Forbidden Encounter by Nancy Marie

Word Count 124,175

                         I don’t own them I am just borrowing the Lancer men for some fun.
                 This story will have an R rating due to mature adult content, Rape and Murder.


It had been three month’s since Day Pardee and his men tried to take over the valley, three months since he watched his youngest fall from his horse with a bullet buried deep in his back. Every day and night for four days he sat wiping the sweat from his fever induced body and listened to the words his son spoke in his fight to survive. The scars told the tell, a tell of hardship and pain as a child.

For twenty long lonely years Murdoch Lancer had searched for the son who was taken from him in the middle of the night by his mother. The first couple of years he himself alone had searched every border town from El Paso to San Diego for one wayward blue eyed child. As he watched from the french doors, his two sons ride in together Murdoch smiled at how the brothers, strangers to each other, neither knowing the other existed until that day they arrived in Morro Coyo rode into the yard laughing and joking the way brothers should.

He knew his youngest’ past would show up at some point probably, but that was a risk he was willing to take. Having both his sons with him now twenty years later was all that mattered to him now. The past was just that to him, the past.

Having his youngest be a gunfighter was something he had a hard time accepting, still does in fact. 

“ Are you alright Murdoch?” Teresa asked.

Murdoch turned to his ward. “ I’m fine sweetheart.”

“ You looked like you were miles away lost in thought.”

“ I suppose I was darling.”

Teresa was like Johnny born on Lancer two years after him. He father Paul O’Brian had been his foreman until that night Pardee and some men had stolen his prize stallion and shot Paul down, he himself receiving a bullet in his back and one in his leg in the ambush.

“ You’re thinking about your sons aren’t you?” she asked as she walked over to him.

“ They’re strangers to me.”

“ It’ll take a little time, but once they get to know you.”

“ And stop hating me.”

“ Oh they don’t hate you, they want to love you.”

Murdoch pulled Teresa into a hug as his two sons walked in the front door.

Johnny and Scott stopped in the foyer and removed their hats, Scott took off his gun, but Johnny did not. Something Murdoch knew would take time for his youngest to feel comfortable doing.

“ Hey old man we got that fence fixed and the cows back in the pasture.” Johnny said as he walked over and poured him and Scott a drink.

“ Did we loose any?” Murdoch asked as he walked over to his desk.

“ No sir…a couple of them got bogged down in a sand pit but we got them out.” Scott responded.

“ Dinner will be ready in a few if you two want to get cleaned up.” Teresa said as she headed back to the kitchen.

“ Uh I want to talk to you two about something before dinner.” Murdoch stated.

“ Well go ahead old man.” Johnny said

Cringing inside, Murdoch hated his youngest calling him that. “ Do you think you could show me some respect son and not call me that?”

“ I could.” Johnny responded. “ But with me you see respect has to be earned and you ain’t done that yet.”

“ So the fact that I am your father doesn’t matter to you?”

“ Nope…….You’ve only been my old man for three months now.”

“ Uh you said you wanted to talk to us about something sir.” Scott interrupted, knowing the two were headed for an argument.

“ Yes I do.” Murdoch answered glaring at his insubordinate youngest. “ I would like to have a party here at Lancer and invite the surrounding ranchers and community to attend and meet my two sons.”

“ I think that would be a good idea sir…….Don’t you Johnny?”

“ No.” he answered flatly.

“ Why not?” Scott asked.

“ Because I don’t do good around crowds and I don’t feel like being put on display.” Johnny stated. “ Look you want to have this party fine old man, just don’t expect me to be there…….I’m gonna go clean up and go to town.” he said as he set his glass down and headed for the stairs.

“ Just a minute young man……I will not tolerate this kind of behavior from you John. The people of this valley are my neighbors and friends. They have a right to meet you.”

Johnny stopped and turned around, you could see the coldness in his eyes. “ They’re your friends Murdoch, not mine……..what are you going to do huh?…….You gonna introduce us as this is my son Scott Lancer, a Harvard graduate and well educated man, and this is my half breed youngest Johnny Madrid, a gunfighter?”

“ That is enough……You are my son Johnny Lancer and that is how you will be introduced……..You are not Johnny Madrid any longer.”

“ Well now you see old man, that’s were you are wrong…….I will always be Johnny Madrid and there ain’t nothing you can do to change that……..I’ll see ya.”

Johnny rode into Morro Coyo and stopped at the Red Dog saloon. Dismounting he tied off his new horse Barranca, a gift from his father, since he was the only one who could break the golden stallion, he stepped up to the swinging bat wing doors and looked inside. Only a handful of men could be seen sitting playing cards or standing at the bar talking. Feeling no threat from any of them he stepped in and walked over to a table in the corner so his back was to the wall and he could see who came and went.

The bartender remembered him from when Pardee was there and came over with a bottle of tequila and sat it and a glass down on the table and left.

Johnny picked up the bottle and poured a shot as a girl, about nineteen or so came over and stood next to him.

“ Want some company?’ she asked.

Johnny looked up at her and felt himself start to stir a little. Her breast barely contained in her tight corset, slender waist and long brown hair down to her waist. Kicking out the chair next to her with his boot he glanced at the bartender who brought over another glass.

“ I will be…..are you?” he asked pouring her a drink.

“ I always am……I was wondering if you were going to ever come back into town.” she stated as she picked up the shot and downed it.

Johnny looked at her unspoken.

“ I know who you are, hell everybody in Morro Coyo does…….I’d really like to show you a good time upstairs if you let me Madrid.”

“ How much?” Johnny asked.

“ Five dollars for an hour or a dollar a poke.” she responded.

“ You got a name?” he asked.

“ Yeah…….Courtney.”

Johnny downed a second shot and stood up, tossing some coins on the table as he followed Courtney upstairs.

“ It will take him time sir to adjust to being here.” Scott said at the dinner table.

“ I fixed a great dinner and Johnny doesn’t even stay and eat it. What could be so important that he had to ride into Morro Coyo tonight?”

Murdoch glanced at his oldest. “ Um Teresa darling……”

“ Johnny went to meet up with a friend Teresa.” Scott interjected.

‘ You mean he went to the Red Dog saloon to meet up with……”

“ Teresa.” Murdoch snapped stopping her.

“ Murdoch I know why Johnny goes to town at night in the middle of the week……I’ve seen those women when in town.”

“ Teresa this is not proper talk for a young lady as yourself to be having……..I will be talking to Johnny about his going into town in the middle of the week……..I will not have him doing it and unable to do his work the next day.”

“ So did you tell them about the party?’ she asked.

“ Yes I did sweetheart.”

“ Do you think it’s a good idea Scott?”

“ I do…….it would give me and Johnny a chance to meet people and for them to meet us.”

“ Great….I’ll start on the list of what we will need for the party and writing out invitations.”

“ I think putting a notice up in town will be sufficient enough notice darling.”

“ Wait Murdoch….isn’t your long time friend from back east Jim Harper coming here next month?”

“ Yes he is……him and his daughter Melissa  both are coming to stay with us for a week.”

“ Why don’t we have the party then? We had planned on one for him anyway’?”

“ That’s a good idea……You’ll like Jim  Scott…….He helped me when I was just starting out with Lancer. Your mother and his wife grew up in Boston together… fact you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him introducing me to his wife who in turn introduced me to Catherine.”

“ How old is Melissa Murdoch?” Teresa asked.

“ I believe she is about your age or so darling.”

“ It will be nice to have another female around here my age…..or close to it.”

“ Scott I want you to talk to your brother…..I want him to be at this party…Make him understand that if he is not……”

“ Sir the three months I have known my brother I have learned that you don’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to do……Johnny isn’t comfortable around a lot of people, especially strangers sir.”

“ I don’t care if he is or not…..I am throwing this party so the valley can meet you two boys and I will not have him be rude and not make an appearance.” Murdoch stated firmly.

“ Yes sir……I’ll do what I can.”

“ Um Murdoch…….are there going to be men come to the valley and try to kill Johnny?”

Murdoch looked at his ward. “ What on earth makes you think that?”

“ I know about him being Johnny Madrid the gunfighter…….I’ve seen some of the Pinkerton reports…I’m not a little girl Murdoch….I’ve heard people talking.”

“ People talking where?” he demanded.

“ The Vaquero’s….the Whites in the store a couple weeks ago. Mister White was saying some pretty bad things about Johnny…….that he’s a cold blooded killer and that him being here will only bring trouble.”

“ Teresa I don’t want you believing everything you hear.”

“ Is it true though?”

“ Yes darling he is……Johnny….”

“ Teresa Johnny did what he had to do to stay alive in those border towns.” Scott quickly stated.

“ I don’t see him as a killer……in fact I don’t think Johnny would hurt anyone deliberately……His eyes are to kind and…….”

“ And what Teresa?”

“ Well It’s the little things he’s done since being here…..I mean after he was healed up that is……..He’s helped me in the garden, always nice to me and never curses around me if he can help it. He apologizes if he does and I hear it. He always gives me a hug and kiss on the cheek every morning or whenever he can…….he brings me a rose every day he comes home for lunch.”

Murdoch listened intently as his ward told of things so simple his son does that he himself hadn’t even noticed.

“ Why you know he is very good at checkers and chess Scott?”

“ Why no I didn’t Teresa.”

“ Maybe he would like it if you asked him to play a game……I seen the look in his eyes the other night when you asked Murdoch to play.”

“ He was tired as I recall and went to bed early.”

“ He went to bed because you didn’t bother to ask him, either of you……..Just because Johnny doesn’t have an education like you do Scott, doesn’t mean he’s  stupid.”

“ I know that Teresa……..I…….”

“ Teresa me and Scott have never said Johnny was stupid……..we just didn’t assume he would know how to play is all……There is no call for you to lash out at Scott for not knowing.”

“ Well maybe if the two of you would forget about his past and concentrate more on his future you would learn a little something about Johnny.”

Johnny walked out of the Red Dog saloon around ten and patted Barranca on the neck.

“ Let’s go home boy.” he said to the stallion, receiving a stamped hoof and head toss as he mounted up.

Home was something he still couldn’t get used to having. Most of his twenty two years he had never had one place to call home. His mother would lay flat on her back with a different man whenever she could in a shack that even though the winters in Mexico weren’t bad, the shack would barely keep the wind and rain out. When old enough Johnny knew what his mother was and got in many a fight with the other kids in the village he would be in defending his mother until that cold wet day he made the mistake of coming home to get dry.

That day had been the first of many beatings he received from his mother or the man she was with. Usually drunk his mother would say things to him no mother should ever tell their child. With no one who cared for him Johnny learned hard and fast how to take care of himself. He learned how to steal food when he could to stave off his hunger.

When he was six he had made the mistake of asking his mother about his father and why he was not with them. His mother had told him that his gringo father didn’t want a mestizo child around and had thrown them both out when he was two. When he asked what a mestizo meant she had told him a half breed. That he had the blue eyes of his father and that he was cursed for life because of those blue eyes. He was forbidden to ask about him ever again. One night when his mother was drunk and in a foul mood he had heard the name he made a vow to hunt down and kill. The name of the man who threw an innocent child out because he had blue eyes.

Other children in the villages would beat him up and call him Satan’s child, padre’s at missions damned him for his blue eyes, telling him he was a devil child and would bring nothing but death wherever he went. Only one man he could remember being nice to him. A stranger rode into Sonora one day when he was being beaten up by three other bigger boys and stopped them, taking him home the man cared for him the way a father should care for a child. Johnny liked this man, so did his mother, sleeping with him every night that winter.

In that very wet winter Johnny never got beat, never went to bed hungry and his mother was actually nice to him. The shack they lived in wasn’t much beyond four walls, a roof and a dirt floor, but Johnny didn’t care because a seven year old child had a man in his life who cared about him, taught him things like how to track what he needed. That was the first time he had ever held a gun and shot it. When spring came Johnny found himself back in the world of a lonely child. Jack Cotter rode out of Sonora never to be seen again by a lonely blue eyed boy he befriended.

Johnny’ world shattered three winters later when he came home to his mother screaming as she was beaten by a man she had bed. Launching himself on the mans back he was quickly flipped off to the floor and beaten severely by the man. Thought to be dead the man left him and went back to beating his mother. Hours later when he woke Johnny found the man gone and his mother dead.

Vowing vengeance for his mothers death that day Johnny left Sonora and tracked the man down. Having stolen a gun weeks later from another man shot dead in Cordova, Johnny practiced vigorously every day, working where he could for money to buy ammunition. Mucking out barns, restless nights of sleep in lofts, plagued by the mans face he sought. The man he vowed he would not rest until he found.

Johnny found that man four years later in Laredo, working at the livery Johnny watched as the man rode in and stopped at the saloon. That evening Johnny walked into that saloon and found the man sitting at a table playing poker, walking over to the table he stood across from the man glaring at him. A colt hung on his hip. When the man looked up at him, his eyes went stone cold.

“ You want something half breed?” the man had asked.

“ You don’t remember me do you?” Johnny asked barely above a whisper.

Four other men sat at that table, all of them looking at what they thought was a boy with a colt standing there.

“ Why the hell would I remember a half breed kid?”

“ You should because you murdered my mother you bastard.”

The saloon became deathly quiet. The other players at the table moved away from the table knowing this kid before them had full intent on death.

“ Oh the whore in Sonora, I thought I had killed you also.”

“ You should have made sure because now I’m going to kill you.”

The man looked at the colt on Johnny’ hip. He could tell the colt was well used, clean and the kind of rig a gunfighter used.

“And just what is the name of the halfbreed claiming he’s gonna kill me?” the man asked as he stood up and kicked his chair back.

“ Madrid…Johnny Madrid.”

Ten seconds later that man lay on the floor dead from a bullet to his heart. Johnny stood there a few seconds before turning and walking out of that Laredo saloon and into the life of a gunfighter, a gunfighter hell bent on making a name for himself along the border. A name that within a year became sought by others either wanting his gun or wanting his reputation, a reputation today he wished he had never got. Good at his trade is all he wanted, and that was what he got. He had seen how people respected a gunfighter, or so he thought, he soon learned it wasn’t respect so much as it was fear.

A gunfighter had a lonely life riding from town to town, job to job. Most jobs paid no more than food in his belly and a barn to sleep in. Johnny learned hard and he learned fast how to read another man when facing him. One thing he learned from Jack Cotter was a mans eyes just for a split second would change when he was going to draw. Most men didn’t knew this and it gave him the edge many a time when facing another.

Reputation building Johnny Madrid found himself being the highest paid, fastest gun in the southwest. It also found him unable to relax as more and more men called him out wanting his reputation. Several times Johnny had barely beaten the other, several times he had been ambushed by men who could not take him in a fare fight. Barely twenty two years old, shot seven times, beaten and stabbed numerous times as well Johnny had waited for death to take him that day the Pinkerton  found him seconds away from a firing squad for fighting in the Mexican revolution.

That was the day Johnny Madrid’ life changed and he got a home and a brother he never knew he had. A brother he had prayed as a child he would have. Now having a brother, father and a place to call home Johnny Madrid wanted nothing more than to be Johnny Lancer, the youngest son to rancher Murdoch Lancer and a third owner of the biggest cattle ranch in the San Joaquin valley.

It was midnight by the time he got back to Lancer and bedded Barranca down for the night. A light could be seen burning low in the grand room as he walked toward the house. When he seen a shadow move he knew his father was the one still up. Sighing as he opened the door and stepped into the foyer, Johnny knew he was about to get into yet another fight with the man who’s blood ran thru his veins.

“ Johnny……I want a word with you young man…..right now.” Murdoch demanded.

Johnny stepped down into the room and walked over and poured himself a shot.

“ I pay you a dollar a day in wages for a full days work, six days a week. It is the middle of the week and I will not have you going to town and coming home in the middle of the night and be unable to do your share of the work on this ranch the next day………Save your……..needs for Saturday nights is that clear?”

Johnny downed his shot and poured another. “ You call the tune only when it comes to this ranch old man……not me and what I do with my time.”

“ I do when it interferes with you doing your job.”

Turning to his father Johnny downed the shot, never taking his cold stare from his father. “ I do my work everyday old man…….Hell I even do the work of others, but you never notice that do you?…No you only notice what you want to when it comes to me……..I do the work of two men on this damn ranch and that includes more than Boston so don’t tell me I don’t do my job.” Johnny stated as he slammed  the shot glass down and turned to leave.

“ Don’t you turn your back on me…..We are not finished here yet.”

Johnny stopped. “ Yeah we are……..I’m going up to bed now so if you want to continue this……….do it alone.”

Murdoch stood there angry as he watched his defiant son walk away and go upstairs.

Johnny stripped down and crawled into bed wondering if he would really get the chance to be that son he wanted to be. Would his father ever trust him or treat him as an equal partner like he did his older brother? Closing his eyes all he could do was silently pray he would.

                                                                                                  Chapter 2

Murdoch woke the next morning after only two hours of sleep. After the encounter with his youngest at midnight he ended up laying awake thinking about the words said. After cleaning up and dressing he walked out of his room and down the hall, stopping outside his youngest’ room certain he would still be asleep, he knocked on the door and opened it stepping inside. What he found was an empty bed, walking back out of the room he headed down stairs.

Scott sat at the kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee and could tell his father was in a foul mood by the way he walked in.

“ Morning sir.”

“ Do you know where your brother is at this morning?” he demanded.

“Uh he’s not in his room?”

“ If he was would I be asking you where he is?”

“He came home last night didn’t he?”

“ Yes he came home last night. He got back around midnight and I tried to talk to him about his gallivanting off to town in the middle of the week.”

“ Talk to him……don’t you mean yell at him?…….every time you say you try to talk to him you yell and the two of you get into an argument.”

“ Did you ever stop to think that maybe we wouldn’t get into an argument every time if he would show a little more respect for me I wouldn’t get so angry with him.”

“With all due respect sir the same can be said about you.”

Murdoch glared at his oldest. “ Your brother is a twenty two year old undisciplined  boy. He has had no proper upbringing and I will be damned if I am going to allow him to be disrespectful to me. He is going to learn what it is to be responsible.”

“ Responsible……my brother has been more responsible than you or me his whole life.” Scott snapped back. “ Are you even aware of just how hard Johnny works sir?……My brother has been busting his ass for you……hoping that just maybe you would notice just how hard he is trying to be the son you want and leave his past behind………You have no idea do you how to be a father to him?”

“ Excuse me patron…….but Juanito he left as I was coming in to prepare breakfast.”

“ Did he say where he was going Maria?”

“No senor…….I just seen him riding out.”

“ Thank you Maria…….Scott I want you to go out and check the fence along the south pasture. The rains we had could have washed some of the fence down and we don’t need them getting trapped in the sand gully.”

“ Johnny is already doing that.” Teresa said as she walked into the kitchen. “ He said he wouldn’t be in for lunch because the fence would take the better part of the day to repair.”

Murdoch looked at his oldest saying nothing.

Johnny was stretching wire when he heard the horse approaching. “ Hey brother, getting a late start aren’t ya?”

“ Compared to you I guess I am brother.”

“ Let me guess, the old man sent you out here looking for me to make sure I’m doing my work?”

Scott got down from his horse and tied him off near Barranca. “ Actually we didn’t know where you were at brother, not until Teresa told us. He sent me out here to check the fence before we move cattle into the pasture.”

“ You didn’t happen to bring some biscuits with you by chance did ya?”

“ No……I ate breakfast and you could have also if you hadn’t left so early.”

“ Yeah well I didn’t feel much like being bawled out for what I do on my own time.”

“ Listen Johnny, I know this is all new to you, it is me too, but don’t you think you could try a little harder to not butt heads with our father so much…………I mean he does have a good point about you going into town in the middle of the week.”

“Look Scott, I’ve answered to know one and been my own boss pretty much my whole life….If I wanted to be told when to spit and when to shine I would have stayed in the Mexican army.”

“ Point made, but you’re now a third owner of the biggest spread in California.”

“ Yeah, well he just brought me here for my gun. He never expected me to sign that agreement and stay. Hell I bet he thought I’d take the money and run after the job was done.”

“ Know what I think?”

“ What that brother?”

“ I think the two of you are to damn stubborn, neither one of you knows really, how to act around each other…….You having grown up without a father and him without a son.”

“ Did you know about me?” Johnny asked, changing the subject.

“ No……….no I didn’t Johnny……My grandfather did but he never told me I had a brother…..The only thing he told me was that my mother died right after I was born and that my father didn’t want me.”

“ How come he never came and got you?……..I mean if he knew where you were at why didn’t he come get you and bring you back here?”

“ That brother I do not know.”

“ Maybe that’s something you should be asking him, don’t you think?”

“ It’s in the past, so I don’t see what bringing it up will solve.”

“ It would solve why your grandfather raised you and not your father Scott, but hey if you want to let him have his way and leave it in the past.”

“ How about you?”

“ Me? What about me?”

“ Well how come you never came here when you were older after your mother died?” Scott asked. “ You knew who your father was didn’t you?”

“ Yeah I knew Scott………I wanted to come here and kill him many times.”

“ So why didn’t you?”

“ Look this fence isn’t going to get done with us standing around talking.”

Scott knew the door had just been closed on him finding out anything about his brother. Every little bit of information he did learn about him he cherished.

The brothers rode into the yard late afternoon and handed off their horses. Scott stopped Johnny as they walked toward the house.

“Johnny will you at least consider making an appearance at the party?”

“ Don’t care much for being around a lot of people Boston.”

“ I know, but for me would you consider it?……..If not for me then for Teresa?”

“ Maybe……I ain’t makin’ no promises.”

“ Fare enough.” Johnny answered as he noticed Teresa in the garden and headed to her, snatching a beautiful red rose as he walked up behind her, reaching around as she stood up.

Scott watched his little brother and the affection he showed for their sister. He wished his father was standing there right now witnessing what Johnny was doing.

“ Johnny……’s beautiful. Thank you.” Teresa said as she took the rose from him.

Johnny smiled. “ A beautiful flower for a beautiful lady.” he told her.

Teresa wrapped her arms around him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “ Thank you…..I bet you are starved since you didn’t eat any breakfast.”

“ Hungry enough to eat a horse. Just don’t tell Barranca that I said that.”

“ Well come on, dinner isn’t for a couple hours yet. I’ll fix you a snack.” she said as she took his left hand and started toward the house. “ I made some cookies today. You can snack on a couple of them if you like to hold you until dinner?”

“ That sounds fine to me querido.”  Johnny said as he tickled her side.

Teresa jerked away laughing. “ Johnny stop that.” she said with a grin.

Murdoch walked out the back door and heard Teresa tell him to stop. “ Johnny.”

Both turned and looked at the big man standing at the back door.


“ I will not have you acting that way with your sister.”

“ Murdoch Johnny was only tickling me…….He didn’t do anything wrong.” Teresa stated.

“ That is inappropriate behavior young lady and I will not have it.”

Johnny walked up to his father. “ You got no right saying that old man…….especially after what you have done with my mother.” he stated before walking past and into the house.

Murdoch turned to follow him.

“ Murdoch……Johnny didn’t do anything wrong……..He has never been inappropriate with me…….we were just having some fun……….something you clearly no nothing about doing.” she said before walking past him and into the house.

Johnny sat looking out his bedroom window when he heard the slight knock on his door. “ Yeah.” he said softly.

Teresa opened the door and walked in with a tray of food. “ You didn’t come down to supper so I fixed you a tray.”

“ Not hungry querido.” he said still staring out the window.

“Johnny…Murdoch was out of line this afternoon.”

“ Have I ever done anything inappropriate to you Teresa or made you feel uncomfortable around me?”

“ No.” she answered as she set the tray down. “ When you first came here I was a little scared of you, but I got to know you and the good person you are.”

Johnny glanced at her with hurt in his eyes.

“ Johnny…please don’t leave here……..Please, just give it time, he’ll come around……This is all new to him, having his sons here.”

“ Yeah well he never speaks to Scott like he does me…….Let’s face it Teresa, he can’t see beyond my past and doesn’t want me here.”

“ That’s not true son.” Murdoch said from the door. “ Teresa would you leave us alone please?”

Teresa put a hand on Johnny’ left arm. “ It will work out.”

Murdoch closed the door after Teresa walked out giving him a hard stare as she walked past.

“ So what did I do wrong now?” Johnny asked.

“ Nothing, Scott told me where you were today.”

“ Oh and because Scott told you I didn’t do anything wrong is that it?”

“ Johnny I didn’t come up here to fight with you……Can’t we try to get along son?”

“ Us getting along ain’t likely to happen too soon old man……not as long as you don’t trust me and second guess my every move.”

“ I don’t second guess……….look don’t you think you could’ve told me this morning where you were going?”

“ Why, because you call the tune?”

“ Yes damn it…….I need to know where my hands are working and what jobs need to be done.”

“ That’s all I am to you isn’t it?…….I’m just another hired hand, only we share the same blood.”

“ No son that’s……”

“ Don’t call me that because I know you don’t mean it.” he snapped back as he stood up and walked over to his bed only to be stopped by his father.

“ I want to know what you meant with what you said downstairs this afternoon?”

“ What you can’t figure it out?”


“ Getting my mother pregnant with me and having to marry her to keep the Lancer name good……I mean you couldn’t afford having a bastard half breed child running around now could you.”

Murdoch raised his hand to slap Johnny.

“ I’d think real hard about doing that old man…….Nobody lays a hand on me and lives to tell it….nobody.” Johnny said with coldness in his voice.

Murdoch turned and left the room slamming the door behind him.

The next two weeks Johnny and Murdoch butted heads almost every night arguing about one thing or another. Usually it would happen at dinner and Johnny would just stand up, thank Teresa and Maria for the meal he wouldn’t even get a chance to eat and go to his room.

On several occasions Maria had lashed out at Murdoch for running her Juanito away from his meal and threatened to not cook any more if he didn’t stop. It was Friday night and neither son nor father spoke during this meal. Johnny ate a plate full and nothing more. Wiping his mouth he placed the napkin on his plate and smiled at Teresa. He knew his father seen it and didn’t care.

“ Uh Johnny how about a game of checkers  tonight?” Scott asked.

Johnny looked across the table at him. “ Checkers huh………How about a game of chess instead, unless you’re afraid I might beat you Boston.”

“ I don’t think that will be happening little brother…..I am quit good at chess.”

“ Yeah, well there’s only one way to find out.” he said as he stood and walked over to Teresa. “Teresa dinner was terrific…Thank you.” he told her before giving her a kiss on her forehead.

Teresa smiled at him as she stood up. “ Thank you Johnny, I’m just glad you got to eat it tonight.” she said giving Murdoch a hard stare as she started to clear the table.

“ How about I help you clear the table querido?”

“ That’s her job Johnny, Teresa doesn’t need your help.” Murdoch stated as he stood up. “ We need to go over the books tonight and I want you there.”

“ It may be her job old man, but there ain’t nothin’ that says I can’t help her.”

“ It’s alright go ahead….I made you an apple pie for desert……I’ll dish it up with some coffee after I get these cleared away.”

“ I know I smelled it when I rode in this afternoon. Why ya think I only ate one plate of food, I wanted to save room for your desert.”

“ Alright, that’s enough, lets get to them books.” Murdoch said as he started to his desk. “ Scott why don’t you pour us all a brandy.

“ Not me……..I don’t drink that stuff……..Make mine a tequila brother.”

“ What’s wrong with brandy?” Murdoch asked as he sat down at his desk.

“ It’s not for me is all.”

“ And I suppose that that rock gut you prefer is better?”

“ Okay you two enough…..Johnny has a right to not like brandy sir if he so wishes.” Scott interjected as he brought his father’ drink to him.

“ That’s because he’s never had a good liquor before son, thank you.”

“ And you know this how?” Johnny asked.

“ What?”

“ How do you know what I’ve had and haven’t had drink wise old man?”

“ Because I do……..I’ve been to those border towns and I know they only have cheep whiskey and tequila.”

Johnny downed his shot and set the glass down hard on his fathers desk. “ I wasn’t always in those border towns old man.”

“ Enough……I want you to stop calling me that……..I am your father. You will call me Murdoch, father or Pa is that clear?”

“ Not likely since you never been one to me…….You do the books I’m gonna go help Teresa.” he said before walking away.

Johnny spent all the time he could around Teresa, talking to her about her father and the ranch. He told her some things about his past but not much. Whenever she could, Teresa helped Johnny with learning math, reading and writing better. He wanted his brother to help him since he went to college, but he just couldn’t find the nerve to ask him, couldn’t drop his pride, but when Teresa offered one Sunday afternoon while sitting in the garden talking, he accepted.

“ Hows the roundup going son?” Murdoch asked his oldest.

Scott glanced at his brother. “ It’s coming along. I believe we will be ready to move the herd by this weekend sir.”

“ Oh speaking of this weekend, Murdoch I need to go into town and pick up the things needed for the party.”

“ Alright darling tou can do that tomorrow.”

“ Could Johnny take me?”

Johnny looked up from his plate of food he had been picking at, not really eating.

“I’ll have Scott take you.”

“ Uh sir you have me doing that surveying job tomorrow. Johnny can take her.”

“ That surveying job can wait one more day, you go with them.”

“ I really don’t see a reason why we both have to go into town with her sir.”

“ You’re going, and that’s final.”

Johnny stood up and tossed his napkin down on his plate, glancing at Teresa with a slight smile. “ He don’t trust me alone with our sister Boston, ain’t that right old man?” he stated before walking away.

Scott sat there, a confused look on his face. “ Is what Johnny just said true sir?”

“ I don’t want Teresa going into town alone with him because of his past.”

“ Maybe the Cattlemen’ association should think about getting some law in Green River so men like those couldn’t sir.”

“ Need I remind you that your brother is one of them.”

“ Wrong sir, Johnny is not a gunfighter any longer.”

“ Then why does he insist on wearing that gun, even in my house?”

“ You know the answer to that sir.”

“ Stop it, stop this right now Murdoch….Johnny is a good decent person, and your son. Why are you always putting him down?” Teresa demanded.

“ I do not put him down.”

“ Yes you do, just like you won’t trust him.”

“ Enough…….I am not going to discuss this matter any longer, Scott will go with you tomorrow into town to get what you need for the party Saturday and that’s final.” Murdoch stated finally as he stood up and headed to his desk.

Johnny sat on the veranda wall looking up at the stars when his brother came out.

“ Nice night wouldn’t you say little brother?”

“ Yeah.” he said softly. “ He doesn’t want me here Scott.”

“ Yes he does, it’s just going to take time for….”

“ No he doesn’t. Every day he proves that to me. He never expected me to sign that agreement and stay here. I’m a gunfighter and the only real reason he brought me here was to kill Pardee.”

“ I don’t believe that for a second Johnny.”

“ Yeah well you’re blind then if you can’t see it. If he wants me here then how come he never ask me about something to do with this ranch huh?…….How come it wasn’t me he was asking in there tonight?”

“ He was asking both of us.”

“ No he was asking you….know how I know that, because he was looking right at you. He can’t stand to look at me. I remind him of her every time he does.” Johnny stated as he got down off the wall.

“ Johnny…….you’re wrong little brother……give it time and you’ll see…..Now how about a game of chess?”

“ I don’t feel like it Scott, I’m gonna go to bed.”

Scott watched his brother go inside and even though he didn’t really want to admit it, a part of him did feel his brother was right. Their father not trusting him alone with Teresa brought the most concern.

Johnny had the wagon hitched and Barranca saddled when Scott and Teresa came out of the house.

“ We should be back late afternoon sir.” Scott said as he helped Teresa into the wagon.

“ Don’t forget that grain son……and Johnny I don’t want you going into the saloon getting into trouble. Teresa will be with you, try and remember that.” he said firmly before turning and walking inside.

Johnny swung up in the saddle and glanced at his brother before moving Barranca out.

Scott stopped the wagon outside Baldanero’ store and helped Teresa down. “ We’ll be back after we get the grain loaded.”

“ Okay Scott…..Hey Johnny, don’t let what Murdoch said bother you.”

Johnny looked at her and smiled. He loved having a little sister and to him Teresa was the best.

“ I won’t.” he stated as he got off Barranca and tied him off before climbing up in the wagon with his brother.

Walking into the grain store Scott and Johnny looked around a little while the owner finished helping another customer.

“ What can I do for you?”

Scott walked up to the counter. “ I’m Scott Lancer and this is my brother Johnny Lancer.”

“ Lancer?…….As in Murdoch Lancer?”

“ Yes he’s our father.”

The store owner smiled at Scott and gave Johnny a quick once over that clearly showed his disapproval.

“ What can I do for you?” he asked clearly addressing Scott.

“ Our father ordered twenty sacks of grain.”

“ Ah yes he did……..Why don’t you take the wagon around back boy so it can be loaded?” the store owner said in a tone Johnny clearly understood.

“ You call me boy again and it will be the last time.” Johnny said coldly before walking out of the store.

“ Do you have a problem with my brother sir?” Scott asked once Johnny was gone.

“ I know his kind……..He isn’t welcome here…….He may be Murdoch Lancer’ son but this is the only time I will permit him in my store……You tell Murdoch to not send him here ever again. He’s trouble and I don’t need it, not in here.” the man said before heading into the back.

Scott stood there angry at what was just said about his brother. He couldn’t help but wonder just how many times his little brother was refused service in an establishment because of who he was. Better yet was it because he was Johnny Madrid or of mixed heritage?

Having fought in the war between the states to end racism it angered Scott that right here in the valley he now called home, that sort of treatment still went on. Would people ever see another as an equal instead of as different from them?

Johnny felt the store owners eyes on him as he loaded the grain sacks. Scott came around and helped finish up. Johnny had all but five sacks loaded by the time he got there.

“ Well that does it little brother.” Scott said as he wiped the swear from his brow. “ Lets go see if out sister is about done shall we?”

Johnny stood there glaring at the store owner.

“ Remember what I said Scott…….You tell your father he isn’t welcome in my store ever again.” he said pointing at Johnny.

Johnny started toward the man, only to be stopped by his brother.

“ Johnny don’t……he isn’t worth it.”

Johnny jerked his arm free and walked up to the man. “ Mister……I’d rather drink turpentine and piss on a brush fire than come in your store again.” Johnny said with coldness in his voice.

“ You don’t scare me one bit gun hawk……You’re lucky we don’t have the law around here or you would be run out of this valley…..We don’t need, nor want your kind here….Your kind only bring trouble.”

Johnny grabbed the man by his shirt and slammed him back against the wall. Scott quickly came over and grabbed his brothers left arm.

“ Johnny don’t…He’s not worth it…….Lancer will no longer be doing business with you mister. I can assure you of that……..Let’s go Johnny.”

Johnny let go of the man and got in the wagon with his brother.

Stopping the wagon outside Baldanero’s store Scott and Johnny got down and went inside. Teresa was looking at dresses  when Johnny walked up behind her.

“ I think you would look good in that Saturday Teresa.” he told her.

Teresa turned around. “ It is lovely isn’t it Johnny?”

“ Yeah and on you it would look lovelier and make all the others at that party jealous.”

“ Oh stop, you’re just saying that.”

“ Nope, one thing I never do is tell a lie querido.”

“ Ah you are needing a new dress senorita Teresa?”

“ Mister Baldanero this is Johnny and the gentleman over there is Scott Lancer.”

“ Ah Murdoch Lancer’ sons. Welcome, welcome….you are the one who killed Pardee are you not?” he asked Johnny.

Johnny just looked at the man a second then back at Teresa.

“ Ah I heard that you were shot……I had prayed that you would be alright.”

Still Johnny didn’t answer the man, wanting to forget those couple of days he betrayed one of his own and led Day Pardee to his death.

“ How much is it?” Johnny asked.

“ Ah this one is made of fine……”

“ I asked how much, not what it’s made of.”

“ It is ten dollars senor…….It is all the way from Paris.”

“ Wrap it up for her would you?” Johnny asked as he took out his money sack.

“ Johnny no……..I can’t have you………….”

“ You can and you will…….Teresa if you want me at that party then I want to dance with the prettiest girl there and that will be you wearing that dress.”

“ But it cost ten dollars Johnny.”

“ Querido I don’t care what it cost……..consider it an early birthday present from me.”

Teresa wrapped her arms around Johnny and hugged him. “ Thank you Johnny.” she said before giving him a kiss on the cheek.

Scott just stood and listened, amazed at how caring and generous his little brother was to others. Money just didn’t seem to matter to him and he figured it was probably due to him growing up without for all those years that he wanted to see that others didn’t.

“ Well I think we better be heading back now.” Scott stated finally.

Johnny walked out behind Scott and Teresa and stepped down to Barranca.


Scott and Teresa looked down the street and seen a man older than Johnny standing in the middle of the street.

“ Scott take Teresa back inside now.” Johnny ordered as he turned around. He didn’t know the man standing there, but he knew what he wanted. So many others did and tried to take it and failed.

“ Do I know you mister?” he asked stepping out into the street.

“ No but I know you and I’m going to kill you.”

“ I’m out of the game now……I don’t want to do this…….turn around and you can ride away from here still breathing……..You don’t and they’ll carry you away in a pine box.”

“ I don’t think so Madrid.”

“ Why are you doing this?”

“ Because as long as you’re alive I can’t get the highest paying jobs……but starting tomorrow morning I will.”

Scott took Teresa back inside the store and drew his gun, just in case his brother was shot down.

“ Scott?” Teresa said.

“ Just be quiet so you don’t distract him….He’ll be alright Teresa.”

“ You see Madrid……..I knew you being here would bring trouble……..Your kind always does.” the feed store owner yelled as people watched the two men facing off in the street. Riders stopped their horses and wagons waiting, knowing death would happen soon.

Johnny blocked out the store owners words, never taking his eyes off the man before him.

“ Do I get to at least know the name of the man I’m about to kill?” Johnny asked, goading his opponent just enough always made them get angry and draw sooner than they were ready for. Many before him had and now lay six feet under.

“ Billy Venero.” the man answered.

“ Do you really want to die Billy?”

“ I ain’t the one going to die Madrid…..You are…….I’m gonna ride out of this town with the reputation of killing Johnny Madrid.” Billy said as he went for his gun.

Johnny seen the sign a split second before and drew his colt and fanned the hammer back once, hitting Billy in the chest just below his heart.

Billy drew and fired, his aim off a fraction as he felt the bullet hit him, looking down he seen the crimson red stain spreading across his shirt as he dropped to his knees. Pulling the hammer back he took aim again, seeing Madrid still standing and felt another bullet hit him in the heart. The smoke of Madrid’ gun was the last thing he seen as he fell forward dead.

Johnny watched as Billy cocked his gun again, pulling the hammer back he shot, the bullet hitting Billy in the heart dropping him dead.

Scott heard Teresa suck in air as the shots rang out. He thought he seen his brother jerk just a fraction before the second shot rang out. Holstering his gun he looked at Teresa and seen the look of shock on her face.

“ Stay here.” he ordered as he walked out to his brother.

Teresa stood there in the doorway looking at the man in the street who a few seconds before her brother had so desperately tried to not kill.

“ Johnny… alright?” Scott asked.

Johnny turned to him for a second before walking past to Barranca and mounting up.

“ Teresa….let’s go.” Scott called as he climbed into the wagon.

“ Killer…….that’s all you are Madrid….a killer….You didn’t have to shoot that man again.” the feed store owner Jim Fowler yelled as Johnny rode out of Green River.

“ Are you alright Teresa?’ Scott asked.

“ I….I’ve never seen him kill someone before Scott……he’s so fast.”

“ Not fast enough….I think Johnny was hit Teresa.”

“ What…..are you sure Scott?”

“ I seen him jerk just slightly.” he answered.

“ Why didn’t he say something, Sam could have taken care of it in town.”

“ I think because certain people in town don’t like Johnny.”

“ Don’t like him why Scott?”

“ Because of the raiders, Pardee and his men and the fact that Johnny was seen in town drinking with him. I think they still think Johnny is one of them.”

“ That’s ridiculous. Johnny would never do something like that. He fought to save this valley and Lancer.”

“ I know sweetheart, but they do.”

“ Where did he go Scott?……If he’s hurt he’s going to need help.”

“ I hope home.”

Johnny rode Barranca into the yard and handed him off to a hand and headed inside the house. His father came out the french doors.

“ Where are Scott and Teresa?” he asked gruffly.

Johnny didn’t answer him, he just walked past and into the house, heading to his room.

“ I asked you a question.” Murdoch stammered as he followed Johnny inside.

“ They’re coming.” he answered as he headed upstairs.

Once in his room Johnny carefully removed his bolero jacket and looked down at the deep furrow in his side. Pulling his shirt tail out he unbuttoned it and took it off, walking over to the basin on the stand next to his bed he poured some water and dabbed the towel in it and started wiping the blood away. The wound was deep, but the bleeding had almost stopped now.

Sighing as he sat down on his bed and knew what was to come when his father found out what happened in town. Even though it wasn’t his fault and he had tried to prevent it, his father would be furious at him mostly because Teresa had witnessed it. He himself hated her having to see Madrid in action. Oh sure she had seen men killed before, even killed some when Pardee attacked, but seeing him do it like that he couldn’t help but wonder if it would affect how she felt about him now.

Scott stopped the wagon and got down as his father walked over. “ Is Johnny here?’ he asked helping Teresa down.

“ Yes…..he’s inside…What happened in town? Why did Johnny ride back here ahead of you two?”

Scott and Teresa told him what happened and he could see the anger boiling in his fathers face.

“ I knew that boy would get into trouble…….Are you alright darling?”

“ I’m fine….Murdoch it wasn’t his fault…….Johnny tried to stop it but the other man.”

“ I don’t care who started it….he endangered both your lives today.”

Scott had heard enough. It was clear his father wasn’t going to be reasoned with on this matter.

“ Johnny was shot.” he said before heading in the house with Teresa right behind him, leaving Murdoch standing there.

Johnny held the wet cloth to his side as he got up and walked over to his dresser and opened the second drawer down and took out a roll of bandage he kept there. Walking back over to his bed he sat down when he heard a knock at his door.

“ Johnny unlock the door.” Scott said from the other side. “ I know you were hit, now open the door so Teresa can help you.”

Sighing Johnny got up and walked over and opened the door.

Murdoch came in a few seconds after them and glared at his son sitting on the bed holding a cloth to his side.

“ Get out.” Johnny ordered his father. “ I don’t need to hear any of your……”

“ Why didn’t you tell me you were hurt?” Murdoch cut in.

“ Why?…….so you can yell at me and tell me how it’s my fault and that I’m irresponsible and endangered Scott and Teresa’ lives?……How I have little or no regard to others………I’ve heard it before old man and I’m sick of it.” Johnny snapped back. “ I did everything I could to prevent this from happening and I told you that this would happen if I stayed here. You told me you were willing to accept that so I did………but the truth of the matter is, you can’t handle the fact that your youngest is a gunfighter and kills men for the simple reason that they want to kill me for my reputation.”

“ Johnny that needs cleaned out….It doesn’t need stitches but does need cleaned out.” she said as she headed to the door. “ I’ll be right back.”

“ Johnny why didn’t you say something in town? Sam could have taken care of this there.” Scott stated.

“ You know why Boston.” Johnny said as he stood up giving his brother a look that clearly said ‘ say no more’.

Friday morning Murdoch went into town alone and picked up his friend Jim Harper and his daughter Melissa. Heading back to the ranch the two men made small talk, catching up on old times. Murdoch telling him about his sons. Talking with pride about Scott and how he went to college back east.

“ And your other son Johnny……….where did he go to school at Murdoch?” Jim asked.

Murdoch told him how Johnny was taken from him as a baby and raised along the borders in Mexico.

“ I see……does the boy even know how to write…..or even read?” he asked with some sarcasm to his voice.

“ Yes he does Jim……He isn’t educated like Scott but he knows some.”

“ I see and I suppose growing up unsupervised like that he has no manners.”

“Johnny is learning. He’s head strong and I am always arguing with him about everything it seems, but he’s only been here four months Jim, we are still getting to know each other.”

“ Yes well………..Your oldest son Scott now he sounds like a very nice young man……Someone who could safely show Melissa around this fine ranch of yours maybe?”

“ Jim……..Scott would be happy to show Melissa around the ranch…So would Johnny. I have made it perfectly clear to both my sons to  be gentlemen when around your daughter.”

“ Yes well I don’t believe I will be allowing her to fraternize with your youngest son alone.”

Murdoch stopped the spring wagon on the hill and got down. “ Well there it is… far as the eye can see…..Lancer.”

                                                                                                Chapter 3

Johnny took it easy the next day. Mainly because Teresa and Maria both threatened to wail on him good if he didn’t. Well Maria did. Teresa threatened to not make him anything sweet for a month and he knew she meant it.

Brushing Barranca he heard his father arrive back with his guest. “ More eastern dandies boy.” he said softly to his friend as he brushed the white mane. His side still hurt, and would for a while. Scott had put his foot down to their father that he thought his brother shouldn’t be riding for at least a week, giving the wound time to heal. He had told him and his father he’d had a hell of a lot worse and still rode. To his surprise his father agreed with Scott and gave his son no choice but to rest. Johnny had agreed only because his brother had stood up for him.

If they knew the truth the wound hurt like hell, nothing he hated more than to have a bullet graze him. He would rather have a bullet in him or thru him. A graze took flesh were the others only put a hole in him.

“ I know you want to go for a run boy, but I can’t yet, not with this furrow in my side.” he said as he came around to the stallions face.

Barranca put his head on Johnny’ shoulder and sighed, bringing a laugh from him.

“ How about I put you out in the paddock buddy? You can run and graze on that lush green grass or lay in the shade of one of those big old oak tree’s……Would you like that?”

Barranca shook his head up and down and stomped his feet as Johnny went and opened the stall gate.

“ Come on buddy.” he said as he started walking out with the stallion following at his side with no lead rope. “ Mind your manners buddy and stay with me…..Don’t wanna give them there eastern dandies any reason  to get scared.”

Scott and Teresa walked out of the house and greeted Murdoch and his guest.

“ Ah Jim, Melissa this is my ward Teresa O’ Brian and my oldest son Scott.”

“ Miss Teresa, you are as beautiful as Murdoch said.”

“Thank you Mister Harper….Melissa.”

“ You must be the Harvard graduate Murdoch told me about….It’s nice to meet a young man with manners and an education worth mentioning.”

Scott shook the man’s hand and couldn’t help but wonder just what the man meant with that statement.

“ Mister Harper…….my father has told me quit a bit about you.”

“ All lies I’m sure.”

“ Come on you two, I’ll show you to your rooms so you can freshen up and rest before dinner.” Teresa said.

Murdoch stopped his son. “ Where is your brother?’ he asked once the Harper’ were out of hearing range.

“ Johnny……I believe he’s in the barn with Barranca sir……No there he is.”

Murdoch turned and seen his youngest walking with the stallion following.

Johnny.” Murdoch yelled as he started toward him and Scott headed inside.

“ I told you I don’t want you riding for a week.”

“ Do I look like I’m riding?……I’m just taking him down to the lower paddock to get some of that good green grass and run.”

“ I want this stallion on a lead when he is out……I will not have you putting our guest at risk or any of the hands with this stallion if he decides to take off.”

“ Barranca ain’t gonna do no such thing old man so get off my case……Come on boy.” Johnny snapped back as he continued toward the paddock.

“ You could have at least been hospitable and greeted my friends when they arrived.”

“ They’re your friends old man, not mine…..Why do now what I can do tonight?”

“ You listen to me young man…….Scott will be showing Melissa around Lancer…….under no circumstances are you to go anywhere alone with her……is that clear?”

“ What?”

“ You heard me.” Murdoch said before turning to head to the house. “ You had better be on your best behavior while they are here and at the party tomorrow night, because if you’re not………”

“ How about I just leave huh?……..Then you won’t have to worry about me embarrassing you.” Johnny said back as he walked away.

Teresa set a vase of roses in the center of the table as Jim Harper walked in.

“ Did you enjoy your rest mister Harper?” she asked.

“ Why yes I did young lady…..I’m afraid that riding on that stage for a week and the train has taken it’s toll on me.”

“ Well Murdoch is outside with Scott, they should be coming in getting ready for dinner.”

“ And what of this other son…….the wild one?” he asked rather snottily.

“ Johnny…….he’s around here somewhere……..he was injured the other day so he can’t do any work for a week. I expect he is out with his stallion somewhere spoiling him more…..He’ll be here for dinner.”

“ Well I’ll leave you to your work young lady.” he said before walking away, heading to the front door.

Walking outside, looking around he seen Murdoch and Scott down at the corrals  talking to another man who appeared to be a  Mexican hand. Sitting down in a chair on the veranda he spotted another man, a Mexican by looks walking toward the house.

Johnny seen his fathers guest sitting on the veranda as he walked toward the house.

“ Mister Harper.” he said politely as he walked past and inside to his fathers desk and opened a drawer.

Jim got up and followed him inside. “ Just a minute young man……Does Murdoch know you are pilfering thru his desk?”

Johnny didn’t bother to look up at the man as he took out a ledger and opened it.

“ I asked you a question and I expect an answer.”

“ Nope.” was all Johnny said as he put the ledger back and shut the drawer. “ I don’t have ta tell him.” he said as he started to walk back outside.

“ You don’t just come into a mans house and go thru his desk….Even someone like you should know that that isn’t right, especially when that man is kind enough o give you people a job.”

Johnny stopped. “ You people?”

“ Yes, you Mexicans. Stealing from your employer is beyond low.”

“ Mister Harper, I suggest you stop right there because you know nothing about me or Murdoch Lancer.”

“ I know a thief when I see one. You come walking into this house and pilfer thru his desk like you own this place.”

Murdoch and Scott walked up then. “ Is there a problem Jim?” Murdoch asked.

“ Yes……….this Mexican is stealing from you Murdoch, he brazenly walked into your home and trifled thru your desk and ledgers.”

Murdoch glared at Johnny. “ Jim this is my youngest son Johnny……..I’m sorry if you were misled.”

“ Your son……..well I see now why you said what you did earlier coming here. This……he has no manners at all.”

“ What did he do Jim?….Did he say something to you?”

“ Told me I should mind my own business.”

“ And you should.” Johnny interjected.

“ That’s quit enough Johnny……..I will not have you being rude to our guest.”

“ But it’s alright for him to call me a thief?”

“ It was an honest mistake and nothing more…….What was in my desk that you couldn’t wait for me to get?”

“Nothing.” Johnny said before walking away and up to his room, slamming the door.

“ If that were my son and he treated me that way I would burn his backside and teach him some manners.” Jim said firmly.

Murdoch looked at the man but said nothing.

Scott watched his brother storm away more hurt than anything.

“ Mister Harper, I mean no disrespect to you sir, but I suggest you stay away from my brother since you are so quick to judge someone just by their appearance sir.”

“ I know a thief when I see one young man and he may be your brother but…..”

“ But nothing……you had no call accusing Johnny of stealing……something you don’t know sir is that Johnny is a third owner of this ranch and he has every right to get into that desk and look at whatever it is he needs to look at…… I suggest that in the future sir if you want to be so observant, that you discuss it with my father after so you don’t make that mistake again.” Scott stated firmly.

“ Well I think it’s pretty clear that my trying to stop a thief is not appreciated….I believe I will go see if Melissa is awake now….If you will excuse me Murdoch.” he said before turning and heading inside.

“ You sir, why didn’t you defend your own son against that man accusing him of being a thief?”

“ I did……..I told Jim I was sorry he was misled, what more could I say?”

“ You did not defend Johnny sir. You addressed mister Harper……you never once said to my brother, your son is not a thief. There’s a big difference between the two sir………and another thing, why is it when Johnny was standing up for himself against Harper you jumped on him, but when I just did you didn’t say a thing?”

“ Because you were not being rude to our guest.”

“ Rude……Johnny wasn’t being rude…….Johnny was telling the truth……You know tonight you showed me that you are no better than Jim Fowler and others in town who don’t like my brother because of his mixed race…….You sir are a bigot and I suggest that you change how you are to Johnny and soon because if he leaves Lancer I will leave here with him.” Scott stated firmly before heading inside.

Murdoch stood there shocked at what his oldest just said. Was he being a bigot to his own flesh and blood and not realizing it? Did he hate his son because every time he looked at him he would see Maria? How could a father……a father, something knew to him again after twenty years, could it be he was still seeing his youngest as the two year old he was when Maria took him away? Why was it he could always talk to his oldest, but not his youngest and not get into a heated argument?

Sighing and rubbing his temple Murdoch headed inside for what he hoped would be a peaceful dinner.

Johnny was sitting at the kitchen table the next morning sipping on a cup of hot coffee when he heard footsteps coming down the back stairs. Without looking he knew it was his father. Sighing he couldn’t help but tense up knowing he was probably going to get another lecture about how he spoke to Harper.

“ Morning son.” Murdoch said as he walked over to pour a cup of coffee. “ Morning Maria.”

“ Good morning patron….is there something special I need to fix your guest for breakfast senor?”

“ No I don’t believe so Maria, thank you for asking.”

“ Very well senor.”

“ You’re up early.” he said to Johnny as he sat down.

Johnny glanced at him. “ Couldn’t sleep.”

“ Listen Johnny, about last night son…..”

“ Don’t Murdoch…….don’t call me your son because it’s pretty clear I’m not……not when you stand there and don’t say a damn thing when your so called friend calls me a thief……you didn’t say a word until I did and then it wasn’t to him……it was to me to be respectful to him.”

Scott entered the kitchen and stopped. He could hear his brother’ voice coming downstairs and knew he was still hurt over last nights happenings.

“ Tell me something old man…….am I not an equal partner in this ranch?……..Am I not your son?”

“ Yes damn it……Johnny last night you were out of line……..Jim made an honest mistake…..he didn’t know you were my son.”

“ An honest mistake huh…..well let me tell you something old man…….”

Jim walked into the kitchen then.

“ If he ever does it again.” Johnny stood up and glared at Harper. “ You ever call me a thief again or say what you did to me last night, friend or no friend of his, you’ll find yourself swallowing your teeth.” Johnny said with anger.

“ Are you going to let him speak to me like that Murdoch?” Jim demanded.

“ No I am not……Johnny you don’t go around threatening our guest…………Jim…… were out of line last night and I want you to apologize to my son for calling him a thief.”

“ I most certainly will not apologize to him Murdoch.”

“ Either you do or you can pack your things and leave.”

Johnny stood there taken aback by what he was hearing his father say, glancing at his brother he could tell he was also.

“ Murdoch surely you don’t mean that?”

“ I do and I will not have you speaking to my son like that again…….so……”

Jim looked at Johnny, deep inside he had a hatred for the young man and his kind.  “ Very well then….. I am sorry for wrongfully calling you a thief last night Johnny……..I didn’t know you were his son.”

“ Excuse me.” was all Johnny said before leaving out the back door.

“ You see Murdoch……..I did what you asked and that boy is still rude.”

“ Johnny left mister Harper to keep from hitting you……I myself find it hard not to.” Scott stated as he walked over and poured a cup of coffee. “ Maria could you fix my little brother something…….I doubt he will be coming back in to eat breakfast.”

“ Si senor Scott……Juanito he is very hurt and angry this morning…..He was here when I came in.”

“ Did he say anything to you?” Scott asked.

Maria glanced over at the two men sitting at the table. “ No senor Scott, but I know he is hurt from something to do with the patron…..Juanito is a good person, he has a good heart and so wants to please his papa.”

“ I know…….Those two are cut from the same mold…….all pride and not an ounce of give between them.”

Johnny was sitting in the rose garden that afternoon leaning back against the pillar with his eyes closed when he heard light footsteps approaching.

“ Hey querido.” he said softly without opening his eyes.

“ How’d you know it was me and not someone else?”

“ Your footsteps.” he told her as he sat up straight. “ What’s up?”

“ I just wanted to know if you would still be at the party tonight.”

“ I wouldn’t miss it……I promised you I would be. Besides I want to see you in that new dress I bought you.” he told her. ‘ So where’s your friend Melissa? Haven’t seen her around all day.”

“ Scott took her out to show her the ranch.”

“ Ah guess someone had to do it.”

“ Johnny are you alright?” Teresa asked as she sat down next to him on the bench.

“ Yeah….You know all my life I wished for a big brother to protect me and stop the abuse I got…….Until I came here I didn’t even know I had one. My mother never said anything about Scott…..When I came here and found that out I thought it was the greatest thing to ever happen to me……I never would have thought I would have a big brother, let alone a little sister…………Teresa  I couldn’t ask for a better one.”

“ Johnny I am the luckiest girl in the world to have two big brothers to look after me, but it’s having you that makes it so special………You are such a sweet, kind and caring person.”

Johnny smiled and stood up. “ Glad someone thinks so.”

“ Well I need to go finish helping Maria get the food ready for the party……guest will be arriving soon.”

“ Okay…..and Teresa I meant what I said about you.”

Teresa gave him a gentle hug and kiss. “ I did also.”

Jim Harper moved back around the corner so’s not to be seen as Teresa headed back into the house. Disgusted he wondered if his friend knew about the carrying on going on between his…..son…..and his ward? It was inappropriate behavior to him. After this mornings happenings he decided he would keep quiet and just observe the two and how the interact before mentioning it to Murdoch.

Scott was having a good time showing Melissa around the ranch. The two talking about Boston and attending college there. Late in the afternoon he decided they should head back to the ranch for the party. He couldn’t help but start to like her and wondered if maybe she did him as well.

“ So when do I get to meet this brother of yours Scott?” Melissa asked.

“ Johnny…….I expect you will see him tonight at the party…..You haven’t met him yet?”

“ No……..just you and Teresa………My father told me I was to stay away from him…..That he wasn’t the sort of person I should be around…….why would he say that Scott?”

Hearing this angered him. “ Melissa it’s not my place to say this, but last night your father accused my brother of being a thief, not knowing who he was and this morning he didn’t want to apologize to Johnny for it……probably wouldn’t have if Murdoch hadn’t threatened him so to speak.”

“ My father can be a bigot at times Scott……he treats me like I’m a little kid……Like I can’t make my own decisions or make my own friends…….If someone doesn’t meet his approval he forbids me from seeing them……Scott I think my father is a bigot.”

“ Last night he was Melissa to my brother……..Johnny may not have the education I have, but he’s smart and a damn good person….Once you meet him you will see.”

“ Your father said he grew up along the border in Mexico, unsupervised and has no manners.”

“ Johnny did grow up in Mexico along the border…..His mother died when he was Ten and he was left to raise himself the best way he could.”

“ Why didn’t he come home to you and his father?”

“ Because I guess his mother before she died told him Murdoch threw them out when he was two……Johnny didn’t know about me or the truth until he came back here twenty years later.” Scott told her as he stopped the buggy and got down. “ I want to show you something.” he said as he walked around to help her down. Taking her hand in his he walked her over close to the edge of the hill under a big oak tree.

“ It’s beautiful Scott……I’ve never seen a lake so clear and blue before.”

“ Me and Johnny found it one day looking for strays.”

“ Have you went swimming in it yet?” she asked as she tightened her hand in his.

Scott looked down at her and smiled slightly. “ No, Johnny hasn’t been up and around that much since he was shot in the back.”

“ In the back?”

“ Yeah during the land pirates raid.” he told her as he turned to face her, looking at her lips, her eyes. The way her chest rose and fell with every breath.

“ I think I better get you back now so you can get ready for the party.” he said as he battled the urge to pull her to him and kiss her.

Melissa knew Scott Lancer was feeling something for her, she was him too. Maybe tonight she would get him alone and see if it was true or not she thought as she walked with him back to the buggy.

