love to her, holding back as he pleasured her own body before he satisfied his own wanting. Moving in and out in ways that made her dig her fingers into his back, and bite down on his chest as her body exploded in ecstasy. That was their first time together, after that night under the moon, Johnny took her several more times right under her older sisters nose in broad daylight. One thing he had learned from a whore down in Nogales once was how to go slow, or fast when the situation called. Tonight would be the first time in over two months he had slept in an actual bed, and tonight he would make love one last time to Sara, showing her just how good he was in bed. The thought making him anticipate as he ran his hands up and down, over her soft flesh as he moved in and out of her. One more beer, and he would bid his friend Val a good night.

“ You look like you had an eventful night?” Val asked with a grin the next morning.

“ I can’t complain.” Johnny said as he sat down. “ I’ll have some coffee, a steak with a couple eggs, and spuds ma’am.”

“ I’ll get that right out to you sir.” the woman said before walking away.

“ You know, if the older sister had found out what you were a doin, we could have not been paid.” Val said.

“ Who the hell do you think I was with last night buddy! She knew. She came to my room when I was doin Sara, and after chewing me out a few seconds, she dropped her clothes and………..well, all I’ll say is you haven’t lived until you have a pair of sisters like those two in bed with ya Val.”

“ I’m a one on one kinda guy.” Val said as the waitress brought Johnny his breakfast. “ You have time to give any thought to Bannack?”

“ I have. I figure after breakfast we could get a pack horse, a couple of remounts, supplies, and head out at first light.” Johnny responded.

“ You do plan on getting some sleep tonight I hope?” Val asked.

“ That I most certainly do plan on doing tonight.” Johnny said as he cut his steak.

“ Did you get the fencing all done?”  Murdoch asked.

“ Yes sir. I don’t believe the cattle will be able to get in that sand trap again.” Scott responded as he walked over to the sideboard. “ Join me?”

“ Yes. Son, I want to talk to you about something.” Murdoch said.

“Alright.” Scott said as he poured two shots of whiskey, walked over, and handed one to his father. “ Did you receive news about Johnny?”

“ No, nothing yet. Until I know for sure he’s not alive, I will keep searching for him.” he said as he walked over and sat down on the couch.

Scott walked over and sat down across from his father in an overstuffed blue chair. “ That’s all you can do.”

“ Listen, you have really worked hard this past year. I can’t express how much it means to me to have at least one of my sons home…I want us to take a vacation together.” Murdoch said.

“ A vacation… to where sir?” he asked.

“ I have a very dear friend, Ben Hughes, and his wife Doris, who lives in Montana. They have been asking me to come for a visit. We met on the ship, and have stayed in touch all this time.” Murdoch explained. “ He was my best man when I married your mother.”

“ Montana is a long ways away sir.” Scott said.

“It would take us six days on the train. I figured we could go visit him for a month or so. Maybe look at the stock they run up there.”

“ We have a drive coming up next month.” Scott said.

“ Yes. I figure after, we could leave a week after the drive is over. Cipriano can run the ranch while we are gone.” he responded.

“ A friend of mine in college was from Montana. He said it is a beautiful state. That the lakes are so clear, you can see the bottom when out in the middle, and the trees are so tall, you could build a house in no time.” Scott explained.

“ So would you like to go?” Murdoch asked.

“ I’d like that very much sir. I’d like to meet the man who stood up with you when you married my mother.” Scott responded. “ Can I ask where your friends ranch is?”

“ I’m sorry, outside Bannack.” Murdoch responded.

“ Bannack? I read in the paper they have a major gold strike there, and another town not far from there called Virginia City.” Scott said.

“ Yes. Ben mentioned it in a couple of his letters.” Murdoch said.

“ You wanting to go there wouldn’t have anything to do with him having possible trouble would it?” he asked.

“ No, but if he ask me for help!” Murdoch responded.

“ You know, gold strikes bring in a lot of business, and trouble. There will be those who don’t want to take the time to remove the gold from the ground, and prefer to steal it. Could be dangerous.” Scott suggested.  “ Now, if you will excuse me. I think I will go clean up before supper.”

“ Never seen grass so tall before.” Johnny said as he poured a cup of coffee.

“ Yeah, Colorado has some good grazing land it looks like.” Val responded.

“  What you recon it will look like around Bannack?” he asked as he settled back down in his bedroll.

“ Trees, and mountains so tall they go on up into the clouds. Water so clear you can see bottom from the middle of a lake. You go up above what they call the timberline, and you’ll find it hard ta breath up there in the winter.” Val said.

“ How far up is that?” Johnny asked.

“ I was told once it was about twelve thousand feet. He said to never go half a mile above where them trees stop growing. Said for one, that’s grizzly bear country up there, and two, the higher ya go, the thinner the air gets making it hard ta breath.” Val explained.

“ When were you in Montana?” Johnny asked as he settled down in his bedroll.

“ Bout ten years ago I was up there in the Bitterroot mountains with the Nez Perce Indians. Right friendly people.” Val explained.

“ You was sparkin’ one of their squaws!” Johnny said with a laugh.

“ So what if I was. I needed somethin’ ta keep me warm at night. It gets damn cold in them there mountains in the winter.” Val snapped back. “ We known each other what….nay on ta five years now?” he asked.

“ Something like that. Why?”

“ How come ya never talk about your old man? Why don’t you go home?” Val asked.

“ I would sooner go to hell than see that sonofabitch for what he did to my mother and me.” Johnny snapped back as he tossed his coffee, laid down, and turned his back to Val, ending their conversation.

Val knew it was dangerous ground trying to get Johnny to talk about his old man, and what happened. He’d asked before, and got just bout the same answer every time.

Two days later Val, and Johnny rode into Fort Huerfano on the south side of the Arkansas river to buy more supplies, and get a shoe fixed on their pack-horse.

“ So you two are headed up to Montana to try and make it rich?” the blacksmith asked.

“  Didn’t say!” Johnny responded.

“ They hit another big gold strike in Alder Gulch in the Ruby River valley.” the man said. “ Makes me tempted to sell out, and go prospecting.”

“ Why don’t ya?” Val asked.

“ I’m too damn old ta be starting over, and I don’t fancy being shot by one of those two bandits who keep robbing, and killing people for their gold.” the man said.

“ These two robbers got a name?” Johnny asked.

“ Yeah, Erastus ” Red ” Yager, and George Brown. The businesses, and bank in Bannack are fit to be tied with what those two are costing them.” he responded as he made a couple passes over the horses hoof wall with a rasp so the shoe would fit snug. “ I see by the way you wear that gun, you must be a gunfighter?”

“ How a man wears his gun, and what he does is his own business old man.” Johnny responded snidely.

“ You’ll have to forgive my friend old timer. He gets a bit grumpy after sleeping out on the trail a while.” Val said.

“ That’s alright. I meant no harm. Was just making small talk. Don’t get many new faces here lately.” the man said. “ She’s all done.”

“ Much obliged.” Val said as he paid the man.

“ You fellas be safe wherever you be headed.” the old man said before turning, and going back into his barn.

“ You had no call to be rude like that Johnny. The man was just making small talk.” Val said.

“ I don’t like other people knowing my business.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle, took the lead rope of the two extra mounts, and headed out.

“ Need to find you a woman to work some of that anger out of you.” Val said as he mounted up, leading the pack-horse away from Fort Huerfano.

One week later Val poured the last of the coffee on their fire, walked to his horse, and mounted up “ We’ve come about halfway.” he said.

“ People of Mexico wouldn’t believe how clear the water is here.” Johnny said as they started northwest.

“ I don’t recon they would.” Val responded.

“ She told me he threw us out because of me. She said he didn’t want a mestizo for a son, and ordered us out of his estancia.” Johnny said a week later as they camped along the Green River. “ Said he got her pregnant, and married her so he wouldn’t have a bastard child running around tarnishing his good name.”

“  You know, there’s two sides to every story kid. You might want to remember that before you go hating a man without knowing all the facts.” Val suggested.

“ You saying she lied to me?” Johnny asked.

“ I don’t know if she did or not, and neither do you. I’m just saying I think you should meet him, and hear his side of the story. If you don’t like what he says, you can leave, and never see him again.” he responded. “ Do you know his name?”

“ Yeah, I know it. She told me who he was before she died. Asked me to never go to him.” Johnny said as he set his half eaten plate of food down.

“ Don’t ya think that’s a little odd, her askin’ ya ta never go see the man who supposedly threw you out when a baby?” he asked.

“ That’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately Val.” Johnny said. “ Why would she care if I went to see him? I mean, he is my father.”

“ Do you know his name, and where he lives?” he asked.

“ California somewhere in the San Joaquin valley.” he responded. “ Lancer, Murdoch Lancer.”

“Why don’t we make us a nice chunk of money in Montana, and then go see if we can find him?” he asked.

“ You’d do that with me?” he asked.

“ Damn straight I would kid.” Val said. “ I figure with me along you wouldn’t go and do somethin’ stupid ta get yourself hung.”

“ I wouldn’t go and do that.” Johnny said with a laugh.

“  So yur  last name by birth is Lancer. Why don’t you use that while we’re up here? Just in case someone would know who Johnny Madrid is.” Val suggested.

“ Won’t do me much good if someone knows me Val.” Johnny said.

“ Alright smart aleck. I meant yur name.” Val gruffed back. “ Ya know what yur problem is, you been to long without a damn woman. We could both use a hot bath, and ta sleep in a bed. Lets spend the night in the next town we come too that looks decent enough. That way you can get rid of all that frustration, anger, and whatever else is bothering ya?”

Johnny smiled as he stretched out in his bedroll. “ I do like your way of thinking amigo, but I’m not going to use a name I have no right to use. I earned the right to be known as Johnny Madrid.”

“  Any of you men haven’t been paid, this is last call.” Murdoch said aloud. “  Well, while I’ve got you all here, I just want to remind you we’ll be heading back to the ranch Monday morning at 6 o’clock sharp right here. Now you old hands have already heard this, but I’m going to say it anyway. It’s not the cattle drive that separates the men from the boys. It’s the town at the end. So look out for each other, look out for yourselves, and look out for all those grifters, and crooks who are going to be after you like shepherds are after fleece. I know it’s customary for the boss to buy the first round of drinks, but I’m not going to do that this year. I’m not going to do it this year because I have my son with me, and I’m going to delegate that honor to him. So cut the wolf loose.”

“ You going to send a wire to your friend telling him we are coming?” Scott asked as they walked toward the hotel.

“ I’ll send it before we board the train in Sacramento. Right now lets go get a room, hot bath, and a good hot meal.” Murdoch responded.

“ What are your plans for the weekend?” Scott asked.

“  Finishing a good book I’ve been reading, and relaxing. You?” he said.

“ The same. I’ll join the boys for a few beers tonight, then I’m going to sleep in, and just relax.” Scott said.

Five days later Murdoch, and Scott walked into the grand room of Lancer, both glad to be home.

“ Mister Lancer, there’s a letter for you on your desk.”  Walt said. “ It’s from the Pinkerton you hired to find Johnny.”

“ Thank you Walt.” Murdoch said as he walked over to his desk, Picked up the letter, and sat down.

Mister Lancer

I have learned the reason I could not locate your son all this time. He changed his name twelve years ago after his mother died when he was only ten. I regret to inform you sir that your son is the infamous, deadly gunfighter known as Johnny Madrid. I have verified this with numerous reputable people sir. The last known report I was told Madrid and another man he’s been riding with for five years now named Val Crawford escorted two sisters from El Paso to Amarillo. They rode out of Amarillo last month, and nobody seems to know where they were headed. In my search after learning who your son now is, I learned he is a remarkable, and caring man. People have said he is not a cold-blooded killer like some say. Several lawmen I have talked to down along the border have all said he has more than once helped the law by putting on a badge. He’s worked for Wells Fargo, and Butterfield stage guarding payroll shipments. Hired out in land disputes, but always hiring out on the right side, not once has your son killed a man in cold-blood. Those who have witnessed Johnny Madrid in a gunfight have said he always tries to talk the person out of it, and has never been the one to start the fight, but always the last man standing. The sheriff of Nogales told me he once seen Madrid gun down two of the best once. Both men called him out thinking they could beat him. I will continue to try and locate your son, and keep you apprised.

Henry Darrow, Pinkerton Detective Agency

Murdoch set the letter down, stood up, and walked over to look out the big bay window.

“ Is something wrong sir? Did he find my brother?” Scott asked.

“ Read the letter son.” Murdoch said softly.

Scott picked up the letter, and began reading it. When he finished, he set it down on the desk, and walked over to his father.

“ At least we know he’s still alive.” he said.

“ Yes, but…….” Murdoch said as he turned to face his oldest. “ Son, I’ve heard things about Johnny Madrid that would give you nightmares.”

“ With all due respect sir, I learned in college, a man should never judge a book by it’s cover. The letter states he has never crossed the line, never killed a man in cold blood. He’s not like other gunfighters.” Scott responded.

“ Yes, but what if those people only said that out of fear?” Murdoch asked as he walked over to the sideboard, and poured two drinks. “ What if he is a cold-blooded killer son?”

“ I don’t believe that, and you shouldn’t either. At least not until you know all the facts. Now that Mister Darrow knows who he is, he should be able to find him, and tell him you have been searching for him for all these years.” Scott responded.

“ He’s……….for twenty years I have searched for my lost, wayward, blue-eyed son. I never got to see either one of you grow up.  The most important parts of your lives, and I wasn’t there.” Murdoch said with sadness in his voice. “ Why didn’t he come home to me after his mother died?”

“ My grandfather keeping me away from you is not your fault sir. “ Scott said. “ As for my little brother, you didn’t know his mother would run off in the middle of the night with another man. Why he never came home after his mother died, we will never know until we talk to Johnny. She could have told him lies about you.”

“  You’re right son. Forgive me for thinking like I was. Let’s get cleaned up for supper. Tomorrow we can get ready to leave.” Murdoch responded.

“ Well I’ll be damned.” Val said

Johnny watched as three men with badges walked into the saloon, two of them carrying scatter guns, looked around, spotted them sitting in the corner, and walked over to their table.

“ Been a long time. How you been Val?” the sheriff asked as he kept his eyes on Johnny.

“ Been good Carl. Like ya ta meet a good friend of mine…….”

“ Johnny Madrid. Friend of yours huh?” Carl asked.

“ Yeah, been riding together near on five years now.” Val said as he noticed Carl continued to glare at Johnny.

“ Is there a problem sheriff?” Johnny asked.

“ There is. I don’t allow your kind in my town. Now, since you’re a friend of Val’s, I’ll allow you to stay the night, but you best be gone               in the morning.” Carl ordered.

“ Hey Carl, he’s done nothing wrong. We’re headed to Montana, and just stopped for a hot bath, meal, and bed to sleep in tonight.” Val said.

“ I want no trouble Madrid. I run a nice peaceable, quiet town. Because of you I don’t run this killer out of town tonight.” the sheriff said.

Johnny stood up, and kicked his chair back. “ Don’t do me no favors lawman. You want me out of your respectable town, fine. I’ll leave.” Madrid said with coldness.

“ All the other men in the saloon had stopped talking, and all eyes where now focused on them.

“ Johnny, he said we could stay the night.” Val said.

“ You stay. I’ll go camp outside of town along the river. Outside your badge friends town jurisdiction.” Johnny responded.

“ Charlie, Pete, escort Madrid to the livery to get his horses, and then escort him out of my town.” the sheriff ordered.

“ Look Carl, if my friend ain’t welcome in this town of yours, then I recon I ain’t either.” Val said as he stood up. “ You must have forgot you was one of us once. Guess pinning that badge on made you forget that. The good people of this town know that you used to be a gunfighter too Carl?”

“  I gave it up years ago Val. Clearly you haven’t seeing how you’re riding with the likes of him. Now get out of my town, and don’t ever come back.” the sheriff responded.

“ You doing alright son?” Murdoch asked three days later as they ate dinner in the dining car of the train.

“ Just trying to picture what he looks like.” Scott responded. “ Having never seen him, I can’t.”

“ Your brother has the bluest eyes, and dark hair. I remember about a month before Maria left, Johnny was with me watching the hands break a horse. He fell, and got a cut above his eye. I know he still has the scar. Maria was furious at me, and forbid him going around the corrals, or horses ever again.”

“ Did she ever love you?” he asked.

“ At first. After Johnny was born, she became a little distant, and slept a lot. Sam said it was like that with women sometimes after they give birth. I never thought she was so unhappy with me that she would cheat on me son. Maybe if I had know, or seen how unhappy she was, I could have done something to save our marriage.” Murdoch said.

“ We know what the letter says about him. Have you wonder at all anything about him?” Scott asked.

“ Every day I do son. Every day I wonder what kind of man he has grown up to be. What his childhood was like.” Murdoch said.

“ His childhood. The letter said his mother died when he was ten. What do you recon happened to him after she passed to make him become a gunfighter?” Scott asked.

“  His ethnicity. I’m afraid your brother is what they call in Mexico, a Mestizo, a half-breed. I’m afraid his blue eyes will be a problem.” Murdoch said. “ I expect he was put in an orphanage, and probably picked on by other kids while there.”

Scott sat back in his chair, and looked out the window at the passing scenery. “ I fought in the war to give men freedom from slavery. You’re telling me my little brother was possibly abused as a child after his mother died just because he has blue eyes?”

“ Sadly son, yes.” Murdoch said.

“ Real nice friend you had back there.” Johnny said.

“ I’m sorry kid. He was a good man once.”  Val said. I know of some hot springs we can soak in up north in a few days.”

“ Sounds good. Maybe we can kill a deer or something for some venison?” Johnny suggested.

“ We could. I imagine we’ll see some elk up there.” Val said. “ You still think about starting a horse ranch?”

“ I do, but doubt it will ever happen.” he responded.

“ Why? Hell kid, you can do anything you put your mind to, be anyone you want to be.” Val said. “ Don’t you ever forget that.” he ordered.

“ You talk too damn much Val.” Johnny said with a smile. “ How far you recon we got to go?”

“ A week. That is if the Crow, or Blackfeet Indians don’t get us first.” Val said.

“ I don’t care to be scalped by no Indians.” Johnny said.

“ Murdoch!” a man yelled.

“ Ben Hughes, you old scoundrel you. How are you?” Murdoch said as the two men shook hands.

“ I’m good, can’t complain none.” Ben said. “ This must be Scott?”

“ Mister Hughes, Murdoch has told me a lot about you.” Scott said as he shook the mans hand. “ Including how you were his best man at the wedding.”

“ I did, but only because I couldn’t have sweet Catherine for my own.” Ben said.

“ Hello Doris. You look as lovely as ever.” Murdoch said as he gave the woman a kiss on the cheek.

“ Thank you Murdoch. It’s so good to see you again, and to finally get to meet Scott.” Doris said.

“ Any word yet on your other boy, Johnny?” Ben asked.

“ Why don’t we get them back to the ranch before you go asking a bunch of questions? I’m sure they are tired from being on the train for so long.” Doris suggested.

“ Of course. I have the Barouche waiting. Let’s get your luggage, and get started. It’s ten miles to the ranch.” Ben said.

“ That’s far enough!” a voice yelled.

Johnny and Val stopped their horses. “ You have got to be kidding me.” Val said.

“ There’s a Winchester rifles on you right now……….Get off your horses, and don’t try anything stupid.” the man ordered. “ You leading the pack-horse, take your left hand reach over real slow like, remove that pistol, and toss it away.”

“ Do as she says Val.” Johnny said. “ She’s just inside the tree-line.”

“ Good, now drop those reins, and lead rope, dismount, and walk twenty feet to the front of your horse.” the man ordered. “ Now your turn. Do exactly what your friend did, and remember, there’s a two rifle on you.” she yelled.

Johnny scanned the trees for the other rider as he removed his colt, and tossed it to the ground. Dismounting slowly, he spotted the other rider behind a fallen tree to the right of the one giving the orders. Walking out to where Val stood, keeping his hands in view.

“ I can’t believe some damn female is fixin ta steal everything we have.” Val gruffed.

“ Sounds like.” Johnny said as he watched two figures walk out of the trees toward them.

“ Tell me that ain’t no female figure, and I’ll eat my hat.” Val said.

Johnny watched the two walk closer. His gut getting tighter as they got closer.

“ Right fine looking horses. How about you two empty your pockets of all your cash. Just put it in this here sack.” the girl said.

“ Like hell I will.” Johnny said. “ Little girl, you better rethink this.”

“ What did you say mister?” she asked.

“ You’re not taking our horses, or our money.” Johnny said firmly.

“ I don’t believe you’re in any position to be telling me what to do mister. Now unless you want to lose some blood, I suggest you do as I said……….now.” she ordered.

“ Go to hell!” Johnny spat.

“ You’ll be the one going to hell mister, you don’t do as she says.” the male said.

Johnny boldly walked over to the male, and backhanded him, grabbed the rifle, spun around, and aimed it at the girl. “ You ready to die?”

Val grabbed the girl in a bear hug, and lifted her off the ground.

“ Let go of me!” she yelled as she tried to get free.

Johnny walked over, and grabbed the rifle from her hands. “ Let her go Val!”

Val shoved the girl to the ground. “ I outta beat yur ass. Yur lucky Johnny and me don’t shoot no female.”

“ You just try beating me, and find out what happens.” she spat.

Johnny walked over to his horse, and swung up in the saddle. “ You might want to think about another line of work. The next person might decide to kill your friend there, then rape and kill you…………Let’s go Val.”

“ Wait, you’re not going to leave us out here are you?” the male asked.

“ You would have left us. There’s a town five miles south of here. You start walking now, you can get there before dark.” Johnny said before riding out.

Val emptied the rifles, and tossed the bullets away. “  Consider this your second chance at redemption.” Val said as he went over to his horse, and mounted up. “ Yur lucky Johnny Madrid and me don’t hurt women.” he said before riding away.

“ You have a beautiful ranch, and home Mister Hughes.” Scott said. “ Just how many acres you have?”

“ Thank you. Forty thousand acres I bought from  Chief Red Cloud. I supply his people with meat in the winter so they don’t starve, and he lets me run my cattle, and horses.”  Ben said. “ So you were raised by your grandfather back in Boston?”

“ Yes sir. To make a long story short, my grandfather lied to me up until just over a year ago when I learned the truth, and came home.”

Scott responded.

“ I remember on your wedding day. He was not happy his Catherine was marrying you. Hell you hadn’t been a year  off the boat from Inverness. Then taking her all the way to California, I tell you that man was breathing fire still a month later.” Ben said.

“ I never forced Catherine to marry me, or come with me to California son. Your mother wanted to. It’s important that you know that.” Murdoch said.

“ The thought never crossed my mind sir.” Scott responded.

“ And your other boy, Johnny. Any word on him yet?”

The Pinkerton’s have been able to find out some things about him.” Murdoch said. “ It would seem the reason they haven’t been able to locate him, he changed his name.”

“ Changed his name………..I don’t understand.” Ben said.

“ Marie died when Johnny was ten. After her death he was placed in an orphanage for a few years, then disappeared. It would seem he has been a gunfighter the last twelve years.” Murdoch explained.

“ A gunfighter, of my.” Doris said.

“ You said he changed his name. Do you know what name he uses now?” Ben asked.

“ My brother is known as Johnny Madrid.” Scott said.

“ Johnny Madrid of Sonora, Mexico?” Ben asked with a shocked look on his face.

“ You know him?” Murdoch asked.

“ I know of him. I have a man working for me who rode with Madrid. He’s been telling me Bannack should see if he would come here and put a stop to whoever is stealing the gold. It’s really hurting the businesses.” Ben explained.

“ Most of the businesses take credit, and are paid at the end of the month by people.” Doris said.

“ Bannack is about the size of Morro Coyo from what we seen. Don’t you have any law?” Scott said, and asked.

“  We do………..but…….There are serious accusations going around that our Sheriff Henry Plummer is the leader of a band of road agents responsible for stealing the gold from Bannack, Virginia City, and all other mines between here and Salt Lake City.” Ben explained.

“ Has anyone confronted him?” Murdoch asked.

“ They’re too afraid too Murdoch. Reports say there are two men who do most of the stealing, and people believe they are part of his road agents. Whenever a robbery happens, it takes him a day or two before he will even try to go after them.” he explained.

“ What about the Marshal, can he help?” Murdoch asked.

“ Marshal Jim Guy up in Butte sends deputies down when he can. Montana is still a territory, and until we reach statehood, what the law can do to help us is stretched thin, and limited. There was talk of starting a vigilante group last month in Virginia City. These are desperate times, and the people want the stealing stopped.” Ben said.

“ Do you have a governor?”  Scott asked.

“ President Grant appointed Benjamin Potts our fourth governor since we became a territory. Many people in both Bannack, and Virginia City have wrote to him, but nothing has been done yet.” Doris said.

“ Listen, It’s my problem. You two are here as guest. Let’s call it a night, and I can show you both around the ranch tomorrow after breakfast.” Ben suggested.

Johnny and Val rode into Bannack a week later, and stopped in front of the saloon. “ Seems like a quiet enough town.” Val said.

“ Yeah.” Johnny said as he dismounted. “ Let’s have a cold beer, get the horses settled, a room, and hot bath.”

“ Sounds good to me buddy.” Val said. “ I see they have a sheriff in this town. I wonder what he’s like?”

“ Just what we don’t need.” Ben Hughes said.

“ What’s that?” Murdoch asked.

“ Those two that just rode in, and dismounted at the saloon. I can tell they’re gunfighters by the way they wear their guns. Probably members of Plummer’s road agents.” he replied.

Murdoch watched the two men down the street tie off their horses, and go into the saloon. “ With two remounts, and a pack horse. I hardly think they’re members Ben.”

“ You’re probably right Murdoch. I guess I’m getting judgmental of any strangers I see come into town wearing a gun.” Ben said. “ How old would your Johnny be now?”

“ Twenty two.” Murdoch said.

“ Well we better get back to the ranch. Doris tends to worry about me if I’m gone too long.” Ben said as he stepped down to his horse.

Research Notes Chapter 1->


Chapter 2

Johnny, and Val pretty much sat around listening, and learning all they could about Bannack, and the robberies without drawing attention to themselves. The latest shipment was scheduled to go out at the end of the month to Virginia City, and then up to Butte to be put in the huge safe there until shipped out on the train.

“ Ya know, no wonder they’re shipments get stole all the time. They never change their damn schedule. Hell them outlaws got it easy.” Val said.

“ Yeah, I’ve been thinking the same thing. Let’s go have a talk with the banker. See if he would be interested in hiring us to stop them.” Johnny said as he stood up, and stepped off the porch.

“ Sure is funny we haven’t seen the sheriff around town the whole time we been here.” Val said as they walked toward the bank. “ You learn anything from that girl you spent all night with?”

“ Plenty.” Johnny said as they stepped up onto the boardwalk in front of the bank.

“ I’m Thomas Carver, the bank manager. I understand you gentlemen wish to speak to me?” he said.

“ We do, but in private.” Val said.

“ Alright, come on back to my office. Seth, please see that I’m not disturbed.” Carver said.

Johnny looked around the bank before following the manager to his office.

“ Come in, and have a seat.” Carver said as he sat down at his big oak desk. “ What can I do for you?”

“ My names Val Crawford, and this here is Johnny Madrid. We’ve heard about the robberies, and………..”

“ Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter! Are you that Johnny Madrid?” Carver asked.

“ I am. We rode all the way here from Texas to offer our help to stop these robberies.” Johnny said.

“ Who hired you?” Carver asked.

“ Nobody hired us. As I said, we rode up here to try and help you” Val responded.

“ Look, we’ve been in town a week, and we learned a lot just by listening, and asking the right people the right questions.” Johnny said.

“ You ship your gold out like clockwork at the end of every month. You ever think about changing your habit? Shipping it out say at night  at a different time or date?” Johnny asked.

“ Look young man, I appreciate your concern, but I’m not at liberty to discuss bank business with either of you.” Carver said.

“ That’s fine. We found out about your bank business from others in town.” Johnny said.

“ Alright. You say change our schedule, how do I know you two are not part of the road gang that’s been stealing the gold?”

“ Mister Carver, if you have doubts about us, you can contact Wells Fargo, and the Butterfield stage line about us. They’ll vouch for us.” Val said.

Carver stood up. “ I’ll tell you what. I’ll contact Wells Fargo, and Butterfield. If I receive word before the next shipment, and you two check out, I’ll hire you.” Carver said. “ But hear me, if hat shipment gets stolen, I’ll have you both hunted down, and see to it you are hung.”

“ They only hang horse, and cattle thieves Mister Carver.” Val said.

“ And murderers. Last shipment they killed the guard. Gunned him down after he was unarmed.” Carver said. “ Now if you men will excuse me, I do have a bank to run.”

“ Ben Hughes, how you doing?” Bill Fairweather asked.

“ I’m good. Hey listen, I want you o meet a very dear friend of mine. Bill, this is Murdoch, and his oldest son Scott Lancer.” Ben said.

“ It’s a pleasure to meet you. You the Murdoch Lancer from California I’ve heard so much about?” he asked.

“ That depends on what he’s told you.” Murdoch said with a laugh.

“ Murdoch came to spend a month with me and Doris. Why don’t you bring Martha over on Sunday and we can have supper together?”  he suggested.

“ Alright. I’ll do that. So you have another son then?” Bill asked.

“ I’m sorry, what?”

“ Ben said Scott is your oldest. I assumed you have another son.” he responded.

“ Yes. My youngest was taken from me when he was only two. I’ve been searching for him for twenty years now.” Murdoch said.

“ That’s a long time to search.” Bill said.

“ It is, but I won’t stop until my son, both my sons are home with me.” Murdoch said.

“ Well, I better get going. I’ll see you Sunday. Murdoch, Scott, it was nice meeting you both.” Bill said before walking away.

Val stood outside the hotel watching the big man, and tall blonde walk across the street with Ben Hughes. “ Oh hell, maybe I didn’t hear right.” he said as he walked across the street to them. “ Excuse me. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. Did you say yur Murdoch Lancer from California?”

“ I did. Do I know you?” Murdoch asked.

“ No, I……I…..I’m sorry I bothered you. Have a nice day.” Val said before hurrying back across the street.

“ Isn’t he one of the men we seen ride into town last week?” Murdoch asked.

“ I believe so. What did he want?” Ben asked.

“ I don’t know. He started to say something, then walked away.” Murdoch responded as he mounted his horse.

“ You think maybe he  knows Johnny?” Scott asked.

“ I doubt it son. Your brother is down in Mexico. He’d have no reason to be way up here in Montana.” Murdoch responded.

“ You got something on your mind?” Johnny asked.

“ Nope, just making this gold delivery in one peace.” Val said.

“  If nothings bothering you, then how come you’ve been real quiet since we started this trip. Hell you’ve hardly talked to me at all these last two weeks. What’s up Val?”

“ I told ya nothing is up. Now stop pestering me.” Val snapped back.

“ We’ve been riding together over five years now. I think I know when something is bothering you.” Johnny said.

“ That’s far enough! Take that scatter-gun and toss it away!” a man yelled.

“ That’s Red.” Johnny said as he tossed the shotgun away.

“ Driver, toss your scatter-gun away also!” Red ordered.

“ I sure hope this works kid.” Val said as he tossed his shotgun away.

“ Now the rifle!” he said.

Johnny picked up the rifle, and tossed it to the ground as two riders came out of the trees toward them.

“ Well I’ll be damned. You’re a far piece from Mexico.” Red said.

“ I could say the same about you Red.” Johnny said as he let his hand slowly drop to his colt laying on the seat next to him. “ I thought stealing cows was your thing?”

“ It was until I heard about all this gold these people are finding, so I come up here to relieve them of it.” Red said.

“ Do you two know each other?” George asked.

“ We do. George, this here is the one and only Johnny Madrid.” Red said. “ What you doing clear up here in Montana?”

“ Like you, we came up here for the gold. Only difference is you’re stealing it, and we were hired to guard it.” Johnny responded.

“ Don’t look like you’re doing a very good job of guarding it.” George said.

“ Oh we are. You numskulls ain’t taking it. You’re going to drop your guns, and come with us to stand trial, and hang for murdering that unarmed guard last month.” Val said.

“ Hang, now wait a minute, I didn’t kill that guard, Red did.” George pleaded.

“ Shut up George, you talk to much!” Red ordered.

“ If I tell ya were the rest of the gold is, will I still hang?” he asked.

“ You low down……!” Red said as he pointed his gun at George, and shot him.

Johnny brought his colt up, and fired. Hitting Red square in the chest, knocking him backward off his horse.

Val climbed down, and went to George. “ He’s still alive.”

Johnny walked over to him. “ Where’s the rest of the gold?”

“ You gotta help me if I tell ya.” George pleaded.

“ You’re gut shot George. There’s nothing we can do for you except see that you get buried.” Johnny said.

“ At lest I won’t me eatin by no wild animals.” George said. “ There’s a cave behind the falls at the mouth of the Red Rock river. All the gold is in that cave.”

“ You got any family you want us to write?” Val asked.

“ Nobody….. who would…. care about…………me.” he said with his last breath.

“ Place he’s talking about is south of here.” Val said.

“ Let’s get these bodies in the wagon, and head back to town. Let the banker deal with getting the gold back. We did our part.” Johnny said.

“ What the hell’s the matter with you?” Val asked.

“ Nothing!” Johnny said as he went to gather the horses, and tie them to the back of the wagon.

“ Look, he gave you no choice kid. I know ya don’t like ta kill someone. It’s not yur fault.” Val said as he grabbed Johnny’s left arm, and stopped him.

“ I had a choice Val.” Johnny said as he jerked his arm free. “ I always have a choice.”

“ Sheriff Plummer, two men just come into town in a wagon with two horses tied to the back.”  Nathaniel Pitt Langford said.

“ And why should I give a shit about that?” the sheriff asked.

“ There’s two dead bodies in the wagon.” Nathaniel said.

Sheriff Plummer walked outside, and seen there were two dead bodies in the back of the wagon as it stopped outside the bank. Walking down the street as Carver came out of the bank.

“ What happened here? Who are these men, and who killed them?” the sheriff asked.

Johnny glared at the sheriff a few seconds. “ Doing your job, sheriff. The one man is Red Yager, I put the bullet in his chest after he gut shot his friend, George Brown. They’re the two men who have been stealing the gold shipments.”

“ And just who the hell are you?” the sheriff demanded.

“ I hired these men to guard the gold shipment Henry. They did me, and this town a huge favor stopping these men.” Carver said.

“ And how do you know they weren’t part of it?” the sheriff asked.

“ Because I had them both checked out.” he responded.

“ You seem to slag on the job when it comes to doing what the people of this town pay you to do sheriff.” Johnny said.

“ Boy, just who the hell do you think you are?” Henry demanded.

“ He’s Johnny Madrid.” a man said as he walked up thru the crowd.

Johnny let out a sigh. He’d hoped nobody this far north had heard of him. When he seen who said his name, he knew without a doubt the two of them would face off. “ Sundown.”

“ Madrid, I’ve been looking for you for a long time. We have unfinished business.”

Sheriff Plummer stepped over between the two men. “ You’re the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” he demanded.

“ I am.” Johnny said as he glared at Sundown.

“  Why you here?” the sheriff asked. “ You run down around the Mexican border.”

“ We came here to help the banker, and good people of this town.” Val said.

“ And you would be?” he asked.

“ Val Crawford.” Val responded gruffly. “ Our business is with Carver.”

“  You people go on about your business, clear the street. Nathaniel, take the wagon on down to the undertaker. Tell him to  bury them as cheap as he can. No reason for the towns folk to spend good money on burying them. Madrid, I want you out of my town. I don’t need your kind here.” Sheriff Plummer ordered.

Sundown walked over to Johnny. “ Like I said, we got unfinished business mestizo.” he said before walking away.

“ We need a word with you Mister Carver. In private.” Val said.

“ Alright, come into my office.” Carver said before turning to go back inside the bank.

Johnny stood there watching Sundown walk to the saloon. He knew there would be no talking the man out of dancing. Six years ago Johnny had no choice but to kill Sundown’s father in Algadones, Mexico.

“ What unfinished business he talking about kid?’ Val asked.

“  He limps because of a bullet I put in him.” Johnny said before turning to walk inside the bank to tell Carver about the stolen gold.

“ Did you hear what happened with the last gold shipment?” Bill asked.

“ No, what happened?” Ben asked.

“ Two men Carver hired to protect the gold shipment killed the two who had been stealing it. Got almost all the stolen gold back too.” Bill said. “ You should have seen Sheriff Plummer, he was upset. Especially when Madrid stood up to him.”

“ What name did you say?” Murdoch asked.

“ Madrid, why?” he said.

“ Johnny Madrid?” he asked.

“ Yeah, that’s him and a fella named Val Crawford. They’ve been in town almost two weeks. Do you know him?” he asked.

“ He’s my son?” Murdoch said.

“ Is he still in town?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah, Sheriff Plummer ordered him to leave town, but I seen them eating breakfast this morning in the cafe. Course it might be he’s still here because of the other fella. Carver wouldn’t tell the sheriff who he was, but this other fella, Sundown, he knew him, and said something about they have unfinished business.” Bill explained.

“ The two men we seen ride into town that day. The one who approached you, that must have been Val Crawford.” Ben suggested.

“ We need to go to town!” Scott said as he stood up.

“ Now hold on you two!” Ben said. “ Murdoch, you have been searching for this boy for twenty years. He’s not going to know you, and there’s a chance he won’t want to know you, either of you. Have you given that any thought?”

“ He’s right son, We can’t just go barging into his life. I don’t know what his mother told him about me.” Murdoch said.

“ Why don’t I ride in to town tomorrow, and tell him his father is here at my ranch, and wishes to see him. That way he has a chance to think about if he wishes to see you.” Ben suggested.

“ No, We’ll ride into town in the morning. I appreciate the offer though.” Murdoch said.

“ Johnny Madrid………..I’m calling you out you sonofabitch!” Sundown yelled. “ Come on out here and face me!”

“ I guess he’s done made up his mind.” Johnny said as he stood up.

“ Come on out Madrid!” Sundown yelled.

Wondering where Val was, he headed to the cafe door.

“ Johnny Madrid, I’m waiting!” Sundown yelled.

Johnny walked outside the cafe, stepped down into the street, and faced Sundown. He’d seen him face a man once, and marveled at his speed, his confidence, and judged him to be as fast as he was., but that was three years ago. A man can change a lot in three years. With enough practice he can become faster.

Murdoch, and Scott rode into Bannack, and dismounted in front of the hotel. Both men turned and looked down the street when they heard a man yelling.

“ There he is.” Murdoch said as he watched the son he had searched for for twenty years calmly walk out into the street, and face another man. “ No, I can’t allow this. I just found him. I won’t lose him again.” he said as he started toward his youngest, not knowing the danger he was about to put his son in.

“ I was beginning to think you wouldn’t come out and face me.” Sundown said. “ As I said, we have unfinished business.”

“ The only unfinished business we have is you dying.” Johnny responded. “ I should have killed you that day.”

“ I’m reminded of that day every step I take half-breed. You see, doc couldn’t remove the bullet you put in my leg. Said it’s in the bone, and couldn’t be removed.” Sundown said. “  It took me over a year to be able to walk without using crutches, and another year just to be able to walk without losing my balance, and falling down. That whole time I kept track of where you were so I could find you, then you disappeared until I heard someone talking about you being here. I thought to myself, no way Madrid would ride this far north, yet here you are.”

Johnny didn’t know a second man sat his horse, and waited, waited, and watched to see who would walk away.

“  If you’re in that big a hurry to die, then shut up, and draw!” Madrid said with coldness.

“ Johnny no!” Murdoch yelled.

Sundown went dead quiet with a look of pure evil in his eyes, and seen Madrid divert his eyes off him for a split second. Enough time to draw, and fire, hitting Madrid, spinning him around, and dropping him to the ground.

Johnny knew he screwed up when he diverted his eyes from Sundown for that mere second. Drawing his colt, he fired as a bullet slammed into his left side, spinning him around, and dropping him to the ground as a second bullet tore a deep furrow along his ribs. Bringing his colt up, Johnny fanned it twice, hitting Sundown with both bullets in the chest.

Val came running, gun drawn to his downed friend. “ Take it easy buddy. I got ya.” he said as he Helped his friend stand up. “ You got a doc in this town?” he asked.

“ I’m Doctor Leavitt. A couple of you men help get him over to my office.” he ordered.

Scott went to help, but was shoved away by Val. “ I seen what you did. Stay the hell away from him.” he ordered.

Val sat with his hat in his hands, glaring at the two men across the room from him. He knew who the big man was, and couldn’t believe he interfered like he did. Standing up, he walked over to him. “ I know who you are, and let me tell you something mister, you better hope my friend don’t die. Because if he does, I’ll kill you.”

Scott stood up. “ Now see here, don’t go threatening my father. He was trying to save Johnny’s life.”

“ Save his life? You got him shot because you distracted him you damn fool.” Val snapped back. “ Anyone with half the sense knows you don’t bother two men when they face off to dance.”

“ I didn’t know.” Murdoch said.

“ You didn’t know!” Val snapped back. “ Phooey.”

“ That’s right, I didn’t know.” Murdoch responded with anger. “ I have searched for my son for twenty years. You think I wanted to get him shot?”

“ How come it took you twenty years to find him?” Val demanded.

“ His mother kept moving around Mexico, keeping him hidden.” Murdoch said before turning to walk over to the window to look out.

“ We only recently learned my brother was going by a different name.” Scott said.

“ Can you blame him. I wouldn’t want to use the last name of the man who threw me and my mother out when I was a baby.” Val said.

“ I didn’t throw them out. I awoke one morning and found them gone. She ran off with some gambler. I’ve searched for him ever since.” Murdoch said before turning around. “ I am not going to stand here and discuss my private affairs with a complete stranger.”

“ Well let me tell you something Mister Lancer, I have been the only friend that boy has had for over five years now.  I have nursed him when he was ravished by a fever, dug bullets out of him, sewed him up, and been the father figure he never had. He was almost dead when I found him in Mexico, and saved his life. I know more about that boy laying in there than the two of you will ever know.” Val snapped back.

“ That’s not our fault!” Scott said with anger as the doctor came out.

“ If you gentlemen want to fight, I suggest you do it someplace else.” Doc Leavitt said.

“ How’s my son?” Murdoch asked.

“ He ain’t your son. Hasn’t been for twenty years. It’s because of you he was shot in the first place.” Val cut in.

“ Listen, I don’t know what is going on here, but I do know this man rode into town with that young man in there. Everybody in town has seen them together. I’m going to have to ask you two gentlemen to leave.” the doctor requested.

“ Now just a minute. I am not going to leave. I……….”

“ Mister Lancer, I suggest the two of you leave now while you can.” Val said with his pistol aimed at him.

“ I will have you removed by the sheriff if need be. If he is your son, and he wishes to see you when he wakes up, then you can see him. Until then, this man is the only one besides myself going into that room.”  Doctor Leavitt said firmly.

Murdoch glared at Val a minute before storming out of the office.

“ If you think you can keep me from seeing my little brother, you got another thing coming Mister Crawford.” Scott said before leaving.

“ High and mighty rich folks think they can push the little guy around.” Val said as he watched Scott leave the office, and closed the door. “ How is he doc?”

“ Damn lucky. The one bullet missed all vital organs, but was deep. The other wound came from behind him. It left a very deep furrow I wasn’t able to stitch up.”” the doc explained.

“ You telling me there was two shooters doc?” Val asked.

“ Yes. I didn’t see the actual shooting, but I can tell you that furrow is deeper in the front, than the back.” the doctor explained.

“ If’n yur right doc, there’s a second shooter out there just waiting to kill him.” Val said.

“ Now, let me ask you a question. Is that man really Johnny Madrid, and was that his father?”

“ That’s two questions doc, but yeah, he’s Johnny Madrid, and yes that’s his pappy.  He threw the boy and his mother out when he was a baby.” Val said. “ We’ve been riding together for over five years now. I don’t know how the kids gonna take learning his old man is here, let alone that he has an older brother.”

“ Why don’t you go on back and sit with him. Be there when he wakes up.” doc suggested.

“ Who the hell does that man think he is pulling a gun on me, and telling me I have no right to see my own son?” Murdoch demanded.

“ I understand your anger sir, but with all due respect……..You haven’t been Johnny’s father for twenty years. I know that’s not your fault, but you need to calm down, and see it from Mister Crawford’s side. You did almost get Johnny killed today.” Scott said.

“ I had only intended on stopping them son. I never meant for your brother to get shot.” Murdoch said.

“ I couldn’t believe………Did you see how fast he was?” Scott asked.

“ I seen son, and I have to tell you, I have never seen someone as fast as your brother was.” Murdoch said.

“ I wonder why the other man wanted to kill him?” Scott asked.

“ Because he’s Johnny Madrid, and he won’t be the last.” a man said as he stood up, downed his beer, and walked over to their table.

“ Excuse me?” Murdoch said.

“ Johnny Madrid is the best, and fastest. As long as he’s alive, men will try to kill him to take his reputation.”  the man explained.

“ His reputation? You mean to tell me that man tried to kill my son for his reputation?” Murdoch demanded.

“ Exactly. There’s competition and a code between gunfighters. Only the best can demand the highest money.” the man said. “ You see, we’re fallen angels, brought down to hell the good book says. Men beyond redemption.

“ How is it you know this?” Scott asked.

“ Because I’m one also.” the man said. “ Tell Madrid when you see him, I look forward to us dancing.” he said before walking out of the saloon.

Murdoch, and Scott sat there in shock at what the man just said.

“ What the hell is wrong with men, killing another man for his reputation.” Scott said.

“  You have to remember, out here it’s a harsh, dangerous life son.” Murdoch said.

“ We just found Johnny, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a man kill my little brother for something as little as a reputation.” Scott said.

“ A reputation is a funny thing son.” Murdoch said.

Johnny opened his eyes, blinking several times to get them to focus better. Looking to his left, he seen a familiar face sitting in a chair.

“ Val.”

“ Hey buddy. I was beginning to wonder when you would wake up. How ya feel?” Val said.

Johnny gave him a look that clearly said how he felt. “ What happened?” he asked

“ You were called out by that fella, Sundown. By the time I got to ya, you were already down, by the time I got to ya, ya put two slugs in his chest. But you were shot up.” Val explained.

“ How many times he shoot me?” Johnny asked.

“ Once in yur left side by Sundown, and……..”

“ And what Val?” Johnny asked.

“ Doc says that deep furrow ya got on yur right side came from someone behind ya.” he responded. “ There were two shooters kid, and I don’t know who the second shooter was.”

“ So there’s someone still out there gunning for me.” Johnny said as he tried to sit up a little.

“ It would appear so kid.” Val said as he poured a glass of water, and helped Johnny sit up to drink some.

“ Thanks……..Who………I thought I heard someone call my name from my left. I diverted my eyes for a split second, and knew better than to do that.” Johnny said.

“I need ta talk to ya about that.” Val said as the doctor walked into the room.

“ Ah good, your awake. “ That man who says he is your father and the other one are out front wanting to see you. I told them it is up to you if you want to see them.” the doc said.

“ My what?” Johnny said with shock.

“ I was gonna tell ya kid. It’s yur pappy. He’s the one who called yur name. He thought he could stop the gunfight from happening.” Val said.

“ Lancer is here?” he asked.

“ It would seem so.” he said.

“ Young man, as long as you are my patient, you don’t have to see him.” doc said. “ Judging from the scars I’ve seen on your body, I don’t need to tell you what will happen if you move around too much, but I will say that furrow in your side is deep.”

“ I’m no stranger to being shot doc.” Johnny said.

“ Then I gather he told you about that wound being caused by someone behind you?” doc asked.

“ I need to get him out of here doc. How soon before I can get him over to the hotel?” Val asked.

“ We can move him in the morning. I want to be sure those stitches hold, and neither wound get infected.”

Johnny sat up. “ We can do that at the hotel now doc. It’s pretty clear whoever shot at me from behind is a coward to face me. I’d hate for you to get hurt because of the likes of me.”

Research Notes Chapter 2 ->


Chapter 3

Murdoch knocked on the door to room eighteen. For a week now he had been told nothing about his youngest, or allowed to see him.

“ What the hell do you want?” Val demanded.

“ I want to see my son.” Murdoch responded. Keeping his voice civil.

“ He’s asleep, and I ain’t waking him up.” Val said before starting to close the door.

Murdoch pushed forced the door open, and stepped into the room. “ I am not leaving this room until I talk to my son!”

“ I done told ya to stay away from him. You almost got him kilt. Leave him alone.” Val said with anger.

“ I just want to talk to him. Is he not man enough to do that?” Murdoch said with anger.

The sound of a pistol being cocked drew Murdoch’s attention to the bedroom door.“ What makes you think I want to listen to anything you have to say old man?”

“ That gun is not necessary young man.” Murdoch said.

“ Well now, why do I have trouble believing you old man! I know why. You damn near got me killed, you stupid sonofabitch.” Johnny responded with anger.

“ I didn’t know. I’m sorry son. Please…….”

“ Don’t call me your son………I’m not your son. You threw me and my mother out twenty years ago. You don’t have a right to call me your son!” Johnny cut in.

“ I never threw you out. Your mother packed up, and left me in the middle of the night. I never knew until the next morning, and have been searching for you for twenty years now.” Murdoch responded. “ If you’re not man enough to talk to me……..fine. Maybe you will talk to your brother. He would like to get to know you too.”

Johnny stood there in shock at what he just heard. A brother, and older brother is what the old man said. Uncocking the pistol, he walked over, and sat down at the small table in the room.

“ Oh my god! You didn’t know! Your mother never told you you have an older brother from my first marriage?” Murdoch asked as he walked over, and sat down across from him.

Johnny stared at the table as he shook his head.

“ John……please look at me.” Murdoch pleaded.

“ Hey buddy, I think I’ll take a walk. Whether you want to or not, you two need to talk.” Val said as he headed to the door.

“ Just a minute. I need to know, that day you approached me, and started to say something.” Murdoch said.

Johnny looked at Val. “ You knew he was here?”

“ I did. I overheard him talking outside the saloon. I walked over, and was gonna tell him you were here, but……….I chickened out.” Val said. “ I was afraid that if you knew………I would……….”

“ You would lose me as a friend.” Johnny said as he stood up, and walked over to him. “ When was this?”

“ The day before we took the gold.” he said. “ I’ve tried to tell ya kid, but the words just wouldn’t come.”

“ You’ve been like a father to me Val. We’ve rode together for over five years. There’s nothing that will ever change our friendship buddy.” Johnny said. “ You forget I’m not a little kid sometimes.”

“ Yeah, I guess I do. I’ll be back later.” he said before leaving.

“ He’s very protective of you son.” Murdoch said. “ The day you were shot, he laid in to me and your brother. He wouldn’t let us near you. I’m sorry………..I don’t know what else to say. When I seen you facing that man in the street, I panicked.”

“ How did you know it was me?” Johnny asked.

“  I’ve had the Pinkerton Detectives looking for you for twenty years. I had just learned why he couldn’t find you for so long just before me and your brother came to Montana. I brought all the reports sent to me in those twenty years of searching.” Murdoch sad as he took the reports out of his saddlebags, and put them on the table.

Johnny sat down, and picked up the report on top, the letter sent telling who he had become. Reading it, his hands started to shake, and his stomach got tight. He now knew why his mother forced them to move from town to town so much. Never spending more than six months, if that, in one place. Why she became angry, and beat him once for asking about his father. Letting the letter fall to the table, he sat back in the chair, averting his eyes from the big man sitting across from him.

“ I met your mother down in Matamoros, she……….we got married, and I brought her home to Lancer. I thought she was happy there. When you were born, I was the happiest man alive. I never knew your mother wasn’t happy until the morning I awoke and found her gone, you along with her. She had left in the middle of the night with some gambler she had been seeing. Call me naive I guess for not knowing my wife was cheating on me if you like. Every day for twenty years, I wondered if you were still alive. Every birthday I wondered what you looked like now, what kind of man you grew up to be……….”

“ I bet learning your half-breed, mestizo, bastard son was a gunfighter angered you?” Johnny cut in as he stood up,  walked over to pour a shot of tequila, and downed it. His hands still shaking.

“ Let’s get something straight right now young man. I will not have you calling yourself that. You are my son, and I have never thought of you any other way. You were conceived out of love.” Murdoch said.

“ Love……….don’t you mean lust? You got my mother pregnant, and that’s the only reason you married her.” Johnny snapped back.

“ I loved your mother son, and I married her because I loved her.” he responded.

“ You got her pregnant with me before you were married. Regardless, that still makes me a bastard child.” Johnny said. “ You want to know why I became Johnny Madrid, I’ll tell you why…….Because of my blue eyes. My whole childhood I was beaten, and abused by other kids, my mother when she was drunk, and her lovers because of my blue eyes. Even the padre at the orphanage abused me after she died. Told me I was the devils child, and should have been killed after being born. I was tired of being beaten, starved, and cut by other kids just to see if my blood was red. I had nobody t protect me from the abuse, nobody until I picked up Sam Colt, and started using it. I’ve had things done to me that would turn your stomach old man. I’ve been in a Mexican prison, and that hell you will never know. I became the best, deadliest, and fastest. My reputation is sought by others, and will be until I am dead. * That * is what I got dealt me because of your lust for my mother.” Johnny said with anger.

“ Reputation, that man, and the other tried to kill you for your reputation?” Murdoch said.

“ How do you know about the other shooter?” Johnny demanded.

“ There was a man in the saloon. He overheard us talking. He said there’s a competition, and a code between gunfighters. Said only the best can demand the highest money.” Murdoch responded.

“ What did he look like?” he asked.

“ Tall, lanky build, blonde hair down to his shoulders, and a mustache.” Murdoch explained. “ And a scar on his right cheek.”

Johnny felt like he was kicked in the gut. Could it be him? Could it be the man who altered his life eighteen years ago? The man he wanted to kill more than anything? The man responsible for his mother’s death. He’d searched for him for years, but could never find him. Did the man know he was Maria’s son? Wrapping his arms around himself, he started shaking.

“ Do you know him son?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny ignored his father’s question. “ She never once said I had an older brother. Did she know?”

“ She knew I had a son from my first marriage yes. I never kept it a secret. Catherine died giving birth to Scott. He was raised by his grandfather, Harlan Garrett back in Boston until he came home to Lancer a couple years ago.” Murdoch responded.

“ He didn’t grow up at Lancer?” he asked.

“ No son, he didn’t. His grandfather is a very powerful, ruthless man with a lot of money. He has hated me ever since me and Catherine moved to California. When I bought Lancer, it angered him more, because he knew she would never be returning to Boston. I met her not a year off the boat from Inverness, like your mother, it was love at first sight. The man I came here to visit, was my best man at our wedding.” he explained.

“ I know Lancer is your last name, but what is Lancer?” Johnny asked.

“ Lancer is a ranch I built up for my sons. It’s the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley, just outside Morro Coyo. One hundred thousand acres, ten thousand head of cattle, and some of the finest Capanero de Palomino’s in the San Joaquin.” Murdoch said.

“ That’s a good sized estancia.” Johnny said. “ How many men work it?”

“ I have a hundred and fifty vaquero’s working for me. Some have families and live in small cabins on the ranch. It’s just me, and Scott in the big house.” he said.

“ Big house?” he asked.

“ Ten bedrooms upstairs, and four downstairs. A huge grand room. One of the barns  has the only guard house in the county built by the Spaniards.” he responded.

“ I’ve been on some big ranches, but never one with a house that big. How come so many bedrooms?” he asked.

“ I’m not sure why so many son. I do hope that some day before I die, my two sons will fill the house with grand kids. It’s been to long since there has been a child in that house.” Murdoch said.

“ Won’t get any grand kids from me. I’m not exactly the marrying kind.” Johnny said.

“ Why do you say that?” his father asked.

“ No woman is going to want a gunfighter for a husband.” Johnny said with firmness. “ Look, I have a reputation remember? I’m Johnny Madrid, and as long as I am alive, wherever I’m at, men will come, and try to take that reputation away from me. Living as long as I have is luck.”

“ Can I ask you a couple questions?” Murdoch asked. He knew it was a gamble, but it was a gamble he felt he had to take, and now was the time to take that gamble.” You say you’re Johnny Madrid, the best, and fastest gunfighter. That you have a reputation. One can survive everything except death, and live down everything except a good reputation.”

“ It’s a tricky thing, the reputation business.” Johnny said. “ What do you want to ask me?”

“ If you had a way out, would you take it?” Murdoch asked.

“ A way out of what old man? I don’t run from anything. So if you think Johnny Madrid is going to run from this man, think again.” he said.

“ Do you want to be Johnny Madrid?” he asked.

“ Being Johnny Madrid is all I know. I have nobody but Val who understands me, and what I am.” Johnny said.

“ You were born Johnny Lancer on December twenty third, eighteen fifty. You are not alone, not anymore son.” Murdoch said.

“ I’m not your son. I haven’t been your son for twenty years. Don’t you understand? Johnny Lancer died that night my mother took me away from you.” Johnny said with anger.

“ You are my son damn it. I want you to come home with me. I want you to share in your birthright with your brother. I don’t want you living by that damn gun any longer.” Murdoch responded with anger.

“ It’s not that simple. I can’t just hang up my gun, and forget who I am.” he snapped back.

“ You can if you really want to.” Murdoch responded. “ Come back to Lancer with us son. See your birthright. Stay for one year, and at the end of that year, if you’re not happy, and want to leave…………I won’t stop you.”

“ And your other son, how does he feel about me?” Johnny asked.

“ Scott, he’s thrilled to have a little brother. His grandfather never told him about you. Until he came home, he thought he was an only child.” Murdoch said.

“ You sound like you hate his grandfather.” he said.

“ I guess you could say I do. On Scott’s fifth birthday, I showed up in Boston to try and get him back.  I didn’t have a lot of money, and Harlan knew that. He had several very expensive lawyers, and threatened me in a way I had no choice but to leave him  in Boston.” Murdoch explained. He could tell his son was hesitant. “ What about this. When you’re healed up, the three of us, four if your friend Val wants to come along, ride together back to Lancer. It will give us a chance to get to know each other more.” his father suggested.

“ Val does what he wants, but I’ll ask him.” Johnny responded.

“ I have a feeling we are about to have an unwanted visitor for breakfast.” Val said as he watched Sheriff Plummer cross the street, walk into the hotel lobby, and over to their table.

“ Madrid, I’ve been to see the doc, and he says you are well enough to leave.” Sheriff Plummer said. “ I want you gone……..out of my town by weeks end. If you’re not, I will throw your ass in jail, and you will never see freedom again.”

“ I don’t take well to being threatened. Especially from a crooked tin star.” Johnny said with coldness.

“ What I said isn’t a threat Madrid. It’s a promise. If I don’t see you ride out of my town by noon Friday, me and my deputies will come calling.”

“ Deputies, is that what you call those road agents you have?” Johnny said. He knew he was pushing it too far, but didn’t care. A crooked sheriff was something both him, and Val despised. Standing up, he pushed his chair back just as his father came into the hotel lobby.

 “Let me tell you something sheriff. You may think you’re a big, important man, wearing a tin star, but you’re not. I’ve seen a hundred struttin’ peacocks like you get taken down. Your time wearing that badge is coming to an end real soon.” Val said.

“ You want to know what your downfall was tin star?” Johnny asked. “ How you handled looking for those two stealing the gold. The direction they went is the one direction you would never go and search.”

“ See, I went ridin’ out that way, and well, I bet you know what I found, but just in case you don’t, Nathaniel Longford is giving a real nice testimony to a United States Marshal , and two deputies over at the hotel. He’s singing real good, givin names of your road agent members, and even has proof of you as the leader.” Val said.

“ So you see sheriff, it’s your time in this town that is limited, not mine.” Johnny said.

“ You sonofabitch.” Sheriff Plummer spat as he went for his gun, but stopped when he found himself looking at the business end of Johnny Madrid’s colt.

“ Sheriff Henry Plummer, I am placing you under arrest for over one hundred murders in Virginia City, and Bannack goldfields, and trails to Salt Lake City.” Marshal James Roff said.

Val reached over and removed the sheriffs gun. “ It’s been a real pleasure bringing a sorry ass like you down.” he said.

“ See, it’s you who will never see freedom again sheriff.” Johnny said

Johnny sat looking out the window of his hotel room. So far he had avoided talking to, or seeing his father, except when the big man came into town. One thing kept weighing heavy on his mind. A question he kept asking himself over, and over again. Would he be able to hang up his gun, and live a normal life? His father had asked him to come back, and give it a year, at the end of that year he could chose to either stay, or go. If he left, his father said he would not try and stop him.

“ Why don’t you talk to him?” Val asked.

“ Who?” he responded.

“ Your brother. Why haven’t you talked to him? Hell kid, you told me once you always dreamed of having a big brother. Someone to protect you while growing up. Now you have one, and you don’t want to see him.” Val said gruffly. “ I believe mister big, bad, tough Johnny Madrid is afraid to!”