Johnny sat on his bed trying to change his bandage when he heard a knock on his door. “ Yeah.” When he seen who it was he smiled. “ Teresa……wow you look great querido.”

“ Why thank you…….you want some help with that?” she asked leaving the door open and walking over to him.

“ Could you?” Johnny asked as he handed her the wrap.

Teresa took the wrap from him and started wrapping it around his chest. “ You going to wear that white  shirt I like with the embroidered stitch on it?”

“ I will if you’d like me to.” he answered with a smile.

Teresa tied off the wrap. “ I think it looks very nice on you, and with your bolero jacket I bet you will have all the girls crooning and fighting over you tonight.”

“ Yeah…..speaking of fighting……if you weren’t my little sister I would be fighting over you…..That dress  looks very nice on you Teresa.”

Jim Harper stopped outside the door he heard voices coming from. Listening he knew who it was.

“ It makes you look like a mature grown woman……and I mean no disrespect saying that.”

“ Why thank you Johnny..and I must say that if you were not my brother I would chase after you.”

Harper walked in then. “ I should hardly think a young lady alone in a man of his natures room is highly inappropriate behavior.”

Both turned and looked at the man standing just inside the door.

“ Mister Harper I was just wrapping Johnny’ wound up and talking to him…..The door is open as you could very well see.”

“ Open or not you should not be in this room with a half naked man young lady.” he said as he stepped closer.

“ Let me tell you something mister……Teresa has every right to be in my room she was doing nothing wrong……so I suggest you turn around and walk back out that door while you still can.”

“ I have eyes and ears…..I know what I heard and seen this afternoon in the garden…….The two of you carrying on the way you do……You should be ashamed of yourself young lady.”

Johnny moved so fast Harper had no time to react. He grabbed the man by his jacket and shoved him out his door. “ I said leave and if you ever suggest Teresa in that manner again I will put you on your ass so hard you won’t be able to sit for a year.” Johnny said with coldness in his voice as cold as his eyes.

“ We’ll just see about that.” he responded straightening his jacket.

Johnny stepped back into his room. “ I’m sorry Teresa…..I didn’t mean to cause you wrongness.”

Teresa stepped over to him. “ I don’t like that man Johnny…….and I’m not to sure I like his daughter either.”

“ Yeah….you better head on down to the party and let me finish getting dressed.” he told her as his father walked into his room.

“ Is everything alright?” he asked.

“ Yes. I just wrapped Johnny’ wound up for him is all.”

“ You look very lovely tonight Teresa……Is that a new dress?”

“ You like it?……..Johnny bought it for me in town the other day…….Wanted me to be the envy of all the other women tonight……..Don’t forget you promised me a dance Johnny.” she said as she headed downstairs.

“ I won’t querido.” he called back.

“ She didn’t do anything wrong Murdoch. The door was open and I needed help wrapping my wound.”

“ Next time find your brother or me to do it……. I don’t want you wearing your gun at the party either…understand……and another thing I don’t want Teresa in your room any more alone with you. I won’t have her innocence exploited because of you.” he said firmly before walking out.

Johnny stood there shocked his father would even think he would do something to hurt his little sister. If it weren’t for Teresa he wouldn’t even go to this stupid party. He hated crowds of people, especially people he knew would not want to meet him. Oh sure his brother the eastern dandy they would, but not the halfbreed son, hell no.

Putting on his shirt and bolero jacket Johnny looked at the colt hanging from his bed post and remembered what his father sternly said about wearing it, walking over to his dresser he opened the top drawer and reach to the back, pulling out a smaller pistol and checked it before slipping it into his waistband at his back.

“ No way old man…no way am I going to be around people I don’t know naked.” he said as he looked in the mirror and smiled at what he saw. “ Teresa was right.” he said before walking out and heading down to the party.

Teresa stood in the garden fuming over the way Murdoch was treating Johnny. Why was he being so cold and hateful to him after all those years of searching for him. She wished her father was still alive, maybe if he was then Murdoch wouldn’t be the way he was to him. She loved both brothers dearly, but found herself drawn to Johnny more than Scott. The feelings she had were not wrong feelings, they were true genuine feelings of love, a love that only a brother and sister would have.

Knowing Johnny didn’t really want to be around a bunch of people, she knew he would probably come out the side door and she was right. When light spilled out into the garden she turned and found him standing there looking at her.

“ You sure are pretty in that dress Teresa.” Johnny said as he walked over to her and held out an arm. “ May I escort you to the dance?”

“ I would consider it an honor to be escorted by you.” she told him as she wrapped her left arm around his right and the two walked around the house to the back where the party was in full swing.

A hand  stood basting a half a cow over a pit, boards set atop barrels for tables, food of all kinds lay spread out. Deep dished pies and cookies, Corn and potato’s, several bowls of punch and a couple of barrels of beer. Several men stood or sat playing guitars, fiddles, harmonica’s and even a banjo.

“ Well it’s about time you showed up brother.” Scott said as he walked over with a young woman at his side. “ Teresa, Johnny was right that dress looks lovely on you.”

“ Why thank you Scott.”

“ Melissa this is my brother Johnny……..Johnny this is Melissa Harper.”

“ Ma’am.” was all Johnny said as he unconsciously tightened his hold on Teresa’ arm.

“ So you are the elusive youngest son……..I’ve been here three days and am just now getting to meet you.”

Johnny got a feeling in his gut he learned a long time ago to not ignore. This woman made him feel very uncomfortable with the way her eyes looked him up and down. Usually he wouldn’t mind being looked at like this , but by her, he could tell that on the outside she might be a proper lady for her fathers benefit, but on the inside Johnny knew all the signs of trouble, and Melissa Harper he knew was just that, trouble.

“ Uh Scott why don’t you go dance with Teresa? I’m sure she would love to.”

Scott looked at his brother then Teresa. “ Would you mind brother?”

“ Not at all.” he answered even though he didn’t want to be left alone with Melissa.

Scott took Teresa’ arm in his and escorted her onto the dance floor.

Johnny stood there watching the two, ignoring the girl standing next to him. When she moved closer and ran her hand up his right arm he took a step to his left away from her.

“ I know your the bad son…your father told me and my father all about you and how you grew up all alone……How you became Johnny Madrid a gunfighter.” she said as she moved closer again. “ I’ve heard some of the women here talking about you and how you like the whores in town.”

Johnny looked at her then. Could he be the talk of the party because of his rides into town at night in the middle of the week?

“ I like bad boys Johnny…….we could have a good time tonight if you wanted too?” Melissa said making what she meant very clear to Johnny when her hand ran down and touched his butt.

“ I don’t think so.” Johnny said as the song ended and Scott and Teresa started back toward them.

“ Oh I think we could. You see I can be a bad girl too Johnny, if you let me.”

“ Not in a hundred years Melissa…….Teresa you want some punch?”

“ Why yes Johnny thank you.”

Johnny hurried away to the punch bowl, glad to get away from Melissa.

“ Your brother is sure a forward man Scott….why I can’t believe he asked me to take a walk with him to the barn to see his horse.” she said.

Scott raised a brow. The feeling he got when walking back over was his brother didn’t like this girl at all.  “ Maybe you misunderstood Johnny, Melissa.”

“ Oh I didn’t I assure you.”

Johnny walked back over and handed Teresa her punch.

“ A gentleman usually brings a drink to both ladies in his presence .” Melissa stated.

“ Yeah well I only see one lady present.” Johnny said firmly.

“ Well I never…….Scott are you going to let your brother speak to me like that?”

“ Johnny.”

“ Teresa I promised you a dance.” Johnny said as he took her hand in his.

“ Yes you did.”

Jim Harper watched his daughter talking with the Lancer brothers and Teresa. He could tell by the look on Melissa’ face that something inappropriate had been said to her by the youngest. Looking around he found Murdoch talking to another man and headed to them.

Johnny held Teresa closer than he should as they danced to the slow music.

“ Johnny I’m surprised at you…..I had no idea you could dance so well.”

Johnny smiled at her. “ My mother taught me some before she died. I wasn’t sure I would remember how.”

“ Johnny……Melissa said that you invited her to the barn.”

“ Did she now…..Teresa there is no way I would go off with that girl for that….She’s the one who suggested it to me and I turned her down. She’s not all she pretends to be querido….I’ve seen her kind before.”

Teresa smiled at him and laid her head on his shoulder. “ I know Johnny…….I got that feeling the first day I met her….She’s not a lady.”

Jim Harper walked over to Murdoch and looked out on the dance floor, disgust in his eyes.

“ I may be out of line saying this Murdoch, given what has already happened, but I find it highly inappropriate for your son and ward to be dancing that close.”

Murdoch looked out at the two in question and set his beer down. “ Excuse me.” he said as he headed to the two.

Johnny was relaxed more than he had been in a long time dancing with Teresa when he was suddenly grabbed and spun around.

“ Just what do you two think you are doing?” he demanded.

“ Murdoch.” Teresa said. “ We are dancing.”

“ I will not have you two behaving like this in public……That is not how you dance……You do not stand that close to each other……..It’s inappropriate and Johnny I warned you about your behavior toward Teresa……I will not have her good name damaged by the likes of you.”

Johnny jerked his arm free. “ We were doing nothing wrong old man……. Teresa is my sister and that’s all…….It’s you making a big deal out of nothing.”

The other people stopped dancing and the music stopped playing as the people now stood and  watched the confrontation between father and son.

“ I know what kind of women you like and I will not have you thinking that of Teresa……She is my ward and you will treat her with respect.”

Teresa had had enough.  “ Murdoch stop it…..Johnny did nothing wrong…He was….”

“ I know perfectly well what he was doing Teresa….everybody here knows….”

Teresa lashed out and slapped Murdoch hard across the face as tears welled up in her eyes. “ Don’t you dare accuse Johnny of treating me inappropriately Murdoch…….He has been nothing but a loving, caring brother to me and never……never has he done or said anything inappropriate to me.”

Jim Harper had walked over to them. “ Like he wasn’t when he had you in his room alone earlier……or how about this afternoon in the garden?……I seen the two of you together and I must say young lady that is not how a brother and sister act.”

Teresa walked up to him and slapped him hard. “ And I suppose the way your daughter acts is lady like, asking Johnny to take her to the barn to be alone and touching him the way she did moments ago.”

“ Teresa, that will be enough……..Johnny I told you to stay away from her and I mean it.”

Teresa had tears running down her cheeks now. Glaring at Murdoch. “ You’re wrong about Johnny and me Murdoch…..dead wrong.” she said before turning and running into the house crying.

“ Teresa.” Johnny said as he went to go after her only to be stopped and spun around.

“ You stay away from her.” Murdoch demanded.

Scott heard the commotion and seen Teresa run into the house crying as he came over. “ What the devil is wrong with you sir?”

“ Your brother is what’s wrong.” he snapped back. “ Exploiting Teresa right her in front of our guest.”

“ Go to hell old man.” Johnny said before jerking his arm free again and walking off into the dark.

“ That boy is nothing but trouble Murdoch…..You would be better off if he left this ranch.”

“ Mister Harper, you know nothing about my brother and I strongly suggest you keep you opinions to yourself.” Scott interjected.

“ You mark my words and before long he will have done something to that young lady…….”

Scott drew back his right arm and hit Harper hard in the mouth sending the man backwards into the veranda wall.

“ I told you to keep your opinions about my brother to yourself and I meant it……You have done nothing but put my brother down from the moment you got here……..And you sir……what the hell is the matter with you?………Why are you treating Johnny the way you are?…….You just hurt him and Teresa in the worst way….You know Johnny would never hurt her.” Scott said angrily before walking away to find his brother. He knew there was nothing he could do to console Teresa right now, his brother however  he knew would need him more than anything right now with the hurt he knew he was having.

Melissa walked into the barn and noticed a beautiful palomino standing in a stall, walking over she reached out to pet the horse but jerked her hand back when he tried to bite her.

“ That horse only let’s Johnny touch him.” a male voice said  from the shadows. “ You looking for something miss?” he asked as he stepped into the light of the moon coming in thru the hayloft doors.

Melissa looked at the man, a Mexican she could tell. “ You speak very good English.”

“ That’s because my parents taught  me when I was little.”

“ Really?” Melissa stated as she stepped closer to him.

“ I seen you earlier with the younger one…….I seen how he turned you down….If you are still wanting I can be much more than him.”

“ Oh I’m still wanting…..but not with you.” she said as she started to walk past him and leave the barn.

Pedro grabbed her right arm. “ No need to leave just yet……..not till we have some fun.”

“ Let go of me now or I will scream.” she said angrily.

Pedro took out a knife. “ I don’t think so.” he said as he dragged her to the hay pile at the back of the barn and jerked her around and ripped her dress open. “ I’m gonna give you what you wanted is all.”

Melissa lashed out and slapped him hard, only to be punched in the face and knocked back into the hay.

Pedro undid his pants and got on top of her, claiming her mouth violently to stifle her scream as he shoved into her and viciously took her, biting her breast and anywhere he could drawing blood and bruises.

It was over in a matter of minutes, standing up he did up his pants and reached down and grabbed her, jerking her up to his face. “ Thanks for the good time.” he spat before hitting her again in the face knocking her out, letting her drop to the hay again, Pedro turned and headed to the corral were he saddled his horse and rode away.

Scott headed to the barn figuring his brother went there to be with his horse or leave. As he got closer he seen a person come staggering out of the barn toward him. As he got closer he seen it was Melissa and that her dress was torn and hanging off her left shoulder exposing her breast.

Hurrying to her he removed his coat and put it around her to cover her up the best he could. “ Melissa….my god, come on lets get you inside so no one see’s you like this.” he said softly as he guided her to the back door of the house, opening the door he found Maria with Teresa in the kitchen.

“ Scott what happened?” Teresa asked, her own problems forgotten.

“ Take her upstairs while I go get Sam.” Scott answered before hurrying out to find the doctor.

Out in the yard he seen people were leaving and found his father, Sam and Jim Harper standing talking on the veranda porch.

“ Sam… need to go inside.” he said.

“ Scott what’s wrong son?”

“ It’s Melissa sir……Sam she needs you now. Teresa and Maria have her upstairs in her room.” was all he would say.

The three men hurried inside the house and upstairs. Jim stopped dead in his tracks when he seen his daughter. Her face bloody and bruised, sitting on the bed with a blanket wrapped around her.

“ Melissa.” he said as he went to her and wrapped her in his arms. “ What happened?”

“ She’s been……” Teresa couldn’t say it.

“ She’s been violated senor.” Maria said.

“ Alright everyone out except Maria.” Sam ordered.

Scott, Murdoch, Jim and Teresa left the room.

“ I’ll kill that sonofabitch Murdoch………I swear to you I will kill that youngest son of yours for this.”

“ Now hold on there………..Johnny would never do something like this.” Scott interjected.

“ That’s right…..besides Johnny was with all of us remember.” Teresa stated firmly as she glared at Murdoch.

“ He had plenty of time to violate her after he stormed off.”

“ Johnny didn’t do it.” Teresa said.

“ Didn’t do what?” Johnny asked as he walked into the grand room.

Jim moved so fast it even caught Johnny off guard as he swung and hit him, knocking him backwards.

“ You raped my daughter you sonofabitch…….I’ll kill you.”

Scott and Murdoch grabbed Jim by his arms and stopped him.

“ Jim that’s enough…… son did not rape Melissa.” Murdoch stated firmly as he looked at his youngest son. “I have been a blind fool ever since you came here, allowing you to belittle my son, accuse him of stealing and acting wrong around Teresa……I will not have you wrongfully accusing him of anything again or you will answer to me.”

Sam came downstairs. “ Am I interrupting?” he asked.

“ Hows my daughter doing?” Jim asked.

“ She’s in shock. Maria is still with her….I cleaned up the cuts and lacerations she had on her face……This was a violent act…..whoever did this Murdoch was brutal…….I’ll stay the night to be safe she doesn’t need me anymore.”

“ Alright Sam……Teresa show Sam to a guest room would you please.”

“ I could use a good strong cup of coffee.” Sam stated.

“ Certainly.” she answered before heading to the kitchen followed by the doctor.

“ Scott where did you find Melissa?” Johnny asked.

“ She came from the barn.” he answered.

Johnny headed outside followed by his father and brother.

“ Whoever did this was at this party or works for us.” Johnny said as he opened the barn doors.

“ Until Melissa can tell us who it was though we have no way of knowing. The guest are all gone now.” Murdoch said looking at his youngest.

“ It’s someone who works for us……I’d bet my third of this ranch on it old man.”

“ We’re gonna have to wait until daylight to find any tracks and see who is missing.” Scott said as his brother walked out of the barn and headed to the corrals.

“ No we don’t…….I know every hands personal horse who works for us.” he said as he opened the corral gate and walked in. He had his suspicions on who it was, but wanted to be sure. When he didn’t spot the horse he was looking for he came back out. “ Pedro Gonzalez’ horse is missing…….You have him out on the ranch somewhere old man?”

“ No I don’t……I gave all the hands the night off to enjoy the party.”

“ Johnny you think Pedro did this?”

“ Yeah I do……His horse is gone and it was here earlier when I came down here.”

“ Look lets try and get some rest and we can start tracking him at first light.” Murdoch said.

All three Lancer men walked back to the house and up to their rooms not saying a word as each was lost in the thought of something so violent happening there.

                                                                                               Chapter 4

“You’re already up I see little brother.” Scott said as he walked into the kitchen. “ Were you able to get any sleep?”

“ No, you?” Johnny responded  as he stood.

“ Not much……..I still can’t believe this happened you know?…….I mean for someone to be done that way right here at Lancer.”

“ It don’t matter if it’s here or someplace else Scott, any man who does something like that to a woman doesn’t deserve to live in my book.” Johnny said with coldness in his voice.

“ Johnny I understand what you’re saying but regardless of how we feel, Pedro is still allowed a trial.”

“ And what about the victim Scott huh?……….I’ve seen how those fancy attorneys ripe a rape victim apart….How people in a town treat that rape victim if she’s unmarried………The only trial fit for Pedro is this.” Johnny said pulling his colt out. “ Look I may not like Melissa, but she sure the fuck didn’t deserve that……No woman does, whether asking for it or not.”

Scott could tell that something from his brothers past, something he had kept buried in the back of his mind, had been brought back with Melissa’ rape. He had never seen his brother like this in the short time knowing him. His eyes were cold and his voice was just as cold as a winters night.

“ How we feel about this Johnny, we can’t let cloud our judgment….How would you like it if someone judged you for being Johnny Madrid?…….Watched you in a fair gunfight and then killed you without a trial?”

Johnny put his hands on the table across from his brother and leaned down. “ I have been tried and convicted Scott…..You forget how I was treated in the feed store?………My whole life has been a trial……my mother……..” Johnny stopped then and stood up as his father walked into the kitchen.

“ Your mother what son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Nothing……..I’m gonna go saddle the horses.” he responded as he headed out the back door.

“ Sir I have a feeling that when we find Pedro, Johnny is going to kill him.”

“ And he should.” Jim Harper said as he walked in. “ That animal doesn’t deserve to live after what he has done to my daughter.”

“ Oh so now because your daughter was assaulted my little brother is okay?….Excuse me sir but I think I will go help Johnny saddle the horses.” Scott stated, anger in his voice.

“ I guess I deserved that Murdoch……Listen I know I’ve treated your youngest wrong since I came here and I’m sorry…….I don’t think that man should live……If he does and this goes to trial Melissa will be ruined.”

“ How this ends when we find Pedro Jim is up to him. Who’s for us to play judge, jury and executioner?”

“ I know……..I’ve always believed in the law Murdoch…….But when something like this happens to your own child you forget about the laws and the right way of doing things……surely you of all people can see that?”

“ And why do you say that Jim?”

“ Because of your son…Johnny.”

“ Johnny has been on trial all his life Jim….for being of mixed heritage and becoming a gunfighter.”

“ Yes, but like that animal, your boy had a choice……..nobody forced him to become a gunfighter, just like nobody forced that…….”

“ No he didn’t Jim…….Johnny had no choice when growing up……..I understand that now more than ever……..He had to become Johnny Madrid to stop the abuse he was receiving. You haven’t seen the scars my son has from those beatings Jim.”

“ Morning Sam.”

“ Murdoch……..Mister Harper, Melissa is awake……why don’t you go sit with her and spell Teresa?”

“ Yes, thank you doctor.”

Sam poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down across from his friend of over thirty years.

“ You know I’ve known you the better part of thirty years Murdoch Lancer, or at least I thought I’d did until last night…….What in gods name has come over you? Accusing Johnny the way you did and embarrassing Teresa like that…..You searched for that boy for all those years and finally get him home. Are you trying to push him away now? Because what you did last night I wouldn’t blame that boy one bit if he did leave here…….It was inexcusable.”

Murdoch looked hard at his friend. “ I know that now Sam…..I have no excuse for the way I have treated Johnny…I let Jim goad me into last night with his remarks…….They were dancing in an improper way.”

“ Yes………but you should have handled that in a more discrete way. Instead of everyone at that party seeing what they did, you should have took the two of them aside and commented to them in private about dancing that close……….What I seen was a brother and sister dancing together and nothing more…What in gods name made you ever think that Johnny would disrespect Teresa in the manor you thought last night?”

“ That’s what I’d like to know Sam?” Teresa asked as she walked into the kitchen.

“ I don’t have time to get into this now Sam, Teresa, but we will all three sit down and discuss this matter when I get back.”

“ You better do some serious thinking while gone Murdoch because if Johnny leaves here I know Scott will also and I will as well.” Teresa said firmly.

Murdoch didn’t respond to her as he stood up and headed for the back door.

Johnny, Scott and Cipriano were mounted and waiting when Murdoch came out. “ Cipriano you and Scott head north toward Black Mesa……..Me and Johnny will head south.”

“ He’s not going to head to the border old man……Pedro is on Lancer hiding out somewhere until he thinks it’s safe.” Johnny stated firmly. “ I know his kind, he won’t run far, he’s got no money or grub. Scott you and Cipriano check the line shacks in the south and over toward Cedar Canyon…..We’ll search the ones to the north and up by Black Mesa, there’s some good places  a man could hide out in in those canyons.”

“ Johnny…….”

“ Look old man……I know his kind and I know how they think, you want to waste time debating this go ahead, but don’t expect me to stay here and listen to you.” Johnny stated firmly before spurring Barranca and leaving.

“ I don’t think I will ever understand that boy.”

“ He knows what he’s talking about sir.”

“ I know son……you two be careful and keep an eye out.” Murdoch said before taking off after his youngest.

Late morning found Murdoch and Johnny near Black Mesa at a small pond watering their horses.

“ The riding is gonna get tougher from here on out old man… sure you can handle it?’ Johnny asked as he checked his cinch.

“ I’ll be alright son.” Murdoch answered. “  You want to check the north line shack first?”

“ Nope……there’s a couple of old mines I want to check out first……Heading to the line shack first is a waste of time.”

“ Mind if I ask why?”

“ Because there’s plenty of game up around those old abandoned mines and water.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle. “ He can have a fire far enough back in one and not be seen.”

“ Are you alright? Is that wound alright?”

“ I’m fine?……We’re wasting time.” Johnny said as he moved out.

Murdoch mounted up and knew him and his son were headed for a confrontation over what happened Last night. It was inevitable.

“ Fresh tracks senor.” Cipriano stated.

“ Yeah, looks like whoever it is is headed to Cedar Canyon.”

“ Si…….Lancer  run’s no cattle up here so…..”

“ So there should be nobody up here……..What exactly is up here Cip?”

“ An old line shack and a couple of outer shacks if they are still standing.”

“ If my father doesn’t run cattle  up here then why the line shack?”

“ He used to years ago but an earthquake cut off the water supply and it has become barren.”

“ You’ve been with my father a long time haven’t you?”

“ Si……I have been with the patron since he marry Juanito’ mother.”

“ What was she like……Johnny’ mother?”

“ Ah Maria was a thing of beauty senor…..She tried her best to fit in, but I am afraid the other women of the valley they did not make her feel welcome.”

“ Because she was pregnant?”

“ Partly yes.”

“ Partly?…..Let me guess the other was because she was Mexican?”

The look Cipriano gave him was all the answer he needed.

“ Look senor…..smoke.”

Scott looked and could see smoke in the horizon, either from a campfire or chimney.

Johnny and Murdoch checked the abandoned mines, none of them showed any signs of a human being at them for a long time. Cobwebs undisturbed covered the entrances to the shafts. Boards were still nailed up across the entrances and over the small shacks windows. Dirt on the porches showed no signs of anyone stepping on them.

“ It’ll be dark before we reach the north line shack son.”

“ We can reach Salt Canyon before dark and camp there.”

“Senor Scott it will be dark soon.”

“ Yeah and we don’t know for sure Pedro is the one in there……Lets make camp here and keep an eye  on the place till morning.” Scott said as he got off his horse. “ Looks like my esteem little brother was right.”

“ Juanito, he is good at this, but I do not understand why he let you be the one to find Pedro……The tracks were clear on which way he rode out of Lancer.” Cipriano stated.

“ Yes they were…….I think Johnny is going to confront our father.”

“ Confront sir………..Ah you mean about the way he has been treating Juanito si?”

“ Yes.”

“ I don’t understand him………he searched many years for him but it seems that since he is now back at Lancer your father does not want him here.”

“ Yeah I know, and after last night I expected Johnny to ride out and never look back.”

“ He stays because of you……and miss Teresa…..I know Juanito grew up all alone, but he isn’t any longer. He has you and a sister………That is why he stays senor.”

“ He should be staying because of our father as well.”

“ And he will, your father  and hermano are much alike.”

“ I’ll take the first watch if you want to get some sleep.” Scott said changing the subject. He just didn’t feel comfortable talking about his brother behind his back like he was.

“ You mind my asking just how you got to know Lancer so well son?” Murdoch asked his son as they saddled their horses the next morning just after dawn.

“ Easy old man……I studied the maps……Like I’ve said, I’ve done this before and it pays to know the land you’re on when you take a job.”

“ I’m sorry, I guess that was a stupid thing to ask son…….I’ve seen you studying the maps and I guess it never dawned on me why you were doing it.”

“ Let me ask you something old man………”

“ Johnny please……could you stop calling me that?”

 “ I’m not calling you father.”

“ Then call me Murdoch.”

“ Yeah okay……..Murdoch……..How long did you know about me?”

“ Know about you?”

“ Don’t play games with me Murdoch……How long did you know who I was before you decided to send for me?” Johnny asked with a raised voice.

Murdoch knew telling his son the truth could ruin any and all hope of becoming father and son, but the truth could also bring them together.

“ Six months.”

Johnny stood  there letting what he heard his father say sink in fully. “ Why….why did you send for me old man?”

“ Johnny……son you know why.”

“ That’s all I am to you isn’t it?…….That’s why you brought me here…….You don’t give a damn about me….All you care about is your precious ranch and you will do whatever you have to do to keep it.”

“ Johnny…..son please.” Murdoch said as he stood up.

“ Just once tell me the fucking truth old man.”

“ Yes damn it…..I needed your gun to help save this ranch. Pardee put a bullet in my back and killed Paul. I needed someone who I knew could stop this man. I read what the Pinkerton’ found out about you and how you would hire out in range wars. How you never lost. It’s all there in my desk drawer son……..Lancer is your birthright, yours and Scott’ and I’d do it all again if I had too.”

Johnny walked up to his father, his eyes colder than the arctic, anger in his voice. “ You bastard.” he said before hitting his father as hard as he could knocking him backwards. “ You never wanted me here until you needed my gun……She was right about you……you never did want a mestizo for a son.”

“ That’s not true.” Murdoch snapped back. “ I loved your mother more than anything else in this world Johnny…..I awoke one morning and found her gone you along with her and I have searched for you ever since…..I later learned that she had met a man, a gambler or something and rode off with him taking you away from me………All I could do was pray that he treated you good and that you were safe.”

“My whole life I have been without and I’m sick and tired of it…..I’m sick and tired of being wanted for my gun hand…..I’m sick of every day busting my ass working harder than anyone else on this ranch and having you find fault in everything I do……..I’m tired of not being treated as an equal partner in this ranch.”

“ You are an equal partner in this ranch son.”

“No I’m not…..I never will be as long as you don’t trust me, or allow me to make decisions or suggestions the way you do Scott.”

“ You’ve only been here four months…….”

“ Yeah and it will be the same with you a year from now…..Look just forget it old man…….You have the final say, you call the tune…..You got what you wanted……….Arms, legs and guts is what you said.”

“ Yes I did, I also said I wanted more than your guns Johnny…….and in exchange I would give you and Scott one third each of this ranch and that is exactly what I have done.”

Scott wanted a cup of coffee to stave off the morning chill so bad he could almost taste it. A light fog had settled into the canyon, looking down at the line shack he seen a lamp go on.

“ Cipriano…..whoever is in there is awake now.” he said in a whisper.

Pedro opened the door and stepped out into the cool morning air, saddle bags over his shoulders thirty minutes later.

“ It’s him…Pedro.” Scott said. “ I’m going to try and talk to him Cipriano……Let’s see if we can take him back alive.” Scott said as he checked his rifle before heading to the well.

Scott worked his way down to were he was about two hundred feet from the door now with the well in front of him. “ I sure hope you don’t start shooting Pedro.” he said as he stepped out of the brush and up to the well.

“ Pedro Gonzalez……it’s Scott Lancer…….I want to talk to you.” Scott yelled.

Pedro drew his gun as he ran toward the lean too. “ I gave that bitch what she wanted Lancer, she asked for it.” he yelled back.

Scott know without a doubt now that he was the one who raped Melissa. “ Listen Pedro, put down your gun and come back with me.”

Scott got his answer in lead as a bullet hit the well side just below to his left. Taking aim with his rifle, he returned fire rapidly spewing dirt and rocks all around Pedro.

“I don’t want to kill you Pedro……..put down your gun now.”

“ And what…….let that brother of yours shoot me down in cold blood?………Fuck that.” he said before firing again.

“ Johnny isn’t here.”

“ Yeah right……I know how Lancer works remember……’re not here alone.”

Pedro opened fire again as he made his way toward his horse in the lean too, he grabbed the reins and turned the horse around, swinging up in the saddle he spurred the animal and made it about thirty feet before a bullet slammed into his chest propelling him backwards off his horse.

Drawing his pistol, Scott cautiously walked toward the now still figure laying on the ground, a crimson red stain covering his chest. “ Damn.”

“ You did everything you could senor to prevent this.” Cipriano stated as he walked up.

“ Yeah…..he thought Johnny was with me and would kill him unarmed.” he said , letting out a sigh after.

“ I will fetch his horse so we can take the body back.”

“ Yeah okay……do you know if he had any family Cip?”

“ No senor I do not…….perhaps your hermano does.” he said before going to get Pedro’ horse.

Two hours later Scott and Cipriano had Pedro’ body secured on his horse and were headed back to Lancer. Having gone thru Pedro’ saddle bags, Scott found nothing to indicate the man had any family he could notify of his death.

Mid morning Johnny and Murdoch were just riding out of Salt Canyon when a rifle shot rang out and Murdoch watched in horror as his son was slammed backwards off Barranca. His own horse spooking and rearing up as he dismounted, drawing his pistol as he made his way to Johnny.

Barranca went just a few feet and stood with reins trailing like he had been trained to do. Murdoch’ own mount took off as soon as the big man came out of the saddle. Staying low, Murdoch turned his son over and found a bullet hole in his lower right side.

“ Don’t do this to me son……Not now. I just got you back and I am not going to lose you again.” the big man said as he pressed down of the wound to slow the bleeding down.

Not knowing for sure if the shooter was still up there Murdoch glanced at Barranca standing mere feet away, knowing medical supplies were in the saddle bags. No hands would be up in this area since all the cattle had been moved to the south pastures for better grazing so firing distress shots would be a waste of bullets.

Johnny’ rifle could be seen still in the scabbard on the saddle, but getting to it without getting shot would be the tricky part.

“ Barranca…..come here boy.” Murdoch said in a low voice. If the shooter was still out there he didn’t want to alert him that Johnny was still alive. “ Barranca come here boy.” he said again.

“ You gotta whistle.” Johnny said barely above a whisper.

Murdoch whistled but Barranca still wouldn’t come to him.

“Barranca…..come here boy.” Johnny said as he grabbed his side.

“Easy son…..take it easy. I don’t know if the shooter is still out there.”

Johnny rolled onto his left side and drew his colt, handing it to his father. “ It has a hair trigger so…..”

Barranca had come over and now nudged Johnny’ shoulder.

Murdoch reached up and pulled the rifle from the scabbard after getting the saddlebags first.

“ Ne….need to move……we’re sitting ducks here.” Johnny said between clenched teeth.

“ Son I can’t carry you out of here…’re going to have to get on Barranca.”

“ Pick me up and lay me over the saddle…….Whoever shot me thinks I’m dead since he only fired one shot.”

Murdoch got Johnny laid across the saddle and took the reins and started slowly walking out of the canyon. Who  shot his son and why ran thru his head over and over again as he walked cautiously back down into the canyon headed back to the Lorelei..

Something cold and wet was on his forehead, opening his eyes a little he realized he was laying in a bed, well sort of. Rope slats and a thin mattress that smelled ten times over of mildew and dust even though a blanket covered it.

“ Take it easy son……I just got that bleeding to stop shortly after we got here.”

“ Where are we?”

“ Lorelei………it was the closest place I could bring you.”

Johnny grabbed his side as pain throbbed thru his chest. “ It’s good.” he said between clenched teeth. “ Rock wall behind us, a river in front and only……….only one way in or out.”

“ To tell you the truth I wasn’t thinking about that when I brought you here. My main concern was your safety.”

“ How bad is it?”

“ The bullet is still in there, it’s deep.”

“ Guess……guess I’ll have to trust you with……….my life………there’s a knife in my left boot and needle and thread in my saddle bags” Johnny barely said before darkness claimed him.

 Murdoch wiped sweat from his son’s brow before getting up to start the water boiling and getting what medical supplies he had ready. He knew it would have to be him removing the bullet from his son’s chest. Silently he prayed he could do this and have his son survive.

Walking back over to Johnny, he removed the knife his son had in his left boot, testing the blade he was amazed at the condition and how sharp he found it to be.  Placing the knife on the table until he was ready to heat it up for sterilization, he then picked up the saddle bags and found a small leather pouch with needle and thread inside. He couldn’t help but wonder how many of the scars his son had, had he sewn up himself. How many times had his son been alone and had to remove a bullet himself.

Looking over at Johnny his heart broke knowing what he had done in the past, alone with no one to trust, no one to take care of him.

Making a table from a couple wooden crates, Murdoch set everything on them but the knife which he now held in the flames to sterilize. Once he was sure the blade was ready for use he moved back over to his son and laid the knife in the bowl of water to cool just a little as he removed the bandage he had put on his son earlier.

Wiping the blood away from around the wound he could feel the heat around the wound from the infection starting to set in and knew his son would probably spike a fever from this. He needed a doctor

and medicine, but Sam was a good half a days hard ride from them and he couldn’t leave his son with the shooter still out there, whoever it was.

“ Please lord grant me the steady hand to do this and my son the strength to survive.” Murdoch prayed as he picked up the knife and slowly entered the wound. He knew from earlier how deep in the bullet  was. Blood ran out and down his son’s side and dripped into a pool on the floor. He couldn’t worry about that right now. Right now he had to get that bullet out as fast as he could so he could stop the bleeding.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity Murdoch was finally able to get the bullet out., dropping it into the basin of water next to him he set about wiping away the blood and sewing the wound up. Johnny moaned and moved very little as he dug the bullet out, but now his son was still, his breathing barely noticeable.

Finishing up the stitching Murdoch wrapped the wound tightly with a sheet he found in the pantry and cut up.

Murdoch’ horse was standing in the yard riderless when Jim Harper came out of the house, walking over to the animal easy he spotted a note tacked to the saddle and removed it, reading it quickly before stuffing it in his coat pocket and hurrying inside.

Teresa came out with him and confirmed it was indeed Murdoch’ horse. Blood could clearly be seen on the saddle.

“ Walt do you know which way Scott and Cipriano went yesterday?”

“ I believe Johnny had them ride toward Cedar Canyon while him and Murdoch rode north.”

“ Send a man after them and tell Scott what’s happened.”

“ Yes ma’am.” Walt answered as he hurried off.

“ That half breed son of his killed him.” Jim said.

“ Johnny would not hurt his father mister Harper.”

“ How do you know that?….You seen how him and Murdoch argued, how……….”

“ Mister Harper something has happened to Murdoch and possibly Johnny as well………I will not have you speaking of such a thing………Johnny did not hurt Murdoch.” Teresa said with firmness before turning and going back inside.

Jim stood there a few seconds before heading inside and up to his room to read the note, closing his door he walked over to the table by the window as he took the note out.

Today I did this valley a favor and killed the halfbreed Johnny Madrid and the man who dare bring him into this valley Murdoch Lancer. You will find their bodies up in Cedar Canyon.

Smiling Harper put the note back in his coat and went to check on his daughter Melissa. Just a day since her brutal assault she was still withdrawn but did speak a little about what happened to Teresa and Sam. Harper couldn’t help but wonder just how much this would change his daughter. Would she still be the loving carefree girl, full of spunk and adventure like before back in Boston? Or would she become withdrawn and desolate to him and everyone else?

Scott and Cipriano were about an hour from Lancer when a rider could be seen riding hard toward them. 

“ Trouble senor.” Cipriano stated as they stopped their horses.

Walt reined his tired mount in. “ Scott…..You’re needed back at the ranch immediately.”

“ Why what’s wrong?” Scott asked.

“ Your fathers horse came back without him……there’s blood on the saddle.”

“ And Johnny?”

“ We don’t know……I heard that Harper fellow saying Johnny Murdered Mister Lancer, to Teresa when I was leaving to come get you.”

“ Your horse is tired….rake this one and lead it back to the ranch with Pedro’ body……Cipriano….let’s go.” Scott said as he handed the reins to Walt and spurred his horse, taking off at full gallop.

If they got Pedro……then who shot their father and possibly Johnny? Scott wondered as he galloped into the yard and dismounted.

Teresa.” he yelled.

Teresa came hurrying out followed by Jim Harper. “ Oh Scott I’m so glad you’re back.” she said in a panicky voice.

Scott could see the fear in her eyes. “ Calm down and tell me all that’s  been happening since we left.”

Teresa took several deep breaths and did her best to compose herself before she began.

“ I’ll tell you what happened……that….” Harper interjected.

“Mister Harper I asked Teresa so if you don’t mind I would like to hear it from her.” Scott said firmly. “ So I suggest you go on back with Melissa and leave this be.”

Harper stormed off into the house mumbling under his breath.

Teresa waited until he left. “ I don’t like that man Scott…..he’s done nothing but put Johnny down since you left and when Murdoch’ horse came in and I sent Walt after you he’s really been after Johnny, saying he knows Johnny killed Murdoch……Scott I know Johnny would never hurt Murdoch…They may not be getting along but…..”

“ I know….now you say Murdoch’ horse straggled in…….did you or anyone else see which direction he came from?”

“ No I was in the house getting breakfast ready for mister Harper and Melissa….Scott there was blood on the saddle.”

“ Cipriano get some men together and ready to ride in thirty minutes……I’m gonna go change my clothes…..Teresa get some medical supplies together and……..”

“ It’s already done……I have food waiting for you in the kitchen.” Teresa cut in.

“ Come’ll be alright…..we’ll find them.” Scott said as he put an arm around her waist and the two walked into the house.

Thirty minutes later Scott, Cipriano, Walt, Jose and Frank rode away from Lancer  headed north, all five men hoping what they feared was not true.

“ Scott it’s been almost two days…..where do you think they could be?” Walt asked.

“ I don’t know Walt……Johnny said they were going to check the line shacks to the north so we’ll ride up there and check them and every inch of land up there.” Scott answered.

“ Your hermano…..he would not do what that man in your house says.”

“ I know Cip……..Johnny wouldn’t hurt any of us…….mister Harper has it in for him and when we find them I am going to enjoy watching both my father and brother teach that man a little something about us Lancer’.”

“ Boy howdy Scott….that’d be something worth paying ta see.” Frank stated. “ Harper didn’t even care that you got the man who raped his daughter.”

“ Yeah something’s just not right with that man..No offense to you Scott but are all them eastern folks screwed up like that?” Walt asked.

“ No Walt they are not, but I guess they would seem to be out here since the cultures are so much different.”

“ It’ll be dark by the time we reach the closest line shack senor Scott.” Cip stated.

“ Yeah, we’ll stay the night there and get an early start at first light if they are not there.”

“ If they’re not…….you gonna have us split up?…….We could cover more ground that way.” Walt asked.

“We’ll decide on that after we reach that shack.” Scott said as he kicked his horse into a gallop. “ Don’t you do this to me Murdoch…….I’ve been without you in my life all my life…..and you brother, you better not leave me either.” Scott said softly to himself. In his gut he felt they were still alive, hurt maybe, but deep down inside he felt them still alive, and until he had proof otherwise they would search every inch of Lancer until either they were found alive or dead.

                                                                                                   Chapter 5

Scott and the hands left out at first light. Not knowing what happened to his father for sure Scott decided to not split the men up into two search parties.

“ Someone familiar with Lancer land knew Murdoch and Johnny would be riding up that way Scott,” Frank stated as the rode along.

“ Yeah I’ve been giving that some thought Frank and I think I know who the shooter is or at least how he knew they would be up here.”

“ You care to share it with us Scott……..Not a man here wouldn’t give their life for your father or brother……We know Johnny didn’t shoot Murdoch..mister Lancer I mean.”

“ Remember back to the morning after the dance Frank, who all was standing there when we mounted up to leave and Johnny gave the orders on who rode where.”

Frank remained quiet for a minute as he remembered back, then he snapped his head to Scott. “ You mean…..oh my god……why?” he asked with a look of shock on his face.

“ Because he is a bigot and has had it in for Johnny from day one Frank.”

“ How do we prove this?…..I mean he’s your fathers closest friend Scott.”

Scott stopped his horse. “ Carefully Frank……I don’t want to spook him, he didn’t do this alone.”

“ Yeah, there’s no way he could know the ranch and where the north line shack is at……which brings up another question.”

“ Who is he working with?” Walt chimed in.

“ Yeah……I don’t know if it is someone who was at the party or in town, but you can bet it’s someone who knows how to come and go on Lancer and not be seen.”

“ The north range is bordered by the old Simple place and Cedar Canyon.” Cipriano stated.

“ Yeah and Elk Canyon also is up that way……..Those two canyons alone could take us weeks to search Scott.”

“ You know Scott, if you don’t mind my asking, how is it that Johnny knows the layout of Lancer better than you do?……….I mean you’re both part owners.” Frank asked innocently.

“ I guess my little brother has been studying the maps and terrain Frank.”

“ Yeah someone in his line of work has to pay attention to what’s around him, he doesn’t and it could get him killed.” Walt said.

“ His line of work Walt?………If you mean a gunfighter?……..Johnny doesn’t lead that life anymore.” Scott defended.

“ Same difference senor. Gunfighter or rancher, you must know the territory you work inside and out.” Cipriano stated.

“ I see your point……..Jose…….Ride on back to Lancer and keep a close eye on Teresa…..If she want’s to know why tell her I’ll explain when I get back……..and tell her only.”

“ Si senor.” Jose said as he turned his horse and headed back.

“ Why’d ya send him back Scott?….We don’t know if we can trust him.”

“ We can………I’ve seen him with Johnny, learning things from him…….Jose wouldn’t betray Lancer……Let’s head up to Elk Canyon and see if we can spot anything.” Scott ordered.

Jim Harper opened the door to his daughters room and found her sitting up in bed staring at nothing really.

“ Melissa, darling……we need to talk.” he said as he walked over and sat down on the bed. “ Can you look at me please when I speak to you?”

Melissa didn’t move her head, but her eyes glanced at him for a split second as she drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them.

“ Melissa…….I know this is hard on you, but you need to think about what I am going to say to you….. I only have your best interest in mind.” he started as he reached for her hand and she jerked it away.

Sighing. “ Melissa, Scott Lancer killed the man who raped you..he can never hurt you again…..I need you to stop this and start acting like your self again…If word of this get out back home darling it will ruin us and all I have built for you……You won’t be able to find a man who will want to marry you and you know I want grandchildren.”

Teresa knew listening in was wrong, but hearing mister Harper and what he was telling his daughter made her blood boil. Having heard enough she walked in the room.

“ How dare you…… dare you tell her she shouldn’t talk about what happened to her…….the most important part of her getting over this is being able to talk about it.”

“ This is of no concern of yours young lady so……..”

“ I’m making it my business Mister Harper…It seems to me you would want your daughter to be able to start putting this behind her and moving on……Where do you get off telling her that if she talks about it no man will ever want to marry her?”

“ Because I know……I know that once  it is learned she will not have a chance of marrying young Paraway, the son of one of the oldest families in Massachusetts.”

“ Listen to you..all you care about is you, you don’t really care about Melissa, if you did you wouldn’t be telling her what you are.”

“ I will not stand here and listen to you………”

“ Get out…….get out of here and leave me alone now father.” Melissa said before she started trembling as she sobbed uncontrollably.

“ Melissa.” Jim pleaded.

“ Mister Harper I suggest you leave now or I will have you thrown out.” Teresa demanded.

“ Fine……..this isn’t over yet young lady…….No uncivilized girl is going to tell me what to do with my own daughter……especially one who cohorts with a known killer like Johnny Madrid.”

“ Johnny is not a killer.” Teresa said with anger.

“ Yes he is…He killed Murdoch didn’t he?”

“ No….Johnny would never do something like that……..You have done nothing but put Johnny down ever since you came here.”

“ He’s a killer and I’m going to make sure he never kills again.” Jim said firmly before storming out of the room.

Teresa went to Melissa and pulled her into a hug for comfort.

“ He’s right Teresa…nobody will ever want to marry me if they find out what happened.”

“ No he’s not Melissa……Your father is dead wrong about this.”

Jim Harper went out to the barn and had a hand saddle a horse for him. “ I need to go into town and get something for my daughter.” he told the hand.

Anger burned in him as he waited for the horse to be brought out. ‘ how dare she speak to me like that? I’ll fix her and that halfbreed she is so fond of.’ he thought. “You will not be alive much longer Madrid.” he said softly as the horse was led out to him.

Jose rode in just as Harper rode out, dismounting he asked where the man was going.

“Said he needed to go into town and get something for his daughter……I’ll sure be glad when that man is gone from Lancer Jose… and the men don’t cotton to the way he’s been spreading around that Johnny killed his pa.”

“ I know Clint, We all know Johnny would never do such a thing.” Jose said.

“ Between me and you Jose, I got a bad feeling that that man is going to bring serious trouble to Lancer, mainly to Johnny.”

“ If he hasn’t already Clint.”

“ I know personally that there isn’t a hand on this ranch who believes Johnny killed mister Lancer. I also know that every hand here will back Johnny up anytime he needs it.” Clint said before leading Jose’ horse to the barn.

Harper rode into Morro Coyo to the telegraph office and dismounted, walking inside he found a burly, bald gentleman behind the counter.

“ I need to send a couple of wires.” he stated.

“ Alright..just write what you want to say and I’ll send them.”

Taking up paper and pencil Harper wrote the first wire.

Marshal of Sacramento

Murdoch Lancer murdered by Johnny Madrid. Stop.

Am offering a two thousand dollar reward for Madrid. Dead. Stop.

Have proof that Madrid killed Lancer. Stop.

Jim Harper

Rereading what he wrote and satisfied Harper handed the paper to the telegrapher and started writing out his next wire.

Sacramento news

I thought you should be brought aware of a situation that has happened here in Morro Coyo. Stop.

 The murder of a very prominent rancher by the name of Murdoch Lancer by Johnny Madrid. Stop.

If interested in the facts I can be reached at said town. Stop.

Jim Harper.

Handing the second paper to the man Harper seen the change in his face as he read what was wrote.

“ I suggest that you keep this to your self sir….What is in those wires are no concern of yours and if it is said around I will make your life a very uncomfortable one……….Do I make myself clear?”

“ Uh yes sir…..I understand.” the man stammered as he began sending the second wire.

Harper threw some coins on the counter and walked out with a feeling of satisfaction.

Murdoch sat with his head hung and his chin resting on his chest in the chair next to the cot his sick weak son lay in fighting for his life. The sun would be down in a couple hours and darkness would once again envelope the small shack.

Opening his eyes he heard a soft pleading voice, looking over at his son, he could tell Johnny was trapped in his past. What part of his past he didn’t know, taking the towel in hand he wet it in the basin and wiped the sweat from his sons brow.

“ Shhh, it’s alright son, I’m here.” he said as he wiped his son down.

“ Pero mama yo quiero decirl a pap acerca de este lugar.” ( But mama I want to tell papa about this place.)

“ Por que pap no esta con nosotromos.” ( Why isn’t papa with us?)

“ I’m right here son.” Murdoch said, knowing his son was dreaming about his past and his mother. What he heard next broke his heart.

“ Por que no me amas?” ( Why didn’t you love me?)

“ Oh son I have always loved you from the first time I held you in my arms Johnny, I have loved you.”

“ Por que n ”t me quieres?” ( Why didn’t you want me?)

Murdoch sat back and watched his son fight the hurt he was  fighting alone. “ Not love you?……Not want you?” Murdoch said aloud. He knew now for sure his son was talking to Maria. Standing up, Murdoch walked over to the window and looked out at the late afternoon sky. Shadows crept across the ground as he stared out at the river, wiping a hand over his hard, tired face he turned back to his restless son.

“ What have you done to our son Maria?” he asked aloud. “ What in God’ name have you said to this boy to make him think he is not loved?……Did you stop loving the most perfect gift we could ever have?……..I don’t understand, if you didn’t love him, why did you take him away from me?” he asked as he walked back over and sat down next to the cot.

For three days Johnny fought the fever and his demons. Some of what Murdoch heard his son say angered the big man more than he had ever been before. On the fourth day Johnny finally opened his eyes in the early hours of dawn.

Murdoch was at the stove cooking some rabbit stew when he got the feeling of being watched, turning around he found tired blue eyes looking back at him.

“ Son.” Murdoch said as he took the pot off the stove and walked over to him. “ It sure is good to see those blue eyes open.” he stated as he poured some water. “ Here drink this.” Murdoch said as he put a hand behind Johnny’ head and lifted him up as he put the cup to his lips.

Johnny took the cool liquid, relishing the feel as it quenched his parched throat. “ More.” he asked barely beyond a whisper.

“ Let’s see if you can keep that down son…’ve had a pretty bad fever the last three days.” Murdoch stated as he set the cup down and took up the cloth.

Johnny tried to raise up and immediately regretted it as white hot pain hit his side, pressing his head back into the pillow as he sucked in air grabbing at his side.

“ Easy son…..I don’t need you ripping out those stitches.”

“ I don’t……don’t need you telling me what to do old man.” Johnny said between clenched teeth. “ Been through worse before without anyone’s  help.”

“ I know you have son.” Murdoch responded, keeping his anger in check. “ You don’t have to anymore.”

Johnny tried again to sit up and pushed his fathers hand away. “ I can do it.” he said as he struggled but finally sat up.

Murdoch stood up and walked back over to the stove. “ I have some rabbit stew I made……I’ll dish up some broth for you.”

Johnny carefully brought his legs over the side of the cot. It had been a long time since he felt so vulnerable. Heavy legs hit the floor with a thud as he swallowed hard several times to keep the water he drank minutes before from coming back up.

After what seemed like an eternity Johnny found his strength and stood up, grabbing hold of the chair his father kept vigil in.

“ What in the world do you think you are doing?” Murdoch asked when he turned around and found his son standing on wobbly weak legs.

Johnny glanced at his as he started to slowly walk to the door not answering his father.

“You do that again”………… It dawned on Murdoch then what his son needed to do. “ There’s a chamber pot under the cot son….you shouldn’t be out of bed yet…you’re to weak.”

“Told you I don’t need your help.” Johnny stammered as he made it to the door and opened it.

“ Boy you are so damn stubborn……Let me help you to the….”

“ Leave me be.” Johnny said hard before walking outside.

Murdoch sat at the table eating his stew when the door finally opened and his son came back in and closed the door.

“ Do you think so little of me son that you can’t let me help you?”

“ Why you were never around before when I got shot……..Why start now?”

“ Because I’m your father.”

“ Only when it’s convenient for you to be.” Johnny snapped back as he walked back over to the cot and sat down. Sweat ran down his face as he brought his legs up and laid back totally exhausted.

“ You need to eat.” Murdoch said forcefully as he brought a bowl of broth over. “ You can either feed yourself or I will do it for you, but one way or another you will get this broth down you.”

Johnny took the bowl of broth and his stomach rumbled at the smell. “ Thanks.” he said softly as he began to spoon the broth with a shaky hand, spilling some of the hot liquid on the blanket.

Murdoch sat and watched his son eat the broth and remembered a time when Johnny was almost two.

“ You got something to say old man, say it.” Johnny said as he set the bowl down on the crate next to the bed.

“ I was remembering something.” he answered not liking his son calling him an old man.

“ Yeah, what’s that?” Johnny asked as he tried to get more comfortable on the cot.

“ You were almost two and Maria…….she got upset because I let you have the spoon and try and eat some mashed potato’s by yourself.” he said with a laugh. “ You got more potato’s on the floor than you did in your mouth.” he continued. “ You had them in your hair and all over your face…..I started laughing at you and you dropped the spoon and started in on them with your hands……You should have seen the look on your face when you brought them up and mashed potato’s were between your fingers.”

Johnny couldn’t stop the smile and small laugh that escaped him as he fidgeted with the blanket.

Murdoch fell silent for a minute. “ I never stopped loving you son……I have always loved you……I was building this ranch up and I didn’t notice your mother wasn’t happy here…..Maybe if I had paid more attention I would have been able to stop it from happening……The morning I woke and found the two of you gone was the worst day of my life son.”

Johnny swallowed trying to keep his emotions in check. “ When I was seven, these kids had me cornered in this little village we were living in……The biggest boy I remember had a knife and……..”

Johnny grew quiet for a second.

Murdoch listened, he knew his son was telling him something from his childhood that was painful to talk about.

“ He took the knife out and had the others hold me……..He said he wanted to know if a halfbreed mestizo bleed the same colored blood as him right before he stabbed me in the side………they stepped back and I remember my legs getting weak and I went to my knees…I could here them laughing at me and calling me names, telling me I was going to go to hell because I was the son of the devil…….I made it home and my mother was drunk as usual and beat me for starting trouble……she didn’t want to here lies as she called them……said I was nothing but trouble and that……..” Tears welled up in Johnny’ eyes as he tried to hold them back and swallow the lump in his throat that just wouldn’t go down.

“ I’m tired.” Johnny said as he laid down and closed his eyes.

Murdoch knew his son wouldn’t talk anymore tonight. What he had said already about his childhood shocked him as he listened to the brutal abuse a seven year old child received just because he was different.

Marshal Kincaid rode into Morro Coyo and stopped at the Red Dog saloon. Walking inside he looked around. The badge noticeable on his vest.

“ Marshal what can I get you?” the bartender asked.

“ I’m looking for the Lancer ranch… know where that is?”

“ Sure do……you here to arrest Madrid for killing his old man?”

“ Why I’m here is no concern of yours.” Kincaid answered.

“ Lancer ranch is about twenty miles southeast of here…..stay on the main road headed east  till you come to a group of cottonwoods next to a stream, the road will fork there, head southeast and it will take you right to Lancer.” the bartender said before moving off.

“ Hey Marshal………I sure hope you’re good with that gun of yours going up against a killer like Johnny Madrid.” the bartender yelled as Kincaid walked out.

Two hours later Marshal Kincaid rode into the Lancer yard and was met by Scott.

“ Marshal…..what can I do for you?” Scott asked as the marshal got down.

“ Marshal Buck Kincaid……I’m here on official business…… there a Jim Harper staying here?”

“ Why yes he is marshal…I’m Scott Lancer why don’t you come inside and we can………”

“ Is Murdoch Lancer your father?”

“ Yes sir he is, why?”

“ Son I received a wire from Harper telling me that your father was murdered by Johnny Madrid…..he had a reward poster done up offering two thousand dollars for Madrid dead. He also wired it would seem the newspaper in Sacramento telling that Johnny Madrid gunned down Murdoch Lancer in cold blood and hasn’t been seen since.”

“ Sir my brother did not kill our father.”

“ Your brother…..are you saying Johnny Madrid is your brother?……..I thought your name is Scott Lancer?”

“ It is……Johnny is my brother….Look it’s a long story marshal but the short of it is Johnny Madrid and Johnny Lancer are the same person and he did not murder our father.”

Kincaid opened his saddle bags and took out some papers. “Well I guess you better read these then.”

he said handing them to Scott.

  Wanted Dead

  $2000 will be paid upon the delivery of Johnny Madrid for the murder of Murdoch Lancer.

See Jim Harper Morro Coyo. California.

Scott swallowed down his anger he had as he read the wanted poster. Looking at the next paper made him even angrier.

Mexican Border Town killer strikes here in the San Joaquin valley.

It has been reported that the notorious gunfighter Johnny Madrid has killed the most prominent rancher in this valley, Murdoch Lancer. Lancer was the proud owner of said ranch and it is reported that his two estranged sons Scott and Johnny Lancer came home and helped their father fight against land pirates lead by a man called Day Pardee.  Scott Lancer raised  by his grandfather back east a noble gentleman and the oldest son to Murdoch Lancer from his first marriage and Johnny Lancer aka Johnny Madrid from Murdoch Lancer’ second marriage. Madrid knew the man leading the raid on ranchers a few months back, he had rode with Pardee in his past down in Mexico. Madrid joined up with Pardee and his gang against his father until the end when Pardee attacked Lancer and Madrid took a bullet in the back. Scott Lancer killed Pardee and only a handful of his men survived. Madrid this reporter has learned has been killing since the young age of twelve when he gunned down the man who killed his mother two years before in a small Mexican border town. Living by his gun for the past five years or so, Johnny Madrid has become the fastest and deadliest gunfighter in the southwest on both sides of the border. It is said that Madrid and his father rode away from Lancer almost two weeks ago and Murdoch Lancer hasn’t been seen since. Johnny Madrid hasn’t been seen  since that morning either. An inside source tells this reporter that it is believed Madrid will come back to Lancer and kill his half brother Scott so he can be the sole heir to the biggest cattle ranch in California. A wanted poster has been issued for Johnny Madrid with a bounty of two thousand dollars offered for him dead by I am told a close and dear friend of Murdoch’, a mister Jim Harper a guest at Lancer at the time of his demise.

Harper came out of the house and seen Scott talking with the marshal, walking over. “ Marshal I’m glad you showed up.”

“ What the hell have you done Harper?”

“ What I have done is offer a very nice reward for that halfbreed Madrid for killing my friend your father.”

“ You………you had not right doing this……Johnny didn’t kill Murdoch…….This is a Lancer problem and you are not a member of this family so you had no right what so ever doing this.”

“ I had every right as a concerned citizen and a guest in this house…….Why that bastard could have tried to kill me or my daughter Melissa while he was here.”

Scott hit Harper so hard and fast it even shocked the marshal.

“ You knew my brother wanted to put his past behind him and live a life of peace here at Lancer and now thanks to you he won’t be able to because of your lies and this newspaper article you fabricated…….You know nothing about my brother because if you did you would not spread these vicious lies about him………Marshal…..I assure you Johnny did not kill Murdoch.”

“ No……….then how do you explain the note that was left on Murdoch’ horse the day it came back here without him and blood on the saddle?” Harper demanded as he wiped at the blood on his lip.

“ Note?………what note?”

Harper took out a piece of paper and handed it to the marshal.

I killed the old man and you’re next brother.

“Now you tell me you still think he didn’t do it Scott?”

“ This could have been written by anyone, for all I know Harper you could have wrote this seein’s how you never mentioned this until now. Why is that huh? How come you wait all this time and yet you’re so concerned for my father.”

“ I waited because I know you wouldn’t believe me or that note…I know how you feel about that……..”

Harper never got to finish what he was saying as Scott hit him hard again knocking him on his ass.

“ Listen mister Lancer…….have you searched for your father at all?”

“ Yes we have been searching ever since that day marshal. Lancer is one hundred thousand acres and every hand is out looking but we also have to keep this ranch running.”

“ I understand…….Mister Harper I’m considering this a private bounty and will be notifying the judge of what took place here today.”

“ Wait a minute marshal……aren’t you going to arrest him?”

“ For what…..It’s not against the law to offer a private bounty on someone, especially when that someone is a gunfighter like Johnny Madrid……….I’m sorry son but the laws the law……..I’ll be heading back now.” he said as he remounted his horse. “ If it turns out Madrid did kill your father and you catch him, send me a wire and I’ll come get him to stand trial.”

Scott watched the marshal ride away before turning to Harper. “ Jose….Clint I want you two to escort mister Harper off lancer property……..Mister Harper if I ever see you on our property again I will finish what was started  here today. .Do I make myself clear?”

“ Now see here you can’t throw me out of your fathers house I’m his guest.”

“As the oldest son and only Lancer present at this time, until my father comes back I am in charge and this is my home and you sir………are not welcome to stay here any longer…..I want you packed and gone in one hour……..Your daughter Melissa is welcome to  stay here as long as she wishes.” Scott said before walking away.

Johnny was sitting at the table when his father came back inside two days later.

“ If you’re hungry I can warm up the stew son.”

“ Why do you treat Scott like a son and trust him and anything he says, but not me?”

Murdoch was caught off guard by what his son asked him. “ I’m sorry what did you ask son?” he asked as he sat down.

“ You heard me.” Johnny said firmly.

“ If I had heard you son I wouldn’t have asked you to repeat it.”

“ Why do you treat Scott like a son but not me?” he said again louder. “ If I was your world for two years, then why do I feel like you were glad when my mother took me away?…….Are you that ashamed of me and who I became?”

“ No son I’m not……I…….I don’t understand how you could……”

“ How I could what?……..kill?……..Hell that’s easy old man….survival……You gonna answer my question or not?”

“ I don’t love your brother more than you Johnny.”

“ I didn’t say love……I said treat.”

“ Johnny I treat you and your brother the same.”

“ No you don’t……If I’m five minutes late you jump down my throat but the other night Scott was fifteen minutes late to dinner and you didn’t say a god damn word to him……….why?”

“ I didn’t say anything to Scott because I knew why he was late…..I sent him to town to send a wire and  wait for a reply…..You on the other hand are almost always late to breakfast, you’re hardly on time for dinner and to tell the truth John I would like a little consideration on your part to be on time for those two meals…….I don’t think I’m asking to much.”

“ Fine I’ll tell you what……you go and tell all them beeves you got that they are to stop getting stuck in mud holes, stop tearing down the fence, stop having trouble birthin and a million other things those stupid cows do that I try to help them with……I mean that is what a rancher does isn’t it?………or would you prefer I just stand by and watch them die?”

“ All you have to do is tell me that son when you come in late.”

“Kinda hard to do that when you jump down my throat and don’t give me a chance to explain……How do you feel about me now?……..Do you still see me as that two year old or the grown man I am now?.You tell me old man because honestly I don’t think you know what you see or want from me anymore.”

“ What I see is a grown man I am proud to call my son.” Murdoch answered.

“ Then why don’t you act like it? Why do you always treat me like I’m stupid and don’t know anything? I may not have the education Scott has, but I learned my lessons the hard way, on the streets, not from some books or in a classroom….Mine are survival smarts old man…….Lancer is my birthright and my home and I want to stay, but unless you start treating me as an equal partner then we can never be father and son.” Johnny said before standing up. “ I don’t trust easy….I’ve been hurt to much in the past…I trust Scott and I want to trust you, but I can’t if you don’t start acting like my father.”

“ You said you wanted our arms, legs and guts to be part owners of this ranch………I think I’ve given you that and more with the bullet I took in the back……or is it because I didn’t kill Pardee……Scott did?”

“ I don’t know what you are talking about……..You are a part owner of this ranch….you are my son and as I just told you I am proud to call you my son.”

“ You got a funny way of showing it.”

“ Alright then why don’t you answer me this?……..Why did you do it?”

“ Do what?”

“ Pick up that gun and become a gunfighter?”

“ I told you I was tired of the abuse, tired of being hungry.”

“ If you could go back knowing what you do now, the men you have killed,and the men who want to kill you still, would you still have been so hell bent on becoming Johnny Madrid?”

Johnny turned and glared at his father. “ You damn right I would old man.”

“ Why……..I think you had another reason for it….why Johnny?” Murdoch said as he stood up and walked over to his son. “ What’s the real reason you became Johnny Madrid?”

“ Leave it be old man.” Johnny said as he started back to the cot.

Murdoch grabbed his arm and jerked him around. “ Not until you tell me why.”

“ You want to know why?………Fine I’ll tell you why……..because of all the bullshit lies I was told about you I wanted to come here and blow your fucking brains out for throwing me and my mother out………..that’s why.” Johnny said as sweat ran down his forehead  and his legs began to buckle.

Murdoch caught his son and laid him down on the cot. “ Damn it son.” Murdoch said angrily as he felt the heat coming from his sons body. “ You need Sam, but I can’t leave you to get him.”

Harper left Lancer very upset. Shorty after he left Teresa came out in a hurry.

“ Scott…..look at this.” she said as she handed him a piece of paper.

Today I did this valley a favor and killed the halfbreed Johnny Madrid and the man who dare bring him into this valley Murdoch Lancer. You will find their bodies up in Cedar Canyon.

Scott took out the other note he still had that Harper gave him earlier.

I killed the old man and your next brother.

The hand writings not the same……why didn’t I see that before……this isn’t Johnny’ hand writing Teresa…..Johnny didn’t write this note……..Listen I’m going to go up to Cedar Canyon alone…….I don’t want you to speak to anyone about this okay?”

“ Scott please be careful.”

“ I will.” he said as he hurried to the barn. “ Jose you and Clint stay with Teresa until I come back……I don’t want her left alone.”

“ Sure thing Scott.” Clint answered.

“ Is something wrong Scott?” Jose asked.

“ No stay with her until I get back.” Scott said as he mounted his horse and took off headed north.

                                                                                                Chapter 6

Murdoch stayed at Johnny’ side wiping the sweat from his face and laying cool cloths on his chest trying to break the persistent fever that just wouldn’t  abate.

Blue eyes looked up at him in the early afternoon hours. “ What was she like?”

Murdoch came over and sat down next to his son and poured a cup of water. “Your mother?”

Johnny nodded as he drank down the cool liquid.

“ Well, when I met your mother I thought she was the most beautifulest woman I ever seen son…..I met her as you know down in Matamoros……..I spent every bit of time I could with her, but had to come back here.”

“ You take her to bed the first night?” Johnny asked with a coldness to his voice.

“ No I didn’t son…….I went back down a couple weeks later and we got married.”

“ Because of me….that’s the only reason you married here isn’t it?…….You didn’t want your good name tarnished.”

“ I loved your mother Johnny…..I have no regrets about what we did. None.”

“ Then if you loved her like you say why did she leave you in the middle of the night like you say?”

“ I told you that already…I don’t know why she left me and took you with her………I brought her back here and I thought she was happy here…….When you were born and I held you for the first time son it was the greatest experience I ever felt. You were crying until Sam put you in my arms then you looked up at me as I looked at you and those blue eyes and you stopped…….You were so small in my arms.”

Murdoch stood up and walked over to the window. “ You would fuss all day with your mother until I came home and you seen me……..Maria.” Murdoch swallowed a lump. “ Maria got to were she would meet me outside on the veranda so you could see me ride in……The first time I put you on a horse with me you were I think eight months old…..I came in and you had your arms out for me and I had her hand you up…She wasn’t happy about it and every night after that I had to take you for a ride in the evening around the yard.”

Johnny got up and walked slowly over to the table.

“ You were a year, maybe a little older when I started taking you with me out away from the house….I couldn’t go to far because you were in diapers but………” Murdoch became quiet.

“ What is it?” Johnny asked softly.

“ Your mother……..I was remembering the first time she let me take you out all day……she got you potty trained and said it would do you good to be with me out with the cattle….The hands all took turns riding you out away from the herd so you wouldn’t get hurt.” Murdoch started laughing.

Johnny just looked at his father.

“ This one day it was so hot, you were almost two and we all went on a picnic by a pond…….You got up so fast and ran to that water and before me or your mother could reach you, you were in over your head. Your mother was frantic as I yelled for you as I went in……You came out laughing and wanted to go back in. I taught you how to swim after that and there was no stopping you then. One thing you loved to do that we had to stop and do on the way home every day was let you go swimming.” Murdoch said with a smile.

Johnny got up and looked at Murdoch. “ I don’t feel to good.” he said as the room started to spin.

Murdoch moved to his son’s side and helped him to the bed. “ I want you to stay in this bed son……You’re still weak from blood loss…….You need Sam damn it.”

“ So go get him.” Johnny said weakly.

“ I can’t leave you alone that long son……besides we only have your horse and I know he is not going to let me ride him.”

“ Got that right.”

“ Listen I need to go get some more water…..Now I want you to stay in this bed son…..please.”

“ K.” was all Johnny said as he closed his eyes and sleep claimed his weak tired body.

Murdoch covered him up with the blanket then grabbed the bucket and quietly went outside to the river to fill it up.

Scott rode hard, wanting to reach Cedar Canyon mid afternoon. He had a pretty good idea where his father and brother would have come out of there heading north. If one of them were hurt, no rain in the last few weeks, tracks should still be visible. Not many hands rode up this way in the summer and the cattle grazed Cedar Canyon in the spring when the grass is lush and green.

A meadow Lark sang in the distance as Scott got near the top and stopped. He could see tracks from two horse in the soft dirt. Grass a few feet away lay bent over or broken off from being trampled on. Getting down he walked looking the ground over closely. “ The tracks go back down from here……..why?” he asked himself aloud.

After a few feet Scott got his answer, bending down he pulled some grass up that had a dark color to it.

“ Blood.” he said.

Only one set of horse  tracks went back down the ravine with a set of human tracks also, mounting up he knew the tracks would go back down as far as the mouth, he hoped he would be able to see which way they went after that.

Reaching the mouth of the ravine Scott seen the tracks headed northwest away from the line shack to the west of him. Why? Then he remembered something he’d seen on the Lancer map once when looking for Pardee. Northwest of where he was right now was an old abandoned mine along the river. He remembered asking his father about it. Spurring his horse he took off and silently prayed he was right.

The sun was starting to go behind the hills by the time he got to the river and slowed his horse down as the mine came into view. Stopping as he watched a man at the waters edge filling a bucket.

“ Murdoch.  he yelled as he spurred his horse ahead and splashed across the river and up the bank on the other side.

Murdoch filled the bucket and lifted it up out of the water, walking back up the bank he heard his name called and stopped, turning to his left as he heard a horse splash thru the water and come up onto the road toward him.

“ Scott.”  he yelled as he set the bucket down and went to his son.

Scott dismounted and took his father into a big hug. “ Am I ever glad to see you sir…..We have been looking for you all over the ranch ever since your horse came back without you……………..where’s Johnny?”

“ It’s good to see you son………Your brothers inside……he’s been shot and needs Sam badly Scott.” Murdoch said as he went to pick the bucket back up.

“ Sir….I need to show you something.” Scott said as he took the notes out of his coat pocket and handed them to him.

Murdoch took the notes and read them. Anger could be seen on his face as the veins started to show on his brow and his neck muscles tightened.

“ I’m pretty sure this one was written by your friend Harper……Teresa found this one in his room after I kicked him off Lancer.”

“Kicked him off Lancer?……Why?”

Scott them proceeded to tell his father what Jim Harper did, with the Marshal showing up and the article in the Sacramento newspaper.

“ My god…..Why?…..Do you realize what he has done to your brother?”

“ Yes sir I do……The marshal is in Morro Coyo until tomorrow I believe, then he heads back to Sacramento.”

“ We can’t let Johnny know about this son…..If he finds out he’ll try and leave Lancer and right now he is in no condition to ride…….I need you to go to town and bring Sam back here Scott.” Murdoch said as they walked to the shack.

Opening the door Scott stepped inside and over to his brother sleeping on the cot. Placing a hand on his forehead. “ He’s burning up.”

“ Yes……the fever just won’t go away…..I’ve done all I can for him….he needs medicine son.”

Scott stood up. “ I’ll bring Sam back here as quick as I can.” he said as he headed out the door.

“ Son…be careful…..if Harper is in town and behind whoever shot Johnny.” Murdoch said as he followed him back outside.

“ I’ll be careful sir… just keep my brother alive.” Scott said as he mounted his horse.

Murdoch stood there watching his oldest ride away before turning and going back inside. Glancing at his youngest he could tell Johnny was trapped in a dream the way he was breathing and moving his head around.

It was early evening by the time Scott got into town, stopping at the doctors office and home, he got down and went inside.

“ Sam……..Sam are you here?”

Sam came out of the back. “ Scott Lancer, I’m with a patient right now. What’s wrong?”

Scott dropped his voice. “ You need to come with me as soon as you can Sam.” was all he said.

“ Is someone hurt at Lancer?” the old doctor asked.

“ Yes.” Scott said, even though the person needing him wasn’t at Lancer.

“ Alright meet me out front in thirty minutes.” Sam said before turning and going back into the back of his office.

Scott left the doctors and headed to the saloon, he needed a stiff drink after what has happened this day.

Tying off his horse he walked into the Red Dog saloon and spotted the marshal sitting at a table, walking over to him.

“ Marshal Kincaid.”

“ Scott Lancer….sit down…..Bartender bring mister Lancer a cold beer.”

“ Thank you marshal I have something I want to show you.” Scott said as he pulled the two notes out and handed them to the marshal. “ The one Harper gave you I believe is one he wrote sir….the other one is the real one. It has blood on it.”

“ Where did you get this?” Kincaid asked.

“ Teresa found it in the guest room Harper was staying in…….I kicked him off Lancer after you left……Listen marshal I found my father and brother…….Johnny was ambushed by someone and my father has been keeping him hide out not knowing who shot him………He couldn’t leave my brother for help all this time.”

“ So your father and Madrid are alive?” the marshal asked just as the bartender walked over with the cold beer for Scott.

Scott glanced up at the man and waited until he left to speak. “ Yes……he’s not doing to good….I came into town to get the doctor.”

“ Well if your father is alive and Madrid didn’t kill him…….I can arrest  Harper for withholding evidence.”

“ I’d like you to hold off on that marshal if you would…I have a feeling that there are more than just Harper involved in this.”

“Alright……to tell you the truth I wasn’t looking forward to facing Madrid anyway.”

Scott downed his beer and stood up. “ I’m sorry you came all this way marshal for nothing……and for the record, my brothers name is Lancer now, not Madrid.”

Kincaid stood up. “ I’m sorry…I meant no disrespect to him. Fact is from what I’ve heard about Mad…..your brother he was a rarity for a gunfighter…….still I wouldn’t want to be looking down the wrong end of his colt whether he’s Madrid or Lancer.”

“ I know, what Harper has done is brought trouble to Johnny. All he wants to do is put his past behind him and  settle down and be the son of a rancher.”

“ You know I seen him gun down two men in Nogales once…….I don’t think he was more than seventeen maybe…..I’ve seen a lot of gunfighters in my life Scott, but your brother…….he’s deadly.”

“ He did what he had to do to survive.”

“ Yeah, those two back then made the mistake of calling him out.”

The bartender of the Red Dog hurried out the back door and over to the feed store, catching Jim Fowler just as he was locking up.

“ Hey I just heard something you might be interested in at the saloon.”

“ Yeah what’s that?” Fowler asked.

“ Madrid is still alive……he and his old man are hide out somewhere.” the bartender said.

“ How do you know he’s still alive?”

“ His brother, Scott Lancer was just in the saloon talking to the marshal….I heard it when I brought him a beer……I gotta get back…I thought you would want to know.”

Fowler stood there knowing that if it became known that he was the one who ambushed Madrid, Madrid would come looking for him. Heading to his house he knew he would have to wait until morning to ride back out to the canyon where he shot Madrid and look for him.

Scott and Sam headed out of town, filling the doctor in on the way. Scott knew he could trust Sam with what he told him.

“ How bad is Johnny hurt Scott and how long ago was he shot?”

“ He was shot the day they went missing Sam….Murdoch removed the bullet but Johnny’ got a bad fever he said won’t go away and he’s real weak.”

“ Well without seeing him I suspect his iron count is low, he may have an infection also……….I remember when I removed that bullet from his back he had a time with fever then.”

Scott didn’t answer, but he remembered his brother laying in his bed weak  from the blood loss. The fever then stayed with him for days, keeping them all wondering if he would pull thru or not. The scars reveled that day on his brothers body clearly showed he was a fighter. He just hoped and prayed that he could continue because after what Jim Harper had done, his little brother had the biggest fight ever ahead of him and he would be right by his side helping him, he wasn’t about to loose the little brother he never knew he had until that day just over four months ago when Teresa told them both.

Smiling as he remembered back to that day his, unknown to him at the time, little brother stopped the stage and got on board. The way he was dressed in his leather pants with the silver concho’ down the sides, the fancy pink colored shirt with the embroidery stitching down the front and the leather bolero jacket with even fancier silver embroidery around the cuff’s and down the front.

“ Didn’t mean to mess up your outfit.” he had said to him when the stage lurched forward that day, and then the following day what he said brought a small chuckle to him.

Johnny had opened the door to his room without knocking and come on in. “ You are a snappy dresser.”

he had said to him before young Teresa burst into the room.

“ Well if you are planning on staying in these parts…well plaid just isn’t the style.” Johnny had told him.

“ Course I’m planning to stay.” he answered back and from that day forward Scott  was glad he had and was getting the chance to know the little brother he never knew he had.

“ Scott……Scott.” Sam yelled.

“ I’m sorry Sam did you say something?”

“ I asked if you are alright?”

“ Yeah…I was just remembering the first time me and Johnny met……..We didn’t even know we were related when he got on the stage that day ten miles from Morro Coyo.”

“ Well I think it’s safe to say that the two of you have become brothers since that day.”

“ Yeah Sam we have…..we’re still learning each other……I mean Johnny doesn’t exactly share his past with me but we are close and getting closer every day.”

“ You do realize Scott that Harper putting that reward out on Johnny has brought him trouble?…….men are going to come to this valley and try to kill him.”

“ Yeah I know…..I showed the article and notes to our father and told him I kicked Harper off Lancer land.”

“ Does Johnny know?”

“ No, Murdoch doesn’t want him knowing, he’s to weak and he’s afraid Johnny will try and leave Lancer to keep that trouble away.”

“ I bet Murdoch is fit to be tied learning what has been done?”

“ That’s an understatement Sam.” Scott answered as they reached the mine.

Murdoch came out and met them just as the sun was setting.

Two men stood outside the saloon in Carterville when Frank Leavy noticed something on a post, walking over he yanked it off.

“ Well would you look at this little brother.” he said with an evil grin.

Ed Leavy stepped over and took the paper form his older brother. “ Well I’ll be……two thousand dollar reward and it says dead………Looks like it just became our lucky day brother.”

“ Yeah and the end to a long search…..we finally get the chance to revenge that halfbreed bastard for killing our old man.”

“ Look here….it say the man paying the reward is a Jim Harper in Morro Coyo…that’s a days ride from here if we cut thru the badlands.”

“ Yeah….let’s go.” Frank said as he stepped of the walk and to his horse. “ I’m gonna love putting a bullet in Johnny Madrid.”

Teresa knocked on Melissa’ door.

“ Come in.”

Opening it she found Melissa sitting looking out the window.  “ I thought maybe you would like to go sit in the garden with me…..the sunset is going to be beautiful and it’s such a nice evening.”

“ Why hasn’t my father been up to see me today?”

“ Uhm why don’t we go outside and I’ll tell you.”

Melissa stood up and walked over to her. “ Is something wrong Teresa?”

“ Come on, nobody will bother us there and we can talk.” Teresa said as she took the girls hand and they walked out of the room and down the back stairs and outside.

Once out in the garden Melissa walked over and smelled the roses. “ They’re beautiful Teresa.”

“ Yes……I often come here to think about my father….Johnny sometimes will sneak up on me and give me one of the roses……Come sit down.”

“ Johnny isn’t anything like Murdoch said he was that day he was bringing us here.”

“ No Johnny is Johnny……I think a lot of people, Murdoch included have a hard time accepting him for who he was.”

“ Yeah, the night of the dance…….before I was……I acted in a manor not appropriate for a young lady in my fathers eyes……I’m not the innocent daughter he thinks I am Teresa……..I’ve been with a man before.”

Teresa just listened knowing inside where Melissa was going with this.

“ I was angry that he turned me down……I didn’t exactly treat you nice and for that I am truly sorry.”

“ It’s alright.”

“ Anyway’ I walked to the barn and I thought I was alone with this big Palomino when a voice behind me spoke……..I turned and I tried to leave but he grabbed me and…….” Melissa started to shake and cry.

“ He hurt me Teresa…….he hurt me so bad…..He said if I screamed he would kill me with the knife he pulled out……I prayed that someone would come in and stop him but it was over so fast…..I still feel his hands on me, him biting me.”

Teresa pulled her into a hug. “ It wasn’t your fault Melissa… didn’t do anything wrong.”

“ Did….did Johnny kill him?”

“ No honey Scott and Cipriano found Pedro and did.”

“ Where is my father?”

“ He’s not here any longer.”

“ What do you mean?…….Why isn’t he?”

“ Scott threw him off Lancer.”

Melissa looked at her. “ Why would Scott do that?”

Teresa took a long breath and began telling Melissa what had happened, what her father had done, all of it.

“ I don’t understand….why would my father do something so horrible to Johnny?”

“ I wish I knew why too Melissa………Johnny isn’t like people think he is…….I couldn’t ask for a better big brother than Johnny, Scott too.”

“ You’re lucky to have them that’s for sure.”

“ What my father did……’s not good for Johnny is it?”

“ No……see the day after your were attacked Johnny and Murdoch rode out and haven’t been seen since……we don’t know if they are alive or……..” she couldn’t say it.

“ Where is my father now?”

“ I think he is staying in town……Scott ordered him to not ever come back on Lancer land.”

“ How come I’m being allowed to stay here?…….I wasn’t exactly a nice person to you or Johnny.”

“ Because Melissa you need a friend and a place were you can think about what you want to do with your life now.”

“ Could we go into town…….I would like to see my father.”

“ It’s to late tonight but we can go after breakfast in the morning.”

“ Thank you…….. and Teresa.”

“ Yes.”

“ Thank you for letting me talk about what happened……..Do you think when this is all over and Johnny comes back he would want to talk to me?”

“ I don’t see why not…….Like I said Johnny is a good person and he’ll be the first to tell you that everyone deserves a second chance.”

The two girls sat and watched the sun set and the first stars of the night appear before returning inside the house for the night.

Jim Harper and a man from Lancer talked in his room. Nobody would be suspicious, figuring the hand would just be delivering a message about his daughter.

“ You’re absolutely sure about this?” Harper asked.

“ Oh yeah I was standing right there when she brought it out.”

“ Damn……alright get on back and keep your ears open on anything happening………….Does anyone suspect anything from you?”

“ Nope, nobody seen me leave.”

“ Good……..get on back now, we don’t want the Lancer’ finding out about you.”

The Lancer hand left the hotel and headed back.

Sam got down from his buggy. “ It’s good to see you still alive old friend.”

“ Yeah Scott told me what’s been going on…..Listen Johnny doesn’t know and…….”

“ I know, Scott already told me…….How is my patient?”

“ Sick Sam……he feels good then goes right back down…….he lost a lot of blood by the time I got the bullet out, he’s still real weak and the fever just won’t go away.”

“ Let me guess, he won’t stay in bed either right?”

“ Yeah……I’ve managed to get some broth down him from rabbit stew the other night but nothing else really beyond water.” Murdoch told Sam as the doctor walked over to Johnny.

“ He’s pale that’s for sure.” Sam said as he pulled the blanket back.

“ I used what I could for bandages Sam but ran out……the bullet went deep…….I didn’t have anything to give him for the pain or infection…….I cleaned the wound with boiled water.”

“ What did you use to stitch him up?”

“ Johnny had that in his saddlebags…..he keeps a needle and thread in there.”

“ Scott.” Sam said standing. “ I need you to go back to Lancer and bring medical supplies and a bottle of red wine back here.”

“ Red wine Sam?” Murdoch asked.

“ Yes, Johnny has lost so much blood his iron count is low…..that’s one reason why he can’t shake the fever…….A glass of that a day for say three days should boost it back up for him……that and clean bandages…..The wound it’s self I don’t feel any heat around so I don’t think he has an infection.”

“ I’ll leave right now Sam.” Scott said as he headed to the door.  “ I’ll bring you both some clean clothes to sir.”

Murdoch looked at him. “ Thank you son.”

“ How long has he been out?”

“ A couple hours now……he sleeps some then wakes up and we talk.”

“ The wound it’s self is good Murdoch… did a good job.”

“ I’ll tell ya Sam….having to take a bullet out of your own child is not something I care to do ever again.”

“ I know old friend……now let’s see if we can’t get him to wake up so I get an idea on what he is feeling inside.”

Scott rode quietly into the Lancer yard to the back door of the house. He didn’t want any of the hands to see him come in that might be awake.

Teresa came into the kitchen hearing someone rummaging around.

“ Scott….did you find them?” she asked as she set the lamp down she was carrying.

“ Yes I did honey…..Johnny’ been shot bad, Sam is with him now up at the old mine. I need to get some things together and take back up there.”

“ Why don’t you bring Johnny home.”

“ He’s to weak and we don’t know who shot him……get some medical supplies together and food while I go upstairs and grab a change of clothes for them.” Scott said as he headed for the back stairs. “ Oh and get a bottle of red wine also…..Sam said Johnny needs it.”

“ He lost a lot of blood and his iron is to low right?” she asked.

“ Yeah, thanks.” he answered before bonding up the stairs.

Just over an hour later Scott was mounted and headed back to his brother. He told Teresa to not tell anyone that Johnny was alive and where he was at since they didn’t know who shot him. He also told her to stay close to the ranch and let the hands know he would be back this afternoon.

Murdoch and Sam together got Johnny awake and sitting up after Sam checked for pain around the wound area.

“ How’d you find us Sam?” Johnny asked weakly as he drank some water.

“ Your brother found us son….I sent him for Sam this afternoon.”

“ Scott found us?…….Where is he?”

“ I sent him back to Lancer to pick up some things Johnny…….I have him bringing back a bottle of red wine I will need you to drink over the next couple days.”

“ Red wine huh……Guess that’s why I’m so weak…….my bloods off.”

Sam gave Murdoch a puzzling look. “ How do you know what the wine is for Johnny?” he asked.

“ Had a doctor outside El Paso tell me once when I was all shot up.”

“ Murdoch couldn’t stop the cringed feeling he got hearing his son say that.

Johnny noticed the look on his father’s face. “ Does it bother you hearing me tell that old man?”

“ No….yes..I mean, it bothers me hearing that you were shot up son…….I think it would bother any father.”

“ Yeah well……I been shot nine times, twice since coming here……..stabbed four and whipped a fare share of times with a whip or strop of some kind…….Now those Mexican Rurales they’re real good with a strop……they know how to hit ya and inflict pain from just one hit………never did break me though.”

Murdoch looked at Sam. “ Son…….when were you in a Mexican prison?”

“ Which time old man?”

Murdoch sighed. “ You mean you’ve been in prison more than once?”

“ Fuck yeah………Sorry……yeah I was…….Hell that day your Pinkerton showed up I’d spent little over a month in one and they treated me real good if you catch my drift……that is until the day they finally took me out to die.” Johnny said, the last barely above a whisper. “ See them Mexican Rurales well they like to try and mess with your mind and after I was there a couple days they would come to my cell and tell me that today would be the day I would die……did that every morning when they brought the bug infested slop they called food to me., course after a while those bugs started tastin alright…….anyhow me and two others were taken out and I was the second one to be executed when your Pink man showed up.”

“ Johnny…….son what were you in prison for?”

Johnny looked at him as he started to get up. “ I gotta take a piss… wanna hold my hand Sam?”

“ No Johnny that won’t be necessary, but I would prefer you use the bed pan as weak as you are and the  night air is cool.”

“ Yeah well I never was much good at taking orders Sam……..for being Johnny Madrid.” he said as he slowly walked to the door and turned around, looking at both men. “ Course me killin’ a lot of Rurales kinda makes ’em hate ya for doin that too……….I was leading the farmers against the big shot ranchers like you old man…..See Scott wasn’t the only one in a war…..I was also just nobody cared really to help the Mexican peasant’s because Scott’ war was more important fighting than a Mexican revolutionary one.” Johnny said before walking outside on weak legs.

Ten minutes later Johnny walked back into the shack and about collapsed into Sam’ arms.

“ Let’s get him over on the bed.”

“ Damn this boy Sam…….he is so damn stubborn.”

“ Yes he is…… someone else I know………he’s out……you need to go lay down on that other cot and rest Murdoch….I’ll watch over him till Scott gets back.”

“ Thanks Sam.” Murdoch said. “ You know I don’t know if it’s the fever or what, but I can’t believe my so secretive son told us what he just did about his past like that.”

“ I believe it is because of the fever old friend……Johnny may not remember telling you any of it when he’s better… go get some rest, that’s an order.”

Scott arrived back at the cabin mid morning with three sets of saddlebags full of stuff needed.

“ How’s he doing?” he asked as he walked in.

Murdoch was still sleeping so Sam hushed him quickly and motioned for him to go back outside.

“ I got your father to lay down and rest……I suspect he hasn’t been getting much with him being the only one here for Johnny.”

“ How’s is he Sam?”

Sam proceeded to tell Scott what Johnny did last night.

“ He is a stubborn cuss that’s for sure Sam……….I told Teresa not to tell anyone they are alive and where they are at.”

“ I imagine that poor girl was relieved to here that.”

“ Yeah….listen Sam….I think there’s a mole working for Lancer.”

“ What makes you think that son?” Murdoch voice came from behind them.

Scott turned around. “ Because I don’t think it was coincidence  with whoever shot Johnny just happening along.”

“ Go on son.”

“ I think someone working for Lancer told whoever shot Johnny that you and him went north that morning……in fact I’d wager that that same person is working for Harper as is the shooter.”

“ Son I understand what you are saying, but may I remind you that we have hired no new employee’s since Jim arrived.”

“ No but he made it clear those days before the party since his arrival sir that he didn’t like Johnny…..any one of the hands could have approached him without us knowing and the two of them together planned this…….Just because they work for us doesn’t mean all the men like Johnny or me for that matter.”

“ You said three men Scott.” Sam cut in. “ Who is the third man and does he work for Harper?”

“ I don’t know who he is Sam, but it’s clear that he knows Lancer……..I think he works for Harper but him and whoever is at Lancer I don’t think they know about each other.”

All three men turned toward the shack when they heard the cry.

“ Johnny.” Scott said as he hurried inside.

“ Make her stop papa, por favor…….Los siento papa……..Por favor, no lo voy a hacer de nuevo mama. Por favot, no dejas que me lastime de nuevo….Papa me ayude por favor.” ( make her stop papa….please. I’m sorry papa….por favor, I won’t do it again mama. Please don’t let him hurt me please.)

“ Johnny, it’s alright brother it’s alright.” Scott said as he tried to comfort his brother.

Johnny lashed out when Scott touched him, hitting his brother square in the jaw. “ Sin alejarse de mi………Yo quiero que mi papa ahora.” ( No get away from me……I want my papa.)

“ Let me in there son.” Murdoch ordered.

Scott moved and let his father take Johnny who immediately grabbed him around the waist. “ Por favor, no me dejes otra vez papa.” ( Please don’t leave me again papa.)

“ I won’t son….I promise you I will never leave you again.” Murdoch said with tears in his eyes as his son tightened his grip letting him know his words got thru.

                                                                                                 Chapter 7

Scott sat on the porch steps with a cup of coffee later that morning. Sam had left at first light to get back to town and get some sleep and start his rounds.

“ You want some more coffee son?” Murdoch asked from the door.

“No sir.”

“ Are you alright?” Murdoch asked as he came out and sat down on the steps next to  him.

“ Why is that when a person wants to try and change their life for the better, ……… other people don’t seem to want to let that happen.” Scott stated more than asked. “ I mean my brother has been fighting most of his life and want’s to be my brother and your son and above that Johnny Lancer and certain people in this valley won’t let him…….Your so called friend mister Harper included.”

“ I don’t know son……What I do know is that Johnny is going to need us both until this blows over.”

“ Blows over?…………How can you sit there sir and just assume that this will blow over?…..You read that newspaper article… seen the wanted poster put out by your good friend.”

“ Stop it……..Don’t you think I feel bad enough about how Jim treated Johnny?…….Don’t you think I want to wrap my hands around his neck and squeeze his last breath  from him for what he has done to my son……….to all of us?……I know for a fact that if Johnny finds out about this it will be the end of us as a family Scott because he’ll leave and go back to Mexico and be gunned down and I will not let that happen.”

“ And you think I will……….Two thousand dollars is a lot of money sir and even if Harper retracts it the damage is done……Men will know where Johnny is and come and………..”

“ Don’t stop there brother……..Men will come and what?” Johnny asked from the door.

Scott looked at his father then back at Johnny. “ I was……”

“ We were just discussing who it might have been that shot you son.” Murdoch cut in.

“ That true Boston?” Johnny asked never taking his eyes from his brother.

Scott couldn’t look at him. “ Yeah,……..yeah Johnny we were.”

“ Bullshit……if you were Scott then why don’t you look at me when you say it?”

“ You shouldn’t be out of bed son…Sam told you that.”

“ Back off old man………..How about you tell me what’s going on Scott…..You know I don’t like to be lied to.”

“ I told you, so did Murdoch……Now you little brother need to get back in that bed.”

“ I need a lot of things brother, but the one thing I need most is a father and brother who don’t lie to me.” Johnny said before turning and stepping back inside slamming the door behind him so hard the glass rattled.

Scott sighed. “ Sir I can’t do this…….I can’t lie to him, not and still expect him to ever trust me again.”

“ I know son… you still have those articles?”

“What are you going to do?” Scott asked.

“ I’m going to show them to your brother..he has a right to know son……..We shouldn’t keep it from him.”

Scott stood up and walked to his horse and removed the poster and article from his saddlebags and handed them to him,

“ You want me to stay?” he asked.

“ No..this is something I need to do Scott, bring my horse back  would you?……I know Johnny is going to want to get away from here especially after I tell him.”

“ How do we know he won’t take off and leave Lancer.” Scott asked as he mounted his horse.

“ Because your brother is a man of his word and I’m going to make him promise me he won’t before I tell him.”

“ Well good luck…..I’ll bring your horse back tomorrow.”

Johnny sat at the table with a cup of coffee when Murdoch walked back in.

“ You think I don’t know something is going on old man?………You got one minute to start talking or I’m riding out of here.”

“You’re in no shape to ride yet son, besides you don’t know where I have Barranca at.”

“ All I gotta do is whistle…you got thirty seconds left.”

Murdoch knew his son was serious, sitting down across from him. “ Alright, but first I want your word that after I tell you son, you won’t leave Lancer?”

Johnny looked over at him, it was then he noticed the papers in his hands. “ What’s that?” Johnny asked pointing toward the papers.

“ Do I have your word son?”

“ That depends.”

“ Well then I can’t show you or tell you.” Murdoch said standing up.

“ So that’s it huh……..I will ride out of here back to Mexico…….Is that what you want?”

“ You know it isn’t…but I can’t unless I have your word Johnny that you won’t leave.”

“ Fine.” Johnny snapped back. “ You got my word.”

Murdoch so hated showing his son what he was about to, but it had to be done.

Johnny took the paper from him and turned it over. “ That’s a lot of money…….who’s.” Johnny noticed who was offering the reward at the bottom. “ I don’t understand why they think I killed you?”

“ I don’t either son.”

“ That’s a lot of money…….you do realize that once it’s known where Johnny Madrid is at.”

“ I know son.”

“ So what’s the other paper?”

“ A newspaper article.”

“ Yeah, let me guess, from the way you’re acting it must be about me?”

 “ I’m sorry son.” was all he could think to say as he handed it to him.

Johnny read the paper then sat there for a long spell just staring at it until his eyes blurred over. After what seemed like forever he stood up and walked over to the window, his shoulders slumped and his head hung low. “ You believe any of that?” he asked barely above a whisper.

Murdoch stood up and walked over to his son. “ I learned from you to not always believe what you read son…….I believe what you tell me, not some reporter in Sacramento.”

Johnny turned around. “ Yeah well this one you should……he’s mostly right on what he said in there.”

he  said before walking over and picking up his holster.

“ What are you doing son?”

“ Where’s Barranca?”

“ Son you gave me your word you wouldn’t leave.”

“ You realize what will come of this don’t you?…..What will happen if I stay here?”

“ Yes I do…..I will not loose you again Johnny.”

“ Is my staying here worth Scott or Teresa’ lives?”

“ Listen Scott is going to bring my horse back tomorrow, get some rest and the three of us can ride back to Lancer and we can all sit down and discuss this like a family………okay?”

Johnny sighed then removed his gun and laid it on the table.. “ You got no idea what you’re getting into Murdoch, no idea at all.”

“ I’d like to think I do son…….Listen get some rest and I’ll go check on Barranca and see if we have a rabbit in the trap.”

Johnny didn’t say anything as he walked over to the cot and sat down.

Murdoch went outside and headed to his sons horse, what he didn’t know though, was a pair of eyes watched as he left the shack.

Jim Fowler couldn’t believe his luck when he spotted Scott Lancer early this morning, following right to the mine he stopped down river from the buildings across river and waited for his chance. When Murdoch left he knew Madrid was alone now, waiting until Murdoch was far enough away he crossed the shallow river quietly and kept to the shadows of the cliff up to the shack, peaking in thru the window he seen Madrid laying on the cot with his eyes closed, Pulling the knife he brought from his belt, slowly he opened the door and stepped in. He could shoot Madrid right now and be done with it, but Murdoch Lancer being not that far away would hear the shot.

Stepping cautiously over to the cot he smiled as he looked down at the man who’s chest he would plunge the knife into.

Johnny heard the door open and figured it was his father come back.  “ Was  there a rabbit in the trap?” he asked without opening his eyes. When he got no answer he opened his eyes and seen a knife plunging down to his chest.

Grabbing Fowler’ wrist and raising as he pushed up with all he had. Fowler jerked and was able to get the knife free. Johnny looked at his colt laying on the table ten feet away.

“ Go ahead Madrid and try it…….I’ll have you dead before you reach that pistol.” Fowler said as he took a step toward him.

“ Why you doing this?” Johnny asked.

“ I don’t know why you’re still alive……..I hit you that day and you should have died.” Fowler responded.

“ It was you who shot me?” Johnny asked as a slight pain hit his side.

“ I told you we don’t want your kind here, he want’s you dead like the rest of us do.” Fowler stated right before he lunged at Johnny, both men falling back on the floor.

Johnny took the hit straight on, the wind knocked from him for a second as he slammed into the floor with Fowler on top of him. Struggling for the knife once again aimed at his chest, he knew he was to weak to fight him off for very long. Drawing in as much air as he could Johnny yelled.

“ Murdoch………….Murdoch.”

“ Go ahead……he can’t hear you Madrid….when he comes back here he’ll find you dead.” Fowler stated as he rose his body up above Johnny and started to push down.

Johnny could feel his arms weakening as they started to shake, sweat covered his face as he managed to roll both of them to his left, slamming Fowler’ wrist into the floor, trying desperately to get him to drop the knife.

Fowler let go with his right and slugged Madrid hard in his wound. “ Give it up.” he said before hitting him again.

Johnny couldn’t stop the small scream that escaped him when Fowler hit his wound. The second time he hit it Johnny found himself curling up in a ball gasping from the pain.

Murdoch was feeding Barranca when the horse suddenly became very upset, whinnying, kicking and stomping about. Murdoch moved away from the horse thinking maybe it was him he was upset at.

“ Easy Barranca…I know you want Johnny but he can’t come to you just yer boy.” Murdoch said as he reached for the stallion. “ Just take it easy.”

Barranca let out a whinny and again stomped around throwing his head up and down snorting.

Murdoch felt it then…..Something was wrong…..He knew his son and this horse had a special bond between them. “ It’s Johnny isn’t it boy……..Alright I’ll go check on him.” Murdoch said as he patted the horse and left.

Johnny seen a boot coming at his ribs and tried to block it but couldn’t. White hot pain ravaged his chest and side as he was rolled onto his back and once again Fowler hovered over him. Grabbing the mans wrist again Johnny hung on and pushed up with everything he had but it wasn’t enough. The knife came down and sliced his left arm open as he brought his knees up and tried to shove Fowler off him, but couldn’t.

Murdoch took in the scene before him as fast as he was big and quickly lunged at Fowler knocking the man off his son.

“ You.” he yelled as he pulled Fowler up and hit him hard. “ You dare come here and try to kill my son… sonofabitch.”

Fowler felt the blow to his jaw and then another to his gut, causing him to drop the knife. Hands free now he swung up and caught Murdoch in his jaw and caused him to stagger back a step.

Johnny backed  away to the door as his father and Fowler fought. Reaching up he pulled his holster off the table and took out the colt.

Standing up he pulled the hammer back and brought the colt up.

Fowler looked around for the knife, not seeing it he pulled his pistol. “ I’m going to kill you and then finish that halfbreed son of yours off Murdoch.”

“ Drop it Fowler.” Johnny said as he took a step toward them. “ I’m only going to say it once.”

Fowler glared at Johnny a minute before starting to bring the gun toward him. “ Die killer.” he said as he seen the smoke from Johnny’ barrel and felt the bullet slam into his chest, knocking him backwards.

Johnny seen the pistol move his direction just a little before he pulled the trigger, hitting Fowler in the chest. Pulling the hammer back again.

“ This is for ambushing me you sonofabitch.” Johnny said before pulling the trigger and hitting the man between the eyes.

Murdoch stood there and watched the coldness  in his son’s eye’s and heard the deadly sound in his voice before he pulled the trigger.

“ You alright?’ Johnny asked.

Murdoch looked at him then at Fowler laying on the floor with a pool of blood around his head.

“ You didn’t have to kill him son.”

“ As long as he had that gun in his hand I did.” Johnny said as his legs started to go weak and buckle.

Murdoch moved and caught him as he pulled a chair out. “ Here sit down.” he ordered.

Johnny sat down as his father took the colt from his hand and laid it on the table.

“ You think you could sew me up again?” Johnny asked as he looked at his arm.

It was then that Murdoch noticed the blood on his son’s left upper arm. “ Let me see that.”

“ How did he find us you reckon?” Johnny asked as he started to remove his shirt.

“ I don’t know son……unless he followed your brother here this morning…….This may sting a little son.”  Murdoch said as he started to clean the cut up.

“ He said something when he came in.”

“ What did he say son?…..Here lay your arm across here so I can stitch it up.”

“ He said he wanted me dead just like the rest.” he stated as he watched his father hesitate with the needle. “ Here give it to me…..I can do it.”

“ You think he was working with Jim?” Murdoch asked as he handed his son the needle and thread.

“ No…….not unless they knew each other before Fowler or him came here.”

“ No…….Fowler’ been here the better part of ten years son.” Murdoch told him as he watched how his son sewed his arm up with no pain medicine. “ I don’t see how you can do that son without taking anything for it.”

“ Well now I’ll tell ya……when you’re on the run like I’ve been with a bullet in you you learn hard and fast Murdoch…….Someone else besides your friend Fowler is involved here.”

“ He is not my friend any longer son….Any man who would do what he did to you out of hate is not a friend of mine.”

“ You do realize you probably won’t have many, if any friends if that’s how you feel?”

“ It is son and they are not worth having as my friend if they can’t accept my son into this valley……You and Scott are all that matters to me.”

“ We need to report this and get him outside.”

“ You sit still. I’ll take him out.” Murdoch said firmly.

Johnny got up and opened the door as his father dragged the body outside. Walking back over to the table, Johnny couldn’t help but think about the words his father had just said. “ All that matters to you huh?……Men start showing up to kill me you won’t feel that way.” he said softly.

Teresa and Melissa headed to Morro Coyo in the buckboard shortly after breakfast. Jose rode behind telling Teresa he was to watch them as per Scott’ orders.

“ Teresa…….how old is Johnny?” Melissa asked.

“ Let’s see, Johnny is twenty two or so…..why?”

“ Do you think that maybe….that he…..would maybe give me a second chance and show an interest?”

“ Melissa, one thing I’ve noticed about Johnny is he’s changed since coming back home, but I don’t think he’s ready to settle down with one girl.”

“ One girl?……You mean he……..”

“ They like to think I don’t know what they do, but I’m not a little girl anymore…..I know why Johnny goes to town Friday and Saturday nights, and it’s not to play cards………..I’ve heard the women talk about him.”

“ You mean he likes bordello’s don’t you?” Melissa asked.

“ Melissa I’m sorry, but I just don’t think Johnny is ready for one woman……he ran wild all those years along the border after his mother died…….Like I said he’s tamed down some, but he’s still wild and carefree.”

“ That’s what I like about him though………He’s the perfect man to have to settle down and have a family with.” Melissa pointed out.

“ It won’t happen with Johnny…..his past I think is what keeps him the way he is……I think Johnny is afraid to commit to one girl Melissa, I think he’s scared that if he does she will be killed or he will and I don’t think he wants to put her through that.”

“ Especially not since my father did what he has right?”

“ Men are going to show up wanting to kill Johnny for that reward yes…….Some I suspect will call him out, but others I heard Johnny tell Scott one day, others would rather ambush him and shoot him in the back because they know they can’t beat him face to face.”

“ I still don’t understand why my father did this…….Why is he so bent on hating Johnny?”

“ Why don’t you ask him that……he’s right there.” Teresa pointed out as they came into Morro Coyo.

Jim Harper came out of the hotel and was crossing the street when he looked and seen his daughter and Teresa coming toward him.

“ Melissa……what are you doing in town?…… shouldn’t be out.”

“ Why not father….Do I embarrass you that much?”

“ Why are you here?”

“ I need to know why you did what you have……..Murdoch is your friend, and yet you attacked his son………why?…..How could you do something so cold and heartless to another human being father.”

“ Young lady I will not stand here in the street and have you speak to me like this……….What I do is of no concern of yours.”

“ Yes it is……..The Lancer’ are my friends, Johnny is a good person if you would just give him a chance.”

“ I don’t want you anywhere near him Melissa….is that understood?”

“ Why…….he’s was okay for you to hunt down the man who raped me and kill him.”

“ Keep your voice down… want people to know what happened to you?”

“ I don’t care if they do know father…….I’m not going to hide from this……I’m not going to bury it away and pretend it never happened……you can if you want to, but I will not.”

“ Mister Harper, you clearly don’t know a thing about Johnny, I truly feel sorry for you when Johnny finds out what you have done, but more than him I feel sorry for Murdoch because I know this will hurt him learning a man he considered a friend for many years would go and do something so terrible as you have done.”

“ If Murdoch Lancer wants that killer Johnny Madrid as a son fine, he can watch him die.” Harper stated firmly before turning and walking away from the buckboard.

Melissa sat there with tears in her eyes watching her father walk away.

“ Let’s go do some shopping while we’re in town Melissa…………Jose  if you want to go have a beer and meet us at Baldamero’ this afternoon?”

“ Very well miss Teresa.”

“ Come on, this is just what you need to do Melissa.” Teresa said as she climbed down from the buggy.

“ Yeah I guess you’re right……..I could use a new dress maybe.” Melissa answered as she climbed down.

Harper never noticed the two men who followed him after his incident with his daughter, that is not until he was stopped abruptly outside the hotel.

“ You Harper?” Frank asked.

“ What if I am? What’s it to you?”

“ Two thousand dollars is what it is to us… are you him or not?”

“ You bounty hunters?”

“ Mister me and my brother there, we been lookin’ for Madrid for a long time…….now we got no problem killing him for what he did to us, but that reward you’re offering, well that sure does sweetin’ it up some.”

“ You understand that I want him dead……you have to prove to me you killed him before I pay one red cent.”

“Where is he?” Ed asked.

“ I don’t know…..nobody has seen him for almost two weeks……He is still alive though….I just don’t know where on Lancer he’s hiding out at.”

“ Lancer huh?….Wasn’t that a Lancer you were just talking to in the buckboard?”

“ No that was my daughter Melissa and ……… wait a minute……I may know how to bring Madrid out of hiding.” Harper said. “ I was just on my way to eat breakfast, why don’t you two join me and we can talk?”

Frank looked at Ed then back at Harper. “ Fine…….as long as you’re buying.”

Scott rode into Lancer late that afternoon thinking about his brother and the wall that had just been put up between them. He knew not telling Johnny what was going on like he should have done really hurt his little brother, hell it hurt him even more, but how do you tell someone you are just getting to know something your gut tells you will drive that person away? Ever since that day the stage stopped ten miles out of Morro Coyo and his little brother climbed in and sat next to him, ever since a few hours later the two of them stood in the very room he just walked into and faced their father for the first time his world became complete.

His grandfather raised him up good and he never wanted for a thing, always having everything it seemed his little brother didn’t. Knowing that now deep down inside angered Scott. Did his grandfather know about Johnny and because his mother was a Mexican, a beautiful Mexican woman, did that bother Harlan Garrett so bad that he deprived his grandson of this knowledge?

Pouring himself a drink, Scott walked over to the french doors and seen a buckboard coming under the arch with a rider behind. When the buckboard came into the yard he stepped out onto the veranda.

“ Mind telling me where you two went?”

Teresa got down. “ Scott, we went to town and did some shopping.”

“ Teresa I told you I didn’t want you leaving Lancer because…….” Scott started, stopping short because they were not alone.

“ Thank you Jose….you can have the evening off.” Scott said to the hand.

“ Yes sir…….Ladies.” he said with a tip of his hat before walking off to the barn. “ Wonder what he was going to say?” he asked himself as he led his horse away.

Scott followed the girls into the house. “ Teresa we don’t  know who shot Murdoch, they could still be out there watching the house looking for Johnny.”

“ Scott….I’m sorry for what my father has done……I wish there was something I could do.” Melissa stated.

“ It’s not you fault Melissa,… had now way of knowing what your father would do.”

“Yes but I know what my father is capable of doing to get what he want’s.”

“ Every man is capable of doing things above the law to get what they want………..It’s just that some don’t care who they hurt or how they do it.” Scott answered. “ My little brother taught me that.”

“ Listen why don’t you go get cleaned up Scott and me and Melissa will go fix you some dinner.” Teresa chimed in.

Scott walked over and gave her a hug. “ Johnny will be alright.” he whispered in her ear.

Teresa smiled up at him. Her eyes telling him thank you.

“ Tonight why don’t we just have sandwiches instead and sit by the fire and you two can sew or whatever while I go over the books.”

Frank and Ed Leavy rode out to Lancer two days later, stopping on the hill, looking down at the big hacienda.

“ Frank are you sure taking this girl will bring Madrid out?”

“ You heard what Harper said, she and Madrid are real close, supposed to be brother and sister like.”

“ Yeah I remember how Madrid is when he has a liking for a woman. Hell he knifed that guy in San Angelo a couple years back because he was rough with that whore Madrid liked…..You remember that?”

Frank looked at his little brother. “ I remember……I remember real good how that halfbreed turned his back on us all after that range war was over……How he rode away from there with more money in his pockets than the rest of us just because he killed the two Jacks.”

“ Hell we could have killed them, no problem……Damn Madrid around nobody else can get more ‘n a dollar a day, meals and a roof over our head if’n we’re lucky.”

“ Well little brother, after we kill Madrid, me and you will be askin’ the highest price in them range war…………..Hell we just might sponge sum of money from Madrid’ old man after he’s dead………Look at this place………Harper said it’s one hundred thousand acres………Look at that big white fancy house that bastard has been living in.” Frank said with anger. “ Come on Ed, let’s go make camp somewhere and work this out.”

“ Hey Frank……we got us an ace in the hole brother.” Ed said as he turned his horse.

“ Yeah what’s that?”

“ A guaranteed way Harper don’t welsh on paying us………Wasn’t that other girl in town his daughter?”

Frank smiled. “ Little brother I do like how you think…..I surely do.”

Three days later Scott came down stairs into the kitchen well before the sun came up. Teresa already up had food ready for him.

Handing  him his saddlebags she  asked. “ When do you think the three of you will be back?”

“ It’ll take me three hours to get up there so with Johnny not healed up all the way, We should be back this afternoon sometime, well before dinner so Johnny can rest.”

“ Okay, I’ll have his room all ready for him.”

“ Remember you two stay close until……” Scott started.

“ I know Scott…Stay close and make sure Jose or a hand is with us at all times outside.” Teresa cut in with a smile.

“ Okay…….well I better get going, I got a feeling my esteem little brother is going to be chomping at the bit to come home.”

“ Be careful Scott.” she told him from the door.

Thirty minutes later Scott walked two horse’ from the yard headed north before the sun came up.

Jose watched as two riders rode down the hill toward the house. He knew who it was and what they wanted.

“ Jose, would you saddle two horses please?…….Me and Melissa would like to ride around here a little.” Teresa asked from the back door.

Not believing his luck. “ Yes ma’am.” he responded before heading to the barn.

Teresa walked into the grand room. “ Jose is saddling two horses for us…Scott didn’t say we couldn’t ride around here. He just wants us to stay close to the house.”

“ That’s good advice.” Frank said from the foyer. “ To bad you won’t be following it.”

Teresa and Melissa both spun around. “ Who are you?……..What do you want?” Teresa demanded.

“ You sweet thing………Why you’re gonna get me and my brother here what we been wanting for three years now…………..Johnny Madrid.”

“ Yeah and you, you’re coming along to make sure that old man of yours  don’t welch on the reward.” Ed said.

“ It would be smart and healthy for both of you to come with us peacefully…….I got no problem hurting a woman…..don’t like to, but I will.”

Teresa and Melissa walked toward them. “ Johnny will kill you for this.” Teresa said firmly.

“ He can try…… move, kitchen, back door now.” Frank said and ordered cocking his gun.

Stepping out the back door Teresa was shocked to see Jose there with two horses saddled waiting.

 “Ladies, if you would be so kind as to mount up……….Oh, in case either one of you get the notion to try and take off……..Me and my brother are very good shots with a rifle.” Frank said as he took the reins from Jose. “ Tell Harper we took his daughter as insurance he don’t welch on paying that reward once Madrid is dead.”

“ Jose…….why?” Teresa asked. “ You’re Johnny’ friend, how could you?”

“ I got my reason’ for doing this, reason’ you wouldn’t understand.” Jose told her.

“ But we do.” Ed said as he  raised his pistol and brought it down hard on the back of Jose’ head, knocking him out cold.

“ Make sure that note is left where they’ll find it.”

“ It is Frank.” Ed said as he mounted up. “ Let’s go ladies……nice and easy head them south.”

“You alright son?” Murdoch asked, noticing how Johnny kept shifting his weight to his left leg. “ We can stop and take a break if you need to.”

“ I’m fine, just haven’t rode for a spell.” Johnny answered. Barranca he was glad was being good. The stallion seemed to sense his owner was not right when he came out of the shack. Now the horse walked along, picking every step with ease, trying to not jar his rider.

“ There’s a stream up ahead brother, we can stop there and eat the lunch Teresa packed for you.” Scott said with a smile.

“ She doing alright Boston?” Johnny asked.

“ Teresa, yeah. She said she’d have your room all ready for you by the time we got back. I think little brother that our little sister is going to pamper you.”

Johnny looked at his father wondering if he would allow him even near Teresa.

“ What about that other girl…..Melissa…….how is she doing?” Murdoch cut in.

“ She’s doing good, I think Teresa has done a good job getting her to come around.” Scott said as he stopped his horse and got down, walking over to help his brother down.

“ I can do it.” Johnny said glancing at his father over Barranca’ neck. “ Thanks amigo.” he said into his stallion’ ear.

An hour later the three men were mounted and headed out again when a rider topped the hill on their left and started galloping toward them.

“ Someone’s in a hurry.” Scott said.

Johnny let his hand drift down to his colt.

“ Easy brother, it’s Clint.”

“ Something’s happened for him to be riding like that boys.” Murdoch stated.

“ Scott.” Clint yelled as he came up out of a small ravine and pulled up hard next to them. “ Johnny, mister Lancer……we thought you were dead sir.”

“ What’s wrong Clint?” Murdoch demanded.

Clint looked at Scott. “ It’s Teresa and the other girl Melissa.”

“ What about Teresa?” Johnny demanded.

Looking at the youngest Lancer. “ I’m sorry Johnny, she’s been kidnapped along with Melissa.”

“ What…….when?” Scott demanded.

“ This morning…..I came in to get something and I found Jose staggering around in the yard…..He was bleeding from a head wound………….men are out searching for them but…….”

“ But what Clint?” Murdoch demanded with anger.

“ Like I said….I’m sorry Johnny…….It’s you that they want.”

Johnny looked at Clint, Madrid in full swing now. “The reward?” he asked moving Barranca out.

“ No.” Clint answered causing Johnny to stop. “ The note is for you Johnny…….says something about payback for three years ago.”

“ Did it give a name?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah, Frank and Ed Leavy.”

Murdoch was fuming. “ You know them Johnny?” he demanded harshly.

Johnny looked at him with coldness in his eyes. “ Yeah I know them old man…………..I told you my past could show up at any time……well now it has.” he said with anger before spurring Barranca and galloping off toward the ranch, forgetting about his injuries. Right now the only thing that mattered to him was getting his little sister back alive and he didn’t care if he lost his life doing it.

“ This isn’t his fault sir………..Harper……..”

“ I know who’s fault it is son.” Murdoch snapped back.

“ Then I suggest you tell him that because I have a feeling he’s going to try and get the girls back alone.” Scott said with firmness before taking off after his brother.

                                                                                                Chapter 8

I would like to dedicate the rest of this story to my friend and mentor Mary ( Southern Frau )  who we lost on 9/3/2012

Mary never said a bad thing about my writing. She always gave positive encouraging feedback to me. If it wasn’t for her I would have given up writing Lancer fan fiction. Mary became a huge icon to me in the short time I knew her and I feel that dedicating this story to her is the least I could do. Mary you will always be my inspiration in writing. Thank You.

Teresa and Melissa sat watching Frank and Ed Leavy, both women were tied sitting in a chair in the old abandoned mining town.

“ Melissa…..are you okay?” Teresa asked.

“ Yeah……Teresa I remember these two men from town the other day.” she said softly.

“You seen them?”

“ When we were leaving town, they were talking with my father…………my god Teresa……..what has he done?”