“ What right do I have Val? What right do I have to try and live a life with them that isn’t by this damn gun?” Johnny asked. “ especially when I could get them killed!”

“ Do ya want to keep living by that damn gun, knowing that the next fool who calls you out could be the one to kill you? Is that what ya want?” Val demanded.

“ No damn it, I don’t. I have that fear every day.” Johnny said as he stood up, and walked into the bedroom.

“ Where you going son?” Murdoch asked.

“ In to town and see my brother.” Scott responded as he mounted up. “ I figure it’s time me and him started to get to know each other, and maybe I can help persuade him to come back with us.”

“ Alright, but son, remember, he’s been wild and free most of his life. What we are asking him to do is a huge change for someone used to living by a gun. Not being tied down to anything, or staying in one place too long.” Murdoch said.

“ I understand, but I’m going to make it perfectly clear to him, he doesn’t have to live that life any longer.” Scott said. “ I want my little brother home, at Lancer where he belongs. I don’t want him dying in some town, or on the trail somewhere over something as frivolous.”

Scott walked into the Montana hotel an hour later, and headed upstairs to room nineteen. Knocking on the door as his stomach did a flop, and his palms got sweaty. When the door opened, he found himself looking at the man he’d seen at the doctor’s office when his brother was shot.

“ I take it yur here to see yur brother?” Val asked.

“ I am if you will let me.” he responded.

Val stepped out into the hall, and closed the door. “ Listen, he told me the offer his pappy made him. If the two of you can get him out of the game, do it.” he said. “ I care about that boy, and I don’t want him living by his gun any longer.”

“ Crawford is it? Well Mister Crawford, I fully intend on doing just that. I want my little brother home where he belongs.” Scott responded.

“ Go on in. He’s in the bedroom. We were just discussing him talking to you. If’n he ask where I went. Tell him I went to have a cold beer, and play some poker.” Val said before walking away.

Scott opened the door, stepped inside the room, and closed the door.

“ Listen Val, I………..” Johnny started to say, but stopped as he looked at the tall dirty blonde haired man standing in his hotel room. “ What the hell do you want?”

“ Mister Crawford said to tell you he went to play some poker, and have a cold beer.” Scott responded. “ As for what I want. I came to see if I could get to know my little brother.”

“ The old man send you?” Johnny asked as he walked over to the table, and sat down. “ Drink?”

“ No thank you, and no, our father did not send me. I came on my own.” Scott said as he walked over to the table. “ May I?’

“ Go ahead, unless you want to stand. Makes no difference to me.” Johnny said.

“ Ask me anything you want. I’m here to get to know you, and let you get to know me.” Scott said.

“ Get to know me. You want to know me, read those reports the old man has.” Johnny said as he poured two shots of tequila.

“ I would rather hear it, than read it.” Scott said. “ Look, I know there are probably some things you’ve done in your past that you don’t wish me to know, and that’s fine. I can respect that.”

“ The old man said your mother died giving birth to you, and that your grandfather raised you back in Boston. How come you stayed away so many years?” Johnny asked.

“ Because like your mother, my grandfather lied to me, and told me my father didn’t want me.” Scott said.

“ So the old man told you what I said then?” he asked.

“ No, all he said was you have lived a life of lies that were not your fault.” Scott responded. “ Can I ask how your mother died?”

Johnny poured another shot of tequila, and downed it.

“ Look, whatever is said between us, stays between us brother. You have my word on that. We have both been robbed a childhood with our father. You more than me deserves someone they can trust in their life.” Scott said.

“ I have someone I can trust in my life.” Johnny said.

“ And I am grateful to Mister Crawford for being in your life these past five years, but you have family now that cares about you.” he said. “ Let your big brother take some of that responsibility off his shoulders Johnny. Let me be your brother……….please.”

“ I’ll tell you like I told the old man. Men will come, and they will try and kill me. If I do go back with you, I need to know you understand what danger comes with me.” Johnny said.

“ I do, and you need to understand that I take it very serious having a little brother. I didn’t grow up without things like you did Johnny. I had clothes on my back, a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in every night, and food in my stomach. I’ve been in fights in school, but nothing like you had growing up. I would give anything if I could have prevented you from being abused as a child, and I would give my life to protect you now because that’s what a big brother does. He protects those he cares about, and loves. If you think I’m going to just stand by and let someone try and hurt, or kill you, you think wrong.” Scott said with firmness.

Johnny sat back in his chair. “ You just met me.”

“ That doesn’t matter. You are my little brother. Growing up in Boston, I would watch other families with two sons, and always wondered what it would be like to have a younger brother. Now I have one, and I don’t want to lose him. If you don’t want to come back with us because of our father, then do it for me. Give me a chance to be your big brother.”

“ What’s Lancer like?” Johnny asked. “ I mean, the old man told how big it is, but not really what it’s like.”

“ I’ve been there a couple years now, and it’s a lot of sweat, and hard work. I think cows are the stupidest animal on earth. Granted I have never worked with cattle before, and the hands were patient with me learning. The biggest thing we do is repair fence and clear stream beds.” Scott responded. “ We just took a herd to market before coming here.”

“ How many head you take?” Johnny asked.

“ A thousand head. Murdoch sells steers off every three to four years. He’s going to look for another breeding bull when we get back to strengthen the line.” he said.

“ I seen some pretty good, big cattle at a ranch I worked in Texas once. They call them Brahma’s. Big son of a guns too. Buy a bull, and cross him with Lancer cattle.” Johnny said as he stood up, and walked over to the window. “ You sound like you got yourself one of those fine educations.”

“ Four years at Harvard, and then I spent two and a half years in the war. I was a Lieutenant, and served with General Phil Sheridan in his cavalry unit.” Scott explained. “  I was captured six months before the war ended, and sent to Libby prison.”

“ I heard tell that place was like being in hell.” he said.

“ It was. I was one of the lucky ones to be able to walk out of that place.” he said.

“ Bought like a Mexican prison. I spent six months in one. Filthy floor, stale water, and rice full of maggots, beaten almost every day. Rats as big as a cat crawling around on prisoners, biting, and feeding on the dead, or almost dead at night. Forced to go out in the sweltering heat to bust rocks with a sledge hammer six days a week. Sundays we would be left in our filthy cells with little to no sunlight.” Johnny said. “ You fought in the war to end slavery. To free blacks. Me, I fought to end tyranny for the little folks. The Mexican government is very corrupt, and uses the Mexican army  and Rurales to steal from the farmers, and villages.”

“ Why were you in a Mexican prison?” Scott asked.

“ The Rurales didn’t take kindly to me, and a bunch of others trying to change the way they did things.” Johnny responded.

“ So in other words, you killed Rurales?”  Scott asked.

“ Let me tell you something Boston, I wasn’t going to just stand by and watch good decent people have the little they have taken from them.” Johnny said with anger. ‘ So yeah, I killed Rurales, and because of it, I have a price on my head in Mexico.”

“ You’re wanted for murder?” he asked.

“ That’s what they say, See there was a Mexican Revolution going on, and anyone who fought in it against the Rurales is wanted.” he explained.

“ That sounds a lot like during the Civil War, there was this………I guess you could call them a Rogue unit of soldiers. They used to go around and steal from the southern plantations. Ones they knew had few men working them. They were finally caught, and sent to Andersonville prison.” Scott explained.

“ So you gonna do it? You gonna give yur old man a try, and go back with them?” Val asked.

“ You not going?” Johnny asked.

“ Me, nah. I’m gonna ride back down to the border. Get out of here before the dang snow starts. Listen, I’ll make you a deal kid. Promise me you will stick it out for that year, and when it’s over, I’ll be there, and we can ride back down to Laredo or wherever together.” Val responded.

“ And if I decide to stay?” he asked.

“ Then I guess I’ll stay too. I’m sure I could find me a job in one of them there towns as a lawman.” Val said. “ Do we have a deal?”

“ Okay. I guess I’ll see you in a year then.” Johnny said.

Johnny remained pretty quiet the whole train ride to California. He’d make casual talk once in a while, but mostly he would just sit, and look out the window at the passing scenery. Three of the days it poured down rain, and he couldn’t help but be glad he wasn’t out riding in it. When the train pulled into Sacramento, his stomach got real tight. Sitting across from them on the stage, he found himself wondering if he had made a mistake, and should buy a horse, and leave. Then he remembered his promise to Val he made to stick it out for one year.

“ I sent a wire to Cipriano, telling him when we would arrive in Morro Coyo, and to have three horses at the livery for us.” Murdoch said.

“ You’ve been pretty quiet brother, are you alright?” Scott asked.

“ I’m fine.” Johnny said as he put his saddlebags over his left shoulder.

Murdoch stopped his horse on the hill, and looked down at the valley below. “ From here all the way to those mountains is Lancer son.” he said.

Johnny looked down at the valley below. Never before had he seen a place like this. Huge oak trees splotched the hills. He could see the  house from atop the hill, and knew it was big to be seen from so far away. He could see horses in two corrals behind a huge barn, several smaller buildings, and three bunkhouses. Off in the distance he could see an arch he assumed would be the Lancer arch. Most ranches, especially the big ones always had the name posted somewhere soothers would know who lived there. A small herd of cattle grazed not far from the arch with four vaquero’s around them.

“ Let’s go home boys.” Murdoch said as he started down the hill.   

Johnny got nervous as they rode under the huge Lancer arch. A large ramuda of horses on his left grazed happily in the warm afternoon sun.

“  Bienvenido de nuevo patrón y señor Scott.” ( Welcome back patron, and senor Scott.) Cipriano said as he walked over to take their horses.

“ Thank you. It’s good to be home.” Scott said as he dismounted.

“ Cipriano is my segundo. This is my long lost son Johnny.” Murdoch said as he dismounted.

“ Mi sobrino perdido hace mucho tiempo. Es bueno verte de nuevo vivo y bien. El Patrón, te ha buscado durante tantos años.” ( My long lost nephew. It is good to see you again, alive, and well. The patron, he has searched for you for so many years.) Cipriano said as he walked over to shake his nephews hand.

“ Mi madre nunca dijo nada de que tuviera un hermano.”  ( My mother never said anything about her having a brother.) Johnny said.

“ Es una larga historia de la que tendremos mucho tiempo para hablar más adelante.” ( It is a long story we will have plenty of time to talk about later.) Cipriano responded.

“ Johnny, this is Frank, my foreman, and Walt.” Murdoch said.

Johnny shook both men’s hand. He couldn’t help but wonder what else his mother kept from him. All these years he believed he had no family at all. That it was just his mother.

“ ¿Quizás podamos hablar pronto de mi familia?” ( Perhaps we can talk soon about my family?) Johnny asked Cipriano.

“ Si, te contraré sobre tu familia. Ellos también se han preocupado por ti. Especialmente tu abuelo.”  ( Yes, I will tell you about your family. They too have been very worried about you. Especially your grandfather.) Cipriano responded.

“ Tengo un abuelo?”  ( I have a grandfather?) Johnny asked with shock.

“ Sí, en México.”  ( Yes, in Mexico.) Cipriano said.

“ Let’s go inside. I have one more very special person for you to meet. Someone I know is going to be very happy you are home son.” Murdoch said.

Johnny stepped down into the grand room from the foyer, and removed his hat. He couldn’t believe the size of the room. Ten of the small shacks he had stayed in as a child could fit in the room, it was so big. On his left were book shelves with more books than he’d seen in his life, with a huge dining table in front of them. In front of him were two plush chairs in front of a table behind a couch. Along the far wall were two more plush chairs facing the couch with a small table between them. Lamps were placed on each table. A rifle cabinet hung on the wall. The floor had several different sized carpets placed  around the room. Next to the veranda door stood a huge grandfather clock. He’d heard of them, but never seen one until now. Sitting on a small table next to the clock was a ship he assumed had special meaning to his father. In the far corner of the room was a huge fireplace with the Lancer L in a circle. Two huge windows allowed for light to flood the room. Hanging on the wall behind his fathers desk was a map of Lancer, showing every stream, river, road, line-shack, watering hole, and pasture on the property.

“ Why don’t you pour your brother a drink while I go get Maria.” Murdoch suggested.

“ What would you like?” Scott asked as he walked over to the side board.

“ Tequila.” Johnny said as he walked over to the big desk, and picked up a picture. “ Is this your mother?”

“ Yes.” Scott said as he walked over, and handed him his drink.

“ Thanks.” he said as he took the drink.  “She was a beautiful lady. You have her eyes.”

“ Mi pequeño Juanito de ojos azules ha vuelto a casa.”  ( My little blue-eyed Juanito has come home.) Maria said as she walked over to Johnny.

“ Son, this is Maria, our housekeeper, and cook. She helped deliver, and take care of you.” Murdoch explained.

“ Estás muy flaco. Te haré engorar. Mañana por la noche cocinaré un banquete para celebrar tu regreso a casa.”( You are too skinny. I will fatten you up. Tomorrow night, we will cook a feast to celebrate you coming home.) Maria said.

“ Maria, I’m afraid you won’t be able to fatten him up. I’ve seen him eat, and I don’t think he can gain any weight.” Scott said with a laugh.

“ Esa comida que ha estado comiendo no es buena para él.”  ( That food he has been eating is not good for him. I will fatten him up.) Maria said before turning to walk back to the kitchen. “ Te prepararé un gran desayuno por la mañana.” ( I will fix a big breakfast for you in the morning.)

“ Maria has been with me since before Scott was born.” Murdoch said.

“ Why don’t I show Johnny to his room, and where he can wash up before supper?” Scott asked.

“ Alright son. Supper is at six sharp.” Murdoch said as he walked over to his desk, and sat down.

Scott led Johnny upstairs to his bedroom. “ My room is right across the hall.” he said as he opened the bedroom door.

Johnny walked into the room, and couldn’t believe the size of the bed. Two dressers were against the wall, and a chest was placed at the end of the bed.

“ There’s extra blankets in the chest if you get cold at night. Sheets, and towels are in this bureau. The dresser is empty, so you can put your clothes and such in it if you like.” Scott explained.

“ What’s that tall one for?” Johnny asked.

“ That’s an armoire. It’s for hanging up shirts, suits, jackets, and coats.” Scott said. “ The second door down the hall on this side is the water closet. There’s a big oak tub in there, soap, and towels. I’ll have hot water brought up so you can take a bath if you like?”

“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he sat down on the bed. “ Let me ask you something Boston. How you think the hands are gonna feel when they learn who I am?”

“ Cipriano, Frank, and Walt will tell them who you are” Scott responded.

“  I mean the real me, Johnny Madrid.” he said.

“ Little brother, as far as I’m concerned, you are my brother, Murdoch’s long lost son, Johnny Lancer. Nobody has to know about Madrid, unless you want them to know. I’ll see you for supper at six. Try to relax.” Scott said before heading out the door, and closing it.

Johnny stared at the closed door a minute after his brother left. “ Relax, you don’t get it brother, If I relax, then I’m dead.”

“ Come right in.” Scott said as he wiped his face off from shaving, and walked over to finish getting dressed. “ Sleep well?”

“ I always sleep well.” Johnny said as he walked into the room. “ Probably better than the old man did.”

“ You don’t give the old man too much credit do you?” Scott asked.

“ I tell ya I don’t give anybody too much credit. Saves a lot of disappointment.” Johnny said as he sat down on the bed, and picked up a picture. “ Well will you look at that. Hey who’s this other officer all smarted up?”

“ General Phil Sheridan. I was in his unit during the war.” Scott said.

“ You’re very pretty.” Johnny said.

“ I photograph well.” Scott said as he sat down to put his boots on.

“ Yeah you are a snappy dresser at that. What kind of a unit did you say that was?” Johnny asked.

“ It was the cavalry unit I was in.” Scott said.

“ So how come the beds are so big?” Johnny asked as he picked up at weird looking hat with feathers, and one side folded up. Placing it on his head.

“ I imagine for marriage reasons. He does want grandchildren running around the house some day.” Scott responded.

Johnny removed the hat, and stood up. “ The old man wants grand kids, he’ll have to get them from you. Ain’t no women will want a man like me.”

“ And why do you say that?” he asked.

“ It’s pretty obvious. The only women I have any luck with are the kind the old man wouldn’t want me bringing home to meet him.” he said.

“ Little brother, you just got here. Give it some time. There are some pretty nice girls your age in the valley. I’m sure once they meet you, one will catch your eye.” Scott said.

“ These girls have fathers, and brothers who will have something to say about that.” Johnny said.

“ Let’s go down to that feast breakfast Maria said she was fixing you, and then I can show you around the ranch today.” Scott suggested.

Scott and Johnny headed downstairs, and walked into the grand room together to be greeted by their father sitting at the table having a cup of coffee.

“ You boys have no idea how happy it makes me feel to see the two of you come into the room together.” Murdoch said. “ It’s been a long time coming.”

Johnny sat down to his father’s right, and Scott sat down across from him. More food than he had ever seen at one sitting was spread out across the table. Platters full of biscuits, scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, and a huge stack of flapjacks.

Maria came in with a pot of coffee, and a pitcher of milk. “ Tú comes y esta noche te doy de comer Tacos de Carnitas, Carne Asada, y Chili Relleno.” ( You eat, and tonight I feed you Tacos of Carnitas, Carne Asada, and Chili Relleno.)

“ Haciéndome la boca agua con solo pensarlo. Gracias mamacita.”  ( Making my mouth water just thinking about it mamacita. Thank you.) Johnny responded.

“ I will fix something not as spicy for you senor Scott.” Maria said before heading back to the kitchen.

“ Tonight’s supper sounds like a hot one.” Scott said.

“ What’s the matter Boston, can’t you handle a little hot spice in your meals?” Johnny asked as he scooped up some eggs.

“ I can, to an extent brother. As long as it doesn’t set my stomach on fire after.” he responded.

“ Son while you’re showing your brother around the ranch today, check the fence-line out by Black Mesa. I want to move those yearlings up there to graze.” Murdoch requested.

“  You don’t want me to start working?” Johnny asked.

“ I thought you would want to learn the layout of the ranch? Where things are first son?” his father replied. “ There’s some horses in the corral you can choose one for your own if you like.”

“ I guess I will need a good cow pony since this is a cattle ranch.” Johnny said as he finished his breakfast.

“ Alright. I’ll see you both tonight for supper. I have have to ride into Green River, and see Jim at the bank.” Murdoch responded.

Johnny walked down to the corral, and looked at the horses. They were okay, but not really what he wanted. Since his father said it would be his horse alone, he felt he deserved a special one. A horse that would stand out against all the other horses used on the ranch. In a corral all alone, he found that horse. A stallion built of pure muscle. Walking over to the corral, he opened the gate, and stepped inside. The stallion started running around, bucking, kicking, and snorting his displeasure of the intruder entering what had become his domain.

“ Hey! Get out of that corral boy before that stallion kills you!” a man yelled.

Johnny ignored the man as he watched the stallion, how he moved, and never taking his eyes off the animal. Just standing in the middle of the corral, letting the horse come closer, and closer to him without feeling threatened. After about ten minutes, the stallion walked up to him, and lowered his head.

Cipriano watched as his nephew did what no other hand was able to do with the horse, stand in the corral, and not be charged, or bit.

“ He has a gift with horses senor Scott. I had all but given up on that one.” Cipriano said.” They have chosen each other. The stallion now belongs to my sabrino.” ( nephew )

Murdoch walked out to leave, and seen the hands standing around the corral, watching something. Walking down, he was in awe as he seen his son walking around the corral with the stallion following him like a puppy.

“ Is that horse broke?” he asked.

“ Nobody has been able to put a saddle on him. He was caught the other day, and I was going to release him back to the wild today.” Cipriano replied.

Two hours later, Johnny had the gate to the corral opened, and he rode out on the stallion. “ You ready to go brother?” he asked.

“  Encantador de caballos.” Cipriano said. ( Horse Whisperer.) “ I have heard of men who have the gift in Mexico, but never witnessed it myself.”

“ He’s a good horse.” Johnny said.

“ Nobody has been able to put a saddle on him. It was meant to be. The two of you being together.” Cip said.

“ Breaking a horse is more than putting a saddle on him. You have to gain the animals trust in you first. Let him know you’re not going to hurt him. You accomplish that, and you have mostly won the battle.”

“ Well little brother, I would say you now have your very own cow pony. Nice job.” Scott said. “ You going to name him?”

“ Barranca, after a ravine I was laid up in once nursing a bullet wound.” Johnny said. “ His color reminds me of this cliff that would look like him at sunset.”

“ Well son, you are now the owner of a Capanero de Palomino. I’ll see you tonight.” Murdoch said before walking away.

Dan Brogan boarded the train headed to California three weeks after seeing Madrid. It kept bothering him, seeing the blue-eyed half-breed again after all these years, knowing he was still alive. That day twelve years ago, when he first met Maria in a cantina in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, she was a thing of beauty like none he’d seen before. The only problem she had was a half-breed kid she had of about ten years of age from some gringo she bedded. When he asked her why she kept the child, she said she could not bring herself to kill such a beautiful baby once she looked into his blue eyes. After about three days of romance with her, he showed up late one night wanting to bed the whore, and found the child in the shack. When he told him to leave, the boy refused. Talking back to him was something Brogan despised a child, anyone’s child doing. Backhanding him set the boys mother off, and  made her yell and lash out at him. When he struck her back, the boy attacked him, he thought for sure he had killed him when he threw him against the wall, and he lay still, never once moving. Seeing her child not moving on the dirt floor angered Maria, and she lashed out even more at him. When all was over, the whore lay on the floor dead, her eyes wide open, staring at blankness from a broken neck. He knew Madrid was that boy. Nobody else could have eyes as blue as his, and be a half-breed. Leaning against the window, Brogan pulled his hat down, closed his eyes, and let sleep claim him.


Chapter 4

“ Looks good.” Murdoch said as he rode up, and stopped the buggy.

“ Thank you.” Johnny said as he went to set another fence post.

“ Come on and take a breather.” his father requested.

“ Don’t mind, I think I’ll have some water.” Johnny said as he tossed the hammer in the bucket, and jumped up in the buggy seat, grabbed the canteen, and splashed water on his head.

“ Sure, help yourself. Sore huh?” he asked.

“ It’s nothing. I ain’t worked so hard in my life.” Johnny said as he stretched his back.

“ Well it shows it. You’ll have this gully all fenced in by noon.” Murdoch said.

“ Yeah I figured I’d get done early so I could ride into town.” Johnny said.

“ Uh Johnny.”

“ Yeah.”

“ A couple problems have come up. I’m sorry son.” his father said.

“ Like what?” he asked.

“ Well at two o’clock I need you to help Scott with that surveying. That report has to go in by next week, and tonight we’ve got book keeping to do, and I want you there.” Murdoch explained.

“ Send someone else to help him.” Johnny said.

“ There is no one else available. Everybody else is doing their jobs.” Murdoch said. “ I’m sorry son, but having a ranch the size of Lancer requires a lot of work, and sometimes sacrifices to do that work.”

Johnny jumped down from the buggy. “ Two o’clock huh? And just how am I supposed to know when it’s two o’clock?”

Murdoch pulled a gold pocket watch from his pocket. “ It’s old, but keeps good time.” he said as he handed the watch o him. “ Keep it. Scott will be expecting you at two.”

Johnny stood there looking at the watch his father just gave him. The first real thing he had ever gotten from the man, that he could remember in his twenty two years of life. Opening the watch, he found a picture of his mother on the inside. “ Why did you lie to me?” he asked aloud.

Scott  walked into the house. “ The surveying is all done.” he said as he handed the paperwork to his father.

“ Good. Where’s your brother?” Murdoch asked as he took the paperwork.

“ In the barn taking care of Barranca. He’s spoiling that horse.”  Scott said as he walked over to pour a drink. “ Want one?”

“ No thanks son. I gave him my pocket watch today. The look on his face. I think he was shocked.” Murdoch said.

“ It’s probably the first time anyone has given him anything. It’s certainly the first time you have sir.” Scott said.

“ I never thought of it like that. I missed so much of his life growing up. It angers me that his mother would have even put him in the danger she did.” he said as he stood up.

“ Did he ever say how she died?” he asked.

“ No, but deep down inside, I have a feeling he seen her death happen son. I think your brother seen whoever killed his mother.” Murdoch said.

“ Have you said anything to him about the party you have planned so he can meet the neighbors?” Scott asked.

“ Not yet I haven’t.” he suggested.

“ Well if you will excuse me. I think I will go clean up.” Scott said before he headed upstairs.

Dan Brogan stepped off the train in Sacramento, headed to the hotel for a hot bath, a bed to sleep in, and a meal that wasn’t cold, beef sandwiches on stale bread. The wealthy could afford to eat in the dining car, and have private sleeping quarters. Something Brogan decided to not have for his one week journey. He didn’t care for riding in a rough, jar your teeth loose stagecoach, and now he could add the discomfort of a train as well. Especially when there were kids on board. A woman with an unruly son boarded the train in Salt Lake City, and by the time they got to Reno, he was ready to shoot the kid. He told the woman she needed to take a firm hand with him, and stop him from running up and down the aisle bothering the other passengers, but she wouldn’t. She told him she didn’t believe in scolding her child. That striking him was against her nature. All the other passengers were tired of being bothered by him, but wouldn’t speak up. The conductor spoke to the woman once about his behavior, but his words fell on deaf ears. Finally about a hundred miles out of Sacramento, Brogan had had enough. The boy had bothered another passenger, his mother had told him he should sit down, and when the kid lashed out, and screamed no at her, then kicked her in the shin, he’d had enough. Reaching out and grabbing the boy when he went to run past him, Brogan yanked him across his lap, pulled his pants down, and beat his bare butt until it was red, and the boy was sobbing. Standing the boy up, he dragged him back to his mother, who sat in shock at what she seen.

“ If you got no man to control this brat, then you best start controlling him now lady, cause when he gets older, those kicks in the leg could turn into fist in the face.” Brogan said as he swung the boy around, picked him up, and slammed him down in the seat next to his mother. “ I suggest young man, you sit there and not move for the rest of the ride to Sacramento. You don’t, and I’ll use my belt on your unruly little ass.” he added before walking back to his seat. After that, the boy never left his seat. He just sat and looked out the window. Walking into the hotel lobby, he glanced into the dining area.

“ Can I help you?” the desk clerk asked.

“ Need a room, hot bath, and something to eat that isn’t served on stale bread.” Brogan said as he signed the ledger.

“ Yes sir, bath house is at the end of the hall. I’ll have someone get it ready for you. Will you be staying with us long Mister Brogan?” he asked as he got a key.

“ Just the night. They sell horses at the livery?” Brogan asked as he paid for the room.

“ He has a few for sale.” the clerk said.

“ I’m looking for a ranch supposed to be around here somewhere. Maybe you heard f it, Lancer?” he asked.

“ Lancer……, can’t say I have. No wait, Lancer that’s clear down outside Morro Coyo. About fifty miles south of here.” he said.

“ Thanks.” Brogan said as he picked up his key, and headed up to his room. “ See you soon Madrid.” he said as he walked upstairs.

“ You’re proving to be the best horse I’ve ever owned amigo.” Johnny said as he brushed the stallions coat. “ I guess this is all pretty new to you like it is to me buddy. You’ve been wild your whole life just like me, and now you got a home, roof over your head, and food in your belly just like me. Never had a place to call home, let alone a family to care about me for most of my life. Been here three weeks, and still not sure what to think of the old man yet. Scott, he’s someone I never figured to ever have. Growing up I always wanted a big brother, someone to stop the other kids from picking on me. His mamma sure was pretty. I can see why the old man married her. Right fancy lady she was. Scott’s got her mannerism even though he was raised by his grandfather. I guess that old man hates our old man with a vengeance. Well buddy, that about does it for tonight. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Murdoch stood just outside the barn listening to his son talk to the stallion. It broke his heart to hear him say he’d never had anyone to care about him. Turning, he headed back inside before his son seen him.

Johnny walked into the house, and over to the side board to pour a shot of tequila.

“ You’re spoiling that horse.” Murdoch said.

“ He’s a good animal. The best I’ve ever had.” Johnny said.

“ I figured after supper we could start on the books.” his father suggested.

“ Scott taking a bath?” Johnny asked as he walked over, and sat down on the couch.

“ Yes. I know you wanted to go to town tonight son, and I’m sorry.” Murdoch said as he joined his youngest on the couch. “ This is all new to .you. I know it’s not easy, and is a big change from what you’re used to.”

“ You know, I’ve never had a place to call home when growing up. Never had a guaranteed roof over my head, or………a family. The closest I ever come to a family was Val, or my horse.” Johnny said.

“ I guess you and Barranca are a lot alike son. You both gave up your freedom of going where you wanted, doing what you wanted, and never answering to anyone, or anything.” Murdoch said.

“ How often do these books have to be done?” he asked to change the subject.

“ Usually by the end of every month so I can keep track of how much money we have in the bank. That’s why you will have to remember to get a receipt from every purchase made for the ranch if I send you after something.” his father said.

“ From what I did today, I’d say fence post, and wire are the two main expenses.” Johnny said.

“ Most of it, yes.” Murdoch responded. “ A couple years back, we had a dry spell, and feed was the biggest cost. I’ve got four pastures of alfalfa, and five of grain for getting the cattle thru winter, and dry spells.”

“ These droughts, or dry spells as you call them, they have to affect the other ranchers too. What do they do for water?” Johnny asked.

“ They come here, and fill barrels from that water trough out there. I was lucky when I bought Lancer all those years ago. It has five good sized lakes, three rivers, countless streams, and numerous ponds. A few of the ponds do dry up by summers end, but rotating the stock helps get us thru.” he explained.

“ Scott said you were looking to strengthen your herd with new blood?” Johnny asked.

“ I’m looking for a new breeding bull or two yes. The ones I have are getting up there in age.” he said.

“ You ever think about getting a Brahma bull?” Johnny asked. “ They produce an oily secretion, and odor that insects don’t seem to like.”

Murdoch found himself impressed with his son’s suggestion. “ Tell me more.”

“ They were brought here in eighteen forty nine by a Doctor James Bolton Davis of South Carolina, and are thriving in Texas. I worked a water dispute at a ranch outside Abilene. Tick Fever hit, and wiped out most of his herd. The only ones left healthy were his Brahma’s.” Johnny explained.

“ So you think Lancer should cross breed Brahma’s?” he asked.

“ I do. They would produce more weight, which would mean more meat. They’re a mostly calm breed, except at breeding time. I’ve seen two bulls fight all day over the she stock.” Johnny responded.

“ And how strong would the fence have to be to keep them in?” he asked as Scott came downstairs.

“ No more than what you have now. Thy won’t bust thru and leave the cows. I think it would be a good, sound, wise investment.” he suggested.

“ Well, as it so happens son, I have been looking into purchasing a couple of Brahma bulls. There’s a rancher in Arizona, George Babbitt, who has bulls for sale. They’re a bit expensive, but like you said. I think it would be a wise investment.” he said. “What do you think Scott?”

“ About what?” Scott asked.

“ Purchasing a couple of Brahma bulls to strengthen the herd?” Murdoch asked.

“ I would have to agree.” he responded.

“ Good, I’ll send a wire to George Babbitt, and let him know I’m interested in purchasing to of his breeding bulls.” Murdoch said.

“ I think I will go get cleaned up now.” Johnny said before heading upstairs.

“ Your brother it would seem knows quite a bit about cattle, and ranching.” Murdoch said.

Dan Brogan rode into Morro Coyo, and stopped at the cantina. Dismounting, he looked around. The town itself looked nothing more than the towns he’d been in down along the border. Walking into the cantina, he seen a couple Mexicans sitting at a table to his left engaged in a quiet conversation. To his right there were three tables with men drinking, and playing cards. A whore walked around, running her hand over a players shoulders, trying to entice him to go upstairs with her. Stopping when she seen Brogan walk into the cantina, and giving him a smile. Walking over to the bar, he ordered a shot of whiskey, and a cold beer.

“ I’m looking for an old friend of mine.” Brogan said to the bartender. “ I was told he’s in this area working on a ranch called Lancer. You ever hear of it?”

“ Señor, you must be knew to the valley. Everybody knows where Lancer is. Your friend have a name?” the bartender asked.

“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid.” he said.

“ Johnny Madrid, he’s not here.” the bartender responded.

“ I can see he’s not here greaser.” Brogan said.

 “ Maybe he goes into Green River, or Spanish Wells.” he suggested.

“ Where’s this Lancer ranch at?” Brogan asked.

“ Take the road out of town head east ten miles, and you’ll see the Lancer arch. The main house is about a mile after that.” the bartender said before walking away.

Brogan knew Madrid liked his whores, and knew that if he was here, he’s been in town with one. Only problem was, which town. Finishing his beer, he walked over to the whore, took her hand, and yanked her toward the stairs. If he has been around, she would know, and Brogan figured why not a little pleasure when looking for information.

“ Take a ride with me Tio?” Johnny asked as he walked up to Cipriano, leading Barranca, and a horse for him to ride.

Murdoch, and Scott watched as Johnny, and Cipriano rode out of the yard.

 “ You think he will be alright?” Scott asked.

“ I hope so son. I just wish I knew why Maria never told him he had family in Mexico. Why she lied to our son the way she did.”

“ Unfortunately there are a lot of questions you have that will never be answered.” Scott said. “ Well, I better get at it. That supplies won’t get delivered to the line-shack on it’s own. I’ll see you tonight.”

“ What is it you wish to talk to me about Sabrino?” Cipriano asked an hour later as they sat under a huge oak tree.

“ My mother to start. I know nothing about her past.” Johnny said.

“ Your mother was wild. Our father, your Abuelo, he tried his best to control her, but like some wild spirits, you cannot.  As a child, my sister was an Angel, but as she got older, her spirit started to change. She started to roam the streets. Sneaking out after we went to bed, then one night she disappeared. I searched for her, and found her in Matamoros, working in the cantina where your Padre met her.” Cipriano explained. “ She never spoke to you about us?” he asked.

“ No. All she told me was some gringo got her pregnant with me, and threw us out after I was born. She said he didn’t want a mestizo for a son.” Johnny said.

“ That is, how do I say……..”

“ Una mentira.” Johnny cut in. ( a lie )

“ Si, She broke your grandmothers heart with her wild ways. She never got to see you, but knew she had a grandson.” Cip said.

“ And my Abuelo?”

“ Your Abuelo has a hacienda in Sonora, much like here. He has many sheep on his land, and some cattle, and horses. Don Luis Saldaña is a good man. I know he would be pleased to know his nieto is alive, and has come home to his padre.”

“ Did he tell you who I am?” Johnny asked as he stood up. “ Why I wear this gun the way I do?”

“ Your padre, he only said that you had been found. It does not matter to me who you were in the past sabrino. All that matters now is who you are now.” Cipriano responded.

“ I’m a gunfighter Tio. But not just any gunfighter, I’m Johnny Madrid.” he said.

“ I have heard of you. What I have heard is you are a patrona along the border. It does my heart good to know that my nephew has such a good heart. That he is willing to fight for the little man. You are a legend to many Johnny.” Cipriano said as he stood up. “ Do not feel shame for who you are.”

“ I used to know who I was, Johnny Madrid, good at my trade. Now………now I don’t know who I am, or what I should do.”

“ Do what your heart tells you to do. It will never steer you wrong.” Cipriano suggested. “ Tomorrow, I will send a letter to your abuelo telling him you are home.”

“ I can never go back into Mexico uncle. The Rurales have a price on my head.” Johnny said.

“ Perhaps he can come here to see you then. His health is good.” he suggested.

“ Yeah. We better get back. I expect the old man ain’t to happy I took off with you, and he has work for me to do today.”

“ Your father loves you very much. It does his heart good that you have come home. He worries no more about you out there somewhere. If you are alive, or dead.” Cipriano said as they mounted up.

“ He asked me if I would stay a year, and at the end of that year, if I wanted to leave, he wouldn’t try and stop me.” Johnny said as they started back to the house.

Brogan stopped on top of the hill, looking down at Lancer. He could see two riders coming back to the house, and knew the one was Madrid riding a light colored horse.  His time spent with the whore in Morro Coyo got him the information he needed. It would seem Madrid is the long lost son of Murdoch Lancer. Sitting in the tall grass, he settled in to watch as he had been doing for a week, especially now that he knew his target would be easy to spot on such a flashy horse. The whore told him Madrid came in to town on Saturday nights to drink, play poker, and sleep with a whore. He’d learned Madrid rode a light colored horse. Every morning he watched Madrid ride out, and not come back until late afternoon. This morning, he watched his prey finally ride out alone headed north. Today he would toy with Madrid in a way that would make the man screw up when it came time to face his prey.

Johnny picked up a small log, and moved it from the creek bed. Sweat ran down his face. His shirt removed long ago, his chest glistening in the late afternoon sun from the sweat. Walking over to Barranca, he pulled  the pocket watch his father gave him from his shirt pocket, seeing it was going on five, he looked at the creek bed, and sighed. He knew his father wouldn’t be happy the job wasn’t done.

 “ Looks like it’s no supper for me tonight buddy.” he said as he walked back down into the creek, and started pulling more brush, and weeds from the bed. The sun started going down behind the San Bonitos mountains, giving him a little relief from the heat. In three hours it would be dark, and he would have no choice but to stop if he didn’t get it cleared

Scott walked into the grand room, and sat down at the table. “ Johnny back yet?” he asked.

“ No. That creek bed was pretty overgrown, and had some downed trees in the bed.” Murdoch responded.

“ It’ll be too dark in an hour for him to see to work.” Scott said.

“ He’s been here long enough to know we eat supper at six sharp.” Murdoch said.

“ He’s probably finishing the job so you won’t be angry at him for it not being done if he came in for supper, and left it uncompleted.” Scott suggested. “ You should have sent someone with him to help.”

“ If he ran into problems, he should have come back, and asked for help.” Murdoch said.

“ Have you said anything to him about the party you are planning at the end of the month?” Scott asked.

“ Not yet. I’m not sure it would be such a good idea just yet. He’s only been home three weeks, an d is still settling in.” his father said.

“ He did say he does not like his fun planned.” Scott said.

Johnny opened his eyes, and wondered how he ended up on the ground. Rolling over, he sat up, and found his left side soaked in blood. Not knowing who shot him, or if the shooter was still around, Johnny took the risk, and crawled to Barranca, trying to pull himself up in the saddle.

“ I’m in trouble buddy. I’m gonna need you to get me home.” he said as he wrapped his right hand, and arm in the extra stirrup strap. “ Go home Barranca. Take me home boy.”

“It’s almost midnight, and he’s not home yet. Something is wrong. I can feel it.” Scott said. “ I’m going to ride out there, and look for my brother.”

“ Be careful son.” Murdoch said as Scott walked out the door.

Scott led his horse out of the barn, and started to mount up when he froze in his tracks. Walking toward him was a very frightened Barranca, with the lifeless form of his brother being dragged on the horses left side, his right arm tied thru the stirrup by the cinch strap.

“ Murdoch………I need help out here!” Scott yelled as he went to Barranca. “ Easy boy, take it easy. I’m not going to hurt him.” Scott said in as calm a voice as he could.

“  Oh my god. What happened?” Murdoch demanded as he hurried outside.

“ Say back!” Scott ordered. “ Barranca is real spooked from the smell of blood.”

“ How the hell do we get Johnny away from the horse?” Murdoch demanded. “ He could spook, and trample him to death.”

“ Barranca isn’t going to hurt him. He brought him home.” Scott said as he slowly inched toward the stallion, his right hand extended to allow the horse to smell him, and know he was a friend.

“ Cipriano, get some grain in a bucket. Frank, stay back!” Murdoch ordered.

Cipriano came back with not grain, but an apple. He knew Johnny always rewarded the horse with an apple. Cutting it in two, he held half of it in his outstretched hand, and slowly walked up to the stallion. After a few minutes, Barranca finally stopped moving around, and allowed them to free Johnny.

“ Take him up to his room. Frank take Scott’s horse and go get Sam.” Murdoch ordered.

Sam hurried up the stairs as the sun started to rise over the San Bonitos mountains. Walking into the room with the door open, he found Murdoch cleaning a wound. “ Let me in there Murdoch.” he ordered.

“ It’s bad Sam. He’s lost a lot of blood.”  Murdoch said.

“ Let me see how bad the wound is.” Sam said as he set his bag on the table next to the bed. “ Does this man work for you?”

“ It’s Johnny, Sam.” Murdoch responded.

“ Johnny who?” Sam asked as he pulled the bandage back to look at the wound.

“ My Johnny. He’s my son. It’s a long story. Please……… him. I can’t lose him again.” Murdoch said and pleaded as Scott, and Maria came into the room with more bandages, and clean water.

“ Alright. I want you and Scott out. Maria can help me.” Sam ordered. “ Out………now!”

Three hours later Sam came down to the grand room.  “ Is there any coffee?” he asked.

“ Of course. I’ll pour you a cup.” Scott said.

“ He’ll live. The bullet as you already know, put a big hole in his side, but by pure luck, or maybe because he was shot from a place above him at a distance, it missed any vital organs.” Sam said. “ I’ve flushed the wound, and cleaned it out with carbolic acid. I haven’t stitched it up yet, because I want to make sure there is no infection in there. The carbolic stopped the bleeding, and given he doesn’t get an infection, he will be alright.”

“ Thank god.” Murdoch said.

“ I noticed he has some serious bruising on his lower right arm, and wrist. Once the swelling goes down, I’ll brace the wrist to allow it time to heal. Do either of you know how that happened?” Sam asked.

“ Barranca brought him home. All we can figure is he couldn’t get back in the saddle, so he wrapped the cinch strap around his arm, and wrist. His horse dragged him home.” Scott responded. “ He walked into the yard around midnight last night dragging Johnny.”

“ My god. He could have been trampled to death.” Sam said.

“ Johnny has a special bond with his horse Sam. A bond I have never seen between a man, and animal before.” Murdoch said.

“ Alright, now would the two of you care to explain to me how the devil you found that boy?” Sam asked as he walked over, and sat down on the couch.

“ I’m going to go up and sit with my brother.” Scott said.

“ Let’s go get you something to eat Sam. I’ll explain everything to you.” Murdoch suggested.

“ Okay little brother, I think it’s time you open those blue eyes of yours.” Scott said as he sat looking at his brother. For six days now Johnny hadn’t moved. Sam stitched up the wound after cleaning it out one last time. A tight bandage wrapped around his abdomen just below his ribs. The bruising on his right arm was an ugly deep purple now from where the leather strap cut into his flesh. The swelling in his wrist had finally went down enough Sam could immobilize the wrist to allow the muscles time to heal. He knew how important his brothers right arm, and especially his wrist, and hand are to him. Touching his brothers forehead, he liked that it finally felt cool. For three days he had a fever none of them thought would ever go down. Picking up the small towel he had been using to wipe the sweat from his chest, and face, he dipped it in the basin of cool water, and proceeded to wipe his brothers chest down again when he heard a soft moan. Looking at him, he found a pair of blue eyes staring back at him.

“ We just about given up on you boy.” he said as he poured some water.

“ Just sleeping.” Johnny said hoarsely.

“ Here, drink some water.” Scott said as he lifted his head up so he could drink.

“ How long I been out?” Johnny asked after drinking the cool water.

“ Six days. Sam will be here this afternoon to check on you again.” Scott said.

“ Who’s Sam?” he asked.

“ The doctor. I have to say little brother, you have a funny way of getting out of doing any work.” he said with a smile. “ I’m glad you’re going to be okay.”

“ How bad was it?” he asked.

“ Bullet tore thru your left side. You lost a lot of blood, but Sam said it didn’t hit any vital organs, and your wrist is healing up good too.” Scott explained.

Johnny raised his right arm up, and looked at the bandage around his wrist. “ Why this on me?”

“ It was pretty swelled up, and bruised. Sam didn’t want you moving it so the muscles could heal up.” he said. “ Do you remember what happened?”

“ I was getting on Barranca to come home, and felt something hot slice thru my side. When I came too, I couldn’t get on Barranca, so…..”

“ He brought you home. You wrapped your cinch strap around your arm, and wrist. He dragged you home. Brought you in here about midnight.” Scott responded.

“ He okay?” he asked.

“ He’s fine. I’ve been making friends with him. Brushing him down good every evening like you do, and giving him his apple.” he said. “ Did you see who shot you?”

“ No. Never heard them either.” he responded.

“ Sam said whoever shot you was above you. I rode out there with Gabe, looking around for signs of the shooter. We found where he was in the rocks above you, and a spent rifle casing.” Scott explained.

“ Whose Gabe?” Johnny asked.

“ The sheriff of Green River.” Scott said.

“ I told you men would come to kill me.” Johnny said. “ Some know they can’t beat me face to face, so they prefer to ambush me.”

“  I don’t think so brother. Not this time. From where this guys shot from, he could have easily killed you. Especially since he used a rifle.” Scott said.

“ What are you getting at brother?”

“ Just that whoever shot you is still out there, and he will probably try again.” Scott said as he stood up.

“ I’m not going to hide if that’s what you’re wanting me to do. If this shooter is still around Scott, he knows I’m still alive by now. He could go after you, or Murdoch next to get to me.” Johnny said firmly.

“ I’ll go get you something to eat.” Scott said as he walked to the door.

“ Scott……..Gracias.” he said as his brother opened the door.

“ Eres Bienvenido.” ( you’re welcome.) Scott said before walking out of the room.

Dan Brogan stayed in Green River since shooting Madrid. He knew they would probably be looking for any strangers in town, and since Lancer might recognize him from Bannack, he didn’t want to take the chance.

“ Hey Frank, any word on the Lancer kid?” the bartender asked.

“ He’s getting better.” Frank said.

“ I heard that his horse dragged him home.” a man at the bar said.

“ Sure did. Johnny had his right arm wrapped in the stirrup, and that stallion walked all the way back. Took some coxing to be able to get him free. Damn horse thought we were going to hurt him. Cipriano finally got close enough to free his arm.” Frank responded.

“ I wonder why someone ambushed him?” the bartender asked.

“ That’s easy, because he’s Johnny Madrid.” the man at the bar said. “ I seen him down in Nogales once. He faced down two men who called him out. I tell ya, I ain’t ever seen anyone as fast as Madrid was that day. He stood there in the street and before we knew it, all three men were dead. He walked away without so much as a scratch. The sheriff stood there watching the whole thing. Those two fellas had been spoiling for a fight with someone since they rode in that morning.”

“ You mean to tell me that Murdoch Lancer’s lost pup Johnny Lancer, is the infamous gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” the bartender asked.

“ Sure is, only you wouldn’t know it working with him. He’s a right nice fellow to be around.” Frank said. “ Mister Lancer finding him in Bannack, Montana of all places was pure luck.”

“ He searched for him for what…….twenty years?” the bartender asked.

“ Yeah, and I’ll tell ya, since he come home, Mister Lancer has changed. Having both his sons home  now has made him a totally different man to work for.” Frank said.

Brogan stood up, and polished off his beer. “ Regardless of what name he goes by mister. Johnny Madrid has a bullet with his name on it.” he said. “ Just like any other gunfighter.” he said before walking out.

“ He’s right. What about the danger to Scott with him being there? Has Lancer thought about that?”  the bartender asked.

“ I expect he has. They’re both pleased to have him home.” Frank said.

Johnny sat looking out his bedroom window at the rain falling hard outside a month later. Every day he tried to think of who could have known he was here? Did someone recognize him in town, and ambush him because they knew they couldn’t beat him to the draw?  Looking at his right wrist, he knew he would have to start practicing again to make sure he could still draw fast. Sam removed the wrap a week ago, and told him to not try and lift anything heavy with it for some time yet. He liked the old doctor, and learned he was the man who delivered him twenty two years ago. A knock on his door brought him from his thoughts.

“ Come in.” he said as he stood up. He was surprised to find Cipriano opening his door.

“ Vengo con noticias de tu abuelo. Él vendrá aquí en la primavera para verte.” ( I come with news of your grandfather. He is coming here in the spring to see you.) Cipriano said.

“ ¿Vienes aquí, a Lancer?”( Coming here, to Lancer?) Johnny asked.

“ Si. Viene a verte en primavera. ¿Pensé que estarías feliz de verio?”  ( Yes. He is coming here to see you in the spring. I thought you would be happy to see him?) Cipriano said.

“ ¿Sabe él?”  ( Does he know?) Johnny asked as he walked back over to the window.

“ Que eres Johnny Madrid, no. No se lo dije.”( That you are Johnny Madrid, no I did not tell him.) Cipriano responded.

“ ¿Por qué no?”( Why not?) Johnny asked.

“ Porque no me corresponde a mí decirle quién eres sobrino. Sólo tú puedes hacerlo.”  ( Because it is not my place to tell him who you are nephew. Only you can do that.) his uncle said before walking out.

“ Hey boy, you got a horse?” Brogan asked.

“ I got one.” the kid said.

“ I want you to deliver a note to someone for me. I’ll pay you five dollars to do it.” Brogan said.

“ Five dollars. Wow mister. Who I gotta take the note too?” the kid asked.

“ The Lancer ranch. I don’t want you to give it to nobody but the one they call Johnny, understand?” he ordered.

“ Sure, I know Johnny. I’ll go tell my pa, and get my horse. Do you want him to reply to your message?”

“ Nope.” Brogan said as he paid the kid, then headed to the saloon.

Johnny sat on the veranda enjoying the cool fall temperature. His father sat at his desk doing paperwork. Scott was out rounding up fall calves for branding, and castrating. Two Brahma bulls had been purchased and would be arriving in the spring. Seeing a rider approaching, he tensed until he seen who it was.

“ Toby. What brings you out here?” he asked.

“ I got a note I was told ta deliver to you Johnny. The man paid me five dollars to bring it out here, and make sure I only gave it to you.” Toby said as he took the note from his coat pocket, and handed it to him. “ Howdy Mister Lancer.”

“ Toby, I think Maria has some fresh cookies in the kitchen.” Murdoch said.

“ I can’t stay. Pa said to give Johnny the note, and come straight back to town. I’ll see ya later.” he said before riding away.

Johnny held the note in his hand, and watched the boy ride away.. He knew his father wanted to know who it was from. Taking the note out of the envelope, he read it, and got a sick feeling in his gut.

In case you’re wondering who shot you, think of your whore mother. See you soon Madrid.
Dan Brogan.

 Turning he walked back over to the veranda, and sat down, followed by his father.

“ What’s wrong son?” Murdoch asked as he sat down.

Johnny never wanted his father to know, but knew there was no avoiding it now. Standing up, he handed him the note before walking inside.

Murdoch took the note, and could feel the anger building up inside him as he walked into the house.

“ That day in Bannack, I asked you if you knew the man I described to you, and you never answered me then.” he said. “ I’m going to ask you again son, do you know that man, and is he this Dan Brogan?”

Johnny poured a shot of tequila, and downed it. His hands started to shake as he poured another shot, ad downed it. “ He killed my mother.” he said barely above a whisper.

Murdoch walked over to his son. He could see he was trembling. Placing his right hand on his left shoulder, he turned his son to face him.

“ I couldn’t save her.” Johnny said as he fought to keep the tears from falling as the memory of finding his dead mother came flooding back to him. “ He showed up in the middle of the night wanting to bed her. She had been seeing him for a couple weeks, but didn’t want to that night. He got angry, and they started fighting. I tried to make him leave, but he grabbed me, and threw me up against the wall, knocking me out. When I came to, she was laying on the floor, her eyes wide open, and blank. He had………..her clothes were torn off….he beat her badly, and strangled her to death.” he explained. “ He killed her, and I could do nothing to stop him.”

“ It wasn’t your fault son. You did all you could to help your mother. I’m grateful he didn’t kill you too.” Murdoch said.

“ I made her a promise the day we buried her, and I aim to keep that promise Murdoch. I promised her I would send that sonofabitch to hell if I ever found him, and I aim to keep that promise. So don’t think you can stop me.” Johnny said firmly.

“ I understand that son, but I am not about to allow you to go and get yourself killed facing this man. Your right wrist is not healed up.” Murdoch responded.

“ You don’t get to have a say in this old man. You didn’t see what he did to my mother.” Johnny said back with anger.

“ I know that!” Murdoch said loudly. “ I just don’t want you going out there and getting yourself killed, or………”

“ Or what old man?” Johnny demanded. “ Or committing murder. Well let me ell you something, that bastard raped, strangled, and murdered my mother. He broke her fucking neck. I have had to live with that image in my head every day since………..So yeah, I full plan on killing that bastard, and if it means by committing murder, then so be it.” Johnny said.

“ Don’t walk away from me son…….Please, don’t do this.” Murdoch pleaded. “ Don’t throw away everything you now have. Let’s see if the law can do anything.”

“  The law………the law won’t do a damn thing old man for two reasons. One, it happened in Mexico, and two, I didn’t see him do what he did to her.” he said with anger as he headed to the stairs.

“ Where are you going?” his father asked.

“ I never was very good at taking orders.” he said before heading upstairs, his bedroom door slamming shut a few seconds later.

“ Damn it!” Murdoch yelled He wished Scott was here. Maybe, just maybe he could talk some sense into his brother. The only other person who might be able to stop him was Cipriano. Heading outside, he found the Segundo, and quickly told him what happened. Leaving out the details about his sisters death.

“ I will see what I can do.” Cip said before heading inside, and up to Johnny’s bedroom.

Johnny knew his time was short to get his wrist, hand, and arm back to one hundred percent. He knew he wouldn’t be able to practice behind the house like he had been. He  felt like he was being smothered here, so he started packing his saddlebags. “ I know the old man sent you up here to try and talk me out of it, so save it.”

“ Si, he sent me up here, but I can see there is no way of talking you out of it. I see the look in your eyes.” his uncle said. “ I understand how you feel about this more than your father does nephew. You are a man now, and sometimes a man has to do things others may not like.”

“ So you’re not going to try and stop me?” Johnny asked.

“ No, all I will do is ask that you give it the night to think about.” Cipriano responded. “ You have a good heart. I know it will tell you to do the right thing.” he said before walking out, and closing the door.

Scott came into the grand room, and sat down to eat supper. “ Where’s Johnny?”

“ In his room. Your brother won’t be joining us tonight.” Murdoch said.

“ Oh, why? Is he ill?” Scott asked.

“ No.” his father said.

“ Something’s wrong. What happened between the two of you today?” Scott asked.

Murdoch let out a sigh, sat back in his chair, and proceeded to tell him about the note, and what was said between them, and what was said between Cipriano and Johnny.

Scott stood up.

“ Son don’t. Your brother needs to think about this. He gave Cipriano his word he wouldn’t leave till morning.”

“ So that’s it then. You are going to sit there, and pretend nothing is wrong?” Scott demanded.

“ There’s nothing I can do. I tried to reason with him. This is a decision only he can make.” Murdoch snapped back.

“ You are a fool.” Scott said as he tossed his napkin down. “ I’ll be damned if I’m going to let my brother ride out of here, and get himself killed.”

“ I don’t plan on getting myself killed brother. So sit down.” Johnny said as he sat down, and started dishing up a plate of food. “ I don’t want to talk about it right now, so just let it go.”

Chapter 4 Research Notes ->


Chapter 5

Scott walked out to the barn where he knew his brother would be grooming Barranca. “ He’s a really good horse.” he said as he walked up, and rubbed the stallions face.

“ I don’t even remember really what he did, but you’re right, he is a good horse. The best I’ve ever had.” Johnny said. “ I know why you came out here. I know you came out here with the hopes of talking me out of doing what needs to be done.”

“ I would be lying if I said I didn’t.” Scott said.

Johnny stopped brushing Barranca, grabbed his bridle, and slipped it on Barranca. Opening the stall gate, he led the horse outside. “ Come on.” he said as he swung up on the horses back, and offered his left hand.

“ Will he carry two?” he asked.

“ He will.” Johnny said as he helped Scott get on behind him.

“ So where we going?” Scott asked as they rode out of the barn as their father came outside. 

“ Can I ask where you two are going?” Murdoch asked from the veranda.

“ We’ll be back later.” Johnny said before kicking Barranca into a gallop.

Twenty minutes later Johnny stopped Barranca on the hill overlooking Lancer. Swinging his right leg over the horses neck, he slid off, and dropped the reins to let him graze.

“ Almost two months ago, I seen this valley for the first time.” he said softly.

Scott slid off the horses back, and walked over to stand next to his brother. “ I remember the first time I seen it. Grandfather told me it was a desolate, baron place, with no life.” he said. “ You haven’t seen it yet, but wait until the spring, that hill over there is full of wildflowers under the oak trees. On Sundays I like to just sit up there and read a good book.”

“ Not much of a book reader.” Johnny said as he sat down, and plucked a long piece of grass to chew on. “ Growing up, I…….when the other kids were hurting me, I always wished deep down inside that I had a big brother who would come along, and stop them. Then when I was put in the orphanage, and my hell of torture really started. I knew it would never happen. A part of me started to believe what they were saying about me, that I was the child of the devil.”

“ Jesus, what’s the matter with kids saying such horrible things?” Scott asked.

“ Oh it wasn’t the kids saying it. It was Father Francisco that ran the orphanage. He hated me from the start because of my eyes.”

“ A priest abused you?” Scott asked with shock to his voice.

“ Yeah a priest abused me Scott. His two favorite things to do tome was lock me in a small closet for three days with no food or water, or beat me in front of the other kids. I kept running away, but they would find me, and take me back. After six months I made sure they never found me to take me back to that hell.”

“ Can I ask, how you survived, I mean….before you started living as Johnny Madrid?” he asked.

“ I survived by whatever means I had to. Mexico is a poor country, but the people are good, decent, and hardworking. Unless you’re rich, and have the Rurales, or Mexican government on your side.” Johnny said.

“ When I was growing up in Boston, I didn’t really appreciate the little things, you know. I guess growing up, and having pretty much everything I wanted, I never thought about it.” Scott said as he laid back in the grass, and looked up at the stars.

“ What made you change?” he asked.

“ Coming here, and seeing that not everybody has a life like I had. That people worked hard for what they did have, and some still didn’t. That life is not the same for everyone. I guess what I really learned was that even the richest man is still the poorest if he doesn’t have the most valuable thing there is.” Scott said.

“ Most valuable thing there is, and what big brother would that be?” Johnny asked.

“ Love, and a family to share it all with.” he responded.

“ That’s two things.” Johnny said. “ I’d murder him in cold-blood, so I’m not going to go after Brogan. I like what I have now, and don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to cross that fine line.”

“ Well little brother, that makes me happy to hear you say that, but what are we going to do about him? He’ll most likely come after you again.”

“ I’m counting on that. Dan Brogan don’t have patience for anything. He won’t ambush me again. Next time he’ll call me out.” Johnny said. “ He could do it here at the ranch, or in town.”

Laying in the grass, looking up at the stars, the brothers enjoyed the peacefulness of the evening. The only sounds were those of crickets chipping nearby, and Barranca munching on the grass.

“ Are you afraid of me Scott?” Johnny asked softly.

“ Should I be?”  he asked.

“ I don’t want it anymore.” he said. “I like what I have now. I like not having to hire my gun hand out to get money to eat. Wondering if the next fool to call me out will be the one to kill me.”

“ I like it too little brother.” Scott said before yawning. “ Are you excited about meeting your grandfather in the spring?”

“ I guess so. He doesn’t know who I am, and I don’t know him.” Johnny responded. “ Your grandfather ever gonna come visit you?”

“ That little brother I am ashamed to say, he does not do. The man lied to me about our father, and kept me away from him.” Scott responded before standing up.

“ Guess we better head back so the old man don’t worry.” Johnny said as he stood up.

Dan Brogan sat drinking a cold beer in the Green River saloon, when the sheriff walked in with a deputy carrying a scatter gun.

“ Dan Brogan, I want you out of my town, and jurisdiction…………..Now!” Gabe ordered.

“ Can I ask why sheriff?” Brogan asked.

“For two reasons. One, I’m the law, and I don’t want your kind in my town, and two, I know you’re the one who ambushed Lancer’s kid.” Gabe said.

“ If you know that sheriff, then why don’t you arrest me?” Brogan asked as he stood up. “ Because you have no proof it was me.”

“ Sheriff wants you to leave, so let’s go.” the deputy said.

“ Sure deputy, I’m going, You say you don’t like my kind in your town, or jurisdiction sheriff, well let me tell you something. The one you say I supposedly ambushed. The one you say is Lancer’s kid. Well he ain’t Lancer’s kid. He’s Johnny Madrid, and if you don’t believe me, ask that man standing right over there at the bar. He seen Madrid gun down two men in Nogales once.” Brogan said as he walked to the door. “ You tell Madrid, this ain’t over yet. Tell him I’ll see him in the spring, and to make sure that right hand, and wrist are good to dance.” he said before walking outside, and heading to the livery stable.

Jim Porter stood at the bar listening to the conversation, and anger grew inside. Leaving the saloon, he headed down to the livery.