“ I don’t think he brought these men here from that reward poster Melissa……They said it has something to do with Johnny from three years ago.”

“ If my father hadn’t put that poster out they never would have found Johnny Teresa…..It is his fault.”

“ Shut up.” Frank yelled as he came into the saloon. “ Ed go keep watch for a while.”

“ Why?…….Madrid ain’t gonna show up here until we want him to.”

“ I told you to do something Ed, now do it.” Frank snapped.

Ed stood up and looked at the girls then back at his brother. “ Don’t do this Frank…… isn’t right.”

“ Just go out and do like I said.”

“ No…….Look Frank I want Madrid as bad as you do…….but this isn’t us brother……..Don’t do this to these girls.”

Frank got angry and kicked a chair. “ Fine.” he snapped as he went over to Teresa and took out his knife.

“ Frank don’t do it.” Ed pleaded

“ Frank cut her rope and jerked her up. “ Shut up Ed and take her in the kitchen and have her cook us up a meal.” he ordered.

Johnny rode into the yard hard sliding Barranca to a stop, ignoring his wound and pain in his arm, he jumped down, heading into the house.

“ Juanito.” Cipriano said.

Johnny walked past him into the house and up the stairs.

Murdoch, Scott and Clint rode into the yard a few minutes later, finding Barranca standing ground tied in the yard.

“ Cipriano.” Murdoch called out.

Cipriano turned from the house. “ Patron……….Juanito…..he.”

“ Where did he go?” Scott asked.

“ Into the house…….He is not your hermano senor………I seen it in his eyes……..He is Madrid.” Cipriano stated. “ I do not mean Madrid the gunfighter….he is Madrid the killer………Stop him Scott, stop him from what he is going to do.”

Scott glanced at his father then took off into the house. “ Johnny.” he yelled, getting no answer Scott headed upstairs to his brothers room.

“Johnny….brother we need to talk about this.” he pleaded.

Johnny opened the top drawer of his dresser and reached to the back, his fingers wrapped around what he sought and brought it out.

“ Go away Scott.” Johnny said softly, but with firmness as he walked over and sat on the edge of his bed.

“ I can’t  do that brother…..we need to………..”

Johnny unwrapped the colt , smaller than the one he had on his side now. “ You need to stay out of this.”  he said as he stood with the colt in his hand.

Scott looked at the gun, noticing the butt of the pistol smaller and more curved than any Scott  had ever seen. The barrel he could tell was a good inch if not two shorter, no sight on the end of the barrel he knew the purpose of, something his little brother had told him while recovering from Pardee’ bullet.

“ What are you going to do with that?” Scott demanded.

Johnny took his one colt out of the holster and tucked it in his belt behind his back, turning he gave his brother a look that could freeze hell over.

“ What the fuck you think I’m going to do with it……….I’m going to get Teresa back and you and the old man are going to stay out of it.” he said before starting to the door.

Scott grabbed his arm and spun him around, he could tell the sudden move brought pain to him.

“ Not this time brother………you went all gung ho on us with Pardee, not this time.”

“Let go of my arm now Scott unless you want your hand broke.” Johnny ordered in a deadly voice.

Scott let go of his arm, knowing that the man standing in front of him now wasn’t his brother Johnny Lancer. It was the man so many wanted dead, Johnny Madrid. The way his brother changed and became Madrid practically before his eyes amazed him, having never really seen him do it before now.

Johnny walked out of his room and down the stairs outside with his brother following right behind.

“ Johnny……don’t do this………let us help you.”

“ Where’s the note Clint?” Johnny demanded.

“ It’s on the kitchen table were they left it Johnny.”

Johnny turned and went back in the house to the kitchen, finding the note on the table written on the back of a copy of the reward poster.


Been a long time, what say we make it like old times huh? Either me or my brother will come to you here at this big fine ranch of yours and let you know where and when to meet.

Oh if you want to know how this will end Madrid just remember Deadwood and what we did there. You sure had a good time then. Let’s do it again.

Frank and Ed Leavy.

Johnny stared at the note in his trembling hands until he felt a hand on his arm.

“ Son…..who are these men……how do you know them?” Murdoch asked with concern.

Johnny let the note fall to the table as he turned to his father. “ We did a job together.”

Scott picked up the note and read it. “ It says remember Deadwood Johnny, what happened there?”

“ A job went bad Scott.” he said before turning and walking outside to Barranca.

Murdoch and Scott followed him out. “ Johnny it says that one of them will contact you here…..where are you going?”

“ Look I know what that note says old man, I can read. I also know what these brothers are going to do to Teresa and Melissa if I don’t find them.”

“ We will find them son..all three of us will……Johnny you’re the one who……..”

“The one who caused this right?…….Me Johnny Madrid. I told you my past would come back, that I had no right staying here….Well now you know.”

“ Johnny what happened in Deadwood?” Scott demanded.

“ You don’t want to know Scott, trust me.”

“ We have a right to know since it is clearly part of getting Teresa back.” Murdoch stated firmly. “ Now I am tired of you not answering us Johnny. This is from your past and I want to know what happened now.”

Johnny laid his head on Barranca’ neck. He had hoped he would never have to remember or speak about that day three years ago, ever again. It took him months before the demons that haunted him stopped and were replaced by another more recent one.

“ Mister Lancer sir.” Clint cut in.

“ Yes Clint.”

“ Sir, it’s mister Harper…….somebody needs to tell him about his daughter sir.” he responded.

“ You mean nobody has rode into town and told him yet?” Scott asked.

“ No sir…..I went and got Sam for Jose and never gave it a thought to tell the man……..truth is Scott I would have probably killed him for the trouble he’s brought Johnny.”

“Until they contact you Johnny there’s nothing any of us can do.”

 “ Note said in a day or two they would contact me.”

“ Johnny, you need……”

“ What I need old man is for you to stay the hell out of my way on this.” Johnny said firmly as he grabbed Barranca’ reins.

“ Johnny you’re tired…you’re not completely healed yet……..why don’t you come in the house and get some rest?”

“ He’s right brother….you’re going to be no good to Teresa if you don’t get some rest.” Scott added

 “ That’s right……we all need to be well rested for what is coming.”

“ Old man I don’t think you fully understand just what is coming.” Johnny said with snidely.

“ Johnny I may be an old man as you are always saying, but I am not a fool. I know that you are going to have to become Madrid in order to get Teresa back alive……I also know that me and your brother will not be allowing you to meet with these men alone…….You’re my son, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let these men kill you……….I don’t give a damn what the reasons.”

Johnny looked at his father. Always one who could read a person’s face good, what he read on his fathers was indeed genuine concern and fear. Hell he himself had fear for his little sister, knowing what Frank Leavy was capable of doing and would do when given the chance. His brother Ed didn’t partake in what happened that day so much, even though he was there, it was mostly Madrid, Frank and Colton Sikes the son of the rancher they hired on to.

“ Son, let’s go inside, the three of us and get some rest. I’ll have a hand go in and bring Jim back here.”

“ I need to take care a Barranca.” Johnny said as he started toward the barn.

“ I can do that for you Johnny.” Scott stated.

“ Nope, I need to think, besides he’s  my horse, I’ve ignored him long enough brother.”

Murdoch and Scott stood there watching Johnny walk away.

 “ You don’t think he’ll leave do you sir?”

“ No, I think he doesn’t want us to know what happened in Deadwood son……..I think your brother may feel that if he tells us we won’t love him or want him around anymore.”

“ Then I suggest one of us goes in that barn and tells him, because I know I will never feel that way about my little brother. Not after what I myself have seen and done during the war.” Scott stated firmly.

“ Son….maybe you should go talk to him… he talks to you more than he does me.”

“ You forget he’s mad at me still for not telling him about the wanted poster and all?”

Murdoch didn’t say anything, but the look he gave his oldest before walking inside the house said it all.

Johnny poured grain into Barranca’ bucket and started grooming the stallion as his brother walked in.

“ I need to be alone Scott.” he said with slight irritation.

“ Look Johnny……I know you don’t want to talk about your past, but sometimes things happen that are beyond our control brother…….things that bring up the past we sometimes want to forget.”

“ Like you got a past you want to forget Scott.” Johnny said as statement than a question.

“ As a matter of fact Johnny, yes I do.” Scott answered back. “ Look I did things and seen things in the war Johnny that I wish the hell I hadn’t seen or done……..I don’t know how bad it was for you after your mother died, other than what you said in your sleep while recovering from Pardee’ bullet and the scars I have seen on your body……What I do know brother is that we have both been there, the only difference between us is I was following orders and you………”

Johnny threw the brush against the wall with anger, He wanted to be left alone to think, he had asked them to do that before coming into the barn, and now, now his brother came in ignoring that request and starts saying they are alike.

“ I was what Boston? Huh……..Come on college boy tell me.” Johnny demanded as his anger rose.

“ Come on Scott tell me………The only difference is you were following orders killing people so that made it okay because some big shot asshole like your Phil Sheridan gave an order and you followed it right?………..Well let me tell you something ….. brother ….. You know nothing about me or what it was like below the border so don’t stand there and tell me that we’re alike because we’re not………The only thing we got in common is that old mans blood running thru our veins.” Johnny vented before closing Barranca’ stall and walking out.

“ Johnny wait.” Scott called.

Johnny was already at the front door by the time his brother caught up to him again. “ Johnny……that’s not how I meant it…..please.”  Scott said as his brother opened the front door and stepped into the foyer.

“ I know exactly how you meant it Scott……you and the old man there.” Johnny said gesturing toward his father standing in the grand room. “ You want to know all about my past and now you think you got a right because of this happening,……..well I’m gonna let you in on something * brother * you don’t, neither one of you…………What happened in Deadwood, South Dakota is none of your business so stay the hell out of it.”

“ It most certainly is our business Johnny, Teresa is my little sister also and I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow you to go off half cocked and get you and her killed.”

“ Teresa is my ward, my responsibility. I will not have you doing this alone.” Murdoch added with anger.

“ Why not?………..You couldn’t even defend this place against Pardee old man………….how the hell do you expect to do this?”

“ Johnny that’s out of line.” Scott stated firmly.

Johnny turned to face his brother. “ Out of line?………..You’re the one who was out of line with what you said to me out in the barn, but I guess that’s alright with you, I mean you’ve already lied to me so why not call me a killer too.” Johnny stated before pushing past his brother and upstairs. The slamming of his door reverberated thru the house a few seconds later.

Murdoch looked at his oldest. “ You care to explain what your brother meant by that?”

Sighing Scott walked into the grand room and over to the side board. “ I screwed up Murdoch.” he said as he poured a drink, walking over to the couch he plopped down and told his father what was said minutes before in the barn.

Just after two in the morning Johnny led a not to happy Barranca out of the yard with burlap sacks tied around his feet so he wouldn’t make any noise on the hard surface. Once out in the soft ground away from the buildings Johnny mounted up, leaving the sacks in place until he was a couple miles away.

“ I’m sorry amigo.” he said to the stallion a little later as he removed the sacks. “ It came to me where they are at.” he said as he walked around and rubbed the stallions face. “ It’s because of me Teresa is in this mess boy…..So it’s up to me to get her out of it……..I don’t care what happens to me, just as long as you bring Teresa back home amigo.”

Laying awake unable to sleep Johnny ran every inch of Lancer and the surrounding area’s thru his head. What he hated most was having to bring up the memories of that job three years ago in Deadwood. His reputation strong, Johnny had rode into Deadwood at the request of Carl Sikes owner of the Double C ranch ten miles out of Deadwood. The job paid him handsomely, paid room and board, meals, travel, all the usual a man like Johnny Madrid requested. When you wanted the best, it came with a price. Of course word would get out that a rancher needed help or had put out the word to Madrid he was needed and second hand guns would also show up hoping for scraps as they would call them.

Usually these men weren’t good enough to bring a good price to the job, or believed in getting the job done one way only. Madrid had a reputation as the best and wasn’t afraid to cross the line if needed to get a job done. Only sixteen years old when Carl Sikes requested him Madrid’ reputation reportedly had it he had killed fifty seven men in both hired out jobs and called out fools wanting his reputation. Not one to care really about who was right or wrong when he took a job, Madrid only cared about who paid the most, working for Carl Sikes though Madrid would learn was not the way to be when you’re the best.

Deadwood, South Dakota wasn’t much to look at really. A fairly new town coming up due to the discovery of gold in the Black Hills. Range wars and water rights disputes were what he would end up hiring out for mostly. Usually in a water rights dispute he would side with the man who was there first. On a couple of occasions though, that wasn’t the case. Just because one was there first didn’t always mean he was the one who owned them water rights.

Thinking back to a job he did in Texas, sure he hired out to the right man proved him fatally wrong. A small rancher with only a couple hundred acres and about a hundred head or so of cattle had bought land in the big bend country. Spring runoffs provided enough water to last thru the summer heat with four lakes. Another rancher adjacent to his land became angry when the run offs were down on his land this year and about halfway thru that hot summer his holes were nothing but mud.

Madrid had cut the fences and run off the cattle and even burned down the barn of that small rancher, causing him to lose both his ranch and his life. Madrid who had been in town getting ready to leave was confronted by that man and shot down in the dusty street in front of his wife.

In those days Johnny Madrid didn’t care, but Deadwood, that job changed him. Colton Sikes the son of Carl Sikes liked his whiskey and he liked to bully anyone who got in his way he knew he could. Deadwood had one bordello called the Crooked Factory, a seven sided house with women from sixteen to thirty working there. A man could spend time and money getting just about anything he wanted from those women. One woman in particular took a liking to Madrid, problem was Colton Sikes considered this woman his and men around Deadwood learned you didn’t touch what he considered his property.

On the day that changed Johnny Madrid he was with this woman having a drink before pleasure when Colton came in and seen them together. That became the start of a day Johnny Madrid wished had never happened.

“He’s gone sir.” Scott said coming into the house. “ His bed wasn’t slept in and Barranca is gone.”

Murdoch looked up from his coffee. “ Damn that boy……….. Did anyone see him leave?”

“ No sir, nobody seen him or heard an thing last night…….I guess maybe we should have had someone keep watch.”

“ He’s not well yet. His strength……….what the hell is he thinking going after them alone?” the big man said with anger as he slammed his fist down on the table.

“ Johnny feels responsible for this Murdoch…..he blames himself…….I checked his room and he took both guns and his rifle is missing also.”

 “ Both guns?” Murdoch asked.

“ Yes sir….Johnny had another pistol like none I have ever seen before in his top drawer at the back wrapped in a leather cloth……Sir I think it’s the gun he wore when he was Madrid…….I think Johnny left in the middle of the night because he doesn’t want us to know what happened in Deadwood three years ago, and he doesn’t want us to see him a s Madrid sir.”

“ I sent Cipriano in before light to bring Jim back here. They should be coming along any time.”

“ You want me to have the men look for tracks?” Scott asked as he poured a cup of coffee.

“ If your brother has went back to his old ways son, we won’t find his tracks……..He left because I think he knows where they are………….I am going to have a serious talk with that boy when this is over.”

Jim Harper was angry that the Lancer segundo forced him to come back to Lancer. After his last meeting with his daughter in town, angry with what he had done, he figured this had something to do with that or maybe Madrid was dead.

Getting down from the horse he stopped in shock seeing his friend Murdoch walk out of the house to greet him.

“ Murdoch…my god it is so good to see you alive.” he stated as he walked over to the big man.

Murdoch couldn’t stop himself if he wanted to, bringing his big fist up he hit Harper hard in the mouth knocking the man down.

“ That is for what you have done to my son Jim……….What in gods name posed you to do something so cold and calloused?”

Jim stood up and brushed the dirt from his pants. “ Murdoch I thought that…….I thought he had killed you.”

“ You thought?………..You took the original note off my horse and spread lies about my son………you put out a wanted poster on him telling where he is at…….You knew Johnny wanted to leave his past behind.”

“ I thought he had murdered you Murdoch…….I did the right thing and I am not sorry for that……If you want to be angry with me for that then so be it……You yourself said he was unruly and dangerous.”

“ What I said was wrong on how I felt about Johnny…….You have caused him trouble he doesn’t need and if I find out that you are involved in any way with Teresa and Melissa being taken……..”

“ What are you talking about?……What do you mean Melissa has been taken?”

“ Two men came into the house yesterday morning and took Teresa and Melissa hostage………they want  my son and they took the girls to guarantee they get him.”

Harper stood there in shock, a sick feeling coming over him.

“ Did you tell them where Johnny was at Jim?……..Did you tell them that if they took Teresa they would bring Johnny out?”

“ I…….I……….my god…..I met with them in town the other day…..I pointed Teresa out to them when her and Melissa came to me……..I never expected them to take Melissa too……..What have I done?” he asked as he walked over and leaned on the veranda wall. “I thought he had killed you…..I wanted it to be his hard luck……..I wanted him to pay for what he had done.”

“ What he had done?………All Johnny wanted was to leave his past behind and be my son…..The son you knew I lost all those years ago……the son I wrote to you about telling you how I was searching for him to bring him home.”

Harper turned around. “ Yes, but that was before you knew he was Johnny Madrid, a killer.” he snapped back with anger. “ Those two men told me that they wanted him dead for something he did in Deadwood three years ago……..before he came here………before he as you claim decided to become your son.”

Scott walked up to Harper angry. “ Johnny has always been his son and my brother……he did what he had to do to survive in those border towns.”

“ Scott….son don’t…….Jim…..We will get Melissa and Teresa back….I suggest you think real hard about writing  to that newspaper and having them print a retraction……I also suggest that you make it known that you are withdrawing that reward you offered………If you don’t I promise you that I will do everything in my power to send you to prison………..Clint…..take Jim and lock him in the guard house until we get back.”

“ Yes sir.” Clint answered. “ This way Mister Harper.”

“ Now see here Murdoch, you can’t lock me up……….I am not a criminal.”

“I beg to differ Mister Harper.” Scott stated. “ You withheld vital information from that Marshal who came here…..In fact sir, you gave him a false note…….one you rewrote…….that is considered tampering with evidence also.”

“ Those two alone will get you five, maybe ten years………if you live.” Murdoch stated.

Harper looked at him a few seconds before walking away to the barn to be locked up.

“ Let’s go son.” Murdoch said with force.

“ Which way sir?” Scott asked as he mounted his horse.

“ North…….Something Jim said made me remember something.” Murdoch answered.

“ What?”

“ He said it was Johnny’ hard luck……..about thirty miles north of here is an old abandoned mining town called Hard Luck……it’s been abandoned for years.”

“ Clint keep an eye on Jose until we get back.” Scott ordered as Clint came out of the barn. “ Don’t let him leave Lancer.”

“ Jose…….why?” Murdoch asked.

“ Well like my brother has told me, you listen to your gut and right now sir it is telling me that Jose is involved in this somehow.”

Johnny stopped Barranca about a half mile out of Hard Luck in a stand of White Birch trees. Lush green grass would keep the stallion happy until he came back, if he came back.

Making his way around to the one end of the small mining town to the barn that still stood, Johnny cautiously entered through the back. He knew that if the Leavy brothers were here they would have their horses hidden, making his way to the front of the barn he looked out up the street.

Hard Luck became a mining town when a silver vein was discovered twenty years ago. The Ore lasted about five years before it played out. All along the California, Nevada border silver mines would spring up almost over night, some big and some not so big, this one however was small. The town only had a few lap sided buildings thrown together to keep the elements out. A saloon at the far end of town was the biggest, two story, most likely for the miners and whores, a mercantile store, restaurant, miners supply store. All with at the base of a rock cliff easily two hundred feet high with the river running behind them. On the side he was on he could see a small church, leather repair shop, another smaller saloon and a hotel with what looked like a bank just down from the livery.

Watching and listening from the shadows, trying to guess where Teresa would be held, Madrid went back to the back of the barn and worked his way to the other end of town coming up between the church and leather repair shop he spotted what he was looking for. Four horses were tied at the side of the saloon across from him. The sun would be in his face once he went around the church, something he rarely allowed if he could help it.

Crouching low listening, Madrid decided to take a chance and took off keeping to the shadows as best he could to the other side just behind the horses. Not wanting to spook them he walked up slowly and touched Teresa’ horse on the flank as he made his way to the front. Peeking around the corner he could hear footsteps inside and talking inside. One male voice, Frank’ and his little sister Teresa.

“ You know little lady, me and you are gonna have us a real good time when Madrid is dead. Real good.” Frank said as he put a hand on Teresa’ back and gently ran it down the middle and back up her left arm.

Teresa tried to move away from him but being tied to a chair she couldn’t. “ Johnny will kill you.” she said with anger in her voice.

Frank grabbed her hair and yanked her head back. “ I don’t think so little lady…..See I got a nice little surprise waiting for him when he gets here.” he said before bringing his lips down hard on her mouth.

Teresa showed no fear even though she was afraid for what this man had planned for her brother. When his mouth came down on hers she wanted to throw up. His breath reeked  of whiskey and tobacco.

“ That’s just a small taste of what’s to come sweet thing.” Frank said with a grin inches from her face.

Teresa spit in his face. “ I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you.” she said with firmness.

Frank walked around to the front of her and smiled. “ Oh I already have, but you need to learn some manners.” he said before slapping her hard across the face. “ You do that again and it’ll be my fist instead of my hand hitting you……I got no problem knocking a woman around…..Just ask Madrid when he gets here.” Frank said before walking over to the bar.

Teresa glared at the man’s back as she fought to keep the tears at bay as she licked her lips and tasted the blood from the small split in her bottom lip.

It took everything Johnny had to not bust in there and kill Frank Leavy, especially after hearing him slap his little sister, but he couldn’t risk it, not  without knowing where Ed was at. Looking toward the sun Johnny knew it would be several hours yet before dark, easing back around to the horses, Johnny untied them and led them away into the trees a couple hundred feet were they couldn’t be seen so easy in a stand of pine trees along the river. Working his way back to the back of the saloon he went to the building adjacent and climbed up to the roof were he could cross over to the balcony of the saloon with no trouble, hoping the window he planned to enter thru would open and not be stuck from not being used in years.

On the roof Johnny stepped with care as he made his way to where he needed to be to get onto the balcony of the saloon, reaching it as the boards moaned and protested his weight but held as he stepped across, thankful he didn’t have to jump because the boards wouldn’t have held and he would be heard.

Moving as the balcony creaked and moaned to the window, smiling as luck was with him. The glass was gone from the window, looking in he was glad the door wasn’t closed. So far fate was with him.

All he wanted to do was get in so he could be above the brothers and hopefully see both them and the girls. Easing to the door he glanced down the hall, seeing his door was the only one open, something he didn’t like. All his senses were on full alert as he slowly stepped out into the hall keeping against the wall, praying the floor didn’t creak or give way on him from rot.

Crouching down as he got closer to the end of the hall, Johnny could see Frank standing next to the girls, but he couldn’t see Ed. The unmistakeable sound of a hammer being cocked behind him stopped Johnny.

“ Drop it Madrid.” Ed ordered.

Johnny let the colt slip from his hand.

“ Stand up and raise your hands above your head and go down the stairs real slow.”

Johnny did as he was ordered, not wanting to risk the girls lives. When he got to the bottom he was ordered to stop.

“ Looks like you were right brother….look what I got.” Ed said.

Frank walked over to Johnny. “ Long time no see Madrid.” he said with a smirk.

“ Not long enough.” Johnny responded.

“ Ed.” was all he heard before a crashing pain at the back of his head and the world went dark.

                                                                                                   Chapter 9

                                                        This chapter is dedicated to Southern Frau, my mentor and friend.

Murdoch stopped his horse. “ We’re not but maybe a couple miles from Hard Luck and this storm is getting worse…….We need to stop son before a horse breaks a leg……..It’s raining so hard we can’t see that good.”

“ It looks like a good clump of trees and rocks over there, will give us some blockage from this wind and rain.”

“ Just how big is this town?” Scott asked some time later after they were settled in under a ledge just big enough the two could fit under.

“ Last time I was up here was a year before Pardee came to the valley……only a few buildings still standing that are safe to enter…..winters up here are brutal….They built the town primarily facing south with a cliff wall behind and the river to keep the snow level down as best they could.” Murdoch stated as  a bolt of lightening struck close by. “ All the main structures are on the north side only a few are still standing on the south.”

Teresa sat looking at Johnny with worry. It had been several hours since he was knocked unconscious and he hasn’t so much as moaned. Blood could be seen down the left side of his neck were it seeped into his shirt and down. Head wounds she knew always bled more because  the veins were closer to the surface. She could also see blood soaking his left upper arm from a wound he apparently had there.

“ So when do we start having our fun with Madrid Frank?”

“ We can have some with him tonight…..You must have hit him pretty hard, he’s been out for hours.” Frank answered as he walked over to Johnny in the chair with his hands tied behind him and his head down, chin resting on his chest.

Ed walked over to him. “ He’s still alive right?”

Frank grabbed an handful of hair and brought Johnny’ head up. “ I don’t know……..what say we ask him?” he said as he let go of the hair and stepped around to the front of Johnny.

“ Hey Madrid…….time to wake up and start the party.” Frank said right before he slapped Johnny hard across the face.

Getting no response Frank  slapped him again two more times bringing a moan from him. “ That’s it traitor……time to wake up now.”

“ Hey Frank the winds really starting to pick up out there it sounds like.” Ed said as he walked over to the door and looked out. “ Man it is really raining hard Frank.”

“Go get the horses and put them in the barn so they don’t get loose and spook off.” Frank ordered.

Ed looked at his brother. “ Yeah….have him awake when I get back.”

“ Look around and see if you can find his horse out there while you’re at it.”

Frank walked over to Teresa. “ I know how to wake your ass up.” he said before he reached behind Teresa and pulled up on her arms making her cry out in pain.

“ Call to him now or I’ll break your arms.”

Tears welled up in her eyes. “ Johnny…….Johnny……..please wake up……..Johnny.”

Throbbing pain, a constant throbbing pain at the back of his head is what he felt. Suddenly his head was brought up and then dropped back down and snapped to the right with a sting followed by two more making his stomach rebel against him as the pain intensified and moved to his eyes.

A voice drifted in past his cloudiness. A voice calling his name, a female voice he realized as he moaned and brought his head up.

“ Johnny wake up……it’s Teresa..can you here me?” she pleaded.

“ Ter………..esa.” he said softly as he opened his eyes and shut them again.

“ Come on Johnny open your eyes for me.”

Johnny opened his eyes and blinked several times trying to focus on the voice. “ Teresa?”

“ Yes Johnny it’s me……Melissa is here also.”

“ Hello Madrid.” came a  voice Johnny knew as he started to look around.

“ I’ve been waiting three long years for this day to finally come killer.”

Johnny squinted his eyes and swallowed down the vial that threatened to escape his stomach, both from the pounding in his head and the sight of the man standing before him.

“ I should have killed you that day.” Johnny said as he brought his head back and rolled it from side to side. A movement he abruptly regretted doing.

“ Yeah you should have……Me and Ed searched for you all this time and then one day our luck changes and we see a wanted poster for you while in Carterville……Two thousand dollars dead bein’ paid by her old man.”

“ So if that’s the case then why am I still alive?”

“ Because me and my brother are going to do to you what we did in Deadwood that’s why and these two little ladies are going to watch you die, and when it’s all over.” Frank said as he walked over to Teresa. “ Me and this one are going to get real friendly.” he said as he jerked her head back and claimed her mouth roughly.

You sonofabitch…….let her go.” Johnny yelled as he worked the rope binding his wrist.

“ Now now Madrid……..surely you can share a sweet little thing as this with two old riding buddies?”

“ I’ll kill you Frank……I swear to god I’ll kill you this time.”

Frank.” Ed yelled as he came hurrying inside soaked clean thru.

“ What?”

“ The horses are gone…….It’s raining so hard I couldn’t find his either.”

Frank glared at Johnny as he walked over to him. “ Where are they Madrid?”

“ Go to hell.” Johnny answered.

Frank jerked Johnny up from the chair. “ I’m only gonna ask you one more time……..Where are the horses?”

“ I set them free.” Johnny answered. “ The only way you will get out of here is to walk.”

Frank brought his hand free and found it covered in blood, wiping it on Johnny’ shirt right before he hit him hard in the gut dropping him to his knees.

“ Hell is where you’re going.” he said before he kicked Johnny knocking him onto his side.

Gasping for air Johnny curled up into a ball the best he could with his hands tied behind his back.

Stop it……please stop.” Teresa pleaded to no avail.

Grabbing Johnny by his wounded left arm again and pulling him up to his knees. “ Grab his other arm Ed, help me drag this bastard over to that support post.” Frank ordered.

Ed came over and grabbed Johnny’ upper right arm and helped drag him to the big support beam in the center of the saloon floor.

“Go get me some rope.” Frank ordered as he pulled his gun and cocked it, putting it to Johnny’ head.

Johnny knew what was going to happen. He so hated Teresa and Melissa seeing this happen to him.

“ You remember this don’t you Madrid?….What you did to that rancher’s son for killing that whore you liked to fuck………Tell me something Madrid, Harper said that she’s like a sister to you………..she know what you’ve done in the past?”

“ Hell I bet his old man doesn’t even know that Frank.” Ed said as he came back with a rope and started wrapping it around Johnny’ throat and the beam.

“ Not to tight little brother…..we don’t want to strangle him right away……just enough so’s he’s gotta struggle to breath.”

Ed laughed as he wrapped the rope three times around Johnny’ throat before throwing it up over a cross beam a couple times to hold it.

“ I bet you ladies would like to know what we are doing to Madrid here huh?……..Well I’ll tell you. You see this rope around his neck is just tight enough to apply pressure and cut off some of his air, like a man being lynched sitting on the back of a horse waiting, the only difference is Madrid here is going to do it……..See he won’t be able to stand all that long and keep that pressure on his throat from tightening.”

“ Yeah when his legs give out the more he struggles the tighter the rope can get causing his neck to swell up and it gives us pleasure watching him piss all over himself.”

“ Yeah he might even crap his pants if we’re real lucky. Ain’t that right Madrid?”

Johnny looked over at Teresa. “ Lo Siento querido.” he told her before turning his gaze back to Frank. “ You kill me and my brother won’t rest until he finds you and kills you both.”

Frank laughed. “ Brother huh………you ain’t got no brother Madrid…..hell everybody along the border knows you’re just a halfbreed spit out of some cheap whore that rich rancher fucked.” Frank stated as he stepped over to Teresa. “ Oh after I’m done with her……I’m gonna have me some fun with your old man……..I bet he’d pay a pretty penny to keep those cattle he’s got.”

“ Hey Frank this isn’t right.” Ed said.

“ Why you know little brother I do believe you are right.” Frank answered right before he shot Johnny in his right thigh. “ Thanks brother, he could’ve stood there all night if you hadn’t remembered that.”

No.” Teresa yelled and Melissa screamed.

Johnny’s right leg dropped when the bullet entered and exited his flesh. Biting the inside of  his mouth  to stifle the scream of pain as the rope tightened around his neck, cutting off his air he forced himself to stand back up and shifted his weight onto his left leg.

“ Oh come now Madrid……I know that hurt……you going to deprive me of hearing you scream?”

Johnny tasted the blood in his mouth as he pushed the pain to the back of his mind and replaced it with pure hatred for this man.

“ I asked you a question Madrid……I expect an answer.” Frank said as he stepped over to him.

Johnny spit a mouth full of blood in Frank’ face.

“ I see it’s going to take a little more to teach you some manners.” Frank said before hitting Johnny in the face snapping his head back into the beam reopening the wound on the back of his head and splitting his bottom lip open. Frank didn’t stop there, he continued to beat Johnny, hitting him numerous times in his ribs until his brother Ed stopped him.

“ Frank stop…..your going to kill him before we have our fun.”

Frank glared at Johnny’ blood face a few seconds before walking away.

Teresa watched in horror as Johnny was beaten almost unconscious. She could see the blood pooling at his right boot on the floor. Praying he didn’t lose consciousness and choke to death

The sun was now up, the storm having passed in the early morning hours. Pain throbbed so bad in his right leg it took everything Johnny had to stay upright. His face hurt, his head hurt, hell his whole body hurt, but he knew he had to stay strong and keep praying his father and brother would find them before it was too late.

“ Time to have some fun little brother.” Frank said as he went to Teresa and untied her ropes. “ Ed.”

“ Yeah I got it brother.” Ed answered as he went to Melissa and stood there.

“ Let’s see just how much this halfbreed means to you little lady…….You do what I want and your friend there lives…….you don’t and my brother is going to kill her.” Frank said as he yanked Teresa over to Johnny who barely managed to raise his head up and look at his sister.

“ Now this is what I want you to do…..I have one bullet in this gun……I want you to decide who lives……it’s that simple….kill Madrid and end his suffering right here right now and I will let you two girls go free…….Don’t and Ed will kill her, I will still kill Madrid and then rape you…..the choice is yours.” he said as he forced Teresa to take the gun.

“ Please don’t do this…….please let us all go.” Teresa pleaded only to be slapped hard.

Johnny tried to get free when Frank slapped his sister. “ You bastard…..Don’t do this Frank…….she has nothing to do with this…… was us.”

“ Shut up Madrid.” Frank  yelled. “ Do it or they will both die.”

Teresa gasped air as she trembled standing there.

Johnny looked at her and could see the terror in her eyes. Terror, hurt and pain and all because of him.

“ Do it querida.” he told her. “ It’s alright Teresa……do it.”

“ I can’t Johnny……I …..”

“ Yes you can….look I’m gong to die anyways……I’d rather it be by someone I love.”

Teresa looked at Johnny fully thru eyes full of  tears. “ I can’t.”

“ Ed.” Frank said as he yanked the pistol from her hand.

Melissa screamed just as a shot rang out and she was knocked backwards in the chair dead as a red stain started on her chest.

“ Noooooo.” Teresa screamed.

Frank cut the rope around Johnny’ neck and jerked him toward the doors outside. “ Bring her.” he ordered his brother as he opened the doors and shoved Johnny out into the muddy street were he stumbled and went down, unable to keep his balance with his hands still tied behind his back.

“ You know little brother, after this I’m going to be known as the man who killed the great Johnny Madrid and I can get us the highest dollar for our services……Won’t that be sweet?”

“ Oh yeah brother, real sweet.” Ed said as he stepped down into the street and over to his brother.

Teresa stood in the doorway, fear on her face as she looked at Johnny laying in the mud trying to stand up.

“ Cut the rope brother…..I don’t want it said I didn’t kill him in a fair fight.” Frank said.

Ed went over and took out his knife and cut the rope then shoved Johnny with his foot onto his back.

Johnny looked over at Teresa after rolling onto his knees, giving her a slight gesture with his head before he brought his right leg out and pushed up with his left to stand. Looking at her again his eyes telling her what he wanted her to do.

Teresa didn’t want to leave him but knew she had to get away, carefully she sidestepped along the wall to the corner of the building and around the side and took off running into the tree’s. After a few minutes she stumbled upon one of the four horses still tied and mounted up and headed south praying she would find someone to help Johnny before it was too late.

“ Let’s see how many bullets it takes before you die Madrid.” Frank said as he cocked the pistol.

“ Hey Frank the girls gone.” Ed yelled.

“ That’s to bad I was looking forward to having some fun with her. She don’t have a horse so we’ll find her brother.” Frank said before he shot and hit spaying dirt at Johnny’s feet.

Murdoch and Scott were up and headed north by the time the first rays of light showed in the eastern sky. Scott stopped his horse about two miles out of Hard Luck.

“ Rider, and they’re in a hurry.” he stated.

Murdoch looked and seen the rider. Upon getting closer he seen who it was as relief washed over him.

“ Scott it’s Teresa.” he said spurring his horse toward her with Scott following.

Teresa spotted the two riders and immediately recognized the horses, waving her hand as she galloped toward them.

“ Murdoch……..Scott.” she yelled as she jerked the horse to a stop and got down as Scott’ horse slid to a stop and he jumped down and went to her.

“ Teresa are we ever glad to see you.” he said taking her into a hug.

Murdoch got down and she went into his arms. “ It’s alright sweetheart….You’re safe now.”

“ got to help him Murdoch…..they’re going to kill him.”

“Who Teresa?” Scott asked.

“ Johnny…….they caught him last night……..he’s hurt……I…….they killed Melissa…..please hurry.”

“ Alright……we’ll get there…….can you ride?”

“ Yes.” she answered back.

“ Let’s go.” Murdoch ordered as he remounted followed by Scott and Teresa.

At the edge of town a shot was heard as they reined their horses in.

“ Stay here.” Murdoch ordered. “ Until one of us calls you.” he ordered as he got down and removed his rifle.

“ They had Johnny in the street at the east end, outside the saloon.” Teresa told them.

Scott dismounted and did the same. “ It’ll be alright, we’ll get Johnny back……..alive.” he said before the two moved off to the west end of town.

Moving to the livery Scott looked up the street and could see his brother, bloody, but standing in the middle of the street. The brothers backs were toward him.

“ I’m going to cross over and work my way up……..Johnny will see me.” Scott stated.

“ Alright son….I’ll work my way up this side.” Murdoch said before his oldest son started across the street.

Scott stopped just long enough for his brother to see him and then went over and looked back checking on his father’s position before starting toward Johnny.

Having accepted death a long time ago, Johnny stood there on weak legs not flinching as the brothers took pot shots at him. He knew the bullets would soon start hitting him, tearing into his flesh and knocking him to the ground. With Teresa safely away from these two he breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for that.

Standing there facing the brothers, Johnny seen movement behind them and let a slight smile come to his face when he seen his brother crossing at the other end of town.

“ What you smiling about Madrid…..If it’s for the girl getting away, she won’t get far on foot out here.” Frank stated. “ Little brother it’s your  turn to draw blood.”

Ed cocked his pistol and took aim. “ Since you won’t be using it any more I think I’ll take that gun arm of yours out.” he said before firing.

Johnny felt the bullet slam into his upper  right arm, jerking him to the side and down, grabbing the wound as another bullet creased his right bicep.

“ Damn brother, you missed with that second one.” Frank said as he took aim.

“Drop it.” Scott yelled from just behind Frank on his left.

Ed spun and a shot rang out and his head exploded.

Frank looked at his dead brother then back at Scott, knowing at least another person was with him.

“ Drop the gun now.” Murdoch ordered from behind him.

Johnny managed to get back to his feet and hobbled over to where Ed lay dead and reached down and picked up the gun.

“ And just who the hell are you?” Frank asked.

“ His brother……..drop it now……..I won’t ask again.” Scott stated.

“ So the halfbreed does have a brother after all.” Frank said snidely.

“ That’s right.” Scott said firmly. “ And you’re about two seconds from dying if you don’t……..”

A shot rang out, spinning Frank around causing him to drop his pistol as a bullet tore into the back of his left shoulder. Looking Frank found himself facing Johnny with his brothers gun in his left hand.

“ Go ahead, kill me……I wonder though how your brother and old man there would feel if they knew how you tortured and killed that ranchers son in Deadwood Madrid……..You ever tell them that?” he asked as he stepped toward him.

“ Madrid here ever tell you how he tied that kid up to a tree and wrapped a rope around his neck, then shot him in the leg so he would slowly strangle to death…….and for what Madrid?……..A  worthless whore the two of you fucked…….only thing was, Colton Sikes thought she belonged to him so when he found out you were fucking her also he beat her to death right after he raped her………..You know his old man wants you dead and when he finds out where you are…….he’ll come after you……..You killed his only son…….You betrayed all of us on that job killing Colton, taking the money and leaving…….me and Ed got away, but not the others……..He didn’t know who killed his boy until we told him.”

Johnny looked at his brother standing there, rifle in hand and then his father. He could see the look of shock on his fathers face. Shock for what he had done back then, but didn’t care.

“ How about Melissa Frank……..the girl your brother killed inside?………She had nothing to do with this and you had your brother murder her.”

“ Yeah she was just in the wrong place you could say, like so many others around you Madrid, they get killed because of you.”

Johnny pulled the hammer back and brought the gun up.

“ Johnny no.” his father said. “ It’s cold blooded murder son if you do this.”

Johnny looked at his father, keeping the pistol aimed at Frank.

“ Son, please.” Murdoch pleaded.

“ This is for Teresa you sonofabitch.” he said before shooting Frank in the chest until the gun was empty. He kept pulling the trigger even after Frank fell to the ground.

Murdoch stood there, not believing what his son had just done.

Scott looked at his brother standing there and seen him falter and start to go down, dropping his rifle he went to his side.

“ I got you…..I got you little brother.” he said.

“ Teresa?” Johnny said.

“ She’s fine……we found her and she’s waiting at the other end of town.” Scott told him as he removed his kerchief and tied it around Johnny’s right arm.

“ Teresa.” he called out as Murdoch came over. “ We need to get something around his leg to stop the bleeding.”

Teresa rode up and got down and ran to Johnny’ side.

“ Hey querida.” he said softly as blackness threatened to claim him.

“ Shhh it’s alright Johnny……I’ll take care of you.” she said as she started to tear away at her dress hem to use as bandage.

“ Lo siento querida…..lo siento.” Johnny said as he let the darkness claim him.

                                                                                               Chapter 10

                                                This chapter is dedicated to Southern Frau, my mentor and friend

“You want a drink son?” Murdoch asked as they waited for Sam to come downstairs.

“ Yes sir, I think I could really use one right now.” he responded as he walked over to the side board and took the preferred  drink from his father.

“ Do you believe him?” he asked after taking a sip.

“ Who?”

“ Frank Leavy….and what he said happened.”

Murdoch turned away from Scott and walked over to the big window behind his desk.

“ Sir.”

“ I never told you what happened up at the mine did I son?” he asked as he turned back around.

“ What happened?…….I’m not sure I understand you.”

Downing his drink and walking back over, Murdoch poured another.

“ Jim Fowler found us. I was out taking care of Barranca when he went into  the cabin and attacked your brother……That’s how he got the cut on his left arm.” he began. “ Barranca started acting up, trying to get lose…….I figured since your brother and that horse are so close that maybe something happened to Johnny and Barranca knew so I went back and found the two of them fighting.” he stated before downing his drink.

“ I attacked Fowler and got him off Johnny and the next thing I know I hear a shot and Fowler staggered backwards with a bullet in his chest…….Your brother said this is for ambushing me you sonofabitch and shot him between the eyes………..Scott he didn’t have to do it, Fowler was already down and dying……The sound of his voice when he said that…….”

“ Was as cold as death sir?”

Murdoch looked at him and nodded.

“ We don’t know what all happened in Deadwood sir……..I don’t think Frank Leavy told us everything.”

“ And that’s why your brother killed him…….You were there son……Johnny did not have to kill him.”

“ I don’t know what to believe sir……..I do know that something happened in Hard luck between Johnny and Teresa though.”

“ What do you mean?” Murdoch asked with tone.

“ Teresa hasn’t once come out of her room since we got back asking about Johnny………….He has rope burns around his neck and wrist.”

“ Go on.”

“ Well sir Teresa has them on her wrist but yet when we found her she didn’t have any rope on them…It had been cut…….When I was in the war I came across a scene I…….These confederate soldiers had tied a man’s hands behind his back and then tied him to a tree with a rope wrapped around his neck………He had been shot in both legs so he couldn’t stand and slowly strangled to death……..I think that is what was done to Johnny with one exception sir.” Scott stated as he poured himself another drink.

“ Son I don’t think I like where this is going.”

“ You won’t sir…….trust me, you won’t.” Scott answered. “ I believe sir they wanted Teresa to kill Johnny.”

“ You’re saying Teresa was cut free and ordered to kill Johnny to spare her and Melissa’ lives?” Murdoch asked.

“ Yes sir……… when she didn’t do it I think that is when they killed Melissa…….I think maybe Johnny told her to do it…….to end it for him because he knew what was going to happen to him and the girls.”

“ My god.” Murdoch said barely above a whisper as Sam walked into the room. “ Sam how is he?” Murdoch asked with concern.

“ Mind pouring me one of those Scott?” he asked as he went and sat down in a chair. “ That boy……..he’s weak from blood loss. He has a slight fever from infection. I cleaned the wounds out good, restitched his left arm……I administered a salve to the rope burns on his neck and wrist. His throat is swelled some but not so bad he can’t swallow liquids.” Sam said as he took the drink from Scott. “ The leg wound was infected. I cleaned it out good with carbolic acid and stitched it up. He won’t be able to walk on it for a spell…….the bullet nicked the femur…….I removed a small bone chip…..It should heal up alright provided he keeps his weight off it for at least six weeks. I want him to stay in bed for at least one and then with help he can start moving around…..I don’t want him doing the stairs alone. He won’t be able to use crutches because of his right arm.”

“ What about his right arm Sam?” Scott asked.

“ The graze wasn’t deep enough to require stitches………..The other wound though did do damage to the muscle when it exited. That shot was at close range as was the leg.” Sam stated before drinking the brandy.

“ Sam…….will he be able to use his arm again……like before?”

“ I don’t know Scott……Only time will tell………..the bullet mainly went thru muscle so with time and getting him to not use it…….I think he will.”

“ Is he awake?…..Does he know?” Murdoch asked.

“ No…..he’s still asleep…… But I’m sure with all that boy has been through in the past he knows………he didn’t move once the whole time I treated him……Now is Teresa in her room?”

“ Yes Sam, she is……..I’ll go with you.” Murdoch said giving his oldest son a hard look.

“ I’m going to go up and stay with Johnny, he shouldn’t be alone.” Scott stated before heading to the stairs.

Johnny was sitting in a chair next to his window,  watching some vaquero’ breaking a horse. It’s been a week since he was brought home, only Scott had been coming in to see him, or Maria with his meals.     He didn’t expect his father to come in after hearing what Frank Leavy said and that he could handle, but Teresa, after all they had been through together, her not coming to see him at all was really breaking his heart.

 Jim Harper had been picked up by the marshal from Sacramento. The judge and prosecuting attorney decided with Murdoch’ statement  to not press charges, feeling the loss of his daughter was punishment enough for the man.

 Johnny was glad he didn’t have to see him again before the man left. Not so much for what he did to him, the trouble he’s caused, but for his daughter’s death. An innocent girl was killed because of Johnny Madrid and that bothered him.

Murdoch stood outside his son’ room, hesitant to go in. Questions needed answered and he knew asking what he was could destroy anything he had with his youngest and possibly drive him away forever. The door not being closed all the way he pushed it open some and could see his boy just sitting there staring out the window with a look on his face that Murdoch recognized as a father. It was the look of hurt, but not the kind of hurt from his injuries, no this was a broken heart look. The kind of look a person would have when they lost someone or something they cared about and Murdoch suspected just what that was his youngest son was sitting here missing.

“ Did Sam say it was alright for you to get out of bed son?” Murdoch asked calmly as he stepped into the room.

Johnny didn’t look at his father. “ Yeah, as long as I had help.”

Murdoch noticed his son’ lunch sitting on the table untouched. “ You know Maria is going to get on you if you don’t eat…….You need to get your strength back son.”

“ Not hungry…….what do you want old man?” Johnny asked, raising his voice a little.

“ Look Johnny I didn’t come in here to fight with you son……….I would like us to talk………man to man. ……….Father and son.”

Johnny let out a sigh. He knew what this talk was his father wanted to have. A talk he didn’t want to have, but a part of him knew his father had a right to know and delaying it would just make it harder on them both, and possibly put a barrier between them that neither man would be able to bring down.

Teresa sat in a chair on the veranda doing needle point when Scott walked up o her.

“ Hey.” he said. “ Teresa have you talked to Johnny yet about what happened in Hard Luck?” he asked as he sat down next to her and removed his hat.

“ No……and I don’t wish to speak to him either.” she answered back without looking up.

“ Teresa…….I have a pretty good idea what * did * happen from the rope burns on Johnny’ neck……….I’ve seen that before during the war.”

Teresa stopped sewing and looked at him with tears in her eyes. “ He had  not right Scott……..Johnny had no right asking… begging me to do that.” she said with anger.

“ Let me ask you this……..Have you thought about * why * he did?”

Teresa  just shook her head.

“ Look I know none of us have known Johnny very long and he doesn’t talk about his past, but one thing I do know is if he was going to die, Johnny would rather it be someone he loved killing him than someone like Frank Leavy pulling the trigger……….Wouldn’t you agree?”

“ They murdered Melissa Scott……..because I couldn’t do it, they shot her.”

“ I know…..I also know that it is hurting Johnny, having that happen and him unable to stop it……….I also know that more than that, Johnny is hurting over you and what you were put through up there……. Teresa Johnny loves you and with you avoiding him like you are it is killing him.” Scott stated. “ He is hardly eating……he hardly talks to me………he just sits and stares out the window.” Scott said as he stood up. “ Look…….ask yourself this……..Do you think Johnny would ever do anything to hurt you?…..He loves you and it’s because of that love he has for you, that he asked you to do that.” he said before walking away.

Teresa sat there as tears ran down her face thinking about what her oldest brother said.

Murdoch walked over and sat in the other chair across from him. The sadness on his son’ face was clear. Someone who had to grow up fast and tough, Murdoch could see right now wasn’t that tough as nails hard core gunfighter so many people feared. No right now Johnny was someone who needed his father and that was exactly what Murdoch had hoped for.

“ I know what’s bothering you son.” he said in a caring voice. “ I know that what happened in Hard Luck between you and Teresa is hard for you to deal with.”

Johnny looked at him a second then back out the window. “ You don’t know anything old man.”

“ Son……I know that I haven’t been the father I should have been when you came back here…….I didn’t welcome you home like I should have.” he stated as he put his hands on the table. “ I was a fool son…..I couldn’t see past who you were………who you are and I know that now……….I know your childhood wasn’t easy and you did what you had to do to stay alive……..hiring out your gun so you could have food and………..”

“ I’m not a son you want.” Johnny said barely above a whisper. “ What I did in Deadwood……”

“ Johnny……look at me, please.” Murdoch asked as he reached for his son’ left hand.

Johnny raised his head slightly and looked at him. He hated this, him Johnny Madrid tough as nail gunfighter, someone who never showed his emotions, never really cared about anyone but himself, now had a family who did care about him. A family he needed, but more importantly, he wanted.

“ Son I think you and Teresa need to talk about this…..the two of you need to……….”

“ I asked her to kill me……I begged her to pull the trigger old man.” he said with anger as he pushed himself up to stand. “ Don’t you get it?…………Melissa is dead because of me, Teresa was forced to put a gun to my head and ordered to kill me and I told her to pull the trigger………How in the fuck am I supposed to ever be able to forgive myself for that?………How can I ever look her in the eye again, knowing what I put her through?” he said as he shoved his chair so hard it fell over onto it’s back.

Murdoch stood up and went to him, hearing him say what he did, Murdoch now fully understood why Johnny was so sad. Why Teresa had not been to see him. Taking a chance Murdoch wrapped an arm around Johnny’ shoulder and was surprised when his son leaned his head on his.

“ All I ever wanted was to be Johnny Madrid back then, good at my trade.” he said with a shaky voice. “ Back then I was hell bent for leather and didn’t really care how I got it….What happened that day in Deadwood brought me to rock bottom……I…….”

“ Come on son……you need to sit down and get off that leg.” Murdoch said as he gently guided his son to his bed.

Johnny sat down and just stared at his lap. He couldn’t bring himself to look at his father knowing that what he was about to say would probably make the man order him to leave the home and people he had come to love and trust. The vaquero’, working side by side with them, his brother he had always wished for and his little sister who even though she wasn’t by blood, was a bonus he liked and loved.

Murdoch could sense his son’ apprehension about talking to him about that day. “ Johnny.” he said as he sat down on the edge of the bed. “ Son listen to me……….I know this isn’t easy for you to say, but I want you to know that I am proud of you and the man you’ve become…….and I have Johnny Madrid to thank for that……..I know now that I have to accept him in order to have you.” he said, receiving a look from him. “ Nothing you tell me will ever change how I feel about you now…….You are my son and I will always love you.”

Johnny wasn’t prepared to hear that. He had to look away and blink away the tears that all morning had threatened to spill over. Sometimes being a proud man, never showing or sharing your feelings had it’s good points, but right now wasn’t one of them.

Reaching way down deep, pushing those tears and emotions aside, he summoned Madrid so he could tell his father, because as Johnny Lancer, he knew he would never be able to.

“ Colton Sikes was the son of Carl Sikes, the rancher who hired me to handle a water dispute.” Johnny began. “ He had pretty much bullied everyone in town and they stayed away from him. I wasn’t welcomed by most of the people when I arrived  because of who I was and what I was. The local law was even afraid of me, but not like he was Carl Sikes. It seems Carl settled ten miles out of Deadwood five years before the gold was discovered. Another rancher Ben Rogers  who’s land was adjacent to his showed up  three years later and started fencing off the water holes and damming up the streams and tried to dam up the Belle Fourche river that ran through both men’ property…………anyways Carl had be cut the mans fences, run off his cattle and burn down his barn…….Rogers he brought his own guns in….that was until they found out who they were going up against……..Finally the two, Sikes and Rogers got together and settled it.”

“ Settled it how?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny became real quiet for a few. “ The night before his uh….son rode into town and called me out……Kevin was his only kid……….Frank and Ed they were in the saloon that night and seen it…….You know I killed their old man in El Paso……..I remembered the name, Leavy and…….”

“ Son I don’t understand…..if you killed their father then why were they working this job with you?”

“ At first I thought it was to kill me, you know, get a chance at it, but they didn’t…….The real trouble between us started the last night I was in Deadwood……..I was in the saloon with a whore having a drink……..I was riding put the next day since the job was over…..The whore I was with it turns out Colton Sikes fancied as his woman…….a hand seen me and her go upstairs and told Colton about it when he came to town…….I left little over an hour later and Colton he, he was real pissed that I’d fu…..

been with his woman……Her screams woke me up and when I got downstairs he’d beat her damn near dead in the street and took his knife and cut her throat, but not before cutting her all up………….I came out of the hotel and he had her by her hair, knowing I would come outside……….he waited till I did and cut her throat telling me nobody takes his woman, especially no halfbreed.”

“ My god.” Murdoch said aloud, not meaning to.

“ I guess he figured with two hands backing him he could kill me……he figured wrong…… I dropped the two and wounded him……..It’s what I did after that changed me Murdoch……what I did, the next morning I’d knew I’d hit rock bottom, that I’d crossed that line between good and bad.” Johnny said as he moved to sit up more wincing from a sharp pain in his leg. His right arm Sam kept wrapped tight to his chest so he couldn’t move it at all.

“ You alright son?”

“ Yeah,….could you pour me some water?”

Murdoch stood and poured a glass of water and handed it to him.

“ Thanks…….are you sure you want to hear this?” Johnny asked before taking a drink.

“ Only if you want to tell me son.” Murdoch answered as he sat back down on the bed.

“ I had wounded Colton in the leg, I did it intentionally because of what he did to Marlene…..She didn’t deserve to die like that and nobody in that town lifted a finger to help her…..He tried to shoot me and I shot him in his right wrist breaking it………I tied his hands behind his back and drug him to a post and me, Frank and Ed tied him to a post, we wrapped the rope around his neck, knowing he wouldn’t be able to stand on his leg all that long…….we had that rope tight and as he bled he got weaker and………”

Johnny closed his eyes as he tried to will the memory away. “ Carl rode into town the next morning and found his son dead……I had already rode out before dawn. Frank and Ed were still there and I guess they told him it was me…don’t know if they told him why.”

“ Son let me ask you something.”

Johnny looked at him.

“You said there was a lawman in that town……….didn’t he try and stop you from killing Colton like that?”

“ Nope……….remember I said he was afraid of both Carl and Colton?……..Well with Colton dead and Carl not there then, he wasn’t about to try and stop me.”

“ And Hard Luck?”

Johnny drew his left leg up to his chest and rested his chin on it. “ They did the same thing to me, the only difference bein’ Teresa…….Frank untied her and gave her a pistol……..he told her that if she killed me he would let her and Melissa go………I’d been beaten and could barely stand anymore by the time morning came……..I….I….I told her to do it……I told Teresa to kill me Murdoch……I ordered her to…….she couldn’t do it and Ed killed Melissa because of it.” Johnny said as the tears escaped him as he tried to hide his face.

Murdoch moved closer and put a hand on his son’ shoulder and could feel him trembling. Moving up the bed to be next to him on Johnny’ left he pulled his son to his chest and held him rubbing his back.

“ It’s alright……Teresa knows why you did it son……..It’s going to be alright.”

“ Sh…..she hasn’t been to see me since we’ve been back……..I know she hates me for what I did.” Johnny said as he wrapped his left arm around his fathers back.

“ She doesn’t hate you Johnny……Teresa loves you…..I know that and you know it as well……….Give her time and she’ll come see you son.” Murdoch said with his chin on top of Johnny’ head.

“ I’ll understand if you want me to leave when I’m able.” Johnny stated.

“ I don’t want you to leave son…….Lancer is your home……..and here is where you belong.”

“ Even though I’ve murdered two men in front of you?”

“ Son…….you didn’t murder anyone……..I seen you kill a Jim Fowler who was trying to kill you………and Frank and Ed Leavy who tried to kill you and Teresa and murdered Melissa…….You haven’t murdered anyone.”

“ I’m tired now……I think Ill take a nap.”

“ Alright son…..I’ll bring your supper up to you later.” Murdoch said as he stood up and headed to the door.

“ Hey Murdoch.”

“ Yes son.”

“ You know that because of that newspaper article…………”

Murdoch put up a hand. “ Johnny….you are my son, and as my son I will do anything I have to do to protect you…….That my boy is a fathers right and duty……get some rest” he said before leaving the room.

                                                                                                   Chapter 11

                                              This chapter is dedicated to Southern Frau, my mentor and friend.

“ Okay Johnny, let me see you stand and walk around the room here.” Sam requested as he put his  stethoscope away.

Johnny stood up and walked around his room, limping a little.

“ How does it feel Johnny? And I want the truth young man.” Sam  asked and demanded.

Johnny looked at the man, knowing he wouldn’t be able to fool him. “ It hurts some…..but that’s normal  doc.” he responded as he made his way back to his bed and sat down. “ What about my arm Sam? It’s been two weeks now.”

“ Well let’s take a look at it and see how the wound is healing……..Your leg looks good..I want to keep it bandaged though for another week…..I don’t want your pants rubbing on it………Are you still putting the salve on your neck?” Sam asked as he cut the bandage wrapped around Johnny’ chest and arm to keep it mobile.

“ Yeah….Scott and Murdoch have been helping me with it.”

“ Not Teresa?”

Johnny sighed and looked down to the floor. “ No Sam…..fact is Teresa and I haven’t seen each other since we got back.”

Sam stood up straight. “ And why not?”

“ Something happened Sam that……she’s mad at me and doesn’t want to.” Johnny said with sadness in his voice.

“ You know Johnny, I’m a good listener if you ever need someone outside this family to talk to……I promise you that no matter what you tell me it will go no farther than between us.”

“ Yeah…..I’ll keep that in mind Sam. No this is something that we have to work through ourselves. I appreciate it though.”

“ Alright……have you been moving your fingers?”

“ Yeah, I can move them no problem.” Johnny answered, then showed him.

“ Okay…..well the wound is healing quite nicely. I think you can start wearing a sling now……Johnny I know from your scars that you’ve been through this before, and you know your body pretty well…..I don’t want you to be disappointed if your arm doesn’t go back to normal……You know, for drawing your gun.”

“ If it doesn’t Sam I might as well paint a bulls eye on my back then because I’ll be killed.”