“ Excuse me. My name is Porter, I’m president of the California Cattle Growers Association. I would like to have a word with you about what was said in the saloon if we could?” Porter said.

“ You got as long as it takes to saddle my horse mister.” Brogan said.

“ Is Murdoch Lancer’s son really Johnny Madrid?” he asked. “ The reason I’m asking is I’m stepping down as president, and Murdoch is sure to be voted to take my place. I don’t think it would be good for the ranchers around the valley if it was known the president’s son is a gunfighter, but not just any gunfighter, Johnny Madrid.”

“ I expect it wouldn’t. I haven’t heard anything on what you want with me yet.” Dan said.

“  I don’t know your plans, but I expect you’ll be needing money to get you thru to spring. ” Porter said. “ I can put you up at the hotel in Modesto for all winter, and then you ride back here to my ranch, and I guarantee you will be able to kill Madrid.”

“ Yeah, how?” Brogan asked as he put the bridle on his horse.

“ Because the next meeting will be held at Lancer in the spring. They all know I always have a couple of hands ride with me to the meetings. Think my offer over.”

“ You pay for all my drinks, and meals.” Brogan said.

“ Done. I’ll send a wire to the hotel telling them to expect you.” Porter said.

Gabe rode under the Lancer arch a week after running Brogan out of town. He didn’t like being played a fool, and never thought Murdoch Lancer would ever do that too him. Riding up to the house, he dismounted just as all three Lancer men walked outside.

“ Murdoch, you must take me for a real fool?” Gabe demanded.

“ I’m sorry. I don’t know what you are talking about Gabe.” Murdoch said.

“ Having me come out here and investigate * your son * being ambushed. You neglected to tell me this man is Johnny Madrid.” Gabe responded.

“ He was, but he is my son, and I didn’t tell you because he came home to live his life as Johnny Lancer. Why is that a problem? He’s done nothing wrong Gabe.” Murdoch responded.

“  I know why it’s a problem. Johnny Madrid being ambushed, the law could care less about, right sheriff?” Johnny asked with coldness.

“ I ran Brogan out of town last week. He’s over in Modesto, staying at Porters hotel. Said to make sure your right hand, and wrist are good because he will be back in the spring to kill you. I was hired to keep Green River a peaceful town, and I’ve done that by keeping your kind out of that town. Now I’m telling you this one time, and one time only, you and your kind are not welcome in Green River. The citizens know who you are, and they asked me to ride out here, and tell you not to come into their town.” Gabe said firmly.

“ Now hold on sheriff, my brother has done nothing wrong.” Scott cut in.

“ Your brother is a gunfighter. A deadly one from what an Arizona Ranger said. I have fourteen hundred people I’m responsible for in Green River. I’m not going to put their lives at risk allowing the likes of you in town.” Gabe said firmly.

Johnny turned and went back inside.

“ I’ll have your badge for this Gabe. You know I’m very good friends with the Governor. I’ll be having you removed from office come next election.” Murdoch said.

“ The good citizens of Green River elected me sheriff, not the governor.” he said.

“ Yes, but the governor has the power of the state to have you removed from office, and that is what I fully intend on having done if you do this Gabe. My son has every right to live in this valley, and I’ll be damned if I will let anyone, in any surrounding town try and run him off. I searched for that boy for twenty years.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ Johnny is not going anywhere sheriff.” Scott added.

The blood he causes to be spilled will be on your hand Murdoch Lancer. If you think I am going to risk my life to save a no good killer like him. You go ahead and try and take this badge from me.” Gabe said before mounting up, and riding away.

“ That wasn’t the Gabe I’ve talked to on Saturday nights, or shared a beer with.” Scott said.

“  We should have told him.” Murdoch said.

“ With all due respect sir, it wasn’t our place to tell him, or anyone else about Johnny, or his past. It is none of their business.” Scott said as they walked back inside, and found Johnny downing a shot of tequila.

“ A might early for that isn’t it brother?” Scott asked.

“ Back off Scott. I don’t need you, or you telling me what to do.” Johnny snapped back. “ Did you really think I could live here old man? You knew this would happen. I was such a fool to think I could give it up, and live a normal life.”

“ You can, and have every right to live here as Johnny Lancer damn it. Gabe is the sheriff of Green River. He doesn’t control the whole valley son. It’s one town.”

“ And what about the people Lancer does business with in that one town? What if every other town in this valley does the same thing?” he demanded as he poured another shot, and downed it.

“ You need to stop this right now son. Please don’t do this. Please don’t leave.” Murdoch pleaded.

Johnny stood there glaring at his father a few seconds before turning, and throwing his shot glass into the fire, shattering it.

“ Feel better brother, or do you want to break more things?” Scott asked.

“ Murdoch, my being here is going to cost Lancer money, and business. You can’t afford that.” he said.

“ What Lancer can’t afford, or I should say, what I can’t afford….is to lose you again. It would kill me if I lose you again son.” his father said with a quiver to his voice.

“ Who’s Porter?” Johnny asked. “ The sheriff said he had a talk with Brogan before he left, and is staying at his hotel in Modesto until spring.”

“ Porter came to the valley about ten years ago from Wyoming. There’s speculation he was involved in the Johnson County war between cattle ranchers and ranchers raising sheep. Wyoming is cattle country, and always has been.” Murdoch said. “ I contacted the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, and they said the sheriff, a Frank Hadsell led a band of ranchers including Porter against these sheep ranchers. They hanged a man named Jim Averell and his wife Ella Watson. Nobody was ever sentenced for it because the only witness to come forward for the heinous crime, Gene Crowder was murdered before he could testify. Some say the man who murdered him was Porter.”

“ Doesn’t Porter have a daughter?” Scott asked.

“ Yes, Lucy.  I believe she is back east attending college.” Murdoch said.

“ I’ve been ordered out of towns before because of who I am. I’m sick of it. I like being here. I like having a home, and I’m not going to let no tin star, or anyone else tell me I don’t have a right to live in this valley. They let someone like Porter live here, I have every right to also.” Johnny said with firmness.

“ Lancer takes care of its own.” Murdoch said.

Johnny stayed out of Green River all of winter. Murdoch started purchasing what he needed from Spanish Wells, and Stockton. The two Brahma bulls were due to arrive any time, so Johnny, and Scott checked every inch of fence-line where the bulls would be put . Only the best cows were selected for the bulls to breed, and none younger than three years of age.

“ Just think Scott, this time next year we’ll have Brahma cross calves all over Lancer.” Johnny said as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

“ I hope so brother. You going into town tonight with me to play some poker?” he asked.

“ Yeah, I plan too. I want to win back some of my money you took from me last Saturday night.”.” Johnny said as a rider galloped toward them.

“ Something wrong Walt?” Scott asked.

“ You’re father sent me to fetch you both back to the house.” Walt responded.

Murdoch walked outside when his two sons rode up to the house.

“ Something wrong?” Scott asked as they dismounted.

“ Harlan is here.” he said.

“ Grandfather is here?” Scott said with shock.

“ Hello Scotty.” Harlan said as he walked out onto the veranda.

“ Hello sir. I didn’t know you were coming.” Scott said as he shook the mans hand.

Johnny got an uneasy feeling in his gut as he watched his brother greet the man. Looking at his father, he had a suspicion he too felt the same way.

“ This must be your half-breed brother Johnny Madrid?” Harlan asked.

“ Well it’s not Madrid anymore sir, it’s Lancer.” Johnny said.

“ Forgive me of course.” he said.

“ Scott’s talked my ear off about you and Boston.” Johnny said as he wondered why his brother would tell the man about Madrid, and what he told him.

“ Let’s see now, your mother was a foreigner now wasn’t she?” he asked.

“ Mexican.” Johnny said.

“ Yes, I understand she was a very lovely woman.” Harlan said in a way Johnny didn’t like.

“ Let’s go inside.” Murdoch suggested.

“ I guess going to towns out of the question now Boston?” Johnny asked.

“ I’m sorry Johnny.” Scott said. “ You can still go.”

“ I’ll take care of our horses.” Johnny said before turning, and walking away before anyone could speak.

Scott knew his brother was irritated, and a little put out by his grandfather showing up unannounced like he did. Every Saturday night the brothers would ride into town, have a few cold beers, and play poker with the hands. Something even he was sorry they couldn’t do.

“ So what brings you out here sir?” Scott asked as they walked inside.

“ Do I need a reason to see my only grandson?” Harlan asked.

“ Of course not. I just……”

“ If we had known you were coming, Scott could have picked you up.” Murdoch said.

“ So when did your……When did Johnny come home?” he asked in a way that made Scott look at his father.

“ A few months ago.” Scott responded.

“ I’m surprised he’s is staying here, after running wild for all those years with no supervision. Living by his gun.” Harlan said snidely.

“ Harlan, you’ve only just arrived, uninvited I might add, so I will tell you this just once. As long as you are in this house, you will not talk down my son. I know you never approved of me marrying his mother, and that’s why you never bothered to tell Scott he had a younger brother for all those years.” Murdoch ordered. “ And don’t call him a half-breed again.”

“ You must be tired after your journey sir. I’ll show you too your room. You can freshen up, and rest before supper.” Scott said  as he picked up the mans luggage.

“ Just how long do you plan on staying Harlan?” Murdoch asked.

“ I had planned on staying a couple weeks. I haven’t seen Scotty for over three years.” he responded. “ If that’s alright with you Murdoch?”

“ Just remember what I said.” Murdoch said.

Johnny walked into the grand room, and found only his father sitting at his desk.

“ Where’s Scott?” he asked as he walked over, and poured a shot of whiskey.

“ Outside talking to Harlan.” Murdoch said. “ Are you alright son?”

“  I’m fine.” Johnny responded before downing the shot, putting the decanter lid back on, and walking over to plop down in a chair. “ Checkers?”

Murdoch stood up. “ Sure.” he said as he walked over to join him. “ Talk to me son. Something is bothering you.”

“ It’s something his grandfather said today.” Johnny said. “ Did you tell him about my mother, or me?” he asked.

“ No. I had only learned a short time before me and Scott went to Montana, who you were son. As for your mother, he knew I had remarried, but not to who.” Murdoch responded. “ Why?”

“ He knew about Madrid. Now either Scott told him in a letter, or………”

“ He’s pretty crafty at checkers Murdoch.” Scott said as he walked in with his grandfather.

“ Well, I think I will retire for the night. It’s been a long trip. Scotty, I look forward to you showing me around tomorrow.” Harlan said before heading upstairs without so much as a goodnight to either Johnny, or Murdoch.

“ You have some explaining to do brother.” Johnny said.

“ I do? About what?” Scott asked as he walked over to sit down by them.

“ About why you told your grandfather about me being Johnny Madrid?” he asked.

“ I don’t know what you are talking about Johnny. I never told grandfather anything about that. It’s none of his business.” Scott responded.

“ Then how did he know?” he asked.

“ I don’t know brother.” he said.

“ I’m sorry Murdoch, I’m not in the mood to play checkers now. I think I’ll turn in.” Johnny said as he stood up, and headed upstairs.

Scott watched his brother go upstairs.

“ He’ll be alright son.” Murdoch said. “ I would like to know how Harlan knew though?”

“ So would I sir. I plan on asking him that very question tomorrow. Though I doubt he will tell me the truth.”

“ Would you like to play some checkers with the old man?” he asked.

“ I would.” Scott said as he sat down.

Scott stopped the buggy next to a stream. “ So what do you think so far?”

“ Lancer?” Harlan asked. “ Well I’ve never seen it, but I seem to know it so well, this wilderness. What a naive young girl came to search sugar dreams.”

“ Well she loved him sir. That’s why she came out here, to share her life with him.” Scott said.

“ I’ve often wondered what it is that drives a man so hard. Makes him put ambition above all else. Even his own family.” he said.

“ Murdoch didn’t have a family when he came here.”

“ Precisely. Murdoch had to force himself to make the trade.”

“ Trade sir?”

“ I raised you Scotty, not Murdoch. I took care of you for twenty four years while he was carving out his little empire.”

“ With all due respect sir, I’ve tried to show my gratitude.”

“ Gratitude! Gratitude is something I don’t want from you my boy….. Well forgive me, I guess I’m getting to be a silly mottled old man. Let’s get on.”

Scott sat down on a downed cottonwood tree.“ Why did you lie to me about my father?” Scott asked.

“ We already had this discussion before you left Boston.” Harlan said.

“ Yes we did, but you never answered me then, so I am asking you again. Why did you lie to me about Murdoch?”

“ I never lied to you Scotty.”

“ Oh but you did sir. You told me he didn’t want me. You kept letters from me that he wrote to me for twenty four years. You lied to me about who he was when he came to see me on my fifth birthday. You had no right doing that sir.”

“ I had every right. Murdoch thought this land, this empire he carved out was more important than you. If he had cared about you, he would have come to see you more than that one time.”

“ And what about you. How many nights did I eat supper with the hired help, or alone because you were too busy with * your * work to be home to eat a meal with me?”  Scott demanded. “ He told me how you threatened him with all your lawyers. How you threatened to have me taken away, and put in a place where he would never see me again.”

“ You seem to have lost your manners my boy. I didn’t raise you to be insolent toward me. You must have gotten your behavior from that half-breed brother of yours.” Harlan snapped back. “ I was always there for you. Yes I worked late sometimes, but I was there every morning for you.”

“ You were only there if your business permitted you to be sir.” Scott responded. “Johnny is my brother. I will not permit you to speak badly of him.”

“ How long do you think it will be before men come to kill him? Johnny Madrid will only get you hurt Scotty.”

“ Who told you  his name?” Scott demanded.

“ You told me about him in your letters.” Harlan said. Knowing he screwed up.

“ No sir. I never told you anything of the sort. It is none of your business. Now who told you?” he demanded.

“ I know more about Murdoch, and that killer than you will ever know my boy. I have had them both watched for years.” Harlan snapped back.

“ You knew where Johnny was, who he was, knowing Murdoch was searching for him?”

“  He should have never married that Mexican whore, and so soon after your mother died. I’m just sorry he wasn’t killed that night too.”

“ It was you wasn’t it? You hired that man to kill his mother, and it was you who told him where Johnny was at?”

“ What if I did? I want you to come back to Boston with me Scotty. Where you belong. Not out here in this desolate, unforgiving country with all these filthy Mexicans.”

Scott stood up. Anger showing clearly on his face. “ I’m taking you back to the house sir. I want you to gather your things. You’re not welcome to stay. I don’t want to ever see you again.”

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple my boy. If I leave, then there will be twenty gunmen show up to kill that whelp. So I guess you had better rethink your decision.”

“ I don’t have to rethink it. I want you gone from Lancer, and gone from my life. As for your gunmen, Lancer takes care of its own.”

“ They sure are somethin’” Johnny said.

“ The paperwork on them say they are brothers sired by the same bull” Murdoch said.

“ Like me and Scott!” Johnny said with a smile.

“ Looks like your brother is coming back early.” Murdoch said as he watched the buggy go under the Lancer arch.

Scott stopped the buggy,  jumped down, and headed down to where his father, and brother were at with the two new bulls.

“ Remember what I said Scotty.” Harlan said as he climbed down.

“ Walt, would you take my……..take Mister Garrett into town to a hotel please. He won’t be staying here at Lancer.” Scott requested.

“ Something wrong son?” Murdoch asked.

“ There is, but I would prefer to not talk about it right now.” Scott responded. “ So these are the bulls?”

“ Somethin ain’t they?” Johnny asked. “ There brothers, sired by the same father like us.”

“ Cute brother. Real cute.” Scott said as he looked at the paperwork. “ Lets just hope they can do their job well.”

“ Of they will. This time next year Lancer will have Brahma calves.”

“ They seem to be pretty tame.” he said as he watched Johnny move around them.

“ Like big overgrown puppies.” Johnny said.

“ Except these cost a considerable amount of money.” Murdoch said.

“ From the looks of them, I would have to say an investment worth every penny Murdoch.” Scott said.

Scott cleared his throat, and took a sip of his water. “ What I have to say, isn’t easy, and I want you to know that I didn’t know anything about it until today.” Scott said as he looked from his father, to his brother. “ My grandfather is not permitted to set foot on Lancer land ever again. What he has done is inexcusable, and I will never forgive him for it.”

Murdoch knew that it was bad, whatever happened today for his son to speak about the man who raised him like he was. “ Why don’t we go into the other room son?” he suggested.

“ No, right here is fine.” Scott said as he looked at his brother. “ Johnny, I know I’ve said this to you before, but I will say it again. I would give anything to have been there for you growing up. To have been the big brother you so desperately needed to protect you from the abuse you received. I never knew grandfather could be so cruel, so malicious. It kept bothering me what you asked me last night. About if I had told him you were Johnny Madrid, and I didn’t. He knew who you were because it would seem he had someone watching you ever since Murdoch married your mother, and brought her to Lancer. He knew…………he knew where you were………. who you were, all of it brother.”

Johnny sat back in his chair, and looked straight into his brothers eyes. He could see the pain, and tears welling up. “ Maybe we should discuss this in private brother?”

Scott didn’t bother to try and stop the tears from falling. Telling his brother what he was about to tell him would be the hardest thing he ever did. He already figured on how his father would react hearing it. There was no love lost between the two men after all. “ No, Murdoch needs to hear it also, and I won’t be able to say it twice.”

“ Son…….whatever it is, it can’t be that bad.” Murdoch said.

“ Grandfather had your mother killed………..He paid the man, Brogan to do it. He told him where you are. He wanted to hurt Murdoch for marrying so soon after my mother died. He said that if I stayed here, he would have twenty gunfighters come into the valley, and kill you………and Murdoch to get me to go back to Boston.”

Both Johnny, and Murdoch sat staring at Scott in total shock at what they heard. Neither of them expected what he had to tell them would be of this nature.

“ Damn him……Damn that man!” Murdoch yelled as he slammed his fist down on the table, rattling the dishes.

“ Murdoch don’t!” Scott yelled. “ Talk to me Johnny. Please say something, anything. Hit me if you want too.”

“ Why, what your grandfather did isn’t your fault. I don’t blame you Boston. Hell my fate was sealed the minute the old man bedded my mother. I made my bed when I started living by a gun, your grandfather made his the day Murdoch married your mother. The only difference between the two of us is……….I can forgive someone, when he clearly only knows how to hate someone, and that someone being our father.” Johnny responded.

“ Little brother, you are one hell of a man.” Scott said. “ How do you feel Murdoch?”

“ I don’t know what to think right now son. What you said is quite a shock. I guess I need a little longer time than Johnny does to process it.” Murdoch said.

“ Twenty gunfighters huh?” Johnny asked. “ Out of curiosity, what did you say too that?”

“  I told him something he would know nothing about, let alone understand. I told him, Lancer takes care of its own.” Scott said.

Harlan Garrett sat eating breakfast in the hotel restaurant in Green River, thinking about everything that went wrong. It had been two days since his plans shattered right before his very eyes.  He had never planned on Scott learning the truth about his father, or that he had a half-breed brother. All he ever wanted was his grandson to work beside him back in Boston, and someday run the business he built up. Now none of that meant anything to him. Never would he have expected Scott to say he never wanted to see him again, and was willing to risk his own life for Madrid. Finishing his breakfast, he went back up to his room, tomorrow he would leave this godforsaken land, and go back to Boston, to his empty life.

Scott came downstairs, and found only his father at the table. “ Johnny’s not down yet?” he asked.

“ No, I haven’t seen him yet this morning.” Murdoch said.

“ His room’s empty.” he said.

“ Maybe he wanted to start work early on finishing clearing that stream bed out so he could help with moving those heifers.” Murdoch suggested.

“ Maybe. Think I’ll take a ride out there, and see if he needs some help after breakfast.” he said.

“ I’ve been giving it some serious thought about what you said son, and I have to agree with what your brother said. Me and Harlan will never get along. That much we know, and now, learning he is responsible for Maria’s death……….I never want to see that man again.” Murdoch said.

“ That is exactly what I told grandfather.” he said.

Johnny rode into Green River, and dismounted in front of the hotel. He didn’t care that the sheriff ordered him not to come into his town. He didn’t care about the people looking at him when he rode in. All he cared about was one person in the town. One person he hoped was still there. Walking inside the lobby, he looked to see if the man was in the restaurant.

“ Can I help you?” the desk clerk asked.

“ You have a Harlan Garrett staying here?’ Johnny asked.

“ Sure do. He’s leaving in the morning, and I can’t say he will be missed.” the clerk said. “ Man complains about everything.”

“ What rooms he in?” Johnny asked.

“ Top of the stairs, room five. He just went up there about twenty minutes ago.” he said.

“ Thanks.” Johnny said before heading upstairs. Confronting the man really responsible for his mothers death he figured would be worth being thrown in jail if Gabe learned he was here. Stopping outside room five, he took a deep breath to calm his nerves, and knocked on the door.

 Harlan Garrett opened the door, and was shocked to see Madrid standing there. “ What do you want?” he asked with anger.

“ We need to talk old man.” Johnny said as he forced his way into the room.

“ I have nothing to say to you. Get out of my room before I have you arrested.” Harlan ordered.

“ Close the door, and sit your sorry ass down old man…………now!” Johnny ordered.

“ Don’t threaten me half-breed. Get out of my room.”

Johnny walked over, and slammed the door shut. Shoving Harlan toward the bed. “ I said to sit down old man.”

Scott rode into the yard, and dismounted. “ Johnny isn’t out at the stream working. Nobody has seen him this morning.” he told his father.

“ Walt, have you seen Johnny?” Murdoch asked.

“ Not since earlier.” Walt said.

“ You talked to him earlier. What about?”

“ He asked me where I took your grandfather the other day, saddled Barranca, and left.” Walt said.

“ Where did you take him?” Scott asked.

“ To the hotel like you said.” he responded.

“ Which hotel?” Scott asked.

“ The one in Green River. Is something wrong?” he asked.

“ Saddle my horse.” Murdoch ordered. “ I pray he doesn’t do something foolish.” Murdoch said as he turned to go inside the house.

“ He has every right too.” Scott said. “ I’m more concerned with what the sheriff will do if he learns Johnny is in town.”

“ That’s why we are going.” Murdoch said as he strapped on his gun.

“ I should kill you for what you have cost me and my father you sorry sonofabitch.” Johnny said with anger, and coldness.

“ You won’t kill me because it would cost you Scotty.” Harlan said.

“ You sure about that old man?” Johnny asked as he pulled a chair over to sit in front of Harlan. “ You don’t give a damn about anyone or anything but yourself do you?’

“ I care about my Scotty, and you took him away from me.” Harlan snapped back.

“ Took him from you. I didn’t take Scott from you. I’ve only been back at Lancer six months. I never knew I had a brother until I met him in Bannack. But you already knew that didn’t you. I mean, you having me and Murdoch watched all these years.”

Harlan sat glaring at Madrid.

“ Unless it was all a lie. That’s it isn’t it? You lied to Scott. You haven’t had someone watching Murdoch, or me all these years?” Johnny demanded.

“ I did what I had to do to get my Scotty to come home. He doesn’t belong out here with the likes of you.” he said.

“ He’s a grown man, and can live where he wants, do what he wants.” Johnny said firmly. “ It must be hell being so heartless that you would go so far as to hurt your only grandson. You go ahead and have those twenty gunfighters come here to try and kill me if that’s what you want to do. But you better think about Scott, if you do. Because right now, he may forgive you some day for what you’ve done. You have me, or Murdoch killed, I guarantee he will never forgive you.”

“ You should have died that day Brogan killed your whore mother.” Harlan spat.

Johnny slapped Harlan so hard, it snapped the man’s head to the right. Pulling his colt, he put the barrel against the man’s head. “ I’ve already been in hell. Pulling the trigger would mean nothing to me old man. You took my mother from me. You robbed me of the only thing I had at the time.” he said as he pulled the hammer back. “ I’ve dealt with men like you my whole life. Men who think they’re better than anyone else. Men who think money gives them the right to hurt. I wonder just what Scott’s mother thinks of you, what she would say if she was still alive.”

“ You don’t have a right to talk about my Catherine. She’s dead because of Murdoch. If he hadn’t dragged her out here, she never would have died in the back of that wagon giving birth to Scotty. He’s the reason she’s dead.”

Johnny pressed the barrel harder to the man’s head.

“ Johnny don’t do it.” Scott said from the door. “ He’s not worth it brother.”

“ Son, he has to live with what he’s done. What he’s lost. Please.” Murdoch pleaded.

Johnny un-cocked the pistol, and slowly brought it away from Harlan’s head. Holstering the gun as he glared at the old man. Turning, he walked over to his brother.

“ You’re nothing but a worthless half-breed killer.” Harlan spat as he stood up.

Scott walked over to his grandfather. “ I told you to never talk about my brother like that again.” he said before hitting his grandfather square in the mouth, knocking him back down onto the bed. “ Let’s go home.”

“ Harlan, I suggest you be on the next stage out of town. I want you out of this valley, and to never return. You do, and I won’t stop my son next time.” Murdoch said before turning, and walking out of the room with both his sons.


Chapter 6

Frank rode up to the house, and dismounted. Opening the veranda door, he stepped inside. “ Mister Lancer, there’s a carriage coming with two people in it.” he said.

Murdoch stood up, and walked to the door. “ Maria!” he called out before walking outside. Watching the big carriage approach, he knew who it was, and smiled. He’d only met the man once, but knew who it was. When the carriage pulled up, and stopped, he walked over to greet his visitors.

“ Don Luis, it’s good to see you.” he said.

“ It has been many to long my friend.” Don Luis said as he stood up, climbed down from the carriage, and shook Murdoch’s hand. “ This is the daughter of a friend of mine who wanted to come with me, and see California, Miss Anna Petra Pérez.”

“ Young lady, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Please, won’t you come inside.” Murdoch said. “ Frank, ride out and tell Cipriano his father has arrived. Walt, Pedro, please take their luggage upstairs.”

“ Thank you. It has been a long journey. Is my grandson here?” Don Luis asked.

“ He’s out working with his brother. They will be back in a couple of hours.” Murdoch responded as they walked into the grand room. “ He has no idea you were arriving today.”

“ You have a lovely estancia Señor Lancer.” Anna said.

“ Thank you. My late wife Catherine did most of the decorating.” he said.

Maria walked into the grand room, and stopped. “ Don Luis, es tan bueno verte de nuevo.”  ( Don Luis, it is so good to see you again.) Maria said as she walked over, and greeted her father-in-law.

“ Es bueno verte de nuevo también. Veo que todavía está cocinando para el señor lancer.” ( It is good to see you again as well Maria. I see you are still cooking for senor Lancer.) Don Luis said.

“ Si. Tengo que asegurarme de que el señor Lancer y sus hijos coman bien.”( Yes. I have to make sure Mister Lancer, and his sons eat good food.) she said.

“ Maria, this is Anna Petra Pérez. “ Murdoch said. “ Would either of you care for some cold lemonade, or perhaps something a little stronger?” he asked.

“ Lemonade sounds wonderful. I am a bit parched from our journey here.” Don Luis said.

“ Padre, ha pasado demasiado tiempo.” ( Father, it has been too long.) Cipriano said as he walked into the grand room, and gave his father a hug. “ Te ves bien.” ( You look well.)

“Para ser un anciano, estoy tan en forma como un toro joven.”  ( For an old man, I am fit as a young bull.) Don Luis said with a smile. “ Sus cartas no le hicieron justicia a esta hermosa estancia cuando me lo contó.”  ( Your letters did not do this fine estancia justice when you told me about it.)

“Lancer no es un lugar fácil de describir en papel.”  ( Lancer is not an easy place to describe on paper.) Cipriano said.

“ ¿Quizás deberíamos ser corteses y hablar el idioma inglés en la casa del señor Lancer?”  ( Perhaps we should be courteous and speak the English language in Mister Lancer’s home?) Anna suggested.

“ Yes, you are quite right Anna. Sometimes I forget where I am at, not all understand my language.” Don Luis responded.

“ That’s quite alright. Maria, would you please show our guest to their rooms, and where they can freshen up, and rest if they wish before supper?” Murdoch asked.

“ Si. My Juanito, he will be so surprised to see you when he comes back.” Maria said as she led them upstairs.

Scott walked into the house, and stopped dead in his tracks as he stared at a beautiful young Mexican girl sitting in a chair next to an older Mexican man.

“ Scott, I would like you to meet Don Luis Saldaña, Johnny’s Grandfather and the daughter of a friend of his, Miss Anna Petra Pérez.” Murdoch said.

“ It’s a pleasure to meet you sir.” Scott said as he shook the mans hand. “ Miss Pérez, it’s a pleasure to meet such a beautiful young lady as you.”

“ Where’s your brother?” Murdoch asked.

“ Where else.” Scott said. “ Please excuse me while I go clean up for supper.” Scoot said before walking away.

“ Excuse me. I’ll go fetch my son. I’m afraid he’s in the barn spoiling his horse.” Murdoch said.

“ May I?” Don Luis asked.

“ Certainly, but be careful, Barranca doesn’t like strangers too much, and Johnny doesn’t like people sneaking up on him.” Murdoch said.

“ Scott says I spoil you too much amigo.” Johnny said as he walked around to face Barranca. “ You know what I told him? I said you deserve to be spoiled. You saved my life, and you’re a damn good horse. The best I’ve ever had.”

Barranca pressed his head into Johnny’s chest, and closed his eyes. The two of them just standing there, neither moving as they strengthened the bond between them.

“ He is a magnificent looking animal.” Don Luis said.

Johnny dropped his hand to the butt of his colt as he stepped back.

“ Please forgive an old man. I did not mean to startle you my nieto.” Don Luis said.( grandson)

“ Abuelo.” Johnny said softly.

“ I am. Your uncle told me you were a good, strong man now.” Don Luis said. “ You have your mothers hair, and your fathers eyes.”

“ Eyes that cursed me most of my life.” Johnny said as he came out of the stall, and closed the gate. Never before had he been as nervous as he was right now. Talking to a man he never knew existed. A man his mother kept from him all these years.

“I see you are as nervous about meeting me as I am about meeting you.” he said. “ We are strangers to each other. Perhaps we can change that, and become family?”

“ She never told me about you. She never said I had a grandfather alive, and in Mexico.” Johnny said.

“ It would seem she told you many lies my nieto. I have come here to see you, and answer any questions you have to ask me.” he said.

Johnny stepped out into the light more so his grandfather could see him better, and see the gun on his hip.

“ You are a pistolero.” Don Luis said. “ From the looks of the gun, a very dangerous one. It has been changed. The sight is filed off to allow a faster draw, and the holster has been…….how do you say…….modified so the pistol clears leather faster. Am I correct?”

“ Si.” Johnny said. “ You have a good eye Abuelo. I am, or was a gunfighter.”

“ But not anymore?” he asked.

“ Not if I can help it.” Johnny said as he fed Barranca his apple.

“ Can I ask what name you used to go by?”

Johnny turned to face the man. He wanted to see his reaction when he told him. “ Madrid, Johnny Madrid.”

Don Luis nodded his head. “ I have heard many things about a pistolero named Johnny Madrid down below the border around Nuevo Laredo. Many people speak of him as a patrona. A man who tries to help the lesser man stand up and fight for his rights.”

“ I fought against rich men like you Abuelo. Men who stole from the poor whenever they wanted. Men who killed to get what they wanted.” Johnny said, and instantly regretted.  “ Por favor,perdóname Abuelo?” (please forgive me grandfather )

“ There is nothing to forgive. I am not like those men you speak hatred of.” Don Luis said.

“ Can I ask where you live?” Johnny asked.

“ I have an estancia outside Matamoros, though it is nothing like Lancer.” he said.

“ Matamoros?” Johnny said. For so many years he was right there close to his grandfather, and didn’t even know it.

 “ You look tired. Perhaps we should go inside so you can clean up before supper?” he suggested.

“ Yeah, I am tired. Been clearing streams all day.” Johnny said. “ I don’t think the old man would appreciate me eating supper smelling like I do.”

“ Where in Mexico do you live sir?” Scott asked as they waited for Johnny to join them.

“ Outside Matamoros. As I told Johnny, my estancia is nothing like Lancer.” he said.

“ How many acres do you have Señor Lancer?” Anna asked.

“ One hundred thousand acres with ten thousand head of cattle, and the finest Capanero de Palominos in the San Joaquin.” Murdoch said.

“ It must take a lot of men to help you run such a ranch?” she asked.

“ It does. I have a hundred and fifty vaqueros working for me.” he responded.

Johnny walked into the grand room, and sat down. “ Sorry I’m late.” he said.

“ Nieto, I would like you to meet the daughter of a very dear friend of mine, Anna Petra Pérez.”

“ We meet again.” Anna said.

“ You two know each other?” Don Luis asked as all eyes were on Johnny.

“ Me and my mother were heading back home when we lost a wheel. Mister Madrid came along, and helped us.”

“ So Johnny rescued you. May I ask when this happened?” Don Luis asked.

“ About four years ago.” she said. “ You told me your name was Madrid though, not Lancer.”

“ I did.” Johnny said. “  You see, eight months ago I used to be a gun-hawk. It’s a long, long story, but I’m both Johnny Lancer, and Johnny Madrid.”

“ So which are you more?” she asked.

“ Lancer.” Johnny said without hesitation.

Murdoch couldn’t help but smile when he heard his son say who he was more now. He knew a part of his son would always be Madrid, and he didn’t expect him not to be. It was Madrid after all that kept him alive, and brought them together almost a year ago.

Scott had a feeling Anna was attracted to his brother. “ Shall we eat?” he suggested. “ Maria tends to get angry if her food gets cold before we eat it.”

All thru supper Johnny couldn’t help but glance at Anna sitting across from him next to Scott. Several times he found himself toning out the conversation totally as he took in her beauty. Noticing how in four years, she had grown up, and filled out in all the right places. ‘ I need to go to town ‘ he thought as his mind started to wonder what it would be like to lay with someone like Anna. Someone pure, and innocent.

“ Shall we take our brandy out on the veranda?” Murdoch asked an hour later. “ I have fine Cuban cigars if you would like one?”

“ That sounds good.”

“ Miss Pérez, would you care for a sherry?” Scott asked.

“ Thank you.” she responded as Don Luis pulled her chair back for her to stand up.

“  Don Luis still sleeping?” Johnny asked as he walked into the kitchen.

“ Yes. Maria will fix them some breakfast when they wake up.” he said.

“ Little brother, I couldn’t help but notice last night, you seem to fancy the young lady.” Scott said. “ And to learn the two of you met what, four years ago?”

“ It was three years ago Scott, and what’s your point?” Johnny asked.

“ Little brother, you have been around those saloon girls too much if you can not tell she likes you.” Scott said.

“ I noticed.” Johnny said as he poured a cup of coffee. “ Look, you’re making something out of nothing. She’s a very well classed lady. I wouldn’t stand a chance with a woman like that, and even if I did, I’m no good for her. I have a past that……”

“ Your past that is just that, your past son. I don’t want you  to ever say you are not worthy enough for anyone.” Murdoch ordered.

“ There’s nothing between me and Miss Pérez, so the two of you can just forget about any notions you got.” Johnny said firmly.

“ If you say so brother.” Scott said.

Murdoch sighed. “Boys, we have that cattleman’s meeting this Saturday. I know you don’t want to attend it Johnny, but I want you there. It’s time the members meet both my sons.” Murdoch said.

“ You sure about that?” Johnny asked. “ Porter will be there, and we all know how he feels about me.”

“ Porter doesn’t run this valley.” Scott said.

“ Johnny, I was thinking you could show your grandfather around the ranch this afternoon when you finish working those horses.” Murdoch suggested.

“  I have six horses to finish training before the sale next month.” Johnny said.

“ You don’t have to do them all yourself brother. We do have hands capable of doing it too.” Scott said.

“ Murdoch gave me the job, and I plan on being the one to finish it. Those horses will fetch a real nice price for Lancer when I’m done training them.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ Bring them down whenever they wake up.” he said before leaving.

Johnny talked with his grandfather, getting to know the man more, and more every evening after supper for the month he has been at Lancer.  He found the man to be very amicable. Never judging him when he told some things from his past. He could see the pain, and hurt in his face when he told about the abuse he received while in the orphanage after his mother died.  He even spent time talking to Anna, but always under the careful, watching eyes of his father.

“ Why did she never tell me about you?” Johnny asked.

“ I expect it is because she hated me and her mother. Hated us for trying to raise her proper.” he said.

“ Sometimes family is all a person has. I had none when she died.” Johnny said.

“ Your father, he said you seen your mother killed.” Don Luis said. “ That you blame yourself for not being able to stop it from happening.”

“ He shouldn’t have told you.” Johnny said with disappointment that his father told his grandfather. “ I didn’t see it happen. He threw me against a wall, and thought he had killed me. I found her when I woke up.”

“ And the man who did it, he has found you, and now will be back anytime to try and kill you again?” Don Luis asked.

 “ Seems Murdoch told you a lot?” Johnny asked.

“ Do not be angry with him for telling me. She was my daughter. It was very painful for him to tell me. He said he felt it would be easier for him, than you. He said you live with the memory every day.” he said.

“ I understand that, but I don’t give my trust to just anyone.” Johnny said. “ You betray that, and it’s hard for me to trust again.”

“ This man, Dan Brogan, can you kill him?”

“ I can, and I will.” Johnny answered with firmness. “ I made a promise to my mother that no matter how long it took me, I would find that man, and I would send him to hell for what he did to her.”

“ It would seem that it has been you who has been in hell since her death. Perhaps you feel you have to kill him to release you from your infierno?” ( hell ) Don Luis asked.

“ Are you telling me to let it go? To break my promise?” Johnny asked.

“ No. A man’s word is all he really has. Whether living, or dead, if a man gives his word, and does not keep it, he is no good.” Don Luis responded.

“ I have always kept my word, because like you said, it’s all a man has.” he said.

“ The padre who abused you, do you remember his name?” he asked.

“ That’s a name, and face I will never forget. Father Francisco. He’s still there, or at least he was two years ago.” Johnny said.

“ Can I ask what town the orphanage, and this cruel man are in?”

“ Mission San Pedro, in Sonora.” Johnny responded.

“ And the prison?’ he asked.

“ The worst one in México, Puerto Peñasco prison.” Johnny said with anger in his eyes. “My Abuela, is she still alive?”

“ No, sadly your Abuela passed away last spring.” he said. “Alejandra, and I were married forty three years. I know she would have loved to have seen you.”

“ I better go feed the stock before supper.” Johnny said as he stood up, and stretched his back. “ Abuelo, gracias por venir a verme.” ( Grandfather, thank you for coming to see me.)

“Me alegro de poder ver a mi nieto antes de morir.”  ( I am just glad I get to see my grandson before I die.) Don Luis said as he stood up.

Don Luis, Anna, and Murdoch walked down to the corrals to watch Johnny, train the horses they planned to sell at the  County Horse Auction being held in Spanish Wells this year. Six of them have been trained to rein, rope, and cut out a specific cow from the herd. Johnny personally breaking the six horses, and working with them on Sundays, teaching them, and was pleased with how they were progressing.

“ Frank, let about ten of those yearlings in.” Johnny ordered.

“ What is he going to do?” Don Luis asked.

“ He’s training them to be cutting horses. Don’t ask me how he does it, because I haven’t been able to figure it out yet myself.”

“ My grandson is what we call in Mexico, an Encantador de Caballos.”

“ A Horse Whisperer.” Murdoch said. “ After watching him break Barranca in less than an hour, with no saddle I might add, I would have to agree with you.”

Johnny rode the mare, loose reined toward the yearlings, picking the one he wanted, he let the reins drop, and held on with his knees as the mare instinctively started cutting the yearling from the herd, and kept her from them until Johnny picked the reins up again.

“ She is a beautiful animal.” Anna said. “ How old is she?”

“ I believe John said she’s about three years old. A lot of ranchers will start working them like this as two year old’s, but their knees are not done closing, and they can break down, break a leg, or become permanently lame.”

“ How much do you want for her?” Anna asked.

“  The price is up to John, but I believe he would like to get three hundred each for the six.” Murdoch said.

“ I wish to try her.” Anna said.

“ She is a cattle horse Anna. Not a pleasure mount.” Don Luis said.

“ Because she is a Mesteño.” Anna said. (Mustang )

“ Johnny, bring the mare over here please.” Murdoch ordered.

Johnny rode the mare over to the fence. “ What’s wrong?” he asked as Anna entered the corral.

“ Nothing is wrong. Miss Pérez is interested in purchasing her.” Murdoch responded.

“May I ride her please?” Anna asked.

“ She’s not fully broke yet.” Johnny said.

“ I can handle her. I have been riding since before I was walking. Climbed down. I want to see how she feels.” Anna said.

Johnny reluctantly climbed down from the mare, handed over the reins to Anna, and offered to help her mount up, but found she needed no help as she grabbed some mane, and swung up in the saddle.

“ That’s not the way a lady mounts a horse.” Don Luis said.

“ Frank, take the yearlings out.” Johnny ordered.

Anna reined the mare around. “ No, leave them.” she said as she started the mare trotting toward them.

Everybody watched as Anna and the mare became one in movement. Several times she cut a yearling out, and never once lost her seating as the mare moved fast, back and forth to keep the cow from getting back with the others.

“ She’s pretty good.” Johnny said.

“ She has ridden since before she could walk” Don Luis said as Anna rode back over to them.

“ Open the gate. I want to take her out, and see how she does.” she said.

“ Not alone. I will not permit it.” Don Luis said.

“ He can go with me. I am thinking of buying her, I want to know if I can ride her outside a corral.” she said.

Johnny walked over, and swung up on Barranca as Anna came out the gate, and got the mare into a run.

“ She is a very headstrong young lady. If her father knew she was not riding side saddle, he would be very displeased with her.” Don Luis said as he watched them disappear over a hill.

“Johnny will make sure she stays safe.” Murdoch said.

“ The meeting is next week. I want you to show up, and call Madrid out after we are all inside the house.” Porter said. “ I’ll start getting the other cattlemen riled up about him being here. Of course Murdoch Lancer will defend him, but there will be eight other major ranchers at that meeting who feel the same way I do about that killer being here. You make damn sure you kill him.”

“ Don’t tell me what to do. Madrid may think he knows me, and think he can beat me, but he can’t. He hasn’t seen just how fast I am. I’ll kill him, and his father can watch him die.” Brogan said firmly. “ So how you plan to get them riled up?”

“ I contacted a Pinkerton Detective, and had him get me all he could learn about that killer. It’s in this file, and will make for some interesting talk at that meeting.” Porter explained.

“ What day is this meeting?” Brogan asked.

“ Saturday.” he responded.

Johnny, and Anna stopped their horses on top of a hill overlooking a small lake with a waterfall at the back.

“ This is Fern Falls.” Johnny said.

“ It’s beautiful.” Anna said.

“ So you have many suitors back home?” Johnny asked.

“ Just one. The son of another rancher. It’s a prearranged marriage.” Anna said.

“ You don’t want to marry him?” he asked.

“ No. His father wants this marriage thinking he will also become part of my fathers very successful horse business. I am almost twenty one years old. When I get married, I want it to be to someone I chose to marry. Someone I love. Not someone picked for me like a brood mare is picked for a stallion.” Anna said firmly.

“ What does your father say about it?” he asked.

“ He won’t say because it is a custom going back hundreds of years. The engagement is announced when the girl turns eighteen, and when she turns twenty one, she is allowed to go with a trusting chaperon away from home, then comes back, and prepares for her marriage.” Anna said. “ It is a beautiful place. I wish we had such a place on my fathers estancia. Do you swim in it?”

“ Yeah, on a hot day if me and Scott are close, we’ll go for a swim to cool off.” Johnny responded. “ We run cattle up here in the summer because of the lake.”

“ Let’s go for a swim. It’s a warm day.” Anna said as she started the mare down the hill.

“ The water will be cold with it being late spring.” Johnny said as he followed her down the hill.

“ That’s alright. I know how we can warm each other up.” Anna said.

Johnny had a gut feeling he knew what Anna meant by warming each other up.

“ Are you a cribbage player?” Murdoch asked.

“ I have played cribbage, but it has been years.”

“ Tell me about Anna.” Murdoch asked as he shuffled the cards.

“ Anna is a good girl. Unfortunately she is promised to a young man in a prearranged marriage that she does not love. The family only wishes to become……how do I say it……They only have interest in her father’s horse business, not in her. She is basically thought of as no more than a brood mare picked out for a stallion.” Don Luis responded.

“ Does her father want the marriage to happen?” Murdoch asked.

“  No, but it is a custom going back hundreds of years. A custom I wish would not be practiced anymore in México.” Don Luis said. “ I have noticed My grandson has taken an interest in her though. They spend a lot of time together talking in the rose garden, or out looking at the stars at night.”

“ I’ve noticed that also.” Murdoch said.

“ How do you feel about that?” he asked. “ If Johnny, and Anna……..”

“ Johnny is too wild, and carefree for a young lady like Anna. His past could show up, and……..”

“ So you would not approve if they wanted to get married?” he asked.

“  Don Luis, is there something I should know about Anna?” Murdoch asked.

“ There is something I should tell you about her, and her family.” Don Luis said. “ There is no expensive horse ranch. Her father gambled it all away one night in Brownsville. She is promised to this other man because he is broke, and if Anna marries this man, he can have his ranch back.”

“ So he is using his daughter to get what he was foolish enough to lose?” Murdoch asked.

“ Yes. I did not bring Anna with me in hopes of her and one of your sons getting together Murdoch. I brought her with me to save her from this forced marriage.” he said. “ I hope you can forgive me?”

“ Don Luis, your intentions are good, but you know this could bring trouble to Johnny. He has to be told.” Murdoch said.

“ What if I told you Anna wishes to live here.” he asked. “ That we both do not want to go back to Matamoros. My Alejandra is gone. There is nothing there for me now. My familia is here. I want to spend all the time I have left with my grandson.”

“ Here? I know Johnny would like that very much. I know I would..” Murdoch said. “ You know what’s going to happen between them on that ride they took don’t you?” he asked.

“ What happens will be no different than what happened between me and Alejandra, and you and Maria. Love knows no boundaries my friend.” he responded.

“ What are the chances of this man coming here looking for her?” he asked.

“ It is a good possibility he could come, but for sure, I do not know.” Don Luis responded.


Anna dismounted, and tied the mare off so she could graze. Sitting on a rock she began to remove her shoes as Johnny rode up, and dismounted, tying Barranca away from the mare.

“ I don’t think we should be doing this Anna. It’s not proper.” he said.

“ You said this pasture isn’t used until summer, so that means there’s nobody here but us right?” she asked.

“ Yeah, but a hand or Scott could come along.” Johnny said as he watched Anna shuck her riding pants, and shirt. Leaving her standing there in just her undergarments.

“ You can sit there and watch if you want. Me, I’m going for a swim.” Anna said before diving in the water.

Johnny battled with himself inside. He knew that if he got in the water with her, he wouldn’t be able to stop it if she wanted to do more than swim.

“ You coming in or not?” she asked as she swam back toward the shore to were she could stand up. Her body showing thru her wet undergarments.

“ I think it’s best I stay here. You go ahead. Besides, I don’t have anything to swim in.” Johnny responded.

Anna walked closer, and started splashing water at him. “ Don’t tell me you are shy about swimming with a lady naked?”

“ No, I’m not shy. I just don’t think we should. If someone seen us, or found out.” he said.

“ Don Luis knows how I feel about you Johnny, and I think you know how I feel about you. We’ve gotten to know each other the month I have been here. I just want to get to know another side of you is all. A side I know would be wonderful for both of us. If you are worried about us being seen, we could go over there by the waterfall. Nobody would see us because of the rocks.” Anna said.

Johnny sighed, and stood up. Go ahead and swim on over there. I’ll bring the horses.” Johnny responded.

Anna smiled before turning, and starting to swim across the lake to the waterfall. Once there, she waited for Johnny to join her in the water. She knew her father would not approve of what she had planned, but she didn’t care. What waited for her back in Matamoros she didn’t want. What she wanted was right there with her, and just the thought of Johnny touching her body, feeling his lips on hers as his hands touched her all over made her excited.

Johnny unsaddled the horses, and secured them far enough apart, Barranca would be good as they grazed on the lush green grass. Removing his gun belt as he walked over to the rocks, he placed it close to the shore, out of sight before sitting down, and removing his boots.

Anna watched as Johnny climbed up the rocks above her, giving her full view of his body before diving in. Looking at him from head to toe, she marveled at his fine, well toned, muscled body. She knew today would be the first of many times she would be with him, if they could before she went back to Matamoros. She couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to have him moving inside her as she looked at him. She had often wondered things a proper lady should never wonder about. Her mother had told her in secrecy what to expect from the man on her wedding night. How they would come together, what would happen before, during, and after. Her mother held nothing back telling her it would hurt, especially if her husband didn’t take his time, and properly prepare her body for his engorged man part to enter her, and that she might bleed a little from him forcing his hardness past the barrier her body has inside her to show she is innocent, and has not been with any other man before their wedding night.

The shock of the sudden cold water hitting his body helped relieve some of the eagerness he was feeling for what was to come. Swimming underwater over to where Anna stood waiting, he came up behind her, grabbed her shoulders, and s turned her around to face him. Placing a hand under her chin, he slowly brought his mouth down to hers, and ran his tongue over her lips. Feeling them quiver ever so slightly as he kissed her. Pulling her body tightly to his as he slid his tongue between her teeth, and moaned as his tongue intertwined with hers. Pressing his hardness into her as he let his hands start to wonder over her body, stopping at her breast to squeeze them before his hands went lower. Breaking off the kiss, he stepped back, and looked her in the eyes.

“ We can stop this right now if you want. I don’t want you doing anything you don’t want Anna. I don’t want to hurt you.” he said.

Anna smiled, and gave him her answer when she reached down, and took him into her hand, and started working to make him hard.  “ Oh my,” she said as she felt him start to get hard. Gasping when Johnny touched her between her legs.

Johnny knew how to drive her to want him. How to make her first time as easy as possible when he entered her all the way. One thing he learned from an older whore once. When a woman orgasms, her muscles spasm so much, it’s the easiest time for a man to get all the way inside her with little to no pain for them both. If a woman is too tight, she can hurt him as much as he can her, and that was something he didn’t want to happen her first time with a man. Slipping two fingers inside her, he started exploring, moving them in and out of her as he claimed her left breast, sucking hard, and pulling on her nipple, driving her crazy as his thumb found the spot he knew would drive her crazy. Removing his hand, he took her left hand in his, and walked her back to shore were he had already sped their saddle blankets out to lay on. Dropping to the blankets, Johnny gently pulled her down into his arms.

“ Are you sure about this?” he asked.

“ I’m sure.” Anna said before their mouths came together with hunger, and passion. Her body starting to respond to his touches in ways she never imagined. Ways her mother said would happen. Rolling over onto her back, she eagerly waited for Johnny to climbed on top of her, wrapping her legs around his thighs, arching her body up to his as she felt his hardness brush against her mound.

Johnny reached down, and pushed two fingers inside her again, getting her as moist as he could before he entered her. Rubbing her in all the right spots until he felt her muscles tighten, knowing she was close. Guiding his hardness to her he pushed inside her as he rubbed her spot. Pulling back as she clung to him, clawing his back, and shoulders as he went deeper with every thrust until he felt her barrier. Pressing his thumb as hard as he could, he rubbed her spot until her legs started to quiver, and she pressed her head back onto the blanket as he shoved past the barrier, and entered her all the way. Thrusting as hard as he could to keep her climax going until he too reached satisfaction, and on shaky arms, looked down into her eyes as he thrust as hard as he could.

Anna reached up, and pulled Johnny’s mouth down to hers as she wrapped her legs as tight as she could around him, holding him in place, not wanting the moment to end.

Johnny collapsed on top of Anna as he tried to slow his breathing down. “ Are……are you okay?” he asked as he rose back up, and looked at her.

“ I’m fine. It’s everything I expected it to be with you. I’m glad you were my first Johnny.” Anna said.

Johnny rolled off her, and pulled her close to him, holding her tight. “ It’s been a long time since I’ve been with a lady.” he said as he ran his right hand gently up and down her arm.


“ Have you been with many women?” she asked as her fingers played with his chest hair.

“ A few. Mostly women in saloons.” he said.

“ You ever been in love?” she asked as she looked into his blue eyes.

“ No. A gunfighter can’t take the risk.” he said.

“ But you said you’re not a gunfighter anymore.” she said.

“ Shuttin’ off your old life, is not an easy thing to do. The past has a way of coming up, and nudging at you sometimes.” Johnny said.

“ Oh, well I don’t nudge easy Johnny. I never have.” Anna said before rolling on top of him. And kissing him.

Johnny sat up, and  wrapped his arms around Anna. “ You’re an addiction.” he said as they started to make love again in the afternoon sun.

Murdoch walked out of the house when he heard horses approaching. Relief came over him that Anna returned unharmed.

“ Did you have a nice ride?” Murdoch asked.

“ We did.” Anna responded as she dismounted. “ We rode up to Fern Falls, and then Johnny showed me your two new bulls.”

“ What happened to your hair?” he asked.

“ I went for a swim in the lake. It was just so beautiful, and too inviting. Where is Don Luis?”

“ He’s resting.” Murdoch said.

“ Well, I guess I will get cleaned up before supper.” Anna said before heading inside.

“ I’ll take care of the horses.” Johnny said as he took the reins from her.

Murdoch watched his son walk away. He knew something happened between them. Something that shouldn’t have happened. Anna was a proper young lady, promised to another man in a prearranged marriage.  Then it hit him. Murdoch had a feeling he knew why.

“ You did real good today girl.” Johnny said as he unsaddled the mare.

“ Let me help you son.” Murdoch said.

“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he went to unsaddle Barranca. “ She’s a real good horse. She didn’t shy, or spook at anything.”

“ Johnny………I want to talk to you as a concerned father.” Murdoch said as he led the mare into a stall.

Johnny had a gut feeling his father knew what happened today. “ Go ahead.” he said as he led Barranca into his stall.

“ It’s about Anna, and you.” Murdoch said.

Johnny started brushing Barranca. “ What about us?”

“ Son I know something happened between the two of you today, and there’s nothing I can do about that. What I can do as your father is warn you. Don Luis and I had a discussion today about Anna. Did she tell you she is promised in marriage to another man?” he asked.

“ She told me. She also told me she’s against it. That it’s been a custom for hundreds of years to prearrange the marriage of a daughter to the son of a wealthy family.” Johnny said. “ She doesn’t want to be a brood mare Murdoch, and that’s exactly what this prearranged marriage makes her feel like. Marrying a man just because the parents think it’s right is wrong.”

“ Have you given any thought to what you did today? That she could now be with child?” he asked.

“ If she is, then I guess I’ll do what I have to do. At least it wouldn’t be a forced marriage.” Johnny responded.

“ Her father is broke son. There is no expensive horses or anything like that. He got drunk, and lost it all one night in a poker game in Brownsville. Your grandfather, and Anna don’t want to go back to Matamoros. They want to stay here. Don Luis said he wants to spend his remaining years with the only family he has left. It wasn’t his intentions for her to use you, if that’s what she did. His only intentions were to get her far enough away from them, that she would be safe. I’m sorry she used you son.”

Johnny stopped brushing Barranca, and came out of the stall. “ She didn’t use me Murdoch. We made love today, and I could tell what we had was real between us. It wasn’t lust, or in the heat of the moment. It was real.” Johnny said. “ What are the chances of this guy coming here looking for her?”

“ I asked him that very same question, and he said it is possible son.” his father said.

“ Guess he’s in for a surprise then if he does.” Johnny responded. “ I’m going to go get cleaned up.”


Chapter 7

“ Scott, have you seen Johnny? We were going to go for a ride.” Anna asked.

“ He left early this morning with his grandfather, and won’t be back until this afternoon. He went to get more wire.” Scott replied.

“  Don Luis went with him?” she asked.

“ Yes he did. I don’t mean to be rude, but I do have to get this hay stacked, and this is no place for a lady to be.” Scott said firmly.

“ I’m sorry I bothered you.” Anna said before heading back inside.

“ Anna, I want to talk to you young lady.” Murdoch said. “ Would you please come over here, and sit down?”

Anna walked over, and sat down on the couch across from Murdoch. “ Yes sir. Have I done something wrong?”

“ That depends young lady. I’m going to talk to you like a father, and what is said between us will go no further.” Murdoch said. “ I have noticed you and Johnny have gotten closer. It does me good to see my son laughing, and having a good time with his grandfather, and you. God knows his life hasn’t been an easy one. Don Luis has told me everything. By that I mean about your father, the prearranged marriage, and why. He also told me there is no expensive horse ranch, and that your father lost everything in a poker game a few years ago. Now, Johnny knows all of this, he had a right to know. He also knows his grandfather has requested to spend the remainder of his years here at Lancer, where he can be with Johnny. He mentioned that you don’t wish to go back to Matamoros. Can I ask, is it because of you being forced to marry this man?”

Anna dropped her head down in shame. Tears started to fall down her cheeks. “ I love my family, but why should I be the one to pay the price for something my father did Mister Lancer? Why should It be allowed to treat one’s daughter like she’s no more than a brood mare just because a family is rich?”

Murdoch moved over to sit next to her. Wrapping his arm around her, he pulled her into a hug. Something he felt the girl was long overdue getting from someone who cared. “ You can stay here, but I need to know your intentions with my son? I know the two of you were together that day you rode the mare, and have probably been again since. Young lady, you, and John’s actions together can have lifelong consequences. Have you thought about that?”

“ My mother, she told me what to expect from a man my first time, and that it is easy for a woman to become with child that first time. We both knew this that day, and Johnny didn’t want to, really he didn’t Mister Lancer. It was me, my fault we made love.” Anna said.

“ Are you using Johnny?” he asked.

Anna stood up, and looked at Murdoch. “ At first when I came here, I thought it would be the perfect plan to get out of this prearranged marriage. That Carlos would not want to marry me if I was no longer innocent………..But then, as I got to know Johnny, I started to fall in love with him.  I would never do anything to hurt him.”

“ Even though this Carlos could come here?” Murdoch asked. “ Johnny is trying to get away from his past. Have you thought about that at all? Have you thought about the possibility of someone calling him out who is faster than he is, and kills him? Because as his father I do. I worry about that every day, and so does his brother Scott.”

“  Mister Lancer, if Johnny walked in that door right now, and asked me to marry him, I would say yes.” Anna responded. “ Your son is the kindest, most caring person I have ever known. I know he’s lived a life wild, and carefree, he’s told me. Everybody deserves a chance to change. Everyone deserves to be happy, to love someone with all their heart. I would be happy with just one day with Johnny as much as I would a lifetime spent with him.”

“ Young lady, if it happens, I would be proud to have you as my daughter-in-law.” Murdoch said.

Johnny finished loading the wagon with the wire, and wiped his brow. “ You want to get a cold beer before we start back?” he asked.

“ Johnny Madrid!” a man yelled from down the street.

Johnny’s shoulders dropped, and he let out a sigh. “ Not here. Not now.” he said. “ Grandfather, stay here.”

“ What is happening?” Don Luis asked.

“ Just promise me you will stay here with the wagon, and don’t say anything……….Please?” Johnny pleaded. “ He’s called me out.”

“ I thought it was you I seen come in with that old man!” the man yelled.

“ Mister, I don’t know you, and I don’t want any trouble.” Johnny said. “ So why don’t you just turn around, go back in the saloon, and let me finish my business.”

“ Oh your business is finished Madrid. I’ve waited a long time to kill you.” the man said.

“ I’m asking you to not do this. I don’t want to kill you.” Johnny said, but it was too late. He seen the sign, drew, and fired his colt. Hitting the man in the chest. “ Damn it!” he vented with anger as people walked out to the dead man laying in the street. Turning, he climbed up in the wagon, waited for his grandfather to do the same, and headed home.

“ Do you think I have a right to try and live a normal life?” he asked his grandfather some time later.

“ Yes I do. Every man has that right if it is what he really wants to do.” Don Luis said.

“ Please don’t tell Murdoch what happened back there.”

“ It is not my place to tell him. It was your business, not his.” Don Luis said. “ Is that how it is with them?”

“ Pretty much.” Johnny said. “ A friend of mine told me once. He said Johnny, don’t you ever get to a point where you take killing lightly. It’s not a good thing to kill a man, or cause a man to get killed. Makes you sick inside.”

“ You cannot control another man’s destiny. The decisions we make in our lives have an impact on so many others around us, that I think sometimes we are not aware of it.” Don Luis said. Sensing his grandson didn’t want to talk about it any longer, he changed the subject. “ Do you love her?”

“ Is it that obvious?” he asked.

“ I may be old, but I am not blind. Could my grandson be taking a bride, and perhaps giving me great grandchildren sometime soon?”

“ Maybe, I’m just not sure yet.” Johnny said.

“ Why, what does your heart say?”

“ To ask Anna to marry me.”

“ Then listen to your heart. It did not steer me wrong when I married Alejandra forty five years ago.” his grandfather suggested.

“  If I ever have a daughter, I want to name her after her grandmother. If that’s alright sir?”

“ I think your grandmother would be proud to have her great granddaughter named after her.”

“ You know, Murdoch asked me to give it a year when I agreed to come back to Lancer, and at the end of that year, if I wanted to leave, he wouldn’t try and stop me.” Johnny said. “ I don’t want to live anywhere else.”

“ Have you told him this?” he asked.

“ I was thinking of telling him tonight during supper.”

“ Bien.” Don Luis said as he put his left arm around Johnny, and hugged him. (good)

“ Murdoch, I have something I need to tell you. It’s about our deal we made about me staying here a year.” Johnny said.

Scott dropped his fork. “ Sorry.” he said as a sick feeling came over him.

“ Go on.” Murdoch said.

“ I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, and I’ve come to a conclusion.” Johnny said.

“ And that is?” Murdoch asked.

“ There is no other place I would rather live than here at Lancer.” Johnny said.

Murdoch sat back in his chair, looking at his youngest. “ Do you mean it son?”

“ I do. This is my home,  my family is here, and that’s all that matters to me.” Johnny said. “ You alright over there brother?”

Scott stood up, and walked around the table. When Johnny stood up, he wrapped his arms around him, and pulled him into a big hug. “ You had me a little worried there brother.”

Murdoch stood up, and walked over to his safe. Opening it, he took out a piece of paper, and walked back over to the table. “  I had my lawyer Randall draw this up in the hopes you two boys would come home.” he said as he handed the paper to Johnny to read.

“ What is it?” Scott asked.

“ A partnership agreement making each of you a third owner of Lancer, only I call the tune.” Murdoch explained.

Johnny handed the paper to Scott, and walked over to pour a shot of tequila. “ Me, Johnny Madrid, a third owner of the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin.”

Murdoch walked over to his son. “ Take it or leave it. That’s what I would like.” he said. “ If you accept. We can ride into Spanish Wells Monday, and sign the contract in Randall’s office making it official.”

“ A family, and now part owner of a ranch. I have to be dreaming.” Johnny said.

“ It’s no dream son. Will you accept my offer?” Murdoch asked.

“ Yeah. Johnny said.


Anna cautiously walked out to the barn, and opened the door. It was well after midnight, and everyone had gone to bed hours ago with tomorrow being Saturday, and the Cattleman’s meeting happening. Walking to the back of the barn, where her and Johnny had come together in secrecy twice before, she gasped when she was suddenly grabbed from behind, and shoved down onto a spread out blanket on the straw bales.

“ I didn’t think you were going to come tonight.”.” Johnny said as he flipped her over, and climbed between her legs. “ God I want you so bad.” he said as he pulled her nightgown up, and placed his tip at her entrance so he could enter her.

“ I want you too Johnny.” Anna said before their mouths came together in hunger as he started thrusting hard, and fast. Hungry for release, Johnny raised up on his hands as their skin slapped together. Feeling her get tighter, he knew she was going to explode any second now. Claiming her mouth to stifle any moans or screams she might do as his climax came hard, and fast with hers.

“ We should head back inside. The sun will be coming up in a couple hours, and Maria will be starting to prepare breakfast.” Johnny said as he held Anna in his arms.

Anna rolled over on top of him.. “ I love how you make my body feel Johnny. I love when you’re aggressive, yet gentle with me. The way you touch me, what you do to me, I love all of it, and I love you.” Anna said as she straddled his waist, rocking her hips back and forth, rubbing him hard again.

Johnny sat up, and pushed her back just enough so he could guide himself inside her. “ I never thought I would, but I love you too Anna.”

Anna started moving the way Johnny showed her at the waterfall, pushing him back onto his back. The two of them soon having a steady rhythm as they both sought satisfaction one last time before going back to their separate bedrooms.


“  Sign there! ” Randall said as he placed the contract on his desk in front of Murdoch.

“ Just above your name!” he said as he offered the paper to Scott to sign.

“ And you sir!” he said as he looked at Johnny.

“ Oh mister Randall, I should have told you, that last name should read John Madrid,……not Lancer.” Murdoch said as he looked at his youngest.

“ I’ll fix it in a minute.” Randall said.

“ No, let it stand.” Johnny said as he signed the contract.

Scott looked at his father, and smiled. Clearly his little brother had made the most important decision of his life. Who he was, He knew Madrid would always be there. They both did, but to have it on paper now, meant something to both him, and his father.

“ Everyone is here except Mrs. Conway, and Porter.” Scott said.

“ Agatha won’t be attending this meeting.” Murdoch said. “ As for Porter, I don’t think I want to see that man.”

“ Murdoch, shall we get this meeting started?” Nelson asked.

“ Alright, if you will all have a seat. The first item of business I would like to discuss is the extension of the spur line south. I think it would be in our best interest to extend it for moving the cattle to market.”

“ It would, but at what expense to all of us?” Hackett asked.

“ And who uses it?” Nelson asked.

“ It should be only those who contribute that use it.” Santee said.

“ It will cost us all, but that cost will pay off in two years. As for who uses it. It should be for every rancher, not just those who pay for it Santee.” Murdoch responded.

“ Murdoch, not all of us are big ranchers like you. We don’t have the money you have.” Driscoll said.

“ I barely had any money left to put in the bank after I covered the feed bill at the holding pens.”  Santee said. “ Yeah, me as well.” Hackett added.

“ The only one making any money at those pens is the owner. He raises the price every year.” Driscoll said.

“ Gentlemen, may I make an astute suggestion?” Don Luis said as he walked over to them.

“ Gentlemen, this is a guest of mine, Don Luis Saldaña. The father of my second wife, Maria.” Murdoch said before introducing all the ranchers.

“ Gentlemen, it is a pleasure.” Don Luis said. “ If I may ask. How long from the time the cattle arrive at the holding pens, until they are shipped?”

“ Sometimes a month. Three years ago I got a bill for two months feed of three hundred head.” Nelson said.

“ Have you considered a set date for your cattle to ship to market?” Don Luis asked. “ If you could do that, then drive your cattle to the pens a week before the train arrives.”

“ That sounds good Mister Saldaña, but they would just raise the price on us!” Hackett said.

“ Why don’t you have an agreement made up that for the railroad. Have it stipulate that the railroad pays all feed cost after said date of pickup that they are late.” Johnny said.

“ I’m sorry, and you are?” Santee asked.

“ Johnny Lancer.”

“ The missing son. We didn’t know you found him Murdoch.” Nelson said. “ How long have you been back?”

“ Johnny has been home almost a year now.” Scott said.

“ Your idea sounds good, but what if they don’t go for it?” Hackett asked.

“ They ship the cattle from Stockton up to the main line in Sacramento to be shipped back east. Drive them to Sacramento’s pens.” Johnny suggested. “ It will be a lot of money out of their pocket.”

“ I like your way of thinking Johnny. It’s only forty miles further, and would save us a lot of money in the end.” Nelson said.

Murdoch smiled. He was glad his son had decided to join in the meeting. He was also surprised Johnny knew so much about the railroad, and cost of shipping cattle.

“ Alright. I will have Randall draw up a contract, and we can chose someone to present it to the railroad.” Murdoch said as Porter walked into the house.

“ You’re late Porter. The meeting started over an hour ago.” Nelson said.

“ I’m late with good reason.” Porter said. “ Have you all met his son?”

“ We’ve met Johnny, and his grandfather.” Hackett said.

“ Did he tell you his son is the gunfighter, killer Johnny Madrid?” Porter asked.

“ Porter, I want you out of my house!” Murdoch ordered.

“ I am still president of the California Cattle Growers Association, and these men have a right to know you have a killer here who will bring nothing but trouble to this valley Murdoch Lancer.” Porter said with anger. “ I hired a Pinkerton to investigate, and get me anything he could find out about that killer he calls his son. Take a look at these reports, and decide for yourselves.” he said as he tossed the file on the table.

“ Porter, if you don’t leave right now………..” Scott started to say.

“ This is from the sheriff in Green River. He banned Madrid from coming into his town because the citizens learned who he is, and not two days ago, he gunned a man down in the streets of Spanish Wells.” Porter said. “ I take it from the look on your face, he didn’t tell you about that little incident did he Murdoch? He gunned a man down in cold blood, and then rode out of town like nothing happened.”

“ What he tells you is a lie.” Don Luis cut in. “ I was with Johnny. We just finished picking up supplies. He asked me if I would like to have a cold beer before we headed back here, when a man called him out. My grandson begged the man to walk away. He told him he did not want to kill him. That all we wanted to do was go home. If you do not believe me, ask the hardware store man, and all the others who witnessed it. This man speaks words that are not true.”

“ Porter, everyone here knows how you feel about Murdoch Lancer, and now you are attacking his son. I was in Spanish Wells, and I too seen what happened.” Nelson said. “ And it happened just like Mister Saldaña said.”

“ Why don’t you tell these men about what you did in Wyoming Porter?” Johnny asked with coldness. “ Tell them how you rode with a vigilante group led by Sheriff Frank Hadsell, and hung a rancher named Jim Averell,, and his wife Ella Watson. Tell them how just because these ranchers had sheep instead of cattle, and fenced off their property to keep cattle off it, you burned them out, ran them off, or killed them. You want to call me a killer, go ahead, but I think you should take a good long, hard look in a mirror at what you have done. Every man I have had to kill, I gave the chance to walk away. I never went looking for trouble, and I don’t want trouble. All I want to do is live my life in peace, and Murdoch’s son, Johnny Lancer. I’m not wanted by the law for anything, but you are. You’re wanted in Wyoming for those crimes committed during the Johnson County War.”

Murdoch picked up the file, and began to look thru it. Anger coming to his face when he seen several fabricated reports about his son.

“ Porter, I have every report from the Pinkerton Detectives for the past twenty years I have searched for my son. You have reports here claiming they learned he was Johnny Madrid ten years ago, yet in all my reports they only learned just last year what name he was going by.” Murdoch said. “ Now I wonder if we contacted the Southwest office, just who’s file would be correct?”

“ I bet it would not be his.” Scott said.

“ Porter, you got ten seconds to leave this house before I bust your face up.” Johnny said with coldness.

Porter glared at Johnny a few seconds before turning, and storming out.

“ I’m sorry for the disruption.” Johnny said.

“ Does anyone else have something to say about my brother being here?” Scott demanded.

“ I do. I’ve known men like you. You may call yourself Lancer now, but inside you will always be Johnny Madrid, Porter is right, him being here will only bring trouble.” Driscoll said before walking out.

“ Murdoch…..Johnny, Driscoll, and Porter don’t speak fr all of us.” Nelson said. “ I’d like to welcome you home.”

“ Thank you Mister Nelson.” Johnny said.

“ I think we can call this meeting to an end.” Murdoch suggested.

“  Let us know what you hear from the railroad on that proposal Murdoch.” Hackett said as they all walked outside to leave.

Murdoch stood there and watched the ranchers ride under the arch before turning to his youngest. “ Why didn’t you tell me about what happened in Spanish Wells son?”

“ Because I didn’t want you to be upset with me for having to kill another man.” Johnny responded.

“ So you thought it would be better for me to find out the way I did?” he asked.

“ Look Murdoch, I’m sorry alright. I didn’t think you would find out.” Johnny responded with a raised voice.

“ You’re my son, I have a right to know when someone tries to kill you damn it!” Murdoch said with anger before going back inside.

Johnny stood there a few seconds before heading to the barn. Walking inside he suddenly felt someone behind him, and froze.

“ Turn around real slow Madrid.” Brogan ordered.

Johnny turned around slowly, making sure to keep his hand away from his gun. The last thing he wanted was a bullet in the back.

“ You half-breed sonofabitch. I’ll show you!” Brogan spat. “ I told you I would be back in the spring to kill you.” he said.

“ Go to hell.” Johnny said as he pulled his colt, and fired, hitting Brogan in the chest as a bullet creased his upper left arm. Walking over to the man, he cocked the colt again, and pressed it to Brogan’s forehead. “ This is for my mother!” Johnny sad before pulling the trigger.

“ You got angry with him for not telling you?” Scott asked.

“ I did.” Murdoch said. “ Don Luis, why didn’t you say something?”

“ It was not my place too tell you, and my grandson asked me not too. He said you would react just the way you did, and he didn’t want you angry with him.” Don Luis said. “ He loves you very much, but sometimes he feels he is not worthy of your love.”

“ What? Why that’s absurd. I love that boy more than he will ever know.” Murdoch responded.

“ Have you told him that?” Don Luis asked.

“ Was that a shot?” Scott asked as he headed to the door.

“ It sounded like it came from the barn.” Murdoch said as a second shot could be heard.

“ Johnny………it’s Scott……..are you alright?” Scott yelled from the door. Peering inside, he could see his brother standing over the body of a man, his colt still in his hand at his side. “ Johnny……I’m coming in brother……..Don’t shoot me!”

“ Scott, maybe I should go in?” Murdoch said.

“ No!” Scott said firmly as he started inside.

Johnny stood there with tears in his eyes.  “ Cumlí mi promesa madre. Envié a tu  asesino al infierno.”( I kept my promise mother. I sent your killer to hell.) he said softly as his brother walked up next to him.

“ You alright?” Scott asked softly.

“ I am now.” Johnny said as he holstered his colt, and turned to walk outside.

“ Johnny, your hurt.” Scott said as he noticed the blood dripping from the fingers of his left hand.

“ He just creased me.” Johnny said.

“ Let’s get you inside, and get that cleaned up son.” Murdoch suggested.

Johnny stopped at his grandfather. “ Ahora puede descansar en paz. Envié a su asesino al infierno.” ( She can now rest in peace. I sent her killer to hell.)

“ Quizás ahora tus recuerdos de su muerte desaparezcan.”  ( Maybe now your memories will go away of her death?) Don Luis asked.

“ Maybe.” Johnny said before heading inside. He knew killing Brogan the way he did would make the man one more ghost to haunt his dreams at night. One more ghost for Johnny Madrid.

“ What a god forsaken town.” Carlos Lopez said as he looked out his hotel room window.. “ Why would my Anna ever come to such a filthy place?”

“ She came with Don Luis. I think maybe she did not know what the town would be like, or perhaps she thought it would be bigger than Matamoros Señor López.” Nicholas Garza suggested.

“ I want you to go around any inquire about Anna, while I take a siesta.” Carlos said as he walked over to the bed.

“ Very well sir. Shall I wake you if I learn anything?” Nicholas asked.

“ No. It will keep until I wake up.” Carlos said. “  And see if there is a decent place to eat in this town. Though I doubt they would know anything about a good  meal.”

“ Very well sir.” Nicholas said before leaving the hotel room.

Nicholas Garza, a long time loyal friend, and servant to Juan Garcia López, despised the mans son. Growing up, the boy was mean, and destructive. Housekeepers despised the boy, and often found themselves being hit, kicked, and even bitten by the child. When he got older, he got worse. His father tried everything, but finally started giving him everything he wanted, and in Nicholas’s eyes, that was the downfall to the way the boy was now. Wealth, and money can make some think they are above all others. Carlos thought just that. Always putting those less fortunate down. What the boy needed growing up, was discipline, and a firm hand on his backside. Coming to California, after an innocent girl, who clearly wanted nothing to do with him, let alone marry the monster, he could not understand, but Carlos being used to having his way, would not take refusal. He wanted Anna as his wife, and would stop at nothing to have her.

Nicholas himself had received rude comments, and abuse from the boy. The only reason he put up with it was his loyalty to the boy’s father. As he walked the streets of Morro Coyo, asking questions, he found himself wondering just how much more he could take. How much more of the verbal, and sometimes physical abuse would he take before he snapped, and if he did, to what extreme would he go?

Johnny came downstairs for breakfast, his left arm no longer in a sling. The graze was deep enough Sam had to put six stitches to close it up.

“ Morning son.” Murdoch said.

“ Morning.” Johnny said as he sat down. “  I want to put those horses through training today. The auction is in two days.”

“ You only just got your arm out of a sling son. Do you think you are ready for something like that?” Murdoch responded. “ Maybe you should let one of the hands do it?”

“ Nope. I’ve spent a lot of time breaking, and training those horses for the sale. All it will take is one wrong person to ruin all that time.” Johnny said firmly. “ The only person I would trust is Scott, and he won’t be back from Sacramento until tomorrow.”

“ Son, I’m sure they’re fine. You did a great job training them.” his father said.

“ Maybe you didn’t hear me. I said what I’m doing today. End of discussion.” Johnny said before standing up, and leaving the kitchen.

“ Hello Murdoch, boys. I understand you trained six horses to sell today Johnny?” Agatha Conway asked.

“ Mrs. Conway” Scott said.

“ Five of them ma’am. They’re right special horses. They cut, rein, rope, ground tie, and are all around good ranch horses.” Johnny said.

“ I see, and what are you wanting to get for them?” she asked.

“ Well ma’am, they’re worth three hundred each.” Johnny said.

“ That’s a lot for just one horse. I hope I won’t be disappointed in your demonstration.” she said. “ Oh Murdoch, did you hear what happened to Porter?”

“ No, I haven’t seen, nor heard from, or about that man since the cattleman’s meeting.” Murdoch responded.

“ A United States Marshal came and arrested him three days ago. He’s on his way back to Wyoming to stand trial for his part in the Johnson County War.” Agatha said.

“ I hope they hang him like he did that husband and his wife.” Johnny said. “ Well, I better go check on the horses. I’ll see you after the auction.”

“ Agatha, this is Miss Anna Petra Pérez, and Johnny’s grandfather Don Luis Saldaña. They both came to visit a couple months ago, and decided they are going to stay.”

“ Mrs. Conway, it is a pleasure to meet a lady of such beauty. I am told you and Mister Lancer have been very dear friends for many years.” Don Luis said.

“ Yes, Murdoch is my oldest, dearest friend.” Agatha said. “ Can I ask where you are from?”

“ Matamoros. I lost my Alejandra last year, and since I have nothing to keep me there, and my only grandson has finally been found. I decided here is where I should live out my life.”

Three hours later the auction was over, and several people were impressed with the way Johnny had trained the horses. Agatha Conway bought all six, writing Johnny a check for twenty four hundred dollars. Telling Johnny the horses were worth at least five hundred each, and discussed him possibly training horses for her in the future.

“ Johnny, lets break away from everybody, and ride up to the mesa to look at the foals.” Anna suggested as they all headed home. Murdoch, and Don Luis in the buggy.

Johnny wanted to be alone with Anna for two reasons, one being he wanted to make love to her again, and two, he wanted to ask her to be his wife.

“Mister Lancer has quite an estancia.” Nicholas said as they rode up, and dismounted.

“ Can I help you?” Cipriano asked.

“ I am Carlos López, and this is Nicholas Garza, we have come for my Anna. Is she here?” Carlos said.

“ They all left this morning to attend the Horse auction in Spanish Wells. Hey should be back soon.” Cipriano said. “ You may wait on the veranda for them if you wish.”

“ Thank you.” Nicholas said. “ The man in town said Lancer is the biggest estancia in the San Joaquin valley. He has one hundred thousand acres, and over ten thousand cattle.”

“ A gringo should not have so much land.” Carlos said with hatred in his voice.

“ There is a buggy approaching. Perhaps it is them.” Nicholas suggested.

Murdoch stopped the buggy, and go down. “ Can I help you?” he asked.

“ Carlos, what are you doing here?” Don Luis asked.

“ Don Luis, I am here to take my Anna back home. She is to be my bride, and many people wish to meet her.” Carlos said. “ Where is she?”

“ Anna is not here.” Murdoch said.

“ I can see that. You must be Mister Lancer. Just tell me where she is at, so we can start for home.” Carlos responded.

“ Anna will be back later on this evening.” Scott said as he dismounted. He could see why Anna didn’t want to marry this man. Usually not one to judge another, Scott found this man arrogant, and something about him said he was not nice.

“ Gringo, Anna is already promised to me in marriage, so if you would be so kind as to fetch her for me, or tell me where she is at, so we can leave this awful country.” Carlos said.

“ Carlos, you are not in Mexico. You will show manners, and respect when addressing Mister Lancer or his son.” Don Luis ordered.

“ Please forgive his rudeness sir. It has been a long journey.” Nicholas said. “ He forgets his manners sometimes.”

“ From what I’ve heard, that’s almost always.” Scott said before walking inside.

“ Mister López, you are welcome to come in, and wait until Anna returns.” Murdoch said.

“ Just so you know, Anna has said she wishes to stay here in California. She does not wish to go back to Matamoros, and marry you.” Murdoch said as they walked into the house.

“ She has been promised to me in marriage. It is a long time custom. One I am sure you gringos would know nothing about.” Carlos said.

“ As it so happens, I know all too well about your custom of marriage.” Murdoch said.

“ Anna is a human being, not some animal to be selected for breeding.” Scott said. “ She wishes to stay, she will stay.”

“ Aah, I see, you have fallen for my Anna. She is a beautiful girl, who I will make a woman, and my wife. She will give me many children, and our custom is of no concern of yours.. If you have spoiled her in any way, the laws of Mexico says I have a right to defend both my honor, and hers. Are you prepared to do battle for her?”  Carlos said as he walked over to Scott.

“ You are not in Mexico, so your laws as you call them do not apply here. Now I’m sure the sheriff of Green River would be very interested in you forcing a young lady to leave against her will.” Scott said.

“ I’m going to have to ask you both to leave my house.” Murdoch said. “ You are not welcome on Lancer land.”

“ Here me, all of you. I will have Anna back, and I will kill any man who tries to stop me.” Carlos said before leaving.

“ Don Luis, Mister Lancer, please forgive me for his rudeness.” Nicholas said.

“ I don’t know why you put up with that boy Nicholas. He needs put in his place, and should have been years ago.” Don Luis said.

“ Maybe someone will soon do just that. It is good to see you again sir.” Nicholas said before leaving.

“ He has been a loyal friend to Juan for many years. None of the women servants want anything to do with Carlos, because of his abusive ways toward them. He speaks in ways a man should no talk in front of a lady.” Don Luis said as they watched the two ride under the Lancer arch. “ I am afraid Johnny will have trouble with that one.”

“  Maybe I should ride out to Black Mesa, and warn them?” Scott asked.

“ No son. He doesn’t know where Anna is. We’ll tell them tonight.” Murdoch said.


Johnny unsaddled Barranca, and the mare, and made sure they both had plenty of food and water, before heading inside the North Line-shack. “ You should give her a name.” he suggested as he closed the door, and looked at Anna already naked on the larger of six cots in the shack.

“ I haven’t even thought about that. What do you think I should call her?” Anna asked as she anticipated feeling Johnny inside her again. His hands touching her between her legs the way he did. His tongue running over her body, swirling around her nipples as he sucked, and gently pulled on them.

“ Only you can decide that since she’s your horse.” Johnny said as he removed his gun belt, and placed it on the chair by the bed.

“ What do you think will happen if they go looking for us at Black Mesa, and find we are not there?” she asked.

“  Probably look for us, or maybe figure where we went, and leave us be.” Johnny said as he climbed in bed already hard, he lay next to her, moving against  her left leg. Claiming her mouth with hunger, he let his right hand wandered down, and started caressing her between her legs, driving her crazy. When she started getting tight, he moved over her, and guided his hardness into her,  moving slow, and deliberate, rubbing her in the right place every time he slid in, and out of her.

Anna thought she would go insane as Johnny slowly moved in and out of her. Arching her hips up every time his came down, wanting him as deep as she could take him. He stomach starting to tighten, she knew she would explode soon with ecstasy.  Wrapping her legs tightly around him, and pressing her head back into the pillow as he body tightened, and then started to quiver all over.

Johnny felt Anna’s body tighten before exploding, so he rose up on his hands, and started slamming into her as hard as he could in and out of her. When her body started to quiver, it drove him over the edge, and he exploded as he stayed buried deep inside her.


“ How many sons does that Lancer gringo have?” Carlos demanded from Nicholas.

“ The man in town said there are two sons.”” he responded.

“ Yet only one came back. Do you not find it a little odd that one of the sons, and my Anna did not come back from this horse auction?”  he asked.

“ He may still be in Spanish Wells.” Nicholas suggested.

“ Maybe. When we get back to the hotel, I want you to learn all you can about this other son.” Carlos ordered.

“ The Lancer’s said they will not permit you to take Anna away from here. That they will have the sheriff arrest you if……….”

“ If you think I care what those gringos say, you are wrong. Nobody takes what is rightfully mine. Anna is mine, and I will kill any man who tries to take her from me.” Carlos said firmly.


Johnny sat in bed with his back against the wall. Anna sat in front of him leaning back against his chest. “ Is something wrong Johnny?”

“ Why would you think that?” he asked.

“ You seem distant.” she said.

Johnny gently pulled her hair around off her right shoulder, and started kissing it over, and up her neck to her ear. “ Almost everything is perfect. I have a naked, beautiful woman sitting in front of me, I’m a part owner of the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley, I have a big brother, and grandfather I never knew I had, and a father willing to accept me for who I was.”

“ You said almost though. What more do you want?” she asked.

Johnny took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. “ You as my wife.” he said softly in her ear.

Anna sat up, and turned to face him. She could see in his eyes he was serious.

“ Will you marry me Anna?” he asked as he sat up.

Anna straddled his lap, and wrapped her arms around his neck. “ I would love to marry you.” she said before kissing him.

Johnny pulled her to hold tightly in his arms as he kissed her. “ Oh man, I never thought I could ever be as happy as I am right now.”

“ Let’s start working on a family now Johnny. I want to give you children right away.” Anna said.

“ I can do that.” Johnny said as he pushed her back onto her back, and positioned himself over her. Once inside her, he rolled onto his back, taking her with him. He loved the feel of being deep inside her when he released, and now he wanted to increase his chance of getting her with child. “ I can hardly wait until I feel my son move inside your belly.”


Chapter 8

Johnny sat at the table waiting for the right moment to tell everyone the news. He wondered how his father would feel, and knew the man knew they had been together several times the past two months. If someone had told him nine months ago he would have what he has now, he would have laughed in their face, and called them crazy. Hell, he still couldn’t believe it himself. Sitting there looking across at Anna, who was looking at him made him feel like he never felt before.

“ Johnny……you with us tonight little brother?” Scott asked.

“ What………sorry. What did you say?” he asked.

“  We were talking about the foot bridge.” Murdoch said.

“ Yeah sure.” he said. “ Listen………I need to tell you all something important.” Johnny said as he stood up, and walked to the far end of the big table to face everyone.

“ Alright son.” Murdoch said.

“ I asked Anna to be my wife today, and she said yes.” he said.

Nobody moved, or said anything. The silence was deafening. Would his father be angry? Would Don Luis approve? Would his brother?

Murdoch smiled. “ Congratulations son.” he said finally as he stood up, and walked over to his son.

“ Congratulations little brother. I’m real happy for you both.” Scott said as he stood up, and walked over to slap his brother on the shoulder, and shake his hand.

Don Luis stood up, tears in his eyes as he walked over to his grandson. “ You have made your Abuelo so happy. I expect you both to make me a great grandfather soon.” he said as he shook Johnny’s hand.

“ Yes sir, we will.” Johnny said.

“ I was hoping we could have the wedding here at Lancer? I don’t know anyone, so the guest list would be up to you.” Anna said. “ Is next weekend alright?”

“ Of course you can have the wedding here.” Murdoch said. “ I just have one request. Can I give the bride away?”

“ I would love that Mister Lancer.” Anna said.

“  Big brother, would you be my best man?” Johnny asked.

“ I would be honored to be.” Scott said.

“ Anna………..Johnny, there’s something you both need to know. When we got back from the auction, there were two men here waiting for us.” Murdoch said.

“ Anna, it was Carlos and Nicholas.” Don Luis said.

“ Carlos is here?” she asked with fear in her eyes.

Johnny walked over, and put an arm around her. “ I won’t allow him to hurt you.” he said.

“ Johnny, he said he would take her back with him regardless……….and kill anyone who tried to stop him.” Scott said.

“ He’ll try.” Johnny said as he hugged Anna.

“ We told him he wasn’t taking her from here unless she wants to go with him.” Murdoch said.

“ I want to marry Johnny, and live my life here with all of you. He does not love me. He wants to possess me, and use me to give him children.” Anna said. “ I am not a brood mare.”

“ I’ll ride into Green River and talk to Gabe tomorrow. I’ll see what he can do about this.” Murdoch said.

“ You know he won’t do anything about it. He doesn’t like me Murdoch. Besides it’s out of his jurisdiction.” Johnny said.

“ He’s right. You heard what Gabe said about Johnny.” Scott added.

“ Alright. Cipriano seen him today, I’ll tell him to pass the word to the hands in the morning to run him off if he’s seen on Lancer land again.” Murdoch said. “ In the meantime, I think this calls for a drink to celebrate your engagement.”

Nicholas stood in Baldomero’s store looking at the hats, when the owner approached him.

“ Are you looking for a new hat señor?” Baldomero asked.

“  Actually I’m looking for someone.” Nicholas said.

“ I know just about everyone in the area. Who is it you are looking for?” Baldomero asked.

“ I was told a Mister Lancer has two son?” he asked.

“ Yes, Scott, and Johnny.” he responded.

“ Scott, he a tall blonde haired man?”

“ Yes. Johnny, he is of Mexican decent.” Baldomero said. “ You do not wear a gun I see. So you must not be a gunfighter, no?”

“ A gunfighter. Heavens no.  Why would you ask that?”

“ Because señor Johnny, he is Johnny Madrid. The infamous gunfighter. There is no one  faster than him they say west on the Mississippi river. Other gunfighters have come, and called him out. I heard one called him out just last month in Spanish Wells. Madrid killed him so fast, the man never got his gun out.” Baldomero responded.

“ So, this Johnny, is he not the son of Murdoch Lancer?”

“ Yes, he is the youngest. His mother took him away when he was just a baby. His life was hard growing up in Mexico. Especially after his mother died when he was just a boy of ten. He has only just come home a year ago to his family.” he said.

“ I imagine his father isn’t all too happy having his son be a gunfighter?” Nicholas asked.

“ Señor Lancer is proud of his son. People call Johnny a cold-blooded killer, but they do not know him. He is a warm, kind, friendly person. He does not wish to live by his gun anymore. Why is it you wish to know so much about señor Johnny?”

“ No particular reason. Thank you for your time sir. Have a good day.” Nicholas said before leaving the store. A gunfighter. If Anna was now with this man, it would be foolish for Carlos to try and take her back to Mexico with him. He had heard about Johnny Madrid down around Matamoros, though having never seen the man, what he did hear sent chills down his spine. Stopping outside their hotel room, he hated going in, and telling Carlos what he learned. Anna was a lot better off without him. Clearly she had found something  or someone she liked, or perhaps even loved, to want to not return to Mexico. Sighing, he opened the door, and walked into the room.

“ Tell me you learned something about Anna, or this other son?” Carlos demanded.

Nicholas walked over and poured a glass of water. “ I did.” he said before walking over, and sitting down at the small table.

“ Tell me what you learned of this other son.” Carlos demanded.

“ It is not good news I’m afraid.” he responded. “ You should forget about Anna, and go home.”

“ I will not forget about her, and go home. Now tell me what you learned.” he snapped back.

“ His last name is not Lancer.” he said.

“ Not Lancer! Is he not the younger son or not?” Carlos asked with anger.

“ Yes, but he goes by another name. A name most people know, and some fear in Mexico, and along the border.” Nicholas said. “ He is Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter.”

“ Johnny Madrid! You lie. Johnny Madrid is dead.” Carlos spat back.

“No sir. Just last month he was called out in Spanish Wells, and killed a man with such speed, this other man never got his gun out.” he said. “ Please, I beg of you. Let her go. He will kill you.”

“ I am afraid of no man. Anna is mine, and I will have her. I will wait for the right opportunity, and she will go home with me.” Carlos said.

Nicholas stood up, and walked to the door. “ He will kill you.” he said before walking out, and heading to the telegraph to see if a wire had come from Carlos’ father shortly after arriving. After Carlos made the threat against the Lancer’s in their own home. Walking into the telegraph office, he was in luck. A wire had come for him. Paying the man, he walked out, and opened it.

Thank you for contacting me about my son. Stop.
Do whatever you can to stop him. Stop.
Arriving on Monday next. Stop.

Juan Garcia López.

One week, that’s all he had to do was keep Carlos away from the Lancer ranch for one week, and the man who could stop this foolishness would be here. Tearing up the telegraph so Carlos wouldn’t see it, Nicholas headed back to the hotel to have supper.

Harlan Garrett, sat at his desk back home in Boston with both a heavy heart, and anger. Anger for a man he didn’t know, yet knew better than his grandson, or father did. “ I will have you back in Boston Scotty. It may take time, but I will have you back my boy.

“ Sir, your dinner is ready.” Thomas said.

“ Thank you Thomas. Tomorrow I want you to go to the printer, and have them print up five hundred of these, and then I want them mailed out to Tucson to be distributed.” Harlan said.

Thomas looked at the paper and read it.

Wanted, Dead
Fifty Thousand Dollars will be paid upon the death of a half-breed gunfighter named Johnny Madrid. He is living on a ranch called Lancer, outside a town called Morro Coyo. Verification of his death must be verified before payment will be made.

Thomas couldn’t believe what he was reading. He’d seen all the reports Garrett had on this Johnny Madrid from the Pinkerton agent.

“ Can I ask why you are doing this sir?” Thomas asked.

“ He is the reason my Scotty will not come back to Boston.” Harlan said.

“ Who is he to Scott?” he asked.

“ His half-breed brother. Murdoch Lancer married a Mexican whore after my beautiful Catherine died.” he spat.

“ I’ve been with you a long time sir. I watched Scott grow up. When Mister Lancer came here on Scott’s fifth birthday, there was no mention of him having a brother.” he said.

“ That’s because the woman ran off, back to Mexico, and took the half-breed with her..” Harlan said as he stood up. “ I am counting on you doing this for my Thomas, and I want no mention of it to anyone. Understand?”

“ Yes sir. I’ll get it done first thing in the morning, and make sure the printer knows to rush the order so it can go out in the mail.”

Juan Garcia López stepped off the train in Sacramento, and walked to the station clerks window.

“ Excuse me, but when is the next stage to a town called Morro Coyo?” he asked.

“ That’s it pulling in right now to switch out horses, and allow passengers to stretch, and eat. You going to Morro Coyo sir?” the clerk asked.

“ Yes. How much?” Juan asked.

“ Two dollars. Any luggage you have I can have taken over, and put on the stage for you if you would like to get something to eat?” he suggested.

“ Thank you. That is very kind of you, but I only have the one small bag, How long will the journey be?” he asked as he paid his fare.

“ Given no problems, you should arrive in Morro Coyo in five hours.” he said as he stamped his ticket.

Carlos sat drinking a cold beer in the cantina when he heard two men talking at the bar. What he heard angered him. Standing up, he walked over to the men.

“ Excuse me, but did I hear you say there is going to be a wedding at the Lancer ranch?” he asked.

“ You did. Johnny Lancer is marrying a right pretty little Mexican girl.” one of the men said.

Carlos grabbed the man by his shirt, and yanked him closer. “ What is the name of this girl he is marrying?”

“ I don’t know mister. Let go of me.” the man said as he tried to get free.

“ Her name gringo!” Carlos yelled.

“ Anna, her name is Anna Petra Pérez.” he said.

Carlos shoved the man back against the bar as Nicholas walked in. Turning, he walked to the door. “ I am going to the Lancer ranch. I will  not allow this wedding to happen. I kill Johnny Lancer, or whatever his name is.” he said before storming out.

“ He’s gone sir. I have two horses waiting for us.” Nicholas said.

“ Gone where?” Juan asked.

“  To the Lancer ranch. He learned Anna is marrying the youngest son.” he said as they walked to the horses.

“ My son is being a fool.” Juan said.

“ There’s something you need to know sir about the man Anna is marrying. He’s Johnny Madrid.” Nicholas said.

“ The gunfighter Madrid?” he asked.

“ Yes sir. I told him, but he doesn’t believe me.” he said as they mounted up, and rode out of town.

Johnny walked into the house Monday afternoon, and found his father sitting at his desk. “ You working out that proposal for the railroad?” he asked as he walked over, and sat down in a chair in front of the desk.

“ I am.” Murdoch said. “ Did you get that section of wire finished young man?”

“ I did. I told Cipriano we’re gonna need to replace about ten post come fall before we move the cows into that section.” Johnny responded.

“ Good.” Murdoch said as he sat back in his chair. “ Can I ask how you knew about presenting something like a proposal to the railroad son?”

“ I took a job with a rancher in Texas. I guess you could say I learned a lot from him.” Johnny said. “ Look, it may not even work Murdoch.”

“ Maybe not son, but it’s a damn good suggestion.” Murdoch said.

“ Johnny, you’re home early.” Anna said as she walked into the grand room.

“ I got done early, and wanted to spend a little time with my  future wife before supper.”.” Johnny said before giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“ Unfortunately my boy, you need to go out and help your brother finish stacking that hay, or you will both be doing it after supper until it is done.” Murdoch said. “ Just because you’re a part owner now doesn’t get you out of work young man.”

“ In other words, no rest for the weary my love. I’ll see you later.” Johnny said.

“You know, slavery was abolished almost eight years ago.” Anna said.

“ I am perfectly aware of that young lady. This is a working ranch, that requires work from sun up to sun down six days a week. Sundays are for you and Johnny to do whatever you want.

“ Anna!………. Anna come out here now!” Carlos yelled.

“ Stay in here Anna.” Murdoch ordered as he went to the gun cabinet, and got a rifle.

“ Anna………I know you are in there……….Come out here now!” Carlos yelled.

“ That him?” Johnny asked as he peered out the barn door.

“ Yeah, that’s him.” Scott said.

“ Keep him busy. He don’t know we’re out here.” Johnny said as he pulled his colt, and spun the cylinder.

“ What are you going to do?” Scott asked.

“ Get around him. Just don’t step out where he has an easy target, brother.” Johnny said before going to the back of the barn, and out the door.

“ You were told to never come back here.” Scott yelled from the barn.

“ Anna isn’t coming out!” Murdoch yelled. “ Get off my land before my vaquero’s kill you!”

Carlos looked around. “ I see no vaquero’s. I think you lie. They are all out working.”

“ Do as my father says, and ride out.” Scott yelled as he seen his brother run over to the corner of the house by the bell tower.

“ Then if you won’t send Anna out to me, send your son, the one they call Johnny Madrid!” Carlos demanded.

Scott heard the sound of two horses galloping up. Looking he seen the one was the man who came with Carlos before. The other an older man, he did not know.

“ Carlos, don’t do this!” Nicholas yelled.

“ Hijo, por favor, no hagas esto. Ella pertenece a otro hombre ahora. Ella no te ama. Por favor, ven a casa conmingo.” Juan Garcia López pleaded. ( Son, please don’t do this. She belongs to another man now. She does not love you. Please come home with me.)

“ No hasta que lo mate. Me quitó lo que era mío, y por eso tenía que morir.” Carlos responded. ( Not until I kill him. He took from me what was mine, and for that he must die.) “ Come on out and face me Madrid!”

“ No puedes matar a Hohnny Madrid, hijo. Por favor, vayamos a casa y olvidemos a Anna.”( You cannot kill Johnny Madrid, son. Please let’s go home, and forget about Anna.)

“ Come out and face me swine.” he yelled.

“ I’m right here.” Johnny said as he walked out into the center of the courtyard behind Carlos “ If you’re that set on dying, get down from that horse, and we can dance.”

“ No, please Madrid, I beg of you, do not kill my son!….. Please.” Juan pleaded.

“ You  like to treat a woman like she’s a brood mare. Let me tell you something, Anna is my wife now, and she never loved you.” Johnny said firmly.

Carlos dismounted, and faced Madrid. A sick feeling came over him as he realized he was seconds away from death as he looked into the stone cold blue eyes of Madrid.

“ You have no honor mestizo. You take a woman who is promised to another man.” Carlos spat.

“ Carlos, please, let’s go home!” his father pleaded.

“ Shut up old man. I am sick of your whining all the time. You are weak. She was promised to me, so if I cannot have her, then this mestizo cannot have her either.” he spat.

“ I am an old man, and maybe I am weak like you say, but at least I know when to walk away from a no win situation son. You have never felt the pain, the fire from a bullet tearing thru your flesh. I have, and it is not something you ever forget.” Juan said as he walked over to his son, and tried to take the gun from him.

Carlos grabbed his father with his left arm, as he drew his gun, and pressed it to Juan’s head.

“ Let me go out there and talk to him!” Anna pleaded.

“ No, you stay in this house!” Murdoch ordered.

Anna ignored his order, and ran out the veranda door. “ Carlos stop it! Let him go.”

“ Anna go back inside!” Johnny yelled.

“ No……….Carlos please, let your father go. We can talk about this.” Anna pleaded.

“ I thought you were a brave man. A wolf like your last name means, Hijo de Lupe.” ( Son of Lupe ) Johnny said as he stepped closer. Ignoring the blood he could feel running down his  left side. “ A wolf don’t hide behind an old man.”

“ You are to be my wife.” he spat.

“ I don’t love you Carlos. I never have. I love Johnny, not you.” she said. “ I will never love you.”

Carlos glared at Madrid a few seconds, then shoved his father to the ground as he aimed and fired.

Johnny fanned his colt, hitting Carlos in the chest, knocking him back ten feet to the ground.

Carlos felt the bullet tear into his chest, smelled the coppery smell of his  warm blood as it seeped from the wound as he lay on the ground dying.

Juan ran to his dying son’s side. “ No, te rogué que no hicieras esto. Para no matara mi hijo Madrid.Nicholas, alguien. Por favor ayúdelo!” ( No, I begged you to not do this. To not kill my son Madrid. Nicholas, somebody, please help him.)

“ Your son died a long time ago Mister López. You just didn’t want to accept it.” Nicholas said as he knelt down next to his longtime friend. “ Mister Lancer, could we use a wagon to take Carlos’s body to town so we can make the necessary arrangements for him to go home with us?” he asked.

“ Of course.” Murdoch said. He knew it could very well have been him on the ground holding his son in his arms.

Scott hitched up the team, and brought the wagon over. Helping Nicholas put Carlos’ body in the back.

Anna  walked over to  Juan.“ I’m sorry Mister López, but I never loved your son. I couldn’t love a man I was being forced to marry. It was wrong, and you know it.”

Johnny slipped inside the house while Anna talked to Juan, and they loaded the body up. Going to the sideboard he grabbed the bottle of tequila, and poured a drink, downing it, then pouring another.

Murdoch watched his son head inside, thankful he was still alive, but unaware he had been shot.

Anna looked around for Johnny as Scott drove the wagon away. “ Where’s Johnny?” she asked.

“  He went inside.” Murdoch said.

“ I remember him telling me that day he was forced to kill that man in Spanish Wells.  He said a good friend of his told him,  Don’t ever get to a point where you take killing lightly. It’s not a good thing to kill a man, or cause a man to get killed. Makes you sick inside. Let him be alone for a while.” Don Luis said.

“ That sounds like something his friend Val Crawford would say.” Murdoch said. “ Anna, you disobeyed my order to stay in the house. You put Johnny’s life at risk going out there.”

“ I went out there to try and talk Carlos into letting his father go Mister Lancer. I didn’t endanger Johnny in doing that.” Anna snapped back.

“ You did!” Murdoch yelled. “ Your going out there caused a distraction that could have got him shot. If you are going to marry my son, then you had better learn that when he is called out by another man, he cannot have any distractions. That I know for a fact because I made that very mistake in Bannack, and almost got him killed.”

“ He didn’t have to kill Carlos. He could have wounded him.” Anna snapped back.

“ And now he has another dead man to haunt his dreams at night.” Don Luis said.

Val sat in the saloon in Green River drinking a cold beer. It had been a year since he last seen Madrid, and wondered how life was going for the kid.

Gabe walked into the saloon in Green River, and spotted the man he sought.

“ Crawford, I want you out of my town. Your kind is not welcome here.” he ordered.

“ And just what kind is that sheriff?” Val asked.

“ Gunfighter. If you come looking for Johnny Madrid, I won’t allow gun play in my town. So you just ride on out now.”

“ As a matter of fact, though not yur concern, I am looking for Madrid.” Val said.

“ Madrid isn’t allowed in this town. So finish your beer, and ride on out.” Gabe said before walking out.

“ Excuse me.” a burly man said. “ May I have a word with you?”

“ Talkin don’t hurt none.” Val said.

“ You’re Val Crawford. I read about you  awhile back about being a lawman. Would you be interested in wearing a badge again?” the man asked.

“ Mister, who are you?” Val asked.

“ Oh, I’m sorry, I thought I introduced myself. I’m the mayor of Green Rover, Mayor Hicks.” he said. “ As you just experienced, our current sheriff is not good for the town. He’s run people out of town with no reason, and cost businesses a lot of money. Especially from a big ranch in the valley called Lancer.”

“ Lancer. I’ve heard of that ranch. It’s a pretty good size.” Val said.

“ It is. The saloon, general store, mercantile, hardware store, and even the blacksmith lost a great deal of money Lancer spent here. Now, we already wrote Governor Booth, telling him what is happening, and he stated that once we have a replacement, even a temporary one, we can have him removed from office.” Mayor Hicks explained.

“ Then removed him. Elect yurselves a new sheriff, or temporary one until you find a permanent one.” Val said.

“ That’s just it. Nobody wants the job, even temporary. I figured since you used to be a lawman, you would maybe help us out?” he asked.

“ Let me think on it a few days, and I’ll get back with ya.” Val said. “ I have some business to take care of first.”

Mayor Hicks stood up. “ Thank you Mister Crawford. Thank you.” he said before leaving the saloon.

Pulling the paper from his pocket, he unfolded it, and read what it said again. “ Kid, someone has got a serious hurtin for your mangy ass to be dead.” he said before finishing his beer. “ Fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money.”

Johnny stood at the big bay window behind his father’s desk, watching the wagon pass under the Lancer arch. He heard Anna walk into the room.

“ You almost got me killed. “ he said as he turned around to face her. “ Did Murdoch tell you to stay inside?”

“ I thought I could get Carlos to let his father go Johnny.” she said as Murdoch, and his grandfather walked into the room.

“ I think I shall retire early tonight.” Don Luis said.

“ No stay. I got nothing to say that you can’t hear Abuelo.” Johnny said. “ Did he tell you to stay in the house or not?” he demanded again.

“ Yes, but as I said………”

“ You don’t get it do you?” Johnny said with anger as he walked over to her. “ I can’t afford any distractions when a man calls me out. It will get me killed.”

“ He didn’t call you out. He………Carlos came here to try and get me to leave with him. It was me he was calling for………not you.” she snapped back.

“ He did call me out. Everybody heard it but you. I had to kill a man today because of you. You wouldn’t listen, and stay in the house damn it.” Johnny vented with anger.

“ You didn’t have to kill him……..You could have wounded him.” she said, ignoring Murdoch.

“ Let me tell you something, when a man shoots at me with the intention of killing me, I shoot back to kill. I learned my lessons a long time ago when I didn’t, and that man showed up and tried to kill me years later.” Johnny responded. “ You just used me to get rid of Carlos didn’t you?” Johnny asked.

Anna turned to walk away, but was stopped by Johnny grabbing her arm, and spinning her around to face him. “ That’s it, that’s what you were hoping for isn’t it? That Carlos would kill me, and my family would kill him……………..Answer me!”

Yes!………..Yes I used you to get rid of Carlos. I never loved you. There is a man in Mexico City I can now love, and marry.” Anna spat back. “ Did you really think I would be so foolish as to marry someone like you, a pistolero? You are such a fool. I used you, and would do it all over again if I had to. When I got here, I couldn’t decide which brother I wanted to use. I seen how you looked at me. I asked some of the hands how you were with a woman, and they told me you liked your whores in town, so I knew it would be easier using you than it would be Scott. That day we made love at the waterfall, I planned on that happening. Just like I planned on us making love after the auction. I did what I had to do to keep you interested in me. I’m just glad I didn’t get pregnant with your bastard half-breed kid.”

“ For the love of god, Anna, why?” Murdoch asked.

“ Why, I would think that would be obvious by now?” she said.

“ Because I’m Johnny Madrid.” he said softly, before turning to walk back over to the window.

“ Yes! I knew you would be the one. I knew you were my only hope of being free of him. I just didn’t plan on you killing him.”

“ You bitch. You think you have the right to play with another person’s emotions like that?” Johnny said.

Anna slapped Johnny hard across the face. “ You dare speak to me like that. You the son of a whore mother.”

“ Young lady, I will not have you speak about Johnny’s mother like that, and I won’t have you slapping y son ever again. I want you out of this house tonight. Go pack your things, I’ll have a hand take you too town.” Murdoch ordered.

“ Don’t bother. There is nothing I want. I’ll ride out tonight.” Anna said.

“ Not on my mare you’re not. She’s Lancer property, and she stays here.” Johnny said before he walked over to the sideboard, grabbed a bottle of tequila, and walked out of the house. Barranca could be heard galloping away a few minutes later.

“ Eres una persona sin corazón que no tiene en cuenta los sentimientos de los demás.” Don Luis said before heading outside. ( You are a heartless person who has no regard toward others feelings.)

Scott walked in the house around midnight, and found his father sitting at his desk. The man looked like he had been crying.

“ Is something wrong?” he asked.

Murdoch told him everything that happened after he left. What Anna said, and that Johnny had left.

“ Where is she?” Scott asked.

“ Upstairs in her room.” he said. “ Your brother was so hurt when he left here. I’m afraid of what he will do son.”

“ He won’t leave here if that’s what you are thinking.” Scott said.

“ You didn’t see the look in his eyes son. He’s hurting bad. I can’t believe she said what she did to him.” Murdoch said.

“ He will come back. He just has to deal with this in his own way.” Scott said.

“ He took a bottle of tequila with him. Getting drunk is not going to help him.” Murdoch said.

“ He’s entitled to sir. I know I would if a woman did that to me. Just give him some time.” Scott said. “ I’ll look for him in the morning.”

“ Alright son. I hope you’re right.” Murdoch said.

“ You are such a fool Madrid to think you could ever find love. To think you would ever be anything more than a gunfighter.” Johnny said before downing the last of the tequila. Throwing the bottle against the wall, shattering it, he walked over, and took out the bottle he kept in his saddlebag. “ Thinking you could be the son of Murdoch Lancer, be Johnny Lancer. The only women good for me are whores.” he said as he stumbled over to the bed, and sat down on it. “ I gave you a year old man. I’m done. It will never work.” he said before passing out.

“ Johnny is at the south mesa line-shack mister Lancer. I seen his horse in the lean-too.” Frank said.

“ I’m going to go see him.” Scott said.

“ Scott, be careful. I looked inside, and he was pretty drunk.” Frank said.

“ Don’t take any chances son.” Murdoch said as they walked outside.

“ Someone’s coming.” Don Luis said.

“ It’s Val Crawford.” Murdoch said.

“ Who is he?’ Don Luis asked.

“ A good friend of Johnny’s. He just might be able to help.” Murdoch explained.

“ Mister Lancer, Scott.” Val said.

“ Your showing up is good timing Val. Take a ride with me, and I’ll explain on the way.” Scott said as he mounted Charlie.

An hour later Scott, and Val rode up to the South Mesa line-shack, and dismounted. “  If he’s been drinking, I caution ya on walking in there.” Val said.

“ I don’t think Johnny will hurt me Val.” Scott said as he stepped up onto the porch, and found himself staring at the business end of Johnny’s colt.

“ What the fuck do you want?” Johnny demanded.

“ I came to check on my brother.” Scott said as he stood perfectly still. “ Why don’t you put that gun away so the three of us can go inside, and talk?”

“ I may be drunk, but there is only one of you I see.” Johnny said. “ Go on back, and leave me alone!”

“ I can’t do that Johnny. I’m your brother, and I think you need someone right now.” Scott said.

“ Put that damn gun away kid, and stop feelin sorry for yur dumb ass self.” Val said as he walked up onto the porch.

“ Val.” Johnny said as he started to lower the colt, but brought it back up.

“ Put it away, or I’m gonna whup your ass.” Val ordered.

“ Go to hell!” Johnny said before turning, and going back inside, slamming the door behind him.

“ Stay out here!” Val ordered before opening the door, and going inside.

“ Nobody said you could come in” Johnny said as he set his piston on the table, picked up the half empty bottle of tequila, and took a drink.

“ Don’t ya think ya had enough of that buddy?”  Val asked as he walked over, and picked up the pistol.

“ Go to hell.” Johnny said.

Val walked over, and stood in front of his friend. He could see the boy was hurting. “ Women sure do like ta play games with a fella’s feelins. Ya gotta forget it kid, and move on. Gettin drunk is only gonna get ya hurt worse, or kilt.”

“ Maybe that’s what I want.” Johnny said as he went to take another swig, but found the bottle snatched from his hand. 

Scott stood outside waiting when he heard a crash. Opening the door, he found his brother picking himself up off the floor with blood running down his chin. “ Everything alright?”

“ Everything’s fine. Go saddle his horse while we get reacquainted.” Val said.

Ten minutes later, Scott led Barranca up to the line-shack just as his brother came flying out the door, and landed on the ground. His face bruised, and bloody.

Val walked out onto the porch. “ Kid, you got two choices, get your butt on that there horse of yurs, or take more of what I’ve been givin ya?”

Murdoch, and Don Luis walked out of the house. “ Thank god.” Murdoch said as he watched his sons approach.

“ It looks like he did not want to come peacefully.” Don Luis said.

“ Brought yur sick boy home to ya Mister Lancer.” Val said.

Johnny turned Barranca to face Val. “ I ain’t nobody’s boy.” he said before reining Barranca to leave.

Val turned his horse to stop Johnny, but was beat by Scott, who turned Charlie, rode up, and knocked his brother out o the saddle. Jumping down, he went to his brother, and grabbed him by his shirt. “ Would you mind helping me Val?”

“ Not at all.” Val said as he dismounted. He knew what Scott was about to do.

Both men dragged Johnny over to the horse trough, picked him up, and dropped him in the water.

Johnny tried to get out of the water, only to be pushed back down by his brother.

“ You stay in there until you sober up.” Scott ordered.

“ Let him up.” Val said.

Johnny glared at Scott a few seconds before climbing out of the water, and staggering over to his brother. Swinging, he hit Scott hard in the mouth. “ Don’t you ever………….Let go of me!” he yelled as Val grabbed him in a bear hug.

“ I’ll let go of you when you come to your senses!” Val said as he held on tight.

“ What is going on. Johnny, stop this behavior son.” Murdoch pleaded.

“ You go to hell old man. I’m not your son. I’m nothing but a worthless half-breed killer. A bastard!” Johnny yelled as he tried to get free of Val’s hold.

“ If they make a jackass the king of the jungle, that don’t mean he ain’t a jackass.” Val said. “ And that is exactly how you are acting.”

Don Luis walked over to his grandson. “ I am sorry for what she did to you Johnny. I did not know that was her intentions when we came here. You are not doing yourself any good acting like this. It pains me to see you like this.”

“ You have no idea what pain is.” Johnny said as he looked at the ground.

Val felt all the fight go out of Johnny, so he let go of him.

“ Go on up to your room, and sleep it off.” Murdoch ordered.

“ Go to hell old man!” Johnny spat.

Murdoch brought his right hand back, and hit Johnny so hard, it knocked him out. “ Take him up to his room.”

Val came back downstairs with Scott a short time later.

“ Was beating him really necessary Val?” Murdoch asked.

“ It was when he threw the first punch.” Val said. “ Who’s this?”

“ I’m sorry, Val Crawford, this is Don Luis Saldaña, Johnny’s grandfather.” Scott said.

“ Well I’ll be. The kid not only got his pappy, and big brother, but he got his abuelo too. It’s right nice to meet you sir.” Val said as he shook the man’s hand.

“ Have you known my grandson long Mister Crawford?” he asked.

“ Oh almost seven years now. We rode together up till last year when he came home with his pappy, and I went back down along the border to take care of some business.” Val responded. “ I told the kid I would come here in a year and see if he wanted to stay or go leave. I sure never expected him to have all he’s had happen to him.”

“ The girl isn’t even all of it Val.” Scott said.

“ No, I expect it ain’t given it’s Johnny we be talking about.” Val said. “ Listen, how many people do you know with a lot of money, and I mean a lot?”

“ Why you ask?” Murdoch asked.

“ Because when I was in Tucson, this flier came in on the stage to be sent out. Somebody has it in for the kid, and wants him dead real bad.” Val said as he took the flier out of his pocket, and read it aloud.

Fifty Thousand Dollars will be paid upon the death of a half-breed named Johnny Madrid. He is living on a ranch called Lancer, outside a town called Morro Coyo. Verification of his death must be verified before payment will be made.

“ Let me see that.” Scott said as he took the flier. “ Grandfather!”

“ How many of these were sent out?” Murdoch asked.

“ None. I just happened to be there, and the clerk, well he knows me and Johnny. He brought it to my attention. We burned all of them except that one as far as we know.” Val responded.

“ I know he’s your grandfather son, but………..”

“ You don’t have to say it sir. I made it clear to him when he was here. I wash my hands of him. This is just another way he hopes of getting me to come back to Boston.” Scott cut in, and said. “ He figures with Johnny dead, I will leave here.”

“ That’s one messed up in the head old man.” Val said. “ Why’s he hate Johnny so much?”

“ Have a seat, and we will explain.” Murdoch said.

“ So he’s known where Johnny was all those years, and he never said a word to you about it?” Val asked thirty minutes later.

“ My grandfather only cares, and thinks about himself.”

“ Johnny has ta be told about this ya know.” Val said.


Chapter 9

Johnny walked downstairs late afternoon the next day. Bruises were visible on his face, and his bottom lip was split open. Wondering how he got back to the house as he walked into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.

“ Usted debe estar avergonzado de sí mismo.” ( You should be ashamed of yourself.) Maria said as she prepared supper.

“ No necesito una conferencia tuya.” ( I don’t need a lecture from you.) Johnny said. “ Solo quiero una taza de café.” ( I just want a cup of coffee.)

“ Necesitas comer. Siéntate y te daré de comer.” ( You need to eat. Sit down, and I will feed you.)

Johnny walked over and poured a cup of coffee. “ No creo que pueda retener ningún alimento en este momento. Solo el café servirá por ahora.” (  I don’t think I could keep any food down right now. Just the coffee will do for now.) he said before walking out of the kitchen.

“ I was wondering when you were going to wake up.” Val said.

“ Val. How long you been here?” Johnny asked as he walked over, and sat down on the couch.

Maria came into the room with a compress. “ Para ayudar con la hichazón. Mantenlo en tu cara.”  ( To help with the swelling. Keep it on your face.) Maria ordered as she handed it to him.

“ What the hell happened to me?” Johnny asked as he laid his head back, and placed the compress on his face.

“ You don’t remember?” Val asked.

“ No. I remember what happened with Anna, and killing Carlos, but not much after that.” Johnny said as his father, and Don Luis walked into the house.

“ How do you feel son?” Murdoch asked as he walked over.

“ He don’t remember anything.” Val said.

“ I feel like someone pounded on me a good one. What did I do?” he asked as he removed the compress to take a sip of coffee.

Murdoch, and Val told Johnny what happened. Val left out the part about Johnny pointing his gun at his brother. He felt that was something between them to discuss.

“ Oh man, I guess I made a complete jackass of myself. What did you hit me with Val, brass knuckles?”

“ I hit you son. You wouldn’t go up to your room to sleep it off. I’m sorry. I never want to be put in that position, and have to do that ever again.” Murdoch said.

“ You hit as hard as a mule kicks. I’m sure I deserved it. Guess I was pretty stupid huh?” Johnny said.

“ No son, you weren’t. You were hurting in the worst way a man can hurt.” Murdoch said. “ I’ve never told anyone this before. When your mother left me, I was devastated. Mostly because I lost you. Every day that passed without you became so hard on me, I started to drink. Cipriano made me see what a mistake I was making. That’s when I started having the Pinkerton’s search for you. Every birthday I would sit here in front of the fireplace, and………….” Murdoch stood up suddenly. “ I’ll be right back son.” he said before heading upstairs.

“ What did I do that you didn’t want to tell me in front of Murdoch?” Johnny asked.

“ Greeted your brother with your pistol to his face.” Val said.

“ Jesus. He must hate me.” Johnny said.

“ No, he was worried about you. That brother of yurs care more about you than you know kid.” Val said as Murdoch came back downstairs.

“  The year you disappeared I started writing in this on your birthday, and Christmas every year. I want you to take it, and read it. You need to so you know what I went thru. It will help you understand a lot about me son.” Murdoch said as he offered the journal to him.

Johnny took the journal. “ Thanks. I know I have a hangover and all, but something is wrong. What are you two not telling me?”

“ Show him.” Murdoch said.

“ Johnny, you remember our friend Pete in Tucson?” Val asked as he took the flier out.