“ Yes well I want you to  work your arm from the elbow only up and down keeping the upper part here still every morning and evening. I don’t want you forcing it Johnny….I want you to take it slow…..Here let me show you.” Sam said as he went over and sat down at the table and laid his arm on it. “ Okay I want you to sit like this with your elbow down and just slowly lift your arm to get the muscles used to moving and stretching again……..If it starts hurting to much I want you to stop.”

“ Yeah okay.” Johnny said as he sat down on his bed. “ Sam… said that what I tell you stays between us right?”

“ Yes John……’s called doctor patient confidentiality.” Sam answered, knowing that something was bothering his patient bad.

“ Did something happen between you and Murdoch Johnny?”

“ Huh, uh no Sam it’s good between me and him.”

“ Then I suspect a certain young lady is involved?”

“ Yeah…..Listen I shouldn’t bother you with this Sam, you have other patients to see.”

“ Johnny……it’s late are my last patient today……..Talk to me.”

Johnny told Sam what happened in Hard Luck. When finished he sat there silent, letting Sam ingest what was said.

“ Sam’ been upstairs with Johnny an awful long time Murdoch, you think something may be wrong?”

“ No Scott, I think your brother and Sam are doing some talking perhaps……you know, doctor, patient talk son.” Murdoch stated as he looked toward the stairs.

“ Dinner will be ready in a few minutes you two if you would like to go wash up?” Teresa stated as she set a pitcher of water on the table.

“ Alright darling.” Murdoch answered. “ You know Scott……your brother is hurting more from Teresa ignoring him than his wounds.”

“ Yes sir………I got the same feeling.”

“ We need to get them talking again.”

“ I’m open for discussions on how……..Johnny stays in his room even though Sam told him he could come downstairs with one of us helping him……….Teresa hasn’t once been to see him or asked about him, at least not to me she hasn’t.” Scott told his father.

“ Nor me son………….I think I’m going to have a little talk with her about this during supper.”

“ Good luck…….I did the other day and it’s done no good……..I think I’ll go see if I can get my brother to come down and eat with us…….Sam too since it’s so late.”

“ Alright son.”

Sam walked over and brought a chair back next to the bed and sat down in it. “ Johnny…..can I ask you something?”

Johnny nodded.

“ Why did you tell Teresa to shoot you?”

Johnny looked at him a few seconds and swallowed the lump in his throat. “ I knew Sam, the day I picked up a gun that a bullet had my name on it when I became Madrid………Every day could be the day I die Sam and up there it almost was…I decided that I would rather  be killed by someone I know and love than someone just out for a reputation……Does that make sense to you Sam?”

“ Yes it does Johnny……..I…….”

Scott knocked and opened the door. “ Sam… he alright?” he asked walking around to the end of the bed.

“ Yes Scott….he can go downstairs now with someone helping him.” Sam said looking at Johnny , seeing the disappointed look on his face that they were interrupted.

“ Good, eating dinner with Murdoch and Teresa only these past two weeks  has been a little dull.”

Scott supported Johnny down the stairs into the foyer.

“ You two go ahead.” Johnny said softly.

“ Johnny.” Scott started.

“ I’ll be in Scott…I just need a minute.”

“ Alright.” Scott said before walking into the grand room to the table and sat down.

“ Is Sam and your brother coming?” Murdoch asked as Teresa walked into the room with a platter of roast beef.

“ Yes sir.” he answered looking back at the foyer.

“ Sam……Thanks.” Johnny said.

“ Your brother has lousy timing Johnny…..I would like to finish our discussion If we can tonight.”

“ Maybe…..go ahead.”

Johnny stood there a few minutes leaning on the wall with his left hand.

“ Sam, I made an apple pie for desert tonight.” Teresa said.

Sam looked at her. “ I think you and I need to have a discussion Teresa.”

“ Oh really?……..What about Sam?……My wrist are almost healed up now.” she said just as Johnny limped into the room.

“ Teresa would you set another place for our brother please?’ Scott asked her.

Teresa stared at Johnny a second before standing. “ Of course.” she answered as she got up and walked away.

Johnny sat down next to Teresa, on her right like he always did. “ Murdoch.”

Sam sat down across from him on Scott’ left. “ This smells wonderful Teresa.” he told her when she came back in and set a plate and silverware down for Johnny.

“ Thank you Sam.” she responded as she moved her chair a little away from Johnny and sat back down.

“ Is everything alright son?” Murdoch asked, noticing how Teresa moved her chair a little toward him, away from Johnny.

Johnny gave a slight smile, but no words. He didn’t think his voice wouldn’t fail him just now.

Sam sensed Johnny’ uneasiness and spoke up instead.  “ As you can see Murdoch I have Johnny’ arm in a sling now….I showed him an exercise I want him to do every morning and evening with it to start strengthening the muscles back up.”

“ Yes I noticed that…….How’s your arm feel son?” Murdoch asked as he cut slices of beef and set them on plates.

“ It’s alright.” Johnny said as he dished up some potato’s on his plate.

“ And your leg?” Murdoch asked as he began to cut his meat to take a bite.

Johnny glanced across at Teresa who kept her eyes down. “ Hurt’s some but it’ll be alright.”

“ I don’t want Johnny doing any work for a few weeks yet, His arm is going to take time Murdoch to heal and get strong.” Sam said.

Scott watched his brother struggle to cut his meat. “ Teresa would you mind cutting Johnny’ meat up for him?” he asked her.

Teresa looked up at him then at Johnny. “ Hand me your plate.” she said a little gruffly.

“ I can get it Scott.” Johnny said as he switched the knife to his left hand.

An hour later dinner finished Murdoch, Scott and Sam made small talk about the town. Sam told about how Jason Willows broke his arm falling out of a tree. Murdoch talked about the drive to market in the spring, asking both his sons how many head of cattle they thought should go.

“ We need new blood.” Johnny stated as he took a sip of his coffee.

Murdoch looked at him. “ I just bought a new bull last year.”

“ Just one?” Johnny asked, looking across at his brother.

“ Yes………I have ten good bulls now.”

“Look Murdoch, we have what twenty thousand head of cattle here and only ten bulls to produce……….That’s a lot of cows for ten bulls, even you know that………We need new blood so they don’t start getting sick on us.”

Murdoch looked at his oldest and smiled slightly. “ Go on son.”

“ I’m just saying I think it would be in our interest to buy outside the valley, or even the state.”

“ I have been purchasing my bulls from Juan Contanodo in Sonora  and the ranchers in California for a long time son.”

“ I understand that Murdoch, I also understand that if we don’t bring in outside blood we run the risk of inbreeding and low immune deficiency.”

“ Johnny……do you have someone in mind to purchase some bulls from?” Scott asked.

“ I know a rancher in New Mexico who has excellent bulls, Herefords and they’re registered.”

“ And just how may I ask do you know this son?”

“ I did a job for him Murdoch….I helped him out.” Johnny stated, seeing the apprehension on his fathers face.

“ New Mexico huh?”

“ Yeah, his spread is bigger than Lancer, Chancellor is a good man Murdoch.”

“ John Chancellor?”

“ You know him?” Scott asked.

“Not personally, no, but I’ve heard of him. I heard a few years back he had some trouble and hired gunfighters to solve it for him.” Murdoch stated as he looked at his youngest. “ That was you?”

“ Yeah…..and he hired just one gunfighter…………my name alone practically ended the trouble.”

“ What was the trouble Johnny?” Scott asked.

“ He brought Herefords into New Mexico Boston. The other ranchers thought it was wrong and that they would ruin the land, being heavier in meat and size than their steers. Winter was hard and brutal that year and by the time spring came around most of the steers got wiped out at a lot of ranches, but his Herefords survived because they were bigger and stronger.”

“ Do you know where the Hereford originated from son?”

Johnny looked at his father. He knew this question was a test. “ Yeah, as a matter of fact I do old man…..Herefordshire, England in eighteen seventeen they were brought here by a man named Henry Clay.” Johnny stated before taking a drink of his water. “ Kentucky is were they started from in eighteen forty and have moved west from there.”

Scott looked at his father and then back at his brother and smiled. He knew from the look on his fathers face, Johnny was correct in what he stated.

“You just might make a good rancher yet little brother……..I read about this Henry Clay once back at Harvard…….the man knew cattle and even though he was a politician they say the Hereford was his number one priority to establish around the world I believe they said.” Scott added.

“ Thanks brother.” Johnny said.

Sam looked at Murdoch. “ Well I may not know cattle young man, but I do know I am impressed with what you just said Johnny.”

“ Son good bulls cost money and you’re talking about buying them from New Mexico, why just two bulls could cost us five thousand dollars to going there to purchase them and then getting them back here……….are the two of you prepared to spend that kind of money?”

“ If it improves our herd sir I think it will be worth the cost.” Scott answered.

“ I do to Murdoch……..Look just think about it is all I’m asking.”

“ Fare enough….I’ll think about it son.”

Teresa walked into the room carrying a tray with pie on plates. “ Alright Murdoch, Scott, Sam it’s time for some of my apple pie and coffee.” she said as she handed out a plate to the three of them, but not Johnny.

“ Teresa I believe you are one plate short.” Sam noted.

“ Oh well I didn’t think he would want any.” she said as she began pouring coffee, skipping Johnny and walking around to Scott and Sam.

“ Murdoch forgive me for this but I will no longer sit here and watch this happen.” Sam said as he tossed his napkin down and stood up.

“ Teresa I have known you all your life young lady, I delivered you……I will not stand by and let you treat Johnny like you have been any longer…You were not brought up that way.”

“ Sam don’t.” Johnny interjected.

“ No Johnny, Sam’ right.” Scott cut in. “ Teresa I told you the other day…….”

“ I know what you told me Scott, You weren’t there…..none of you…….you don’t know what he did to me……..the position he put me in…….Melissa Harper is dead because of you Johnny….”

“ Teresa that will be enough……..I will not have you talking to Johnny like that.”

“ Teresa Jim Harper got his daughter killed, not Johnny.” Scott cut in. “ He’s the one who put out the wanted poster on Johnny and had that article wrote about him in the paper in Sacramento.”

“ I am not going to sit here and listen to you defend him.” she said as she stood up. “ You should have never come here.” she added before going to leave.

Johnny stood up and grabbed her arm. “ Teresa I said and asked you what I did for a reason…….look we need to talk about what happened up there alone.”

“ I have nothing to say to you……You had no right asking me to do let go of me.”

Johnny tightened his hold on her arm. “ Querido please.”

“ Don’t you ever call me that again.” Teresa said with anger as tears welled up in her eyes. “ You mean nothing to me anymore Johnny.”

Johnny let go of her arm, standing there in shock at the hated words he was hearing her say.

Teresa glared at him a second before shoving him into the table as she stormed past to her room, slamming the door.

Johnny looked at his father as the man came toward him. “ Don’t Murdoch……..this is between me and her.” Johnny said before turning and leaving the room.

“ Sir.” Scott said.

“ He’s right son, it is between them and something only they can settle…..Sam would you join me in a drink?”

“ I believe I will Murdoch, then I must be going……..I’m sorry for starting this old friend.”

“ It’s alright Sam. Johnny hasn’t been his self since he got back.”

“ I get the feeling the two of you are closer now, am I right in that assumption?”

“You want one son?” he asked as he started to pour the brandy.

“ No sir……..I believe I will leave you two to talk and retire to my room to a book I started…..If you will excuse me, Sam.”

“Good night  Scott.” Sam answered as he took the brandy. “ So are you going to consider what Johnny suggested?” Sam asked as he walked over to the couch and sat down.

“ I will, but as I stated Sam, it will be a considerable expense.” Murdoch answered as he walked over and leaned his right arm on the fire mantle. “ I know so little about his past Sam……..where all he has been….The Pinkerton report doesn’t say anything about him being in South Dakota or New Mexico.”

“ Well why don’t you ask him Murdoch?” Sam suggested.

“ He told me what happened in Deadwood Sam, It wasn’t easy to hear what he told me…..and I know it was just as hard for him to tell me.”

“ And why do you think that is?” Sam asked.

Murdoch looked at him. “ Sam we’ve known each other a long time.”

“ Yes we have, over thirty years, you haven’t answered me though.”

“ I think……no I know that Johnny feels that if he tells me about his past and what he’s done……he’ll think I won’t love him any longer and want him to leave.”

“ Well, have you told him that that is not true?”

“ Yes, I told him the other day Sam that nothing he has done in the past will make me not care about him or want him to leave his home.”

“ Then I wouldn’t worry about it, Johnny has a good head on his shoulders Murdoch. He has a family that loves and cares about him, and he doesn’t have to live by his gun any longer.”

“ Will his arm be alright Sam, really?”

“ Yes, with the exercise I showed him to do, it will…….Listen I  need to head back to town.” Sam said as he stood up. “ Don’t worry Murdoch…those two love each other. Teresa will come around and those two will be closer than before.”

“ I hope you’re right Sam…I really do, I’ll walk you out.” Murdoch stated as the two friends headed to the front door.

Johnny stopped outside Teresa’ bedroom door and knocked.

“ Who is it?” he heard from the other side.

“ Teresa it’s Johnny.”

“ Go away I have nothing to say to you.”

Johnny started to leave then grabbed the door handle and opened it and walked in.

“ I said go away… have no right just barging into my room, now get out.” Teresa said with anger.

Johnny left the door open and stepped over toward her. “ Not until we talk, so don’t even try to leave this room Teresa, because I can and will stop you.” Johnny said with firmness.

Teresa stood glaring at him. “ I’ll call Murdoch and have you thrown out of here.”

“ No you won’t……he knows I’m here, hell he was going to come here instead of me, so you better be thankful I stopped him,  this is between you and me Teresa and we need to get it settled. I can’t go on living in the same house as you and have you treat me the way you’ve been……..Ignoring me isn’t going to solve this and you know it.”

“I told you I have nothing to say to you, now get out of my room.”

Johnny didn’t move, he held his ground, hoping she wouldn’t try and bolt out of the room. He didn’t want this confrontation to become a physical one.

“ Teresa, sit down please…..let me explain at least why I said what I did to you up there…….please.”

“ Fine.” Teresa said harshly as she spun and went to her bed and plopped down on it.

Johnny walked over and sat down in the chair to get the weight off his leg, stretching it out in front of him and rubbing his upper right arm lightly.

“ Listen Teresa I need to know if you can handle what I’m going to tell you?” Johnny asked calmly.

Teresa moved up against her headboard and crossed her legs. “ I’m not a little child anymore Johnny.”

“ I know that, but there are some things you shouldn’t know, some things about my past I will never tell you……I’m not proud of some of the things I’ve done, but I can’t very well change them now can I? Just like you can’t change the fact that your father is dead, I can’t bring back all the men I have killed.”

“ You had no right telling me to do it Johnny.” Teresa said as she wiped tears from her eyes.

Johnny stood up and walked over to her and sat down on the bed next to her. “ Teresa I have always known I will die from a bullet from the moment I chose to live by my gun……I know it wasn’t fair to you to tell you to do it, it’s just that I knew I was going to die up there and I would rather have it be from someone I love and care more about than I ever thought I could, than someone out for revenge or a reputation…….can you understand that?”

Teresa drew her legs up to her chest and buried her face in her knees and cried.

“ You ignoring me and treating me like you did tonight…….Teresa that is more painful to me than anything I’ve ever had done to me…….I don’t want to loose you and what we had.”

“ I don’t know Johnny, I don’t know if we can…..if  *I* can be that close to you again.” she said looking up at him and wiping her tears. “ I need some time……I’m sorry for the way I treated you tonight…..It was wrong for me to do that.” she stated as tears fell down her cheeks.

Johnny moved up closer to her and put his left hand under her chin and wiped at the tears with his thumb. “ When I came here, I wasn’t prepared for you or Scott. I didn’t know about either one of you… I’ve never had someone to care about like I do the two of you Teresa……..I will gladly give my life up if it means saving yours or Scott’……..the old mans too.”

Teresa moved her legs and wrapped her arms around Johnny and hugged him. “ I didn’t mean it.” she said into his neck as she hugged him. “ I didn’t mean I wished you had never come here….Lancer is your home and if you hadn’t come home you’d be…….”

“ Dead.” Johnny finished. As he hugged her as tight as he could with his left arm, staying that way for several minutes, neither one wanting to break the hold. “ You know if Murdoch came in here right now and seen me sitting on your bed like this, he might get the wrong impression about us little sister.”

Teresa raised her head to look him in the eyes but not let go of him. “ I don’t think he would think that about us Johnny…….he’s changed since the party…….you two have gotten closer like me and my father were.”

“ Yeah, we’ll still disagree about things and argue, but I guess that’s part of being a father and son.”

“ You do know Johnny that the two of you are so much alike, it’s not even funny.”

“ Oh no….I’m nothing like him querido.”

“ I like when you call me that…….it makes me feel special.”

“ Because you are special……you’re my special little sister.”

“ You and Murdoch are alike Johnny…….you are both so damn stubborn, neither one of you will back down or admit that the other is right.”

“ You better not let him hear you talking like that or someone will get a chewing out and it won’t be you…….I am not stubborn…….he’s the one who never admits if I’m right about something. Like tonight for instance while you were in the kitchen I mentioned getting new breeding stock in here and I could see it in his eyes Teresa……he won’t do it because I suggested it…….Says it will be to costly to buy bulls from a man in New Mexico I did a job for………You can bet that if Scott suggested it he would.”

“ I have noticed he does treat Scott differently than you Johnny……..I think he’s intimidated by you.”

Johnny stood up. “ Intimidated?……..that’s crazy Teresa, hell he’s my father and……”

“ And he intimidates you as well doesn’t he?” Teresa asked as she stood up.

“ No.” Johnny answered adverting his eyes.

“ Look me in the eyes and tell me he doesn’t then.”

“ Alright….maybe a little.”

Teresa smiled. “ The tough Johnny Madrid doesn’t want anyone to know he has a soft spot or can be intimidated.”

“ Hey now I have an image to uphold little sister, don’t you go telling anyone or I’ll stop bringing you a rose.”

“ You do that and I just might forget to make you any more sweets.”

“ Damn you drive a hard bargain… are we okay?”

Teresa walked up to him. “ I think we will be.” she said before kissing his cheek and hugging him. “ Now get out of here so I can get ready for bed, it’s late.”

Johnny kissed her forehead. “ Good night.” he told her before going to the door and stepping out, pulling it shut behind him.

Murdoch as at his desk reading when his youngest son came into the room. “ Is everything alright son?”

“ Hey…..I didn’t expect you to still be up it’s so late.”

“ I was going to turn in. So did the two of you work things out?”

“ Yeah, we’ll be alright.” he answered.

“ Good, well I’m going to turn in son.”

“ Hey Murdoch.”

“ Yes.”

“ Uh do I intimidate you?”

“ What?……..Why would you ask that?”

“No reason, I was just wondering is all.”

“ At first, yes……I was some when you first came here son.”

“ Because of Madrid?”

“ Yes, partly and partly because I didn’t know you. I didn’t know how to be a father to you Johnny.”

“ Guess she was right.”

“ Who was right?”

“ Teresa, she said me and you are alike, and well I guess we are because you intimidate me.”

“ I don’t mean to son………I’ll try not to from now on okay?”

“ You really want to, then start treating me like you do Scott……..If it had been him saying that at dinner tonight you would have agreed and not had  second thoughts about it.”

“ Son listen to me, I said I would think about it……we have to weigh our options Johnny…..Lancer can’t afford to go off and buy breeding stock from someone they know nothing about…….I’ll do some checking around and see if anyone in the association has heard of him, or seen his bulls.”

“ So my word doesn’t mean anything….I told you I worked for him….I seen his bulls Murdoch.”

“ Son, how long ago was that?” Murdoch asked, knowing his son was feeling like he didn’t trust him.

“ Four years ago.”

“ Do you know if he is even still alive? Or the ranch is still there?”

“ Fine, you won’t buy good bulls from him so don’t waste your time…..I’m going to bed.”

“ Johnny wait, son give me two weeks, I’ll send a wire to the man and ask him about his bulls, if I don’t here back from him before the next cattlemen’ association meeting I’ll ask them okay?”

“ Yeah, sure.” Johnny said before heading to his room.

Murdoch sighed. “ Just like your old man boy, just like me.” he said as he turned down the lamps and headed up to bed himself.

Scott came downstairs the next morning and found Teresa cooking breakfast. “ Morning Teresa.”

“ Good morning Scott, would you like some coffee?”

“ Yes thank you, you’re in a cheerful mood this morning.”

“ Listen Scott, me and Johnny had a good long talk….It will take time but we’ll be okay….I apologized to him for the way I’ve been since we came home.” she said as she poured coffee.

“ Yeah, that’s good, because I know it was hurting Johnny inside, he loves you Teresa.”

“ I know he does……Morning Murdoch. Want some coffee?”

“ Yes.” he answered as he sat down.

“ Is everything alright sir?…..You look like you didn’t sleep well last night.”

Murdoch took a sip of his coffee. “ I’ve been awake all night thinking.”

“ Oh, about what sir?”

“ Your brother, and purchasing bulls from New Mexico.”

“ Ah, let me guess you and Johnny got into an argument last night over it?”

“ Son do I treat you differently than your brother?”

“ How do you mean?”

“ He told me last night that if it had been you suggest buying the bulls I would have agreed right away. Do you think he’s right?”

“ Yes sir I do……I’ve never said anything, but it does seem that when Johnny suggest something you say it’s not cost effective or it would be a waste of time.” Scott stated. “ Take for instance that bridge that you complain about in the north pasture…..Johnny suggested moving it a quarter mile farther north and you immediately said no…..You never gave him a chance to tell you why it would work better, you just blurted out no, that you wasn’t going to waste your money on a foolish thing like that.”

“ He also told Johnny he didn’t know what he was talking about Scott.” Teresa added.

“ I think Johnny knows more about ranching than you are willing to accept sir. He proved that last night.”

I told him I would give him an answer in two weeks after I did some checking to see if the man is even still there…..I also told him that I would ask at the next meeting if anyone knows of him or seen his stock.”

“ Why don’t you send Johnny Murdoch?”

“ What Teresa?”

“ Why don’t you send Johnny to purchase the bulls, if he’s worked for this man before and knows him he might be able to get them cheaper.”

“ How do you know he………I guess you two talked about quite a bit last night young lady?”

“ Yes we did. Don’t worry Murdoch my door was wide open the whole time and Johnny never did anything inappropriate.”

“ Sweetheart I wasn’t worried about that…..I know now how close you two are…..I was a fool before to think Johnny would ever dishonor you.”

“ Oh goodness, Scott did you hear that?”

“ Hear what querido?” Johnny asked as he came into the kitchen.

“ Our father just admitted he was wrong about something brother is all.”

“ That’s a shocker….listen Scott I need you to do me a favor.”

“ Okay, if I can. What do you need?”

“ I need you to go into town and buy me six boxes of ammo for my pistol. Would you do that for me?”

Scott looked at Murdoch then back at his brother. “ Yeah, I can do that.”

“ Your arm isn’t ready for target practice yet son……Sam said.”

“ I know what Sam said Murdoch. This has nothing to do with the ranch so stay out of it.”

“ There is no call for talking to me like that son.”

“ Yeah well seein’s how I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to this ranch I figure the sooner I get my arm back working the sooner I can get back to work.” Johnny said as he laid some money on the table. “ That should cover it…..I’m gonna go see to my horse.” Johnny said before walking out the back door.

“ Like father, like son.” Teresa said before going to start breakfast.

“ I’ll ride into town with you son….I need to go to the bank, and I want to stop by and talk to Sam.”

“ Alright, but if it’s something I can handle sir, I’d be more than willing to do so.”

“ I know you would son……I need to talk to you about something on the way in.”

“ Alright, we can leave right after breakfast.”

                                                                                               Chapter 12

                                           This chapter is dedicated to the memory of Southern Frau, my mentor.

“ I don’t think I will ever understand how two men so close could be so far apart. Murdoch Lancer.” Sam said with firmness. “ You are the biggest fool I know.”

“ Sam…..”

“ Don’t Sam me. Are you trying to drive that boy away?…..Do you want to loose him again Murdoch…. because that’s what is going to happen if you don’t stop doing like you did last night……”

“ Sam would you shut up and let me explain why I am here?” Murdoch cut in.

“ Alright, go ahead, I have a feeling that this involves my patient.”

“ It does Sam. I talked this over with Scott on the way in and he thinks it will work, I hope.”

“ What will work?” Sam asked with curiosity.

“ What I have planned, I just hope Johnny is still here.”

“ Still here, Murdoch sit down and tell me what happened last night after I left?” Sam demanded as he sat down.

Murdoch told him he didn’t know what all was said between Johnny and Teresa, but they seemed to work it out and were friendly to each other this morning before his youngest left angry. He then told him about their talk and what he had said to Johnny, how Johnny had turned what he said around some and gotten angry with him and stormed up to bed. After he sat there and let out a sigh.

 “ I don’t think I will ever understand that boy Sam.” he said finally.

“ He’s not a boy anymore Murdoch, the sooner you realize that the better it will be for the two of you.”

Sam stated. “ You have got to start treating Johnny with the respect he deserves. I know he’s been out of your life for all those years Murdoch, but that doesn’t change the fact that, one he’s a grown man now, two he deserves respect, in fact I would go so far as to say with confidence, he’s begging for it from you in a silent way and three, He is a part owner of the largest spread in California, the youngest son of a well respected rancher, but doesn’t get treated the same as his older brother. You treat Scott way different than Johnny and you know it. Equal partners can not work my friend if the one who calls the tune doesn’t treat his two partners as equals.”

“ I didn’t know I was treating Scott differently than Johnny.”

“ Oh I think you do, you like calling the tune and pushing Johnny to the limit, testing him so to speak. Are you so blind Murdoch that you can’t see how much that boy loves you and is begging for your love and respect?”

Murdoch just looked at him and  tried to swallow a lump stuck in his throat.

“ Listen to me old friend, and I mean listen. If you want to get Johnny’ trust and respect, why don’t you give him a chance by letting him go to New Mexico and purchase the new breeding bulls by himself?”

Murdoch’ head snapped up. “ That’s what I wanted to talk to you about Sam….. I was going to present that idea to him but Johnny is in no condition to ride that far. His leg isn’t healed up yet and his arm…….he gets called out he wouldn’t stand a chance.”

“ So you want to know when I think he will be ready to make this trip, am I right?”

“ Yes.”

“ Then why don’t you ask him…I’m his doctor yes, but that boy knows what he can do and how fast his body heals up Murdoch better than any doctor could. You seen how fast he was up and around after Pardee’ bullet in the back….Go home and talk to him about this. Tell him you changed your mind on what you said last night.”

“ He has Scott buying six boxes of ammo Sam so he can start practicing.”

Sam sighed and rubbed his face. “ Then you better not waist any time presenting this idea to him…..and Murdoch I suggest that on the way home you think real hard on how to approach him with this because if you do it wrong he may think you again don’t trust him, especially if you say Scott could go along with him.”

“ I was planning on both boys going along, but that the purchase would be Johnny’ decision and his alone.”

“ Then let Johnny ask Scott if he would like to go along…..Let it be his decision alone.”

“ I’ve been a fool Sam….All this time  Johnny’ been back home I’m ashamed of how I’ve treated him…I haven’t been the father he deserves…..Truth is, I don’t know if I can.”

“ You can, just open your eyes Murdoch, watch him when he’s working around the ranch close, how is is with Scott or Teresa. You know sometimes it’s the little things a person does that makes a difference.”

Murdoch stood up. “ Thanks Sam, I need to go meet Scott and head back to the ranch.”

“ Listen, one more thing you could do that would help bring the wall down between you two.”

“ What’s that?”

“ Compliment Johnny on his work, or ask him how his day went……Do you even do that?” Sam said as they walked to the door. “ I’m guessing from your silence, you only demand to know why he didn’t get something done or why did he not check with you first on something, right?”

“ You know Sam, I think you know me sometimes better than I know my self……I’ll see you Sunday for dinner.”

“ Okay, and if you decide you don’t want that boy for a son any longer you send Johnny to me, because I’d take him in a heartbeat.”

Murdoch looked at his friend and smiled before turning and heading down to the freight office to meet up with Scott.

Johnny got Clint  to saddle Barranca for him since he couldn’t lift the saddle yet. After thanking the man he led his horse out of the barn where he found Teresa standing with her arms crossed.

“ Hey.”

“ Hey yourself, where are you going?”

“ Going for a ride around the ranch. I need to get out.”

“ It’s a beautiful day for it.” Teresa stated as she stepped up and put her hand on Barranca’ face and rubbed it.

“ He likes you, you know…..He doesn’t let many people touch him like that without trying to bite them.”

“ He used to me until I started giving him these.” she said as she pulled out a sugar cube and gave it to him.

“ You traitor, taking a bribe from a pretty girl can get you in trouble amigo.” Johnny said with a smile.“ What are you doing today?” he asked her.

“ Nothing really.”she answered. “ Why?”

“ Care to go for a ride with me?”

“ I’d love to Johnny.”

Johnny flashed Teresa a smile. “ Hey Clint, saddle Teresa’ horse for me would you.”

“ Sure thing Johnny.”

“ While he’s doing that, How about I go throw us together a lunch and we can have a picnic?”

“ As long as you bring some of that apple pie you made, if there’s any left.” Johnny said as they walked toward the house.

Murdoch and Scott rode along in silence the first hour back to Lancer, thinking about what Sam had said to him.

“ Son, I want to ask you something.” Murdoch started.

“ Does this have to do with Johnny?”

“ Yes it does….When the two of you come in from work, before he was shot did I ask him how his day went?”

“ Well sir, most of the time when you did, you were directing that question at me and Johnny would stand there a minute and then take Barranca into the barn. More times than I care to remember you would get mad at him if something went wrong with the job we were doing.” Scott said.

“ Mad how son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Well you would blame him, maybe not in so many words, but you would make sure he knew it was his fault…..A month after Pardee when Johnny was released to go back to work, we were rounding up cattle and you chewed Johnny out for some that got stuck in a sand trap in the south gully. We had put them in the smaller pasture there and didn’t notice a weak spot in the fence….about fifty got out and you blamed Johnny for it and called him irresponsible for not checking the fence better….There were seven of us that day, but you blamed only him for it and told him that the five cows we lost would come out of his pay.”

“ I  remember that, I also remember that I later told him it wouldn’t, that is was an honest mistake he made.”

“ Did you apologize to him sir?” Scott asked stopping his horse.

Murdoch stopped his and thought back to that day. “ Looking back on that day, no son I didn’t. I guess telling him what I did, I felt was the same as an apology.” Murdoch answered with a sigh.

“ You know why me and Johnny are closer than the two of you are?” Scott asked. When his father didn’t answer he continued. “ We didn’t hit it off at first, Johnny was feeling me out I think. He doesn’t trust easy, and I can understand that. What with the life he’d had up until he came to Lancer, but I could relate to him because of being in the war. I understand him better than you, his not wanting to talk about his past, just like my not wanting to talk about the war. We have a respect for each other that only brothers can have. The first time Johnny opened up to me and told me something about his past I listened. I didn’t judge him, or condemn him. I listened to him like he wanted. I didn’t ask him to tell me, he just did.” Scott stated as he started his horse walking again.

“ I know the two of you are close son, I know Johnny and Teresa are close as well.”

“ Actually sir, I believe Johnny and Teresa are closer than he and I are. Johnny told me not long ago that when he was growing up and being mistreated he wished he had a big brother to protect him from the other children. Then when he came to Lancer and found out he had me he was thrilled, but I think he was more thrilled to have Teresa as a little sister than me as a big brother.”

“ Why do you say that son?” Murdoch asked with a puzzled look.

“ Because he doesn’t need a big brother to protect him now, like he did then. Johnny see’s himself as Teresa’ big brother and can do for her what I couldn’t do for him when he was that age. He had to pick up a gun and let that be his big brother.”

“ I still have a hard time with what he had to do to stay alive son.”

“ Let me ask you something, Have you asked Johnny about his mother at all?”

“ Up at the mine, he told me a little about her, it wasn’t what I had expected to hear, but yes he told me some.”

“ Okay, with what he said, how did you feel after hearing it? Were you angry at her, angry at him, what?”

“ I was appalled I guess you could say. To think that the woman I once loved, the mother of our son would lie to him like she did about me and let him be in the conditions she did.”

“ You do realize that there is a chance that Johnny won’t ask me to go with him to New Mexico don’t you?”

“ I know son. I know it will be a risk, what with that damn reward poster on him and the news article.”

“ Why don’t you go with him sir?”

“ I thought about that Scott, and I don’t think your brother would feel like I was trusting him, allowing him to handle a business transaction. I want to gain his trust son.”

“ Well when were you going to present this idea to him?”

“ I thought maybe I would do it tonight during dinner.” Murdoch said as the two rode into the yard and dismounted.

Clint walked over to take their horses. “ Scott, mister Lancer.”

“ Clint, is Johnny here?” Murdoch asked as he handed of his horse.

“ No sir, him and Teresa went for a ride together. Johnny was going to go alone, but then I guess either miss Teresa asked to go along or Johnny did, because he had me saddle her horse up.”

“ How long ago did they leave?” Scott asked with concern.

“ Oh I’d say a couple hours ago now. Miss Teresa packed a lunch for the two of them.”

“ Did Johnny or Teresa say where they were going?”

“ Waterfall sir. Up toward Black Mesa. Johnny said they would be back late afternoon.”

“ Thank you Clint.” Murdoch said.

“ Sir, do you want to go look for them and make sure they are alright?”

“ No son……I need to start trusting Johnny, so I might as well start now, don’t you think?”

“ Yes.”

“ Let’s go inside and go over the books. If we’re going to be bringing in new breeding bulls, we’ll need to decide which heifers to put them with.” Murdoch stated as the two walked to the house.

Johnny sat under the big oak tree with Teresa enjoying the afternoon breeze. The leaves were starting to show signs of fall coming with hints of gold around the edges. The sound from the water fall could be heard across the small lake. A Bald Eagle called out as it glided gracefully on the wind overhead, answered by it’s mate a few seconds later.

“ You look like you’re a thousand miles away from here Johnny.” Teresa stated as she took the pie out and dished it up for them.

Johnny looked at her and smiled. “ I was just thinking.”

“ About what?” she asked handing him a slice.

“ Thanks, About how much I love this place. The land, the people who work it.” he said before taking a bite.

Teresa smiled. “ You know he does love you Johnny.” she stated.

“ Sure has a funny way of showing it at times.”

“ Johnny, my father told me that when your mother run off with that gambler, it broke his heart. He searched for you for years.” she stopped and became quiet.

Johnny could tell by the look on her face that she was remembering something painful. “ Hey, you okay?” he asked softly.

“ I was just remembering how when Murdoch was recovering from Pardee’ bullet, how he would call for her Johnny. How he kept saying her name and yours over and over.”

Johnny reached down and rubbed his leg. “ My whole life, until she died, she told me lies, Lies I believed Teresa.”

“ But you know the truth now, and that’s all that matters isn’t it?”

“ Yeah.” Johnny answered before he took the last bite of his pie.

“ Listen, we better start back. I’m sure Murdoch and Scott are back by now.” she said as she stood up.

Johnny sat there a few seconds watching her. “ You know, I hope some day I can find a woman to love, that would love me, that is a lot like you Teresa.” he said as he stood up.

“ Me, why?” she asked with a smile.

“ Because you’re smart, caring, not to mention beautiful. You’re going to make some man very lucky some day little sister.”

“ Not with two big brothers around protecting me, I won’t.” she said with a laugh.

“ Yeah, Look I’m sorry if you haven’t had any callers because of me Teresa.”

Teresa walked over to him. “ Johnny I was joking, but you know, if they can’t accept you as my brother or stay away because of you, then I don’t want to be courted by them.”

Johnny pulled her into a hug and kissed the top of her head. “ Come on, lets head back.”

Murdoch walked out onto the veranda when he noticed two riders come into the yard.

“ Thanks Clint.” Johnny said as he handed Barranca and Teresa’ horse off. “ They back yet?”

“ Yeah Johnny, your father asked where you were and I told him.” Clint stated before leading the horses away.

Johnny sighed and winked at Teresa. “ Bet I get a chewing out over this.” he said to her as they headed to the house.

“ Did the two of you have a nice ride son?” Murdoch asked as they approached.

“ Yeah, yeah we did.” Johnny answered, expecting a chewing out at any second. “ Look I’m sorry, I just needed to get away and I asked Teresa to go with me for a ride.”

“ Clint told us son. Listen Johnny, I want to talk to you about something involving the ranch tonight.”

“ Yeah okay. I’m going to get cleaned up….thanks Teresa.” he said before heading inside.

“ We had a nice ride and ate lunch at the water fall.” Teresa stated as she watched Johnny walk away.

“ I’m glad sweetheart.” Murdoch said as he put his arm around her and they walked into the house together.

Johnny came downstairs and walked into the great room and sat down at the table. ‘ Want’s to talk to me? Talk to me about what now, I wonder what I did wrong now?  Wonder how he’s gonna like what I have to tell him?’ he wondered as he sat down. Scott and Teresa were already seated when he came in. Murdoch came in after him.

“Teresa, boy’s .” he said as he sat down.

“ Murdoch.” Scott said.

“ So, did you two have a good ride little brother?” Scott asked as they started to dish up the meal.

Johnny looked at Teresa then back at Scott. “ Yeah, it was.” he answered.

“ I got those six boxes of ammo you asked for.” Scott told him.

“ Yeah I seen them on my bed. Thanks.”

“ Are you planning on doing some target practice son?’ Murdoch asked as he put a slice of beef on Johnny’ plate and handed it to him.

“ Yeah some, I need to get my arm back.”

“ Do you think that’s wise son?…….I mean with what Sam said and all.”

“ I’ve had worse.” Johnny said more sharply than intended.

Murdoch could tell something was weighing heavy on his son’ mind tonight. Had been in fact ever since he was brought home. A sick feeling started nagging at him way down deep that something was going to happen, and it had something to do with his youngest.

Diner was winding down. Johnny sat there quiet most of the evening, listening to his father and brother talk so casual to each other, like they had never been apart for twenty four years. Hearing enough he tossed his napkin down on his plate.

“ I’m leaving.” he said flatly.

Three set’s of eyes now focused on one set of aqua blue ones. After a minute it was Scott who spoke first.

“ Leaving?…….Where are you going this late in the evening little brother?”

“ No Scott, I mean I’m leaving Lancer.”

“ Why Johnny?” Teresa asked.

“ Johnny looked at his father who just sat there, saying nothing. “ I think you all know why………Look I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I keep coming to the same conclusion………If I stay here Teresa, men will be coming to try and kill me, some of them will even try and use you, like the Leavy brothers did.”

“ Johnny…..”

“ No Scott, let him speak.” Murdoch ordered.

“ This isn’t easy for me to say and do, but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if one of you got hurt or worse because of me. One person is already dead because of me and who I am. I don’t want to, believe me, but it’s the only option I can see.”

Murdoch took a sip of his wine. His world crashing in around him. “ If that’s what you want to do, and you’re sure.”

“ Murdoch, surely you don’t mean that?” Scott interjected.

“ He’s a grown man Scott, It’s his decision.”

Johnny wasn’t prepared for his  father to agree with him on this. Sitting back in his chair he stared at him.

“ Son, remember I told you I wanted to talk to you tonight?”

“ Yeah, I remember.”

“ I was up all last night thinking about what you said, about that rancher in New Mexico, John Chancellor and I came to a conclusion about those bulls……..Now hear me out please?…….If after you don’t accept my offer and still want to leave, or you do accept and want to leave after I’ll understand and no one here will stop you.”

Johnny sat there and looked around at the family he had come to know and love.

“ I would like you to go to New Mexico and buy two breeding bulls son…….I want you to pick them out because you made it clear last night that you know this man, and you know his stock……Would you take a day or to and think about that?”

Now he really was confused, last night his father practically said he didn’t want to purchase the bulls, and now he wanted him to go himself and buy them.

“ What’s your game old man?” he asked harshly. “ Last night……”

“ I told you son, I thought about it and I changed my mind.”

“ Why?……..I mean why the sudden change of heart over night?” Johnny demanded.

“ Because as a third owner of this ranch son, you have a right as does Scott on the purchase of cattle and how this ranch is run.”

“ Bullshit.” Johnny snapped back. “ I’m sorry Teresa, but I don’t buy it.” he said standing. “ Excuse me.” he said leaving and going outside.

“ He can’t leave, Murdoch, Scott do something, please.” she pleaded with tears in her eyes.

Scott stood up. “ I’m going to talk to him.”

“ Let him be tonight son.” Murdoch said. “ Let him think about what I offered tonight….he isn’t ready to leave yet…..There is no way he would be able to defend himself out there right now.”

“Alright, but I assure you, I will not let him leave this ranch, not without a fight.” Scott said before leaving the table and going up to his room.

Johnny pretty much stayed quiet the next few days, only engaging in conversation if directly asked something. Some things he would answer with “ Ask Scott.” and that would be the end of it.  A week past and every day he would be in the back practicing his draw, strengthening his arm, getting it back. He could feel their eyes on him, watching, praying that he would change his mind about leaving his home for good.

A cool breeze blew in the afternoon, signaling fall was fast approaching. It had now been three weeks since he told them his plans. Not once had his father tried to talk to him about the cards that were on the table now. No this was a dealers choice, and that dealer was Johnny.

Soaking in the tub after clearing brush all day, Johnny welcomed the steaming hot water into his sore muscles. Laying with his head back resting on a rolled up towel, his eyes closed, he thought about his fathers offer. A knock at the door interrupted him. Teresa knew  he was in the bathhouse so it wouldn’t be her. It was either his brother or father. “ Yeah.”he yelled.

The door opened and it was Scott who came in. Neither one had really spoken much since that night.

“ Johnny.” Scott said as he came in and closed the door. “ Feeling better?” he asked as he leaned against the door.

‘ I was.’ Johnny thought to himself. He knew his brother didn’t come in here to see how he was feeling after a hard days work.

“Look I know you’re not here to make small talk about how I’m feeling. What’s on your mind Boston?”

Scott cocked his left brow. He should have known better than to think he could fool someone who had to make a living reading people in order to survive.

“ You’re just gonna take off……have you got any plans?” Scott asked. When he got no answer. “ I said…..”

“ I heard you Scott…..Yeah I got plans…..There was talk of a range war brewing in Arizona before I came here.”

“ So you’re gonna kill time……amongst other things.”

“ That’s right.”

“ You’ll be dead before you’re thirty.”

“ That comes to us all brother.”

“ But when you go, you won’t even leave a small ripple.”

Johnny was starting to get irritated. “ That is brother?……I mean the sermons over ain’t it?”

“ It’s the only good thing that’s happened to you in your whole life, and you’re gonna just 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.” Scott said harshly before opening the door and walking out, slamming it behind him.

Johnny sat there in the tub just staring at the door long after his water had cooled. Teresa calling to him from the other side about dinner brought him out of his stupor. “ Yeah, okay.” he yelled back at her, letting her know he heard her.

Realizing the water was now considerably cool, Johnny did a quick rinsing and climbed out. Standing there drying off the harsh words his brother had spoken ran through his mind, never had Scott spoke to him like that. He should have expected it though, considering how his brother had been somewhat distant from him. No joking or bantering between them like before. On a couple occasions  Johnny had even noticed how his brother would come in either well before or after him late afternoon just to avoid him. Now he had a better understanding of why. Heading into the house after dressing, Johnny went up to his room and put on his bolero jacket, strapped on his gun and headed downstairs where his family was already seated.

Murdoch looked up at him when he walked into the room, noticing the gun on his sons hip.

“ You going somewhere John?” he asked.

“ Yeah, I am. I’m going into town for some company.” he responded.

Teresa dropped her eyes, knowing what he was going into town for.

“ Listen, I’ve been giving what you asked some serious thought Murdoch, and I’ll do it. But on one condition.”

“ Go on.”

“ I go alone.” he said flatly.

“ Son I………” Murdoch started to intercede only to be cut off.

“ I either go alone or tomorrow morning I ride out of here and never come back.” Johnny said flatly.

Murdoch put his elbows on the table and interlocked his fingers.

“ I’ll be back tomorrow morning some time. You can give me your answer then.” he said as he glanced at his brother before turning and walking out of the house. Barranca could be heard a few minutes later galloping out of the yard.

Murdoch looked at his oldest. “ I guess you going along is not a option now son.”

“ I guess not sir…..You know his gun arm is back to normal now?”

“ Yes…I noticed that yesterday when he was out back.”

“ Winter is coming, as are the holiday’s Murdoch……If Johnny goes to New Mexico, will he be back in time for Thanksgiving?”

“ He should……he can take the train out of Stockton to New Mexico and rent a horse to go to the Chancellor ranch.”

“ You going to secure a car for him to bring the bulls back in?” Scott asked.

“ Yes…I’ll have him wire me on when he will arrive back in Stockton and you can ride there and meet him, and the two of you can bring the bulls home.”

“ I don’t like it Murdoch…..I don’t like Johnny going alone……what if something happens?”

“ Teresa I’m as concerned about Johnny going alone as you are darling, but if we want him to stay at Lancer, we have to let him do this.”

“ What if he still want’s to leave when he gets back?” she asked.

“ We will cross that bridge when the time comes, now, dinner is getting cold and I would hate to waste this meal you cooked.” Murdoch said as he started to cut the meat.

Johnny rode into Spanish Wells just after dark at a slow trot, hat pulled down to shield his eyes as they scanned all around. Most of the businesses in town were closed up for the night, their owners gone home. The only noise really came from the two saloons at each end of town.

After making sure Barranca was taken care of for the night, Johnny walked to the Red Dog saloon, knowing he would be able to get what he wanted for the night there. A good night of sex long over due would improve his attitude a little.

Walking in he glanced around and seen the place hadn’t really filled up yet, which suited  him just fine.

Spotting an empty table at the back he walked over and sat down with his back to the wall. It wasn’t long and a girl walked over to him.

“ What’s your pleasure?” she asked.

Johnny looked up and noticed fairly plump breast barely held in by her bodice, a thin waist line and hips he figured could work a man over good. His eyes wandering on down to legs long and slender he could handle having wrapped around him.

“ You like what you see?” she asked.

“ That depends…..a body like that, you any good with it?”

“ Only one way you’re gonna find out.”

 “How much for all night?”

“ All night huh……honey ain’t no man I heard of can go all night.”

“ Care to make a wager on that?”

“ A wager huh?…….Tell me what you’re drinking and I’ll think on it while I get your drink.”

“ Bottle tequila.”

“ Coming right up.”

Johnny watched her walk away and felt himself stir as he watched her not to big ass and hips sway as she walked. He noticed the bartender look over at him then say something to her after handing her a bottle of tequila. When she walked back over to him she had a smile on her face. A smile that said she knew who he was and that tonight he would get what he was long over due for.

                                                                                            Chapter 13

                                           This chapter is dedicated to the memory of Southern Frau, my mentor.

Johnny walked out of the Red dog saloon well after the sun had come up. Last nights pleasure was just that, pure pleasure. He had always been able to spot a good bed partner for an all niter and last night was the best time he’d had with a woman in a long time. Not wanting to draw any unwanted trouble, he headed to the livery were he saddled Barranca and headed back to Lancer.

“ Oh I tell ya amigo, she was worth every dollar last night buddy. That woman sure knows how to please a man in her bed in more ways than one.” he said to his stallion, receiving a head toss and tug on the reins. “ Yeah I know buddy, We’ll be leaving here after I make that trip to New Mexico for the old man and buy them bulls…….Me and you can go to Arizona and hire out.”

Barranca shook his head from side to side and snorted.

Johnny laughed softly as he patted the golden stallions neck. “ We stay here buddy and me and the old man will constantly butt heads……I’ve never had a home before, not like Lancer, let alone be a part owner……….Hell most of the time I’m hiring my gun out to big rich ranchers and now I find myself one. If we stay here amigo, I could get them hurt or killed…….A man like me doesn’t deserve to have people to care about…….I’m a fool amigo to think I could hang up my gun and live a normal life.” Johnny said as he stopped Barranca at the top of the hill, looking out over the valley below.

Just sitting there, Johnny looked out over Lancer and a part of him felt sad for what he would be leaving behind once he got back from New Mexico. Not six months ago he was working from job to job, eating out of his saddlebags, sleeping on the cold hard ground. Now he had a roof over his head, three meals a day and a big soft bed to sleep in every night.

A family, people who cared about and love him. Love, that was something he never really felt growing up. His mother loved him at first, then he was just in her way when he got older. She lied to him about his father, knew he had a brother, and the whole time he was growing up until she was murdered, his mother never once told him the truth.

So why was it that now that he knew the truth was he having such a hard time accepting it? He had a brother who cared about him, a father who was trying, so why was Johnny Madrid wanting to ride away from the best thing to ever happen to him? Could he be scared to make a commitment such as this would require? Sighing Johnny found he had more questions than he did answers, and there was only one true way he would get the answers he needed.

If he left Lancer for a time, would that make him realize what he has when he doesn’t? Would riding away from a solid home and future make him be able to come to terms with his past and more importantly, his future and come back home? Would they even want him back if he left?

“ Let’s go boy.” Johnny said as he spurred the stallion and started down the hill to the ranch.

“Sir, do you think Johnny will really leave here?”  Scott asked his father as they went over the books.

“ I don’t know son…….I  think I know what is wrong with him though, why he wants to leave Lancer.”

Scott  stood up straight. “ Why?”

“ Johnny has been alone most of his life. He was forced to grow up way to fast, he never got to be a kid. I’ve accepted what he had to do to stay alive, but deep down inside me I don’t think Johnny has.”

“ I’m not sure I follow you.”

“ Don’t take this wrong son, but you grew up not wanting for anything, you had clothes, food, a roof over your head and your grandfather to raise and love you right?”

“ Yes.”

“ You had everything a child growing up should have, Johnny didn’t. He had to make a living by his gun to have the bare minimum of what you had Scott, I think it scares him now. I think your brother is to afraid to admit it, but I think he is afraid of the fact that he doesn’t have to live by his gun any longer…..he doesn’t have to worry about going to bed cold or hungry anymore.”

“ I guess having a college education doesn’t mean a person is smart, does it? I should have known that that could be what is bothering him. He’s just using what he said about not wanting us to get hurt because of him as an excuse.”

“ Not fully son……your brother is afraid we would, but more than that, your brother is afraid to care, to open up and let us in. He’s had so much hurt and disappointment in his life.” Murdoch stopped at the sound of a horse galloping into the yard.

“ Are you going to let him go alone?” Scott asked as he walked to the french doors and looked at his brother.

“ I don’t think I have a choice.” Murdoch said as he walked over to the french doors and stepped out onto the veranda.

Johnny handed Barranca off to Clint and headed inside. He could feel without looking, two sets of eyes on him before he even turned to walk to the house.

“ Son, are you alright?” Murdoch asked.

“ Right as rain.” Johnny answered as he walked past and into the house.

Murdoch turned and followed him inside.

“ You think about what I said last night old man?” Johnny asked as he walked over and poured himself a shot of tequila.

“ Kind of early for a drink isn’t it brother?” Scott asked as he walked over near his brother at the side board.

“ Maybe for you it is, me I haven’t been to bed yet, well I have, but not to sleep.” Johnny said before downing the shot and pouring another. “ Well?”

“ Johnny I asked you up at the mine to not call me an old man son. If you want an answer then I suggest you consider some manners in how you ask.”

Johnny looked at him hard, then at his brother. “ Well you see that there’s the problem old man. I didn’t have time to learn all those fancy manners you want when growing up like Boston here did…..I was to busy staying alive.” he answered rather sharply. “ Look, either you got an answer or you don’t, which is it?”

“ I’ll ride into town and get you the money you will need and then we can ride to Stockton so you can catch the train.”

“ Good, now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go to bed now.” he answered as he headed to the stairs.

“ Johnny, there is still work to be done on this ranch.” Murdoch stated firmly.

“ Yeah well Boston here can do it, I’m going to bed.”

Teresa walked into the room. “ Johnny, you’re back.” she said as she walked up and gave him a hug.

“ Yeah.” he answered as he hugged her back and kissed her on the forehead.

“ I can fix you something to eat if you’re hungry.”

“ Naw, maybe for lunch. I’m gonna go get some sleep.” he said before walking away.

“ I don’t like it sir. I don’t like how Johnny has changed. Something else I think is going on here.” Scott said as he watched his brother disappear upstairs.

“ Just give him time son…….Teresa I’ll be back in time for supper.”

“ You going somewhere Murdoch?” she asked.

“ Yes darling, I’m going into town to get the money Johnny will need to purchase those bulls.”

“ You want some company sir?”

“ No Scott, you stay here and keep an eye on Johnny for me.” Murdoch answered as he walked over and put his gun on.

“ I’ll saddle your horse for you.” Scott said before heading out the door.

“ Murdoch, I don’t want to loose Johnny.”

“ I know darling, All we can do is hope he changes his mind and stays when he gets back.”

“ Do you think he’ll be alright going to New Mexico alone?”

“ I hope he is, He doesn’t want Scott going along……I think he’s a little hung over from last night Teresa so just let him sleep today.” he asked his ward to do as they walked outside to where Scott was standing with his horse.

“ Son, stay close to the house today, maybe work on the barn roof with Clint.”

“ Because of Johnny sir?” Scott asked as he handed the reins to his father.

“ Yes, I’ll see you tonight.”

Scott wrapped his left arm around Teresa as they watched Murdoch ride out.

“ Johnny and you aren’t getting along right now are you Scott?”

“ I said something to him Teresa last night, something I wish I could take back……I got work to do, I’ll see you for lunch.”

“ Okay, be careful on the roof.” she told him before turning and heading back inside.

Johnny came downstairs into the kitchen early afternoon, finding it empty he poured himself a cup of coffee and grabbed a couple biscuits left from breakfast and sat down at the table.

“ You’re awake.” Teresa said as she walked in the back door.

“ Hey, yeah I figured if I wanted to sleep tonight I better get up.” Johnny said as he polished off the last bite of biscuit.

“ There’s some beef in the cooler if you’re still hungry.”

“ No, I ate a couple biscuits to hold me till dinner Teresa, I’m good. Thanks though.” he said standing to leave.

“ Scott’ out finishing up the barn roof with Clint, If you’re wondering where he’s at.”

“ He didn’t go with Murdoch huh?”

“ No, he stayed here.” Teresa answered as she started started to prepare supper.

“ So what you fixin’ tonight?”

“ Stew.”

“ Ah, well I think I’ll go check on Barranca……I’ll see ya later.”

“ Johnny, I really do hope you change your mind and stay at Lancer. It is your home after all.”

“ Teresa, someone like me don’t deserve a place like this to call home.” he answered before walking out.

Teresa couldn’t believe what she had just heard. ‘ Didn’t deserve…..a person like him?’  Confused as to why her brother would think such a thing, Teresa went after Johnny.

“ Johnny.” she called once outside.

Johnny stopped and turned around. “ What?”

Teresa walked up to him, anger in her eyes. “What is the matter with you?……I don’t know why you are being like this, but you’re wrong……..You have every right to be here.”

“ No I don’t…..look you don’t understand alright, so just leave it be.” he told her before turning to walk away.

Teresa grabbed his arm, stopping him. “ Don’t you walk away from me Johnny Lancer….not until you tell me the real reason you want to  walk away from the best thing to ever happen to you.” she demanded.

“I said leave it alone, now let go of my arm now.”

“ No, Johnny talk to me, please.”

Johnny jerked his arm free. “ Look, Teresa I don’t belong here, If I stay here I’ll only bring trouble and end up getting killed because I let myself care about you…….Now leave me the hell alone.”

Teresa’ reaction to his harsh words came so fast, even she was shocked. She slapped Johnny hard across the face. “ You’re only thinking about yourself Johnny, if you did care about us, you wouldn’t act like this, you wouldn’t break Murdoch’ heart again and leave… wouldn’t walk out on your brother, or me.” she vented before turning and heading back into the house.

Scott came in just as she slammed the back door shut. “ Ooh, men.” she said angrily.

“ Teresa, what’s wrong?” he asked.

“ Your brother is what’s wrong Scott.” she said, then proceeded to tell him what happened. When she was finished, her anger was so bad she left the kitchen and headed to her room.

Scott stood there, his anger mounting. “ That’s it little brother, this time you’ve gone to far.” he said as he turned and headed up the back stairs, figuring his brother would be upstairs.

Finding his room empty, Scott went back downstairs and outside.  “ Clint have you seen Johnny out here?”

“ Yeah, I seen him go in the barn a few minutes ago.”

“ Thanks.” Scott said with anger in his voice.

“ Hey Scott, is everything alright?”

Scott stopped and turned to face Clint. “ Why do you ask that?”

“ Well, I tried to talk to Johnny and he wouldn’t even say hi…….he just walked right on past me like I wasn’t even here.”

“ Listen Clint, no matter what happens in the next few minutes, I need you to stay out of it alright?……You and the other hands just stay clear.”

“ Uh..okay..why do I get a feeling that you and Johnny are about to go at it Scott?” Clint asked.

“ Because we are, my esteem little brother is about to get taken down a notch or two with his attitude.” Scott told him before continuing to the barn.

“ Johnny, just what the hell is your problem brother?” Scott demanded as he walked into the barn. “ Where the hell do you get off upsetting Teresa like you did?”

Johnny  stopped brushing Barranca and looked at his brother a second before continuing.

“ I asked you a question little brother, answer me.”

Johnny came out of Barranca’ stall and closed the gate, tossing the brush in the box. “ I’ll tell you like I told her Scott, stay out of it.” he stated as he started to walk away.

Scott grabbed Johnny’ left arm and spun him around. “ Like hell I will……you go a decide all alone that you are going to leave here without discussing it with us as a family, you have no right making a decision like that alone Johnny.”

“ I have every right to make that decision alone Scott……..It’s my life, not yours…..Now let go of my arm now, before you find it broke.”

“ I am sick of the way you have been treating us these past few weeks, it ends now.” Scott said right before he hit him hard in the mouth, knocking him on his ass.

Johnny wiped at the blood running down his chin from his now split lip. “ Brother, you just made a big mistake.” Johnny said with anger as he got up and charged Scott, driving him backwards into the barn door. Johnny hit Scott in the jaw and then in his gut before stepping back, thinking it was over.

Scott felt the wind leave him as he took the force of his brothers body hitting him head on, knocking him back into the barn door. He may be smaller, but Johnny could hit hard.  The blow to his jaw barely dazed him, but the blow to his gut knocked the wind out of him totally as he bent over, trying to take in air.

Johnny glared at Scott a few seconds before walking past him, leaving the barn. A strong hand on his left arm jerked him around, followed by a blow to his face and then another to his jaw sending him backwards into the corral fence hard. “ This isn’t over yet, brother.” Scott stated through breaths and clenched teeth.

Johnny held onto the corral fence and spit blood from his mouth. Movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention, looking he seen Teresa coming over toward them as well as Clint and two other hands. Looking back at Scott, anger in his eyes.  Charging again Johnny and Scott went down hard, rolling around on the ground, each man exchanging blows when they could.

“ Stop it..Johnny, Scott stop.” Teresa yelled, but her plea only fell on deaf ears. “ Clint, stop them.”

“ I can’t miss Teresa, Scott told me I wasn’t to interfere before this started.” Clint told her.

Teresa watched in horror as her brothers fought on the ground before her, turning she ran into the house.

Johnny and Scott both were becoming tired, Johnny hit Scott again  in the jaw, but with his body getting more tired from each blow it only succeeded in causing him to loose his balance and stumble forward, grabbing a hold of his brothers arm.