“ Yeah, he works at the stage station doing the mail. What about him?” Johnny responded, and asked.

“ I just happened to be visiting with him when a passel of these came in.” Val said as he handed it to him. “ They were to be sent out all over, but we burned every last one of them but that one.”

“Who the hell did this, and why?” Johnny asked with anger as he stood up.

“ Harlan.” Murdoch said. “ He’s the only one with that kind of money son.”

“ Unless you made someone else made enough to offer that kind of money for you dead?” Val asked.

“ It was grandfather.” Scott said as he walked into the room. “ I received a letter from Thomas. He’s been with grandfather since I was a baby. It would seem grandfather had him have five hundred of them printed up, and sent out to Tucson. He also says grandfather has something else planned if this does not work to kill you both. It would seem he wants you dead also Murdoch. He has it in his head that with the two of you gone, I will go back to Boston.”

“ Tell me something Scott, what the hell did I ever do to that old man to make him hate me so much?” Johnny asked.

“ It’s my fault son, not yours.” Murdoch said.

“ It’s nobody’s fault Murdoch.” Scott said. “ Johnny, I don’t know. Before I left, grandfather was acting different. He’s became more bitter in his old age toward people he has known for years. People he has done years of business with. This is…………Grandfather doing this shows he is not right in the mind. He would never offer an amount like that for anything. If there is one thing I know about grandfather is the man does not part with his money easily. This is not like him.”

“ Son, do you have a suspicion as to his behavior?”

“ I wish I did.” Scott said. “ Johnny, you got to believe me, I knew nothing of grandfather doing this. I’m sorry.”

“ Yeah, just like you didn’t know he had info on me all those years too right?” Johnny said before heading upstairs.

“ Johnny wait!” Scot said as he went after his brother. “ Johnny…..I swear to you, I knew nothing about you until I came here.” he said as he followed his brother into his room.

Johnny ignored his brother as he grabbed his saddlebags, and started shoving what clothes he had in them.

“ What are you doing?” Scott asked.

“ What’s it look like. I can’t stay here Scott. I won’t be responsible for Murdoch being killed. I’ll sign my part of the ranch over to you. I was a fool to even think I could live a normal life. I’ll see ya.” Johnny said.

Scott walked over, and grabbed his brothers arm. “ Johnny, don’t do this. Lancer is your home.”

Johnny jerked his arm free. “ No Scott, Lancer is your home, not mine. It never was. I gave it a year, and look what’s happened in that year.”

“ So that’s it. You’re just going to take off?”

“ Yeah.” Johnny said. “ Don’t make this any harder than it already is Scott.”

“ Got any plans?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah, I’ll head south. There’s a range war brewing, and I heard they’re hiring guns.” he said.

“ Just going to kill time, among other things?” he said.

“ That’s right.”

“ You’ll be dead before you’re thirty.”

“ That comes to us all now don’t it brother.”

“ But when you go, you won’t even leave a small ripple.”

“ That is brother, I mean the sermons over ain’t it?”

“ It’s the only good thing that’s ever happened to you your whole life, and you’re gonna get up and walk away from it, and all for nothing. But I guess that’s all you got going for you from now on. It was nice to have met you brother……….. good luck.” he said before leaving the room.

Scott went downstairs and told them what Johnny was doing.

Murdoch sighed when his youngest came downstairs with his saddlebags over his shoulder, and rifle in his left hand. “ I want a bill of sale for Barranca, and that mare. I’m also signing my part of Lancer over to Scott.”

“ Alright son. If you’re sure about this?” Murdoch said.

“ You’re not going to try and stop him from leaving?” Scott asked.

“ No son I’m not. I made your brother a deal a year ago that I wouldn’t try and stop him if he wanted to leave after a year here.” Murdoch said as he wrote out two bill of sales, and handed them to Johnny. “I won’t change the partnership son. Lancer will always be your home. So any time you want to come home, you can.”

Johnny walked over to his grandfather. He could see the sadness in his eyes.

“ Go for a walk with an old man before you leave?” Don Luis asked.

Johnny sighed, and set his saddlebags, and rifle down.

“ Mister Lancer, I just want you to know, I didn’t know he would want to leave, and I’m sorry if I did anything to make him want to.” Val said.

“ I know you didn’t Val.” Murdoch said.

“ We both do. You’ve been a good friend to my brother. Can I ask what your plans are?” Scott said.

“ Well, I was offered a pretty interesting job in Green River right after the nice sheriff told me I wasn’t welcome. Seems he thought I was there to call Johnny out.” Val said.

“ I’m afraid a lot of people are not happy with the sheriff of Green River. He ordered Johnny to stay out of the town. So Lancer no longer does any business there.” Murdoch said.

“ Well you see, this fella who come talk to me Mayor Hicks, seems he wants me to take over as sheriff. Says he has a letter or something from the governor removing the sheriff from office. He said nobody else will take the job. He also said businesses have lost business because of the man running good people off.” Val explained. “ And he said because Lancer is no longer doing business in his fare town.”

“ Are you going to take the job?” Murdoch asked.

“ I’m thinkin I just might.” Val said.

“ Te dije cuando te vi por primera vez que te habías convertido en un buen hombre. Te he visto hacer mucho, sobre todo bien, y te he visto lastimarse. Eres un joven extraordinario, pero ahora mismo estás siendo untonto egoísta. Culpas a tu hermano y a tu padre por lo que no tuvieron nada que ver.”  ( I told you when I first seen you that you have grown into a fine man. I have seen you do a lot, mostly good, and I have seen you get hurt. You are a remarkable young man, but right now you are being a selfish fool. You blame your brother, and father for what they had nothing to do with.)

“ No los culpo a ellos, yo me culpo a mí. Culpo a Johnny Madrid. No puedo arriesgarme a vivir aquí sabiendo  que podrían resultar heridos o muertos por mi culpa.”  ( I don’t blame them, I blame me. I blame Johnny Madrid. I can’t risk living here knowing they could be hurt, or killed because of me.)

“ ¿Te has molestado en hablar con ellos al respecto? Me parece que estás tomando todo esto sobre tus hombros y no compartes la carga.”  ( Have you bothered to talk to them about it? It seems to me, you are taking all this on your shoulders, and not sharing the burden.)

“ ¿Cómo les pregunto?” ( How do I ask them?) Johnny asked softly.

“ Entras allí y hablas con ellos. Dile a ellos como te sientes. Deje que ellos decidan y carguen con algo de esa carga. Es lo que hacen las familias.”  ( You go in there, and you talk to them. Tell them how you feel. Let them decide, and carry some of that burden. It is what families do.)

“ Abuelo, se por qué has vivido tanto. Eres un anciano bastante sabio.”  ( Grandfather, I know why you have lived so long. You’re a pretty wise old man.) Johnny said.

“ Un anciano sabio que no quiere volver a perder a su nieto.”   ( A wise old man who does not want to lose his grandson again.) Don Luis said. “ Te dejo ahora para que pienses en tu decisión. Piense si realmente quiere dejar lo mejor que pueda  tener.” ( I will leave you now to think about your decision. Think about if you really want to leave the best thing you will ever have.)

Johnny watched his grandfather walk back to the house, where he was met on the veranda by Scott, Murdoch, and Val. All four men looked in his direction. All four men making his decision that much harder to make. He knew his grandfather was right. He needed to talk to them, and stop carrying all the burden on his shoulders. He had a family now, a father, and brother who cared about him. He was no longer alone, and never would be again.

Walking back to the house, he grabbed his saddlebags, and rifle. “ I need some time alone to think. I’ll stay at the line-shack. There’s a lot of work needs done to the roof, corral, and lean-too for the horses. I’m not making any promises I’ll stay.”

“ Alright son. Just let Cipriano know what you need for the repairs. I’ll have Scott bring supplies up there in the next day or so.”

“ No, have a hand bring them, and then make sure they stay away. This has to be my decision, and I can’t have any of you trying to influence my decision to stay, or leave.” Johnny said.

“ Alright. Can I ask how long son?”

“ There’s enough work to do that will take me about a month. When I’m finished, I’ll come back, and give you my answer.” Johnny said before walking out.

“ Thomas!” Harlan Garrett yelled as he walked into his study. “ Thomas, I want to see you now!”

“ Yes sir.” Thomas said as he walked into the study.

“ Thomas, why have you not done what I asked?” Harlan demanded.

“ Sir?” Thomas said.

“ I told you I wanted that flier made up, and sent to Tucson. Why has it not been done?” he demanded.

“ I did what you asked sir. I had them made up, and sent out on the train that very day.” Thomas responded.

“ Then why is Madrid still alive?” he asked.

“ I do not know sir. Maybe nobody has been able to kill him yet because he is the best, and fastest.” Thomas said.

“ You disappoint me Thomas. I shall handle this matter myself. I will see to it that half-breed is killed. I want my Scotty back home where he belongs. Not in that god forsaken country.” Harlan said.

“ Sir, I don’t think what you are doing is right. Killing Johnny Madrid will only hurt Mister Scott. It will not bring him home. He is happy living out there. Why can’t you accept that?” he said, and asked.

“ I raised him, not Murdoch Lancer. He is a Garrett, and I will not allow him to throw his life away chasing cows.” he spat.

“ With all due respect sir, you didn’t raise Scott. You were hardly here in the evenings to eat dinner with him. You worked on Christmas day, and when he got older, you never had time for him on his birthday. It was me who raised him. It was me who cleaned up his cuts, and scrapes. It was me he asked about personal things. You have no idea how hurt he was when he learned the truth about his father. Where were you when he was up late at night crying because of what you did keeping him away from his father? Where were you when he was sick? Work is all you know now, and all you did then. You are a lonely old man, and have nobody to blame for that loneliness but yourself sir.” Thomas responded. For years he had wanted to say something, and for years he remained quiet.

“ How dare you speak to me like that. I……….”

“ You’ll what sir…….fire me? I have worked for you longer than anyone else. If you wish to terminate me, that is your right, just as it is my right to tell you how wrong you are being with this hatred you have.” Thomas said before walking out of the room.

“ Son, you have a letter, and package on the table from Boston.” Murdoch said as Scott walked into the room removing his gloves.

Scott glanced at the parcel on the table before walking over, and pouring a drink. “ Who’s winning?” he asked.

“ Don Luis. I don’t know how he does it, but he seems to be getting the better cards for more points.” Murdoch said.

“ Well, the men are finished up, and waiting.” Scott said.

“ Oh right. Play this round for me son, while I go pay them.” Murdoch said as he stood up.

“ You are a worthy adversary I hope?” Don Luis asked.

“ I’ve played a few games in college sir.” Scott said as he sat down.

“ You are worried about your brother. I can see it in the evenings at supper. You look across at his empty chair.” Don Luis said.

“ I don’t want him to leave. I’m afraid that if he does………..I told him that day up in his room that he would be dead by thirty. What the hell kind of brother says a thing like that?” Scott said.

“ I believe a brother who cares would say such a thing. You do not want Johnny to leave because you are afraid he will go back to living by his gun, and be killed.” Don Luis said.

“ I just don’t understand why people can’t leave him alone. Why my grandfather can hate him so much, he wants him dead. All he wants to do is live a normal life. A life he’s entitled too live.” he said.

“ He will come back, and he will stay.” Don Luis said.

“ I could kill you right now!” a man said from the trees.

Johnny dropped the fence rail, and looked into the trees as a rider approached with a rifle aimed right at him. “ Ben Nodean.”

“ I never thought I would see the day Johnny Madrid would be careless, and not have his gun on.” the rider said.

“ What do you want Nodean?” Johnny asked.

“ Heard me something I found a little hard to believe, so I thought I would come see for myself if it was true.” Ben said. “ Besides, I owe you a bullet. You meet me Friday in Spanish Wells, at noon. I want plenty of witnesses.” Nodean said before turning his horse to ride away. “ Killing you is going to be such a pleasure.” he said as he rode away.

Johnny stood there watching Ben disappear in the trees. He knew the man was fast, if not faster than him. He’d heard the stories, and even seen the man kill another man once. If anyone stood a chance at beating him to the draw, it was Ben Nodean, a ruthless, hardcore gunfighter, who never went by the book most gunfighters followed. Even the law left Nodean alone whenever he rode into their town. Some said he became a half crazed bounty hunter a few years back after taking a bullet in the leg. A bullet that gave him a limp for the rest of his life. A bullet put there by Johnny. Remembering the words his grandfather said about sharing the burden, Johnny saddled Barranca, and headed home.

Scott sat on his bed, and opened the letter. He  found it to be from Thomas, and not his grandfather.

Dear Scott

I hope all is well with you, and your family since my last letter. I am writing to you now to tell you some bad news.  I’m afraid your grandfather passed away in his sleep from a heart attack last month. He had come home from work, late as usual, and we had an altercation about those fliers I told you about. He was very upset, and I’m afraid I snapped, and told him things I should not have said, but felt needed to be said. As you know, his behavior had started to change after you left. He became angry, and filled with hate toward everyone. I have enclosed in the package a copy of his will for you, a bank draft from the sale of  all his businesses, and the instructions he left for you in his passing. It would seem he sold all of his businesses shortly after he came back from seeing you this last time. The instructions he wrote that very night he passed. It was almost like he knew he was going to die. The other is all the files, and information he had gathered over the years on your father, and brother. I feel it is only right that you have them. Give them to your father. I feel he needs to know everything as do you about your brother, his past, and what a remarkable young man he is. I will never understand why your grandfather hated him so much. It seemed like as the years went by, that hatred grew. I even overheard him talking once to another man at a gathering about your brother when you were off fighting in the war between the states, and how he wished he could eliminate him. Anyhow, do not worry about anything, your grandfather left a substantial amount of money to take care of all his affairs, the staff, and I.

If you ever venture back to Boston, look me up. I would love to see you again, and maybe meet this brother of yours someday.

Your friend always, Thomas.

Picking up the other piece of paper, Scott read it, and shook his head as he let out a sigh.

 I found a name I did not recognize in his book. A man he apparently contacted, and was going to pay a substantial amount of money to a week before he passed. A man named Ben Nodean, Under his name was a message that said gunfighter. I know of nothing else of this matter, but felt that maybe your brother would know the man.

Setting the letter down on the bed, Scott leaned back, and let the tears flow for a few minutes before collecting himself, and heading downstairs with the letter in hand, but not the one telling about the man. That he would address with his brother alone.

“ Is something wrong son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Grandfather is dead.” Scott said softly.

“ What do you mean dead son? How?” Murdoch asked.

“ Thomas said he had a heart attack in his sleep a little over a month ago.” Scott said.

“ Son, I’m sorry.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and walked over to his son. “ Do you need to go back to Boston, and handle his affairs?”

“ No, Thomas has taken care of everything already. It would seem grandfather……….Here, you read the letter.”

“ I am sorry for your loss young man.” Don Luis said with sincerity.

“ Son, I don’t know what to say. I know we had our differences, but I never…….”

“ Save it. I know perfectly well how you felt about grandfather, and I don’t hold that against you sir.” Scott cut in, and said. “ After I read them, I will let you have the files grandfather collected over the years on Johnny.”

“ No son, I don’t need to read them, but are you sure you want too? There may be things in there that are not true, or could possibly disturb you that he did.” Murdoch said.

“ I think I know my brother well enough to know what will be true or not sir. What about you, would you like to read them Don Luis? Johnny is pretty secretive about things from his past.” Scott asked.

“ No. If my grandson wishes me to know something, I feel he would tell me. Sometimes it is best to not know, and let the past be the past.” Don Luis said as Johnny rode up, and dismounted.

“ Something’s wrong. He isn’t due back for another week.” Scott said.

Johnny walked into the house,  went to the sideboard, and poured a shot of tequila. His hands shaking as he set the glass down.

“ A man came to see me today.” he said as he walked over to them. “ This man is a gunfighter. A good one. Good enough to beat me.” he said.

“ What did he want son?” Murdoch asked.

“  He called me out. I’m to meet him at noon Friday in Spanish Wells. Said he wants witnesses to his killing me all nice and legal like.”

“ Is this man’s name Ben Nodean?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah it is. How’d you know that?” Johnny asked.

“ I’ll be right back.” Scott said before heading upstairs.

“ There’s only one way he knew his name. Harlan Garrett hired him.” Johnny said as Scott came back downstairs and handed Johnny the note from Thomas.

“ Sonofabitch!” Johnny said with anger. “ I guess I’m gonna have to go to Boston, and have a talk with that old man.”

“ You can’t. Grandfather died last month of a heart attack in his sleep.” Scott said.

Johnny looked at his brother, and could see the pain in his eyes over the loss.

“ This Nodean, is he that good son?” his father asked.

“ He’s that good.” Johnny said, and then told them what he knew about the man.

“ You’re not going.” Murdoch said when Johnny finished.

“ I’m not going to hide Murdoch. If I don’t show up, Nodean will come looking for me. He knows where I live. He knows I have family.” Johnny said with firmness.

“ Little brother, you seem to forget, Lancer takes care of it’s own. We’ll run him off.”

“ It won’t work Scott. He was hired to kill me.  He won’t stop until one of us is dead.”

“ I am not going to let you ride into Spanish Wells, and face this man.” Murdoch ordered.

“ You don’t get to have a say in this Murdoch. This is who I am, what I’m best at doing, and it always will be.” Johnny snapped back.

“ I do have a say young man. You are my son, and I will not allow this to happen damn it.” Murdoch said with anger.

 “You said this man is faster than you, why does he want to come and kill you now?” Don Luis said.

“  Garrett must have known what I did to bring him all the way here.” Johnny responded.

“ What did you do to him?” Scott asked.

“ I put a bullet in him.” Johnny said.

“ We have until Friday, that’s two days to figure something out. Please son, let us help you.” Murdoch pleaded.

Johnny looked at his grandfather. “ Still think I should share the burden Abuelo?”

Don Luis nodded.

Murdoch walked into the sheriff’s office, and closed the door. “ Val, can I have a word with you?”

“ Mister Lancer, I recon. Want a cup of coffee?” Val said as he stood up.

“ No. I need to talk to you about a man from Johnny’s past. A  man who has come here to kill him.” Murdoch said.

“ I’ve had nobody in town……”

“ No, he’s in Spanish Wells. Johnny came home last night. I guess this fella rode up to him at the South Mesa line-shack. He said he’s here to kill Johnny, and called him out.” Murdoch explained.

“ I see. Does this fella have a name?” Val asked.

“ Ben Nodean.” he said.

Val immediately got a sick feeling in his stomach. He knew Nodean, and knew the man was a killer. “ I know him. He’s a half crazed bounty hunter. Prefers to bring them in dead. Less trouble that way he always says.” Val said. “ You say he’s in Spanish Wells, and he’s here for Johnny?”

“ Yeah. Look, Johnny said this man is faster than him. He wants Johnny to meet him at noon tomorrow in Spanish Wells. Said he wants plenty of witnesses when he kills my son.” Murdoch said with fear in his voice. “ Can he beat Johnny?”

“ He can, and he will. Whoever hired him wants Johnny dead. Nodean ain’t cheap, and he won’t stop until the job is finished.” Val responded.

“ And if Johnny doesn’t meet him tomorrow?” he asked.

“ Nodean will come looking. Like I said, he won’t stop until one of them is dead, and I’m afraid in this case, it could be Johnny.” he said. “ he has a hate for Johnny ever since he put a bullet in him a few years back.”

“ So he won’t leave until one of them is dead.”  Murdoch said as he opened the door to leave.

“ Mister Lancer, Nodean is known for forcing his target. If’n Johnny don’t show up tomorrow, Nodean will do something to make him face him. I’d be careful.” Val said.

Johnny rode into Spanish Wells, and dismounted in front of the saloon. Walking inside, he looked around, Nodean was nowhere to be seen.

“ Johnny, a man said to give you this if’n you was  to come in.” Mac said.

Johnny took the note, and read it.

Madrid, one of them will be dead by the time you get this note, and ride back to Lancer.
Ben Nodean.

Johnny got a sick feeling inside as he hurried out to Barranca, swung up in the saddle, and hurried home.

Don Luis, walked outside, and was slammed in the chest. Dropping to his knees as a red stain quickly spread across his chest.

Murdoch heard the shot, and come running out of the house, and found Don Luis on the ground.

“ You tell Madrid, I’ll be waiting for him where it all started.” Nodean said as he rode up to Murdoch. “ Tell that sonofabitch it’s payback time.” he said before riding away.

Johnny dismounted before Barranca got stopped, and hurried inside. Scott stood in the grand room with Murdoch. Hurrying down the hall to his grandfather’s bedroom, he found Cipriano, and Maria sitting with him. His chest swathed in bandages.

“ He is here now.” Cipriano said softly, as he stood up.

Johnny walked over to his grandfather, and sat down in the chair as Cipriano, and Maria left the room.

“ I’m here abuelo.” he said as he took the man’s right hand in his.

Don Luis opened his eyes, and looked at his grandson. A tear rolled down his cheek. “ My life is over. I got to see my grandson. I am so proud of you, and the man you have become.”

“ I need you.” Johnny said as he wiped away the tears.

“ You…….you have your family. They need you too. Please……do not leave them. Stay, Lancer is your home. Promise me.” Don Luis said softly.

“ I promise abuelo.” Johnny said as Don Luis took his last breath. Laying his head on his chest, Johnny let the tears fall.

“ Maybe one of us should go in there?” Scott asked.

“ No son. Give him some time.” Murdoch said.

“ You know what he’s going to do?” Scott asked.

Murdoch sighed. “ I do, and I’m afraid we won’t be able to stop him son. Your brother will go after Nodean.”

“ I’m not going to let him commit murder!” Scott said as his brother walked out into the grand room.

“ He’s gone.” he said  softly.

“ I’m sorry son.” Murdoch said.

“ It was Nodean wasn’t it?” he asked.

“ Son, don’t……..”

“ Wasn’t it!” he yelled.

“ Yes!” Murdoch responded.

“ What did he say to you?” Johnny demanded.

“ He said he would see you where it all started. He said killing your grandfather was just the beginning of your hell.” Murdoch responded.

“ I want to bury grandfather on the hill overlooking Lancer, under the big oak tree.” Johnny said.


Chapter 10

“ Johnny, going after Nodean is just what he wants you to do.” Scott pleaded as they walked into the house three days later.

Johnny ignored his brother, and went upstairs.

“ You cannot stop him Patrón.” Cipriano said. “ I have seen that look before. It is the look of death.”

“ He’ll only get himself killed!” Murdoch said as Johnny came back downstairs with his saddlebags, and rifle.

“ I’m going with you.” Scott said.

“ No you’re not. This is between me,and Nodean.” Johnny said as he walked over to Cipriano. “No descansaré hasta que se vengue el asesinato de mi abuelo. Cuida tío.”  ( I won’t rest until my grandfather’s murder is avenged. Take care uncle.)

“ Entiendo. Ve con dios mi sobrino.”  ( I understand. Go with God my nephew.) Cipriano said.

“ I don’t know how long it will take me.” Johnny said.

“ I wish you wouldn’t do this son.” Murdoch said. “ The Rurales learn you’re back in Mexico.”

“ That’s a chance I’ll have to take. I can’t let it go Murdoch.” Johnny said.

“ Scott……..I’ll see ya.” Johnny said before turning, and walking out to Barranca.

“ Johnny……….let me come with you. Let me help you.” Scott pleaded.

“ You’d only slow me down Boston. Lancer is your home. You belong here. It’s been good knowing you. You’ve been everything I ever wanted in a big brother. Stay here, and take care of the old man, don’t come looking for me.”

Scott stood there watching his brother gallop up the hill, and disappear.

“ You ready?” Scott asked as he slid his sharps in the scabbard.

“ I am.” Val said.

“ Nodean said to meet him where it all started. Where is that?” Murdoch asked.

“I don’t know. It was before I met Johnny.” Val said as he mounted his horse.” We’ll search every inch of Mexico, and down along the border.”

“ I don’t care how long it takes, bring your brother home. Six months without a word from him is to long.” Murdoch said.

Johnny rode into Douglas, and stopped at the livery soaking wet. The last two days it had rained so hard, his rain slicker did little good at keeping him dry. Eating sage hens, or rabbits he would snare in the evenings was wearing thin, all he wanted now was a hot bath, a hot meal, and  a soft bed to sleep in for the night. Leading Barranca into an empty stall, he started striping the saddle off when a man came in from the back.

“ Sorry mister, I didn’t know someone came in.” the man said. “ You look like you’ve been out in this weather a bit?”

“ Been in rain the last two days” Johnny said as he put the saddle on the rail, grabbed an empty burlap sack, and started rubbing Barranca down good.

“ Well I’ll be damned. I thought you were in California?” he asked.

“  How much for the night with extra grain, and hay?” he asked.

“ Six bits. Val was here last year. He told me you found your father, and went home with him.”

“ Yeah. Listen, I’m tracking a man.” Johnny said. “ Man named Nodean, Ben Nodean. You seen him?”

“ Oh man, he’s a bad one. Why you tracking him kid?” he asked.

“It’s personal. You seen him?” Johnny responded.

“ Yeah, he was thru here three months ago. Spent the night at Belles, and then took off the next morning headed south.” he said.

“ Thanks. So Belle still has her place?” Johnny asked as he pitched hay into the stall for Barranca.

“ Sure does. She’ll be happy ta see you.” he said. “ She’s always askin me if I seen ya.”

“ Belle is a good woman.” Johnny said as he paid the man.

“ You watch yourself. The Rurales have been visiting her place off and on the last two years. She said they keep coming in looking for you.” he said.

“ Two years huh. Guess they have a pretty good bounty on my head?” Johnny said.

“ I heard it’s fifty thousand pesos. President Juárez dying a couple months ago has made Governor Antonio Ochoa order all he feels were with Juárez while he was in office, a nuisance, and wants them punished for their crimes against the Mexican Government.” he said.

“ Punished how?” Johnny asked.

“ Some I heard have been captured and shot. The younger ones, well………I heard they were taken to that hell hole prison in Hermosillo, or to work in the silver mine.” he explained. “ Course I don’t know if it’s true or not.”

“ What silver mine you talking about?” Johnny asked.

“ La Colorada, some they take to Batopiles. You heard of them?” he asked.

“ Yeah. Batopiles is almost impossible to escape from. Down at the bottom of Las Barrancas del Cobre.  Thousand foot walls on each side of that canyon. Only two ways in or out on horseback.” Johnny said. “ La Colorada, that’s a filthy death trap run mostly by the inmates.”

“ That’s a right good looking horse you got.” the man said as he took the money. “ I’ll take real good care of him for ya.”

“ Thanks. He’s the best I’ve ever had. I’ll see ya.” Johnny said before heading out in the rain, and down to Belle’s place. Normally he would love spending time with Belle, and a couple of the girls. Right now he was just too tired. Nodean being three weeks ahead of him gave him the idea to go ahead and spend a day in Douglas resting up. Barranca could use it, and he knew his body could. Sleeping out on the cold hard ground made his body ache in places he didn’t like. “ You got too soft sleeping in a bed every night  Madrid.” he said as he turned around, and paid the man for an extra day, and feed for Barranca.

Ben Nodean rode into Hermasillo, late afternoon, and stopped at the Rurales office three weeks after leaving Douglas. It had been nine months now since he started his little game with Madrid.

“ Your general here?” he asked a Rurale sitting outside.

“ What do you want to see the general for gringo?” he asked.

“ That’s between me and him. Now if he’s here, go get him.” Nodean responded as he dismounted.

“ General Calvo, there is a gringo out here who wishes to speak to you.

“ I’m General Calvo. What do you want?”

“ Well general, I’ve been having a man follow me the past nine months from California,  and now down here to Mexico, and I thought you would like to know Sonora’s most hated, most wanted man will be back in Mexico real soon. If he isn’t already.” Nodean said.

“ And who is this man supposed to be?” he demanded.

“ Johnny Madrid.” Nodean said. “ Madrid knows he will be shot or captured if he returns to Mexico. What makes you so sure he is coming?” the general asked.

“ Oh he’s coming. I killed his grandfather in California, at a ranch called Lancer, three months ago.” Nodean responded.

“ Why did you kill his grandfather?” the general demanded.

“ Does it really matter? Look I know there’s a bounty on Madrid down here. I’m delivering him to you general.” Nodean said.

“ It matters a great deal to me. You come here interrupting my siesta time, and say you are bringing Madrid here. You say he is coming after you because you killed his grandfather. What is it, the business you have with Madrid to make you do such a thing?” General Calvo demanded.

“ Madrid put a bullet in me a few years back. I owe him for that.” Nodean responded.

“ You should be thankful you are still alive. Madrid is a deadly man with a gun. He has killed many men before you who have tried to take him.” the general said.

“¿Quizás este gringo no puede tomar el Madrid solo, y quiere usarnos para que lo hagamos por él?”  ( Maybe this gringo cannot take Madrid alone, and he wants to use us to do it for him?) the Rurale said.

“  Quizás.” the general said. “ What is your name gringo?”

“ Nodean, Ben Nodean.”

“ Well gringo Nodean, we have our own problems right now. Presidente Benito Juárez died of a heart attack, and the Governor, Antonio Ochoa, he has said he wants all troublemakers captured, and put in jail. You deliver Madrid to use, alive, and you will have his bounty. We will pay you five thousand for him, alive. The governor, he would like to see that mestizo working in his silver mine.”

“ Well if you ain’t a sight for sore eyes.” Belle said as she came downstairs.

“ Hello Belle. Been awhile.” Johnny said.

“ Sure has. I’d say from the looks of it, you need a hot bath, food, and a soft bed to sleep in?” she said.

“ You always did know what a man needs.” he said.

“ It’s my job to know what a man needs. Come with me honey..” Belle said as she led Johnny upstairs to her private room.

“ How long can you stay?” Belle asked as she set a plate of hot food on the table two hours later.

“ Thanks. A couple days.” Johnny responded as he dug into the hot plate of food.

“ You been on the trail a long time?” she asked.

“ I’m tracking a man I heard stopped here a couple two, three weeks ago.” he said. “ Names Ben Nodean. He been here?”

“ Jesus Johnny, he’s a cold-blooded killer.” she said. “ Why you tracking him?”

“ It’s personal Belle.” He said. “ I hear the Rurales have been coming in looking for me?” he asked.

“ They have for the past two years.” she said. “ They put a price on your head of fifty thousand pesos.”

Johnny pushed his empty plate away. “ Fifty thousand is a lot of money Belle.”

“ It is, but it’s not worth losing a good friend, and customer over. The girls won’t say anything to them.” she said as she walked over to him. When she put her right hand on his shoulder, she felt him tense up. Something he has never done before when she touched him. “ You’ve been hurt by a woman since I last seen you?”

“ You always could read me. I was, in the worse way a man can be I guess.” Johnny said as he turned to face her.

“ You know I would never hurt you Johnny.” she said.

“ I know that Belle. You know, when I was walking here, I thought I would be too tired, but seeing you again…………” Johnny said as Belle brought her lips to his.

“  I’ll let you sleep after.” Belle said as they moved to the bed, she undid her robe, and climbed in bed. “ We got two years to catch up on.”

Belle quietly left her room the next afternoon, so Johnny could sleep. She swore the man had gotten better at pleasing a woman in the two years she hadn’t seen him. She also knew his aggression as he made love to her the first time, was directed at whoever hurt him. After he got his aggression out of him, he made love to her like she remembered. Six times he took her, and each time he pleasured her, it lasted longer than the last. She wanted to ask him about the girl who hurt him, but knew there were some things even Madrid wouldn’t talk about.

“ Sara, I want you to fix up a big plate of ham, potatoes, and eggs for me.” she said as she poured a cup of coffee.

“ You got a man in your room Belle?” Cassie asked.

“ Who the food is for is of no concern of yours..” she said.

“ Who you got up there?” Sara asked.

“ She’s got Johnny……….” Cassie started to say.

“ Who she has in her room is of no concern of yours.” Sandy cut in, and said. She knew who it was, and knew the less people who knew he was there, the safer he would be. She had seen Madrid when he walked in yesterday when the other girls were sleeping.

“ Sara, you being new and all, I’m going to give you a piece of advice you might want to remember. Some of the girls have regulars come to them that don’t want others knowing they are here. It’s nobody’s business but mine who is with each girl.” Belle said firmly. “ Do I make myself clear Sara………Cassie you’ve been here long enough to know better.”

“ Yes ma’am.” Sara said. “ I meant no harm asking.”

“  You just do like you’ve been doing, and everything will be alright.” Belle said. “  Sandy, I want to speak to you in my office.”

“ I don’t know why she’s being all secretive over  who she’s got in her room. It’s not like we won’t see him when he leaves.” Sara said.

“  Like Belle said, it’s of no concern of ours.”  Cassie said.

“ Sandy, I know you seen who’s upstairs. You’re the only one I trust. Cassie has been here long enough to know the rules.” Belle said.

“ So has Sara ma’am. I don’t like it. Them two could be trouble for Johnny. I mean, we all know how much the bounty is on him, and how bad the Rurales want him. I don’t trust Sara.” Sandy said. “ She’s saving her money up to get out of here. She finds out he’s here, she could turn him in.”

“ We just have to make sure she stays away from my room. I’ll make sure Johnny knows.” Belle said.

“Teniente González, quiero que envíe untelegrama a Hermosillo, informándoles de Madrid y que lo quiero vivo.”  (Lieutenant González, I want you to send a wire to Hermosillo. Let them know about Madrid, and that I want him alive.) General Calvo ordered.

“ Si, señor. ¿Quieres que envíe una larga patrulla por si Madrid se les escapa?”  ( Yes sir. Do you wish me to send out a long patrol just in case Madrid slips by them?) the lieutenant asked.

“  Si. Asegúrese de que entiendan que el gobernador Ochoa estará muy complacido si lo atrapamos.”  ( Yes, Make sure they understand Governor Ochoa would be very pleased if we caught him.) the general said.

For two years the Mexican army rounded up, killed, and shipped off to prison, or to work in the mine, anyone who fought in the Revolution of the North war. It was no secret that Madrid fought in that war. Leading peasants against the army. Countless good men died from his gun. Crimes committed would usually warrant death by being beheaded, or executed by a firing squad, and their body put on display like Miguel Hidalgo who was found by an inquisition to be a seditionary, apostate, and heretic. Found guilty of treason sixty years ago, and executed by a firing squad, then beheaded, and his head put on display with three others  as a warning on the corners of Alhóndiga de Granaditas, until their bodies were removed, and buried at the Church of St. Francis in Chihuahua ten years later. The general remembered watching as a boy the execution with his own father, and the words spoke as the men’s heads were chopped off after being shot to death. All four men refused a blindfold, and Hidalgo even placed his hand over his heart so the firing squad would know where to shoot.


For two days all Johnny did was sleep. A  flash of lightening, and loud thunder woke him mid-afternoon on the fourth day. Getting dressed he looked out the window at the rain still coming down hard. He knew the canyons he would have to take thru the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains wouldn’t be safe for him and Barranca, and going the long way around from El Paso down would take too much time. The sooner he found Nodean, the sooner he could avenge his grandfather’s death. Walking back over, and sitting down on the bed, he started putting his boots on when the door opened, and a girl he didn’t know walked into the room.

“ Hi, I’m Sara. Belle said to take care of you while she was in town.” Sara said. She knew it was a risk coming up here.

“ Belle told you that huh?” Johnny asked. “ How old are you?”

“ Seventeen. I’m real good in a bed though. I can please you real good.” she said as she walked over to him.

Johnny stood up, and started touching the girl all over her body. Hearing her breathing change as he touched her breast. Having her throw her head back when he ran his hand down between her legs, and found her more than ready.  “ You sure Bell told you to take care of me?” Johnny asked as he shoved her down on the bed, and positioned himself on top of her as he continued rubbing her.

“ Yes………Oh my god, you’re………please.” Sara begged as she reached down, and guided him to her.

Johnny entered her with one hard thrust, and stopped as he rose up on his hands, and looked down at her. “ I know for a fact Belle told you to stay away from her room.”  Johnny said before he started slamming into her as hard as he could. Moving the bed with every thrust he made. Picking both her legs up, and putting them on his shoulders, holding her in place by her thighs as he grunted, seeking, and wanting release.


“ Who is up in Belle’s room with that man?” Sandy asked.

“ I don’t know. Belle hasn’t come back from town yet, so it’s not her.” Cassie said.

“ It’s someone he’s really giving it too.” Sandy said.

“ I bet it’s Sara went up there.”  June said as Belle walked into the kitchen.

“ What’s going on?” Belle asked.

“ Your man seems to have company. He’s giving it to her real good too from the sounds of it.” Cassie said.

“ I think Sara is up there.” Sandy said.

“ Damn, I’d sure like to get me a man who can move a bed like that. He must be pounding her thru the wall.” June said.

Belle, and Sandy hurried upstairs. Opening the door, startling Johnny, who moved for his gun.

“ What the hell are you doing?” Belle demanded.

“ Belle, Jesus, you trying to get yourself shot? Why you so angry. She was just doing what you told her to do.”

Belle went over to the bed, shoved Johnny back, grabbed Sara by the arm, and jerked her up off the bed, slapping her hard across the face.

“ Hey! That’s uncalled for Belle. She said you sent her up here to take care of me while you were in town.” Johnny said.

“ Put your damn pants on!” Belle ordered. “ You little bitch, I specifically told you to stay away from my room. That who I had up here was of no concern of yours.”

“ Wait a minute. You didn’t tell her to come up here?” Johnny asked as he slipped his pants on.

“ No I didn’t! She lied to you. I told you to stay away from my room.” Belle said with anger as she slapped her again.

“ Belle, enough. Jesus, she doesn’t know who I am.” Johnny said.

“ I know who you are. I seen you kill a man in Yuma. You’re the one the Rurales are looking for. The one they keep coming here hoping to find.” Sara said. “ You’re Johnny Madrid, and you’re worth fifty thousand pesos.”

“ Damn it. Johnny……. I’m sorry.” Belle said.

“ Forget it.” Johnny said as he hurried to get dressed. I was going to ride out tonight anyway.”

Belle walked over to Sara, and slapped her hard across the face. “ If the Rurales find out he’s been here…….”

“ Belle, Rurales are downstairs.” Sandy said.

“ Johnny go!” Belle said.

“ No, I won’t risk you or the girls getting hurt.” Johnny said as he walked to the door. “  Estoy desarmado y salgo.” (I’m unarmed, and coming out.)

“ Primero saca las manos por le puerta para que veamos que son mestizos vacíos.” ( Put your hands out the door so we can see they are empty mestizo.) a Rurale ordered.

Johnny did as he was told, and slowly walked out of the room, and was immediately slammed in the lower back by a rifle butt, dropping him to his knees.

“ Stop it!” Belle yelled as Johnny was viciously kicked, knocking him on his side gasping for air. “ He’s unarmed! He surrendered…..Stop beating him!”

“Ponlo de pie.”  ( Stand him up.) the captain ordered.

Johnny was jerked to his feet as he struggled to breath.

“  Tienes suerte de que el General Calvo te quiera con vida. Será unlargo viaje para ti, Madrid.” ( You are lucky General Calvo wants you alive. It will be a long journey for you Madrid.)

“ This dang blasted rain ever gonna stop?” Val gruffed.

“ It’s spring.” Scott said.

“ I know it’s spring. It’s been rainin ever since we left Los Angeles.” Val gruffed as they rode into Yuma. “ We’ll stop at Belle’s place and see if he’s been there.”

“ What’s Belle’s place?’ Scott asked.

“ A whore house. She’s helped Johnny, and me in the past when he was shot up. It’s outside Douglas on the river.” Val said. “ We can be there in a couple days if this rain ever lets up.”

Scott cringed at the thought of his brother shot up, and needing the help of a whorehouse to stay alive.

“ Afternoon gents. Staying long?” the owner asked.

“ Long enough to dry out, and give these horses a good rest.” Val said.

“ Well, Val Crawford, I ain’t seen you in a spell.” the man said. “ Two stalls on the end are empty.”

“ Thanks.” Val said. “ You ain’t seen Johnny have ya Percy?”

“ Madrid, no. I haven’t seen him in, well must be two years now.” Percy said. “ I did hear that the governor is having all men who rode with Juárez in the war rounded up, and either killed, or sent to that hell hole prison La Colorada in Hermosillo.”

“ Damn.” Val said as he led his horse into a stall.

Scott walked out of the telegraph office, and mounted Charlie  “ Lead the way.” he said as he mounted his horse, ready to leave Yuma the next day.

“ You see those fellas over there next to their horses?” Val asked as they started out of town. “ They’re gonna follow us. I know the vermin kind.”

“ They think we have money?” Scott asked.

“ No, they want our horses, and guns. You can bet they’ll try tonight when we make camp.” Val explained.

“ I’m trusting you with my life mister Crawford for one reason only, Johnny trust you with his.” Scott responded.

“ You know, when we find that kid, I’m gonna have a serious talk with him about taking off like he did.” Val said.

“ He had a look I’ve never seen Val. He won’t stop until he catches this Nodean, and kills him.” Scott said.

The Rurale captain had Johnny’s arms tied behind his back once he was on a horse. His ribs sore from being kicked, protested as his arms were secured. Mercy was not something the Rurales, or Mexican Army believed in in the treatment of a prisoner. A prisoner’s mercy, Johnny knew came when they were killed, ending their torture, and pain. He also knew he would not be that lucky. General Calvo was a heartless, cold sonofabitch, who would do anything to please those in higher rank than him. He’d heard the rumors during the war about the man as a boy with his father witnessing the killing, and beheading of four men, one of them Miguel Hidalgo, a man who fought for the Mexicans independence.

As the sun started to go down behind the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, Johnny could no longer feel his fingers from the leather strap cutting into his wrist. When the captain finally stopped to make camp for the night, he was pulled from his horse, and dropped to the ground.

“ Levantarse.” a young guard ordered as he jerk Madrid up. ( Get up.)

“ Ate Madrid a ese árbol. Luego prepare el campamento para pasar la noche.” ( Tie Madrid to that tree. Then get camp set up for the night.) the captain ordered as he dismounted.

“ ¿Qué tal un poco de aqua?” ( How about some water?) Johnny asked.

“Obtienes agua cuando yo digo que obtienes agua  mestiza.”  ( You get water when I say you get water mestizo.) the captain said with anger before hitting Johnny across the face with his riding crop. “ No hablas a menos que yo te lo diga también.” ( You do not speak unless I tell you.)

“ El General lo quiere vivo. No lo hará sin capitán de comida o agua.” ( The General wants him alive. He will not make it without food or water Captain.) a private said.

“ Bien, dale agua y dale de comer cuando la comida esté lista.Luego, asegúrese de que esté bien atado alrededor de ese árbol durante la noche.” ( Fine, give him water, and feed him when the food is done. Then make sure he is tied tightly around that tree for the night.) The captain ordered.

“ Gracias.”( Thanks.) Johnny said to the Rurale who spoke up, and got him food, and water.

“ No lo hice por ti Madrid. He visto al capitán cuando está enojado. El te matará.”  ( I did not do it for you Madrid. I have seen the captain when he is angry. He would kill you..) the private said before walking away.

Johnny knew he had one thing in his favor. The knife he carried on the inside of his left boot. Nobody but Val knew it was there. He knew Rurales when out on patrol liked to get drunk at night, and that is exactly what he was counting on these six doing. His only concern was why if General Calvo is in Chihuahua, why then were they headed straight south toward Hermosillo. Unless Calvo was in Hermosillo instead.

“ If there’s one thing I despise, it’s vermin trying to steal from me.” Val said. “ You boys toss those guns away, and put them hands up real slow like.”

“ Do like he says, or I will blow a hole clean thru you!” Scott yelled.

Both men tossed their guns away, and stood froze as Val walked out of the darkness, into the light from the ride. “ Down on your knees.” he ordered as Scott, and Murdoch came out of the darkness. “ What ya recon we should do with these two vermin?”

“ Tie them up for the night so we can get some sleep, and then decide what to do in the morning.” Scott suggested.

“ Hey, you two ain’t gonna leave us here like this are ya?” one of the vermin asked at dawn the next day.

“ It ain’t right.” the other one said.

“ It’s a lot more than you would have done for us. You can get them knots loose if you try hard enough.”  Scott said as he started removing their saddles, and spooking the horses off. “ You follow us, and next time I’ll blow a hole in you big enough to dance in.”

“ I didn’t have ya pictured as the kind a fella to say somethin like that Scott.” Val said.

“ Yeah well, I figure the time for being a polite gentleman is no longer needed down here.” Scott said.

“ And you would be right. Just watch what ya say, and how ya act. Some of these boys down here will cut your throat just ta see ya bleed.” Val said.

“ Lo atraparon en un pequeño pueblo de la frontera general. Una unidad de Ague Prieta atrapó al Madrid.”  (They caught him in a small town on the border General. A unit from Agua Prieta caught Madrid.) Lieutenant González said.

“ Bien. Asegúrese de que el capitán entienda que será castigado severamente si el Madrid se le escapa. No toleraré el fracaso. Digale  que envío una gran patrulla desde Hermosillo para relevarlo de Madrid.”  ( Good. Make sure the captain understands he will be punished severely if Madrid escapes him. I will not stand for failure. Tell him I am sending a large patrol from Hermosillo to relieve him of Madrid.) the general ordered. “ Luego envie un telegrama al gobernador Ochoa, contándole le buena noticia.”  ( Then send a wire to Governor Ochoa telling him the good news.)

“Muy bien señor.”  (Very well sir.) the lieutenant said.” Pensé que querías que trajeran Madrid aquí a Ghihuahua?”  ( I thought you wanted Madrid brought here, to Chihuahua?)

“ La prisión de La Colorada es perfecta para que Madrid pase el resto de su vida. Los demás reclusos lo harán sentir muy bienvenido allí. Se le enseñarán las reglas inmediatamente después de su llegada.”  ( La Colorada prison is perfect for Madrid to spend the rest of his life in. The other inmates will make him feel very welcome there. He will be taught the rules immediately upon arrival.)

“ ¿Crees que es prudente  enviarlo allí?El coronel Comofort tiene una cicatriz en el rostro que le dejó el Madrid años atrás.”  ( Do you think it wise to send him there? Colonel Comofort has a scar across his face Madrid gave him years before.)

“ Por eso hice que lo enviaran allí. El coronel Comofort se divertirá torturando a Madrid y, cuando termine, lo enviará a trabajar en la mina rompiendo rocas.”( That is why I had him sent there. Colonel Comofort will have his fun torturing Madrid, and when he is done, he will send him to work in the mine busting rocks.)

Ben Nodean sat outside a cantina drinking a beer when he was approached by a Rurale.

“ What is your business in Hermosillo gringo?” one of them asked.

“ My business is of no concern of yours.” Nodean said.

“ As long as you are in my town it is.” the captain demanded.

“ Well it’s none of your business. I haven’t broke any laws.” Nodean said.

“ You are a pistolero. You do anything I don’t like, I will have you arrested. Understand?” the captain said.

“ Dos días estaremos en la prisión mestiza.”  ( Two days we will be at the prison mestizo.) the captain said. “ Seré muy bien recompensado por haberte traído.” ( I will be rewarded nicely for bringing you in.)

“ El ejército mexicano premia a los cerdos gordos,¿verdad?”  ( The Mexican Army rewards fat pigs do they?) Johnny asked.

Captain Ruiz grabbed Johnny by his hair, and snapped his head back. “Un comentario así te costó.”   ( A remark like that just cost you.) he spat before walking over to his horse, and removing the whip. “ Necesitas que te enseñen algunos modales.”  ( You need to be taught some  manners.) he said before he started hitting Madrid, tearing his shirt.

“ Capitan, a patrol is coming!” a Rurale said.

“ Dos días desde Hermosillo, y el general gree que necesito una escolta para entregar Madrid.” (Two days from Hermosillo, and the general thinks I need an escort to deliver Madrid.) the captain spat.

“ Capitán Ruiz, estoy aquí para relevarlo de su prisionero.”  ( Captain Ruiz, I am here to relieve you of your prisoner.)

“  Mis hombres y yo hemos hecho bien en traer a los cerdos  hasta aquí. No necesito ayuda para llevarlo a la cárcel de La Colorada Capitán Romero.” ( Me and my men have done just fine bringing the swine this far. I do not need any help delivering him to La Colorada prison, Captain Ramero.)

“ Tengo órdenes del general Calvo. Usted sabe la gravedad de negarse a seguir las órdenes, capitán.”  ( I have orders from  General Calvo. You know the severity of refusing to follow orders Captain.)Romero said. “ ¿Registraste al peisionero al capturar al capitán?” ( Did you search the prisoner upon capture captain?)

“ Está desarmado.”  ( He is unarmed.) Ruiz said.

Romero dismounted, and walked over to the prisoner. Reaching down, he pulled the left pant leg up, and removed the knife from the inside of the boot.. “ Eres un capitán tonto.”  ( You are a fool captain.)

“ No es culpa mía que mis hombres se perdieran eso al registrarlo.” ( It is not my fault my men missed that in searching him.)

Captain Romerolooked at the prisoner. “¿Quién ha hecho esto también a él? Desatarlo de una vez.” ( Who has done this too him? Untie him at once.) Romero said with anger. “ ¿No nos dijeron que Madrid iba a ser capturado vivo e ileso?” ( Were you not told Madrid was to be captured alive, and unharmed?)

“ Tuve que enseñarle modales a este cerdo.” ( I had to teach this swine some manners.)

“ Usando su fusta en su cara y un látigo en su espalda. Su capitán Ruiz es una vergüenza. No creas que no te reportaré al general. Hueles a whisky. Ahora, recoja sus cosas, tome a sus hombres y váyase.”  ( By using your riding crop on his face, and a whip on his back? You Captain Ruiz are a disgrace. Do not think I will not report you to the general. You smell of whiskey. Now gather up your things, take your men, and leave.)


Chapter 11


“ I thought I seen bad in the war.” Scott said as he covered the woman up with a blanket.

“ You know her ?” Val asked.

“ Her name is Anna Petra Pérez. She’s the one who used Johnny to kill another man.” Scott said.

“ Yaqui don’t know much more than brutality with a woman.” Val said solemnly.

“ No woman deserves that kind of brutality.” Scott said.

“ Listen, I know ya probably want to bury her, but them Yaqui could come back. She ain’t been dead more than a day.” Val said as he went to his horse, and mounted up. “ There’s nothing more we can do for her now.”

“ She reminded me that you never really know a person. Even after knowing and being with them for twenty four years.” Scott said as he mounted up.

“ You mean your grandfather.” Val said. “ You had no way of knowing what he was going to do.”

“ I never thought it was possible for a person to hate another so bad, they would do what he has done. I feel that even though he’s dead, he’s won.” Scott said.

“ Won what? You listen to me Scott Lancer, we will get yur brother back. Yur grand pappy hasn’t won a dang thing, and neither will Nodean.” Val snapped back. “ So don’t you go quitting on yur brother, ya hear me?”

“ I would never quit on Johnny. It’s just that………..Damn it Val, he’s going thru this because of me……it’s my fault.”

“ Yur fault. How the heck is it yur fault when yur grand pappy did it?” Val demanded. “Boy, I can sure tell you an Johnny have the same pappy. Ya both blame yur selves for somethin ya had nothin to do with happenin.”

“ You speak English Madrid?” Captain Romero asked.

Johnny looked at the man standing before him. After two weeks of being beaten for speaking out, and not knowing this man, he decided to remain quiet.

“ You may answer me. I am not Ruiz. I do not beat a man for answering a question I ask them.” Captain Romero said.

“ Why was he whipping you?” the captain asked.

“ Quizás no pueda oír al capitán.”( Maybe he can’t hear captain.) the sergeant suggested.

“ No lo greo. Si golpeas a un animal el tiempo suficiente, eventualmente se volverá sumiso al abusador.”  ( I don’t thinks so. You beat an animal long enough, it will eventually become submissive to the abuser.) the captain responded. “ Creo que elMadrid no responde porque no me conoce y tiene miedo de que le vuelvan a pegar. Quiero que le pongan grilletes en la muñeca y le quiten las correas de cuero. Llévalo al arroyo y déjalo qu se lave. El hecho de que sea nuestro prisionero no significa que no pueda lavarse.”  ( I think Madrid is not answering because he does not know me, and is afraid of being beaten again. I want shackles put on his wrist, and these leather straps removed. Take him down to the creek, and let him wash up. Just because he’s our prisoner doesn’t mean he can’t wash up.)

“ I got beat for refusing to answer that filthy pig.” Johnny said softly.

“ And the other marks?” Romero asked.

“ When I did, he didn’t like what I said.” Johnny said.

“ Go soak your wrist in the cold stream. It will help with removing those straps.”

“ Why you care captain. You’re taking me to a prison to spend the rest of my life for fighting in a war for Mexico’s Independence. A war against the very thing you’re sending me to do.” Johnny asked.

“ Leave us. He will not do anything.” the captain ordered. Once the guards were far enough away, he spoke. “ I wear the uniform of the Mexican army, but like you, I too fight for Mexico’s freedom from me like those I will not mention. I am not a hard man, nor am I abusive to my prisoners. I feel a man has a right to a trial, and sentencing if found guilty.”

“ And what am I guilty of Captain?” Johnny cut in asking.

“ You and many others have been charged with acts of treason against Mexico for following the orders of Juárez. I was not here to witness any of these crimes you have been found guilty of, but I am a loyal man to my uniform, and I follow orders.”

“ You follow orders. That’s funny, cause I don’t remember there ever being a trial.” Johnny said.

“ You do not know the laws my friend. When a person or persons engage in acts of war against their country, and elicit acts of violence, such as murdering fellow army or Rurales, that is an act of treason against Mexico, punishable by either death, or prison.” Captain Romero explained. “ You should be thankful you are not being shot to death, and then beheaded.”

“ Beheaded like Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama, or Jose Mariano Jiménez? That your kind of trial, and justice for someone fighting to make Mexico a better place? Fighting a war for independence?” Johnny spat. “ You and your men apparently don’t know the laws either captain. You say I’m guilty of murder. Tell me something, how is it I’m guilty of murder, and most of the Mexican army isn’t locked up. Ruiz and his men murder innocent people on both side of the border. Why is it alright for Rurales, and the Mexican army to commit murders, steal, burn good people out of their homes, rape innocent women………..”

Those men!………………Those men you speak of, and many others who are already dead, or in prison fought against the Spanish Crown, and that is Treason.” Captain Romero said.

“ So basically anyone who fought in a war against the rich, Spanish Crown as you call it gets branded for treason, and either killed, or sent to prison for the rest of their life to work in the governors silver mines. The Mexican Army, Government, and the Rurales are all corrupt bastards. Mark my word, their time is numbered for controlling Mexico. The good people of this country outnumber your army ten to one. You keep pushing, and they’re gonna start pushing back, and it won’t be with pitch forks and machetes.” Johnny said. He knew he was pushing his luck speaking like he was, but so far the captain was being a reasonable man, and listening to him.

“ You will have shackles on your hands, but I will not have you secured to a tree. I will have four guards posted, so do not try and escape Madrid. I would not be happy if you did.” the captain said before walking away.

“ I want to know what they will do to him?” Murdoch  asked.

“ It won’t be good.” Cipriano said. “ Johnny has been accused of treason against the Spanish Crown. There are three ways they can handle it, and none of them are good.”

“ How?” Murdoch asked.

“ He has already been found guilty of treason. They will either execute and behead him, or sentence him to no less than five years, to life in a prison, working in the mines.” he explained.

“ The reports say Johnny fought in the Mexican war. Are you telling me that my son………..”

“ Anyone who fought with Benito Juárez that has been caught so far have been shot, and there heads cut off, and displayed on the corners of La Colorada prison in Hermosilla.” Cip explained.

“ They just caught him. He’s had no trial. How can they find him guilty, and sentence him without a trial?” Murdoch asked with anger.

“ Because they are corrupt. That is why the Revolución of the North war he fought in. He fought to end the corruption, he fought for a better México. Johnny did things trying to help others that you will not find in those Pinkerton reports you have. I know, because he has told me some of those things.”

“ He tells you of his past, but tells me, his father nothing.” Murdoch said.

“ Maybe he does  not tell you because he does not want you to judge him. There are some things a man does………things that others won’t like he did.” Cip responded. “ He wants to be your son, he wants to talk to you.”

“ Then why doesn’t he?” Murdoch asked.

“ Because of what he sees in your eyes.” the segundo said.

“ Lamento Molestarlo Coronel Comofort, per hay una patrulla en la puerta con un nuevo prisionero.” ( Sorry to bother you Colonel Comofort, but there is a patrol at the gate with a new prisoner.)  Lieutenant Murillo said.

“ Teniente, conoce el procedimiento con un nuevo prisionero.”  ( Lieutenant, you know the procedure with a new prisoner.) Colonel Comofort said.

“  Si señor, pero este es un prisionero al que deseaba capturar durante mucho tiempo.” ( Yes sir, but this is a prisoner you have been wanting captured for a long time.) Murillo said. “ La patrulla es el señor Capitán Romero. Le ha traido señor Johnny Madrid.” ( The Patrol is Captain Romero sir. He has brought you Johnny Madrid.)

Colonel Comofort stood up.” ¿Madrid está aquí?” ( Madrid is here?)

“Sí, señor. Está en el patio.”  ( Yes sir. He is in the yard.) Murillo said.

Colonel Comofort walked out onto his balcony, and looked down at a prisoner standing in shackles in the yard. “  Reúna al teniente de prisioneros.” (Assemble the prisoners Lieutenant.)

Johnny stood waiting. He knew whatever was about to happen wouldn’t be good. It would just be the start of many beatings, and other things he would be forced to endure.

“ I am told the man on the balcony hates you more than anything.” Romero said.

Johnny glanced up at the balcony. He could see the hatred in the mans eyes. A deep hatred because of a scar he gave the man in battle with his knife.

“ Major!” Comofort said before disappearing from view.

Johnny stood waiting when an inmate approached him  carrying a small club. “ De rodillas Madrid.”  ( On your knees Madrid!) he ordered before slamming Johnny hard in the ribs with the club, dropping him to the ground. “ Sólo hablará cuando el coronel le hable.”  ( You will speak only when the Colonel speaks to you.) he said as he grabbed a handful of hair, and yanked Johnny’s head back. “Nos conoceremos muy bien.”   ( We will get to know each other very well.)

Johnny knew exactly what the man meant, and it made him feel sick inside. He had heard the prisons were run by inmates mostly due to nobody really wanting to be at one because of the foul smell, and conditions.

Colonel Comofort walked out into the yard with ice in his heart for the man being held on his knees in front of him. “ Lieutenant, this is the half-breed responsible for so many good men’s deaths. This mestizo is the infamous Johnny Madrid.” the colonel said. “ Did he give you any trouble?”

“ No sir. Captain Ruiz was whipping him when I arrived. He said he was teaching him manners because Madrid would not speak to him, and then when he did, the captain didn’t like what he said.”

“ Captain Ruiz is a swine. The man rarely baths and drinks.” the colonel said.

“ He was drunk sir. Most of his men were as well.” Romero said.

“ This one, he have any weapons on him?” he asked.

“ I picked him up two days out, and he had this knife inside his left boot sir.” Captain Romero said as he handed the knife to the colonel.

“ Captain Ruiz said his men had searched him.”

“ So you still carry this in your boot? ” Comofort asked as he looked at the knife.

Johnny’s head was jerked back. “ You answer when spoken too.”

“ Lo llevo para gilipollas como tu.” ( I carry it for assholes like you.) Johnny responded, and immediately regretted his response.

Comofort stepped over to Madrid. “ I see you still have a smart mouth. That is alright, the major will take that out of you.”

“ There is nothing you can do to me, I haven’t had done already.” Johnny said.

“ Major Cervello, start his punishment now.” the colonel ordered.

Johnny was dragged over to a large tree stump with a leather straps at the bottom. Shoved down across it, his hands were bound by the straps, he knew what was going to happen, and prepared himself mentally to block out the pain.

Cervillo smiled as he was handed the whip. “ Lets see if you still want to be a smart mouth when I am done whipping you.”

Scott, and Val rode into Douglas late afternoon, and stopped at Belle’s place.

“ This is it.” Val said as he dismounted.

Scott glanced around. “ You sure anyone is here?” he asked as he dismounted.

“ It ain’t nighttime yet. That’s when the customers show up. Ain’t ya been ta a whorehouse with yur brother?”

Scott smiled. “ No, I don’t make it a habit of keeping that sort of company.” he responded before they walked inside.

“ Val Crawford!” Belle said as she came downstairs.

“ Belle, it’s good to see ya. We’re looking for Johnny. You seen him?” Val asked.

“ He was here, but………..the Rurales took him.” Belle said.

“ They did what?” Val yelled.

“ How long ago did they leave with my brother?” Scott demanded.

“ Almost five months now.” Belle said. “ Val, I’m sorry.”

“ Let’s go Val.” Scott said.