Scott brought Johnny back up facing him and with all he had left, he hit him in the mouth, knocking him back on his ass again right before a shotgun blast went off.

“ Stop it both of you.” Teresa yelled. “ Brothers fighting…….you should be ashamed……Look at yourselves, acting like two little kids………You Johnny are the worst one…….you had no right saying what you did to me earlier, just like you have no right wanting to leave Lancer.” she said with force.

Clint and the other two hands walked away, knowing that what was taking place was a private family  matter that they shouldn’t be a part of.

“ You say you got no right to be here….you’re wrong…….You have every right to be, I thought you cared about us, but I guess all that talk about wanting to give up your past and settle down was all a lie…….You’re nothing but a liar and a coward Johnny Lancer, a coward too afraid to let others care about you and love you.” Teresa stated with anger before turning and walking back inside.

Scott stepped closer to his brother. “ You got two choices Johnny…… can either talk this over with all of us as a family when Murdoch gets back……….or we can finish this fight right here and now……the choice is yours.”

Johnny placed his hands on his thighs bent over, spitting blood out as he got his breathing under control.

“ Well, what’s it going to be Johnny?” Scott demanded.

Johnny stood up and looked toward the house, Teresa’ words still fresh in his mind. Looking at Scott he spat blood again and wiped his chin, staggering a step. Ignoring Scott, Johnny started toward the house, only to be stopped.

“ Let go of me now Scott.” he demanded.

“ Why, so you can go inside and upset Teresa more than you already have?” he asked.

Murdoch rode into the yard and seen his two son faces bloody, getting down he hurried over.

“ What the blue blazers is going on, what happened to you two?”

Neither brother answered him. Johnny jerked his arm free, glanced at his father then headed inside.

“ Scott, I want an answer, and I want it now.” he demanded.

“ I’m sorry sir, but when Johnny upset Teresa earlier with what he told her, I got angry and confronted Johnny. We got into a fight….I didn’t intend for it to happen, it’s just that  the way he’s been acting these past few weeks.”

Clint walked over to take Murdoch’ horse, noticing Scott’ face and the cuts and bruises.

“ Clint, I want to thank you for doing as I asked.” Scott told him.

“ It wasn’t easy to defy miss Teresa’ request to stop you two, but I understand, so do the men. They don’t want Johnny leaving Lancer, just to go out and get himself shot down and die someplace all alone…….I’m sorry sir, I shouldn’t have said that.”

“ That’s alright, you have a right to speak your mind Clint.” Murdoch stated. “ I want you to Take Barranca and all the other horses in the barn and put them in the south paddock until I say otherwise, understand?”

“ Yes sir. I’ll do it right now.” Clint responded as he led Murdoch’ horse away.

“ Sir?”

“ Scott, your brother is not leaving this ranch, at least not on a horse until this matter is settled. It’s time I start acting like a father to that boy and put my foot down.” Murdoch stated firmly as he headed to the house to confront his youngest about why he wanted to throw his life away and walk away from his family.

Johnny went to Teresa’ room and found it empty, heading to the kitchen, he found her not there either. One last place he knew she would probably be, he went out the back door to the rose garden, and found her sitting on the bench. Bloody and hurting he slowly walked over to her and leaned against the trellis.

“ Teresa…….I never lied to you.” he stated softly.

Teresa looked up at him and her heart broke at the sight of him bloody and hurt. “ Yes you did, You told me that day we went for a ride that you loved being here and having a family, me, Scott and Murdoch. If you leave here it was all a lie.” she said with anger in her voice as she stood up. “ And I hate  a liar Johnny.”

Scott and Murdoch came out the back door and heard them talking and stopped.

“ Teresa, my whole life I’ve……..”

“You’re whole life Johnny you have been alone practically, until you came here. It doesn’t have to be that way any longer….you have a brother and me and you have a father who loves you so much……I don’t understand why you are doing this, why you are wanting to leave us, and don’t you dare tell me it’s for our safety Johnny Lancer.”

“ Teresa….” Johnny started then noticed his father and brother standing there just outside the back door listening. “ I’m sorry.” was all he said to her before walking toward the back door, stopping at his brother. “ I’m sorry Scott.” he said softly before walking past inside and up to his room.

Scott stood there as Teresa walked over, looking at his father. Turning he headed inside followed by Murdoch and Teresa.

“ I’m going up and talk to him.” Scott stated as he headed for the back stairs.

“ No son, not this time. Let him work this out on his own…..I have a feeling Johnny will come to us tonight.”

“ Murdoch is right Scott, let’s get you cleaned up.” Teresa said. “ Sit down here.” she ordered.

“ Johnny is worse off than me.” Scott stated as he sat down.

“ I’ll go and see if he needs any help son, you stay down here.” Murdoch said as he started up the back stairs.

Johnny poured water into the basin next to his bed and dabbed a towel in it, walking over to the mirror so he could see his face. A split lip, bruised jaw, small cut by his left black swollen eye and a bloody nose is what stared back at him.  Hearing a soft knock at his door, Johnny sighed and walked over and opened it, finding his father standing there with concern on his face.

Not saying anything, Johnny turned and walked back over to finish cleaning his face up.

“ I just came up to see if you were alright son.” Murdoch said as he stepped just inside the room and stopped, not wanting to crowd his son.

Johnny looked toward him in the mirror. “ Guess I had this coming to me huh?” he asked, wincing a little as he cleaned the cut up by his left eye.

“ You could say that, yes son.” Murdoch answered. “ Well, I’ll leave you be, and Johnny, when you’re ready to talk to us about whatever it really is bothering you son, we’re here to listen and help you through it.” Murdoch said before turning to leave.

“ Murdoch.” Johnny called as he turned around. “ Stay.” he said softly.

A lump came to Murdoch’ throat, his son asked him to stay. “ I’d like that son, but I think right now you should be alone and do some serious thinking.” Murdoch told him calmly.

“ Please.” Johnny pleaded as he started to take off his shirt. “ I……..I need you.”

“ And we need you Johnny, but like I said son, you need some time alone to think right now. Maybe you going alone on this trip is it, I don’t know, all I know is you need to decide once and for all who you want to be most, Johnny Lancer or Johnny Madrid because either way you will always be my son and Scott’ brother, but you need to make up your mind.” he said as he started to walk out. “ Johnny, keep this in mind, no matter who you decide you are, you will always be my son, and……. I love you.” Murdoch said before walking out and closing the door softly behind him.

Johnny stood there with tears in his eyes. How could he leave a place with people who had so much love for him? People who didn’t care about his past, and were willing to take a stand and protect him.

Johnny stayed in his room that night, thinking a lot about what his father said.

“ Which are you more?” he asked himself over and over, standing in front of his dresser, looking in the mirror, and each time his gut would get the same feeling inside. Learning a long time ago to go with his gut feeling to stay alive, why was this time being so difficult? Could Teresa be right about him being afraid to commit, to love or more importantly, could Johnny Madrid, tough as nail gunfighter be a coward when it came right down to it? A coward in the sense that he wouldn’t take the risk and let his family in and allow them to love him. Could he be so blind as to feel it’s a forbidden love because of his past?

Gunfighters after all were a lonely breed, Going from town to town, hiring out there gun and made to leave once they were no longer needed. Relying only on a gun and horse and the knowledge a gunfighter had, knowing that at any time, any day it could be his last. Was that the life he wanted really? Sure he had his freedom, but that freedom came with a price, A price that all them men who had called him out, all the men he had killed on a job, paid the ultimate price for, the price of their life.

The next morning Johnny came downstairs into the kitchen and was glad Maria wasn’t there to see him. He knew she would scold both him and Scott for fighting, him especially. Maria would probably hear about it though when she got back from her sisters in Mexico. Teresa was at the stove dishing up a stack of flapjacks, a plate of bacon was already on the table.

Walking over Johnny poured a cup of coffee and carefully took a sip. Scott and Murdoch weren’t there, but he knew they had been by the two half empty cups of coffee. Sitting down at the table he kept his eyes down as he sipped the strong hot brew.

Teresa turned around and carried the plate of flapjacks over to the table and set them in front of Johnny.

“ Eat, and I mean eat it all Johnny. Murdoch and Scott have already eaten.” she told him as she walked back over to the stove for the plate of biscuits and came back over. “ I’ll mix up a poultice to put on your face to help with the swelling around your eye.”

“Thanks.” he said as he buttered the flapjacks and dug in. Skipping supper last night his stomach quickly reminded him at the smell when he walked into the kitchen. Without looking up he could feel her eyes on him as he ate. He made it half way through breakfast before his lip split back open and started bleeding again.

“ Afraid I got blood on my pillow and sheets last night.” he told her as he put his napkin to his face.

“ I’ll change your bedding for you.”

“ Thanks…….Listen Teresa,………”

“ Don’t Johnny, okay……I want you to do some serious thinking while you are gone to New Mexico.” Teresa said  as she stood up to leave.

“ I’m not going to leave, I’ve been up all night thinking about this Teresa, I was wrong in thinking the way I was……..Murdoch asked me to think about something last night, and that’s all I’ve been doing.”

Stopping, she turned around. “ What you’re not going to New Mexico?”

“ Yeah I am to purchase the bulls, I mean I’m not going to leave Lancer, Look Teresa what Murdoch said to me last night I’ve been struggling with and I keep coming up with the same answer.”

“ And what answer is that son?” Murdoch asked as he and Scott came into the kitchen.

“ I’ve been thinking about what you said. Asking myself over and over which am I most……I need to know from the three of you if you are really willing to accept both, because that’s who I am.”

“ Who do you want to be the most son? Is the main question.” Murdoch asked.

“ I want to be your son, I want to be Johnny Lancer, but people in this valley don’t like me, and with what Harper did, men are going to come after me, I can promise you that.”

“ They do Johnny and they will have every man on this ranch to go through first.” Scott added.

“ That includes me too Johnny.” Teresa stated.

Johnny looked at his brother. “ I really am sorry Scott, for fighting you…..It’s just that, I guess a part of me feels that I don’t deserve this. I’ve been living alone free as a bird for so long, going where I want, doing what I want for so long I……….”

“ You’re scared to let someone care about you, to let them in……I can see it in your eyes Johnny.” Scott stated.

“ Well Murdoch.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ You have a prodigal son, if you still want one?”

Murdoch walked over and smiled at his son. “ I would want no other, but just so you know, I know a part of you will always be Johnny Madrid and I accept that and all that comes with him fully.”

“ That goes for me also brother.”

“ Thanks….Listen I still want to go and buys those bulls for you, I just have one request.”

“ Alright.”

“ Can Scott go with me? I mean he can help keep me out of trouble.”

“ That’s fine son, if you want your brother to go along I can spare him.”

“ Are you sure Johnny?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah, I’m sure brother.”

“ Good, you can leave in two weeks then.”

“ Two weeks? Why two weeks Murdoch?” Johnny asked.

“ Well considering how bad you two’s faces look son, I didn’t think you would want to be riding a train looking like you do.”

“ Yeah,  I guess we do look a sight huh?”

“ I’d say so.”

Two weeks went by fast and both boys showed just a small amount of yellow bruising on their faces. Sam had given them both a very stern chewing out for fighting, calling them both pig headed just like their father.

The ride to Stockton was made relatively quiet, none of them really wanting to speak. Clint had come along to help bring the boy’s horses back to Lancer. Saying good bye to Teresa was hard for Johnny, but he promised her he would come back to Lancer with Scott and maybe bring something back for her.

“ You boys have a good trip and let me know when you will be arriving back with the bulls.” Murdoch said as the ‘ all aboard ‘ was called out.

“ We will sir…..are you sure you can handle riding back to Lancer leading our horses?”

“ I think me and Clint can manage them son…..Don’t worry, Barranca will be fine.”

“ I’ll groom him for you every day Johnny, and let him run in the paddock.”

“ Thanks Clint, you two be careful, and I’ll send you a wire.” Johnny said as the train started to pull out.

Murdoch stood there watching for several minutes as his two son’s headed to New Mexico and making their first business transaction as partners in Lancer. “ Let’s go home Clint.” he said turning and heading to the horses.

“ Yes sir.” Clint responded with a smile.

                                                                                                 Chapter 14

                                                       This is for you Southern Frau, my mentor and a great friend. I miss you.

Johnny sat looking out the window, watching the scenery as it passed.

“ You ever ride a train before brother?’ Scott asked.

Johnny glanced at him. “ Nope, I prefer a horse to ridin’ this big ol’ mechanical thing.”

“ It would have taken us three weeks to get there on horseback, this way we make it in three.”

“ Maybe, I still prefer a horse.”

“ I know what’s wrong with you brother, you’re missing a certain spoiled horse.”

Johnny laughed softly. “ Yeah Scott I guess I am.”

“ Look why don’t you get up and walk around some, train don’t stop for a couple hours yet. You’ve been sitting here every since we left Stockton.”

“ You know, we’ll be close to the border when in Yuma Scott. Someone might recognize me.”

“ So what do you want to do, stay on the train?”

“ No, I’m just telling you Scott, I used to run the border from El Paso to San Diego and Johnny Madrid wasn’t welcome in a lot of places down here.”

“ Well it’ll be dark so that should help, listen get up and walk around some.”

“ I’m fine, think I’ll take a nap. Stay out of trouble that way.” Johnny said as he laid his head back, adjusted his hat and closed his eyes.

Scott knew his brother was still weighing what to do for sure when they got back home. Murdoch had made it quite clear that this was Johnny’ deal. He was the one to purchase the bulls. Scott hoped to learn a little more about his little brother and what he knew about cattle, hell he even hoped Johnny would maybe teach him since he came from back east where cattle ranching didn’t really exist, not like out west. The most cattle he’d seen were milk cows, and those were near the stable were he would ride.

During the war cattle were scarce, and those that were around didn’t last long.

“ You are a mystery brother.” Scott said softly as he decided to join his brother in taking a nap before the train stopped in Yuma.

Murdoch and Clint rode into the yard the following morning, letting Clint take the horses, Murdoch headed to the house and seen a buggy he knew outside, walking inside he was greeted by Teresa.

“ Did they get off okay Murdoch?” his ward asked as she came over and hugged him.

“ Yes darling they did.” he said hugging her back. “ Aggie, what a pleasant surprise….I wasn’t expecting you.”

“ Hello Murdoch, since when do I need to announce my coming to visit my dearest friend.”

“ You don’t……..I guess I’m a little tired, please forgive me.” he asked as he walked over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“ Teresa said you went to Stockton with your boys, to put them on a train.” Aggie stated

“ Yes, they went on a business trip for the ranch.” Murdoch answered.

“ Business trip, do you think that’s wise Murdoch?………I mean with Johnny?”

“ Why not, he is a part owner in this ranch Aggie…..Why do I get the feeling that this isn’t a social call?”

“ Murdoch, we’ve known each other many years, you and my late Henry were good friends…….People in the valley want to know why he is still here after that poor girl got killed?”

“ Melissa Harper’ death was not Johnny’ fault Mrs. Conway.” Teresa cut in.

“ Uh Teresa, would you please excuse me and Aggie?”

“ Of course…..I’ll go start Lunch.”

Murdoch waited until Teresa was out of the room. “ Aggie, I don’t give a hoot what the people of this valley think about my son, this is his home and he has a right to stay here.”

“ Even if it cost you business?”

“ If people refuse to do business with Lancer because of Johnny, then they are not the type of people Lancer will do business with.”

“ Is that why you sent him to New Mexico to purchase two breeding bulls?” Aggie asked.

“ Where Lancer purchases it’s breeding stock from is of no concern of theirs.”

“Murdoch, listen to me……..a new hand I hired from Texas started asking questions about your son.”

“ What kind of questions Aggie?”

“The kind that means trouble,  he says your son Johnny Madrid held up a stage line in Texas, killed the driver and took the strong box full of money, fifty thousand dollars worth.”

“ That’s preposterous Johnny would never do something like that.”

“ This man said he wasn’t alone. He said Madrid was riding with another man named Day Pardee, the same Pardee who your son killed just a few short months ago.”

“ I just thought you should know that this man says some of the men who rode with them are going to come looking for him. He said that Madrid stole the money from Pardee and hid it and they want it back.”

“ That’s ridiculous Aggie, Johnny would never do something like that.”

“ Murdoch, you know he rode with Pardee, and he’s been out of your life for all those years…..What do you really know about him and his past?”

“ I know my son would never do something like that, now if you will excuse me Aggie, I have a ranch to run.”

“ I hope you’re right Murdoch, I surely do.” Aggie said before leaving.

Murdoch stood there after Aggie left not believing what she just said to him. Johnny did ride with Pardee and had been in Texas. Not wanting to believe it, Murdoch decided he would bring this matter up with his youngest when he got back.

The train pulled into Yuma around nine o’clock. It would take a one hour break  to pick up and leave off supplies and passengers. Johnny and Scott stepped off the train onto the platform.

“ So little brother, since you’ve been here before, where’s a good place to eat close by?” Scott asked.

Johnny was looking past his brother. “ There’s a small cantina about a block from here if you can handle spicy Mexican food?” Johnny stated.

“ Is everything alright Johnny?” Scott asked, noticing his brother never once looked at him. Turning he could see two men standing barely in the light at the end of the platform, looking at them. “ Do you know them?”

“ No, but I know their kind.” he said as he started walking toward the two men.

Scott noticed how his brother’s right hand went down to his side, his fingers drumming the grip as they walked past the two men.

Once past Scott let out the breath he had been holding. “ Johnny, why don’t you tell me a little about this rancher John Chancellor.”

Johnny continued walking until he was just outside the cantina. “ Like what?”

“ Well you worked for the man, surely you got to know him a little..Does he have a family? How big is his spread?”

Walking inside Johnny went to a table left of the door allowing him a clear view of who walked in.

“ Ah senor’s what can I bring you tonight?” a middle aged  Mexican woman asked as she came over with tortilla’s and sauce.

“ You know the food here brother. I’ll leave it up to you.” Scott stated with a smile.

Johnny ordered their food and sat back in his chair sipping on his beer. “ Chancellor is in a way a lot like Murdoch.”

Scott raised a brow as he sopped his beer. “ Come again?”

“ He’s a man who likes things to run smoothly, his spread’s about five thousand acres, at least it was four years ago…..he’s a good man Scott, he takes pride in his cattle. His wife told me one day that she thought he loved his cattle more than he did his family.” Johnny said with a smile. “ Thinking back on the day she said that, it reminds me of Murdoch and how he told us he loves his land more than anything God created.”

“ Yeah, our father does love the land.” Scott stated as their food was brought to the table. “ Kid’s?”

“ Yeah, he has a daughter about my age, and two sons older…….No he loves his family Scott, he’s a good man.”

“ Sounds like it.” Scott answered

Two day’s later the train pulled into Mesilla, New Mexico late afternoon.

“ I guess we should head to the livery and rent a couple horses.” Scott stated.

“ Nope, it’s a half day’s ride to his estancia and well I don’t know about you brother but I could use a bath, cold beer and a hot woman for the night.” Johnny said with a smile.

“Well a hot bath does sound good.” Scott answered as the two headed into town.

Later that night the brothers sat in the Silver Dollar saloon drinking a cold beer. Johnny wasn’t impressed with the selection of women working the saloon, checking them out from the corner table he sat at.

“ I thought you wanted company tonight brother?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah, I do, but from what I see here I think I’ll check out the other saloon.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ You uh want to come along?”

“ No, I think I will go back to our room and get some sleep.” Scott said as the two headed outside.

“ You need to lighten up brother, it might do you good to spend the night with a good woman.”

“ Oh I don’t doubt that one bit, but I think I’ll pass.” Scott said as he slapped his brother playfully in the stomach. “ Stay out of trouble.”

“ You know me brother, I don’t look for trouble, trouble finds me…….I’ll see ya.” Johnny said as he headed down the street, his eyes scanning both sides for trouble.

Scott watched his brother until he went into the Lucky Palace saloon, smiling he headed to his room and a soft bed.

“ You enjoy yourself last night brother?” Scott asked as the two came out of the hotel.

“ Yeah I did…..she was worth every dollar.” Johnny stated with a smile as they stepped outside.

Johnny scanned the street before stepping down into the street. “ Let’s go.”

“ Madrid…….Johnny Madrid.” a voice yelled from behind them.

Johnny stopped and slowly turned around. “ Move away Scott.” he ordered with firmness.

Scott didn’t like this, but he knew that if he didn’t he could get his brother killed.

Johnny looked at the man standing in the street not a hundred feet away. “ I don’t know you mister.”

“ No you don’t, but you will, because I’m the man going to take you down.”

Johnny turned to face the man head on, he could see his brother take a few steps away to his right

“ I thought you were killed in Mexico breed, until I read a newspaper article saying you were still breathing.”

“ Look, I got no quarrel with you, so why don’t you just turn around and walk away from this?” Johnny said, inside knowing that another man in a matter of seconds would lay in the street dead from his gun.

People on the street moved inside shop doors that were open, behind corners or just stood on the walkways watching and waiting, knowing that any man who called out Johnny Madrid would breath their last. Whispers could be heard between some talking about Madrid and his deadly speed and accuracy. Some  had seen Madrid before in Yuma or even another town, called out and always the one who was still standing when the smoke cleared.

Scott stood  about ten feet from his brother on the right, gun ready, scanning around looking for any sign of someone who might take advantage of his brother being focused on the one in front of him, and try to kill him. He’d seen how fast his brother was before, but never when called out. Obviously this man calling him out is confident enough to think he can kill him, and that his brother had told him was something that could and would happen eventually. ‘ Live by the gun, die by the gun’ is what his little brother  had told him.

A lump formed in Scott’ throat as he watched and listened to his brother face down this man, a part of him knew his brother could be shot down at any time, praying that that time was not now, now after only a few months of knowing each other, no, Scott prated that his little brother would get the chance to fall in love, get married, make him an uncle and grow old with his family.

“ You should have let them Rurales kill you halfbreed.”

Johnny stood there calm, his right hand at his side. Anyone not knowing him, or having not seen Madrid face a man before would  think he was sure to be killed. Cool, calm and collective is the way Madrid always faced a man, learning as his reputation grew, small little signs that most gunfighters don’t know to look for when facing down a man. One sign Johnny learned, and learned the hard way was the eyes. When a man is about to do something, like draw, his eyes will change. Having learned that gave him an edge over his opponent. After Deadwood and riding with Day Pardee, Johnny had developed a conscious, something a gunfighter should never have.

“ You in that much of a hurry to die mister?” Johnny asked softly, not moving.

“You’re the one going to die, not me……..I’ve killed men better than you breed.”

“ You know who I am, how about you tell me who you are.” Johnny asked.

“ Utah Carol.”

“ You’re a little out of your territory ain’t ya?” Johnny asked. He’d heard of the man before him a few times, but never seen him till now.

“ Not when I have the chance to kill someone like you Madrid… see as long as you’re alive I can’t get in on any, how should I say, future jobs that will come up.”

“ I thought ambushing people was your game Utah?”

“ When I know I can’t beat them, yeah, but you, you I know I can take, and  when I ride out of here everybody is going to know who is the fastest and best gun.”

“ I’m out of the game Utah.” Johnny stated.

“ That’s not what I see……Hey boy.” Utah says looking to Scott.  “If you’re meeting Madrid here for your old man, I can handle it here in a few.”

“ I don’t think so.” Scott said firmly. “ You’d be wise to walk away from here right now mister, while you still can.”

“ Shut up Lancer.” Johnny ordered. “ You’re the one who want’s to dance Utah, so let’s dance.” Johnny said with firmness. One thing he didn’t want Utah Carroll learning was that Scott was his brother. His whole life Johnny Madrid had no family, now though he did and he would gladly do whatever he had to do to keep that family, especially his brother.

Utah stood there looking at Madrid, cocky and more sure now that he could and would be the victor.

Johnny watched, seeing the sign he waited for, his colt sprang into his hand and up as he fanned the hammer back and pulled the trigger. His bullet hit it’s mark as a red stain started to spread across Utah Carroll’ chest.

Utah felt the bullet pierce his chest as his fingers wrapped around his colt, looking down as the red stain spread across his chest as his legs grew weak and he dropped to his knee’s. Looking at Madrid standing about thirty feet away.

“ You beat me.” Utah stated as he fell forward dead.

Johnny glanced and seen his brother standing to his right with his gun drawn.

“ We got a train to catch.” Johnny said as he put his gun away and started toward the train station.

Scott stepped over to his brother’ side quickly, walking with him in silence. He knew what was wrong with him, he also knew that right now was not the time to try and get his brother to talk to him.

Johnny  and Scott stepped off the train in Las Cruces, New Mexico mid-day the next day, saddlebags over their shoulders and rifles in hand as they walked from the train depot at the end of town.

“ So where to?” Scott asked.

Johnny, watching all around as he walked, rifle at his side stopped. “ Well first we get a decent meal and a room for the night.”

“ We’re not riding out there today?” Scott asked with wonder.

“ Not unless you want to spend the night on the trail brother, his ranch is forty miles from here. We can leave at first light.” he stated before starting to walk again.

The next morning at dawn Johnny and Scott rode out of Los Cruces headed northeast at a leisurely pace, stopping midday to rest the horses a  little as they ate some biscuits and jerky.

“ You got something you want to say to me brother?” Johnny asked, feeling his brothers eyes on him as he rubbed his horse down.

“ About what?” Scott asked.

“ Yuma.” Johnny responded softly. “ I’ve noticed how you look at me ever since it happened.”

Scott walked over. “ I’ve never seen anyone so fast Johnny, Did you know him?”

“ Nope, just heard of him……what you think I know every dumb ass that comes along wanting to kill me?……If you do, Well I hate to disappoint you brother, but I don’t okay………..Like I’ve said before, most men want to kill me because I am the fastest and they can’t get the high dollar jobs until I’m dead.”

“ Killing another man for money……..”

“ Killing another man for money happens all the time Boston, just some wear a badge that do it or are bounty hunters.”

“ You’re not wanted for anything Johnny, these men come after you for a reputation only and I’m here to tell you right now little brother, that is not going to happen, not  as long as I’m alive.”

Johnny stopped brushing down his horse. “ Look Scott, I’ve been taking care of myself for a long time. Making and living by my own rules, going where I want, when I want…….I’ve been free as a bird so….” Johnny stated firmly.

“ So don’t try to change you, is that it?” Scott asked.

“ No….I seen how you positioned yourself in Yuma….Look Scott I’ve never had someone who I could trust to watch my back…….until now.” Johnny said softly.

“ Johnny, I would give my life for you brother……I wish I could have been there for you as a child, to protect you, but I’m here now and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you leave Lancer…….So don’t even try it.” Scott said with firmness, but not so much that it would make his brother think he would force him to stay.

Johnny looked at him and smiled. “ You know, for an eastern dandy, you do make a pretty good big brother.” he said as he slapped him playfully in the gut. “ Come on, let’s eat and get going so we can be there before dark.”

As the sun started to sink behind the horizon in the west Johnny slowed his horse as they approached a ranch gate. Chancellor Hereford’s was beautifully carved into a big log above that had a section cut out and flat, hanging from chain hooked to two big pillar logs on each side of the road. Johnny stopped his horse and looked to the east.

“ The main house is about two miles ride. We may run into a hand on the way.” he stated softly.

“ Okay, are you alright?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah, why?”

“ I was just wondering if it was maybe bothering you coming back here after the last time.”

“ Nope, he hired me to do a job for him, I did it and we became friends. Look Scott, something I didn’t tell you……he offered me a job working here and I turned it down…..I didn’t know I had a brother and… well I was believing the lies my mother told me about our old man so……”

“ So you just went on doing what you were doing, living by your gun and from job to job.” Scott stated more than asked.

Johnny moved his horse out. “ Pretty much…….His wife and kids are really nice……Don’t tell Teresa I said this, but Mrs Chancellor knows how to cook.”

“ You think he’ll be alright with you riding in Johnny?”

“ Guess we’ll find out in a second.” Johnny said as they approached the main house. “ That’s him walking toward us.”

“ Well as I live and breath…If it isn’t Johnny Madrid.” John Chancellor said with a smile. “ Boy I heard you were killed down in Mexico……It about broke Martha’ heart, not to mention Billy and Megan.” he stated as he held out his hand.

Johnny dismounted and shook the man’s hand. “ John….I’d like you to meet my brother Scott Lancer, Scott this is John Chancellor.”

Scott shook the man’s hand. “ Sir……Johnny has told me a lot about you.”

“ Brother?” he asked confused. “ Martha…….come out here, you’re not going to believe who’s here.” he yelled. “ Johnny Madrid has a brother…….you said his last name is Lancer though.”

“ Yeah, look it’s a long story……..I’ll…..”

Johnny.” a girl screamed as she ran to him.

Johnny grabbed the girl in his arms and swung her around. “ Megan, look at you, why you’re all grown up now.”

“ She has grown into a fine young lady hasn’t she Johnny?” Martha asked as she walked up.

Johnny stepped over to her and gave her a hug and kiss on the cheek. “ She’s as beautiful as her mother.”

“ We heard you were dead…..I’m do relieved to find it wrong.”

“ That’s not all Martha, it would seem that out Johnny Madrid has a brother.” John stated.

“ Yeah Martha, Megan this is my older brother Scott Lancer.”

“ Ladies, it’s a pleasure.” Scott stated.

“ Well let’s go inside and you can explain this brother to us and why you’re here Johnny, I have a feeling this isn’t a coincidence.”

“ No sir.” Johnny answered.

“ Yes, you are just in time for dinner.” Martha stated.

“ I made an apple pie Johnny.” Megan said with a smile as she put her arm around him and they started walking to the house.

Scott watched his brother and could swear he seen an immediate change come over him. One of total relaxation like he’d never seen him have at Lancer. He also couldn’t help but wonder about the daughter and how she was acting toward Johnny, and how his brother put his arm around her as they walked to the house. The girl looked about his age he guessed, but didn’t want to assume something had or would happen between the two.

Johnny explained everything that had happened in the past five months as they all sat around the table drinking coffee after dinner.

“ I’m real happy for you Johnny, real happy.”

“ Yeah, who’d a thought Johnny Madrid would really be Johnny Lancer, youngest son to the biggest cattle rancher in southern California.” Billy said with a smile, sitting across from him. “ Megan cried her heart out when she heard you were killed you know.” he stated.

“ Billy, stop it.” Megan ordered, embarrassed as she glanced at Johnny.

“ We were all sad hearing it Johnny.” Martha cut in.

Johnny looked at Megan and couldn’t help but notice just how much she had grown in the past four years.

“ You’re as beautiful as your mother Megan.” Johnny said with a smile.

Megan looked at him and smiled back. “ Thank you, I’m nineteen now you know?”

Johnny didn’t answer, but gave her a wink instead with a smile.

“ So………what brings you here Johnny?” mister Chancellor asked.

“ Well sir……”

“ You can call me John, Johnny.” he interjected.

“ Well John…..Lancer needs new breeding bulls and I know how good yours are so we came here to see about purchasing two good breeding bulls from you.”

“ Breeding bulls huh?…Did you have a purchasing price in mind Johnny?”

“ Yes sir……….Lancer will pay six thousand dollars for two of your best bulls.”

John Chancellor sat back in his chair. “ Megan, why don’t you and your mother go get desert and serve it up for us all?”

“ Yes father.” Megan responded as she stood up and smiled at Johnny before leaving the room with her mother.

“ Johnny, you know I owe you a lot for what you did for us, What I paid you I feel wasn’t nearly enough for all you did……So here’s what I’m going to do…….I’ll take you out to where my best breeding   bulls are tomorrow and you can look them over.” he stated. “ As far as price, well with all you’ve done for this ranch I think I can afford to sell you two of my best bulls for half that.”

Johnny glanced at Scott, and then looked at John. “ That’s……I can’t let you do that sir… paid me what I asked then.” Johnny said softly.

“ Young man, this ranch and my family would not be here now if it were not for you, so let me do this for you…….If not for that then as a gift for your new life.”

“Thank you.” Johnny answered.

Scott looked at his brother. “ I think our father will be a little surprised about this brother.”

Johnny looked at him but didn’t speak.

“ I hope you saved room for desert Johnny?” Megan asked with happiness as she walked in carrying the pie and plates, followed by her mother.

“ My brother could eat a cow in one setting Megan……he’s a bottomless pit.” Scott said with a smile and laugh.

“ You’re so skinny, a girl wouldn’t know it looking at you.” Megan said as she served Johnny a piece of pie.

“ Thank you……….I’m a growing man.” he responded, looking at Scott.

“ That you are.” Megan said as she dished the others their pie and sat down.

“ How’s that filly you had doing Megan?” Johnny asked as he took a bite of pie and savored the taste.  “This is good.”

“ Thank you……She has a foal now……maybe I could show you after desert, that is if it’s alright with father?”

“ I see no problem with it darling…..You couldn’t be in better hands out after dark.” mister Chancellor responded.

Megan gave Johnny a big smile. “ Great.”

“ How do you plan on getting the bulls home Johnny?” mister Chancellor asked.

“ Train………..the old man’s gonna rent a car for them from Las Cruces to Stockton.”

“ So you will lead them from here to Las Cruces and from Stockton to Lancer?”

“ Yes sir.” Scott answered.

“ Where are you from Scott?” John asked.

“ Boston, I was raised by my grandfather, my mother died giving birth to me.”

“ I see……so you also haven’t known your father very long?”

“ No sir, me and Johnny came to Lancer at the same time…….in fact we were on the same stage and didn’t even know we were related until Teresa told us when we arrived in Morro Coyo.”

“ Teresa?……who is Teresa?” Megan asked a little more anxious than intended.

“ Teresa is our fathers ward.” Scott stated.

“ Her father was the foreman at Lancer. He was killed by land pirates and she became Murdoch’ ward.” Johnny finished, looking at her.

“So what is Teresa to you Johnny?” Megan asked as the two stood watching the foal sleeping.

“ A sister, nothing more.” he answered.

“ Really?”

“ Yeah really. I gained a brother and little sister when I went home Megan.”

“ And a father too.” she stated stepping closer to him.

Johnny knew what Megan wanted, and he knew what had to be done. “ Look Megan.” he started as he turned to face her. “ I…….”

Megan faced him and put her hands on his upper arms. “ I’m nineteen now Johnny……You remember the promise you made me if you ever came back here?”

Johnny sighed. “ Megan, I’m to old for you.” Johnny told her.

Megan ran her hands up and around his neck. “ No you’re not Johnny.” she responded moving even closer.

Johnny could feel himself start to stir and took a step back. “ Megan, I like your father, your whole family, but me and you……It would never work between us because of who I am.”

“ I know who you are and I also know that my father would love to have you as a member of the family Johnny.” she said as she pulled him toward her and kissed him.

Johnny tried hard not to respond back to her kiss, but failed. Lips soft and innocent molded with his as he pulled her into his chest and he moaned softly, feeling himself stir slightly, breaking the kiss off.

“ Megan, we can’t………..It’s not right…..I won’t do this, no matter how bad I’d like to. You’ll meet the right man some day and be swept off your feet………but us, we can’t…..I can’t dishonor you in that way.”

Megan looked into his eyes and seen he was sincere with what he was saying. “ You care about me that much Johnny?”

“ Yeah I do Megan.”

“ Could I ask you to do me one favor?”

“ What’s that?”

“ Would you at least be my first real kiss?” she asked shyly.

Johnny smiled and stepped to her and put a hand under her chin and lifted it gently, bringing his lips to hers softly as his lips molded with hers, sliding his tongue between her lips and tasting her as he moaned and pulled her into his chest more.

Tongues swirling, parts of Megan’ lower extremities started to stir like she had never felt before. Moaning she pulled Johnny into her more as she arched her waist and pressed into him feeling his manhood start to harden.

Johnny pressed into Megan as he backed her up against the stall fence and ran his hand down between her legs feeling the heat with his right hand as his left went to her breast and squeezed. He knew if he didn’t stop this now he would end up dishonoring her, and that he didn’t want to do. Stopping he stepped back and placed his hands on her shoulders and tried to will his wants away.

“ Why’d you stop Johnny?” Megan asked as she tried to get close again.

“ Megan……I…….I  have to………… this can’t happen between us.” he answered firmly.

“ I…….please Johnny.” she pleaded.

Johnny never turned a woman down if she was legal age, but the daughter of a man he liked was something different. “ Megan, I’m not ready to settle down and take a wife, I can’t risk getting you with child……..we need to go back inside now.” he told her, seeing the disappointment in her eyes.

“ I’m going to San Francisco to school. I leave next week, maybe I could leave early and ride with you and your brother, meet your father and you take me there?” she asked.

“ Megan, I don’t know about that.”

“ It’s not like we would be alone Johnny, your brother will be with us……..please.”

Johnny sighed. “ Alright, we can talk to your parents about it tomorrow.”

“ Thank you Johnny.” Megan said before wrapping her arms around him and kissing him again.

Johnny knew he was in trouble now. His body responding to her kiss, and only getting worse as they got to the front door.

“ You go ahead Megan……I’m gonna take a walk around for a spell.” Johnny said.

“ You want some company?” she asked.

Johnny knew that if she went with him he wouldn’t be able to stop from dishonoring her. “ No, I need to do some thinking.” he told her.

“ Okay, well I guess I’ll see you in the morning then…..have a good night.” she said as she opened the front door.

“ You too.” Johnny said before walking away.

                                                                                               Chapter 15

                                                For my mentor and friend Southern Frau. I miss you girlfriend.

John Chancellor sat his big beautiful Chestnut looking out at his prized breeding bulls, grazing a few yards away.

“ The two side by side are brothers……their mother whom I can show you if you wish, gave birth to them three years ago. They are prime and as you can see, very strong and big.”

Johnny looked at Scott then at the bulls, moving his horse closer to them. “ How’s their attitude?”

“ You mean will you be able to lead them by horse?”

“ Yeah.” Johnny responded.

“ Get down and see for yourself.” John Chancellor suggested as he dismounted.

Johnny got down and handed his rein to Scott, turning he walked easy up to the bulls grazing, talking softly in Spanish and English as he did. Both bulls raised their heads and turned to face him. Johnny stopped and continued to talk to them as they both walked up to him and brought their heads up and out to smell him.

“ They like to have their face scratched Johnny.” Chancellor said with a grin.

Johnny reached out and started scratching the face of the one on his right, only to be nudged gently by the the other bull, wanting attention as well. Turning Johnny looked at his brother still sitting his horse.

“ Come on down here Boston, these two ain’t going to hurt us none.”

Scott got down and walked over slowly and started petting the one on his brothers left.

“ You have any  calves sired by them we can see?” Scott asked, drawing an unhappy look from his brother.

“ Yes, that herd we past coming here, those calves are from both of these bulls.” Chancellor responded. “ I don’t think your brother trust me to well Johnny.” he added.

“ Yeah well, you gotta excuse my brother, him and the old man don’t think much of my past, so I reckon they don’t think I know any good people being a gunfighter and all. I like what I see and your word is gold for me.” Johnny stated.

“ I don’t have a problem with your past Johnny, I’ve told you that………..I do however have a problem with your attitude you have and your snide little remark, so if you will excuse me.” Scott said as he went back to his horse, a little disgusted at the way his brother just handled the situation.

“ I see you still have an chip on your shoulder….You should be happy you have a good life now Johnny, your brother does not know me like you, so it is normal for him to be cautious.”

“ Yeah, I guess I’m still having a hard time accepting that I do.” Johnny said looking at Scott. “ Look Scott, I’m sorry, I was out of line saying that.”

Scott mounted his horse. “ You know little brother, not everybody hates a man for his past, you need to learn to start trusting people more…….You don’t and things will never change.”

“ I do trust people Scott, I got real good at reading people, and those I don’t trust can get me killed.” Johnny responded.

“ So are you saying you don’t trust me?”

“ No Scott, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I trust you more that I have ever trusted anyone in my life.”

Scott smiled down at his brother. “ Good, because if you didn’t I was afraid I might have to give you a big brother lecture on the meaning of trust.”

“ He is good for you Johnny, you need someone in your life to watch your back.” Chancellor stated with a smile.

“ Listen Megan asked me something last night that I need to discuss with you.”

“ Alright.”

“ She want’s to ride back with us, said she’s going to San Francisco next week and she want’s to travel with me and Scott on the train to Stockton and have us take her on.”

“ Yes, she discussed this with me last night. I told her that it would be up to the two of you. I have no problem with her going with you Johnny, she knows who you are, and I know she would be safe.”

“ How about you Scott?” Johnny asked looking at him.

“ Well, I think Teresa wouldn’t mind having another lady in the house her age for a visit Johnny…… course we don’t know if our father will allow us to do this.” Scott stated.

“ Yeah well he won’t have much say in the matter brother.” Johnny stated firmly.

“ Okay then we will make the necessary arrangements and I will have a couple of my hands assist you to the train station since she will have luggage.”

“ Sounds good……now how about we show my brother there some more of your ranch.” Johnny suggested as he went to his horse.

Five days later Johnny, Scott and Megan left Las Cruces headed westbound on the train. Johnny stood up.

“ I’m going to go check on the bulls.” he told his brother.

“ It’s only been a couple hours since we left Las Cruces, they should be alright Johnny.” Scott stated.

“ Yeah well I want to make sure they are.” Johnny said before opening the door and stepping out.

Scott noticed how Megan kept her eyes on his brother almost the whole time they sat until now.

“ You will like Teresa.” he said, making small talk to the girl.

“ Johnny said she is like a sister to you both.”

“ Yes she is, her and Johnny have become real close.”

“Real close?” Megan asked, looking at him.

Scott heard the slight jealousy in her voice. “ Yes, I think with Johnny growing up and being on his own since he was ten, finding out he had a big brother a few months back and a home, and father who did want him was a shock…….I know it was to me…..but getting a sister, well that gave Johnny someone to protect and be a big brother too.”

“ Does he have someone?” she asked.

“ What, you mean a lady in his life?……….I’m afraid he doesn’t Megan…..He’s still young and wild. Johnny’ not ready for one woman in his life…….He doesn’t want to risk it I’m afraid.”

“ You mean open his heart and let someone in because of his past?”

“ Yes, he doesn’t want to get hurt or take the risk of falling in love and settling down, only to be shot down and leave that person widowed.”

“Even if that person was willing to accept that risk as long as they had the time they did together?”

“ Yes. Megan, Johnny did things in his past as I’m sure you are aware of that he’s not proud of. He did what he did to survive, but now all he want’s to do is put it behind him and be Johnny Lancer, son and brother, but he feels that as long as he’s alive men will show up and try and kill him for the reputation.”

“ Tell me about Lancer Scott. What it’s like please.” she asked.

Johnny made sure the bulls had plenty of hay, grain and water before walking over to the corner of the car and sitting down, looking at the bulls as the car swayed slightly with the track he wondered if his father would be pleased with them or not. A good breeding bull was like a good horse, in his mind, without it you didn’t survive, it’s your lively hood, just like Johnny Madrid surviving without a gun.  Closing his eyes, Johnny let the motion of the train relax him until he heard the door open and shut, pulling his colt he looked and found Megan standing there. Getting up he stepped up behind her.

“ What are you doing in here?” he asked, startling her.

Megan jumped and spun around, placing her hand to her breast. “ Oh my, you startled me Johnny… didn’t come back so I wanted to make sure everything was alright.”

“ Everything’s fine, where’s Scott?” he asked as he stepped past her to the bulls now laying down, chewing their cud.

Megan walked over to him. “ Scott’ resting. I couldn’t sleep so I came here to be with you.”

Johnny stepped around putting the bulls between them and started scratching the bulls neck, looking  at the young girl a couple feet away.

“ Scott told me about Lancer, it sounds like a wonderful place.” she said stepping over to him. “ I imagine for Johnny Madrid it’s nice to not have to sleep under the stars, never having to worry about your next meal now.”

“ Yeah I guess it’s okay.” Johnny answered, not liking how she had him cornered now.

“ You should go back and sit with Scott, Megan.” Johnny stated.

“ I don’t want to be with Scott though….I want to be with you Johnny.” she said stepping up to him and placing her hands on his shoulders. “ Kiss me Johnny.”

Johnny looked at her plump juicy firm lips and then down to the small cleavage showing at the top of her dress. “ Megan, I told you I won’t….”

“ I’m not asking you too……it’s just a kiss.” she pleaded.

Johnny sighed and started to walk past her to get out of the corner he was in. Megan grabbed his arm and he turned to her and found himself claiming her mouth with hunger as his tongue slid between her teeth, pulling her to him as he moaned softly at the feel of her breast next to his chest. Letting his right hand run up and over her breast, squeezing them  as he started kissing her neck and running his tongue up and down, sucking her earlobe.

Megan felt the fire start in her belly and below as her hands came down across his chest, sliding inside, feeling the hair there before running her hands on down to his hips and stopping when Johnny started sucking on her earlobe.

“ We need to stop this now Megan, before I do something I shouldn’t do.” Johnny told her as he backed away.

“But I want you to Johnny.” she pleaded.

“ And I want to, but it’s wrong. I shouldn’t have kissed you like that.” Johnny responded.

Scott sat looking out the window when the door opened and Megan and his brother walked back in and sat down.

“ The bulls alright….brother?” Scott asked a little anger to his voice.

Johnny glanced at Megan before answering. “ Yeah, I made sure they had plenty of feed and water.”

“ It took you this long to do that?” Scott asked as he looked at his brother.

“ You got something on your mind Boston?….I mean you seem upset about something.” Johnny asked.

“ You could say that brother…….You see I got a little worried when I woke up and found Megan there gone, so I went looking for her……and well I guess the two of you know what I found when I opened the door……..I think me and you need to have a talk Johnny.”

Megan looked at the floor embarrassed they had been caught. “ You going to tell my father what you seen Scott?” she asked softly.

“ That’s not my place to do…….Johnny you know what could happen….are you prepared for that?”

“ Butt out brother…..I don’t need a lecture from you ….I’m a grown man and have been for a long time.”

“ Then why don’t you act it……..She’s not a…….what you did was wrong Johnny and you know it.”

“ Stop it Scott. All Johnny did was kiss me. I wanted more, but he wouldn’t.” Megan said firmly.

Scott looked at her. “ You’re just a child Megan, you’re not grown up.” Scott stated. “ I told you Johnny is not ready to settle down and be responsible for his actions when it comes to women.”

“ I suggest you shut your mouth now Boston, you don’t and you’ll find yourself swallowing some teeth…I’ve been responsible for my actions for a long time, I don’t need you going around telling people I’m not………..Hell I’d bet you’re not so clean on your actions in the past, so don’t lecture me about mine……..* that* brother you don’t have a right to do.” Johnny said before standing and going to the door and leaving.

Three days later the train pulled into Stockton as the sun rose over the mountains. Scott stepped off and took Megan’ hand to help her onto the platform.

“ Thank you.” she said.

Scott.” Murdoch called as he walked toward them.

Scott turned to the familiar voice. “ Our father.” he said as he stepped toward the big man and stuck out his hand.

“ Good to have you back son……where’s your brother?….How was the trip?”

“ The trip went fine sir,..I would like you to meet Megan Chancellor, Megan this is my father Murdoch Lancer.”

“ Young lady, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Murdoch stated.

“ And you as well mister Lancer, Scott and Johnny have told me a lot about you.”

“ Where is Johnny?” Murdoch asked again.

“ He rode with the bulls sir.” Scott stated harshly.

Murdoch sensed something happened between his sons on the trip, something he hoped wasn’t serious.

“Ah, well lets go take a look at these bulls, shall we?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny opened the door to the car and led the two bulls down the ramp, hearing comments from men gathered around. Both animals coats shined brightly as Johnny led them over to the corral fence.

“ Johnny.” Murdoch said as he walked up and placed a hand on his sons arm. “ Good to see you.”

“ Murdoch, thanks, good to see you too.” he responded, glancing at his brother. “ You meet Megan?”

“ Yes I did….So these are the bulls you bought from her father?”

“ Yes sir, brothers. I got their papers in my saddlebags, along with the bill of sale.”

Murdoch checked both bulls our closely, running a hand over their body, feeling the muscles. “ Well son, from what I see here they are worth the six thousand dollars it cost.”

“ Three.” Johnny corrected.

“ I’m sorry, what son?”

“ They only cost me three thousand Murdoch.” Johnny said as he opened his saddlebag and took out an envelope and handed it to him. “ I got them both for half the price..the remaining three thousand is in the envelope along with the bill of sale and registration papers on them.”

“ Son, I know you don’t buy fine breeding bulls like this for that price…….What did you do.” Murdoch demanded.

“ I told you how much I paid for them, you calling me a liar ask Scott there since my word isn’t good enough.” Johnny said as he handed the lead ropes to Scott and walked over to Barranca, rubbing his friends face and neck. “ Hey amigo, you miss me like I missed you?” he asked.

Barranca pressed his face into Johnny’ chest and blew out his nose softly.

“I’m afraid you owe Johnny and apology sir. It’s true what he told you, he only paid half the price for the bulls…Mister Chancellor was still very grateful for what Johnny did for him four years ago.

Megan walked over to him. “ He’s beautiful Johnny.” she stated as she patted Barranca’ neck.

“ Did something happen between you and Johnny?” Murdoch asked, looking at his youngest son.

Scott glanced at Johnny then looked at his father. “ Not my place to say sir. We should get going.”

“ Alright.” Murdoch responded as the two headed to their horses after Scott tied the bulls to the back of the buggy.

Johnny walked Megan over and helped her up into the buggy with his father, checking to make sure her luggage was secured in the back, walking over to Barranca he swung up into the saddle and headed out ahead of the others.

“ This is sure a nice home Teresa.” Megan said sitting at the kitchen table. “ Johnny said your father was the foreman here, and that he was killed recently?”

Teresa turned around. “ Yes, land pirates tried to take over the valley, but with Scott and Johnny here Pardee failed and was killed.”

“ Was Johnny being a gunfighter the reason why?” she asked.

“ Partly, yes. Johnny knew Pardee, so he infiltrated his gang and worked on the inside…At first Murdoch and everyone thought Johnny had turned against his father, but he didn’t.”

“ That’s because I had to Teresa.” Johnny said as he came down the back stairs into the kitchen and gave Teresa a kiss on the cheek. “ Morning.”

“ Good morning Johnny, I was just telling Megan how you and Scott defeated Pardee and his men.”

“ Military strategy is what Boston called it.” Johnny said with a grin as he poured a cup of coffee. “ Well  it seems to me like you have a simple military problem here, one find the enemy, two engage him and three destroy him, That’s what Scott said that day we both arrived here Megan……You see my Harvard educated brother served in the Union Army during the war.” Johnny started as he sat down. “ But even though his thinking was good, those military strategies could get you killed out west here, as I told him, you gotta do it to them before they do it to you, You don’t and you’ll wind up in a ditch somewhere with ant’s crawling all over your eyeballs.”

“ I’m afraid my little brother thinks I can’t handle myself out west Megan.” Scott said as he came into the kitchen. “ Murdoch wants a word with you Johnny, he’s at his desk looking over the papers on those bulls we bought.”

“ Megan, you ate breakfast yet?” Johnny asked.

“ Everyone has ate breakfast but you Johnny, Murdoch said to let you sleep in, that you earned it.”

“ Just a couple biscuits is good enough for me, I’m not doing any work today.”

“ You’re not, and why is that?” Scott asked.

“ Because I’m going to show Megan here around the ranch, you got a problem with that….brother?”

“ Teresa and a hand can do that Johnny, winters coming and we need to move the herd.”

“ Nope, no offense Teresa, but I’m showing her around, I’ll go saddle our horses while you change into riding clothes.”

Megan looked at Johnny and smiled. “ Okay, I’ll be ready in ten minutes.” she said before heading upstairs.

“ Johnny, I think I have a pretty good idea what……”

“ Brother, I suggest you take heed on the warning I gave you on the train about my life because I’m not going to say it again.” Johnny cut in before setting his cup down and walking out the back door.

“ Scott, what’s going on between you and Johnny?” Teresa asked.

“ I’m not at liberty to say Teresa, but I do know that our brother is about to do something he shouldn’t… I’ll see you tonight.”

“ Alright, be safe.” she called as Scott walked out the back door, wondering what he had meant with his comment about Johnny doing something he shouldn’t.

Johnny hurried into the south line shack soaked all the way thru as lightening flashed and thunder echoed, the wind howled outside as the afternoon storm began to get worse.

“ We’ll wait this out here.” Johnny said as he shucked his wet coat.

“ I have hot coffee going if you would like some?” Megan stated wrapped in a blanket, her clothes draped over a chair next to the fire.

“ Yeah, thanks. Sorry about this storm brewing up so fast.” he said as he sat down to take off his boots.

“ The weather is the same at home, blue sky one minute and a storm blows in fast the next.” Megan stated as she poured a cup of coffee for him. “ Will your father be looking for us?” she asked walking over to him, the blanket off  her left shoulder some showing cleavage.

Johnny looked up and smiled after yanking his left boot off. “ Maybe, he knows I’d get you to a safe place, so it’ll probably be big brother worrying, or maybe Teresa.” he finished as his right boot came off.

“ Why don’t you get out of your wet clothes  so you can warm up?” Megan suggested.

“ I think I will.” he answered as he stood up and started undoing his gun belt.

“This storm came up fast, it’s cold enough to snow out there now sir, should we go looking for Johnny and Megan?”

“ Your brother probably went to a line shack Scott……I don’t much care for the idea of him alone with that young lady, I hope he doesn’t do anything foolish he’ll regret.”

“ I’m afraid that it’s to late for that sir.” Scott said before he realized it.

Murdoch looked at him. “ Just what does that mean?” he asked firmly.

“ I’m sorry sir, it’s not my place to say anything, but I’m afraid Johnny and Megan got a little to cozy on the train.”

“ Damn that boy, he’s going to have to start being responsible for his actions.” Murdoch said with anger.

“ I told him that very thing sir, and my little brother told me that no one has a right to tell him what he can and cannot do and that he has been responsible for his actions since before his mother died, he even threatened to knock some teeth out if I didn’t stay out of his life.”

“ We’ll just see about that, because as long as he lives here, he will obey the rules, and I will be reminding him that he has not met his majority yet.”

The sun setting, the storm got stronger as snow fell and blew around, drifting up wherever it could.

Johnny stood looking out the window with the blanket wrapped around his shoulders, turning around he looked at Megan standing over by the stove.

“ It looks like we’ll be here a spell.” he said stepping over next to her.

“ So what do we do now?” she asked.

“ This.” Johnny said as he let his blanket fall to the floor and took her face in his hands and kissed her softly. “ That is if you still want to?” he asked as he broke the kiss off but didn’t move away.

Megan looked into his eyes and smiled. “ I hear it’s a good way to stay warm.” she stated as she let her blanket fall to the floor.

Several times as the storm outside raged on, inside the line shack a storm did also, well into the early morning hours, Johnny having made love to Megan four long hungry passionate times that night.

                                                                                                Chapter 16

                                               This is for you Southern Frau, my mentor and friend. I miss you.

Scott rode up to the north line shack and dismounted, it was mid morning and about eight inches of snow had fallen during the night, tying his horse to the porch rail he stepped up onto the porch and looked inside and seen what he knew had happened during the night, swallowing his temper he opened the door and stepped inside. Johnny and Megan were wrapped in each others arms, covered by a blanket.

Johnny’ senses woke him to someone or something outside, taking his colt he placed it under the blanket and waited, listening as the door opened, then closed. When the footsteps started toward him he bolted up, cocking the pistol and aiming it at his brother.

“ Whoa Johnny, take it easy.” Scott said, putting his hands up.

“ That’s not to smart, sneaking around like that, you almost got shot.” Johnny said as he made sure Megan was covered up. “ What are you doing here?”

Scott went to the fire and put some wood in. “ Looking for the two of you brother………regardless of what you may feel, if you do at all little brother, people do care about you, though I don’t know why we bother because you sure as hell don’t.”

Johnny heard the anger in his brothers voice. “ Why don’t you go on back and tell the old man we’re fine. You did your little scouting and found us so go home.”

“ You better be glad it was me that found the two of you like I did Johnny and not our father because if he had  you would find yourself out in that snow flat on your backside.”

Johnny stood up, not caring that he was as naked as the day he was born. “ Get out Scott, now.” he ordered.

“ I have orders to bring the two of you back and I fully intend  to do that.” he stated firmly as he stepped forward. “ So I suggest the two of you get dressed……….now.”

Megan woke up, hearing voices, opening her eyes, she blinked a couple times then sat up, holding the blanket to her chest. “Scott, what are you doing here?”

“ I’m here to bring you back to the house Megan, I’ll go saddle your horses while you two get dressed.” he said before turning and walking out.

Twenty minutes later Johnny and Megan came out of the line shack and stepped down to their horses. Johnny turned Megan and claimed her mouth hungrily, knowing it would upset his brother.

“That’s enough Johnny, there’s another storm coming in and it will probably dump more snow, so I suggest you cool your urges and get your ass on Barranca now.” Scott ordered.

Johnny turned and stepped over to his brother. “ Don’t tell me what to do brother…….You’re just jealous because you haven’t been laid.”

Scott’ patience were  about to an end. “ Is that so?” he demanded.

“ Yeah that’s” Johnny said with a smirk before walking past him, bumping into his shoulder deliberately.

Scott grabbed Johnny by his right arm and spun him around, hitting him hard in the gut, then mouth, sending him backwards into the snow.

“ Come on brother, I’ve had  about all I’m going to take of your smart mouth. You’ve been asking for it ever since New Mexico..Come on, lets see just how tough you are.” Scott demanded with his fist up and ready.

Johnny got up and glared at him before glancing at Megan then back. “ You’re going to wish you’d never done that brother.” Johnny said as he lunged at Scott and hit him in the chest with his head, driving them both back into the porch railing, snapping it in half.

Scott landed with a grunt on his back and grabbed his brothers coat and the two rolled off the porch into the snow. Being taller and somewhat heavier gave him a small advantage as he brought his right  knee up and caught Johnny in the  gut as he hit him in the left side of his face.

Johnny grunted as the air  was knocked from him and his brothers fist connected with his face. Bringing his right up he managed to hit Scott twice in the head before being rolled onto his back and pinned. Swinging with both fist he hit Scott first on the left then the right side of his jaw as he also received a dazing blow to his right eye. Being smaller gave him an advantage though, bucking up at his waist Johnny was able to throw Scott off balance and roll him just enough that with the slick snow, Johnny was able to roll back away from him enough that when he swung again it was downward, catching Scott next to his right eye knocking him down on his belly into the snow long enough for Johnny to stand up.

Come on Scott, get up, get up and let’s finish this.” Johnny demanded as he wiped at the blood on his face.

“ Stop it, for gods sake, Johnny, Scott stop  it.” Megan pleaded.

Scott got up and lunged at Johnny again, knocking him to the ground hard, hitting him again in the mouth as a shot echoed.

“ I said stop it now, you’re brothers, stop this.” Megan ordered as she chambered another round into the rifle. “ Scott you need to leave now, me and Johnny will ride back alone.”

Scott staggered to his feet and stepped back from Johnny laying in the snow. “ Put the rifle down Megan, I’m to bring the two of you back and that is exactly what I intend to do.”

“ You had no right attacking Johnny like you did………I don’t know what is going on between you two, but I won’t stand by and let you two beat each other to death.”

Johnny stood up and spit blood into the snow. “ You take her back.” he said before heading to Barranca and swinging up in the saddle. “ Megan, go back with him.” he ordered as he turned Barranca.

“ Johnny don’t, please. Come back with me.” she pleaded.

“ Megan.” Johnny started as he glared at Scott. “ I’m not going back there and……..”

“ And what?.face up to what we did?…….Johnny I’m as much, if not more to blame than you are for us sharing a bed together…….Neither of us is at fault for the weather, we had no idea this storm was going to come in.” she stated as she stepped over to him and placed a hand on his thigh. “ Please, come back with me and Scott. Or are you not the man I made love with last night?”

Johnny glared at Scott then looked down at her as blood ran down his chin and dripped onto his leg.

“ Give me that rifle and get on your horse.” he said flatly.

Murdoch stepped out into the cold howling wind with Teresa as Megan and two bloody, cold and bruised  brother rode into the yard, a hand came to take their horses.

“ I got him.” Johnny said as he glanced at his father and seen the serious scowl on his face before turning and leading Barranca into the barn for a good grooming.

Scott and Megan handed off their mounts and headed to the house. Scott stopped at his father. “ I wouldn’t right now sir, he’s not in a good mood as you can see.”

“ Yes, I can see that. Are you alright son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Well sir, he may be smaller than me, but he can sure  hit hard.” Scott answered.

“ Teresa take Megan inside and help her warm up.” Murdoch ordered. “ You go get cleaned up as well son, let Teresa clean them cuts up.”

“ Sir, if you want him to stay on this ranch, I’d let him be for a spell.”

“ I am not going to stand by and let your brother beat you……..”

“ He didn’t start it, I did sir. I threw the first blow, not Johnny.” Scott stated.

“ You, why?” Murdoch demanded.

“ Because of something that happened in New Mexico, something that Johnny said and the way he said it I let bother me and I shouldn’t have.”

“ I don’t care what was said or happened in New Mexico Scott, your brother needs to learn how to be social and respectful of others. His manners need to be learned and I fully intend to have that understood by him.”

“ I understand that, but if you go in that barn right now, I can promise you that Johnny will lash out at you and leave Lancer.”

“ Your brother needs to learn he can’t run wild any longer, he has responsibilities to this ranch and others…..He needs to learn to be responsible for his actions.”

“ With all do respect sir, Johnny is responsible for his actions and has been for a long time.”

“ Your brother has went unsupervised and run wild long enough, it ends now.”

Scott shivered as the snow started to fall again. “ If you don’t mind sir, I’m cold and right now a hot bath sounds good.”

“ Alright son, you go on in and let Teresa clean you up and get a hot bath.” Murdoch stated as he headed toward the barn.

“ Sir.” Scott said.

“ I’m going to check on him is all. I’m not going in there to fight with him.” Murdoch answered before heading to the barn.

Scott headed to the house hoping the two men in his life he loved, that were so much alike, but didn’t accept or want to realize it came into the house together like a father and son should.

Johnny brushed Barranca, talking softly to his friend with his back to the barn door. Hearing it open then shut he knew without looking who it was.

“ Here you go amigo.” he said to his friend as he stepped around to the stallions right side. Barranca stomped his left foot and swished his tail as he munched on the grain Johnny had given him.

Murdoch walked over to the hay bales close to Barranca and sat down, watching how Johnny took great care in grooming the beautiful stallion, how the coat shined like gold even in just the light of the barn.

“ He’s a fine animal son.” Murdoch said, wanting to start a conversation he hoped  wouldn’t put his son on edge ready to fight with him.

Johnny just continued to groom the horse, not looking at his father. “ Best I ever had.” he said softly.

“ It’s started to snow again, we could be in for a blizzard and a good amount of snow when this storm moves out.”

“ Wouldn’t know about that, never had snow down on the border.” Johnny answered. He could tell his father didn’t want to fight with him and was trying to make simple conversation. “ But I guess you already know that since you’ve been down there.” he stated flatly.

Murdoch stood up and walked over to the stall. “ Look son, I don’t want to fight with you, I came in here to check on you is all.”

“ Yeah well I’m fine.” he lied. Truth was he was hurting inside for the fight he’d had with his brother. A fight that should never have happened. “ Look old man, I know you want to lay into me for me and Megan, so lets stop pussy footing around and just get it said.”

“ Alright Johnny, let’s talk about Megan and how you dishonored a nineteen year old girl just to fill your wild urge you have for women………You have got to start being responsible for your actions. You dishonored her in that line shack didn’t you?” Murdoch demanded.

Johnny stopped brushing Barranca and stepped around the stallion. “ What I do and who I do it with is none of your business old man.” Johnny snapped back as he came out of the stall and threw the brush into the box. “ You got no room to talk about me and women when because of your lust you got my mother pregnant with me and because of that lust you had I’ve paid the price every fucking day of my life… don’t lecture me about what happened between me and Megan……..I tried to not let it happen old man…..but when a woman presents herself to a man naked and won’t take no for an answer, you tell me you can resist that temptation.

“ May I remind you that she is nineteen and you are only twenty….you have not reached your majority yet son, I am responsible for you and what you do until you are twenty one.”

“ Responsible for me?……..I’ve been responsible for myself since I was five old man when my mother started whoring around for peso’s so we could eat or she could get drunk to try and forget you….Don’t you dare say you’re responsible for me because you ain’t, you never have been and you never will be, and if you think that just because I live here that it does, guess again.”

“ Me not being in your life as a child is not my fault…..don’t you dare stand there and try and say it is…..I didn’t make your mother leave in the middle of the night and take you with her. If she wanted away from me that bad she could have left you behind.”

“ It’s because of this isn’t it?” Johnny said as he drew his colt. “ You just don’t want to accept the fact that your youngest son isn’t perfect like Scott, that I’ve killed for money, and I have no problem killing another man to stay alive.”

“Yes damn it.” Murdoch yelled. “ I hate the fact that you had to turn to a gun to survive, I hate what and who you had to become to have food in your belly, clothes on your back and to stay alive, but I also know that I wouldn’t have you home now if you hadn’t picked up that damn gun and become Johnny Madrid.” Murdoch said with anger. “ You don’t have to be him any longer son, you’re home now, your past is just that, your past, let it go and be my son Johnny Lancer”

“ My past will never go away as long as I’m alive. I’ve told you that and thanks to your friend men know where I am now and will never let me be who you want me to be, I can’t be that man, why can’t you understand that?”

“ I do understand that son.” Murdoch answered calmly. “ Let me ask you this…..which do you want to be more of son, Johnny Lancer, the son of a rancher, or Johnny Madrid the gunfighter son of a rancher?”

“I…….” Johnny couldn’t look at his father, turning his back to him, he wrapped his arms around himself and looked down at the barn floor.

Murdoch walked up and took a chance and placed his hands on his son’ shoulders. He could feel him trembling.

Johnny started to move away when his father touched him, but found himself turned around and pulled into the big man’ chest.

“ Stop fighting me son. Together I know we can put your past behind you, I know your brother want’s to help you do that also, so does Teresa and the men on this ranch. You just need to stop fighting us.” Murdoch said as he held his son.

Johnny sighed and wrapped his arms around his father and let all his anger and frustration go. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he trembled and found himself relishing in the comfort of being held by his father.

After a few minutes of just standing there in each others arms, Johnny let go and wiped his eyes, looking up into his fathers face he found he too had tears.

“ I think I’m gonna go inside and let Teresa clean me up and soak in a hot bath now.” he said finally.

“ Alright, then why don’t you go to bed and get some rest. You look pretty tired.”

“ Yeah, I didn’t get to much sleep last night.” he said as he closed the gate to Barranca’ stall.

Murdoch waited and then put an arm around his son as the two headed to the house.

Four days the storm raged, dumping snow across the San Joaquin valley a week before Thanksgiving.

Johnny stayed away from Megan as much as possible, but found his urge for her body hard to ignore being cooped up for four days. Going to the barn was a chore in it’s self with the bitter wind. On the third day the roof collapsed onto the hay stored under the lean too off the barn, luckily nobody was under it at the time.

Johnny apologized to Scott for the fight between them,  but the brothers still had tension there Murdoch could tell since the two didn’t banter back and forth at meal time like usual.

“ By the time this storm moves out, the drifts alone could be trouble for the cattle.” Scott stated at dinner on the third night.

“ Yes son they could. We could lose a good amount of cattle  from this. All the fences will need to be checked and repaired. I don’t however want anyone taking risk riding. Snow like this it’s real easy to ride a horse off a ravine or get them bogged down to were they panic and injure you or themselves.”

Johnny glanced at Megan who he found was looking at him. Smiling at her as he picked up his milk and took a drink.

“ Do you think those bulls will be alright son?” Murdoch asked Johnny.

“ Those bulls are fine sir, the weather in New Mexico gets worse than it does here. They can handle this.” Johnny stated as he again looked at Megan.

“ I don’t doubt that son, and I’m not doubting your word either. I was just concerned is all.”

“Concerned for the bulls or concerned about being out three thousand dollars?” Johnny asked, not taking his eyes off Megan.

“I would appreciate it if you would look at me when you speak to me son…..That is if you can take your eyes off Megan long enough?”

Johnny winked and smiled at her then looked at his father. “ Why, I think what I said was pretty easy to understand.”

“ It’s a matter of manners and showing respect for who you are addressing son, not whether or not you were heard and understood.”

“ Yeah, whatever. I answered you, now if you will excuse me I think I’m going to go check on Barranca now.” Johnny said as he stood up to leave.

“ It’s a blizzard out there son, that horse of yours is fine. I would prefer if you didn’t go out in the storm tonight.”

Johnny looked at him. “ Yeah well I want to make sure.” he said before walking away. Cold air coming in the front door could be felt a minute later.

Murdoch cleared his throat and looked at Megan. “ Young lady, I noticed you and Johnny exchanging looks at the table tonight. I will not allow the two of you to partake in un lady like behavior under my roof. Is that understood?” he stated.

Megan looked at him. “ Quite clear mister Lancer.”

Johnny tossed and turned that night until well after midnight when he finally got up and went downstairs and sat at the fire with a bottle of tequila. He had heard his father go to bed shortly before deciding to. Sitting there feeling no pain after downing two shots, he watched the fire pop and crackle as he listened to the wind howl outside. Standing up he walked to the kitchen to see if any biscuits were left from dinner, finding them on a plate on the stove still warm he grabbed two and started back into the grand room when he heard soft footsteps coming down the back stairs. He knew it wasn’t Teresa, because her room was downstairs.

Megan stepped down into the soft light of the kitchen and smiled when she found Johnny standing there looking back at her. “ I couldn’t sleep Johnny.” she said softly as she stepped over to him.

“ Yeah, neither could I.” Johnny answered. “ You hungry?” he asked.

“ Yes, but not for food.” she responded. “ Teresa said there’s a cellar, why don’t we go check it out?” she asked as she ran her hands up and down his chest as her lips came to his.

Johnny claimed her mouth with hunger as he pulled her to him and pressed his hardness into her. After a minute of hunger he stopped, picked up the lamp and went to the cellar door and opened it, taking her hand in his he led her downstairs.

For over an hour two bodies were entwined as one, ignoring the coldness of the cellar as each sought  release and sexual satisfaction before creeping back up the stairs into the kitchen. Johnny hungrily claimed Megan’ mouth one last time before she went up the back stairs to her room. Grabbing a couple biscuits, Johnny headed upstairs a few minutes later to his room, stopping and looking at the door to Megan’ room, craving her still he quietly opened his door and went inside, knowing his craving would not go away as he closed his door and walked over to his window and looked out at the snow blowing around in the yard below. Setting the biscuits on the table he striped down, picked up the biscuits and crawled into bed. Biscuits gone, Johnny found his other problem still there so he fulfilled that before finally falling asleep a short time later, his right hand still there when the sun came thru his window hours later.

Murdoch came downstairs the next morning and found the cellar down ajar as he went to the stove to start coffee. Teresa walked in a few minutes later.

“ You’re up early Murdoch.” she said with a smile.

“ Good morning sweetheart. Yes, it would seem the storm has finally passed…..Teresa, did you go down to the cellar for something last night?”

“ No, why?” she responded.

“ The door was open when I came downstairs.”

“ That’s strange. I always make sure it’s closed before I go to bed……maybe Scott or Johnny did and forgot to close it.” she stated.

“ Forgot to close what sir?” Scott asked as he walked into the kitchen.

“ The cellar door. Murdoch says it was open when he came down this morning.” Teresa answered as she poured them some coffee.

“ Not me, I retired to my room and fell asleep reading a book last night sir.”

Murdoch knew then who it was, his suspicions made true when he walked into the grand room to check the fire and found the bottle of tequila and glass on the small table next to the chair by the fire place. Sighing he knew what had taken place in the cellar last night and it infuriated him. Especially after telling Megan he would not stand for such behavior under his roof. This was the last straw, walking back into the kitchen with the glass he set down on the table just as Megan came downstairs.

“ Good morning Teresa, Scott.” she said. “ Mister Lancer.” she added.

“ I thought I made myself clear to you last night young lady, apparently I didn’t.” Murdoch stated firmly.

“ I don’t know what you are talking about sir.” she answered.

“ Oh I think you do young lady, and it will end today. You and my son have had your last………Scott I want you and Hank to escort Miss Chancellor here into town after breakfast  and see to it she gets on the stage for San Francisco.”

“ Sir… you think the roads will be open, I mean after that storm and all?” Scott asked, knowing what had taken place last night.

“ If they aren’t then put her up in the hotel until the stage arrives, I will not have her under this roof another night.” he said firmly before heading to the back stairs.

Johnny came downstairs and walked into the kitchen mid morning and found his father sitting at the table drinking coffee.

“ Morning Murdoch.” he said as he walked over and poured a cup of coffee. “ Looks like the storm finally moved on last night.”

Murdoch put the paper down he was reading and looked at his son who now sat next to him on his right. “ Yes it did.”

“ Sorry I slept so late, I couldn’t sleep to well last night with the wind howling like it was..Where’ Scott?” he asked taking a sip.

“ Scott and Frank took Megan into town to put her on the stage……..I’m going to say this once and then the matter is closed, so I suggest you listen and listen hard boy……..I know what the two of you did last night Johnny and I will not have that happening under my roof. I will not have Teresa subjected to that kind of behavior.” he stated firmly before standing up. “ Teresa left some breakfast for you in the oven, when you finish I want you riding out and checking on the fence and those bulls.” he said before walking out of the kitchen.

Johnny sat there looking at the spot where his father was standing seconds before, wondering how the old man knew he and Megan had been together last night. Getting up he went to the oven and took out his breakfast and ate it before heading out to a cold day’s work.

Thanksgiving came and went and Christmas was fast approaching. The storm before Thanksgiving claimed twenty head of cows and three bulls, but not the two Johnny had purchased. Those two along with the heifers they were with were found safe grazing on grass along a cliff bottom that the wind and snow couldn’t reach.

Johnny walked into the kitchen exhausted the night before Christmas eve and found the room empty except for the glow from the lamp on the table, walking into the grand room he found it dark as well and called out.

“ Murdoch, Scott, Teresa.” he called.

“ Surprise, Happy Birthday Johnny.” three voices shouted back at him.

Johnny stepped down into the room and found the table laid out with present’s and a big cake at one end and supper at the other. Tamales, beans, rice and all the trimmings greeted him.

“ Happy twenty first birthday little brother.” Scott said as he walked over and handed Johnny a glass of wine.

Johnny took the glass. “ Thanks Scott.”

Teresa walked over. “ Happy birthday Johnny.” she said as she wrapped her arms around him and gave him a hug.

“ Thanks Teresa. You didn’t have to do this for me. It smells great.” he said before hugging her back and giving her a kiss on the cheek.

Murdoch walked over. “ Son, this is a day I never thought I would get to experience with you….Happy birthday son.” he stated as he held out his hand.

Johnny reached out and took the big hand in his and found himself pulled into a hug.

Later that evening as the three Lancer men and Teresa sat in the grand room, dinner long gone and Johnny on his second piece of cake, Scott excused himself for a minute and went upstairs. When he came back down he walked over and stood in front of his little brother with something behind his back.

“ Johnny, I have something for you, would you please stand up?” he asked with a smile.

“ Scott you already gave me a great gift brother.” Johnny said as he stood up.

Smiling Scott brought a small  oblong box out from behind his back. “ Yeah well, you can never get to many gifts on your birthday little brother. This is from me and Murdoch.” he stated as he handed it to him.

Johnny took the small box and glanced at Murdoch and Teresa before looking back at his brother.  “Thanks.” he said before opening it, what he found inside shocked him. It was a colt forty five with his initials engraved in gold letters in the grip. Tears welled up in his eyes and threatened to spill over as he tried to swallow a lump that just wouldn’t go down.

“ What is it Johnny?” Teresa asked eagerly.

Johnny looked at his father, then back to Scott. “ I don’t know what to say.” he said  as he took the colt out of the box.

“ I think the look on your face is enough son, do you like it?” Murdoch asked with pride in his voice. “ Me and your brother had it special made just for you. The gunsmith in town knew your taste better than us. We told him what we wanted for you and he did the rest son.”

“ He say’s it fires accurately too brother, stakes his reputation on it.” Scott said.

Johnny held out his hand and when Scott took it he surprised him by pulling him into a big hug and then did the same with his father.

“ I never thought I’d live long enough to be twenty one, let alone celebrate it with a family.” Johnny stated with a quiver in his voice. “ You two are the best brother and sister I could ever ask for.” he said before turning to his father. “ And you sir, I couldn’t be more lucky that to have you as my father…I love you Pa.”

Murdoch wasn’t expecting the words he was now hearing his youngest say. Words he long to hear for a long time. Pride welled up in his eyes and spilled over as he took his youngest into a hug.

“ I love you son, both of you.” he said.

Johnny blinked as tears slid down his cheeks. “ Me and you are a lot alike old man, we’re both to damn stubborn to back down.”

“ Boy is that an understatement.” Teresa added.

Johnny looked at her then walked over and pulled her into a hug. “ Thanks again Teresa for the blanket you made for Barranca.” he told her as he kissed her forehead.

“There are two of them Scott.” Johnny said as he checked tracks around a fresh killed cow. “ My guess is it’s a mother and her cub or a pair run off from their parent, being spring and winter having been so hard.”

“ Just what we don’t need brother.” Scott said as he glanced around the rocks above them.

“ Yeah well cows are easier to catch and kill in this deep snow than a deer is.” Johnny stated as he cautiously walked away from the kill following the tracks a few feet. Barranca and Scott’ horse suddenly became very nervous as both brothers cocked their rifles. A scream unmistakable came down to Johnny just as he spun around and watched as one of the cats leaped onto his brothers back and his horse reared in a panic.

“ Scott.” Johnny yelled as he took aim and fired before he was hit from behind by the other cat.

Scott fought the cat the best he could, keeping it’s deadly teeth away from his neck as the two rolled around on the ground. He heard the cat scream out in pain as it’s claws ripped into both his thighs before falling dead from a bullet to it’s head.

Johnny felt the teeth sink deep into his left shoulder as he desperately tried to reach his pistol, the rifle knocked out of his reach when the cat jumped him. Screaming in agony from the bite as he pulled his colt free finally just as a shot rang out and the cat fell dead on his back. Pain worse than he had ever felt before rocked his body as Johnny tried to roll over but couldn’t with the cat on him.

“ Scott.” he called out just before he felt his brothers hands on him and the weight of the cat gone.

“ Johnny.” Scott said as he noticed the blood soaking his brothers back and left side as he helped roll him over.

“ You okay Scott?’ Johnny asked between clenched teeth.

“ Damn cat got both my legs with it’s claws brother. I don’t think I can stand up.” Scott said as he fell back onto his back and covered his eyes as  the white hot pain wracked his legs.

Johnny sat up and cradled his left arm, looking at his brothers torn up legs.

“ We need to get that bleeding slowed down.” Johnny said as he looked around and found both horses gone, along with any medical supplies. Taking the rifle up he chambered a round into it and fired off three shots a few seconds apart signaling any hands near he needed help.

“ I don’t know if I’m cold from laying in the snow, or from blood loss Johnny. I do know I don’t feel to good right now.” Scott stated weakly as his body shivered.

Johnny took off his coat, ignoring his own injury and removed his shirt, taking his knife from his boot he cut the sleeves off  and wrapped them around both legs above the wounds to staunch the flow of blood. Bare chested he took his heavy winter coat and covered Scott with it.

“ You hang on Boston, Don’t you go leaving me.” he said as he took the rifle up again and fired three shots again. A moment later a single shot could be faintly heard in the distance, so he fired three again. Horses hooves could be heard a few minutes later as Hank and Carlos rode up.

“ Carlos give me your saddlebags and then go get Sam.” Frank ordered as he dismounted and went to the downed brothers.

Carlos untied his saddlebags and tossed them to Frank before turning his horse and riding off. For help.

“ His legs are pretty bad Frank.” Johnny said between chattering teeth.

Frank looked at the younger Lancer and it was then he noticed Johnny had no coat on. Going to his horse he removed his bedroll and wrapped a blanket around Johnny. “ You alright?” he asked.

“ I’m fine, use whatever bandages you have on his legs Frank.” Johnny said, ignoring the pain and blood he was loosing in his left shoulder.

Another hand named Bud rode up and together they got Scott onto a horse. It was then that Frank noticed Johnny not using his left arm at all and blood dripping from his fingers as it hung limp at his side.

“ Jesus Johnny, why didn’t you say something before about your arm?” Frank demanded as he walked over to him. “ Let me wrap that shoulder up and get you on my horse.” Frank ordered.

Johnny was getting weaker as he fought to stay standing. “ It’s nothing. I want you and Bud to get Scott home now, leave me here and send someone back for me.” he ordered.

“ Johnny I can’t leave you out here alone, you’re father would have my hide.” Frank stated.

“ Damn it Frank, your horse won’t carry two people, Scott is hurt bad now get him out of here now, you can send someone back with a horse for me, now get out of here before I shoot you where you stand damn it.” Johnny said more firmly as he took his colt out.

Frank knew Johnny was serious, he could see he was dealing with Johnny Madrid now, turning he mounted his horse.

“ I’ll get someone back for you  as soon as I can Johnny.” Frank said before turning his horse and helping the other rider hold Scott on his.

When Frank was out of site Johnny bent over and emptied his stomach, the pain was so bad in his shoulder he dropped to his knees and passed out before hitting the snow next to the one dead cat.

Murdoch and Teresa hurried outside with Sam as Frank and Bud rode into the yard. The Lancer patriarch knew something bad had happened when his sons horses came back and Scott’ had marks on it’s flanks clearly from a cat attack.

“ Let’s get him inside and start warming him up.” Sam ordered as hands helped get the injured Lancer son down.

“ Frank wheres Johnny?” Murdoch asked.

“ He made me leave him behind sir. He’s injured also, his left shoulder.” Frank stated. “ He ordered me to or he would shoot me mister Lancer, he said his shoulder was just a scratch and to get Scott home and send someone back for him sir.”

“ Alright, you go get warmed up.” Murdoch ordered. “ Pete.”  Murdoch called.

“ Yes sir.” a man answered as he hurried over.

“ Take a horse and go get Johnny, find out exactly where he’s at from Frank.” he ordered before going into the house to his oldest son.

The sun was now setting as Sam finally came downstairs to a very anxious father at wits end.

“ Sam how is he?”

“ He’s lost a lot of blood Murdoch, both of his upper legs have deep gouges in them from claws. I sewed up the torn muscles and skin and cleaned all the wounds out thoroughly. All we can do is wait and hope infection doesn’t set in.” Sam told him. “ Teresa is staying with him to keep an eye on him for any signs of a fever….Has Johnny come back yet?”

“ No, not yet Sam, can I see him?”

“ He’s unconscious still. I gave him a shot of morphine to make sure he didn’t come too when stitching him up.”

 “ I need help out here.”  Pete yelled as he stopped his horse close to the front door.

Murdoch and Sam hurried outside as Frank and Wade came over and helped an unconscious Johnny down from Pete’ horse.

“ Looks like he was bitten on his left shoulder and neck doc. I found him passed out cold in the snow, soaked in blood when I got there.” he told them.

“ Get him inside and get him out of those wet clothes. I need some of you men to bring in a tub and fill it with hot water. He’s suffering from hypothermia and we need to get his body temperature up and now.” Sam ordered. “ Lay him on the table and start cutting those clothes off him……..Someone go get Maria to help me, Teresa shouldn’t see Johnny like this. Murdoch go up and make sure she understands to * not * come down here.” he ordered.

Murdoch didn’t want to leave his youngest, but knew if he ordered it, Teresa would do as told.

Hours later an exhausted father sat holding his youngest sons hand as he sat in a chair next to his bed and prayed silently. Fever wracked both his boys  through the long night. It took two hours to get Johnny’ body temperature back up to were Sam could go to work on his shoulder.

“ I know he’s tough Murdoch, but I can assure this that when the cat did this to him, he screamed in agony.” Sam said as he checked the wound. “ I don’t know Murdoch what this boy was thinking not coming back with his brother.”

“ Frank said he threatened to shoot him if he didn’t get Scott back here. I can’t loose both my sons Sam. Not now, not like this.” Murdoch said with fear in his voice as he stood up and walked over to the window. “ What the hell happened out there Sam? My boys went after a cat killing our cattle…..How in gods name did they both get attacked by one cat.”

“ There were two cats.” a weak voice said.

Murdoch hurried over to Johnny’ side as his youngest winced in pain and tried to roll onto his right side. “ Take it easy son, don’t move around or you’ll rip out your stitches.” Murdoch said calmly but with firmness.

“ Scott?” Johnny asked as he tried to relieve some weight from his shoulder.

“ Your brother is in his room son. Maria is with him.”

“ I didn’t see the cat behind him……It’s my fault pa.” Johnny said as pain wracked his body.

“ Take it easy son, Sam.”

Sam came over and mixed some laudanum in a glass. “ Johnny I want you to drink this to stop the pain.” Sam ordered.

Johnny tasted the bitter medicine and spit it out and turned his head. “ No medicine.”

“ It’s this or morphine Johnny, I’m not having you damage that shoulder any more because you want to be a pig headed stubborn jackass, now drink this.”

Johnny looked at him, giving him a hard look as his father held the glass to his lips and he drank the foul tasting medicine down, fighting the urge to empty his stomach.

Murdoch rung out a towel and wiped the sweat from his sons face as Sam checked the wound. When Johnny closed his eyes and let the darkness claim him again mumbling, the words made Murdoch wonder more just what did happen out there.

“ Lo siento hermano, por favor.” Johnny mumbled.

Sam looked at his friend and could see the hurt on his face. “ Murdoch, he’s sick with fever. The wound is infected. I can feel the heat on his skin around it. Everything he is saying now he may not remember later.”

“ Can he lie Sam?”

“ You mean intentionally?……No, his brains subconscious isn’t able to Murdoch. What Johnny said about it being his fault I’m afraid might be true. We won’t know until they are both better and stronger and can tell us what happened out there.” Sam said as the door opened and Teresa came in.

“ Sam, Scott’  awake and asking for Johnny.” she said.

“ I’ll go see him, you stay here with Johnny and Murdoch Teresa, see if you can get him to eat something. He’s going to do neither son any good if he doesn’t eat and rest.” Sam stated before walking out of the room.

For two long days both brothers battled their fevers. It was Scott who came around first and told Murdoch what happened out there.

“ I don’t understand why Johnny is blaming himself for this sir…..It wasn’t his fault, neither of us knew the cats were right above us. Hell I looked at those rock ledges just moments before when Johnny was on the ground checking the tracks. It was him who found two different sized tracks telling us we had two cats not one.”

“ I don’t know either son, but he said when he came too that it was and he was mumbling for your forgiveness before passing out again.”

“ And he threatened to kill Frank if he didn’t get me home and leave him out there?……Why?”

“ I fully intend on find that out son when he’s well enough I assure you.”

“ Don’t, let me talk to him first Murdoch, please?” Scott asked.

“ Alright son.” he answered. “ Sometimes I don’t think I will ever understand your brother and what goes thru that mind of his.”

“ That makes two of us sir, believe me.” Scott said as he pushed himself to sit up more.

Three days later Sam allowed Johnny to go to his brothers room where he now sat quiet, looking down at his left hand sticking out from the bandage wrapped around his shoulder and chest to keep the arm from moving.

Scott sat up in bed  looking at his brother sitting in the chair with his head down.

“ Talk to me Johnny.” Scott asked. “ It’s just me and you in here. Tell me why you think this is your fault little brother, because quiet frankly I just don’t get it. What happened out there wasn’t your fault.” Scott stated.

Johnny glanced at him then stood up and walked over to the window and looked out at the beautiful spring day, the pastures were green, water stood in some places from the thaw, spring flows were in bloom and snow was still in the upper elevations in the distance.

“ Johnny.” Scott said softly.

“I should have known those cats would still be that close Scott. That cow wasn’t dead very long before we found it, hell it was still warm.” Johnny said, not turning around. “ I almost got you killed because I fucked up……I almost lost the best thing to ever happen to me.”

“ Would you look at me brother…..please?”

Johnny turned around and leaned back against the window sill.

“ I want you to stop this, stop thinking you can prevent anything bad from happening……there was two of us up there remember? I should have known also that those cats would still be close. It wasn’t you fault.”

“ Yes it was Scott, don’t you get it? I’ve lived in this country my whole life, you haven’t…..I’m not saying your stupid or anything like that, but damn it……I should be the one laying in that bed and not you.”

“ Do I need to remind you little brother that one of those cats damn near killed you also?”

“ No.”

“ You know what went thru my mind when I seen that cat on your back?……..My god Johnny when I heard you scream as I was getting my rifle I thought I was too late and that cat had killed you because you got quiet after you screamed…….I thought I had just seen the little brother I always wanted get killed right in front of me and I couldn’t protect him like a big brother is supposed to.” Scott said with a quiver in his voice and tears in his eyes.

Johnny walked over and sat down next to him on the side of the bed, looking into his eyes, Johnny seen the genuine love there. A love that only two brothers could share.

“ You know Boston, even though you are an eastern dandy, your just the kind of big brother I would want.” Johnny said with a smile.

“ Are you ever going to stop calling me Boston?” Scott asked with a grin.

“ Nope.” Johnny said flatly.

“ You look done in, why don’t you go lay down and rest brother?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah I am a little tired.” Johnny said as he walked around the bed and laid down next to his brother.

Scott was surprised a little at what his tough as nails little brother just did. Taking his left arm he reached around Johnny and pulled him closer and the two brothers fell asleep needing the closeness and security that only they could have.

Murdoch found them sleeping peacefully like that an hour later, deciding not to wake Johnny up, he pulled a blanket from the trunk at the foot of the bed and covered them up, smiling at them.

“ Good night boy’s.” he said before quietly closing the door.

Eight weeks passed and both brothers were doing better. Scott was walking around with a slight limp and Johnny’ arm even though it was still sore, he had full use of it again. The past week Murdoch had him overseeing branding and castrating calves, a job he didn’t miss having to do at all. It made him cringe the first time he did one, also made him glad he wasn’t born a boy cow and have to suffer such a fate.

Getting off Barranca, Johnny checked his cinch and walked up to his friend and rubbed his face.

“ You know amigo, I never thought I would live to be twenty one, hell in my old profession I’m considered old for my age.” he stated as the golden stallion pushed his face into his chest. “ Hard to believe huh buddy, me Johnny Madrid a third owner of the biggest ranch in California, who would have thought….You know amigo I seen a real nice Palomino mare running in that herd up by black mesa, how’s you like to sire a foal for me huh buddy?” Johnny asked as he scratched that special place behind the left ear. Barranca tossed his head up and down and stopped his feet, causing Johnny to laugh. “ Yeah I thought you might buddy.” he said as he went to mount up, but stopped at the sound of a buggy approaching.

“ Hey Murdoch, Scott. What brings you two out here?”

“ Well little brother I talked our father into taking a spring ride, since it’s such a nice day.”

“ Son, how’s it coming?” Murdoch asked after getting down from the buggy.

“ Good, we got about fifty left to cut from this herd, we won’t get them all done today, should be done mid morning tomorrow though.” Johnny stated.

“ You and the men have been working hard son, why don’t you cut them loose early since it’s Friday and payday, come back to the ranch with us?”

“ You feeling alright Murdoch?” Johnny asked with a puzzled look.

“ Yes I feel fine son. Why?”

“ Well it’s not like you to have us break from a job early. We still have four hours of light left.”

“ Son, you and the men deserve to cut loose early.”

“ Okay, let me ride down and tell the men then, I’ll catch up with you.”

Johnny and Scott sat playing a game of chess that evening as their father went over the books at his desk.

“ Oh sir, did you give Johnny that telegram that was brought out for him today?” Scott asked. “ Check little brother.” he said with a smile.

“ What, I got a telegram.” Johnny asked as he moved . “ Check mate big brother.

Scott looked down at the board and couldn’t believe he had missed that move. “ Johnny, one of these days.”

“ Yeah I know.” he said with a laugh as he stood up and walked over to his fathers desk.

“ I’m sorry son, it slipped my mind, Pedro brought that out here, said it was urgent that you got it, I’m sorry son.” Murdoch said as he handed the telegram to him.

Johnny opened it up and started to read it as he walked over to the fireplace. After reading it he let his right hand drop to his side, holding the message.

“ Johnny, is everything alright?” Scott asked, noticing the difference in his brother’ posture.

Johnny wrinkled the gram up and tossed it in the fire. “ Yeah, I’m gonna turn in now. I’ll see you in the morning.” he said as he hurried to the stairs. A few seconds later his door could be heard shutting.

“ Sir something is wrong, I can feel it.” Scott said as he stood up.

“ I know son, I got that feeling also. He’ll tell us if he wants to.”

Scott gave him a puzzling look. “ I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this toward Johnny sir.”

“ He’s a grown man now Scott, he’ll come to us if he want’s to talk about it.”

“ Alright, I think I will turn in also, I started a good book last night and I believe it is calling me.”

Murdoch smiled. “Alright, good night son.”

“ You know sir, I could have sworn I had him on that game.”

“ He is good isn’t he?” Murdoch asked with a smile.

“ Quiet sir, good night.”

Johnny walked Barranca out of the barn at midnight. “ Sorry amigo, but we are needed in Mexico.” Johnny said as he mounted and walked the stallion until he was far enough away he wouldn’t be heard, headed south.

“Time to wake up little brother.” Scott said opening the door and finding the room empty. Looking around he seen the top drawer was open and his brothers clothes and saddlebags were gone. A note lay on top of the dresser along with Johnny’ copy of the deed. Picking up the note, Scott read it and his heart broke.

Scott I ain’t much good at writing a letter, ain’t had much cause to until now, never had anyone who cared about me beyond my gun until you and the old man came along. I signed over my third of the ranch to you and Murdoch. I’m sorry brother but something has come up and well, I probably won’t be coming back to Lancer. It’s my past Scott, the old man told us that first day that the past is just that, the past, well it don’t work that way for me because you see something I promised a long time ago has come up and I have to leave, please don’t try and find me because you’ll only get yourself killed.

Take care of Murdoch and Teresa for me, don’t let them grieve over my absence, I’m not worth it.

You have been the best big brother I could ever have, even though we had some bad times, I will always remember the good ones more.  Guess what they say is true, a gunfighter is old if he makes it to my age. I’m sure glad I got to with you.

Murdoch, I know I’m not the son you hoped I’d be as a man, but since I came here and found out my mother lied to me about you throwing us out I have tried. I’ve taken on some pretty hard jobs before, but I gotta tell ya, none of them have been as hard as trying to be your son, someone to be proud of, someone you could be proud to call your son. I guess certain people in this valley can breath easy now that I’m gone. I do have one request from you. I seen a beautiful Palomino mare up by black mesa I was going to breed Barranca to for a foal. She has all the right characteristics and would be a good cutting horse, you said once you wanted cutting horses and were going to buy them. Save yourself money and train them yourself old man, I know you and Scott can do it if you try hard enough. One thing you taught me pa was, if you want something bad enough, you gotta work for it.

Teresa, you have been the best little sister I could ever have, thank you. Take care of Murdoch and Scott for me. Make sure the old man eats right, he’s not a spring chicken any longer, even though he won’t admit it. We had some good times together little sister and I thank you for standing up for me when the old man wasn’t sure about me in the beginning. I will miss your smile and our talks, never had a woman I could talk to before like I could you. I’ll miss your apple pies and all the other small things you did for me. Whenever you get to missing me just go out in your garden and smell the roses and remember me and how I always gave you one.

Take care. Johnny.

Scott’ eyes teared up as he stared at the letter, just standing there, numb, turning he headed downstairs to two people he knew would be just as shocked and hurt as he was.

                                                                                                   Chapter 17

                                                    This is for you Southern Frau, my mentor and friend. I miss you and all you did.

“ I don’t understand, how could he just leave in the middle of the night like that?” Teresa stated with tears in her eyes.

“ Because he knew we would stop him.” Scott said. “ He burned that telegram so we have no way of knowing where it came from.”

“ We can find out where it came from son.” Murdoch said. “  Stu keeps a record of any telegrams that come thru marked urgent.

“ I’ll go saddle the horses sir.” Scott said before heading to the door.

“ Bring him home Murdoch, please.” Teresa pleaded “ Whatever it is, please find him before it’s to late.”

“ We will darling. Why don’t you get supplies ready for us for when we get back?”

“ Okay.” she answered before heading to the kitchen with tears on her cheeks.

“Yes sir mister Lancer, I can tell you where that wire for you son came from.” Stu said as he took his record book out from under the counter and opened it. “ Let’s see, it came to me from San Diego but before that it looks like it came up from Mexico.”

“Stu I know you’re not supposed to, but can you tell me what it said? I wouldn’t asked but it’s important.” Murdoch asked, almost pleadingly.

Stu looked at the big man he has known for years and could see the worry on his face. “ I don’t feel the way others do about Johnny being here Murdoch, I just want you to know that.” he said before telling what the wire said.

“ Thank you Stu, and nobody will know you did this, you have my word.” Murdoch said as he shook the mans hand before walking out and telling Scott where the wire came from.

“ Well at least we know now where Johnny is crossing the border at sir.” Scott said as the two walked out of the telegraph office. “ I don’t know about you sir, but I am not going to let my little brother ride into something he said is going to get him killed.”

“ If you think I am, you’re wrong son. Let’s get back to the ranch, I have Teresa getting supplies together for us.”

“ Sir, you’re going after him?” Scott asked as he mounted his horse.

“ Yes I am.” Murdoch answered firmly.

“ It’s just the ranch and……”

“ I don’t give a damn about the ranch Scott….I’d give everything I have up if it came to choosing Lancer over you two boys. I just got Johnny back and I will  be damn if I am going to lose him again.” Murdoch said before turning his horse and heading out of town.

Johnny rode into San Diego four days later around midnight. He knew he was taking a chance on being seen and called out, but didn’t care. Barranca had traveled long and hard for him, and deserved a rest and grain. After taking care of the stallion, he grabbed his saddlebags and headed for the closest hotel, wanting a bath, shave and bed to sleep in.

“ You’ve become soft Madrid. Used to be you didn’t care about a bed beyond being with a whore.” he said softly as he walked into the hotel and up to the counter and set his saddlebags down.

“ Yes sir can I……Madrid…..look I don’t want no trouble in here please.” the man behind the counter pleaded.

“ Won’t be any, unless you tell me you ain’t got a room available for me.”  Johnny stated firmly.

“Yes sir, I got a room available. It’ll be three dollars, four if you want a bath. I expect you’ll be wanting one  as well?”

“ You expect right. Restaurant still open?” Johnny said signing the ledger and tossing some coins on the counter.

“ You here for the job mister Madrid?”

Johnny picked up his saddlebags. “ And what Job would that be?”

“ The overland stage is hiring men good with guns, bandidos have been robbing it every time it carries a gold shipment or money.” the man said as he laid a key on the counter.

“ Nope, sounds like an inside job to me.” Johnny said as he picked up his key and headed to the stairs.

“ You going to be wanting a woman to come to your room Madrid?”

Johnny stopped. “ Nope, not tonight.” he answered, even though a good whore would be nice, tonight though he was just to tired for that kind of leisure.

Two days later Johnny rode into the small village of San Ignacio to the mission as Murdoch and Scott rode into San Diego. Both having pushed their horses harder than their quarry had. Walking eating a hot meal Scott walked over to the counter.

“ Excuse me sir, I was wondering if you had seen someone in the past couple days?”

“ Yes sir, who might that be?”

“ Johnny Madrid.” he asked. He knew by the look on the mans face he had. “ Has he been here?”

“ You friends of his?”

“ He’s my son.” Murdoch said firmly as he stepped up to the counter. “ I’m Murdoch Lancer and this is my oldest son Scott, we’re looking for Johnny.”

“ Lancer, from up around Morro Coyo way? Are you that Murdoch Lancer?”

“ Yes I am, now has he been here?”

“ Yes sir, two day’s ago, came in and got a room  for the night, left before daybreak the next morning.”

“ Much obliged sir.” Scott said.

“ Did he mention which way he was headed?” Murdoch inquired.

“ South, to San Ignacio’ my guess.” the proprietor stated.

“ Why do you say that?” Murdoch asked.

“ Because a week or so back someone came here looking for him and said if he ever showed up to tell him they would be at the mission there waiting for him.” the man answered before turning and heading to the back.

“ Let’s get some supplies son and head across the border.”

“ At least now we know where Johnny is going for sure.” Scott stated.

“ Yeah, but he has a two day lead on us so let’s just hope he’s still there.” Murdoch said as the two headed across to a general store.

Johnny walked cautiously into the back of the mission, ready for a trap, seeing the padre at the stove putting wood in it he walked up behind him silently.

“ I see you still cook.” he said softly, his colt in his hand ready.

“ And I see you still walk with the silence of a cat Juanito.” the padre said as he stood up and turned.

“ How are you padre?” Johnny asked.

“ I am old, but good.” he answered, noticing the gun at Johnny’ side. “ We are alone, there are no Rurales here Juanito.”

Johnny holstered his colt. “ Where is she?” he asked.

“ You must be hungry, sit and I will tell you what happened.”

Johnny sat down at the table and removed his hat, letting it fall back ob his shoulders, hanging from the stampede string.

“ You are brave to come here Johnny, if the Rurales find out you are here, they will shoot you on sight.” the padre stated as he walked over with a bowl of soup and cup of coffee.

“ Yeah well, I don’t much care padre, I made a promise and I intend to keep it.” he said as he dug into the soup. “ How’d she know where I was?” he asked.

“ This.” the padre answered as he took out a newspaper article and handed it to him. It was the article Jim Harper had written up in the Sacramento newspaper, telling where Johnny Madrid  was, along with the article was the wanted poster on him. “ We hoped and prayed that you were still alive.”

Johnny laid the papers down. “ For now I am.”

“ It is good that you found your father Johnny. I have heard of Lancer, it is a very big hacienda si?”

“ Yeah, it’s big, but it’s not for me padre.” Johnny answered.

“I see you still believe that because you lived by your gun, that you shouldn’t have a family and happiness.”

“ How’d he die padre?”

“ El Capitain, he came to the mission and was going to take the children to work the fields. He believes that since they are orphaned they should be worked like dogs until they collapse and die from no water or food.”

“ Vega?” Johnny asked, receiving a nod. “ I should have killed that bastardo when I had the chance….He’s not even a real Capitain so why do the Rurales allow him to do what he does?”

“ He has many men with him now Juanito, I think it is because the Rurales have so few here now.”

“ The fewer the better I say.”

“ You rest in the back, I will send word to her that you are here.”

“ I don’t want a lot of people knowing I’m here padre.” Johnny said as he stood up.

“ No one will know but me and her and the child I send. You are safe here Juanito, go rest.”

“ I left my horse hidden out back in the arroyo.”

“ I will take care of him, now go rest.”

“ He is resting in the back, I will go wake him for you.”

“ No, padre, let me.” the woman before him asked softly.

“ You know not to startle him si?”

“ Yes Padre, I know not to startle Johnny when waking him, unless I want to get shot.” she answered before heading to the back.

“ I will fix you both something to eat my child, por favor try to control yourselves.”

“ I will Padre, I would never do anything dishonorable in the house of god.”

Johnny felt fingers gently touching his cheek, his senses telling him it was alright as he slowly opened his eyes and looked into a face he never thought he would see again.

“ I was beginning to think you wouldn’t wake up.” she said softly.

Johnny blinked a couple times before sitting up on the cot with his back to the wall.

“ Jesse.” he said as he gently touched her face. “ How are you?”

“ I’m okay Johnny, really. I miss him but…..” she stated before having to turn away as tears welled up in her eyes.

“ Hey come here.” Johnny said as he pulled her to him and held her tight. “ I’m here now, let it go girl, I’m here.” he said as he rubbed her back.

“ Make him pay Johnny, please make that bastard pay for murdering Micheal.”

“ Shhh, he’ll pay Jesse I promise you that…..If it’s the last thing I do once I get you safely out of here, he will pay with his life.”

“ He has many men with him.”Jesse said as she wiped her eyes.

“ I don’t care how many men he has, it’s only him I care about…..He’s going to pay for killing your brother.”

“ Michael and I heard you had went to your father, he was so happy for you Johnny, that you had a home now…..I wasn’t going to write to you, but I promised Micheal that if anything ever happened to him I would.”

“ Just like I promised him I would take care of you if something did happen Jesse, and I am going to, I swear my life on that.”

“ I know he wanted to do good here Johnny, but I don’t think I can do it, not here, not where it would make no difference.”

“ What if I knew of a town where you could Jesse?” Johnny asked. “ A town were a person like you  could make a difference.”

“ I would have to ask where.”

“ Across the border in California.” Johnny said, then told Jesse about home, Lancer and the towns around there. About the padre in Morro Coyo and how he hates him because of who he was.

“ The three of us had some good times together didn’t we Johnny?” Jesse asked as she stood up and turned away from him.

Johnny stood up and put his arms around her pulling her back into his chest. “ Yeah, if Micheal and you hadn’t been there that day I would probably have been beat to death by those boys.”

“ That’s why you did it, isn’t it?” Jesse asked as she turned in his arms and faced him, mere inches away.

“ Partly.” Johnny said as he brushed his thumb along her jaw. “ Sometimes I wish I could go back and never have had to pick up a gun Jesse. Every time I get called out by some fool wanting my reputation,

I get dragged right back down.”

“ Johnny, you did what you had to, and those men who call you out are fools to try. God works in mysterious ways remember.” Jesse stated more than asked.

“ Yeah, and what’s he say about us Jess?” Johnny asked as his hand came p under here chin.

“ I told the padre we would be good.” Jesse said as her breath caught.

“ I told him I would also,, but I didn’t promise him I wouldn’t do this.” Johnny said before he kissed her.

Jesse wrapped her arms around his neck and parted her lips, welcoming Johnny’ tongue to intertwine

with hers, savoring the feeling kissing him was stirring inside.

Johnny relished the taste as his tongue sought the deepest parts of Jesse’ mouth, knowing he was headed to trouble, Johnny stopped and tried to get his breathing among other things, under control.

“ I think maybe we should go out and eat now.” he stated.

“ Yeah, You sure didn’t kiss me like that, that first time Johnny.” Jesse stated with a smile. “ I guess what I’ve heard about Johnny Madrid and the women he shares a bed with is true.”

“ Oh yeah,  and just what would that be?” he asked, knowing what the answer would be.

“ Why Johnny, of all the women you bedded haven’t you learned it’s not nice to kiss and tell?”

“ Yeah I’ve heard that, so I guess there’ only one way you will find out if what you heard is true then.” Johnny said as he claimed her mouth again just long enough to stir her up before breaking the kiss and going and opening the door.

“ Ah Juanito I was just going to come and get you, I have some hot food prepared for you both, I’m afraid it isn’t much though.”

“ Thanks padre.” Johnny said as he pulled a chair out to let Jesse sit. “ Is there a store in San Ignacio where I could buy food?” he asked as he sat down.

“ I see you have learned some manner toward a woman my son, You do not want to go into town Johnny, Vega is not in town right now, but he leaves men behind and someone might see you.”

“ He’s right Johnny, it’s too risky for you to go, I will.”

“ Nope, I’m gonna start playing my hand and if someone see’ me, fine. I want Vega to know who it is going to kill him.”

“ Johnny that’s suicide, you can’t ride into San Ignacio alone.” Jesse pleaded.

“ Look Jesse, I made a promise to your brother and I fully intend on keeping that promise.” he started. “ Look, I can’t offer you what you want between us Jesse, I’m not ready for that, I don’t know if I ever will be, but what I can offer you is a safe place to live and a chance to make a difference for people who need someone like you to help them. Most of my life I have helped people with my gun, and look what it’s got me….That day I met you and Micheal in Sonora will never leave me, I’m not the kind of man you deserve Jesse, I never will be, somewhere down the line a bullet will find me and I won’t subject you to that, I can’t.”

“ Johnny, how many other women have tried to catch you and you’ve told them what you just told me?” she asked glancing at the padre sitting next to him.

Johnny sighed. “ None.” he answered.

“ And why’s that?” she asked.

“ Because none have meant anything to me like you do Jesse, okay. You happy now, I said it alright. I have always had feelings for you but I can never have what I want because of who I am.”

“ And just who are you Juanito?” the padre asked.

“ You know who I am father.”

“ No, I see two men here with me, I see the gunfighter yes, but I also see the son of a very rich rancher and I think that is who you are more Johnny. Tell me I am wrong and I will never address it again.”

“ You’re not wrong padre, but like I said, that life isn’t something a person like me deserves.” he said as he stood up. “ I’m going to go check on my horse, excuse me.” he said before walking out the back door.

“ Go to him Jesse, his heart and mind are confused…..He has gotten a taste of what it is like to be loved by others and even though he will never admit it, it scares him.”

“ I know padre, but how do I help him see the real him.” Jesse asked as she stood up.

“ I think only you can answer that I’m afraid….Juanito is starving for love and has been hurt so much in the past he doesn’t want to allow anyone close to him so he uses Madrid as an excuse.”

“ I’ll do what I can.” she answered as she headed to the door.

“We should reach San Ignacio around midnight sir.” Scott stated as the two rode along, using the full moon.

“ I expect your brother will be at the mission, that man back there said it is on the west side of town. Since we don’t know what all is going on we’ll ride there and see if we can find him.”

“ I wish we knew what was in that wire.” Scott stated.

“ We do son.” Murdoch said as he stopped his horse.

“ We do?” Scott asked.

“ Yes, Stu told me and I gave him my word nobody but us would know he did.” Murdoch answered then told him what it said.

“ A woman sir, Johnny left Lancer to come back here where he knows he could be killed for a woman. I don’t get it, why would he leave what he has wanted for so long, what he deserves, for a woman?” Scott asked as he took his hat off and ran his fingers thru his hair.

“ A child is why son. I think your brother got this Jesse woman with child and didn’t want to be responsible for his actions.”

“ Sir, with all do respect, we have been over this before. Johnny is responsible for his actions. I think you’re wrong about this woman.” Scott said firmly before moving his horse out again.

“ He needs to grow up Scott, him riding away like he did in the middle of the night just goes to show how irresponsible he is. If he wasn’t he would have had the decency to tell us what was going on and not leave in the middle of the night like a coward.” Murdoch said with some anger to his voice.

“ Haven’t you learned by now Murdoch that Johnny doesn’t talk about his past much. The little he has told me about it I don’t think you could handle, so in all fairness sir, I think you need to back off and stop condemning Johnny before you have all the facts.” Scott said firmly.

“ You’re right son, I’m sorry. I don’t know why I have such a hard time when something from Johnny’ past shows up.”

“ I do, you never got to be a father to him, you never got the chance to guide him as he grew up, like a father should. It wasn’t either one of you’ fault. You two are so much alike it’s uncanny sir.”

“ Alike?”

“ Yes sir, all pride and Johnny’ cut from the same mold, not one inch of give in either one of you.” Scott stated. “ You told him once that he has his mothers temper, when in actuality sir, Johnny has your temper.”

“ I would give anything if I could have had the chance to be a father to you two boys, have you both grow up at Lancer, safe.”

“ You mean Johnny, so he wouldn’t have had to become a gunfighter don’t you?” Scott asked.

Murdoch looked at his oldest. “ Both of you son, but especially Johnny yes, and I’m not saying that I don’t have regrets about you being raised by your grandfather, or that I love you any less.”

“ I know that sir. I hate that while growing up in Boston, I never wanted for anything, and my little brother was growing up cold, hungry and being abused.”

“ Harlan knew about Johnny, Scott. Your grandfather knew I had remarried and had another son.”

“ He never told me I had a brother and I know why, but like you have said, it’s in the past, right or wrong, good or bad sir.”

“ Yes, I believe that is the lights from San Ignacio, let’s ride around to the mission and stay out of town until we find out what is going on.”

“ What if this padre won’t tell us if Johnny is there?” Scott asked as they headed to the west side of town to the mission.

“ We are not leaving there until he does.” Murdoch stated firmly.

Johnny heard the soft footsteps coming toward him and knew who it was as he walked around Barranca and started brushing the right side.

“ Johnny.” Jesse said softly as she walked up close to the stallion and stopped.

“ You shouldn’t be out here Jesse.” Johnny said as he continued to brush his friend.

“ I think I should.” Jesse answered as she stepped around Barranca to see him. “ Johnny, have you forgotten the promise you made me that first time you kissed me?”

Johnny turned and started brushing Barranca again, until gentle fingers wrapped around his forearm.

“ Jesse, we were just kids, I’m a halfbreed and because of what I’ve done in my past, who I became to stay alive…..I can’t. Weren’t you listening to me in there?”

“ I heard what you said Johnny, I’m not asking you for marriage. I’m asking you for us, even if we just lived together unmarried.”

“Live where Jesse?….Where can I live with you and not worry about being called out and killed?”

“ Would you look at me please?” Jesse asked softly.

Johnny turned and looked at her. She was beautiful,  silky blonde hair down to her waist, blue eyes, firm breast, slim hips and legs long and slender.

“ We can go wherever you want to Johnny.” she said stepping closer as she reached up and started undoing the buttons on her dress reveling her chemise beneath.

“ No Jesse, we can’t…….I promised Micheal I would get you to a safe place if anything happened to him and I fully intend to do that.” Johnny said as he went to walk away.

Jesse grabbed his arm and found herself suddenly unable to breath as Johnny spun back around and kissed her with such hunger and passion her whole body became hot as their tongues battled and their hands worked eagerly to get each other undressed.

Johnny stopped long enough to spread Barranca’ blanket before two bodies came together as one for the first time on that cool night under the stars away from the mission.

Murdoch and Scott stepped into the mission and found a man in a brown robe just walking into the room from the back.

“ Can I help you senor?”

“ I’m hoping so padre, I’m looking for someone who might be here.” Murdoch stated.

“ I’m afraid there are only children here senor and myself. This is an orphanage.”

“ Padre I know my son was coming here, to meet a woman.”

“ And who is your son?”

“John Lancer, but you may know him as Johnny Madrid.”

“ I’m sorry but there is nobody  here by that name.”

“ Padre, I’m Scott Lancer and this is my father Murdoch Lancer, we understand you’re protecting Johnny, I assure you we are not here to hurt him. We rode all this way to talk to him please.”

The padre stood there looking mostly at Murdoch and could see the worry a father would have for a child in his eyes.

“ Come with me into the kitchen, if you are not telling me the truth and are here to hurt Johnny.”

“ I have no intention of hurting my son padre. I lost him most of his life, I don’t want to lose him again.” Murdoch stated as they walked to the kitchen.

“So you are telling us padre that this Jesse and her brother Micheal saved my brothers life when he was a child in Sonora and Johnny made Micheal a promise if he was ever killed to take his sister away from here someplace where she would be safe?” Scott  asked.

“ Yes, I was the padre in Sonora, Johnny wasn’t liked I’m afraid by the other children because of his blue eyes. They beat him up as did the adults whenever they could. Johnny and Jesse were very close and……..” the padre stopped when the back door opened and Johnny walked  in.

“ What the hell are you doing here?” he demanded.

Murdoch stood. “ We came here for you son, to take you back home where you belong.”

“ Leave here now. I told you not to follow me Scott, I guess you’re to stupid to understand what I wrote.”

Scott stood up. “ Johnny……….”

“ Gentlemen please, Juanito come, sit down and let’s all talk this out like adults.”

“ Nothing to talk out padre, they’re going home, now or else.” Johnny snapped.

“ Not this time son, this time it’s me you will answer to, now we came all this way……I lost you once, I’m not going to loose you again Johnny.”

“ You already have old man, Lancer isn’t for me, my kind……..”

“ Your kind, let me ask you something son. Which do you want to be more?”

“ It won’t work.”

“ It won’t work brother because you are to damn scared to try and let it work.” Scott stated. “ If you were the man you claim you are, you never would have left in the middle of the night like a coward Johnny.”

“ I thought Johnny Madrid wasn’t afraid of anything, but I guess I was wrong, You’re afraid to let people get close to you son, to love you.”

“ I’m going to forget you said that old man, I’m going to bed now padre, I need some rest before tomorrow. Jesse…I’ll see you in the morning.” Johnny said before leaving the kitchen.

“ So you’re the man who threw Johnny and his mother out when he was two?’ Jesse asked.

Murdoch and Scott both turned to her, speechless.

                                                                                                 Chapter 18

                                                             This chapter is dedicated to  the memory of Southern Frau, mt mentor

“ He’s gone.” Jesse said hurriedly as she came into the kitchen where Murdoch, Scott and the padre were seated.

“ Who’s gone?” Scott asked.

“ Johnny, he said last night he was going to go into town and we tried talking him out of it because  Vega’s men are still around and will recognize him.”

“ Calm down young lady and tell us who this Vega is and why Johnny went to town.” Murdoch demanded.

“ Why should I tell you?…..You don’t care about Johnny, unless you need his gun. I know all about you mister high and mighty Lancer. Johnny told me how you treated him when he came back to you, so why the hell should I trust you now and tell you anything?”

“ Now see here young lady. The relationship between me and Johnny is none of your business…….I”

“ Jesse, we came here to take Johnny home with us. I don’t want to lose my brother, please, if he’s riding into trouble I want to help him.”

Jesse looked at Scott. “  You know he thinks the world of you Scott, he told me about how you found him with that girl Megan in bed together at the line shack and how you started a fight with him over it.”

she said with her anger building. “ And you…….you always have to be right and call the tune. You never do plan on trusting him do you?……You have no idea, either of you how much Johnny wants you both to love and accept him but you never will because all you see is Johnny Madrid the gunfighter.”

“ Juanito went to town for food for the mission.” the padre started. “ I’m afraid he is also going to kill Vega for killing her brother Micheal.”

“Kill him how?” Murdoch asked.

“ In cold blood if need be. That bastard murdered my brother and Johnny is keeping a promise to Micheal and me.”

“ Sir we should go.” Scott said.

“ Yes, and when this is over we are going to sit down with that boy again and have a talk.” Murdoch stated firmly as they headed to the door.

“ Mister Lancer, if you hurt Johnny again.” Jesse started as she walked up to the big man. “ I will do whatever it takes to make  damn sure it is the last time you ever hurt him….He’s been hurt enough.”

Johnny walked Barranca into San Ignacio easy, his eyes scanning everything they could from under his hat. He knew the signs of what he was looking for, finding four of them standing outside the cantina as he reined his horse over and got down, wrapping the rein around the rail before stepping up onto the walk and stopping. It was then he raised his head fully and looked at them, letting them get a good look at him before stepping inside. He knew they knew who he was and could just imagine as others were as he stepped in and it got quiet.