“ Wait, Johnny’s horse is still at the livery. Ben has been taking real good care of him.” Sandy said. “ And his gun is here.”

“ Barranca is still here.” Scott said as he took his brothers pistol.

“ Let’s go get his horse and go. They have a two week jump on us.” Val said.

“ Now hold on Scott. I know them Rurales, they like to drink at night, so they won’t be that far ahead of us.” Val said. “ I know you want yur brother back, but……………”

“ Brother………..You’re Johnny’s brother?” Sandy asked. “ You look nothing like Johnny.”

“ It’s a long story, but yes, I’m his brother.” Scott said.

“ What did they do to him Belle?” Val cut in, and  asked.

“ Beat him. He walked out of the room with his hands up. One of the Rurales hit him pretty hard in his lower back with a rifle butt, and then they kicked him in his ribs when he was down. The captain stood there laughing.” Belle said.

“ I think they fractured his ribs Val, he wasn’t breathing too good when they dragged him out.” Cassie said.

“ Did they search him?” Val asked.

“ No, his shirt was open, and untucked, so they could see he had no other weapons on him. Why?” Sandy said.

“ Johnny carries a knife on the inside of his left boot.” Val responded. “ He’s as deadly with that damn knife as he is with his gun. Maybe more.”

“ I don’t understand why the governor is so interested in capturing him?” Belle asked.

“ It’s not just him. Since Juárez died, they’ve declared war on anyone who fought in the Revolution of the North war for Independence of Mexico.” Val explained. “ Those captured that are too old are executed. Those young, like Johnny, are thrown in prison for a while, and then sent to work in the silver mines.”

“ Silver mine. Which silver mine?” Scott asked.

“ Let’s see, there’s the Cerro de San Pedro, La Colorada, Planchas de Plata, and San Juan Bautista de Sonora. All impossible to escape from. The worst one is at the bottom of Las Barrancas del Cobre canyon, with thousand foot cliffs on either side. There’s no way a man could escape. He’d be picked off from above before he made it a hundred feet.” Val responded. “ That one is called Batopilas.”

“ I’ve heard of men on both sides of the border disappearing to never be seen again. Some speculated they were taken to work the mines. Silver has become a big profit for those fortunate enough. While others not so fortunate, are forced to work them.” Belle said.

“ I had a fella tell me he heard they keep the men in steel cages like animals above the ground to punish them, and in dirty, nasty pits when not working.” Sandy said.

“ Comfort is one thing you won’t find in a Mexican prison.” Val said

“ How is it you know the names of all these silver mines?” Scott asked. “ Never mind. On second thought, I don’t want to know.”

“ Listen, I’ll go get us some grub, and you go get Barranca from the livery. Meet back here at dark.” Val suggested.

“ But how will you know which mine they took him too?” Sandy asked.

“ I’m betting they took him to La Colorada. It’s just south of Hermosillo. Plenty of Rurales to guard just in case someone tried to escape.” Val said.

“ He’s been a prisoner for five months.” Scott said.

“ If he’s at La Colorada prison. It won’t be easy getting him out of there.” Val said. “ It’s mostly run by inmates, but there are Rurales with guns. We have a better chance of getting him out when they take him to work the mine in the mornings, or are coming back to the prison.”

“  There’s one place on the route that we could possibly do it, but it’s gonna take dynamite, and more help.” Val said.

“ We have to get him out of there Val.” Scott said with anger.

“ Don’t ya think I know that.” Val snapped back. “ Look, he wouldn’t be in this damn mess if he hadn’t went off halfcocked like he did. That’s the problem with yur brother. He thinks he has ta handle everything alone. Even when we rode for five years together he was like that.”

“ Okay, so where do we get dynamite at, and find men willing to help us bust him out?” Scott asked.

“ You won’t like it.” Val said.

“ Tell me.”

“ Laredo. I know there’s men there who have worked with Johnny before. They’ll help.” Val said.

“ Laredo, that’s a thousand miles from here!” Scott said.

“ I told ya you wouldn’t like it. I can send a wire to them, and  they’ll come. Those boys will ride to hell and back for your brother.” Val said.

“ That means Johnny will be in that place at least two more months.” Scott said.

Johnny sat in the corner of his filthy cell watching a rat make the rounds looking for scraps of food. Every morning before the sun rose, the rat was there. Every night for five months he heard the moans of men, and some crying from the pain inflicted on them, but mostly from the hunger. His clothes were taken from him the day he arrived after he was whipped. For two weeks he was punished at the orders of Comofort, something Major Cervillo enjoyed doing. Every day he lost hope of ever getting out of the hell he was in, and even wondered if anyone knew where he was, or was even looking for him. The day he left Lancer, he told his father it was something he had to do, avenging his grandfather’s murder. Now it looked like he would never be able to find, and kill Ben Nodean. Sometimes he would think about Barranca, and wonder if he was still in Douglas, or sold to someone who would abuse the animal. Screaming from another cell brought him back to reality. He knew what was happening. He was thankful he had been spared that so far, and couldn’t help but wonder if it was because of Comofort. Three new prisoners were brought in last week. Two of them brothers from Arkansas, and a third a cowhand accused of stealing cattle. He knew the youngest brother was the one being attacked this morning. He’d heard the talk among the prisoners yesterday that Cervillo had planned to have his way with the boy.

“ Get up Madrid!” a guard ordered as he unlocked his cell. “ Today you will bust rocks.”

Busting rocks was brutal work in the sweltering heat, and Johnny knew water would be little for him. Three times in the five months he’d been in prison he’d been whipped. The last time was for helping an older man who stumbled, and spilled his load of rocks. The man reminded him of his grandfather. During their allowed rest time, he would make small talk with the man learning he used to have a ranch outside Hermosillo until Silver was discovered on it. Walking outside, Johnny welcomed the coolness of the morning on his skin as the sun started to rise over the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains.

“ Move to the back of the wagon and stop.” the guard ordered.

Johnny held the chain connecting his leg shackles up so he could walk. Stopping at the back of the wagon, he watched as Cervillo came out, shoving the older brother ahead of him, and said something to the  guard, who looked at Madrid  before disappearing inside.

“ I’m going to kill that sonofabitch.” the older brother said to Johnny, when he got to the back of the wagon.

“ Shut up!” Johnny said. “ Talk like that will get you beat to death.” he said in a soft voice as he watched the guards. “ I know what he did to your brother. We all heard it this morning. The smart thing for you to do if you ever want to get out of here, is keep your mouth shut, and do as they say. There’s worst things in life kid.”

“ What’s your name mister?” he asked softly.

“ Johnny Madrid. Yours?”

“ Frank Colson, my brother’s name is Davy. We we took in El Paso by those stinkin Rurales. Never should have left Arkansas. So where they taking us?” Frank asked.

“ To bust rocks down at the silver mine.” Johnny said.

“ How long you been in here?” Frank asked.

“ Almost six months this time.” Johnny said.

“ What part of Arkansas you from Frank?” he asked.

“ Little Rock. Our folks had a farm outside town. Our mom got sick, and died last year, then pa had a heart attack in the field. Davy found him at suppertime when he didn’t come in.. Me and Davy came to Texas to live with our aunt. We barely got off the stage, and were headed to the hotel when they took us.” Frank explained.

“ See that man over there, Cervello?” he asked. “ He’s a bad one. You listen to me kid, he’s going to try and goad you at times, just ignore him okay. You and your brother do as I say, and I’ll get you both back home to your folks alive.”

“ I know who you are now. I heard tell of you before. You’re the gunfighter Johnny Madrid. Holy smokes, Davy isn’t gonna believe it. He’s read all them dime store novels about you. Your his hero Mister Madrid.” Frank said.

“ Shut up, here they come.” Johnny said.

“ I can’t keep hiding out like this Val. I need to see my brother. I need to know Johnny is still alive.” Scott said.

“ Alright, we’ll take a ride over and have a look when they’re coming back from the mine.” Val said. “ I know this is hard on you, it is on me. I never liked feelin helpless like I do right now. But let me tell ya something, when those five get here, don’t talk to them about Johnny’s past. Don’t ask them a bunch of questions. They’re like yur brother, they don’t talk about what they did in the past.”

“ These five men wouldn’t happen to be the same ones mentioned in a Pinkerton report my grandfather had would they? Something about being in the wrong place at the right time, and when it was all over, seventeen men were dead, and seven strangers freed a town of tyranny.” Scott said.

“ I wouldn’t know.” Val said.

“ The only reason I ask is because my brother was shot up pretty bad in that one. A lot of people thought he was dead in fact. Including the law.” Scott said.

“ Yur gramps had reports on Johnny did he?” Val asked.

“ Yes he did. Thomas sent them to me when he died. I’ve read a few of them.” Scott responded.

“ Why?” Val asked.

“ To try and get to know my brother better. I know nothing about him really before we met in Bannack.” Scott said. “  Grandfather has things in them reports our father doesn’t have, or know.”

“ You tell him?” he asked.

“ No. Murdoch said he doesn’t want to know. He said all that matters to him is now. That the past, bad or good, right or wrong, is past and gone.” Scott responded.

“ He’s right. Listen, we pull this off in two weeks, yur brother ain’t gonna be in the best of conditions for riding hard to get back across the border. There’s some old Yaqui Indian ruins I know of about fifty miles north of here. If we can get him to there, we can hold up and give him any doctorin’ he’s gonna need, food, and rest until he’s strong enough to go on.”

“ I noticed he’s lost weight.” Scott said.

Cervello watched Johnny all morning as he busted rocks. When it came time for lunch, he whispered something into guard Martin’s ear before walking off into the trees.

“ Alright, put the sledge hammers down. It’s time to eat.”  Guard Salvado said.

“ Madrid, you come with me!” Martin ordered. “ Move!”

Johnny looked at Frank before turning, and walking off in the trees ahead of Sergeant Martin. He had a feeling he knew what was going to happen, and knew there was no way of stopping it. All he could do is pray he survived the attack he was about to have from Cervello.

“ Stop here, and put your arms around the tree.” Martin ordered.

“ Like hell I will.” Johnny said.

Martin swung his rifle so fast, Johnny couldn’t move, and was slammed in his back hard. “ Do it now, or I will kill you!”

Johnny gasped for air as he hugged the tree. Cringing as Martin fastened the short shackles around his wrist. “ Enjoy your lunch mestizo.” he said before walking away as Cervello walked out of the trees with a cigar in his mouth, and a nasty smile on his face.

“ I thought I could get better acquainted with you today.” he said as he walked over to Johnny.

“ You do this, and the colonel won’t be happy.” Johnny said.

Cervello removed the cigar from his mouth. “ He is not here to stop me. I have waited five months for you. Today I will have my fun.”

Val, and Scott watched as the wagon entered the yard with four prisoners in the back. They could see one of them was Johnny. They could both see something was wrong with him when he got down from the wagon. Blood caked the right side of his face, and they could tell he was favoring his left side. Both men watched helplessly as Johnny was dragged over to two tall post, and strung up by his arms.

“ Oh lord no.” Val said. “ Maybe you shouldn’t watch Scott. They’re fixin to whip him.”

Scott looked at Val, and started to speak when they both heard the crack of the whip echo thru the trees. Watching in horror as his little brothers back was struck repeatedly until he could no longer stand.

Johnny was on the verge of blacking out when Cervello stopped hitting his back. Exhausted, and no more strength left in him, Johnny how hung all his body weight from his outstretched arms as excruciating white hot pain wracked his back.

Cervello walked over to him, and grabbed a hand full of hair, jerking his head back. “ Te lo pensarás dos veces antes de volver a tocrme.   (You will think twice now before you ever touch me again.) he spat. “ Tráeme el balde de salmuera. Tu espalda está abierta y sangra bien. No quisiera que se infectara.”   ( Bring me the bucket of brine. Your back is opened up, and bleeding good. I wouldn’t want it to get infected.) he said before throwing the bucket of ice cold brine water on Johnny’s back.

Johnny couldn’t stop the blood curdling scream that escaped him when the brine hit his back, and thighs.  White hot pain surged thru his body causing his muscles to spasm, and quivering before blackness finally claimed him.

Scott stood up, took a few steps, dropped to his knees, and threw up. Tears rolled down his cheeks from watching his brother be tortured. Hearing him scream, he knew it was bad. Excruciating pain would make any man scream out, or pass out. He’d seen it in the war when men were having their leg or arm cut off, and there was no morphine, or laudanum to give them for the pain.

Val sat back on his butt, tears rolling down his cheeks as he watched them drag Johnny inside the building.

Walt Murphy, Seth Watson, Joe Hughes, Tom Walker, and Bob Olinger rode into Hermosillo at sunset, and dismounted at the small cantina on the outskirts of town. “ This is the place Val said to meet them at.”  Walt said.

“ I wonder what kind of trouble Johnny is in?” Seth asked.

“ Must be bad for Val to ask for our help.” Joe said as the five men walked into the cantina, and sat down at a table in the corner.

“ Whiskey, and some food.” Tom told the bartender.

“ Maybe we shouldn’t talk to about it since we don’t know the particulars, and such.” Bob suggested.

“ When did Val say he would be here?” Seth asked.

“ Said meet him and some other fella here on the nineteenth. That’s today.” Walt said.

“ They’re here.” Val said as they rode up to the cantina, and dismounted.

“ How do you know?” Scott asked.

“ Easy, those are Texas cow ponies.” Val said as they walked inside.

“ Walt.” Joe said as he motioned toward the door.

“ Who the hell is that with Val?” Tom asked.

“ Some tenderfoot it looks like.” Walt said. “ Val.”

“ Fellas. This here is Scott Lancer.” Val said as they sat down. “ I’m not going to go into explaining the how’s, but he’s Johnny’s older brother.”

“ Older……..What’s going on Val?” Walt asked. “ What kind of trouble is the kid in?”

“ The worst kind my friend.” Val said.

“ My brother was captured by Rurales in Douglas, and brought here to La Colorada prison where he’s been for seven months now. We need your help getting him out. I don’t care what the cost. I want my brother out of that hell hole.” Scott said firmly.

“ Johnny’s in prison.” Walt said.

“ Not just any prison, the second worst one in Mexico. Batopiles being the worst.” Bob said.

“ Give us what you know.” Walt said.

Val, and Scott explained everything they had learned about the prison, the mine and the route between. Val told them about the severe beating Johnny had gotten a week ago, and hadn’t been seen since.

“ That’s one hell of a beating from what you described. Enough to kill a man.” Tom said.

“ How do you know he’s even still alive?” Seth asked.

“ Because I know how strong my brother is.” Scott responded.

“ Me and Scott got us four sticks of dynamite.” Val said.

“ Look, brother of Johnny’s or not, we don’t work, or trust anyone we don’t know.” Walt said. “ The only reason we’re here, and going to do this is because of Johnny. He’s our friend, and every one of us would ride to hell and back for him. So you do what we say, and we’ll get along. How far is it?”

“About two hours ride from here in a canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains.” Val said.

“ Okay, let’s go.” Walt said as he stood up.

Murdoch walked into Sam’s office. He needed someone to talk too. Not hearing from Scott in over two months is driving him crazy. Not knowing if either of his sons were still alive was causing sleepless nights that showed on his face.

“ I’ll be right there.” Sam called out from the back.

Murdoch sat down in a chair as Sam walked out into the front.

“ Murdoch. You look like hell!” Sam said. “ Have you been getting any sleep at all?”

“ How can I sleep Sam when I don’t know if my two sons are still alive, or if Scott, and Val have found Johnny?”  Murdoch said.

“ You are not doing either one of those boys any good letting yourself get run down like this. Scott, and Val will bring Johnny home. You have to keep believing that.” Sam said.

“ The house just seems so empty with them gone.” Murdoch said.

“ I have no patients to see this evening. Let’s go have a cold beer, and some supper.” Sam Suggested.

“ I’m not hungry Sam.” he said.

“ Well as your doctor, I am ordering you to. You need to eat Murdoch. Come on.” Sam ordered.

Johnny felt shame at what Cervello did to him that day, and hurt from the whipping he received that afternoon. For five months he managed to not let them break him. With every beating he got, he never screamed out in pain until that day. That day Cervello broke Johnny Madrid when he threw the bucket of brine water on his back. Colonel Comofort heard his scream, and came into the yard angry at what had been done to Madrid.

“No debías golpearlo tan severamente. ¿ No dejé mis órdenes lo suficientemente claras para que las entendieras?”  ( You were not to beat him this severely. Did I not make my orders plain enough for you to understand?) the colonel demanded.

“ Salió de la linea coronel.” ( He got out of line colonel.) Cervello responded.

“ Fuera de linea. ¿Intentó escapar? Porque eso es lo único que justificaría tal golpiza.” ( Out of line how? Did he try and escape? Because that is the only thing that would warrant such a beating.)

“ Me tocó coronel.” ( He touched me Colonel.) Cervello said.

“ ¿Te tocó?”  ( He touched you? ) the colonel asked.

“ Si, y sabe que no está permitido…señor.” ( Yes, and you know it is not permitted…..sir.)

“ ¿Cómo te tocó el Madrid mayor? Tú que violas a estos hombres. Quiero saber cómo te tocó para justifcar un  trato tan brutal. ¿Te agarró el pene o quizás intentó besarte frente a los demás? Contéstame ahora mayor.” ( How did Madrid touch you major? You who rapes these men. I want to know how he touched you to warrant such brutal treatment? Did he grab your pecker, or perhaps try and kiss you in front of the others? Answer me now major.)

“ Me pateó con la pierna tratando de hacerme tropezar cuando pasaba junto a él.”  ( He kicked me with his leg trying to trip me when I was walking past him.) Cervello responded.

“ Ahora dices que te pateó, cuando antes dijiste que te tocó. ¿Cuál es mayor?” ( Now you say he kicked you, when before you said he touched you. Which is it Major?)

“¿Por qué eso importa?”  (Why does it matter?) Cervello asked harshly.

“ Importa porque desobedeciste dos órdenes que te di especificamente. Uno, nunca le sobrepasó. Quiero que el Madrid surfa mucho tiempo. Dos, el sargento Martin me contó lo que le hizo hoy durante el almuerzo. Me disgusta Cervello, y creo que es hora de un cambio. Sargento Martin, lo estoy promoviendo a moyor. Cervello es solo un prisionero más. Tómalo y lámelo. ( It matters because you disobeyed two orders I specifically gave you. One, never over beat him. I want Madrid to suffer for a long time. Two, Sergeant Martin told me what you did to him today during lunch. You disgust me Cervello, and I think it is time for a change. Sergeant Martin, I am promoting you to major. Cervello is just another prisoner. Take and lock him up.) the colonel ordered. “Salvado, quiero que ayudes al teniente Murillo a llegar a la enfermería. Asegúrese de que el médico sepa que no debe dejar morir al Madrid.” ( Salvado, I want you to help Lieutenant Múrillo take Madrid to the infirmary. Make sure the doctor knows to not let Madrid die.)

“ He can return to his cell now. I removed the stitches this morning.” the doctor told Comofort. “ But he won’t be able to work the mine Colonel. He goes swinging a sledge hammer, or lifting, and he’ll tear those wound open again.”

“ He can work.” Comofort said.

“ Colonel, it’s only been ten days.” the doctor pleaded. “ What would another weeks rest hurt?”

“ Leave us.” the colonel said and ordered.

Johnny lay on the bed wondering why a man who hated him so much, would have him doctored instead of letting him rot in his cell.

“ You wonder why you are here, and not in your filthy cell? Cervello disobeyed my orders in what he did to you. He has been severely reprimanded for what he did. Tomorrow you will return to work. There will be another man working with you, and the brothers. Cervello is nothing more than a prisoner now like you, but I caution you against any retaliation on the man.” the colonel said before walking out.

Johnny was totally confused now by Comofort’s generosity toward him. It made no sense to him.

“ The colonel wishes me to clean you up. I brought you some soap, and water. Your back will still hurt, and the muscles will be tight, but I am sure you already know that since you have old scars from being whipped before.” the doctor said. “ I cannot give you anything to shave with though, and the Colonel told me what Cervello did to you. I checked while you were unconscious, and there is no damage. I’m sure the pain you will feel will be minimal compared to your back. I can’t guarantee they don’t have you lifting heavy rocks, and swinging that sledge hammer is going to be rough on your back muscles. Just take it as easy as they will allow, and try not to split them open.”

“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he slowly put his legs over the side of the bed. He didn’t really care for someone poking, and prodding on him when he was unconscious, but also understood the man was doing what he was told.

“ They just loaded up prisoners, and Johnny was one of them.” Val said as he walked over to pour a cup of coffee.

“ How did he look?” Walt asked.

“ Moving slow.  His back must be healed up enough they want him back working.” Val responded.

“ How far is it from the prison to the mine?” Tom asked.

“ Roughly ten miles. We’ve checked it, and double checked it. About halfway there they get into heavy timber on both sides of the road. There’s a bridge over this river that me and Val thought would be the perfect place. Get them on the bridge, they won’t be able to do much.” Scott said.

“  You come up with that plan all by yourself there dandy boy?” Bob asked.

Scott threw down his cup of coffee, and stood up. “ Let’s get one thing straight, Johnny is my brother, and I will do whatever I have to do to get him out of there. You didn’t see them beat him…..We did. We know every inch of that road, and the bridge is the best option we have when they are coming back to the prison.”

“ And why is that?” Walt asked.

Scott glared at Bob. “ Because it will be almost dark, which means they won’t be able to track us in the dark. There are four prisoners, and four guards. Three on horseback, and the wagon driver.” Scott responded as he glared at Bob. “ And one more thing. Don’t ever gall me dandy again. I fought in the war, and spent a year in Libby prison. If you can’t do that, then we can settle this another way.”

“ Take it easy Scott. He didn’t mean no harm.” Val said as he walked over to him.

“ You were in the war, then I recon you would no something.” Walt said.

“ What did you do?” Joe asked. “ Artillery?”

“ I was a lieutenant, and it was a cavalry unit I served in with General Phil Sheridan.” Scott responded.

“ Okay, listen up. What he said is the best choice. We set some of that dynamite at both ends, they won’t be able to move that wagon, and the driver will be busy trying to control the team.” Walt said. “ That will leave the three guards on horseback.”

“ Four with the one that beat Johnny. He’s now a prisoner also. He’s on the wagon too.” Val said.

“ Nobody touches him. I know Johnny, and he’s gonna want revenge for the beating he got from him.” Val said.

“ I wonder why he’s not a guard anymore?” Tom asked.

“ La Colorada is mostly run by inmates. It’s like your military ranks. Majors, and such to control the prisoners. He was probably a major, and broke one of the rules.” Walt suggested.

“ He’s right. Prisons down here don’t have a whole lot of actual military guards. They’re run by inmates who earn the right I guess you could say to be guards. They have to follow the rules like the inmates do, but they get special privileges like better clothes  to wear, and food to eat.” Val said.

“ Like Libby.” Scott added.

“ Okay, let’s get ready for that wagon to come back.” Walt said.

“ Te harépagar por este mestizo.” ( I will make you pay for this mestizo.) Cervello said as they rode in the wagon to the mine. “ No importa cuánto tiempo me lleve, te haré pagar.” ( However long it takes me, I will make you pay.)

“ Nohables de Cervello. Sabes las reglas. Cállate.”( No talking Cervello. You know the rules. Shut up.) Major Martin said.

Frank glared at Cervello. “ I ain’t forgot what you did to my brother.” he said softly.

Johnny looked at him. “ He’s not worth dying for. You attack him, and they will kill you Frank.” Johnny said.

“  Dije que no hablara!” ( I said no talking!) Martin ordered as the wagon stopped. “ Sal de la carreta!” ( Get out of the wagon.) he ordered as he dismounted.

Cervello climbed down, and grabbed Johnny by his shirt, throwing him to the ground.

Johnny had no time to react, and landed hard on his back, knocking the wind out of him.

“ Cervello!” Salvado yelled as he came over, and hit Cervello hard in the ribs with his shotgun, dropping him to the ground.

“ ¡Suficiene! ¡El próximo hambre que se salga de la linea sera castigado! Ahora ponte manos a la obra.” ( Enough! The next man who gets out of line will be punished. Now get to work!) Martin ordered.

Frank, and Davy helped Johnny up off the ground.

“ Thanks.” Johnny said.

“ You’re bleeding.” Davy said.

 “Forget it.” Johnny said. He felt something shape pierce his back when he landed. Looking at the ground, he seen a jagged rock protruding from the ground with blood on it.

“ You three, get to work!” Martin ordered.

“ But he’s bleeding on his back.” Davy said.

Martin walked over, and busted Davy hard in the mouth. “ Gringo, you don’t speak unless I say you can. Now get to work.”

Johnny struggled all day with swinging the sledge hammer, several times he dropped it due to a sharp pain in his back. He could feel his shirt pull on the gash causing it to bleed more. His sweat burning as it ran down his back, across the wound. When lunchtime came, he sat away from the others, not wanting anymore trouble. He didn’t know how much more he could take before he lashed out at Cervello. Three times the man caused him to fall down. Now with skinned up knees, he found himself wondering what else would happen to him before they went back to the prison for the night. He got his answer when they were leaving. Cervello had picked up a sharp rock, and cut Johnny on his upper left arm.

Johnny lashed out, and slammed his body into Cervello, causing them both to go over the side of the wagon, landing hard on the ground. Getting up, Madrid kicked Cervello in the ribs, rolling him as a shotgun blast went off. Both men standing still.

“ Eso les costará a los dos diez palizas cuando regresemos.” (That will cost both of you ten thrashes when we get back.)

“ Me atacó.”  ( He attacked me!)

“ Otra palabra tuya y serán veinte golpes Cervello!” (  Another word out of you, and it will be twenty thrashes Cervello!) Martin yelled.

“Estás jodidamente muerto Madrid.” ( You’re fucking dead Madrid.) Cervello said as they started back to the prison.

“Madrid, envuélvete eso alrededor del brazo para detener la hemorragia.”  ( Madrid, wrap that around your arm to stop the bleeding.) Salvado said as he removed his kerchief, and handed it to him. “  Necesitará puntos de sutura. La herida es irregular y profunda.”  ( He will need stitches. The wound is jagged, and deep Major.)


Chapter 12

“ Wagon’s coming.” Seth said.

Walt motioned to Joe, Tom, and Bob on the other side. Val, and Scott were down in the river under the bridge with rifles waiting to come out when the wagon is on the bridge. Walt made sure everyone knew to leave Cervello alive. He knew Johnny would want the pleasure of killing the man for what he did to him. None of them knew just how bloody it was about to get. All seven men were going to see a side of Johnny that would send chills down their spines.

Scott, and Val watched from the trees as the wagon started across the bridge with two of the guards at the back, and one in front. Once on the bridge, they came , as dynamite exploded in front of the bridge, damaging it to were the guards had to stop.

The two guards in the rear drew their pistols, but fell off their horses dead. Martin tried controlling his spooked horse as he looked around for where the shots came from.

“ This is for Johnny.” Walt said as he shot the man, knocking him from his horse.

Johnny stood up, as the driver fell into the back of the wagon with a hole in his head.

“ Get your sorry ass out of that wagon Madrid!” Walt yelled from the trees.

Johnny looked to the trees, and smiled when he seen who it was.

“ I hope you don’t make this a habit little brother?” Scott said as him, and Val walked up to the wagon, and helped Johnny get down.

“ Next time leave bigger bread crumbs kid.” Val said.

Johnny stood staring at his brother, unable to say anything. He couldn’t believe his brother, a man he had only known a year, came after him.

“ They got the keys to those things?” Walt asked as he came out of the trees with Seth, and Joe.

“ Keys are on the driver.” Johnny said. “ I thought I told you to stay at Lancer?”

“ I would have, but my little brother was in trouble, and helping him is more important to me.” Scott said.

“ You, grab them keys, and climbed on down here.” Val ordered.

Cevello grabbed the keys, and climbed down from the wagon.

“ Unlock his shackles.” Val ordered.

“ You look like hell.” Scott said.

“ Hell about sums it up. What took you guys so long?” Johnny finally asked as he held his hands out for Cervello to undo the locks.

“ We were in Laredo when we got a wire from Val saying you were in trouble, and needed our help.” Walt responded

“ Course he didn’t say we would have ta bust you out of a prison.” Seth said.

“ Seth……’s good to see you fellas.” Johnny said.

“ Now theirs.” Val said.

Cervello unlocked the shackles on Frank, and Davy.

“ How’d you know where the best place would be?” Johnny asked.

“ Val, and your brother have been watching you for two months waiting on us to get here.” Walt said.

“ Watching?” Johnny asked.

“ We’ve been watching the prison from a distance. Figured the bridge was our best chance.” Scott said. “ Let me see your arm?”

Johnny held his left arm up so Scott could look at it. “ Thanks.” he said softly.

“ That’s what big brothers are for.” Scott said. “ I have another surprise for you.” he said as he removed the kerchief to look at the wound.

“ Joe, Bob……….bring the horses down!” Walt yelled.

“ Barranca. How did you?” he said.

“ We stopped at Belle’s place. That’s how we knew the Rurales had you. She told us he was still there. Ben at the livery took real good care of him for you.” Scott said. “ I have bandages in my saddlebag to re-wrap this until we can get it stitched up.”

“ We better get going. Once they realize the wagon ain’t coming back, they’ll send out riders to look for it.” Val said.

“ What about that one?” Joe asked.

Johnny walked over, and picked up a dead guards pistol when Scott was done wrapping his arm up. Checking the cylinder, he walked back over to Cervillo. “ This is for what you did to me.” Johnny said as he shot Cervello in the head, then in the chest, and kept pulling the trigger emptying the cylinder.

Scott, stood in shock as his brother killed the man in cold-blood.

“ Coronel Comofort, todos están muertos y los prisioneros se han ido.” ( Colonel Comofort, they are all dead, and the prisoners are gone.) Lieutenant Múrillo said.

Comofort stood up, and tossed his napkin down on the table. “ ¿Donde?”( Where? )

“ Fueron emboscados en el puente señor.” ( They were ambushed on the bridge sir.) Múrillo responded.

“ Ensilla mi caballo y consígueme una patrulla. Quiero que me devuelvan el Madrid.”  ( Saddle my horse, and get me a patrol. I want Madrid brought back to me.)

“Si señor, pero con la lluvia no podremos rastrearlos y está oscuro.”   ( Yes sir, but with the rain, we will not be able to track them . And it is dark out.)

“ Se dirigirán a Norte. Envíe un telegrama a las estaciones más cercanas a lo largo de la frontera.”  ( They will head north. Send a wire to the closest stations along the border.) Colonel Comofort said an hour later as he stood looking at the dead body of Cervello. “ Quiero una patrulla de hombres lista para el amanecer.” ( I want a patrol of men ready by sunup to ride.)

“ Coronel, el mayor Martin sigue vivo.” ( Colonel, Major Martin is still alive!) a Rurale said.

“ ¿Quien hizo esto?”   ( Who did this?) the colonel demanded.

“ Había siete de ellos señor. No pudimos hacer nada….los hombres del Madrid.”  ( There were seven of them sir. We couldn’t do anything……….Madrid’s men.) Martin said before taking his last breath.

“ Coronel, si eran los hombres de Madrid, tenían que haber estado vigilando la prisión para saber cuándo trajimos a los prisioneros por la noche.”  ( Colonel, if it was Madrid’s men, then they had to have been watching the prison to learn  when we brought the prisoners back in the evening.)

“ Envía un telegrama al General Calvo. Dile que personalmente iré tras Madrid, aunque tenga que cruzar la frontera. No me detendré hasta que lo mate.”  ( I want a wire sent to General Calvo, tell him I am personally going after Madrid, even if I have to cross the border. I will not stop until I kill him.) Colonel Comofort said.

“  How far to the border?” Scott asked.

“ A week’s hard riding.” Val said.

Johnny slowly stood up, and went to Barranca.

“ He’s pretty messed up from whatever happened to him in there.” Walt said.

“ I know Madrid is deadly, but what he did to that man………that was cold-blooded murder.” Seth said.

“ We don’t know everything that happened to him while in there.” Walt said.

 “ As far as I’m concerned, Johnny didn’t commit murder.” Davy said.

“ That’s right. That man, Cervello, he was brutal. Johnny did what I would have done.” Frank said.

“ I’ve rode with him for five years. I’ve never seen him do something like that to any man.” Val said. “ Makes me wonder what he has planned for Nodean.”

“ Nodean? You talking about the bounty hunter Ben Nodean?” Walt asked.

“ He murdered Johnny’s grandfather. In cold blood.” Val said.

“ Just like Johnny did that man.” Scott said as he stood up.

“ You got a problem with what Johnny did, Dandy?” Walt asked.

“ What I have a problem with is my brother murdered an unarmed, shackled man in cold blood.” Scott said with anger.

“ Let me tell you something……….brother! You have no idea what that man did to me, or Davy.” Johnny said as he walked back over to the fire. “ You think I’m a cold-blooded killer now, fine. Because there’s one thing I learned growing up, I don’t give a shit what other people think of me………”

“ How many others have you murdered in cold blood………brother?” Scott demanded. “ Is that why you never talk about your past? You afraid Murdoch would find out you’re a killer?”

“ You go to hell Scott.” Johnny said before turning to walk away.

Scott reached out and grabbed Johnny by his right arm, and spun him around. “ Is this the thanks I get………that Val gets for coming here and saving you?”

“ I didn’t ask you to come down here. In fact, I told you to stay at Lancer before I left. So don’t put it on me. I didn’t ask you………none of you to come here.” Johnny said with coldness to his voice.

“ You selfish bastard.” Scott said.

Johnny jerked his arm free, turned, then spun around and hit Scott as hard as he could in the mouth, knocking him down. “ I am a bastard, but only because *our* old man got my mother pregnant. She wasn’t a proper lady like your mother was. She was a whore, and died a whore. Unlike your perfect mother, and her never wanting or having to worry about having food in her belly, clothes on her back, or a roof over her head.” he vented before turning to walk away.

Scott got up and went after Johnny, spinning him around, he hit him as hard as he could, knocking him into Bob. “ You don’t have any right talking about my mother like that!” he said. “ Don’t you ever compare my mother to yours. She had everything my mother did, but chose to leave it all and become a whore. Your grandfather told us how she ran away from a life of ease.”

“ At least my grandfather isn’t a heartless bastard who only cared about himself. Don Luis never hired someone to kill me like that old man did.” Johnny said.

“ I told you to stay out of it.” Johnny spat.

“ You want to go and get yourself killed that’s your business………brother.

Johnny swung, and hit Scott in the gut. “ Don’t you call me brother because we share that old mans blood……You mean nothing to me!”

“ Stop it!….Stop it, you hear me? You ought to be ashamed, brothers fighting.” Davy said. “ Family is all anyone has that they can rely on. He came down here to help you Johnny. Don’t be angry at him for that.”

“ Having a brother willing to sacrifice his life to save yours is not something everyone can say about their brother.” Frank said. “ You remember what I told you that morning Johnny?”

Johnny looked from Frank to Davy. “ This ain’t no dime store novel kid.” he said before walking off into the darkness.

Nodean sat on the porch of the cantina listening to two Rurales talking about Madrid escaping, and killing all the guards on his way back from the mine.

“ How long ago did Madrid do this?” he asked them.

“ Four days. He is headed back north, so they will catch him again before he crosses the border, and this time they will kill him.” the Rurales said.

Nodean stood up, and stepped down to his horse. “ You incompetent assholes couldn’t catch a fly.” he said as he mounted up, and headed north.

“ I know where you’re going Madrid, but you won’t make it there.” he said as he rode out of Hermosillo.

“Davy!” Frank yelled as he dismounted, and ran to his fallen brothers side.

“ Shot came from up there. We need to get out of here! He’s dead, lets go!” Walt yelled.

Johnny dismounted, and went to Frank.

“ Cover him damn it!” Scott yelled as he started shooting. “ Johnny, we need to get out of here!”

“ Frank, there’s nothing you can do for him now. He’s dead, and we need to go.” Johnny said as he pulled Frank by his arm. “ Getting yourself killed won’t bring him back.”

Frank stood up, and looked at Johnny, tears in his eyes. “ I can’t leave him here.” he said right before  a bullet tore thru his chest.

“ Damn it Johnny, let’s go.” Walt yelled as Joe was shot from his horse.

Johnny got on Barranca, and took off as bullets hit the ground, and ricocheted all around them.

“ Head to the Rio Magdalena river!” Johnny yelled.

By the time they made it to the river, Tom Walker, and Bob Olinger were also dead. Walt, Val, Scott, Seth, and Johnny crossed the river, and dismounted as the Rurales approached.

“ The horses are too tired, we’ll never outrun them.” Johnny said as he jumped off Barranca, and pulled his rifle. “ Okay Boston, you said you’re good with that sharps, lets see just how good you are.”

Scott waited until the Rurales were closer, and shot, dropping two riders who were unlucky enough to be lined up perfectly.

Johnny aimed and fired, hitting a Rurale as he started to enter the river. Three more fell dead as all five men fired.

“ ¡Detener! ¡Echar para atrás! Madrid nos recogerá cuando intentemos cruzar el río.”  ( Stop! Pull back. Madrid will pick us off as we try to cross the river.) Comofort yelled.

“Somos más de los quehay Coronel. No pueden matarnos  a todos.”  ( There are more of us than there are of them Colonel. They cannot kill us all!) a Rurale yelled right before a bullet tore thru his chest.

“ Estúpido aficionado.”  ( Stupid amateur.)  Comofort said. “ No llegarás a la frontera de Madrid. Mis hombres y yo te mataremos.” ( You will not make it to the border Madrid. Me and my men will kill you.)

“¡Saly enfréntame como un hombre Comofort!”  ( Come out and face me like a man Comofort!) Johnny yelled back.

“ Te voy a matar lento por matar a mis hombres. Envié un telegrama al General Calvo, contándole cómo mataste a Cervello a sangre fría mientras estaba encadenado y desarmado. Definitivamente ahora  eres un asesino buscado en México Madrid. Ahora te quieren muerto, no vivo.”( I am going to kill you slow for killing my men. I sent a wire to General Calvo, telling  him how you killed Cervello in cold blood while he was in shackles, and unarmed. You are now most definitely a wanted murderer in Mexico Madrid. You are wanted dead now, not alive.) Colonel Comofort said.

“ Cervello abtuvo lo que se merecía, al igual que tú también.”  ( Cervello got what he deserved, just like you will also.) Johnny responded.

“ Te seguiré al otro de la frontera si tengo que ir a Madrid. No me detendré hasta que estés muerto.”  ( I will follow you across the border if I have too Madrid. I will not stop until you are dead.)

“ What did he say to Johnny?” Scott asked Val.

“ He said Johnny is now wanted for cold-blooded murder in Mexico, and he’s to be killed on sight.” Val responded.

Scott shook his head, and let out a deep sigh. “ What else did he say?”

“ He said he will follow Johnny across the border to kill him, and he won’t stop until he does.” Walt said.

“ Johnny could end up wanted for murder on the other side of the border too. The Texas rangers could be notified by Mexico, and they could send out wanted posters.” Seth suggested.

“ Why would the Texas rangers put out a wanted poster on him? He killed the man in Mexico.” Scott said.

“ That’s where it gets tricky. The rangers have been known to cross the border to go after a fugitive, and bring him back across to face charges. They could with Johnny because he escaped from a federally recognized prison, and four guards were killed in his escape even though he didn’t kill but the one man.” Walt said.

“ The Mexican army has a powerful hate for Johnny.” Val said. “ They don’t have to be truthful about what really happened, or why. It’s like he said, he escaped from a Mexican prison, and killed to do it.”

“ Why didn’t you tell me any of this before Val?” Scott demanded.

“ Would it have made any difference in you getting him out?” Seth asked as Johnny walked over to them.

“ We’ll ride out at dark.  These reeds are thick enough they  will provide shelter from them seeing us walking.” Johnny said as he looked at his brother.

Scott glared at his brother. “ They say the Texas rangers could come after you.”

“ They could, but they won’t.” Johnny said.

Val walked over and grabbed Johnny by his shirt. “ You stupid sonofabitch. I’ve backed ya up on a lot of things, an bailed yur sorry ass out of trouble in the past. No more. We make it out a this alive, I’m done with this. I’m going back to Green River, and I’m putting that badge on, and you can go to hell Johnny Madrid.” he spat before shoving him away.

“ If that’s how you feel Val, don’t let me stop you from leaving right now.” Johnny said. “ That how you feel to Walt, and Seth?”

“ You know it ain’t Johnny.” Walt said. “ But you’ve changed since we last seen ya. Now, I don’t know if it’s what happened to you while in that prison or what, but something has changed you, because what we seen you do back there, that isn’t the Johnny Madrid we rode with.”

“ Coronel, se han ido.”  ( Colonel, they are gone.) Lieutenant Múrillo said. “ Es solo un viaje de un dia hasta la frontera. Probablemente ya estén en Arizona o Nuevo México.”   ( It is only a days ride to the border. They are probably in Arizona, or New Mexico by now.)

“ Podrían haber tomado el Blackbird. Es un sendero hacia México desde el norte. Si lo supieran, enonces ya están en Nuevo México.”  ( They could have took the blackbird. It’s a trail down into Mexico from the north. If they knew about it, then they are in New Mexico, and long gone.)

 “ ¿De dónde sale este sendero?” ( Where does this trail come out at?) Comofort asked.

“ Un pueblo minero llamado Silver City, Nuevo México.”  ( A mining town called Silver City, New Mexico.) Lieutenant Múrillo responded.

“ Vuelve con los hombres y diles que he continuado. No descansaré hasta matar a Johnny Madrid.”  (  Madrid will not go there. You take the men back, and tell them I have continued on. I will not rest until I kill Johnny Madrid.) Comofort ordered as he went to his horse, and mounted up. “ Cabalgaré hasta Tucson.” Si no está allí, viajaré a donde ahora llama a casa.”  ( I will ride to Tucson. If he is not there, then I will ride to where he calls home.)

“¿Dónde está ese Coronel?”  ( Where is that Colonel?) Múrillo asked.

“ Un pueblo de California llamado Morro Coyo.” ( A town in California called Morro Coyo.) the colonel said.

“Coronel, ¿está seguro de que quiere hacer esto?”  ( Colonel, are you sure you want to do this? ) he asked.

“ Vete, no descansaré hasta encontrarme, y matar al Madrid.” ( Go, I will not rest until I find, and kill Madrid.)

“ We’re in Arizona now. We need to find a doc, and  get those wounds of yurs checked out.”

“ It’ll keep. Comofort will be coming. We need to keep going.” Johnny said. “ We can rest in Tucson.” Johnny said.

“ Douglas is closer.” Val said.

“ No. Rurales caught Johnny there once. I don’t want them getting him again.” Scott said firmly.

“ This is as far as me and Seth go Johnny. It’s been good seeing you again. I just wish it had been under different circumstances kid.” Walt said as he offered his hand.

Johnny shook his hand. “ You two ever get up around Morro Coyo, California, you got a job at Lancer.” as they shook hands.

“ Maybe we’ll do that Johnny.” Seth said as he shook Johnny’s hand.

“ Scott, you’re an alright guy. You take care of him.” Walt said. “ Val, I’ll see ya.”

“  I hope you three can work out your differences because good friends, and trusting family are hard to come by.” Seth said before riding off.

“ You look like you’re about to fall asleep in that bath.” Scott said.

“ Last one I had was the day they took me from Belle’s place.” Johnny said.

“ I bought you some clothes, boots, a hat, and coat.” Scott said as he placed the clothes on the bed.

“ I hardly recognized ya all clean shaven, and your hair trimmed up.” Val said.

“ How’s the arm feel?” Scott asked.

“ It’s alright. You did a good job cleaning it out, and stitching it up.” Johnny said as he tried to stand up to get out of the bath. “ I think my legs……..”

“ Here, let me help you out brother.” Scott said as he went over, and helped Johnny out of the tub. Seeing just how bad his brothers back was, he had to swallow hard to keep from being sick at the sight.

“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he walked over and sat down on the bed, pulling the blanket tighter around him. “ Listen, I said some things I never should have said to you Scott. I didn’t mean them, and I’m sorry. Val, I’m sorry for putting you, both of you in this situation. What I’m going to tell you both goes no further. I don’t even want Murdoch knowing.”

“ Johnny, you went thru hell in that place. I know what you went thru. What was done to you in there. The same thing that was done to me in Libby. I guess seeing you do what I did shook me up some, but mostly it angered me. I seen them whip you. We both did, and I have never felt as helpless as I did then. I told you a big brothers job is to keep his little brother safe. I promised you I would always be there to protect you, and I wasn’t. I couldn’t stop it from happening.”

“ Kid, I’ve seen you kill before, I just never seen you kill a man like that, with so much hate inside you. Like yur brother said, it shocked me too. You showed me just how deadly Johnny Madrid can be.” Val said.

“ Johnny, can they come after you, the law I mean?” Scott asked.

“ They can extradite him back to Hermosillo to stand trial for murder.” Val said. “ Mexico would have to request it, and then either a U.S. Marshal, or the army would come, and arrest him to take him back. Any local law they would have arrest him to hold until they got there.”

“ Local law? You mean you?” Johnny asked.

“ Only if I go back and be the law again.” Val said.

“ You feel like going down and eating in the hotel, or would you prefer to eat up here?” Scott asked.

“ Neither. I’m tired. Taking that bath wore me out. I think I’ll just sleep a while.” Johnny said as he climbed into bed, and covered up.

“ Alright brother. You won’t be left alone. So you sleep as long as you need too. One of us will be here to watch over you.” Scott said.

Johnny was soon fast asleep. No rats crawling on him, foul smells, screams, or crying for the first time in a long time he would be able to fall into a deep sleep.

“ I’m going to go send a wire to let Murdoch know we have him, and are coming home. I’ll bring us back some supper.” Scott said.

“ Alright. I think I’ll just sit over here and watch outside while he sleeps.” Val said.

“ I have a feeling we are going to be here a couple days.” Scott said before walking out.

Nodean  rode into Douglas, dismounted at Belle’s place, and walked inside.

“ What the hell do you want?” Belle demanded. “ You’re not welcome here Nodean.”

Nodean grabbed Belle. “ Where’s Madrid?” he demanded.

“ Stop it!”  June yelled.

“ Tell me where Madrid is, and  I’ll let go!” Nodean said.

“ He’s not here. He was taken months ago by the Rurales. He’s in a Mexican prison somewhere!” Cassie yelled.

“ Please let her go Nodean, it’s the truth. He’s not here!” Sandy pleaded.

“ Bullshit. He escaped from the prison two weeks ago.” Nodean said. “ Where is he?”

“ We haven’t seen him, I swear!” Sandy said.

“ Come here whore!” he ordered as he reached behind his back, pulled out his knife, and held it to Belle’s throat. “ I said come here…!”

Cassie walked closer to Nodean, and stopped. Her whole body trembled in fear of this man as tears ran down her face.

“ I’m going to ask you one last time girl……….where is Madrid?” he asked.

“ He’s not here mister, honest.” Cassie said. “ We haven’t seen him in eight months.”

Nodean glared at the girl a few seconds, then looked at Belle before swinging his arm, and in one swift move, stabbed Cassie in the chest.

“ No!” Sandy yelled.

“ You bastard!” Belle yelled.

Nodean swung, hitting Belle hard in the face, knocking her down. Grabbing her by her arm, he yanked her up, and hit her again.

“ Stop it!” Sandy begged.

Nodean swung his left arm, striking Sandy, sending her flying into the stair banister.

“ You tell Madrid I’m looking to finish what he started.” Nodean said. “ You tell him next time I’ll kill someone close to him.” he said before hitting her hard again, knocking her out.

“ He hasn’t moved the whole time you were gone.” Val said.

Scott looked at his brother sleeping in bed. “ It’s probably the first time he’s been able to sleep without worrying.” Scott said as he sat down at the table with their supper.

“ You said something earlier I been sittin here thinkin on.” Val said.

“ What I said to Johnny?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah, that, and what he said…..or didn’t say.” Val responded.

“ I was captured at Shenandoah in sixty four. I was in Libby prison for a year. I seen, and heard things that would make a man sick.” Scott said. “ What was done to Johnny in that place, I had done to me. I had been there about four months when it happened. When he tried it again, we got in a fight, and I broke his neck.”

“ You did what you had to do Scott. There’s no shame in that.” Val said. “ I’ve been thinking about how Johnny killed that man. He didn’t murder him, he executed him. Johnny did what any man would do given the chance having done to him what was.”

“I don’t want to lose him Val. I haven’t had that much time with him. He’s so damn secretive about his past.” Scott said.

“ Maybe it’s for the best, given how we treated him back there.” Val said. “ Damn it, that brother of yurs has a way of getting to people.”

“I won’t argue with you on that.” Scott said.

Murdoch walked out of the telegraph office. “ Sam!”  he called.

“ Murdoch, are you alright?” Sam asked.

“ They’re coming home. Scott found Johnny, and they’re coming home.” Murdoch said.

“ Did he say when they would be home?” Sam asked.

“ No.” Murdoch said.

“ Well maybe now you will stop worrying so much, and get some sleep. Those boys come home, they don;t need to see their father like  this.” Sam suggested.

“ I don’t know Sam. I have a feeling there is something wrong.” he said.

“ Scott didn’t say?” he asked.

“ No. This feeling is more of a fathers hunch I guess you could say.” Murdoch responded.

Johnny sat with Val, and Scott eating lunch the next day in the hotel when he seen a woman walk into the lobby.

“ Excuse me.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to the woman. “ Sandy.”

Sandy turned and faced him. “ Johnny… it really you?” she asked.

“ What happened to you?” Johnny asked as he noticed the bruises on her face.

“ Nodean came to Belle’s……………..He.”

“ Come upstairs to my room where we can talk in private.” Johnny said as he took her arm, and walked her upstairs.

Scott and Val watched as Johnny walked upstairs with the woman.

“ Isn’t that one of the women from Belle’s place?” Scott asked.

‘ Yeah, Sandy, I recon Johnny won’t be eating lunch with us, or supper.”

“ How you figure?” Scott asked.

“ Belle, and Sandy are the only two he would poke.” Val said.

“ Go sit down, and tell me what happened.” Johnny said as he closed the door, and locked it.

Sandy hurried over to Johnny, wrapped her arms around him, and started crying as soon as he closed the door.

“ Hey, it’s alright.” Johnny said as he held her tight.

“ Sandy, you said Nodean. What happened? ” Johnny asked.

“ He…….he killed Cassie. He stabbed her, and……….Johnny, he beat Belle to death. I couldn’t stop him.” Sandy said. “ He said to tell you he was looking forward to finishing what he started, and that the next time it would be someone even closer to you, and then he beat Belle to death.”

“ What happened to you Johnny? It’s been seven months since they took you.” she asked.

“ A lot. Where are you going?” Johnny asked.

“ I don’t know for sure. I was thinking maybe Virginia City, Nevada. There’s a lot of gold being found. I heard I could make thirty dollars or more a poke. So I thought maybe a girl like me could make some good money since I do my best work flat on my back.” Sandy said. “ Maybe in two years time I can make enough money to get out of this business once and for all.”

“ What even happened to that girl? The one that turned me in?” he asked.

“ Sara? She left the next day on the stage. Belle told her to never come back.” she said. “ Johnny, I had nothing to do with that.  We didn’t know she knew who you were, and was going to turn you in to the Rurales.”

“ I never thought you did.” he said. “ You got any money?”

“ I got enough fare to get me  to Las Vegas. I can work there to earn the rest.” she said.

“ When do you leave?” he asked.

“ On the ten o’clock stage tomorrow morning.” she said.

“ You can stay here with me tonight. Val, and Scott have their own rooms.” he suggested.

Sandy walked over to him, and put her arms on his shoulders. “ You look good with your hair longer.”

“ You should have seen me two days ago. I had a full beard.” he said.

“ Johnny, what are you going to do?” she asked

“ About what?” he responded.

“ Nodean.” she said.

“ Nothing.” he said. “ I let my anger take over, and it almost got me killed. I will kill him for killing my grandfather, but I’m not going to go hunting for him to do it. I’m going back home with my brother, and Val, and try and live as normal a life as I can.”

“ You won’t go after him even though he killed your grandfather, Cassie, and Belle?” she asked.

“ Sandy, there were things that happened in Mexico, that……..I can’t expect you to understand. If I do face him, I’ll make sure he knows why I’m killing him.” Johnny responded.

Johnny seen Sandy to the stage the next day. He’d given her two hundred dollars he got off Scott, to get her to Virginia City.  Tired, and his back sore, Johnny walked into the hotel lobby, and seen his brother sitting with Val at a table eating breakfast.

“ Morning brother.” Scott said. “ You alright?”

“ Yeah. How you two feel about us leaving today?” he asked.

“ Just been waiting on you.” Scott said as a waitress walked over to their table.

“ Yeah, uh I’ll have some coffee, eggs, ham, and potatoes with a couple biscuits please.” Johnny told the waitress.

“ Maybe we should stay tonight and let you get some sleep?” Val suggested.

“ Why, I slept fine.” Johnny said.

“ Johnny, why was Sandy here?” Scott asked.

“ She’s headed to Virginia City to work.” Johnny said. He decided to not say anything yet about Cassie, or Belle being murdered by Nodean. At least not until they were far enough away from the border.

Val knew something was wrong. He knew Johnny well enough to see it in his eyes. He also knew Sandy loved working for Belle, and had for ten years. The two were practically like sisters. Why would she leave there to go start all over again made no sense to him.

“ So Sandy is going to Virginia City huh?” he asked.

“ That’s what she said.” Johnny responded. “ Said with the gold strikes happening up there, she figures to do real good, and make enough in two years to leave it for good.”

“ She’s young enough, she could find her a wealthy husband maybe, settle down, and raise a family.” Val suggested.

“ I think she would like that very thing with you little brother. Val told me how the two of you were together in the past.” Scott said.

“ Val has a big mouth sometimes.” Johnny said as the waitress brought him his breakfast. “ I’ll get that money back to you Scott.”

“ Forget it. Consider it a Lancer investment to ones future.” Scott said.

“ I somehow don’t think the old man would approve of that, but still…….thanks.” Johnny said.


Chapter 13

“ We cross the river in the morning, we’ll be back in California kid.” Val said.

“ Johnny, you’ve had something on your mind ever since Tucson. You want to talk about it?” Scott asked.

Johnny stood up, and walked over to the fire, Squatting down, he poured a cup of coffee. “ I didn’t tell you the whole reason Sandy left Douglas.” he said as he stood up. “ Cassie is dead, and Belle was beat to death.”

“ What?” Val asked.

“ Did they get who did it Johnny?” Scott asked.

Johnny shook his head. He hated having to tell them that two more people were dead because of him. Two people he knew, and owed his life too. “ No, but he won’t be hard for me to find.”

“ Won’t be hard to find?” Val asked.

“I was Nodean.” Johnny said with anger. “ Two women I owe my life too are dead now because of me!”

“ Johnny don’t!………..Please………Don’t blame yourself for what happened.” Scott pleaded.

“ Why not, it’s the truth. Belle was beaten to death because of me.” Johnny snapped back.

“ You have no control over what Nodean does brother. It’s not your fault those women are dead.” Scott said.

“ Nodean went there looking for me Scott. He obviously heard I escaped from prison, and went there thinking that maybe I was hiding out there, or Belle and the girls knew where I was at. Sandy said they told him they hadn’t seen me since the Rurales took me away months ago, but that bastard didn’t believe them. He stabbed Cassie, and then beat Belle to death.” Johnny said with anger.

“ So what are you gonna do, go looking for him again, and get yurself thrown in jail?” Val demanded.

“ No. I told Sandy I will kill him, but I’m not going to go looking for him Val.” he responded. “ I know I was wrong taking off after him like I did before. I’m not going to make that mistake again. I’m going to cross that river in the morning, and go home.”

Comofort came out of the hotel in Tucson, and was stopped by a man wearing a badge.

“ What’s your business here in Tucson Colonel?” Ranger Campbell asked.

“ Sheriff……”

“ Ranger, Arizona Ranger Sergeant John Campbell. This isn’t Mexico.” he cut in and said.

“ Sergeant, I am tracking a murderer.” Comofort said.

“ And who is this murderer you’re tracking?” he asked.

“ A mestizo who broke out of our prison, and killed four of my guards doing it. I almost had him at the Rio Magdalena river, but he escaped. He killed seven of my men there.” the colonel responded.

“ You still haven’t told me a name.” the sergeant said.

“ Johnny Madrid. Perhaps you have heard of him?” Comofort asked.

“ I’ve heard of Madrid. I also know he wouldn’t murder someone in cold blood.” he said. “ You say he killed four guards to escape your prison, and another seven men at the river. I just can’t help but think you’re not telling me everything, so this is what I am going to tell you. I want you to take your ass back across the border into Mexico. You’re a colonel in the Mexican army, not a bounty hunter, and I don’t want you in Arizona.”

“ You are refusing to help me catch this murderer Sergeant Campbell?” he asked.

“ That’s exactly what I’m telling you. What Madrid did in Mexico, if he did commit these murders, is of no concern of mine. I know all about your prisons, and how you treat your prisoners. I want you gone in twenty minutes, or I will arrest you. Do you understand?” the ranger said firmly.

Comofort glared at the ranger a few seconds before stepping down to his horse, mounting up, and riding out of Tucson. Once dark fell, he rode around Tucson, and headed northwest once again.

“ We’ll be home by noon.” Scott said as he mounted his horse.

“ Sounds good to me.” Johnny said as he rubbed Barranca’ face.

“ Let’s go home.” Val said as he mounted his horse.

“ Johnny Madrid! You move, and I will blow you away!” Nodean yelled from the rocks. “ You two, toss those guns away, and step away from Madrid!”

“ Nodean.” Johnny said as a bullet hit the ground in front of Scott.

“ Next one goes in your head! Drop those guns now!” Nodean ordered.

“ Do as he says.” Johnny ordered.

Val, and Scott tossed their pistols away, and stepped away from Johnny.

Nodean stepped down from the rocks, and stopped about thirty feet in front of Johnny. “ I thought of just shooting you, but found there would be no fun in that.” Nodean said. “ I mean, I followed you all the way from Bannack.”

Johnny stood there glaring at the man. “ Killing you is going to be a pleasure.”

“  You can’t beat me.” Nodean said.

“ My grandfather, and I’m going to kill you for murdering him, Cassie, and beating Belle to death.” Johnny said.

“ Belle, and that other one were nothing but whores. I did that town a favor killing them. The old man you say was your grandfather, well he just happened to be the unlucky one to walk out of the house. I killed him for the bullet you put in me years ago. A fucking bullet I’m reminded about every time I take a step.  Imagine my surprise when I heard you escaped prison. I should have known those Mexicans couldn’t keep you.”

“ You going to put that rifle down, and face me, or do you plan on talking all day?” Johnny demanded.

“ Sure Madrid, I’m ready to kill you now.” Nodean said.

Johnny seen what he was watching for, and drew his colt, fanning the hammer.

Scott, and Val watched as two guns went off, sounding as one.

Nodean felt the bullet tear into his chest, and drop him to the ground as he tried to cock the pistol again.

Johnny cocked his pistol again as he walked up to Nodean. “ This is for Cassie, and Belle.” he said before shooting Nodean in the gut. “ And this is for my grandfather.” he said with hatred as he shot Nodean in the heart.

Scott went to his brothers side.

“ Vengué a tu abuelo muerto.” ( I avenged your death grandfather.) Johnny said as he stood there looking at Nodean.

Murdoch walked out of the house as three very tired men rode up to the house. Looking at his youngest, he could see a difference in his face, especially his eyes.

“ Welcome home son.” Murdoch said as he walked over, and placed a hand on Johnny’s left leg. ‘ Get down, and come inside.”

Johnny dismounted as Cipriano walked over, and placed a hand on his nephews shoulder. No words were needed.

Murdoch could see his son had lost weight in the nine months he had been gone. “ Maria is preparing a feast to welcome you home son.”

“ I’m going to take care of Barranca.” Johnny said before walking away.

“ I want you two to tell me what happened in Mexico.” Murdoch said that evening after supper.

“ We got Johnny out.” Scott said.

“ Son, it’s been nine months. Your brother comes home, and has been in his room refusing to come down to eat. I want to know what happened to him in those nine months.” he said.

“ Mister Lancer, if Johnny want’s you to know, then he’s the one who will have ta be tellin ya.” Val said.

“ I’m sorry, but I gave my word to him I wouldn’t tell you.” Scott said.

“ For you to do that tells me only one thing, it was bad for him in there. Can you at least tell me how you got him out?” he asked.

“ Once we learned he was captured, and where he was taken too, Val sent a wire to some friends of his, and Johnny’s in Laredo. They came, and helped us break him out.” Scott explained.

“ Where did he kill Nodean at?” he asked.

“  This morning when we were breaking camp.” Scott said.

“ I have a feeling you two are leaving something out. Something that happened while in Mexico. Did your brother do something that will come back on him son?” Murdoch asked.

“ We got him out, and home. That’s all that matters as far as I’m concerned sir.” Scott said.

“ Scott, did your brother do something that will take him from us again?” he asked.

“ As far as I’m concerned…..My brother did what he had to do to escape, and I don’t wish to discuss the matter anymore.” Scott said.

“ I read the files your grandfather had on Johnny, while you were gone son. One of the files tells about him and Nodean. Another tells how he went after a man who raped a thirteen year old girl. Witnesses said he walked up to that man after he was down, and deliberately kept shooting him until he was dead. Like you said, your brother has done things to stay alive, but to do something like that when the man is already wounded, and down, is murder.” Murdoch said.

“ That depends on who you talk to about that incident Mister Lancer. I was there, as well as the sheriff. Johnny didn’t empty his gun in the man. He shot him yes, then walked up to him, and told him he wanted to, but would let prison kill him. It’s when Johnny turned his back the man pulled another gun to shoot Johnny in the back. He spun around, and with one shot, killed the man. He shot him in the head.” Val explained.

“ Why didn’t he let the law handle it?” he asked.

“ Because the law was nothing more than a drunk with a badge pinned on his shirt.” Val responded.

“ I want answers to what happened down there, and if I have to have the Pinkerton’s get those answers, then I will.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ Why is it so important to you to know what happened in Mexico sir? Johnny is home now, and that should be all that matters.” Scott said firmly.

“ It matters because I want to know.” Murdoch responded.

“ Why, so the next time he gets called out, and forced to kill a man, you can use it against him?” Scott demanded.

“ No damn it! I need to know if I will have to retain a lawyer to defend him from going back to prison.” Murdoch said.

“ Like I said. I made a promise to my brother, and I will honor that promise sir. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go take a hot bath, and go to bed.” Scott said. “ Val, thank you.”

Johnny rode up to his grandfather’s grave every afternoon for a week, and came back down with enough time to clean up before supper.

“ When do you want me to start working again?” he asked.

Murdoch set his fork down. “ You’ve only been home a week son. Do you feel like you could work?”

“ Just cause I’m your son, and a third owner doesn’t mean I don’t do my fare share of work around here.” Johnny said. “ Need to pull my own weight around here.”

“ Why don’t we have Sam come out and check you over. Let him see if you’re ready to go back to working son.” his father suggested.

“ Yeah okay.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ I guess my word isn’t good enough.” he said before heading upstairs.

Scott dabbed the corner of his mouth, and placed his napkin on the table. “ Excuse me.” he said as he stood up, and headed up to his brothers room.

“ I can’t take how he’s treating me Scott.” Johnny said.

“ Would you rather he yell at you?” he asked. “ Johnny, he’s worried about you, and concerned is all. Hell everyone can see how much weight you lost. He just wants to make sure you’re strong enough to go back to work.”

“ I know.” Johnny said. “ Every day since we came back I wait for it.”

“ Wait for what?” Scott asked.

“ That one question I know he wants to ask me.” he said. “ I’m afraid that if he does, and I answer him, he won’t want me as his son anymore.”

“ Johnny, our first night back, Murdoch asked me and Val what happened in Mexico. I told him I made a promise to you that I intend to keep. Val told him that if he wanted to know, then you would have to be the one to tell him.” Scott said. “ Then when I asked him why he needed to know, why it was so important to know. You know what he said? He said he needed to know if he would have to get a lawyer to defend you so you wouldn’t be taken away from him again.”

“ He said that?” he asked.

“ He did. Johnny I think it would kill him if he lost you again. I know I don’t want to lose you again.” Scott said. “ I think he worried a lot while we were gone.”

“ I told him before I left I didn’t know how long I would be gone.” Johnny said.

“ Yes you did, but there’s something you don’t understand little brother.” he said. “ Let me ask you something. Did your mother ever worry about you when you were out and about?”

“ No, most times she told me to leave so she could be with a man. Why?”

“ It’s a parents job to worry about their children. You will one day when you get married, and have kids.” Scott said. “ It’s just something a parent does.”

“ If I told him what happened to me……..I…..he…..”

“ You don’t have to tell him that happened. Nobody has to know about that, and you know me and Val will never tell anyone what he did to you.” Scott said.

Sam walked into Johnny’s bedroom, and closed the door. “ John, it’s good to have you back home.” he said.

“ Hey Sam. Murdoch tell you?” he responded.

“ He told me he would like to be sure you’re ready to go back to working.” Sam said as he set his bag on the table. “ Why don’t you take your shirt off, and we can get started.

“ He thinks I’m not ready. That I need more time.” Johnny said as he removed his shirt. “ He hasn’t seen these, and I don’t want him knowing Sam.”

“ Oh my lord.” Sam said as he looked at Johnny’s back.

“ Mexican prisons can be brutal. Especially when you’re name is Johnny Madrid.” he said.

“ My god son, why?” Sam asked as he checked the welts.

“ A man there named Cervello did it. Said I needed to be punished.”  he said.

“ John, these are not that old. You’ve been gone nine months. When did he do this to you?” Sam asked.

“ Almost two months ago.” he said. “ The colonel had them take me to the infirmary. Doc there stitched them up.”

“ How long did he leave the stitches in for?” he asked.

“ About ten days I think. He removed them, and then I was put back in my cell, and returned to work the next day. That’s when Scott, Val, and a couple friends of mine busted me out.” Johnny explained.

“ That doctor didn’t do a very good job stitching these up. I can see where he put the stitches, and they were too far apart. I’m surprised you didn’t have an infection.” Sam said as he took his stethoscope out.

“ I did for a couple days he said. I don’t really remember much after Cervello threw the bucket of brine on my back until I woke up days later.” Johnny said.

“ He threw brine on your back. Oh my god.” he said with shock. “ Can I ask why your heart is racing?”

“ You tell me Sam, you’re the doctor.”

“ John, you know that whatever we talk about stays between us. It’s called doctor, patient confidentiality. Whatever you tell me goes no further.”

Johnny stood up, and walked over to the window. Looking outside, he watched his father talking to Frank. “ Some things happened in Mexico that………..if the old man found out, I’m afraid he wouldn’t want me as his son anymore.”

Sam walked over to him. “ John, when you were gone, Murdoch worried about you. He looked like hell. He was hardly sleeping, or eating. When he got the wire telling him Scott found you, he came to see me, and I could see the relief in his eyes. But when he got the wire telling him you were coming home, that is when I seen the old Murdoch again. I know this is all still new to you, but you have to believe me when I tell you, that man downstairs loves you more than anything. It would kill him to lose either of you boys again, especially you.” he said.

“ Even if he knew I killed a man in cold blood?” Johnny asked.

Sam wasn’t prepared to hear those words come from Johnny’s mouth.

“ Think he would still want me as his son then Sam?”

“ Yes I do. It may hurt him, and he may get angry, but as your father, he would want to know why it happened.” he said.

“ That man, Cervello, the day he whipped me, just before lunch he walked off into the trees. Another guard when it was time for our lunch, forced me to take a walk into the wood. He made me hug a tree, and chained my arms around it, then left. Cervello came walking up behind me……..he…….When he beat me, he was busted back down to being nothing more than a prisoner, which made him hate me even more. The day Scott busted me out, he was in the wagon along with two brothers. Cervello was the only one still alive when it was all over. Before we rode out, I took a dead guards pistol, and I executed that man Sam. He was unarmed, and in shackles, and I shot him. I didn’t shoot him just once, I made him scream in pain as I emptied the gun in him, the last shot killing him when I blew his head off.” Johnny explained. “ When we where half a day from home, the man, Nodean called me out, and I executed him in a brutal way for killing my grandfather, Cassie, and Belle. Two times my brother seen a side of Madrid, a side I never wanted him to see.”

“I’m sure it was a shock to him, but Scott still loves you John.” Sam said. “Have you been eating?”

“ Not much. They don’t exactly feed you good down there.” he said.

“ I can see you’ve lost some weight. I’m going to have Maria fix up some bone marrow broth for you. It will be easy on your stomach, and help get some weight back on you.” Sam said. “ You can try eating regular food, only you will know when your stomach can handle it, but for a week, I want you to drink the broth for lunch, and supper. Will you do that for me John?”

“ Sam up there with Johnny?” Scott asked.

“ Yes, he’s been up there for over an hour.” Murdoch said.

“What are you going to do if he can return to work?” he asked.

“ There’s plenty of things  to repair he can do close to the house. I will not permit him to be breaking horses.”

“ And if Sam says he shouldn’t yet?”

“ Then he can help me with the books, sit around, and relax as he gets his strength back.” Murdoch responded as Johnny came downstairs with Sam.

“ He can return to work, but only what he feels he can do. He’s lost weight as I’m sure you have noticed, and his strength will be down. I want him to drink bone marrow broth for a week. It will help put the weight back on him, and I told him to try and eat regular food as his stomach will allow.”

“ Thank you Sam. Stay for lunch?” Murdoch said, and asked.

“ No, I’d like to, but I have other patients to see. I’ll come check on you in a week John. Remember what I said.” Sam said as he started toward the door.

Comofort walked into the saloon in Green River, and ordered a beer. ‘ I was wondering if you could tell me where I can find an estancia called Lancer?” he asked the bartender.

“ Lancer, you take the road out of town headed north. Stay on it for about fifteen miles. It runs across Lancer land.” Mac said.

“ What business you got at Lancer?” Val asked.

“ Sheriff, I don’t believe that is any of your concern.” Comofort said.

“ I’m making it my business, and this here badge gives me that right mister……?”

“ Col……..Comofort. I heard Lancer is a big spread, so I thought I would see if I could get hired.”

“Lancers are friends of mine. They’re not taking on any new hands right now. None of the ranches around the valley are hiring extra help right now.” Val said. “ Yur new around here. Where’d ya come from?”

“ I don’t care if you have a badge or not sheriff. Where I come from, why I’m going to Lancer, or anything else is none of your business.” he said before finishing his beer. “ Now if you don’t mind, I am quite tired, and would like a bath, or am I going to be caterchized more?”

“ There’s a bathhouse down the street.” Val said. “After you get that hot bath, you just ride on out of town mister.”

“ So I am not permitted to stay the night in this town because I asked a simple question?” Comofort asked.

“ No, I don’t much care for you mister. The people of this town pay me to keep the riffraff out.” Val said.

“ I am not riffraff sheriff.” Comofort said with anger,

“ You ain’t no farmer, and you sure as hell ain’t no cowboy. That there is a colts dragoon on your hip. Nobody around here wears one of those. That gun is of Mexican Army issue.” Val said firmly. “ Which tells me yur here for one reason only, and mister, you so much as hurt a hair on him, there will  be over two hundred men hunt you down, and string you up from the tallest oak tree.”

“ Alright sheriff, I am here for Madrid, and you cannot stop me. He is a murderer, and escaped from my prison.” he responded.

“ He may be wanted in Mexico, but this here is California. Johnny Madrid ain’t wanted for anything here. So you take your sorry ass outside, get on that horse of yurs, and leave this valley…….now!” Val ordered firmly.

“ You cannot make me leave this valley sheriff. I will leave once I have killed Madrid, and not before.” Comofort said before walking out.

Val walked out of the saloon, and watched the man leave town headed south. Crossing the street, he mounted his horse, and took off for Lancer.

Murdoch rode up, and dismounted behind his son kneeling at his grandfather’s grave.

“ Yeah. You must have got his birth date from Cipriano, cause I didn’t know it.” Johnny said.

“ Is the headstone alright son?’ Murdoch asked as he walked over, and placed some roses on the grave.

 “ It’s real nice. Thank you.” Johnny said softly.

“ I can leave if you want to be alone son.” he said.

“ No stay…… Can I talk to you, and you not get upset, yell, or lose your temper?” Johnny asked.

“ Son, I want you to be able to talk to me about anything.” his father said. “ I’ll be honest with you son. I can’t guarantee I won’t get upset, or angry, but I will listen to whatever it is that has been bothering you since you came home.”

“ I know you tried to find out from Scott, and Val what happened in Mexico, and even said you would hire a Pinkerton to find out. I’m going to say this one time, and one time only. There are things in my past I don’t want you, or Scott to know about. Things those Pinkerton’s won’t find out about. What did Scott tell you?”

“ Scott and Val said they found out you were captured, and where they took you too. Your brother said Val wired some friends of yours in Laredo, and they came and helped bust you out of prison.” Murdoch said.

Johnny stood up, and walked over to the big oak tree. “ I was captured at Belle’s place in Douglas. It’s a whore house. I went there to rest because I thought I would be safe there. The afternoon I was going to ride out, Rurales showed up. They found me because this girl Belle hired turned me in. She seen me kill a man once, so she knew who I was.  They put fifty thousand pesos on my head in Mexico. It’s probably a lot more now considering what I did.”

Murdoch could tell his son was struggling to tell him whatever it was. He could hear it in his voice, and had learned that when Johnny wrapped his arms around himself, he was struggling with something. He couldn’t help but wonder if Maria had ever consoled the boy before she died. If not, was that why he wrapped his arms around himself ? He knew Johnny had never had the parenting love a child deserved growing up. Never had strong arms reach around him, and hold him. Wanting too so bad, Murdoch forced himself to stay where he was until his son was done.

“ I never hit rock bottom. I’ve always stayed within the law, killing a man only when he was trying to kill me. The day Scott, Val, and my friends busted me out, there were three other prisoners with me in the wagon. We were coming back from working the mine. Davy, and Frank Colson were brothers the Rurales captured in El Paso, and brought down to work in the mine. Men would disappear along the border, to never be seen again by their family. Mostly young men were taken so they could get a few years work out of them. The third man named Cervello, was a guard. In a Mexican prison, most of the guards are inmates with ranks like in the army. He was a major. About two weeks before I was busted out, he decided to punish me,….severely when we got back to the prison. He had me tied down to a huge tree stump, and whipped me. When he was done, and I was almost unconscious, he threw a bucket of brine water on me. I screamed out in pain before I passed out. When I woke up, I was in the infirmary. I had been there ten days. Colonel Comofort, the man who ran the prison told me Cervello was punished for what he did to me. He was now a prisoner like me, and that he wanted no retaliation from me. Cervello had other plans though. Several times during the next days work he lashed out at me, blaming me for him now being in shackles also. There were four guards with us. One driving the wagon, two on horse behind, and one in the front. They were cut down right away. When Scott, and the others came down out of the trees, I thought maybe I was dreaming at first. I’d given up all hope of anyone ever finding me, or seeing you again.” Johnny said as he tried to stop the tears from falling. “ Walt made Cervello take the shackles off me, Davy, and Frank. I walked over, picked up a guards pistol, and as he stood there, I brutally executed him. I killed an unarmed man…….I did it because of what he did to me the day I was whipped.” he said as he dropped to his knees, and let the tears fall.

Murdoch went to his son, and knelt down next to him, placing his left hand on his back he could feel Johnny trembling. Grabbing his right arm, Murdoch pulled Johnny up, and wrapped his arms around him. “ It’s alright son. It will be alright.” he said as he held Johnny tight.

“ He………I murdered him in cold blood. He still had his shackles on, and no weapon…….I did it because he……a guard took me out and shackled my arms around a tree, then left. He said for me to enjoy my lunch before he walked away. Cervello came out of the trees . I heard him doing it to Davy Colson that morning. Hell I would hear men doing it every night, some screaming out in pain, and others enjoying it. When he raped me, I swore I would kill him, and I did. But I did it in cold blood.”

Murdoch felt his anger building up inside as he held his son tight. He’d heard the horror stories of what happened inside a prison. What stronger inmates did to the weaker ones, but never in his life would he ever think he would hear of it happening to his own son.

“ I’m not worthy of being your son anymore. I committed cold blooded murder.” Johnny said.

Murdoch pushed his son back just enough to look him in the eyes. “ I don’t ever want to hear you say that again. You are my son, and will always be my son.” He said.

Johnny looked at the ground, and tried to pull away.

“ Look at me son. There isn’t a jury anywhere that would convict you of murder. Not after what he did to you.” Murdoch said.

“ You don’t get it. I committed cold-blooded murder. The Mexican government can have me brought back, and shot.” Johnny said as he jerked away from his father. “ Val would have to arrest me, and hold me in his jail until a marshal came to take me back to Hermosillo.”

“ It won’t happen son. I won’t let it.” Murdoch said firmly. “ Lancer takes care of it’s own. I spent twenty years searching for you. I’m not about to let the Mexican army, or anyone else take you away from me ever again.”

“ You sure you’ll feel that way six months, a year, or even five years from now?” Johnny demanded.

“ Yes. There isn’t a man on this ranch who wouldn’t fight for you son.” he said.

“ I don’t want innocent, good men dying because of something I willingly did Murdoch.” Johnny said.

“ If, and I say if it comes down to that, I think it should be up to them to decide that son. When you were gone, the men would ask me when you were coming back. You have a lot of friends at Lancer. More than you realize.” Murdoch said. “ Can I ask who the men were who helped free you?”

“ Men I rode, and worked with. Men who would ride to hell and back for me.” he said. “ Walt Murphy from Abilene, Seth Watson from Mississippi, Joe Hughes from Dallas, Tom Walker, and Bob Olinger from Laredo. Joe, Tom, and Bob were killed at the Rio Magdalena river in Mexico. Walt, and Seth went back to Texas. Davy, and Frank were killed when we were trying to reach the river.”

“ I’m sorry they were killed son. They sound like good men.” Murdoch said.

“ They were.” Johnny said as he looked down toward the house.

“ Don’t you ever get to a point where you take killing lightly. It’s not a good thing to kill a man, or cause a man to get killed. Makes you sick inside.” Johnny said to himself as he sat back in the chair at his father’s desk. “ Guess you got to that point in Mexico. Fallen angels brought down to hell the good book says. Men beyond redemption. That’s pretty much you Madrid, a man beyond redemption.”  Standing  up, Johnny walked over to look out the big window behind his father’s desk. Telling his father what happened in Mexico earlier wasn’t easy. He was still a little shocked at how well he took hearing what happened to him, and what he did.

With Scott gone to Modesto to get grain, Johnny was saddled with doing the books. It wasn’t so much he hated doing them, as it was being cooped up inside. All the hands were out working, and  Murdoch had ridden over to the Conway ranch to look at the horses Agatha would be selling at the fall auction this year. Making it very clear he wanted them at least half done by the time he came back home. Every Monday for the past ten years his father went over to the Conway ranch to have supper, and he couldn’t help but wonder if there was something more to their relationship than being friends.

Comofort rode up to the back of the big house, and dismounted. Walking to a door, he pulled his pistol, and opened it slowly. Stepping inside he found the kitchen empty. Cautiously he walked down the hall, and stopped. Peering around the corner, he could see Madrid standing with his back to him in front of a huge window.

“ I see you are not wearing your gun. It will make killing you so much easier.” he said. “ Turn around mestizo.”

Johnny froze, knowing the voice. Turning around he found Comofort standing with  his pistol aimed at him.

“ You’ll never get out of here alive.” Johnny said.

“ There is nobody else here but you, and me. I watched, and seen all the hands leave. Including the one who must be your father.  You killed my men….Good men.” Comofort spat. “ I seen what you did to Cervello, maybe he had it coming for what he did to you. But how you killed him, well that……..that was cold blooded murder Madrid. You should have removed his shackles, and placed a gun next to him. Now……..well now you are wanted in all of Sonora for murder.”

“ Time for you to die Madrid!” he spat.

Johnny dove behind the desk as he felt the unmistakable burning in his upper right side from the bullet slicing thru flesh.

“ Come on out and face me Madrid!” Comofort yelled as he fired another shot into the desk. “ You are supposed to be fearless, yet all I see is a coward hiding behind a desk!”

Johnny knew the desk wouldn’t be able to protect him. Not knowing where Comofort was, he knew it was a matter of time before he came closer. Three shots fired, three shots left. Looking under the desk, he could see his feet over by the sideboard. Remembering his father kept a pistol in the safe, he crawled over to it, but found it locked. “ Damn!” he said softly as Comofort fired again. The bullet hitting just above his head.

“ Come on out Madrid. I want to see your eyes when I kill you.” he ordered.

Crawling on his belly, he made it over behind the couch. Just a little further, and he could reach the pistol he had put in the drawer of the end table. The coppery smell becoming stronger, with his side now soaked in blood, and hurting every time he moved.. He knew the bullet hit a rib, probably breaking it. It was leaving a blood trail he wasn’t too happy about.

Comofort reloaded his pistol, and cocked it as he walked around the desk, and found Madrid not there.

“ I see one of my bullets hit you. I wonder just how long it would take you to bleed to death? Judging from the blood I see, it would not take long. So why don’t you let me end this cat and mouse game now?” he asked.

Johnny quietly opened the drawer, reached in, and pulled out the small colt he put in there. He knew the gun was loaded because he checked it every day. “ It’s now or never Madrid.” he said as he pulled the hammer back, and stood up.

Comofort aimed, and fired, hitting Madrid as a bullet pierced his heart, knocking him backwards into the sideboard, glass shattering as it toppled over from the weight of his body hitting it.

Johnny felt the second bullet enter his body low on his right side, and could feel the warmth of the blood as it ran down his leg, and spread across his lower abdomen as he staggered a few steps before blackness claimed him, and he went down partially concealed by the couch.

Murdoch walked in thru the veranda doors, and stopped. To his right laid a man in the middle of broken glass, and wood, shot thru the heart. “ Johnny!” he yelled as his heart sank when looking around, and seeing his desk riddled with bullet holes. “ Johnny……….Johnny where are you?” he yelled. Seeing the blood trail leading toward the couch, he hurried over and found his son laying in a pool of blood. “ Oh dear god no.” he said as he picked Johnny up, and placed him on the couch. “ Hold on son, I’ll be right back!” he said as he ran outside. “ Frank,  I need help in here!” he yelled before turning, and going back inside. “ Maria……….Maria……I need your help!”

“ What’s wrong Mister Lancer?” Frank asked as he hurried inside.

“ Johnny’s been shot, It’s bad. Send someone to get Sam out here fast, then help me get him into one of the downstairs bedrooms.” Murdoch ordered.

Maria came in from the kitchen, and stopped. “ Juanito………what happened patrón?”

“ I don’t know. I came home and found him like this. There’s a dead man over against the wall. Go get one of the downstairs bedrooms ready for him, then get lots of bandages, and hot water. I need to try  to get the bleeding stopped while we wait on Sam.” Murdoch said as Frank hurried back in with Walt, and Cipriano. “ Be careful with him. He’s so covered in blood, I don’t know how many times he was shot.”

“ Yes sir.” Frank said.

“ Why the hell didn’t someone hear the shots?” Murdoch asked as they took Johnny to the room.

“  I’m sorry sir. All the hands were out working. With the fall branding coming up, they were rounding up cattle, and checking fences.” Frank said.

“ I know. It just angers me my son was attacked in the one place he should have been safe in.” Murdoch said.

“ Lancer!” Val yelled as he burst into the house.

“ Back here Val!” Murdoch responded.

Val walked into the room. “ How bad?” he asked.

“ It’s bad Val.” Frank said. “ I’ll get that body out of the house sir.”

“ Thank you Frank. Have someone take him into town.” Murdoch ordered. “ I don’t want him buried on Lancer land.”

“ Yes sir.” Frank said before leaving the room.

“ How did you know?” Murdoch asked.

“ I was on my way out here to warn Johnny bout Colonel Comofort being in Green River, when I passed a hand goin fur the doc. He told me Johnny had been shot really bad.” Val responded.

“ Help me get his shirt off so I can see how many times he’s been shot. There’s way to much blood for just one wound.” Murdoch said.

“ There’s one up under his right arm. Looks to be a pretty deep furrow. Bloods seeping from it pretty good.” Val said as they carefully removed his shirt. “ I tried to get here sooner to warn him, but that old horse of mine.”

“ It’s alright Val. Nobody is blaming you for this.” Murdoch said as he wiped blood off Johnny’s abdomen. “ I don’t like the looks of that wound. The bullet is still in there, but at least it has stopped bleeding.”

“ Alright, everybody out except Maria.” Sam said as he walked into the room. “ Murdoch, go and bring me more bandages, and hot water.”

“ This would have never happened to him if I had arrested him, instead of running him out of town.” Val said.

“ How did he even know where Johnny was?” Murdoch asked as he opened the side closet, and took out more bandages.

“ The bartender Mac told him where Lancer was. If he dies, I will never forgive myself.” Val said with a sadness Murdoch heard in his voice.

“ You listen to me Val Crawford, you are my sons only true friend. I don’t want you blaming yourself for this happening. That man came all the way here from Mexico for the sole purpose of killing my son. He could have very well have stopped in Spanish Wells, or Morro Coyo to find out.” he said.

“ But he didn’t. He stopped in my town, and I should have never let him ride out of that town. I knew he was here to kill Johnny. Hell I threatened him if anything happened to the kid.” Val said with anger. “ Where’s Scott?”

“ Scott, went to Modesto to get grain. He should be back before dark.” Murdoch said.

“ ¿Querías verme general?” ( You wanted to see me General?)

“ Sí. Quiero una patrulla formada por seis buenos hombres. Tengo órdenes del gobernado Ochoa de ir a un pueblo de California llamado Morro Coyo y arrestar a Johnny Madrid por escapar de la cárcel y asesinato.”  ( Yes, I want a patrol put together of six good men. I have orders from Governor Ochoa, to go to a town in California called Morro Coyo, and arrest Johnny Madrid for escaping from prison and murder.)

“ Señor, son mil cien millas hasta Morro Coyo.”  ( Sir, it’s eleven hundred miles to Morro Coyo.) Major Fidalgo said. “ ¿Pensé que el coronel Comofort fue tras Madrid?”   ( I thought Colonel Comofort went after Madrid?)

“ Lo hizo,pero la  mayoría de sus hombres murieron en el río Magdalena. Él mismo probablemente ya esté muerto ya que no he escuchado nada de él.” ( He did, but most of his men where killed at the Rio Magdalena river. He himself is probably dead by now since I have heard no word from him.) the general said. “ El gobernador siente que Madrid es una vergüenza para México. Quiere que lo capturen, lo traigan de vuelta y lo ejecuten para dar un ejemplo a los demás.” ( The governor feels Madrid is an embarrassment to Mexico. He wants him captured, brought back, and executed to make an example to others.)

“ Pero, ¿cómo lo traerás de vuelta? No somos la ley allí.” ( But how will you bring him back? We are not the law there.) the major said.

“ Un mariscal de los Estados Unidos se reunirá con nosotros en Modesto y nos acompañará a arrestarlo.” ( A United States Marshall will meet us in Modesto, and go with us to arrest him.) the general explained.         

“ Entonces, ¿debo acompañarte en este viaje?”  ( So I am to accompany you on this trip?)

“ Fidalgo, no hay otra persona en la que confíe más que en ti.” ( Fidalgo, there is no other person I trust more than you.)


Chapter 14

Scott walked into the house. “ Frank said Johnny was shot! What happened?”

“ Comofort came here this afternoon while your brother was here alone. Sam’s been in there with him five hours now.” Murdoch responded.

Scott went down the hall, and opened the door. “ How bad?” he asked as he walked over, and looked down at his brother. A black tube ran into his nose, and bandages were wrapped around his upper chest, and abdomen.

“ I just finished up. Let’s go out in the other room, and I’ll explain.” Sam said as he walked toward the door.

“ Okay, I want you three to sit down, and don’t interrupt me.” Sam ordered. “ Johnny is in very bad shape. He’s lost a tremendous amount of blood. I inserted a tube down his nose to his stomach to get water into him. It’s vital he has water to help replenish the blood he lost. He has a broken rib from the bullet under his right arm. The furrow is too deep to sew up, so it will have to be changed out, and flushed three times a day to prevent infection until it closes up. The other wound is the serious one. It missed his intestines, but went deep. I’m going to be honest with the three of you, there’s a chance Johnny may not make it thru the night. If he does, and I say if, he won’t be out of danger. He has a battle ahead of him, and he will need all three of you to help him fight it. By that I mean, I want you to talk to him when you are sitting with him. I want you to wipe his body down with cool water to help fight the fever he already has started. Now I want us to work in four hour shifts, and I don’t want no argument about it.”

“ How long are we talking Sam?” Murdoch asked.

“ I don’t know. It is really up to him. All we can do is what I said.” Sam responded.

“ I’ll go spare Maria, and take the first four hours.” Scott said as he headed to the bedroom.

“ I’m sorry kid. If I had arrested that bastard when he was in Green River, none of this would have happened, and you wouldn’t be laying there fighting for your life.” Val said softly as he wiped the sweat from Johnny’s face. “ You need to keep fightin. You got an old man, and brother scared to death they’re gonna lose ya. And to be honest, so am I. We been thru too damn much together for it to end like this, so don’t you go giving up. You remember the first time I seen you six years ago. You’d been bushwhacked, and were all shot to pieces. Damn near dead, but you pulled thru that, and I know you can pull thru this. Damn it kid, I love ya like a brother, and can’t lose ya. We been thru too much together for you to end it now.”

Scott sat on his bed reading the files Thomas had sent him on his brother. Some of the things he’d went thru, he couldn’t believe he was reading. The numerous times he’d been shot, or stabbed. Even the report on Belle saving his life was there. Val showed up with him shot up, and they hid him out while they nursed him back. Reading in detail the night his mother died brought tears to his eyes. Tears that soon started running down his cheeks as he read about the abuse Johnny received while in the orphanage. Abuse from the padre made him angry. How could a man of god treat a child like that. Lock him up in a closet for days on end, or beat him just because he was a half……….. . How could his grandfather find out things about Johnny, things Murdoch didn’t know? Was it money? Did his grandfather pay a lot of money to find out these things, or were they fabricated lies to one day use against his brother to try and get him to come back to Boston?

“ You alright son?” Murdoch asked from the door.

“ I was sitting here reading thru these files grandfather had on Johnny. I don’t understand how he got some of this stuff about him, when you couldn’t. How could he have known for those twenty years where he was, and not tell you. Especially if he knew you were searching for him.” Scott said.   

Murdoch walked into the room, and sat down on the bed. “ I don’t know son.”

“ What was the name of the Pinkerton agent you hired?” Scott asked as he looked at a report.

“ Henry Darrow.” Murdoch said.

“ How long did he look for Johnny?” he asked.

“ Eleven years. Why?”

“ Take a look at the name on this report from  fifteen years before.” Scott said as he handed the paper to him. “ His signature is on most all the reports going back to Maria’s death. There’s a report every three to four months right up to Johnny coming home.”

Murdoch put the paper down, and stood up. “ I had him on retainer, so there’s only one reason he would have done this.”      

“ Grandfather was paying him more.” Scott said.

“ Your grandfather is dead, so we will never get answers to why son. Why don’t you put this away, and try to get some sleep? I’ll relieve Val in two hours, then you can have the morning shift.” Murdoch suggested. ‘ Maybe when you’re sitting with your brother, you can ask him about some of what’s in those files? It may not all be true.”

“ I know some of it is after what I seen him do………”

“ In Mexico? Your brother told me how he killed that man while he was unarmed, and in shackles. Though I’m disappointed in him for doing it. I have to understand why he did, and so should you son. Especially since you spent a year in Libby prison.” Murdoch said.

“ I think maybe I will sir.” Scott said as he put the files back in the box.

Murdoch walked over to the door. “ If there is one thing I have learned over the years is that not everything is what it seems son.” he said before walking out, and closing the door.

Scott sat watching Johnny sleep. It had been almost two weeks since he was shot, and he had shown no signs of waking up yet. Sam said it was better for him to remain unconscious the first week to gain his strength back from the blood loss. Every time he sat with him, he would read from the reports, and ask his brother about some of what is said in them. Standing up, Scott walked over to the window to look out at the setting sun. Thinking back to everything that has happened in Mexico, that he knew about, still rattled him. Looking over at his brother, he couldn’t believe how callously he pulled the trigger on an unarmed, shackled man. He himself had killed a man while in Libby, but that man was free to fight back. Could he if the tables had been turned, done the same thing in the same way. What kind of man does it take to kill another like his brother viciously did? He knew every man had a breaking point, and he knew his brother met  his that day he seen him whipped, and then the bucket of water, with brine thrown on his back. Sometimes at night he would wake up in a cold sweat right after hearing that scream again in his sleep. A scream of anguish that he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to get out of his head for a long time, if ever.

“ Scott.” Sam said as he walked into the room. “ How’s our patient doing today?”

“ The same I’m afraid. He’s shown no signs of waking up Sam, and it has me a little concerned.” Scott responded.

“ Murdoch will be in here in a minute. I’m going to go ahead and use smelling salt to wake him up. His fever has been gone for a few days now, and both his wounds are looking good. The one under his arm will take time to fully close. The main problem he will have from that will be the broken rib. That will take time to heal.” Sam said. “ It will be easier to do, so let’s remove that tube before I wake him up.”

“ I heard a medical surgeon in the army tell a soldier who had broken ribs, it could take up to three months for them to heal.” Scott said as Sam removed the tube.

“ Sometimes it can take longer.. The main thing Johnny will have to do is make sure he doesn’t get pneumonia. Coughing will hurt, but he will have to keep his lungs clear while he heals up.” Sam said as Murdoch walked into the room. “ Murdoch come around here and be ready to hold him down once this smelling salt starts working. I don’t want him jerking. Scott, I want you to talk to him as I wake him up. Let him hear your voice.”

Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire walked out of the post office in Albuquerque, New Mexico not a happy man. For the past three months him and his deputy, Kyle Rockwell had tracked down, and brought in three of seven men wanted for a stage robbery, and murder of several passengers, and the driver.

“ You don’t look too happy.” Deputy Rockwell said.

“  It would seem we have to ride to Modesto, California, and meet up with some Mexican General named Calvo.” Dallas said as he untied his horse.

“ A Mexican general. What the hell for?” Rockwell asked.

“ Seems he had a prisoner escape prison in Hermosillo, and they want us to go with him to a town called Morro Coyo, to arrest the man, and escort him back to Mexico with them so he can be executed.” he said.

“ Since when do we escort prisoners to Mexico to be executed?”  Rockwell asked.

“ Since that’s what they want us to do.” the marshal said as they rode down to the livery, and dismounted.

“ Who is this man the Mexicans want?” he asked.

“ Johnny Madrid.” he said. “ Seems they want him for murder.”

“ Wait a minute, Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter?” he asked

“ That’s the one.” he responded as they dismounted, and led their horses into the livery.

“ I know the Mexican army wanted Madrid for fighting against them in the Revolution of the North war. I heard they were executing anyone who fought in it. Dallas, you know as well as I do, Johnny Madrid ain’t no murderer.” Rockwell said as they unsaddled their horses.

“  Dallas, Kyle, you two been gone a spell.” the livery man said.

“ Yeah, three months. Give them both extra grain would ya Caleb? They earned it.” the marshal asked. “Oh, we have seven horses out there. Get what ya can for them.”

“ Sure thing. You want the money to go to the school fund again?” he asked.

“ Yeah. Thanks Caleb.” the marshal said. “ Lets go get us a hot bath, and a soft bed.”

“ Sounds good to me. When you want to leave for California?” Rockwell asked.

“ Not in any hurry to go and arrest a man I rode with, and consider a friend. Two, three days rest sound good to you?” he responded.

“ Sounds fine.” he said as they left the livery.

“ How you feeling son?” Murdoch asked as he walked over to sit down next to the bed.

“ Okay as long as I don’t move, or cough.” he said.

“ You look like you have something on your mind. Care to talk about it?” he asked.

“ There will be others come for me.” Johnny said. “ If you, or Scott had been here, he would have killed you just to hurt me.”

“ Son, what happened here wasn’t your fault.” Murdoch said softly.

“ That bastard came in the house Murdoch. The one place I should be safe, and I wasn’t. I can’t……..I couldn’t live with myself if you, or Scott were hurt, or killed because of me. I can’t stay here, and put you both at risk. I was a fool to think I could live a normal life as your son.” Johnny said.

“ Now you listen to me young man. I don’t ever want to hear you say that again. You are my son, and you have every right to live here.”

“ At who’s expense pa. How many men are you will to have die for me?” Johnny demanded.

“ Son please don’t do this.” Murdoch pleaded. “ I can’t bear to lose you again. I don’t care about your past. All I want is a future with you.”

“ My being here has already cost me my grandfather. That could have just as easily had been you Nodean killed, or even Scott.” Johnny said with anger. “ I don’t want either of you getting killed because of me. Why can’t you understand that?”

“ I do understand son.” Murdoch responded as he stood up. “ What you seem to * not* understand is I don’t want you leaving here, and getting gunned down on some damn trail. I will not let you leave this ranch, and let that happen. You are my son, and you will stay here where you belong. You have at least three months healing. I suggest you rethink this son.”

“ Is something wrong?” Scott asked as he walked in the room.

“ Your brother is making a wrong decision is all.” Murdoch said before walking out of the room.

“ I don’t need a lecture from you too brother.” Johnny said.

“ I wasn’t going to give you a lecture brother.” Scott said as he walked over, and sat down on the side of the bed. “ Thomas sent me these after grandfather died. I’ve been reading thru them, and even read them to you while you were unconscious.” he said as he set the files down on the bed.

Johnny knew they were reports about him. “ And what, you want to know if what they say is true?”

“ What I want to ask you is, do you know the name Henry Darrow?” Scott asked.

“ No, should I?” Johnny asked.

“ He’s the Pinkerton agent Murdoch hired to find you.” Scott said as he picked up the last file, and opened it. “ It’s his signature on all these reports grandfather had Johnny. They go back to before your mother died. Grandfather knew where you were in Mexico.”

“ He knew about me?” Johnny asked.

“ It would seem so brother.” Scott said as he stood up, and walked over to the window. “ I’ve gotten to know you pretty well brother, and I think you’re making a huge mistake in leaving here when your ribs are healed up. None of this was your fault. Not your grandfather getting killed, Belle, and Cassie, Nodean, Cervello, none of it. Nobody forced Nodean to do what he did. Nobody forced Cervello to do what he did. They both made mistakes that were wrong. We learn from our mistakes as I’m sure you already know. Please don’t make a huge one that can cost you your life, and leave Lancer.”

“ Even if it means putting you, and Murdoch in danger?” he asked softly.

“ Yes. Johnny, I’ve been at Lancer two years longer than you. I’ve seen the hurt, and disappointment in Murdoch with every report he got. I’ve heard him in his room late at night when he would think I was asleep crying because he didn’t know if you were still alive. We would both give our lives for you because that’s what a family does.” Scott said. “ You’ve had nobody most of your life except Val, and he’s a damn good friend. One I’m glad you’ve had around. Don’t you think it’s about time you start being my brother, his son, and stop living by that gun?”

“ Let me tell you something Scott, shuttin off your old life, is not an easy thing to do. The past has a way of coming up, and nudging at you sometimes.” Johnny responded.

“ That’s true, but little brother, I don’t nudge that easy, and I know Murdoch doesn’t either.” he said. “ Keep those, read them if you want.”

“ You say this Mexican general says Madrid is wanted for murder, and wants us to help bring him back to Mexico so he can execute him. I don’t much like that idea Dallas. Johnny is a friend of ours.” Deputy Rockwell said.

“ I’ve been giving it some thought. This general says he’s wanted for escaping prison, and murder. You ask anyone who knows Madrid, and they will tell you he’s not a murderer. Every man he’s killed, he’s given the chance to walk away.” Dallas responded.

“ So if he’s wanted for murder, who’s murder?” he asked.

“  Mexican prisons are run by inmates. Sergeants, and Majors, but they’re not army. The Rurales let the ones who are tough enough, that won’t try and escape run the prison.” the marshal explained.

“ They don’t have any real law in them prisons?” Rockwell asked.

“ Oh sure, they have Rurales, and usually a Colonel, or Captain who oversees everything.” he responded. “ Madrid made a lot of enemies when he fought against them in the war. There’s even reports of men being shanghaied along the border, and taken to work the mines down there. The governor, Antonio Ochoa is a co-owner of the Batopilas silver mine. If Madrid escaped from prison, I’d be willing to bet it was La Colorada prison, and he was working that mine.”

“ Can I ask how it is you know so much about it?” Deputy Rockwell asked.

“ I’ve been there. That place is pure hell. There’s a man there I had a run in with a couple years back named Cervello. Talk about a mean tempered sonofabitch. He likes to whip prisoners, and do other things to them that would turn your stomach. The place would make you sick if you went in where they keep the inmates. You have to be tough to survive inside that hell hole.” he said.

“ So these inmates that run it, they get special treatment, good food and such?” he asked.

“ Yeah. The prisoners wear a thin white cotton shirt and pants. Sandals if lucky, and nothing to keep them dry or warm in the winter. Food is stale bread and beans with maggots for the prisoners while the guards eat meat and such. Work detail is the same. The guards will eat good food in front of them while they serve up slop I wouldn’t feed a pig.”

“ So what are we gonna do?” he asked.

“ There’s a man I know who used to be a lawman a while back. Real good man named Murdoch Lancer.  Has a huge spread outside Morro Coyo. He has connections in Sacramento. I’ll write him a letter telling him what’s going on, and see if he can arrange a judge and private hearing. Lets just see how this General Calvo reacts when I tell him I’m going to request an inquisition, and if Madrid is found innocent, he will walk away a free man. But, if he’s found guilty of these charges then, and only then can they take him back to Mexico to be executed.” the marshal responded.

“  It just seems strange that we’re being made to do this. I mean, everyone knows how ruthless Mexico is to it’s prisoners. Why is Madrid so important?” Kyle asked.

“  I’ve been wondering that as well, and the only thing I can come up with is it’s a personal vendetta against Madrid. See certain acts of war are a crime, and I’ll bet this badge, and a years wages this Calvo is the one who should be arrested.” he responded.

“ Young man, I don’t believe I said you could get out of bed yet.” Sam said as he stopped his buggy, and climbed down.

“ Yeah well doc, I can only handle staying in that bed so long.” Johnny said.

“ That may be young man, but broken ribs are not something to take lightly. You could fall, and send one into a lung, or even your heart.” Sam said.

“ Alright doc, ease up. I’m not a little kid.” Johnny snapped back before standing up, and walking toward the barn.

Sam watched him walk away, and knew Johnny’s rudeness was a sign that something was bothering the young man deeply. Heading inside he hoped he would learn what it was.

“ Sam, I didn’t hear you come in.” Murdoch said from his new desk. “ Johnny’s awake.”

“  Oh I know. Are you aware a certain young man is not in bed?” he asked.

“ What? I was just in there checking on him a half hour ago.” Murdoch said as he stood up.

“ Well he was sitting outside when I came up.” Sam said. “ He told me to ease up on my lecturing him. That he’s not a child, and walked to the barn.”

“ I’ll get him back inside Sam.” Murdoch said as he started to the door.

“ Leave him be Murdoch. I was going to allow him to start moving around today.” Sam said.

“ There’s no excuse for him to speak to you like that Sam.” he said.

“ It’s alright. Something is troubling that boy Murdoch. I could see it in his eyes. Has he spoke to you or Scott about what happened in this room?” Sam said, and asked.

“ No, and I haven’t asked because it’s pretty obvious what happened.” he said.

“ So you’re not the least bit interested in what was said to him by that man he killed?” he asked.

“ He wouldn’t tell me if I did ask.” Murdoch responded. “ So why bother?”

“ Because he’s your son, that’s why. Murdoch Lancer, if you don’t open your eyes. That boy is ready to bolt from here, and if he does, there won’t be no getting him back.” Sam said. “ Is that what you want?”

“ He told me he was going to leave when he’s healed up. He says he doesn’t want me and Scott put at risk of being killed by someone because of him.” Murdoch said.

“ And what did you say to that?” Sam asked.

“ I told John that losing him again would kill me. That I don’t want him leaving this ranch and be shot down on some damn trail somewhere. I lost twenty years with him Sam, I don’t know how long I will live, but I want to live the rest of my life with my son, both my sons here with me like they should have been growing up.” Murdoch explained. “ I told him he had at least two months of healing before he could ride a horse, and too do some serious thinking about his decision.”

“ Hello the camp!” a man called out. “ I’m Colonel Braddock, United States Army. Can I come into your camp?”

“ Si…yes colonel, by all means come in!” Calvo responded.

Colonel Braddock rode up to the camp with another soldier, a lieutenant, and dismounted. “ You’re a long way from Mexico General. What’s your business north of the border?”

“ We ride to Modesto, to meet up with a U.S. Marshal to go to a town called Morro Coyo to arrest a murderer, and escapee Colonel.” Calvo responded.

“ I see, and just who would you be?” the colonel asked.

“ I am General Calvo of the Mexican army.”

“ Do you have paper on this man you’re after?” the colonel asked.

“ Just a wire from Governor Ochoa telling us to go and arrest this killer.” he said. “ He escaped from our prison in Hermosillo, and murdered four of my guards there, and killed several more at the Rio Magdalena river.”

“ So you have no legal writ on this man you’re after?” he asked.

“ My word………”

“ Your word I’m afraid is no good general. This isn’t Mexico. You can’t come across the border claiming you are after a man you say escaped from your prison, and supposedly murdered your men.” Colonel Braddock said firmly. “ Who is this man you are after?”

“I am afraid that is none of your business colonel.” Calvo said.

“ That’s where you are wrong. Out here I am the primary law, now I will ask you one last time, who are you after?”

“The general is after the gunfighter Johnny Madrid.” Fidalgo said.

“ And who are you?” the lieutenant asked.

“ I am Major Fidalgo.”

“ Johnny Madrid, I know for a fact is not a murderer as you  are saying general.” the lieutenant said.

“ Are you calling the general a liar?” Fidalgo demanded.

“ I am. I know Madrid personally, and he is not a cold-blooded killer.” he responded.

“ General Calvo, it’s no secret what goes on inside a Mexican prison. The abuse, and starvation amongst other things. Your so called Mexican army, or Rurales as you call them, are nothing but thieves and butchers. You are not welcome in Arizona, so come first light, I suggest you go back to Mexico.” the colonel ordered as he mounted up. “ Lieutenant, let’s go.”

Calvo stood there fuming as he watched the two men ride away.

“ General, ¿qué va a hacer señor?” (General, what are you going to do sir?) Fidalgo asked.

“Continuamos según lo planeado. No voy a permitir que un soldado yanqui me dé órdenes.” (We go on as planned. I’m not going to let some Yankee soldier order me around.) he said. “ Dile a los hmbres que regresen por la mañana. Solo nosotros dos continuaremos.” ( Tell the men to ride back in the morning. Just the two of us will continue on.)

“ ¿Enviarlos de vuelta, señor? ¿Crees que es una decisión acertada?” ( Send them back sir. Do you think that’s a wise decision?)

“Llamaremos menos atención si solo somos nosotros dos. Esté listo para salir en seis horas.”  ( We will attract less attention if it is just the two of us. Be ready to leave in six hours.)

Johnny walked outside to find his father in the yard talking to a man he didn’t recognize.

“There all supposed to be first timers.” Murdoch said.

“They’re all first timers, just like Mister Benedict asked for.” the one man said.

“ Nate will never be able to set up a model prison farm with these men.” Murdoch said as he looked thru the papers.

“ We’ll be lucky if we can hang on to them with just me and two guards.” The man said. “ Well where do you want them? It’s your party.”

“ It’s Nate’s party if you want to call it that. He’ll be waiting for you at Cedar Canyon. As for me, all I did was talk to a few people, and donate the land.” Murdoch responded.

“ Yeah I know. Big shot rancher only says one word, and everybody jumps. Well Lancer, now you’re going to have a prison farm right in your back yard..” the man said.

“ Not exactly. Cedar Canyon is ten miles away.” Murdoch said as he handed the papers back to the guard.

“ Ten Miles! As far as I’m concerned, a thousand miles is too close for scum like that.” the guard said as he mounted his horse. “ Well like I said, it’s your party. I hope you enjoy yourself. Alright Fisher, let’s go.”

Johnny walked over to his father, and watched the two men, and wagon leave.

“ Go on Johnny, say it.” Murdoch ordered.

“ Say what?…Why?” Johnny responded.

“Supposing I was to tell you it all started with a dream that Nate Benedict and I had years ago when we were both deputies. See, we’d seen so many kids who’d made only one mistake turned into hardened criminals after a couple years in prison.” his father said.

“ Well that happens doesn’t it?” Johnny said as he shooed away a fly from his face.

“ Yeah, that happens. Well anyway we had this dream Nate and I about a prison farm, no cells, outdoors, decent food to eat. Where kids could get back to becoming human beings again.”

“ How about that dream now? You still…….you still believe in it?” Johnny asked.

“ Yeah son, I guess I do.” his father said with a smile.

“ Those men in that wagon, it could have been me you know.” Johnny said.

“ But it wasn’t, and for that I’m grateful son.”

“  So where do the prisoners stay up there?” he asked.

“ They’ll stay at that old shack up there I had some men repair  when you and Scott were gone.” Murdoch said.

“ I know you call the tune Murdoch, but don’t you think you should have talked to me and Scott about this? I mean, it is a prison farm right in our back yard like he said. Ten miles is nothing if one of them escapes. Are you willing to possibly risk lives, not to mention stock being stole?” Johnny asked.

“ Johnny, I told you this had been a dream of Nate and I for a long time. Maybe if you hadn’t let your anger take over, and take off like you did, you would have had a say in it.” Murdoch responded sharply before heading to the house.

Johnny stood there watching his father walk away. His words still echoing in his mind.

Murdoch walked into the house angry, but he wasn’t angry at his son. He was angry at himself for what he said to Johnny before walking away. The prison guard making the remarks he did about the prison farm angered him. He wanted the right inmates to have a chance at a normal life. His son saying it could have been him hit him in the gut hard. Walking over to the new, bigger sideboard, he poured a shot, and downed it.

“ Murdoch, I didn’t mean to upset you out there.” Johnny said softly as he walked into the house.

“ You didn’t son. It’s me who should be apologizing to you for what I said to you before walking away. I let that guards comments upset me, and I took it out on you. I’m sorry.” Murdoch responded.

Johnny looked at the new desk. Since the incident, he hadn’t been in the room. Always going in and out the front door. A shiver ran down his spine as he walked over to where his father found him laying. A new rug lay on the floor to cover up the blood stain.

“ You alright?” Murdoch asked softly.

“ New rug, must not have been able to clean up the blood.” Johnny said. “ New sideboard, and desk. I sure made a mess of the room. I’m sorry Murdoch.”

“ Don’t worry about it son. Replacing a few pieces of furniture is a small price to pay. I just thank god you are still alive.” he said.

“ Sometimes you ever wonder if it could be that simple?” Johnny asked.

“  If what could be that simple son?”

“ Something breaks, or gets damaged, just order a new one. You ever wish you could do that with me?” he said, and asked.

Murdoch couldn’t believe his son just asked him that. “ Certainly not young man. I can’t believe you would ever think that John. You are my son, and even though I didn’t get to be with you growing up, I’m damn proud of the man you have become.”

Johnny looked at his father, a lump making it hard to swallow. Clearing his throat, he walked over to his father. “ A part of me will always hate her for stealing me away from you.”

“ Don’t hate her son. Regardless of what she did, she was still your mother.” he said.

“ How come you never found someone else after she left?” he asked.

“ I guess I never really thought about it son. With the ranch, and looking for you, I never  really had time to find someone else. Besides, I was still married to your mother.” his father said.

“ She did. I was five, and she married this man. It didn’t last but maybe six months I think. He beat me all the time. Didn’t like having a mestizo stepson. Then he started beating her because she wouldn’t get pregnant with his child. I remember the night he left, he beat mamma up pretty good. I wasn’t there when he did it. I came home and found her sitting at the table, her face swollen, and bloody. Turns out she was pregnant by him. She gave birth six months later to a little boy. I remember seeing him all covered in blood and such, but he wasn’t moving, crying, or doing anything. He just laid there on the bed between her legs. I didn’t know what to do, and mamma, she got up, picked him up, and wrapped him in a blanket. She told me to stay inside. A short time later she came back without the baby. When I asked her where my baby brother was, she said he is with the angels now, and to never speak about him again. She changed after that. Became more angry at me, beating me all the time, saying how much she had wished I was dead, or she had never went to bed with you. It seemed like the only time she didn’t was when she was drunk.” Johnny said.

Murdoch stood there, not knowing what to say, how to respond to what his son just told him. Hearing him tell how his mother abused him, and what she said to him, really broke his heart.

“ Look forget it. I said too much…..I’m going to go rest before supper.” Johnny said before heading upstairs.

“  You think that rancher friend of yours got the letter you sent?” Rockwell asked as they walked to the hotel in Modesto.

“ He should have by now. I haven’t talked to him in a long time.” the marshal said.

“ I’m still not keen on doing this.” he said.

“ Neither am I.” Dallas said. “ I just hope we don’t have any trouble from that General Calvo.”

“ When you expect he will be here?” Deputy Rockwell asked as they walked into the hotel.

“ He said by the end of the month, so that gives us a week to rest up.” Dallas said.

“ Marshal, I’ve been expecting you. I have two rooms ready for you and your deputy.” the hotel clerk said. “ I imagine you will both be wanting a hot bath, so I will have them ready for you in about thirty minutes.

“ Sounds good. Thank you.” Dallas said. “ So what’s been going on in Modesto since I was here last?”

‘ Not too much really. Towns grown some since you were here last as you could see. I have you in room twenty four, and your deputy is across the hall in twenty five. I put you both on the end so you could get some sleep.” the clerk said.

“ Much obliged. I’ll see ya.” the marshal said before heading upstairs.

Scott walked into the grand room. “ I picked up the mail while I was in town. Do you know somebody in Prescott?”

“ No, why?”

“ There’s a letter for you from there.” Scott said as he handed the letter to him.

Murdoch took the letter. “ Ride out and see if that gate hinge got fixed to the alfalfa would you son?”

“ Sure. Where’s Johnny?” Scott asked.

“  I believe up in his room resting.” Murdoch said as he went to his desk, and sat down.

“ I’ll see you tonight.” Scott said before leaving.

Murdoch opened the letter, and began reading it.

Murdoch Lancer
It’s been a few years since we talked. I’m coming to Morro Coyo on business, and was hoping you could help me out. It seems me and my deputy have to come there the end of the month to arrest a good friend of mine named Johnny Madrid, for murder, and escort him with some Mexican general named Calvo, who is riding up from Hermosillo, back to Mexico to be executed. I know my friend didn’t do this. What I want, if you can arrange it is for an inquisition with a judge. Murdoch, I know how you feel about gunfighters, but I’m telling you, Madrid is a good person. I rode with him, and will stake my career he is no cold-blooded murderer. I look forward to seeing you the end of the month.
Dallas Stoudenmire
United States Marshal.

“ Oh my god.” Murdoch said. “ When is it ever going to end for that boy?” he asked himself aloud. He first met Dallas Stoudenmire when he himself was a deputy ten years ago. Dallas was a deputy himself in San Jose, and they both tracked a man to El Paso., and brought him back to stand trial for murder. After that Murdoch decided to stop wearing a badge, and devote his time to Lancer, and searching for his son. Dallas never really kept in touch after his last letter saying he was going to Albuquerque.

Opening the top drawer of his desk, he pulled out a small ledger with a list of names, and opened it. Scanning thru the list, he found the one he was looking for, and set to writing a letter. Once finished, he put it in an envelope, sealed it, and headed outside.

“ Frank, can I see you a minute? ”

“ Sure thing Mister Lancer.” Frank said as he walked over to him.

“ I need you to take this letter to Sacramento to the court house, find a man named Addison Niles, and give it to him. Don’t give it to anyone else.” Murdoch ordered.

“ Do you want me to wait for an answer sir?” Frank asked.

“ Yes. Tell him it is of utmost importance.” he said.

“ Yes sir. I’ll hurry back with his response.” Frank said as he mounted up.

“ Not very hungry tonight brother?” Scott asked.

Johnny glanced at his father. Ever since telling him what he did, he’d become quiet. Either staying in his room, or out in the barn brushing Barranca.

“ The letter you got from Prescott, was it an old friend?” Scott asked.

“ Yes. Someone I haven’t heard from in a long time. We used to be deputies together out of San Jose. He went to Albuquerque shortly after we tracked a man to El Paso, and brought back to stand trial for murder.” Murdoch responded. “ It would seem he will be coming here to Morro Coyo the end of the month on business, and would like to stop by to visit.”

“ You haven’t been a deputy for what……ten years sir?” Scott asked.

“ Something like that yes.” he said as he looked at his youngest, and wondered how he would react when he said his name. “ The man coming here seems to know you son.”

“ I know a lot of people. He have a name?” Johnny said.

“ Dallas Stoudenmire. He’s a United States Marshal now.” his father responded.

“ Dallas, I know Dallas. I helped him out once. He was pinned down by a small renegade band of Indians. We rode together after that for almost a year when he was offered a job as marshal.” Johnny said.

“ I need to talk to you young man, and I want you to listen to me closely on what I am saying.” Murdoch said firmly, yet calmly.

“ He’s coming here to arrest me isn’t he?” Johnny asked.

Murdoch was a little shocked at his sons words. “ Yes he is.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and walked over to his desk to get the letter. “ This is the letter he sent me.”

Johnny took the letter, and read it. “ General Calvo.!”

“ Who is General Calvo?” Scott asked.

“ He’s a ruthless sadistic Mexican army general. The one responsible for me being put in La Colorada prison. He’s also the right hand man to Governor Ochoa.” Johnny explained. “ Both of them hate any man who fought in the Revolution of the North war. Ochoa branded Juarez a traitor of his country, when he wasn’t. All he wanted was to make Mexico a better place for everyone living there.”

“ I don’t understand what the problem is then?” Scott said.

“ You see Boston, it’s like you fighting in your war to end slavery.” Johnny said. “ Only in Mexico it would mean the rich who have been running that country wouldn’t be able to pilfer from the peasants so easy. Like paying taxes, Murdoch pays taxes on Lancer every year based on the size, and what’s on it. In Mexico, a peasant is forced to pay taxes every month on things he doesn’t even have. Calvo coming here means only one thing, he got an ass chewing for me escaping, and wants to make an example of me to the people of Mexico.”

“ I had Frank take a letter to a friend of mine in Sacramento. A man named Addison Niles. He’s the best attorney in the state. I requested he come here, and we hold an inquisition on this matter. If this general thinks he can come here, and take my son back to Mexico, he has another thing coming.”

“ You said an inquisition, what’s that?” Johnny asked. “Is that anything like a trial?”

“ Yes, only it’s held in private with attorneys if needed before a judge. You would have to answer questions about why he wants to take you back, and tell the judge what happened in Mexico. He would also have to answer questions. There’s no jury, and the judge’s ruling is final after he hears all the testimony.”

“ So I would have to tell this judge everything that happened to me?” Johnny asked as he stood up.

“ Son, what is said to the judge will go no further. Nobody will know what happened. You won’t be arrested, and paraded into town in cuffs. The judge will set a date, and time for the inquisition, and we just ride in to town like we do any other time.” Murdoch explained.

“ Why not have it here at Lancer?” Scott suggested.

“ Judge Wilkins might do that. He’s a good friend of mine, and he’s very fare.” Murdoch responded.

“ Your friend says you don’t much care for gunfighters.” Johnny said.

“ That was before I had a gunfighter teach me how wrong I was.” Murdoch said with sincerity.


Chapter 15

Frank rode into the Lancer yard mid-morning the next day, and dismounted.

“ I got a response back for you mister Lancer.” Frank said as he dismounted. “ Sorry it took me so long. I had to rest my horse a couple hours.”

“ That’s alright Frank. Go on and take the rest of the day off.” Murdoch said as he opened the letter. “ Damn, he can’t come, but is sending someone who can help. He recommends we hold an inquisition and issue subpoenas to everyone involved, and hold it in private.”

“Who’s the man he’s sending?” he asked.

“ William T. McNealy. He says he’s extremely good, and to not let his age deter us.” Murdoch said.

“ How old is this guy?” Scott asked.

“ Twenty one. He says he’s the youngest District Attorney ever elected.” Murdoch said as Johnny rode up on Barranca. “ What are you doing on that horse young man?”

Johnny slid off Barranca. “ Relax old man. I just walked him was all to see how it felt.”

“ Did Sam say you could get on a horse yet?” Scott asked.

“ I don’t need Sam, or either of you telling me when I can ride again. Been taking care of myself  all my life.” Johnny snapped back before turning, and walking Barranca to the barn.

“ I don’t know what’s come over that boy lately. His rudeness had better stop.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ With all due respect sir, my brother is entitled to be a little upset.” Scott said firmly.

General Calvo rode into Modesto. And stopped at the hotel. “ Take care of our horses while I get us rooms to clean up, and rest up.”

“ What if that marshal is not here yet?” Major Fidalgo asked.

“ We will wait a day, no more.” the general said.

“ You don’t have to wait.” Dallas said from the entrance to the hotel. “ Been waiting on you four days now.”

“ It was a long ride marshal.” Calvo said.

“ We’ll leave day after tomorrow, so make sure you’re ready at first light.” Dallas said before walking past the general.

“ It would seem the Americans lack manners.” Fidalgo said.

Marshal Stoudenmire walked his horse out of the livery the next morning as the first rays of light showed in the eastern sky.

“ We got about twenty miles general.” he said as he mounted up. “ I’ll take you too Morro Coyo, but I’m making a stop before we get there.”

“ It has been a long journey marshal. A journey I wish to be over. We are anxious to return to Mexico with that swine Madrid, and watch him be shot to death.” General Calvo said as he mounted up.

“ You’re not taking Madrid back to be executed. I’m the law here, and I’ve arranged an inquisition into this matter.” Dallas said.

“ Madrid has already been tried, and found guilty in Mexico.” Fidalgo said.

“ I’m fully aware of Mexico’s so called trials, but you’re in California now, and I know Madrid. He’s not the type to kill someone in cold blood. I also know he fought in the Revolution of the North war, and Mexico has been rounding up any man who supported Juarez during that war. Now you got two choices general. You can either attend the inquisition and testify when called. Oh by the way, this here is a subpoena for you to do just that, or, you can take your ass back to Mexico right now.”

“ How dare you speak to the general like that.” Fidalgo said.

“ Mister, I’ll speak to him any damn way I want. I’m telling you how it’s going to be. You so much as try anything, and you will find yourselves in jail.”

“ Mister Lancer?” a young man asked as he got down from the buggy.

“ Yes, I’m Murdoch Lancer. You must be attorney William T. McNealy?”

“ Yes sir.” he said. “ This is some place you have sir.”

“ Thank you. Won’t you come inside? We’ve been expecting you.” Murdoch said. “ Walt see to the young man’s luggage, and take care of his horse.”

“ I must say, this is nothing like I pictured a ranch looking like. Your home is exquisite.” McNealy said.

“ Oh, how did you think a ranch looked?” Murdoch asked.

“ A two room shack with a rocking chair on the porch. This………wow, this is a gorgeous home sir.” he responded as he walked inside, and marveled at all the beauty.

“ Well thank you. It’s taken me almost thirty years to build Lancer up to what it is today.”

“ If you don’t mind my asking, just how big is your ranch?” he asked.

“ One hundred thousand acres, twenty thousand head of cattle. Lancer is the biggest spread in the San Joaquin valley.” Murdoch responded. “ Drink?”

“ Thank you no. You must have a lot of men working for you?”

“ I have a hundred and fifty vaqueros, and my two sons, who are part owners.” Murdoch said. “ Would you like to freshen up?”

“ No, I think it’s best if we start with what is happening? Mister Niles said you have a Mexican general coming to arrest a man to take back to Mexico to be executed?” he asked.

“ Yes. The man he is coming to arrest is my son Johnny.” Murdoch responded.

“ Maybe you better start at the beginning sir.? May I use your desk? I like to make notes of testimonies.”

Murdoch proceeded to tell McNealy everything about Johnny, and what he was told happened in Mexico.

“ Wait. You weren’t present in Mexico?” he asked.

“ No. My two sons, Sheriff Crawford, and some friends of Johnny’s were there.” Murdoch said.

“ I’m afraid anything you tell me happened in Mexico will be hearsay sir. It will be inadmissible to the judge.” McNealy said. “ You said you hired a Pinkerton to search for your son. Do you have those reports he sent you?”

Murdoch walked over, opened the bottom drawer of his desk, and pulled out the file. “ Every report I received over twenty years is there.”

“ Did Judge Wilkins say when he would be arriving?” he asked.

“ Day after tomorrow. He’s in San Francisco on business.” Murdoch said. “ There’s something you need to know. Two months ago my son was attacked in this very house by a man who came here from Mexico to kill him. A Colonel Comofort with the Mexican army. He broke in the house, and damn near killed Johnny. He’s still not healed up from one of the wounds.”

“ A Mexican Colonel rode all the way here. Forgive me for asking, but just who is your son, Mister Lancer?”

“ Johnny was born in this house, As I told you, his mother took him away from me when he was two. Maria died when he was ten. My sons life has been a harsh one at times. He’s experienced brutality from others because he is a half-breed, with blue eyes. To stop the abuse, he picked up a gun, and started living by it. The abuse stopped, and as he got better with the gun, he hired out in range wars, or to guard Wells Fargo. He’s worked as a deputy in several towns. He was working to catch robbers in Bannack when I happened to find him.” Murdoch explained.

“ You still haven’t told me his name.” he said.

“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid.” Johnny said from behind them.

“ Son, this is William McNealy, the district attorney who will be handling the inquisition with Judge Wilkins.” his father said.

“ You are the infamous gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” he asked. “ Mister Niles said nothing about that when he asked me to come and hear the case.”

“ Is that a problem?” Murdoch asked.

“ It could be. Do these files tell anything about you as Madrid?” he asked.

“ Some.” Murdoch said.

“ What about the files Scott has?” Johnny asked.

“ Scott?”

“ My oldest son. His grandfather it would seem knew where Johnny was just about from the time he was taken until he came home almost two years ago.”

“ I would like to see those files if I could?” McNealy requested.

“ I don’t know where Scott has them. He won’t be back until this evening.” Murdoch said.

“ Well, if you would show me to my room, I think I will freshen up, and go over what I do have so far.. Oh, I will need a list of all parties who were with you in Mexico, anyone involved in this at all. Also any character witnesses on your behalf would be great too Mister……I’m sorry, do you go by Lancer, or Madrid now?”

“ Lancer. I only go by Madrid when some fool comes along and calls me out.” Johnny responded.

“ Calls you out? I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“ To dance.” Johnny said.

“ What my son is trying to say in his own language is men sometimes will come along and call him out to a gunfight. He tries to talk them out of it, but most won’t listen, and he ends up killing them.” Murdoch explained.

“ Okay listen. I may be young, and unfamiliar with the language of the country, but if you want me to help you, then you have to start being honest with me. I don’t appreciate your mocking me Mister Lancer. I was sent here because I’m good, and I can help you.” McNealy said firmly. “ Now Judge Wilkins will be here the day after tomorrow, so what we are going to do tomorrow is go over everything, and I mean everything that pertains to, or leads up to why this general is coming here. Do I make myself clear?”

“ You got some spunk in you that’s for sure.” Johnny said as he walked over to him. “ I’m only going to tell you this once.”

“ Johnny!” Murdoch cut in.

“ No, it’s alright Mister Lancer.” McNealy said as he glared into Johnny’s ice cold blue eyes.

“ I don’t lie, and never have. I don’t have a fancy education, or understand fancy words. I brought myself up from the time I was five, and my mother decided she didn’t want me around. I’ve been beaten, and abused in ways that would make you sick. Every man who has faced me, I gave more than a fair chance to walk away. What was done to me the five months I was in La Colorada prison, no man should ever have done to them. You familiarize yourself with a Mexican prison, and how things are done down there just might help you help me. Because I guarantee that general isn’t going to tell you the truth. That sonofabitch……..

“ Johnny!” Murdoch yelled. “ You know I don’t permit that kind of talk in this house young man.”

“ Let him speak how he wants Mister Lancer. If being angry helps him, then let him.” McNealy ordered.

Johnny turned and walked outside to the veranda. His heart racing, and his breathing becoming faster. What bothered him the most was his hands shaking like they were. Clenching his fist as he took several deep breaths trying to calm down.

“ Excuse me.” Murdoch said before walking outside. He could see his sons shoulders trembling, and felt him shaking when he placed a hand on his back. “ Are you alright son?”

“ I can’t do this Murdoch. It……….he doesn’t know what they did to me………..what he did to me in that hell hole. How can I tell complete strangers what was done to me?” Johnny pleaded as his father took him into a hug. “ I never wanted anyone to know how shamed I was, and now it seems the whole San Joaquin valley will.”

McNealy stood listening to the conversation outside. He could tell by his clients voice, the man had been hurt deeply while in prison.

“ I think we can let the matter rest until tomorrow. That way you have time to think about how you wish to tell me what happened in Mexico Johnny. Mister Lancer, if you would be so kind as to show me my room so I may freshen up?” he said.

Murdoch gave Johnny’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “ Why don’t you go see that horse of yours. He seems to calm you down.”  he said before walking back inside.

Dallas thought long, and hard about this general as they rode along. The man came across as arrogant, and he knew once the questioning started, the man would probably lie to the judge.

“ You’ve been awful quiet since we left Modesto. Something on your mind?” Kyle asked.

“ Him. I don’t trust him, and have a feeling that once they question him, he’s going to tell nothing but lies.” he said. “ How’d you get that scar on your face general?”

“ How I got this scar is of no concern of yours marshal. How much longer do we ride?” the Colonel asked.

“ I guess you didn’t see the sign a ways back. We’ve been on Lancer land for some time now.” Dallas said as he stopped his horse on the hill, and looked down at the valley below. “ You know, Murdoch told me in a letter once that from up here, his ranch goes all the way to those mountains in the distant, as far as the eyes can see.”

“ How many acres is that?’ Kyle asked.

“ I think he said one hundred thousand acres. That’s the main house down there.” he said.

Murdoch came out of the house early afternoon a smile on his face. All morning there had been tension in the house as the district attorney questioned Johnny about what happened. Last night after supper, Scott had given the man the files he had on his brother to read. Seeing the two Mexican officers riding with Dallas, he found his anger starting. This man dare come to his ranch with the intentions of executing his youngest son.

“ Dallas Stoudenmire, it’s about time you come to visit.” Murdoch said as the men rode up.

“ That’s marshal to you, you old goat.” Dallas said as he stopped his horse, and dismounted so the two could shake hands. “ I wish it was under different circumstances Murdoch.” he said.

“ So do I.” Murdoch said.

“ This is my damn good deputy Kyle Rockwell.” Dallas said. “ And this is General Calvo, and Major Fidalgo.”

“ Dallas, you and your deputy are welcome in my home, but those two men are not. They can go to Morro Coyo and stay in the hotel until the judge is ready to start the inquisition.” Murdoch said firmly. “ Walt, take these two men to Morro Coyo to the hotel.”

“ Yes sir.” Walt said.

“ We do not need an escort to town.” General Calvo said as Johnny, Scott, and the attorney walked out of the house.

“ You sonofabitch!” Johnny said as he started toward Calvo, only to be stopped by Scott.

“ He’s not worth it brother.” Scott said.

“ I see you allow this swine to stay in your magnificent estancia. I look forward to taking you back to Mexico mestizo.” Calvo said.

“ Johnny, as your attorney, I strongly suggest you turn around, and go back inside. Don’t say another word to this man.” McNealy suggested.

“ I suggest you leave now general.” Scott said firmly.

Johnny ignored his attorney, and walked over to Calvo. “ I know what you’ve been doing to anyone who fought in the war. I should have killed you that day in Cordova.”

“ Johnny, don’t say another word!” McNealy ordered.

“ I look forward to this inquisition, and the judge hearing what a killer you are Madrid.” Calvo said before turning his horse, and riding away.

“ Walt, take a couple men with you, and follow them to town.” Murdoch ordered.

“ Last time it was you saving my sorry butt. Looks like this time it will be me saving you! How the hell are ya kid, and how did you end up at Lancer of all places?” Dallas said, and asked.

“ Lancer is my birth name. Murdoch is my old man.” Johnny said as they shook hands.

“ Well if that don’t beat all. You said you lost a son when he was a babe. Who’d a thought it would be you. How did you ever end up finding him Murdoch?” Dallas said as they walked into the house.

“ It’s a long story I hope to tell you after this mess is cleared up.” Murdoch said.

“ Gentlemen, I don’t mean to break up the reunion, but we are going to have a inquisition in a few days.” McNealy said.

“ Dallas, this is my older son Scott.” Murdoch said.

“ Marshal, our father has told us about you.” Scott said as he shook the mans hand.

“ You’re the one who grew up in Boston correct?” he asked.

“ Yes sir, with my grandfather.”

“ You still drink that rock-gut tequila Johnny?”  Dallas asked.

“ I will until something better comes along.” Johnny said.

“ Figures, well pour me a shot of that fine scotch I know Murdoch drinks.” Dallas said.

“ How about you, what’s your pleasure?” Johnny asked.

“ Whiskey is fine with me. Never much cared for scotch, or tequila.” Kyle said.

“  Thanks.” Dallas said as he took his drink. “ You done alright for yourself Murdoch. Got yourself this big fine ranch, and most importantly, you got both of your sons home.”

“ I would have to agree with you on that Dallas.” Murdoch said.

“ So Johnny, how about me and you take a walk, and have a little talk?” Dallas suggested before downing his shot.

“ Marshal, I would appreciate you not discussing things about the inquisition with Johnny without me present. I am his attorney.” McNealy said.

“ Well mister attorney, I’m going out that there door, and I’m going to go for a walk with my friend. Now what we talk about will be  between us only you see. And since I rode all the way here from Albuquerque to arrest my friend, this badge gives me that right.” Dallas said firmly.

“ Is your son always so disobedient Mister Lancer?” McNealy asked.

“ Sometimes he bucks against the rules. The thing you have to remember is, Johnny never had anyone to teach him while growing up. What he knows, he learned the hard way.” Murdoch said.

“ My brother is alive because of those lessons he learned.” Scott said.

“ Do those lessons include living by a gun, and taking another mans life?” he asked.

Murdoch spun around to face the young man. “ Lets get something clear right now. My son is not a cold-blooded killer. He is not wanted by the law anywhere for any crimes. That general is here to try and take my son from me back to Mexico, and execute him.. Am I angry he had to make a living by using his gun, yes! I wish he didn’t have to wear that damn thing, but he does, and would be killed if he didn’t. I lost twenty years with that boy, twenty years I can never get back. Twenty years of him being abused while in an orphanage by the priest. Twenty years of him being shot, stabbed, and whipped. You haven’t seen the scars on his body, most of which are on his back given to him by men like that general.”

“ Mister Lancer, I have read the reports, all of them. I was up most of the night reading them. It made me sick to my stomach to think another humane being could inflict such terrible pain on another fellow man. My brother was in Libby prison for two years being abused. By the time the war was over, and they got him out, it was too late. He died three days later from infection in his back from being whipped. I seen his back, I smelled the rotting flesh, and puss oozing from the wounds.” McNealy said. “My brother, and all the others who were in Libby, and Andersonville are the reason I became a district attorney. It’s time the prison system changes, and the brutality that goes on behind those dam rock walls stops!”

“ I spent the last year of the war in Libby.” Scott said. “ So I know all too well the horrible conditions inside Libby.”

“Alright kid, it’s just me and you. Spill it.” Dallas said.

“ He said he’s going to subpoena anyone who knows me. He could ask you what we talk about.” Johnny said.

“ It’s inadmissible in any court Johnny. A judge won’t allow it to be said.”  he said. “ I’ve been a lawman just over ten years. What happened in Mexico?”

Johnny put his right foot on the bottom rail of the gate to the lower paddock, and watched the horses grazing. Inside he wished it was all a nightmare that he would wake up from, but it wasn’t.

“ I never should have went to Bannack.” he said softly. “ If I hadn’t, I never would have found Murdoch, and let him talk me into coming back here with him.”

“ What in the world were you doing way up in Bannack, Montana?” Dallas asked.

“ I talked Val into riding up there to do a job for the bank there. I didn’t know Nodean showed up there, and found out where I went. Turns out Scott’s grandfather offered fifty thousand dollars for me dead. He’d been keeping track of me since my mother took me from Lancer. He came here, and gunned down my grandfather in cold blood. He told Murdoch I could find him where it all started. I left to go after him after we buried Don Luis.” Johnny explained.

“ Nodean is one bitter man. Didn’t you put a bullet in him a while back?” he asked.

“ Yeah, in his leg. He had a painful limp ever since.” Johnny responded. “ I stopped in Douglas at Belle’s place for some rest. It had been raining for a week, and I was cold, and tired. Nodean had been there not long before. Anyways, one of the girls, Sara knew who I was, and about the reward offered by the Mexican army, and turned me in. I surrendered to them without a fight because I didn’t want the girls to get hurt. When I got to La Colorada prison, I knew my hell was just starting. It was being run by a Colonel Comofort, who hated me bad.”

“ I’ve been to Belle’s place a couple times. Right nice lady she is.” the marshal said.

“ She was. It seems Nodean showed back up there after I escaped prison. He stabbed Cassie, and beat Belle to death. Only reason I know is I ran into Sandy, and she told me.” Johnny said.

“ Damn, that man….I hope you found him.” Dallas said with anger.

“ I did, or rather he found me a half days ride from Lancer. I sent him to hell, and made sure he knew it was for murdering my grandfather, Cassie, and Belle.” he said.

“ What happened at the prison?”

Scott, and Val trailed me there. Val sent a wire to Laredo asking five good friends I rode with to come and help bust me out. About two weeks before they did, a guard at the prison, Major Cervello whipped me severely when we got back to the prison. Every day me, and two brothers, Davy and Frank Colson were taken out to work the mine busting rocks. Cervello………after he whipped me, he poured a bucket of brine water on my back. I woke up two weeks later in the infirmary, and learned Cervello was busted back to being a prisoner. There was this bridge we had to cross going to or from the mine, that’s where Scott, Val, and the guys ambushed the guards, killing all four of them. They got the shackles off me….I walked over to a dead guard, picked up his pistol, and…………..I shot him Dallas. The man was unarmed, and in shackles, and I stood there pulling the trigger until the gun was empty.”

“ Sweet Jesus kid.” he said. Why?”

“Because of what he did to Davy Colson, and to me that day he whipped me.” Johnny said as he turned around, and leaned back against the gate. “ He had a guard take me into the trees, and shackle me to one. He then walked away. Cervello came out of the trees……and…..I swore I would make him pay for what he did to me, and I did.”

“Johnny, I can understand your anger for what happened to you, but kid, you murdered and unarmed man. Did you take the shackles off him?” he said and asked.

“ No, we left. Colonel Comofort caught up to us at the Rio Magdalena river. His men killed the Colson brothers, Joe, Tom, and Bob. We had the advantage at the river though, and was able to get away. Seth, and Walt went back to Texas, and I came home. I didn’t know Comofort came after me until he showed up at Lancer when I was alone. He shot me twice before I was able to kill him. If Murdoch hadn’t come back when he did, and found me, I would have bled to death. One of the bullets hit me under my right arm, and broke a rib that is still healing up. The other bullet damn near finished me off, hitting me in my lower left abdomen.” he responded.

“ Listen, if it needs to be said on the why you did it. You can request to talk to the judge in private so nobody else will know what he did that day. But I have to be honest with you kid. I hope that fancy young district attorney is good, because I don’t see the judge dismissing the charges against you.” Dallas explained.

“ All I ever want now is to live a life as Murdoch’s son, and Scott’s brother. He accepted my past, who I became, and made me a third owner of this ranch. I don’t want to live by my gun any longer. I wanted out of the game.” Johnny said as he looked toward the house, and seen his father, and Scott, standing outside with the attorney, and Kyle.” It will kill him to lose me again.”

“ Where’s Val now?” he asked.

“ He’s the sheriff of Green River.” he said.

“ Who else you have that can be a character witness for you?” the marshal asked.

“ A lot of people, but none of them are here to testify.” Johnny said.

“ They’ve been down there a long time.” McNealy said.

“ Johnny is telling him what happened in Mexico.” Scott said. “ My brother doesn’t like o talk about his past Mister McNealy. He doesn’t like others to know. This whole thing is very hard on him.”

“ I can understand that, but as his attorney, I have to know everything that happened if I’m going to get the charges dropped. Do you understand that?”

“ We understand more than you think, but you need to understand some people have a hard time talking about something that happened to them in their past.” Scott said.

“Mister McNealy, let me ask you something. You said you became a district attorney to try and make a difference in the prison system. Do you tell strangers what happened to your brother?” Murdoch asked.

“ Certainly not.” he said. “ I don’t divulge in the particulars of my brothers death.”

“ It’s the same with Johnny.” Murdoch said. “ I lost twenty years with that boy down there. Twenty years of not knowing anything about him, except what’s in those Pinkerton reports. You can’t imagine how that makes me feel since you yourself are not a father.”

“ I see what you are saying Mister Lancer. So how do I get him to talk to me?” McNealy asked.

“ You want my brother to talk to you, you have to earn his trust, and respect.”

“ That’s not something that I feel can happen in just two days……….but I shall do my utmost best and try. Now about character witnesses for Johnny. Are there any around that would be willing to come to the inquisition, and testify on his behalf?”

“ The only ones are the hands, us, and Val Crawford.” Murdoch said.

“ Val Crawford, he’s one of the men who helped Johnny escape isn’t he?”

“ Yes. Johnny, and Val rode together for over five years before I found him in Bannack, Montana. They took jobs together.” Murdoch said. “ Val is very protective of my son.”

“ An inquisition. Who does that marshal think he is? Madrid has already been found guilty in Mexico.” General Calvo said.

“ That gringo rancher seems to be the one calling the shots.” Fidalgo said.

“ The one Madrid says is his father.” he said.

“ Yes. I will not stand for that swine getting away from me again.” Calvo said.

“ He has a lawyer, and we do not. Madrid also has many friends.” Fidalgo said.

“ It does not matter. One way or another Madrid will die. Whether it’s by execution in Mexico, or I gun him down here.”

“ Maybe we could have something to barter with. To bring Madrid alone to us so you can kill him.” Fidalgo suggested.

“ What are you suggesting my friend?” the general asked.

“ This Judge is not here yet. Perhaps we could take him to bring Madrid out?” he responded.

“ I like how you think, but it would do us no good. We would become wanted men, and it is a long ride back to Mexico.”

Judge Wilkins met Murdoch Lancer when he first came to the valley. Both men arriving not but a few months apart. Having met Murdoch Lancer at a shindig held for the Governor in Sacramento, Judge Wilkins found he liked the man, and what he had to say. Soon a  friendship developed, and over the years grew stronger. Offering legal advice when he could about his youngest. Even being the one to recommend putting a Pinkerton agent on retainer until he was found. Now thanks to Murdoch Lancer, and others like him, he was elected Judge of the third district, but a new law having just passed kept him so busy, he rarely had enough time to sleep. Two weeks vacation is what he was on. Which happened to coincide with a case having come up of utmost urgency at of all places, but the home of his good friend, Murdoch Lancer. All he knew was nothing really except a United States Marshal, a Mexican General, and who else he did not know. What he couldn’t figure out is, why a Mexican General is this far north of the border, and why?

Stopping his buggy outside the Lancer house, he climbed down as Murdoch walked up.

“ Judge Wilkins. It’s good to see you.” Murdoch said.

“ Murdoch, it’s been too long. How have you been?” the judge asked as he stretched his back.

“ Good. You’re just in time for dinner.” he said.

“ You still have that Mexican lady cooking for you?” he asked.

“Maria, yes.” he responded.

“ Good. I have been thinking about her tamales all the way here.” he said

“ Come on inside and I’ll introduce you to everyone.” Murdoch said. “ Walt, take Judge Wilkins luggage up to his room. Come on in judge.”

Johnny stood up, and started getting real nervous as he watched a man as big as his father walk into the house.

“Juez, el Patrón dijo que vendría.”  ( Judge, the patron said you would be coming.) Maria said as she set a platter of meat down. “ Ha pasado mucho tiempo desde que tienes buena comida.”( It has been a long time since you have good food. )

“ Hola María, demasiado tiempo. He estado pensado en tus tamales calientes desde San Francisco,”  ( Hello Maria, too long. I have been thinking about your hot tamales all the way from San Francisco.)

“ Estás muy flaco. Te los haré antes de que te vayas.”  ( You are too skinny. I will make them for you before you leave.) she said before heading back into the kitchen.

“ Murdoch, if that woman ever retires as your cook, you my friend will be in a world of hurt.” the judge said.

“ I believe you’re right. Let me make the introductions. Judge Wilkins, this is District Attorney McNealy.” Murdoch said.

“ Judge, it’s good to see you again sir.” McNealy said as they shook hands.

“ This is Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire, and his deputy Kyle Rockwell.”

“ Marshal, deputy.” the judge said.

“  This is my oldest son Scott.”

“ Catherine’s boy. I can see it in his eyes. It’s good to finally get to meet you young man.”

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

“ And this is……..”

“ Johnny Madrid. What’s it been, five years?” the judge said, and asked.

“ You know each other?” Murdoch asked.

“ We do. Murdoch, do you remember me telling you about that time I was on the stage, and it was stopped by robbers?” he asked.

“ I do, but………”

“ This is the young man I owe my very life too. Are you working for Murdoch?” the judge said, and asked.

“ Judge, Johnny is my youngest son, Maria’s boy.”

“ Well I will be damned. I’m real happy for you Murdoch, having both boys home now.” the judge said.

“ Let’s eat. We can discuss why you are here after you have time to freshen up.” Murdoch said.

“ Why didn’t you say you knew Judge Wilkins son?” Murdoch asked later that afternoon.

“ The name never meant anything to me. I only met him that one time.” Johnny responded.

“ That could be a good thing. He knows what kind of man you are.” McNealy said.

“ Or it could hurt me. He knows I’m a gunfighter.” Johnny said.

“ Were a gunfighter son.” Murdoch added.

“ Murdoch, I’ve told you before. As long as I’m alive, and men want my reputation, Johnny Madrid will always be a part of me.”

“ A part of you yes, but not all of you son.”

“ Let me ask you this Johnny, which are you more?” McNealy asked.

“ Lancer.” Johnny said without hesitation. “ At least that’s who I want to be.”

“ Then you present yourself as Johnny Lancer at the inquisition.” Scott said as the judge came downstairs.

“ I do hope you still have some of those big trout you promised me I would catch Murdoch?” the judge asked as he walked into the great room.

“ I think we can find you some to catch.” Murdoch said. “ Care for a drink?”

“ Brandy if you have some.” he responded.

“ Judge Wilkins, you were asked to come here at my request for an inquisition.” Marshal Stoudenmire said.

“  Yes, Murdoch said something to that affect in his letter to me. Where is the general you were supposed to escort here?” the judge asked.

“ In Morro Coyo. I wasn’t going to have that man staying in this house. Not after what he had done to my son, and is now trying to take him away from me again.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ Your son! So this inquisition is for you Johnny?” he asked.

“ Yes sir.” Johnny said softly.

“ Well then, I suggest you tell me why you want an inquisition so I can decide if one is to be needed.” Judge Wilkins said. “But I should tell you, a new law was passed earlier this year. This new law is called Parliament, and it passed the Judicature Act which merged common law and equity. Although one of the Divisions of the High Court is still called Chancery, all courts could now administer both equity and common law – with equity to reign supreme in any dispute. Where you aware of that McNealy?”

“ Yes sir. I believe the same Act established the High Court and the Court of Appeal and provided a right of appeal in civil cases to the Court of Appeal. Criminal appeal rights remain limited until the establishment of a Court of Criminal Appeal. Am I correct sir?”

“ Yes you are.” The judge said.

“ What’s that mean exactly?” Johnny asked.

“ It means the judge can choose to dismiss the case based on insufficient evidence. He can have you exonerated.” McNealy said.

“ Set free Johnny.” Dallas said.

“ Okay, what do you have for witnesses on both sides, and what are the charges against Johnny. Do you prefer to be called Johnny, or John?”

“ I go by Johnny, but either will do sir.” he said.

“ I have comprised a list of character witnesses for Mister Lancer, and witnesses to what took place in Mexico, Judge. I also had the doctor subpoenaed as well as the sheriff of Green River.” McNealy said.

“ And this General Calvo, who does he have as an attorney, or for witnesses?” the judge asked.

“ He has no witnesses judge, and it’s just him and a Major Fidalgo.” the marshal said.

“ John, was this general present when………..I don’t believe you said what the charges are.”

“ Mister Lancer is being accused of escaping from the Mexican prison La Colorada, and murder sir.” the district attorney said.

“ Murder………that’s a pretty serious charge young man.” the judge said.

“ Judge Wilkins, we were hoping to have the inquisition here at Lancer, instead of in a court. My client is not healed up enough yet to ride a horse, or in a wagon I’m afraid.” McNealy said.

“ Oh, your client is injured? What happened?” he asked.

“ A couple months ago a man came here from Mexico, and attacked my son in this very house. He was shot twice, and nearly died Henry….I’m sorry, Judge Wilkins.” Murdoch said.

“ Since we are not in a court of law, I see no reason why we can’t be on a first name basis.” the judge said. “ When do you expect you could ride?”

“ I can ride judge.” Johnny said.

“ Sam has not released you to ride yet young man. That rib is not healed up.” Murdoch said firmly. “ He was shot under his right arm, and the bullet broke a rib.”

“ Well I know about broken ribs, and how long it takes them too heal up. I fell two winters ago on the capitol steps. Broke three ribs. It took me four months before I was healed up. How long ago did this attack happen?”

“ Almost three months ago.” Murdoch said.

“ Well, I’ll tell you what. McNealy, you get everything together that you will need, witnesses, statements, the works, and I will hear this case in two weeks from today. Is that sufficient enough time?” he asked.

“ Yes sir, but the General may not like it. It would seem he expects to take Madrid back to Mexico now.” McNealy responded.

“ He wasn’t real happy when I told him I was requesting an inquisition judge.” Dallas said.

“ Then I guess I will have to go pay this general a visit, and  explain it to him.” the judge said.

“ Johnny has already been tried in a Mexican court of law, and found guilty.” Scott said.

“ You’ve already been tried for this?” the judge asked.

“ In their eyes I was.” Johnny said. “ I wasn’t at the trial because most don’t get one in Mexico. They just get sentenced by the law there for whatever they feel the person did wrong.”

“ Well, by law since this crime happened in Mexico, I have no jurisdiction over the matter. I can exonerate you right now of all the charges, but that will only be good here, in the United States. Mexico will most likely keep you a wanted man.” the judge said.

“ So this General Calvo has no jurisdiction, then he can’t take Johnny back to Mexico to be executed?” Murdoch asked.

“ He can if he wishes your son to be extradited back. But that would mean the marshal would have to agree to extradite him back to Mexico.” the judge said. “ It’s your decision son. Nobody can force you to go thru with this.”

“ If I did go thru with it, and you decide I’m guilty, can he take me back to Mexico?” Johnny asked as he looked at his father.

“  Not legally without the marshals escort. I could sentence you to serve time in a prison here since the charge is murder.” he said. “ Take the two weeks. Give it some thought, and if you want to talk to me during those two weeks, feel free to do so. I will be on vacation, so whatever you tell me will be irrelevant.”

“ Judge Wilkins, I can’t stay here two weeks. I have a life, and clients back in Sacramento.” McNealy said.

“ You have a clients life more important right here young man. You are staying, and that is final.” The judge ordered. “ Everyone in this room right now, I am ordering you stay until this matter is resolved.”

Chapter 15 Research Notes ->


Chapter 16

Johnny sat on the veranda enjoying the afternoon sun when two riders rode up. Standing up, he pulled his colt, cocked it, and leaned against a support to conceal his right arm.

“ That’s far enough Calvo!” he ordered. “ Turn those horses around, and get off Lancer land……!”

“ Mestizo, I am here to see the gringo judge. I want this matter resolved now. I wish to return to Mexico to my family.” Calvo said.

“ The judge ain’t here right now, so I guess you rode all the way out here for nothing.” Johnny said as Cipriano walked over with a rifle in hand.

“Mi sobrino dijo que dejaras a Lancer, así que te sugiero que te vayas ahora, general.”  ( My nephew said for you to leave Lancer, so I suggest you leave now general.) Cipriano said.

“ Tengo derecho a saber por qué este juez gringo no ha iniciado la inquisición.”  ( I have a right to know why this gringo judge has not started this inquisition. ) the general said.

“ Estás esperando algo.” ( You are stalling for something.) Major Fidalgo said.

“ Tío, keep your rifle aimed right at the generals head.” Johnny ordered as he holstered his colt, and walked over to Calvo, taking hold of the reins. “ This isn’t Mexico, and you have no jurisdiction here. So you and your little patsy major get off my land.” he said with more coldness than a winters night.

“ Let go of the generals reins mestizo!” Fidalgo ordered.

“Dígale al juez que quiero hablar con él mañana en la ciudad.”  ( You tell the judge I want to speak with him tomorrow in town.) Calvo ordered as he turned his horse to leave.

Fidalgo glared at Johnny a few seconds before turning his horse to leave, drawing his pistol, he reined the horse back around to shoot Johnny in the back as a rifle went off, knocking him from the saddle.

“ ¡El siguiente va en general!”  ( Next one goes in you general!) Cipriano said firmly as Johnny spun around, colt in hand.

Calvo looked at Fidalgo dead on the ground as he tried to get his horse under control. “ You killed my major. I will make you pay for this mestizo.”

“ He didn’t kill him. I did, and I will kill you too if you do not leave.” Cipriano said as Frank, and Walt came running with rifles.

“ Frank, Walt, put the body on the horse so the general can leave.” Johnny ordered as Murdoch, and the judge came up in a buggy.

“ Dear god, what happened son?” Murdoch asked as he climbed down.

“ I shot him patrón. He was going to shoot Johnny in the back.” Cipriano said.

“ Why are you here Calvo? I told you to stay off Lancer land.” Murdoch demanded.

“ General Calvo, I am Judge Wilkins. What is your purpose of coming out here today? I have sent no word the inquisition has started yet.”

“ Why has it not started gringo judge? This mestizo has already been tried and found guilty by Mexican law. Turn him over to me now before he kills more of my men!” General Calvo spat at the judge.

“ General Calvo, I am having a Civil Harassment Restraining Order issued against you. You come onto this property again before ordered, and I will have you arrested. You are not to come anywhere near my client, or his family. Is that understood?” McNealy ordered.

“ You will pay for this Madrid. Fidalgo was like a brother to me. You will pay.” Calvo said as he took the reins of his dead friends horse.

“ You came here to see the judge. I told you he wasn’t here, and to leave. Your major friend decided to try and shoot me in the back. It’s his own fault he’s dead.” Johnny said firmly.

“ Your man tried to shoot Johnny in the back?” the judge demanded.

Calvo looked around. “ Madrid goaded my major into drawing on him.”

“ He lies patrón. Johnny’s back was turned to him. He was walking back to the house when the major drew his pistol, and tried to shoot him in the back. My  nephew would be dead right now if I had not shot that man.”

“ Enough!” Scott yelled. “ General Calvo, you were not even present when the crime my brother is charged with happened. I was there as were eight other people, five of which your Colonel Comofort and his butchers killed at the Rio Magdalena river. Your major came here, broke into our house, and tried to murder my brother. You sir, were in Hermosillo……* not * at La Colorada prison. Do us all a favor, and go back to Mexico, because as God as my witness, and everyone here right now, I will kill you if you so much as come near my little brother again you sorry sonofabitch!”

Murdoch looked at his oldest with shock on his face. Never before had he heard his son lose his temper like that. To openly threaten the general right in front of the judge had him worried.

“ I think you had better leave…… general, while you still can.” Murdoch said.

“ I didn’t hear you just threaten to kill that man.” McNealy said to Scott.

“ Mister McNealy, that’s exactly what you heard my brother say. Lancer takes care of its own.” Johnny said.

“ Son, I know you’re angry about all this, so am I. But losing your temper like that was not good for your brother.” Murdoch said.

“ I think tomorrow I will send a wire to President Tejada, telling him what General Calvo is doing.” Johnny said.

“ Who is he?” McNealy asked.

“ The new president of Mexico. He finished what Juárez started in trying to make Mexico a better place for all. That’s why I fought in the Revolution of the North war, and why the Mexican government, especially the Rurales hate me so much.” Johnny explained.

“ I’ll send the wire son. I don’t want you riding into town until this is over, and that man is gone.” Murdoch said. “ Do I make myself clear?”

“ Yeah alright, but hear me old man. I’m not going to allow that sonofabitch to make me a prisoner in my own home. If you’re going to keep reining me in, then you might as well take me to Green River, and lock me up in Val’s jail.” Johnny responded before walking away.

“ I don’t want you going to town alone sir. I’m going with you.” Scott said.

“ I would prefer you stay here with your brother. You seem to be able to calm him down.” Murdoch suggested.

“ Actually, why don’t the three of you go. I’d like some time alone with Johnny to talk.” the judge said.

“ Alright, we’ll leave after breakfast.” Murdoch said as they started for the house.

“ I should warn you judge, my brother doesn’t like to talk about his past. If he wraps his arms around himself, he’s struggling with whatever he’s trying to tell you, or he will shut down, and go to his room.” Scott said.

“ I appreciate the information, but I think we will be fine.” the judge said.

“ You want anything more than bread and water, you’ll keep that mouth of yurs shut.” Val ordered as he locked the cell door.

“ Come on sheriff, I was just havin a little fun.” the cowboy said. “ Ain’t no law against that.”

“ No, they ain’t no law against havin fun. But when you go bustin up the saloon, and runnin off the other customers there is. Mac don’t need you hands comin in bustin up his place. Now you just sit down over there, an think about how yur gonna pay for all those damages ya did to his saloon. That mirror behind the bar cost a hundred dollars, then ya got those chairs, an a couple tables.”

“ But I didn’t start it sheriff. He did!” the cowboy said. “ I shouldn’t have ta pay for the damages.”

“ He started it sheriff. He wouldn’t leave my girl alone.” the other cowboy said.

“ Both of ya shut up! Yur given me a headache. Mister Lancer ain’t gonna be none too happy with either one a ya when he gets the bill for them damages.” Val said angrily before stepping out, and closing the door as the front door opened.

“ Val.” Scott said as he stepped inside with McNealy.

“ You got here fast. I’d leave them two ta sober up, and think about what they did if’n I was you.” Val said as he walked over to his desk, and tossed the keys in the drawer.

“ I’m afraid I don’t know what you are referring too.” Scott said.

“ I got a couple of your hands locked up in the back. They did a number at the saloon last night. Busted the place up pretty good.” Val said.

“ That’s not why I’m here.” Scott said as he looked thru the window to the cells, and seen it was two new hands his father hired only a month ago. “ Val, this is District Attorney McNealy from Sacramento. He’s here to represent Johnny.”

“ Represent Johnny. Why? I ain’t been out ta see the kid for a spell I know, but I’ve been tied up here.”” Val said. “ What’s goin on?”

Scott told Val everything that’s happened, and how Cipriano killed Major Fidalgo yesterday when he was going to shoot Johnny in the back.

“ Lord almighty. That………..You mean to tell me General Calvo came here to take Johnny back to Mexico to be executed for killing Cervello, and escaping from prison?”

“ Sheriff, there is going to be an inquisition into the matter. I will need you to testify as to what happened in Mexico. Can you do that?” McNealy asked.

“ Course I can. Where’s Johnny now?” Val asked.

“ He’s at the ranch with Judge Wilkins.” Scott said.

“ Wilkins is a good judge. So when ya need me ta testify?” he asked.

“ The inquisition will be on Tuesday next week. Can you be at the ranch at ten o’clock? ” the lawyer asked.

“ I can be there, unless some other jackasses decide to bust up the town.” Val said as Murdoch walked into his office. “ Mister Lancer.”

“ Val. I assume Scott told you what’s happening?” he asked.

“ He did. I’ll be there to testify for Johnny.” Val said.

“ Good. We better get back son.” Murdoch said.

“ Uh, Mister Lancer, what you want I should do with those two in the back?” Val asked.

“ What two?” he asked.

“ Curry and Butler. It seems they busted up the saloon last night.” Scott said.

“ Have Mac send me a bill. I can’t………..hold them as long as you can, then cut the loose.” Murdoch responded as he opened the door to leave.

“ Scott, can I have a word with you alone?” Val asked.

“ We’ll wait for you outside son.”

“ Ya know what we have ta do? I don’t know if I can do it. If that fancy attorney ask me what I seen………..”

“ I know Val. Look, Johnny would want us to tell the truth,and that’s all we can do.” Scott said.

“ Includin tellin the judge about seein my best friend whipped, and tortured?”

“  If need be. Telling could help Johnny. It would establish a motive for him killing Cervello. I’ll have a talk with my brother about you testifying.”

“ It just makes me sick ta my stomach knowin I gotta sit in a chair, and tell a complete stranger what happened to the best friend I ever had.”

“ I know the feeling Val. I’ll see ya.” Scott said before leaving.

Judge Wilkins found out from Maria, that Johnny rode up on the hill. Having a hand saddle a horse, he rode up there, and dismounted. Walking over to him, he noticed the headstone he hadn’t seen when he rode up. “ I’m sorry Johnny. Would you prefer I leave?”

“ My grandfather I never knew was still alive until I came home. My mother never talked about him, or Cipriano. It’s because of me, because of my past he was murdered.” Johnny said.

“ Murdered by who son?” Henry asked.

“ Ben Nodean, a gunfighter turned bounty hunter. I put a bullet in his leg a few years back. He followed me back here from Bannack. He lured me to green River. When I got there, he left a note with Mac, the bartender. It said one of them will die. I jumped on Barranca, and rode back here to find my grandfather had been gunned down by him when he walked out of the house. Murdoch said Nodean told him to tell me I would find him where it all started. After we buried Don Luis, I left. I guess Scott, and Val left to find me a couple months later.” Johnny explained.

“ So this Nodean murdered your grandfather to get you to follow him back to Mexico I assume?” he asked.

Johnny nodded his head. “ I grew up hard, and alone most of my life until Val found me almost dead one day almost six years ago. We’ve been best friends ever since. Rode together five years hiring out to range wars, or other jobs that needed our experience.” he said as he stood up, and walked over to Barranca. “ You know what a gunfighter is judge? We’re fallen angels sent down to hell the good book says. Men beyond redemption.”

“ Beyond redemption, Surely you don’t believe that? Not after all you have been through John.” the judge said.

“ Let me tell you something judge.” Johnny said as he mounted his horse. “ I don’t take killing lightly. It’s not a good thing to kill a man, or cause a man to get killed. Makes you sick inside. I never want to take another man’s life, but that day in Mexico………..I did. I killed Cervello because of what he did to me. When he was finished, I swore to myself I would kill that sonofabitch. Little did I know my real torture would start when we got back to the prison.”

“ Johnny, I know you don’t want to talk about it, but I need to know, what did he do to you to make you swear you would kill him?”

“ That sick……there are no women in prison judge, so that should tell you what he did to me.” Johnny said. “ When we got back to the prison, he strapped me down to a huge tree stump in the center of the yard. I don’t know how many times he whipped me. I was real close to blacking out when he threw a bucket of brine water on my back. I woke up ten days later in the infirmary. Colonel Comofort was there, and wanted me back working at the mine. Said Cervello was no longer a guard for what he did. He was an inmate again, and would be on the work crew with me.”

“ How many on the work crew?” the judge asked.

“ Four, me, Cervello, and the Colson brothers on that crew.” Johnny said. “ You know the worst of it all Judge, Scott, and Val seen me whipped, and tortured. They haven’t said, but I know it bothers them both seeing that happen to me.”

“ I can’t even imagine the pain you went thru son. Let alone stay conscious through it all.” the judge said.

“ I didn’t long. I let out a blood curdling scream. Something the Rurales pride themselves in making a prisoner do. They had tried for five months, and failed until that day.” Johnny said.

“ Listen to me John, there isn’t a man living who could take that kind of punishment, and not scream out. Torture is just that, torture. It breaks the strongest of men. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you’re human.” the judge said.

“ I’ve been shot numerous times, stabbed four times, cut, beaten, and whipped. I have scars inside and out. My life hasn’t been an easy one. It seems people I let get close to me end up getting killed because of me.” Johnny said with sadness in his voice. “ Shuttin’ off your old life is not an easy thing to do. The past has a way of coming up, and nudging at you sometimes.”

“ What do you want from life John?” the judge asked.

“ I told you, I want to live a life as Murdoch’s son, Scott’s brother, Johnny Lancer, but a part of me will always be Johnny Madrid as long as I’m alive.” Johnny responded. “ I would love nothing better than being able to ride to town, and not have to worry about being called out. My greatest fear is Murdoch, or Scott seeing me get gunned down by someone faster than me.”

“ John, have you told McNealy any of what you have told me today?” he asked.

“ Not all of it. I don’t trust easy judge. It’s not easy for me to talk about my past, especially to a stranger.” he said.

“ I’m a stranger, and you told me.”

“ I figure you can’t be so bad since you and my old man know each other, and he thinks enough of you to have you be the one who decides my fate.”

“ Well all legalities aside, I would have to say * you * are one remarkable young man.” the judge said. “ You know, I do believe I smelled cookies in the oven when I left. Would you care to join me in a glass of milk, and some cookies?”

“ Best offer I’ve had in a long time judge.” Johnny said as they mounted up, and rode down the hill.

Murdoch, Scott, and McNealy walked into the house and found Johnny, and the judge laughing. Something Murdoch hadn’t heard his youngest son do before.

“ Oh…Murdoch……you have got to……. let Johnny go fishing with me.”  the judge said as he tried to stop laughing.

“ I take it he told you how he fishes?” Scott asked.

“ He did. He said the look on both your faces was priceless when he started shooting at the fish.” he said.

“ I’m afraid my son has no patience for fishing.” Murdoch said.

“ How did it go in town?” Johnny asked.

“ Good. I sent the wire, though I doubt we will hear anything back.”  his father said.

“ Anyone home?” Sam asked as he walked into the house.

“ Sam, come on in.” Murdoch said. “ Sam this is Judge Henry Wilkins, and District Attorney William McNealy.”

“ Gentlemen. I thought I would come and see how my patient is doing with his broken rib.” Sam said.

“ I’m fine Sam.” Johnny said.

“ Well since I am the doctor, why don’t you let me be the judge of that.” Sam said as he moved toward the stairs.

“ Judge, why don’t you come up with us?” Johnny asked.

Scott, and Murdoch watched the three men walk upstairs. Both shocked that Johnny was going to allow the judge to see his back.

“ What’s going on?” McNealy asked.

“ The judge is going to see what was done to Johnny in that prison.” Scott responded.

McNealy started toward the stairs, but was stopped by Murdoch grabbing his right arm. “ Don’t. If Johnny wanted you to see, he would have said so.”

“  Can I ask why you are here Judge Wilkins?” Sam asked as he opened his medical bag.

“ I’m being charged murder by a Mexican General.” Johnny said.

“ Dear god no. I had seen a Mexican General in Morro Coy the other day, and wondered why he would be this far from the border.” Sam said.

“ You might need to testify at the inquisition Sam.” Johnny said.

“Alright. So I take it he is here to see your back?” Sam asked.

“ Yeah. I figured you could explain it better than I could Sam.” Johnny said as he started to remove his shirt.

“ Just a minute John. Judge Wilkins, are you sure you want to see his back? It’s a bit disturbing if you’ve never seen scars like Johnny has before.” Sam explained.

“ I’ll be alright. Are you sure you want me to see your back Johnny?”

Johnny removed his shirt, and turned around.

“ You’ve been pretty quiet Henry. Are you alright?” Murdoch asked as he walked outside with two glasses of brandy, and handed him one. “ I figured you could use this.”

“  Thanks. .My god Murdoch. I’ve seen some abuse delivered to children, and women, even whores……..but Johnny. It’s a wonder that boy is still alive.” the judge said with a quiver in his voice.

“ What’s sad is some of those scars he got as a kid after Maria died. When he was in an orphanage.” Murdoch said softly.  “ It seems a padre there didn’t like him because he’s a half-breed. He used to tell him he was the devil’s child, and should have been drown at birth.”

“ What in God’s name would possess a man to say something like that to an innocent child?” the judge asked.

“ I’ve asked myself that very question several times Henry.”

“ This country is opening up Murdoch. New laws are being passed. There’s talk of making it against the law to carry a gun in a town. Hell they don’t allow anyone not wearing a badge to have a gun inside the state capital. This country is changing, people are coming here from back east, and it’s only going to get worse. Progress is what they’re calling it.” he said.

“ Why do I get the feeling that’s not what’s really bothering you Henry?”

“ Johnny confessed to me today Murdoch. He told me what that man did to him. He told me how when he was done, he swore he would kill that man. Course that was before he was brutally whipped, but still, he fully planned on killing that man. He didn’t tell me how, but he had every intention of killing him.” he said.

“ I know. John doesn’t talk to me much about his past. When he feels like talking to me, I can see the struggle he has telling me.” Murdoch said.

“ You should be the one person he can come too to talk too.” he suggested.

“ I know. I think he’s afraid if I know….he’ll think I won’t love him anymore.”

“ That boy is begging for your love Murdoch.”

“ Henry, I’ve known you a long time, and you have always been straight forward with me. Am I going to lose my son again?”

“ From what he told me today. It falls under mitigating circumstances. Given what was done to him during the five months he was in there. I don’t think any jury in the country would find him guilty. But there’s a problem. Johnny emptied the gun into the man. He told me how he shot him, and then walked up to him, and put the last bullet in his head. I can understand his anger. God knows I would be, but if he had fired just one shot……..I’m afraid I may have to send him away for a minimum of five years at San Quentin.”

“ Oh my god no. There has to be something I can do?” Murdoch said.

“ There is. The morning of the inquisition, it won’t start until ten. I want you to ride to Modesto, send a telegram to Green River to McNealy, having it be from President Tejada, exonerating Johnny of any, and all charges in Mexico. Nobody will know but me and you about this.”

“ Doing that puts your career at stake Henry.” Murdoch said.

“ Not doing it puts Johnny’s life in danger Murdoch, and for that, I’d gladly risk my career.” Henry said.

Val rode with Sam to the Lancer ranch for the inquisition. Both men lost in deep thought about what would be happening today. Sam knew Val was worried about his friendship with Johnny. He could tell it was affecting him. His eyes looked bloodshot, and bags could be seen under both eyes. Both signs of lack of sleep.

“ It will be alright Val. You and Johnny have been good friends a long time. Whatever happens today, it won’t affect that friendship.” Sam said as they went under the Lancer arch.

“ I hope yur right about that doc. I love that boy like a brother.” Val said as they stopped outside the house, and were met by Dallas and Kyle.

“ You must be Val Crawford?” Dallas asked.

“ I am, and you be the marshal, and his deputy. Scott told me you was here.” Val said.

“ I’ll have to ask you to surrender your sidearm sheriff during the inquisition. Only me and my deputy are allowed to carry.” Marshal Stoudenmire said.

“ That’s fine.” Val said as he removed his pistol, and handed it to him. “ So where’s this damn general who’s caused all this trouble?”

“ He hasn’t showed up yet.” Kyle said.

“ Don’t worry, I plan on searching him for any weapons before he steps foot inside the house.” Dallas said.

“ You can go in now.” Kyle said.

Val, and Sam walked into the house, and found the chairs from the table set up in rows in front of Murdoch’s desk. A single chair had been placed next to the desk. Murdoch stood over by the fireplace talking to Scott, and the attorney.

“ Val, Sam.” Murdoch said as he walked over to them. “ I’m sorry you have to do this.”

“ Mister Lancer.” Val said.

“ Murdoch. Where’s Johnny?” Sam asked.

“ Up in his room.” he said.

“ I think I’ll go up, and have a word with him.” Val said.

“ I can’t allow you to do that Sheriff Crawford.” McNealy ordered. “ My client needs some time alone before the proceedings start, and he asked to not be disturbed.”

“ So where’s this knucklehead General Calvo?” Val asked.

“ He hasn’t showed up yet. The proceeding s start in ten minutes, so I expect he’ll be along any time now.”  Scott said.

“ When is it going to end for that boy? When are they going to leave him alone?” Sam asked as General Calvo entered the house.

Everybody turned and looked when Judge Wilkins entered the room wearing a gray suit with a white shirt, and carried a ledger.

“ Marshal, are all parties present?” he asked as he walked over to the desk, and sat down.

“ Everybody is here your honor.” Marshal Stoudenmire said.

“  Mister McNealy, is your client ready?” the judge asked.

“ He is your honor.” McNealy said as Johnny sat down in a front row chair on the left. Murdoch, Sam, Val, and Scott sat down behind him, while General Calvo sat in another chair across from them. Marshal Stoudenmire stood next to the chair placed next to the desk. Kyle stood back behind everyone where he could watch the proceeding, especially the general, and intervene if any trouble should start.

“ You may proceed Mister McNealy.” the judge said.

“ Thank you your honor. Your honor, I request that all charges against my client be dismissed.” McNealy requested.

“ Based on what grounds?” the judge asked.

“ General Calvo was not present at the time the alleged murder my client is accused of took place. Therefore I believe the charges are vindictive against my client because he fought in the Revolution of the North war against the Mexican Government, and killed Rurales during this war. My client was captured by a General Patoni Pesqueira, and spent over a year in Puerto Peñasco prison during that war.” Attorney McNealy said.

“ Do you have proof of this?” the judge asked.

“ I do your honor. I also have a telegram received just this morning from President Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada from Mexico City.” McNealy said. “ It exonerates my client from any wrongdoing your honor.”

“ Can I see the telegram?” Judge Wilkins asked.

McNealy walked up, and handed the judge the telegram. Turning around, he smiled at Johnny.

Judge Wilkins read the telegram. “ Would John Madrid Lancer please stand up?”

Johnny stood up, and glanced over at Calvo.

“ It would seem you are exonerated from all charges against you in Mexico, by President Tejada. You are free to go.” Judge Wilkins said.

“ You lie!” Calvo yelled as he stood up.  “The president would not exonerate a murderer!”

“ General Calvo, the proof is right here in this telegram. If you disagree with it, then I suggest you take it up with your president.” the judge said. “ The telegram also says that you sir are to return to Mexico immediately.”

“ I will not let this swine get away with murder!” Calvo spat.

“ Marshal Stoudenmire, arrest that man, and escort him to Sheriff Crawford’s jail. I will request a military detachment to escort him back to the border.” the judge ordered. “ General Calvo, if you come back here again, I will have you arrested, and sent to prison. Do you understand?”

“ Let’s go.” Dallas ordered.

“ Judge Wilkins.” Murdoch said. “ Instead of having this man taken to jail in Green River, he can be jailed right here at Lancer. We have a guard house he can stay in until a military escort arrives, and it won’t cost the good citizens to feed him.”

“ Do you have guards for the prisoner while he awaits escort?” he asked.

“ Me and my deputy will be glad to escort him back to Mexico. We’ll take him to town, and put him in Val’s jail until morning.” Dallas said.

“ Very well. These proceedings are over.” Judge Wilkins said.

“ I need to send a wire to Albuquerque letting the boss know. Johnny…..what you got here is enough to get out of the game. I hope it all works out for you.”

“ Thanks Dallas, Kyle. It was good seeing you again. If you’re ever in the area again, stop by. You’re always welcome here.” Johnny said as he walked out with the marshal.

 “ General Calvo, just remember, Lancer takes care of its own.” Murdoch said.

“ Well Murdoch, I wish I didn’t have to leave, but I must get back to Sacramento.” McNealy said. “ Judge, It was a pleasure meeting you. Johnny, Scott, Mister Lancer, thank you for your hospitality. I wish we could have met under different circumstances. Johnny, you are a remarkable young man. You take care of yourself.”

“  I can’t thank you enough Mister McNealy.” Murdoch said as they walked outside.

“ Little brother, how about the four of us go into town and celebrate with a cold beer?” Scott suggested.

“ I don’t much feel like celebrating Scott.” Johnny said as he waited for his father to come back inside.

“ Well, I guess I better go with the marshal, and his deputy back to town since it’s my jail Calvo will be staying in. I’ll see ya later kid.” Val said. “ Scott.”

“ I too need to leave. I have rounds to make. John, no hard riding, or lifting yet. Just take it easy, and you should be fine.” Sam said as he headed out to his buggy.

Judge Wilkins, and Murdoch walked back inside.

“ Where did you ride off too so early this morning Murdoch?” Johnny demanded.

“ Ride off to son?” Murdoch asked.

“ I seen you ride off headed east this morning. I went out and checked your horse. He’s covered in sweat, which tells me he was rode pretty hard. Now I’m going to ask you again, where did you go?” Johnny said.

“ I don’t believe I have to tell you where I went this morning son. It was business that don’t concern you.” his father said.

“ As a third owner of this ranch any business conducted pertaining to this ranch is my business.” Johnny shot back.

“ Where did you go sir?” Scott asked.

Johnny walked over to the desk, picked up the telegram, and walked over to his father. “ You went to Modesto, and sent this didn’t you?”

“ Don’t be absurd son.” Murdoch said before turning to walk away.

Johnny grabbed his father’s right arm, and swung him back around. “ President Tejada didn’t send this did he?” he demanded.

“ Young man, you better remember who you are talking to!” Murdoch ordered.

“ Murdoch, your sons are not fools. I think it’s best you tell them the truth.” Judge Wilkins said.

Murdoch looked at the judge, then back at Johnny. “ Yes damn it. Yes I rode to Modesto, sent that wire to Green River, and rode back here. I did it because you are my son, and I wasn’t going to lose you again.” Murdoch snapped back as he jerked his arm free.

“ Did you know he was going to do this judge?” Johnny demanded.

“ I suggested it.” Henry said.

“ You suggested it? Why?” Scott asked.

“ Because I didn’t want Murdoch hurt again. I seen the pain he went through not knowing if you were alive or dead Johnny. The pain of a father losing a child is greater than anything you can imagine. We talked the other day after I seen your back, and when he asked me if he would lose you again, I told him you couldn’t get off on mitigating circumstances because you emptied the gun in him. I was faced with sending you to San Quentin for a minimum of five years John. I wasn’t going to let that happen. Murdoch lost twenty years with you. I wasn’t going to allow him, or Scott to lose five more.”

“ Lancer takes care of its own son. Please don’t be mad at me for doing this.” Murdoch pleaded.

Johnny walked over, and strapped on his colt. “ I need to be alone for a while.” he said before walking outside.

“ Can you understand son?” Murdoch asked.

“ I do sir, but I think you should have told him.” Scott said.

Johnny walked into the house with Scott laughing. His relationship with his father the last three months being shaky. Both men hardly speaking to each other.  Usually Johnny found out what work needed done from Scott, or Cipriano for the day.  Supper talk only consisted of the days work, and small talk only happened between the brothers.

“ We finished the fence sir.” Scott said.

“ Good. Johnny, there’s a letter for you on the table.” Murdoch said from his desk.

Johnny walked over and picked it up. Opening it, he began to read.

“ Is everything alright?” Scott asked.

“ It’s from Dallas. They were attacked by renegade Apache, down by Tucson. Kyle and General Calvo were killed. He says he was wounded and just now able to write. Says Calvo was killed the Apache way.” Johnny said.

“ Apache way?” Scott asked.

“ What they did to me in prison is nothing on what an Apache can do to a white man Boston. I’m going to go clan up.” Johnny responded.

“ How long is this going to go on between the two of you sir?” Scott demanded.

“ Ask your brother. I told him why I did it. If he can’t accept that, that’s not my problem.” Murdoch responded.

“ You know he’s begging for your love. Why can’t you show him that?”

“ Show him!” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ I showed him how much I love him when I did what I did to keep him from going to prison for five years. The past three months he has hardly talked to me, and you have no idea how much it hurts me that my youngest thinks less of me now than before the inquisition.”

“ I’ve been talking to him about it.” he said.

“ And?”

“ And sir, Johnny understands why you did it. What you seem to be forgetting is his whole life he’s had nobody really to care about him, to love him.” Scott said.

“ Scott!” Johnny said behind him.

“ Sorry brother.” Scott said before walking away.

“ We need to talk Murdoch.” he said.

“ Alright son.” Murdoch said. “ You know, your brother loves you.”

“ I know he does, and I know you do too.” Johnny said. “  But that don’t give you the right to keep something from me that affects my life. You and Judge Wilkins should have talked to me about doing what you did. Nobody has a right to decide my fate but me, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner we can be a family.”

“ If you are finished young man?” Murdoch asked. “ I told you why I did what I did, and I would do it again to keep from losing you. I never got the chance to love you growing up. I’m fifty years old son, I don’t know how long I have left to live. What I do know is however long I have left, I want to spend it with my two sons. Is that so bad to want?”

“ No.” Johnny said. “ I guess it was fate.”

“ What was son?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny walked over to his father and put an arm around his shoulder. “ Bannack.” he said as the two walked toward the kitchen to share a cup of coffee together, and build a stronger bond as a family.

Chapter 16 Research Notes ->




Finished: 8- 16- 2021



Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Nancy Marie directly.


6 thoughts on “Bannack by Nancy Marie

  1. This is a great story and great writing. The characters are so true and the momentum never stops. Thank you so much for making your writing available. I hope you write more good ones!


  2. Absolutely amazing. U blended several episodes seamlessly thru this whole story. U hsveaunique talent of being able to evoke passion, emotion and personality of the main characters very very well. Kept up the good work sncyu done of the best writers.


  3. Thank you for your kind words. It is greatly appreciated, and keeps me wanting to continue to write Bannack was a year in the making, and sad when it finally ended. I love weaving an episode into my stories when I can. Again, thank you for reading, and taking the time to comment.


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