“ Tequila.” he said softly to the bartender as he turned and leaned against the wall at the end of the bar.

Smiling slightly as the four came inside as the bartender brought him his tequila.

“I heard you were dead Madrid.” one of the men stated as the three stood at the other end of the bar.

“ Guess you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.” Johnny said softly.

“ Why you here Madrid?”

Johnny turned and faced them full on now. “ To have one of you take a message back to Vega.”

“ And just what would that message be halfbreed?”

“ Well you see, it’s a real simple one, problem is, which of you three wants to live to tell him it?”

“ Four against one, you ain’t that good Madrid.” the biggest of the four said. “ What’s the damn message?”

“ His days are numbered……He killed a good friend of mine a short time back and I’ve come here to kill him.”

That did it, Johnny knew saying that would set them off. The big man he dropped first with a bullet between his eyes. The second had his gun halfway out of the holster when a bullet slammed into his chest, knocking him back dead before he hit the floor. The third and fourth ones stopped and stood there hands on their pistol butts.

Johnny aimed at them. “ What’s it going to be?” he asked.

“ I’m not drawing on you Madrid.” the shorter of the four said as he slowly raised his hand away from the gun.

“ Then I guess you get to tell Vega I’m coming to kill him, leave.” Johnny stated as he watched the other one. “Outside.” he said motioning with his gun.

Murdoch and Scott rode into San Ignacio just as Johnny walked out of the cantina with his gun drawn on a man, stopping their horses they knew not to say anything to distract Johnny.

 Scott took his rifle out and got down, followed by his father. Two men were in front of his brother, two men he had his colt on.

“ You think that’s Vega sir?” he asked.

“ I don’t know son, whoever it is, we’ll back Johnny up on this.” Murdoch said.

 Scott stepped away from his horse and up onto the walkway and waited. Murdoch stood by the horses watching. He hated watching his son kill a man.

“You go tell Vega what I said.” Johnny told the one. When the man had rode off Johnny holstered his colt. “ So you think you can take me huh?…..Let’s find out.” he said as he stepped into the street more.

The other man followed, stopping about twenty feet from Madrid. “ Oh I know I can.” he answered.

“ You got a name?” Johnny asked as he faced the man standing there calm, his hand by his colt. “It’s a somewhat comfort to know the name of the man I’m about to kill.”

“ What my name is ain’t none of your business Madrid, so shut up and draw.”

“ You’re the one who wants to dance so…….” Johnny seen it, like so many before him his colt flew into his hand and he palmed the hammer back firing  two shots before the man cleared leather. Dead when he hit the ground. A bullet to his head.

Johnny stood there, gun still aimed at the man when movement caught his attention just to his right, turning he fired as a white hot pain hit his ribs on his left side. A rifle shot from behind him caused him to spin around and he found himself looking at his brother as a man fell to the ground dead from the rooftop across the street.

His colt empty Johnny knew he had someone he could trust to cover his back as he reloaded. Nobody else moved or tried to shoot him after a few minutes so he walked over to Scott.

“ I’m not real thrilled you’re here, but thanks brother.” Johnny said as he watched Murdoch walk up.

“ That man there, is he Vega son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Nope, one of four of his riders here in town. The one I let ride out will deliver my message to him that I’m here to kill him.” Johnny said as he walked to Barranca and with a little difficulty, mounted up and headed out of town.

Murdoch and Scott hurried to their horses and took off after him. They caught up to Johnny about a mile out of town.

“ Just what the hell are you two doing here?” he demanded.

“ Don’t talk to me like that son, if you think I’m going to let you get yourself killed, you are mistaken.”

 Johnny turned Barranca and starting to ride away. “ Go home, you don’t belong here. This isn’t your fight.”

“ Like hell we will brother.” Scott said with anger as he grabbed Barranca’ reins, stopping him.

“ Look, I appreciate what  you did back in town Scott, but go home, neither of you belong here. This is my life now, just like before.”

“ Johnny…we came after you because we want you to come back with us, Lancer is your home and  we  are your family.”Scott answered back.

“ You don’t let go of my reins and you won’t be going back Boston.” Johnny said coldly.

Scott seen a look he had never seen before in his brothers eyes, letting go of the reins he watched as his brother rode away at a gallop.

“ Damn that boy.” Murdoch vented.

“ Sir, let me talk to him.”

“ Not this time Scott. Me and your brother are going to get this settled once and for all.” Murdoch stated firmly before taking off after his youngest.

Johnny rode to the mission and got down, ground tying Barranca. When he opened the back door he found the padre at the table holding a bloody rag to his head.

“ What happened?” Johnny asked as he drew his gun.

“ Juanito I’m sorry, I tried to stop them.”

“Stop who?” he asked as he took the cloth from his friends head and looked at the wound.

“ Vega, he came here and took Jesse with him. I  tried to stop him, but I am not a violent man.”

Johnny heard a noise behind him and spun around, finding Murdoch and Scott standing there.

“ Scott go get some water from the pump out back and bring my saddlebags in.” Johnny ordered.

It was then Scott noticed the padre hurt. “ What happened?” he asked.

“ Damn it Scott, go now.” Johnny ordered more firmly.

Murdoch came over to help clean the wound up glaring hard at his youngest.

Scott came back in with the water and saddlebags.

“ How long ago they leave?” Johnny asked as he took his saddlebags from his brother.

“ They came just after you two left this morning.”

“ Who?…..Johnny what is going on here?” Murdoch demanded.

“ Nothing that concerns you old man, go on back to your precious ranch with your perfect son.”

That was it, Murdoch had had enough, grabbing Johnny’ arm he jerked him away from the padre.

“ Don’t you dare talk to me like that boy, I may not have been in your life to raise you, but I am still your father, I would give Lancer up in a second if it meant keeping both my sons with me, so why don’t

you start telling me what is going on?”

Johnny jerked his arm free and sucked in air from the pain in his side. He could feel blood trickling but didn’t care right now because of what had happened to Jesse.

“ This is who I am old man, this is my life. I’m twenty one now remember, I don’t need your permission.”

“ My permission to what, murder a man in cold blood?……That’s not you and you know it son.”

“ He is right Juanito, let them help you, por favor?”

Jesse knew Johnny would come for her, she just had to let him know where she was, or at least which way they had gone. When kids in Sonora, her, Johnny and Micheal would track each other leaving sign only when needed, Johnny got real good at tracking animals and humans, both her and Micheal would swear they left no trace, even went over hard rocks but Johnny always found them, even when  they would backtrack.

Hands tied behind her back though made leaving sign hard so Jesse did the only thing she knew she could do.

“ I need to stop.” she said aloud to Vega.

“ We stop when I am ready to stop.” he responded.

“ Look Vega, I need to stop. I have to…..”

Vega stopped his horse and looked back at her.

“ Fine, untie her hands, if you even think about running off, I will kill you.”

It was clear to Jesse that Vega didn’t know yet about Madrid so until he did she could leave sign, right now Vega probably thought nobody would be coming after them to get her back. Johnny was the only one.

“ So how close do you think this Vega is brother?”

Johnny didn’t look up from his cup of coffee he was sipping on. “ It’s hard to say. He was close enough this morning that when you two left to chase after me, he came in here and took Jesse.” he said with anger in his voice toward the end.

“ And if I hadn’t Johnny, you would be dead right now, remember.” Scott pointed out more than asked.

Johnny looked up at him then with coldness in his eyes. “ Stay the fuck out of my way Boston, you or him.” he stated firmly gesturing to his father. “ Either one of you think about stopping me and it will be a big mistake. This is my turf, my life and I know Vega, so stay the hell out of my way.”

“No.” Murdoch said loudly as he slammed his fist down on the table. “ I will not let you go off and get yourself killed son. Me and your brother came here to help you and hopefully get you to come back home with us.”

“ Vega’ not some land pirate like Pardee was okay, he’s a killer just like me. This ain’t no game, this is shoot first, ask questions later. Vega will gun you down without thinking twice about it, and if you’re unarmed, he don’t care. Pardee was nothing compared to Vega.”

“ How is it you know this man so well Johnny?” Scott asked.

“ Because that bastard was with my mother.” Johnny said coldly glaring at his father.

“ With her how Johnny?” Murdoch found himself asking before he knew it.

“ I think you know the answer to that old man.” Johnny snapped back.

“ What did he do to you Johnny?” Scott asked.

“What do you think, he beat me and used my mother, I was only six at the time and he probably won’t remember me but he will before I kill him. Vega will know why Johnny Madrid is killing him.”

“ Alright son, I’ll make you a deal right here right now.” Murdoch said.

Johnny just looked at him unspoken.

“ You let me and your brother help you get Jesse back and……….I won’t pressure, no I won’t ask you to come back to Lancer with us……….”

“ Sir.” Scott interjected.

Murdoch held up his hand to his oldest. “ Lancer will always be your home son, you just have to want to have what it offers you and more than me or Scott, you have to be the one to let your past go. We can only accept it and what you have done  * You * have to be the one to let it go.”

Johnny stood up and looked at his father for the longest time before turning to walk out, glancing at Scott as he went out with shock and hurt in his eyes.

Scott could tell his brother just got hurt in the worst way by their father saying what he just did.

“ You’re a real piece of work sir………You just crushed Johnny’ heart in the worst way a father could.”

Murdoch looked at him. “ What are you talking about?….I gave him the choice he wanted. He wants to leave Lancer and live by that damn gun of his I’m thru trying to stop him.”

“ What Johnny wants sir, is for his father to fight for him like a father should, not tell him he can leave.” Scott stated firmly with anger.

“ Your brother doesn’t know what he wants, so how am I supposed to?”

“ I just told you, Johnny wants you to be a father to him, he wants to be a son * you * will be proud of, someone you would be proud to introduce as your son, someone to defend him when his past does come up……..Why don’t we *both * stop judging him and instead start learning who he is?”

“ I know who he is, he’s my son who had to turn to that damn gun of his to survive.” Murdoch answered with irritation in his voice.

“You know, it would seem to me sir that even though you have told Johnny you’re willing to accept his past, when it comes right down to it you can’t. You might want to think about what you just told him about who he wants to be and letting his past go.” Scott said before he left to find his brother.

Scott knew where his brother would be, just like at Lancer and he was right, walking over to the mission wall and leaning against it, he could tell Johnny was hurting, both from memories of his past with Vega and what their father had said.

“ You alright brother?” Scott asked softly.

“I’m going to kill him Scott, not you or Murdoch can stop me. I’m going to get Jesse back and that bastard is going to die slow and painfully.”

“ Talk to me brother, it’s just you and me out here now.” Scott said.

“ Nope.” Johnny answered flatly as he started around Barranca.

Scott grabbed his brother by the arm and jerked him around to face him. “ Damn it Johnny.”

Johnny winced from the pain in his left side when jerked around, clutching his arm to his side.

“ What’s wrong?” Scott asked.

“ Nothing.”

“Damn it Johnny.” Scott said as he reached and pulled his brothers coat out and seen the dry blood below his left arm.

“ It’s just a graze Scott.” Johnny said.

“ You got this in town, Jesus Johnny why the hell didn’t you say you were hit brother?……….Come inside and let me clean and bandage that up.”

Vega stopped his horse outside a shack and got down, walking over to Jesse he jerked her down off her horse.

“ Go inside and start fixing something to eat for me and my men.” he ordered before shoving her forward.

Jesse stopped on the porch when she heard a horse galloping in.

“ Vega.” the rider said as he got down as his horse slid to a stop.

“ What’s wrong?” Vega asked. “ Where are the others?”

“ Dead, Johnny Madrid killed them.”

“ And why is it you are still alive?”

“ He sent me back with a message for you, he said he’s going to kill you for killing a friend of his.”

“ Johnny Madrid, he’s dead.”

“ That’s what Bull said to him right before Madrid shot him in the head and killed Jasper also.”

“ Vega, Bull was fast, it had to be Madrid, nobody else around here could beat him.” one of Vega’ riders stated.

“ He’s going to kill me huh?”

“ That’s what he said.”

“ I left five men in that town and Madrid kills four of them………Tell me what this bastard looked like and what he said.” Vega demanded with anger.

“ I told you what he said, he’s about five nine or so, a halfbreed Mex with dark hair and  blue eyes. Talks soft, real confident when he faced us. Vega he killed Bull and Jasper before me and rick could clear leather. Four of us faced him in the cantina and……..”

“ What happened to Rick?”

“ Madrid walked him out onto the street and faced him down, he hasn’t come back so him and Gus must be dead.”

Vega turned and seen Jesse standing on the porch listening. “ I told you to do something bitch, now go do it.” he ordered.

“ Vega I’m not facing Madrid. That;s one gun I want nothing to do with.” a man said. A couple others agreed with him.

Vega looked at his men. “ I’ll kill any man who thinks about leaving, is that clear?”

“ Why you Vega? Madrid said he was going to kill you for killing a friend of his, he’s not a cold blooded killer. Who’d you kill to cause him to come gunning for you?”

“ The mission, Vega I bet it has something to do with that girl and her brother you killed a couple weeks ago.”

“ Yeah she was standing there listening to us.”

“ I’m going to find out.” he said as he headed into the shack.

Jesse was just starting to pour water into a pan when Vega came in and grabbed her.

“ I think you better start talking to me, Madrid is here because of you and that brother of yours I killed , isn’t he?”

Jesse knew that telling Vega she knew Johnny was risky, but she also knew it would keep her alive. Vega would use her to get to Johnny.

“ Yes.” she blurted out as she tried to free her arm.

Vega slapped her hard across the face, splitting her bottom lip open. “ How did he know I killed your brother? Did you or the padre write to him?” he demanded.

“ I did, and Johnny won’t stop until you are dead for killing Micheal you bastard.

Vega slapped Jesse again and then dragged her to the bed and threw her down. “Go out and tell the men we ride at first light to Sonora………send that coward back to the mission with a message for Madrid, tell him that if he wants to kill me, he can find me in Sonora with this bitch.” Vega stated as he started to rape Jesse.

Jesse knew fighting him was useless and would get her killed for sure, doing the only thing she could as Vega raped her, Jesse let her mind go back to her and Johnny under the moon and the love they shared.

Scott wrapped Johnny’ wound up and again scolded his little brother for not telling them he was hurt. Murdoch sat there, unspoken, watching as his son never flinched as his wound was stitched up. When Scott was done he spoke.

“ I love you Johnny.” he said looking him right in the eyes. “ I don’t want to lose you again, I can’t, if I have to give up Lancer to keep you and Scott I will. Son the two of you are all that matters to me.”

“ Don’t do this old man, not now. I can’t deal with you and all the bullshit right now. I need to get Jesse back and that’s all that matters to me, getting her back and across the border.” Johnny stated as he stood up and put his shirt on.

“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid.” a voice yelled from outside. “ I got a message for you from Vega.”

Johnny went to the back door and opened it slowly, looking around before he stepped out. He seen it was the rider he let leave San Ignacio.

“ Vega said to tell you that if you want to kill him, he would be in Sonora with the girl. He knows she means something to you and is the reason you’re here………Oh when I left he was having a right good time with her too.” the rider said before turning his horse and galloping away, praying a bullet didn’t hit him in the back.

Johnny headed to Barranca and was stopped by his brother. “ I’ll saddle the horses Johnny, you go get what you need from inside.” Scott stated as he went to saddle the mounts.

An hour later the three Lancer men rode in silence headed to Sonora and Johnny to his past and a showdown he thought he would never get. Killing Vega for what he did to him as a child and his mother was going to be a killing Madrid never did before.

                                                                                             Chapter 19

                                                        This chapter is dedicated to the memory of Southern Frau, my mentor

Murdoch rode up next to his youngest and found a look he had never seen on his face, one that deep down scared the big man, not one of his son, but for him and what he might do when they got to Sonora.

“ Son, tell me what this Vega did, how your mother met him….please.” Murdoch asked trying to keep his voice calm.

Johnny ignored his fathers request and closed his eyes as memories flooded his mind, spurring Barranca he galloped off ahead of them, ignoring the pain in his left side. He knew they would reach Sonora well after dark, giving Vega and his men the advantage, something he didn’t want to do. He knew the layout of the small village, the church being the biggest place in the middle of town with small hastily put together mud huts or shacks around it. One thing in his favor though would be the deep wash on the south end of town that from it he could follow the deep ditch into town unseen after dark, that is if Vega hadn’t blocked it.

Stopping Barranca as the sun set, he got down and started undoing his cinch as Scott and Murdoch rode up.

“ We’ll rest the horses here a couple hours then ride in closer to Sonora after midnight.”  he told them as he pulled his saddle off.

Murdoch wanted answers from his son about what this man did to him and Maria, but he knew, not wanting to start a fight with him, he would have to ask cautiously.

“ I heard what you asked Johnny sir, we both need to remember that talking about the bad of his past isn’t easy for him.” Scott said. “ I know you want to know what was done, but ask yourself this before you ask Johnny again, do you really want to know what was done to him, or do you want to know what was done to his mother since Johnny said that this Vega beat both of them?”

Murdoch looked hard at his oldest for a minute. “ I guess I want to know about Maria, he won’t tell me anything about her son…..I loved your mother Catherine, don’t get me wrong but, when I fell in love with Maria a couple years later I……..”

“ Was that before or after you took her to bed and got her pregnant with me?” Johnny asked standing behind them, causing them both to spin around.

“ I have already told you about your mother and me son.” Murdoch answered faster than he intended.

“ Yeah, and you only married her because of me, I mean a big rich gringo rancher can’t have a bastard child running around, It’s bad enough that child is the infamous Johnny Madrid right?” Johnny said harshly.

Murdoch walked up to within a foot of his youngest, he could see that look still in his eyes. “ Why won’t you tell me about her Johnny?”

“ Who, my mother? She was a drunk and a fucking whore.”

Murdoch held his anger because he knew as did Scott, that because of this Vega and what happened in the past with this man, he knew Johnny was hurting from memories. “ What did he do to you son, talk to me please.”

“ Talking about it might help the bad memories go away brother.” Scott suggested softly.

Johnny turned around and started to walk away, but stopped. “ I can’t Scott, I know what it would do to him.” he said before walking away.

Scott looked at his father, he now knew why Johnny was being the way he was, but did their father?

“ Sir, I think Johnny is wanting to spare you the pain he’ s reliving. I don’t think Johnny wants either of us to know.”

Murdoch looked at him then back where Johnny had walked away. “ Not this time son, I know he’s trying to protect me now and I’ll be damned if he’s going to face this alone.” he said before walking off in the same direction as Johnny.

Johnny heard the footsteps and knew who it was, sighing he wrapped his arms around himself, knowing what his father wanted to know would bring memories he would rather forget. Problem was he couldn’t. Sometimes at night Vega his mothers face would come to him, Maria bloody from his beatings and Vega laughing the whole time he beat her.

“ Son.” Murdoch said as he walked up behind him. One thing he had learned  about his youngest son was when Johnny was uncomfortable or felt threatened he would do what he was now, wrap his arms around himself trying to become smaller. Taking a chance Murdoch placed his hands on his sons shoulders and felt him go tense and tremble.

“ Son I know you’re trying to spare me the bad you endured as a child, but please stop.” Murdoch pleaded. “ I couldn’t stop it from happening to you then, let me help you deal with it now.”

Johnny dropped his chin to his chest. “ She wouldn’t stop them pa.” he said barely above a whisper.

Murdoch barely heard the words his son said.

“ Vega rode into Sonora with his men, I seen them and that night my mother ordered me out of the shack we stayed in, she had Vega with her.” Johnny said with a tremble to his voice. “ I was leaving and he grabbed me by the hair and pulled my head back……I still hear his words and my mothers laugh.”

 Murdoch wanted to ask but kept quiet, letting his son speak at his own readiness.

“ You have a bastard blue eyed mestizo… should have killed him at birth.” Vega told her.

“ My mother laughed and told him that sometimes she wished she had, that I was nothing but trouble and worthless………that I was just like my gringo father………Vega jerked me around by my hair and hit me in the mouth, knocking me backwards and ordered me not to come back while he was there, that if I did he would do what my mother should have done when I was born.”

Murdoch couldn’t stand it any longer, reaching around he pulled his son back into a hug and was surprised when Johnny turned into him and wrapped his arms around him.

“ My whole life I believed you never wanted me, just like her………that you wanted me dead as well.”

“ Why would you think that son?”

“ Because I’m a halfbreed, I grew up hating you more and more every day because of the lies and beatings I was told and got…………Every day I wished I had a big brother who would stop it and every day I watched kids with parents who loved them and every day these kids would chase me and beat me.

Jesse and Micheal stopped it one day when they rode into town and the three of us became good friends until one day without a word they were gone.”

“That why Jesse means so much to you son?”

Johnny stepped back and looked at his father a second before turning around to wipe at the tears that welled in his eyes. “ You have no idea what Jesse means to me old man.” Johnny said after a minute, turning back around to face the big man. “ I know I whore around and you don’t like it. I want one woman I can say is mine to marry and grow old with, but because of who I am I’ll never get that……I won’t risk her watching me die and having to raise our children alone.”

“ Son who are you more?…..Who do you want to be?” Murdoch asked. When Johnny didn’t answer he continued. “ You said to catch that mare and breed her and start selling cutting horses, why don’t you come back when this is over and do that? Now I’m not ordering you or trying to pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do. I’ll make you a deal son, if you decide to come back to Lancer I will help you set up a business of doing just that on however many acres * you * think it would take. Barns, corrals all of it.”

“ What if I told you I wanted Jesse to live with me?”

“ Son if you and Jesse got married that’s fine with me.”

“ Not married old man, I told you I won’t do that.”

“ Son I’m sorry but I won’t have you and Jesse unwed sharing the same bed in my house. That isn’t proper and wouldn’t be good for Teresa.”

“ Then I won’t be living at Lancer, I’ll live on Lancer and build us a house, but I’m not marrying Jesse. I already told her I can’t.”

“ And if you get her with child, what then son?…..You throw back at me about taking your mother to bed out of wedlock, aren’t you and Jesse going to be doing the same thing?”

“ Well you see me and Jesse have loved each other for a long time, you and my mother didn’t so don’t compare me and her to you and my mother. You want me back at Lancer that’s what will happen.” Johnny said firmly before walking away.

Murdoch stood there watching his youngest walk away and knew that unless he wanted to loose him again, possibly forever, he had no choice but to allow his son to live in sin. Already not liked by many in the valley because of who he is, Murdoch knew that with Johnny doing this it could possibly be the match to the fire.

Jesse hurt all over from what Vega had done to her. She knew that the only way to push this nightmare behind her was to be with the man she loved, the man she knew was coming for her and would make Vega regret the day he was born. All she had to do was wait and pray, pray she got the chance to feel real love again. Every night Vega forced himself on her, slapping her and after the first time she blocked him out with memories of Johnny and the gentle way he made loved to her, how he touched her skin, kissed her lips, suckled her breast. The thought of never being able to have a true man like Johnny Madrid as her husband broke  her heart as the words he told her came back. A part of her understood the why, but the wanting weighed heavy within her. The door opening Jesse knew what was about to happen again. This time though she could tell by the look on his face it would be rougher.

“ Tonight I am going to show you what a real man is like chica.” Vega slurred as he kicked the door shut.

“ You’ll never be a man like Johnny is Vega.” she found herself saying with anger.

“ We’ll see about that.” Vega said before slapping her hard across the face opening the split in her lip again.

“ This is your show son, how do you want to do this?” Murdoch asked as they saddled their horses.

Johnny walked over and picked up his saddlebags. “ There’s a wash that runs on the south side of the mission….a ditch runs from the mission to that wash, I’ll leave Barranca  and work  way up the wash to that ditch.”

“Alone, where do you want us brother?” Scott asked.

“ You two are going to ride into Sonora. Vega doesn’t know about you and if Jesse see’s you she’ll know.”

“You’re sure about this son?”

“Yeah, with you two in town it’ll give me the edge. Vega’ men will stand out, the ones still with him.”

“ Still with him?……You saying some of his men might have left because of you?” Murdoch asked.

“ Having a reputation has it’s advantages old man…….Look take out as many of his men as you can quietly, cutting their throat is the fastest way.” Johnny said noticing the look on his fathers face at that.

“ You got a problem with that old man?”

“ Killing a man in cold blood may be easy for you son, yes I have a problem with it. I’m not in the habit of……..”

“ Then I suggest you stay here, Vega and his men are killers…….”

“ Johnny.” Scott cut in. “ Can you take Vega?”

Johnny looked hard at his brother, then back at his father before walking back to Barranca and swinging up in the saddle. “ I will or die trying.” he answered before moving Barranca out.

“ I would think you would know better by now than too say something so cold like that to Johnny sir?…….He’s not a cold blooded killer. This man Vega abused him and his mother, Johnny knows what he’s doing.” Scott said hotly as he mounted up.

“ How many men has he murdered Scott?……..How many men has he gunned down without giving them a chance?” Murdoch asked as he mounted his horse.

“ You need to let the past go sir and focus more on the future you can have with Johnny. If he doesn’t come back to Lancer with us, you may find yourself riding back alone.” Scott said before going to catch up with his brother. 

An hour later Scott and Murdoch rode into Sonora just as the sun started to break in the east. Scott kept his eyes moving, looking for Vega’ men as they rode into town casual to not raise suspicions.  Spotting four of his men, two at each end of town leaning against walls or sitting in chairs with their heads down sleeping.

Stopping their horses outside the cantina, a man, clearly one of Vega’ men came out and met them.

“ What’s your business here gringo’s?” he asked.

“ Getting something to eat, you got a problem with that?” Scott said.

“ The cantina is closed, there is nothing here for you so I suggest you ride out………you will find another cantina in the next village perhaps.”

Scott glanced at his father then back at the man ordering them to leave. “ I guess you didn’t here me mister, All we want is something to eat, we don’t want no trouble so why don’t you let us eat something and then we’ll be on our way.”

Scott got his answer with a pistol drawn, aimed right at his chest. “ Tide out now or die gringo’s.” the man ordered as he cocked his colt.

“ What is your business in Mexico?” Vega asked as he walked up.

“ I don’t see where  that is any of your business mister.” Murdoch answered.

“ I am making it my business…….Who are you senor?”

“ I’m Murdoch Lancer from Morro Coyo…..this is my son Scott, we came down here to purchase cattle.”

Scott noticed a flash from a rifle barrel in the mission tower as the sun broke the horizon.

“ There are no cattle for sale around Sonora senor, the cattle around here belong to me and my men and we need them to get us through the winter.” Vega stated. “ Maybe you should go back across the border where you belong, it is dangerous here.”

“ Yeah, we hear that Johnny Madrid is still alive.” Scott said.

“ I hear that too, but I am not worried because you see me and my ten men will be killing that halfbreed mestizo very soon.” Vega said with a nasty grin.

“ I hear he’s the fastest gun south of the border.” Murdoch spoke.

“ Face to face si, but I have a little something planned to get rid of that bastardo and I assure you Johnny Madrid will die……..Now I am through being generous so I suggest you ride out now while you can before I have my men kill you.”

“ Let’s go son.” Murdoch said as he turned his horse to ride out.

Johnny rode up the wash to the ditch leading to the mission, getting down he ground tied Barranca and pulled his rifle from the scabbard.

“ You stay here amigo, hopefully I’ll be back for you.” he told his friend, rubbing his face before heading into the ditch.

Thirty minutes later he could see the mission tower now about three hundred feet ahead of him. Watching for any sign of a rifle in that tower he moved swiftly to the end of the ditch. A man at the back of the mission with a rifle sat with his head down.

“ Dead man.” Johnny said as he reached down and removed the knife from his right boot, looking around cautiously as the sun started to break on the horizon. His gut instinct told him a rifle was in that tower and about fifty feet of open ground remained between him and the back door to the mission. Not knowing where Scott and his father where, Johnny removed his spurs and took off swift and as quiet as a mountain lion to the east wall. Peeking around the corner he seen the watchman still had his head down, standing his rifle against the wall, Johnny held his knife out firmly as he softly stepped up to the man and looked down at him.

Kicking the mans foot to wake him, coldness in his eyes, with one swift move he sliced the mans throat open just as the man raised his head and looked up at him. Blood spurted out between the mans fingers as he looked up into those cold blue eyes as his life left him. Johnny made sure the man stayed in the chair like he was before so he would appear still sleeping to those watching, especially the one he knew was in that tower.

Not knowing where Jesse was being held, Johnny worked his way along the mission wall to the street,peeking around the corner he spotted his father and brother talking to one of Vega’ men in front of the cantina. Glancing to his right, checking for any of Vega’ men he spotted two, one on each side of the street, both sleeping, looking back his anger rose as Vega stepped out of the cantina and talked to his father and brother.

Moving back, Johnny knew the two at the end of the street needed to be taken out and ten minutes later they were. Both men never knew what happened as Madrid silently crept up and slit both men’ throats.

Working his way up toward the cantina, he stopped when his brother and father rode out of town, most likely ordered out by Vega. He just hoped his brother spotted men he knew Vega had positioned around town. Three were now dead, but how many more were still here, waiting?

Scott stopped his horse in some trees outside town and got down, removing his rifle as his father dismounted.

“ There’s a rifle in the tower, Johnny will be a sitting duck if he walks into that street.” Scott stated.

“ We don’t know how many men Vega has inside that cantina son……..I’d be willing to bet that that is where he is holding the girl.”

“ Yeah he sure didn’t want us going inside.” Scott stated as he headed back toward town, keeping to the trees.

Murdoch followed. “ Son I’m going to work my way along the south side of town and see if I come across your brother…..Why don’t you take the north side, one of us should come across Johnny.”

“ Alright, just remember that rifle in the tower.” Scott stated before moving out behind the buildings on the north side.

Murdoch eased along and came across no men keeping watch until he got to the back of the mission, looking he knew the man was dead, blood soaked his shirt from were his throat had been cut,moving past, Murdoch knew Johnny had done it and since he didn’t come across him the way he came, Murdoch eased around the mission to the street and looked east, spotting his son just as he moved between buildings almost across from him. He could tell Johnny was working his way to the cantina where Vega was at.

Scott worked cautiously along the back of the buildings ducking in an alley when he heard someone coming toward him, knife ready, he stood the rifle against the wall and waited. Just when the man started to clear the alley Scott grabbed him around the neck and quickly released him, realizing it was his brother.

“ Johnny.” Scott said startled.

Johnny was about to bring his knife up and across his attacker when the man let go and he heard a familiar voice.

“ That’s a good way to get your throat cut brother.” Johnny said as he lowered his knife. “ Where’ Murdoch?”

“ Across the way, we were looking for you, Vega has two men at that end of town, one in the tower with a rifle and at least one with him in the cantina……I think that’s where Jesse is being held because he wouldn’t let us inside.”

“ Two at end of towns dead as is the one behind the mission…….You think you could take that one in the tower out if I get him to show himself?”

“ What, you mean make yourself a target?…….Johnny that’s suicide brother.” Scott interjected.

“ Can you or not brother?”

“ Yeah but I may not get him with the first shot Johnny.”

“ Yeah well you better because I’m calling Vega out.” Johnny said before walking away toward the front of the building.

Scott sighed and shook his head before moving up behind his brother. “ Where do you want me?”

“ Over there. It’ll give you a good view of the tower.” Johnny told him as he pointed across the street.

“ There’s Murdoch.” Scott said.

Johnny whistled and got his fathers attention, motioning for him to get out of sight. Once he did Johnny stepped out into the street.

“ Vega, come on out here you bastard and face your past.” he yelled.

Vega and two men were drinking and laughing when he heard his name called, setting his drink down he moved to the door and looked out and seen Madrid standing in the middle of the street.

“ Come on out you murdering bastard, come and face me like a man if you got the guts.”

Scott stood ready, rifle aimed at the tower watching and waiting for his chance to kill the man up there.

“ Well, well, well….if it isn’t the halfbreed gunfighter Johnny Madrid.” Vega yelled as he stepped out into the street. “ I hear you wanted to kill me Madrid, I have someone you like, someone who I have been having a pretty good time showing what a real man is like.” Vega said as his two men brought Jesse out. Her dress was torn and no longer covered her chest. Bruises and blood covered her face and arms, her hair was matted and hung down over her face.

Anger boiled inside Johnny when he seen Jesse and what had been done to her. “ I’m going to kill you for what you’ve done Vega.” he stated as he stepped closer, his eyes scanning around him for any movement. “ Three of your men are already dead. I slit their throats, so I wouldn’t expect their help.”

“ Why do you want to kill me mestizo, huh?…….I have never done anything to you before.” Vega stated as he stepped down into the street. “ Is it because I killed her brother? Is that why you come here gunning for me?”

“ Partly, I guess you don’t remember me do you……well no matter because I remember you…….I remember what you did to me and my mother right here in this town you bastard.” Johnny spat.

Vega stood there and Johnny could tell when it dawned on him who he was now. “ Ah, the whore’s brat. She should have drown you when you were born…You were nothing but trouble to her. A nuisance to this village……..So you are the one who became Johnny Madrid……I am not scared of you………bring the girl here.” Vega demanded.

Johnny watched as the two men dragged Jesse out into the street and threw her on the ground.

“ Crawl to him bitch, crawl to your halfbreed lover.”

Jesse pushed up on her hands and looked at Johnny, pushing herself on up she stood and started walking toward him. Just as she reached him the man in the tower showed and fired, hitting her in the head felling her forward into Johnny who dropped with her in his arms.

“ Now you have more reason to try and kill me Madrid.” Vega said as he drew his gun and fired, hitting Johnny in his left arm propelling him backwards, the bullet having creased his arm only.

Johnny drew his colt and fired at Vega as he got up, only to be dropped again with a bullet in his right thigh from the man in the tower.

Scott took aim and fired hitting the man in the tower square in the forehead as his second shot went off. He seen his brother go down and went to him, firing as he crossed the street at Vega, reaching Johnny he helped him up and over to the side of the street where they both crashed thru a door to the inside.

Scott got up and went to the window looking out he seen their father cross the street, coming toward them from the back.

“ Stay here Johnny.” he ordered as he went to the back door and returned a minute later with Murdoch.

“ Son how bad is it?’ Murdoch asked with concern.

“ Leave it be, I’m going to finish this now.” Johnny stated just as he heard the sound of  horses hooves galloping away.

“ It’s Vega Johnny, he’s running.” Scott stated as he opened the door and started shooting at the two remaining men, dropping them both quickly.

Johnny stepped out and let out a loud shrill whistle for Barranca before taking his kerchief and tying it around his leg.

Barranca galloped up to him. “ Take care of her for me Scott.” he asked as he swung up in the saddle.

“ Johnny wait……let Scott go with you son……I’ll take care of Jesse.”

“ No, Vega is mine old man.” he said before kicking the stallion hard, taking off after Vega.

“ You got just as much right as Johnny sir in killing that man for what he did to his mother, your wife.” Scott said. “ Go after him.”

Murdoch glanced at the innocent dead body of Jesse, the his son before taking off to his horse.

Scott heard his father ride off a minute later and silently prayed that they both came back alive as he picked Jesse’ body up just as the padre  came out of the church with several people from the village.

“ Bring her inside my son.” Scott was told as he walked toward the mission.

Johnny let Barranca have his head and the stallion stretched out eating the ground up fast as they were now about a quarter mile behind Vega heading into a canyon.

Vega spurred his horse hard into the canyon a few hundred feet before jerking the horse to a stop and jumping off, hurrying up a wash to a pile of rocks above as he heard Madrid’ horse approaching. Rifle ready, Vega fired too soon and hit to Johnny’ left, spraying rock and causing Barranca to rear.

Johnny jumped off and sent his friend galloping on into the canyon he knew was a dead end. Several more rifle shots sprayed rocks and dirt over him, looking around he knew he couldn’t stay where he was for long, Vega had the advantage being above him, hearing another horse approaching into the canyon, Johnny knew it was either Scott or Murdoch. When he seen his father he cursed silently just as his fathers horse stumbled and fell, throwing his father off, getting up the animal went a short distance away and stood.

Unable to go to him without being killed Johnny watched and seen no movement from his father, figuring him dead or he hoped unconscious he bolted toward the ledge below Vega and was stopped suddenly when a bullet cut into his side spinning him around, landing hard in the sand, his pistol having fallen from his grasp out of reach, laying there Johnny tried to reach his pistol when a boot stepped on it and a rifle barrel pointed into his face.

“ I think it will be I who kills you Madrid.” Vega said as he chambered a round into the cylinder.

Johnny lay there helpless as Vega pressed his boot down onto his hand more, bringing his right leg up, Johnny reached with his free left hand and pulled his knife out just as a shot went off and Vega fell backwards with a bullet hole in his chest. Looking Johnny found his father standing holding his rifle.

As Vega tried to reach for his gun Johnny straddled the mans chest just as his father walked up.

“ This is for what you did to me and my mother you bastard.” Johnny said coldly right before slicing the mans throat wide open, blood spurted and ran out all over, pooling on either side of Vega’ head.

Murdoch got a sick feeling as he watched his son cut a mans throat, killing him so cold and with such ease. Something he knew he would never understand his son able to do.

Johnny finally got up and staggered away from Vega and dropped to his knees and lost everything he had in his gut.

Murdoch went to his son and placed a hand on his shoulder. “ You okay son?” he asked softly.

Johnny stood and turned facing his father. “ Go home old man, you just seen what I am, what I will always be. Go back home and be with your perfect son Scott.” he vented before limping past and whistling for Barranca.

Murdoch hurried after him and grabbed his arm, spinning him around. “ I want both my sons with me at Lancer damn it Johnny…..You did what you had to now and in the past, so don’t you dare use this as an excuse to run away from the best thing to ever happen to you.” Murdoch said with anger.

Johnny swung up on Barranca and looked down at his father. “ I’m a killer, not a ranchers son.” he said before spurring Barranca away.

                                                                                               Chapter 20

                                                           This chapter is dedicated to the memory of Southern Frau, my mentor

Murdoch rode into Sonora to the mission and was met by Scott as he got down.

“ Where’s Johnny?’ Scott asked.

“ He’s not here?” Murdoch asked as he tied off his horse.

“ No, I haven’t seen him since he rode out after Vega.” Scott answered.

Murdoch told him what happened and what was said by him and Johnny.

“ We need to find him sir, he’s injured.”

“ Son, I want to find your brother as bad as you do, I want him to come home with us but I don’t think Johnny want’s us to be a family. He want’s to live the life he has and die living by that damn gun of his. I’m through trying to get him to see he doesn’t have to any more.”

“ You can stand there and write him off, Your own son? You may be able to do that sir, but not me.” Scott said angrily before going back inside.

Murdoch followed him into the mission and seen Jesse’ body covered up, walking up to the padre.

“ See that she is buried nicely father, I’ll pay for her coffin  and burial.”

“ Your son has already told me. I will see that she is buried with her brother in San Ignacio senor.”

“ Thank you father.” Murdoch said before turning t walk out, stopping at his oldest. “ I am not writing Johnny off son. I’ve done all I can, he knows he is welcome at Lancer and all we can do is hope he comes home.”

“ So we’re going home without him, and just what are you going to tell Teresa?” Scott asked.

“ The truth like I always have.” Murdoch responded.

Johnny rode well into the night before finally stopping because of the pain in his thigh. Swinging his right leg over Barranca he got down holding onto his friend who brought his head back and nuzzled his side.

“ I’m sorry amigo, give me a minute and I’ll take care of you.” Johnny said as he pushed away from the saddle and limped around to his friend and scratched behind his left ear. “ I’m gonna need you buddy, me and you are gonna be on our own now. We don’t belong at Lancer buddy, I know you liked the easy life you had, grain every day and good green hay but a person like em don’t deserve that kind of life. I know a place we can go, it’s farther south but there will  be green grass and plenty of water for you this time of year until I’m healed up and can start letting people know Johnny Madrid is back.

Sitting on the ground next to his fire an hour later Johnny removed his knife from the fire after putting the cinch strap in his mouth he placed the blade on the wound and held it there as white hot pain screamed through his thigh. Sweating and gasping as he removed the knife, Johnny wrapped the wound up and laid back against his saddle looking up at the stars remembering Jesse and Micheal and how they were the only family he really had growing up. Darkness claimed him a short time later, exhausted and fed up he welcomed sleep.

“Is that about Johnny sir?’ Scott asked as he walked up to his fathers desk, removing his gloves.

Murdoch didn’t say anything, he just handed the report to his oldest son and stood up and walked over to look out the big picture window behind his desk.

Scott read the report and news articles that accompanied it, then set it down on the desk.

“ I just don’t understand it sir…..It’s been a year and it seems that since Sonora, he’s gotten worse.”

“ He’s not the same man we came to know son……Now like it or not your brother is a killer and that report and those articles prove it.” Murdoch said with hurt in his voice.

“ There were some men in town asking around for Johnny today.” Scott stated. “ They were asking for Madrid.”

“ Gunfighters?”

“ Bounty hunters sir, they have a paper on Johnny for a murder he did three months ago in Mexico sir.” Scott said as he removed his hat and dropped it on the desk.

“ How much?”

“ Ten Thousand dollars…..dead, offered by the Rurales and some man in Chihuahua.” Scott responded.

“ And why would these bounty hunters think Johnny was here?” Murdoch asked.

“ Harper’ newspaper article……..These two men say they are going to stay around Morro Coyo because they know Johnny will come back here and when he does, he’s dead.”

“ Your brother made his choice, he can live with what it cost him.” Murdoch said with anger.

“ Choice, Johnny didn’t have a choice sir when that girl was murdered in front of him, he didn’t have a choice when her brother was murdered either………You don’t get it do you? After all you and him have been thru you still don’t get it……He want’s to be here but because of who he is………”

“ If what he’s searching for is so damn important then let him be a killer, because I wash my hands of trying to have him as my son.”

“ You are wrong about this sir, Johnny is staying away because he loves us all and he doesn’t want any of us hurt…..Every time he opens his heart to trust or love he gets hurt, so you tell me what would you do if it were you in his place?”

“ I wouldn’t live by a damn gun and kill men for money like he’s doing.”

“ You know, I sure hope you wake up one day and realize just what a bastard you are being to your own son.” Scott said with anger before storming out of the room.

“ I can’t thank you enough Madrid for all you’ve done, me and my family are grateful.” a small man said as Johnny untied Barranca and swung up in the saddle.

“ You take care of that family of yours and if you need me again you know how to reach me.” Johnny said before turning Barranca and riding out. Money in his pocket, several thousand in the bank, Johnny headed to a town where he knew he could get all that he needed and what he desired.

It had been two years now since Johnny rode away from Sonora and his family, crossing the border into El Paso Johnny in those two years had built a reputation so deadly and strong that nobody dared call him out. A couple times he had even called men out just out of sheer boredom and to keep his aim honed, doing something to set the man off, something Madrid usually didn’t do. Usually Madrid tried to avoid killing a man, but  since that day in Sonora something inside him had snapped, something he couldn’t figure out made him turn cold and heartless. Time was he would take the right side of a job, now it was whoever paid the highest no matter who was right. Riding into El Paso to answer a call from Wells Fargo, Madrid rode down the street feeling eyes on him and hearing his name spoken as bystanders stopped. Everyone knew who he was now, especially after a job he did in Chihuahua, killing a prominent rancher there, but what the reports left out was the bullet Johnny got in the back. A bullet that was still there lodged next to his spin, so close that the doctor he made it to, one he knew he could trust, wouldn’t attempt to remove it, saying he didn’t want to be the one to paralyze him if he made the wrong move. That was a year and a half ago and every once in a while that bullet would remind him it was still there with either sharp stabbing pains or numbness on his whole right side. Once the pain hit so severe it knocked him off Barranca who waited nudging him gently for the longest time. It seemed that every time it happened, the pain or numbness lasted longer.

Stopping outside the Wells Fargo office, Madrid got down and patted his friend’ neck before tying him off.

“ Let’s try a job that’s  a little stable for a couple months amigo.” Johnny said, receiving a soft nicker.

“ He’s been working for Wells Fargo for almost a year now, guarding their shipments out of El Paso.” Scott said  as Teresa served dinner.

“ Who Is son?” Murdoch asked from his desk without looking up from the ledger he was going over.

“ Johnny…….you know, my brother, your other son.”

“I only have one son now……..Johnny is not welcomed back here, not as long as I’m still alive.”

“ How could you say such a thing Murdoch?’ Teresa asked as she walked into the room with tears in her eyes. “ Johnny is my brother and I want him to come home.”

“ Teresa, Johnny is not the same person anymore, he’s a killer.”

“ No he’s not and I will not stand her and listen to you say such cruel things about someone you searched so longer for.” she said as tears ran down her cheeks.

“ There’s something you both need to know about Johnny.” Scott said. “ You remember those bounty hunters I told you about?”

Murdoch nodded.

“ The paper didn’t report the whole truth about what happened down there sir. Johnny was shot in the back by that man and he shot back in self defense.”

“ How do you know this?” Murdoch demanded.

“ This.” Scott said as he pulled a file from his jacket and handed it to him. “ That is from a doctor who treated Johnny. It seems the bullet was lodged next to his spin and he couldn’t remove it. For all he knows from what Johnny said when he rode out was that maybe it would end his pain……It’s all written down right there sir.”

“ And just how did this doctor know to send this to you.” Murdoch asked.

“ It would seem that while with fever Johnny talked about us.”

“ Johnny is out there with a bullet in his back?’ Teresa asked.

Scott walked over to her, wrapping an arm around her, pulling her into a comfort hug. “ A bullet that will paralyze him I’m afraid Teresa.”

“ How….how do you know that Scott?” she asked between sobs.

“ I showed this to Sam and he told me that Johnny will get sharp excruciating pain or……….” Scott said and stopped.

“ Or what son?’ Murdoch asked.

“ Or his whole right side will go numb for a short time and last longer each time it happens until the bullet either is removed or the paralysis is permanent.”

“ No.” Teresa yelled before running from the room crying.

“ What are we going to do sir?……Sam said if Johnny came back and it wasn’t to late he could remove the bullet.”

“ I am not going to go chasing after him, wasting money.”

“ Wasting money…….since when is it wasting money sir? Johnny needs……..”

“ Johnny needs to face what he has brought on himself……He made his choice when he rode out of Sonora two years ago……I will have no more talk about him, is that understood?” Murdoch demanded.

Scott stood there furious. “ Because you call the tune right?…Your the big man of the San Joaquin and to hell with anyone who don’t meet your standards…..Well sir I will not right my brother off like you are……I’ll sign over my third of Lancer to you because I will not stay here and be a partner in a ranch you seem to care more about than your own flesh and blood…….I am sick and tired of you missing Johnny and wanting him home one minute then bashing and condemning him the next.”

“ That’s enough Scott…….I will not have you speak to me like this.” Murdoch ordered.

“ To bad sir…….because I am going to say my peace and then go and pack.” Scott said back sharply.  “All his life Johnny has had to put up with bigots and you are the worst one of them all to him, you his own father. Everything has to go your way and to hell with anyone else and what they say or do….Except for my little brother I’m sorry I ever came out here to be with you because quite frankly sir…I’m ashamed you are my father.” Scott said with hurt and anger before heading upstairs.

Murdoch stood there shocked at the hateful, hurting words his oldest son had just said to him.

“ Find him Scott, if you can’t get Johnny to come back here, get him to go to a doctor who can take that bullet out before it’s too late please.” Teresa pleaded.

“ I’ll do what I can Teresa. I’ll send word to Sam so check with him when you can in a couple weeks.”

“ Be careful Scott…tell Johnny I love him and really miss his roses and smile.”

“ I will.” Scott said before kissing her on the check and then mounting up, glancing he seen his father just standing at the french doors watching him. Turning his horse Scott galloped out of the yard and away from Lancer headed to El Paso silently praying he wasn’t to late for his brother.

“ You know Madrid, since hiring you we’ve been pretty lucky, I mean once the word got out that you were guarding our shipments these past fourteen months.” Cole Mitchell said as him and Johnny walked out of the Wells Fargo office.

“ Johnny Madrid.” a voice yelled from across the street.

Johnny let out a soft sigh, glancing at Cole then looking at the man who just called him out.

“ Come on out and play Madrid….I hear you’re a bad ass now….let’s see just how bad you are halfbreed.”

“ Johnny.” Cole started.

“ Stay here Cole.” Johnny said softly as he stepped down in the street.

People stopped on both sides of the street, wagons and riders giving room for what was about to happen. Everybody in El Paso knew Johnny Madrid, a lot of them came to like the gunfighter. Now they were about to see just how deadly Johnny was with his gun.

Scott rode into El Paso and heard his brothers name called out. Riding his horse up just as his brother stepped out into the street. Watching he could tell Johnny still had the bullet in his back by the way he walked and stood facing his caller.

“ Jesus Johnny.” he said softly as he got off his horse. If he hadn’t heard and seen, Scott wouldn’t have recognized him, hair down to his shoulders and  a mustache. The look in his eyes Scott seen was lifeless and as cold as a January night in Boston.  What happened next really shocked him. Seeing it Scott couldn’t believe, wouldn’t believe if he hadn’t.

Johnny took three steps toward the man calling him out and seen the sign a second before the mans hand went for his gun he drew his colt and fired so fast people on the street gasped. Madrid fired two shots, one to the mans head, one between his eyes. Turning around Johnny seen his brother sitting his horse watching what just happened. Ignoring him, he walked back over to Cole and the sheriff now standing there next to him.

“ It was a fare fight Johnny. I heard him call you out.” the sheriff stated.

Johnny acknowledged him and Cole then turning he walked across the street, stepping over the man he just killed, headed to the saloon.

Scott got off his horse and tied him off, heading to the saloon, knowing what his brother was going to do, he knew he had time to absorb what he had just witnessed his brother doing. Having seen Johnny kill before Scott was shocked this time because this time Johnny didn’t try and talk the man out of it.

Walking into the saloon Scott watched as his brother grabbed a whore and headed upstairs, stopping at the top of the stairs and looking down at him thru those cold lifeless blue eyes.

Two hours later Johnny came downstairs and seen his brother sitting at a corner table in the back of the saloon, walking over he sat down in the chair with his back to the wall.

“ What are you doing here?” Johnny asked as he picked up the bottle and poured a drink and downed it. “ I’m not coming back to Lancer Scott so if that’s why you’re here, forget it.”

“ I’m not here to get you to come back. I left Lancer Johnny.” Scott stated with a touch of anger in his voice.

Johnny couldn’t stop the look of shock that came to his face. “ Why?” he asked.

“ I served in the war Johnny to stop bigotry and abolish slavery.” Scott started as he leaned forward.  “ You have put up with it your whole life and I…….our father is a bigot Johnny, I can’t……I won’t stay there and listen to the way he puts you down. When a report came in about you I would watch him get angry.”

“ Yeah I bet he did.” Johnny said softly as he poured another drink.

“ Johnny are you aware that there is a  ten thousand dollar bounty on your head for a murder you did in Mexico?”

“Murder……what murder?” Johnny asked.

“ Chihuahua………..I know you didn’t do it brother……..I also know you took a bullet in the back and that that bullet is still there.”

“ Tell me something Scott.” Johnny said with irritation. “ How’d you find this out?”

“ I have my sources brother…….see unlike our father…I want the truth and I know you wouldn’t murder someone, not the way they say.”

“ You don’t know me at all Scott, you never have.” Johnny retorted.

“ Why is it so hard for you to understand I don’t care about what you have done to stay alive in the past.”

Johnny stood up and kicked his chair back. Anger in his eyes. “ You don’t know a fucking thing about me Boston, I’m nobody’s brother, I never have been…….I have no family.”

Scott stood up and faced his brother. People stopped talking and watched thinking Madrid was about to kill another. ‘ What the hell do I have to do to prove to you I care about you Johnny?”

Johnny stood there glaring at Scott a minute before turning and walking out of the saloon, headed to the livery.

Scott stepped around the table and went after his brother, he knew where he would be, just like back at Lancer, Johnny would go and groom his horse and sure enough, walking into the livery Scott found him doing just that.

“ Go away Scott.” Johnny ordered.

“ No, I’m not leaving here, I’m not loosing my little brother again.” Scott said firmly.

Johnny walked around Barranca, tossed the brush in a bucket and started to walk past his brother when his right arm was grabbed and he was spun around, causing a white hot stabbing pain, dropping him to his knees.

“ Johnny I’m….what’s wrong?…Talk to me brother.” Scott said as he got down on his knees. “ Is it your back?”

“ Leave me be.” Johnny ordered as he tried to shack his brothers hand off. His right side went numb dropping him onto his side.

“ Damn it Johnny, that bullet needs to come out before you end up paralyzed…….I am not leaving you.”

Johnny opened his eyes and found he was laying in a bed, looking around he found his brother asleep in a chair by the window with a rifle across his lap. Attempting to sit up brought a moan and pain thru his right side.

Scott opened his eyes and looked at his brother, seeing him awake he got up and went to him.

“ Take it easy brother.” he said as he poured some water and offered it to him.

“ Where am I?” Johnny asked as he sipped the cool liquid.

“ A house a couple miles out of El Paso…a man named Cole Mitchell came in the livery and found us, you were unconscious, together we brought you out here to his home……the doctor said that that bullet has to come out…now Johnny.”

“ I’m not letting………” Johnny started.

“ Sam is on his way here Johnny. I wired him and he will be here tomorrow on the stage.”

“ How long have I been out?”

“ Two days…….I told you I’m not leaving you Johnny……I have your back…….I’m not going to let anyone hurt my little brother.”

“ I ain’t staying in this bed.” Johnny said as he tried to get up, only to slump back down in the bed.

“ I don’t think you understand, You will stay in that bed and you will let Sam remove that bullet……..I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you throw your life away the way you are Johnny……You want to be reckless that’s fine….but not as long as I’m alive.” Scott said firmly. “ So shut up and do as you’re told because this is one fight brother, you are going to loose.”

“ Think I could get something to eat……boss?” Johnny asked. Deep down inside he was glad his brother was here. He had missed him bad.

Scott met the stage two days later and found himself meeting not only Sam, but his father as well. Ignoring him he greeted Sam.

“ Where is he Scott?” Sam asked.

“ I have a buggy waiting, he’s at a friends house outside town.” Scott said looking hard at his father. “ I don’t know why you are here, but I’m going to tell you one time only……….Don’t start no crap with him..he doesn’t need you upsetting him now……or after……..and don’t  think you can order us around or that either of us is coming back to Lancer.” Scott said firmly before going to his horse and mounting up.

“ Murdoch why don’t you go check in the hotel while I go out and check on my patient. Let me talk to him and see if he wants to see you.”

Murdoch stood there  watching Sam and Scott head out of town before he went to the hotel and checked in.

“ It last longer every time Sam and is more frequent……I’ve kept him in bed, even though he isn’t happy about it.”

“ Well all we can do is pray that that stubborn brother of yours hasn’t waited to long and the damage is done.” Sam answered.

                                                                                                 Chapter 21

                                                        This chapter is dedicated to the memory of  Southern Frau, my mentor

“ Okay Scott I need you to gently wipe the blood away as I stitch this up.” Sam said as he prepared his needle and thread.

“ Will he be alright Sam?……I mean.” Scott asked with a  concerned  voice as he looked down at his brother.

“I’m afraid we won’t know if we were successful until he wakes up and even then I don’t want him moving around, tearing out these stitches.”

“ How are we going to keep him still Sam? You know Johnny and how he is.”

“ Yes I do, but I have a cure for his insubordinate way. He won’t like it, but I think he’ll do what he’s told.”

“ I can’t thank you enough for coming here and doing this Sam…I think Johnny wanted you to do it but.”

“ But because of a certain stubborn foolish jackass named Murdoch, this boy did god knows what all this time with that bullet in him.”

 Scott let a soft laugh escape him as he smiled at his friend.

“ I know he’s your father but sometimes that man can be so damn foolish…..You know I hardly spoke to him the whole way here……..I am so mad at him Scott for the way he has treated this boy…..and you….When I heard you had left Lancer from Teresa and why, I had hoped it would be a wake up call to him, but she said he just went on at first like nothing happened for the first couple weeks, then reality set in and his mood became somber.”

“ He doesn’t care about Johnny. Our father is a bigot and I told him so the night  before I left.” Scott said as he wiped at the blood running from the wound. “ I know I hurt Teresa leaving Lancer Sam, but I couldn’t stay there and listen to him talk about Johnny the way he was.”

Sam could tell Scott needed someone to talk to so he encouraged the young man. “ You know I told Johnny that I’m a good listener if he ever needed to talk, that goes the same for you Scott. I think of both you boys as my own sons.”

Scott smiled at the man. “ He told me that Johnny wasn’t welcomed back at Lancer Sam……his own son, he spent all that money searching for him, only to treat him like he’s dirt. I just don’t understand it Sam.”

“ You know in all my years knowing your father Scott, I have never known him to be the way he is with Johnny toward anyone……..There that should do it, now let’s get him wrapped up and situated better for when he starts to come around.”

Murdoch sat in the dining room of the hotel worried out of his mind when Sam finally walked in that evening.

“ Sam.” he said as he stood up. “ How is he?”

Sam sat down and looked hard at the man who has been a friend for over thirty years. “ Sit down Murdoch.” he ordered.

Murdoch, not accustomed to being ordered around knew to not argue this time, sitting down he started to speak, but was cut off.

“ You are going to listen to me, and I mean listen. We have been friends for over thirty years have we not?” he asked.

Murdoch only nodded.

“ Before I tell you about Johnny I want to ask you something and you better tell me the truth.” Sam said firmly.

“ I’ve always been truthful with you Sam.”

“ I want to know why you searched so long for that boy to only treat him like he’s dirt?……I don’t understand how you could be the way you are to Johnny. That boy just wanted your love, now Scott told me what you said to him about Johnny not being welcomed back at Lancer……..have you gone stark raving mad, my god Murdoch, your bigotry has cost you both your sons, do you even realize that?” Sam asked with anger.

“ Sam, I don’t have an excuse for the way I have been to Johnny…I seen a side of him that scared the hell out of me in Mexico……I watched him cut a mans throat without hesitation……How am I supposed to feel when a father see’s their son do that. Then to read the reports I have read about what he has done down there since then..You tell me because I sure as hell don’t.”

“ You didn’t have a problem accepting him when Pardee was trying to take Lancer. His skills were good enough then, or was that because you needed his gun to save the ranch?”

“  Johnny is my son……I know I’ve lost him forever now. I have no one to blame but myself for that. I know I’ve lost Scott also……….Sam please….how is he?”

“ He survived the operation, Scott is with him……I will not allow you to see him until he is stronger and even then that is * if * Johnny wants to see you, if he does, me or Scott will be present, because I am not going to let you hurt that boy any longer.”

“ How long?”

“ I don’t know, I don’t want him moving around, tearing out those stitches so I am keeping him on morphine.” Sam answered.

“ Is he……?”

“ I won’t know if he is paralyzed for a few days, there was swelling, and will be for a few days. I won’t allow him to move around for a couple days. He’s gonna need watched closely……..Now if you will excuse me I would like to go back to my patient.”Sam said as he stood up.

Murdoch stood up. “ Sam, would you tell Scott I would like to see him please.”

“ I will, but I highly doubt he wants to see you right now, given the way he was to you when we got here.”

Sam let Johnny wake up finally three days after his operation. Both him and Scott were at his side to keep him from moving to sudden and ripping out the stitches.

Johnny opened his eyes and blinked several times as a familiar voice made it’d way thru his foggy mind.

“ Sa…..m.” he whispered as he opened his eyes.

“ Yes Johnny, it’s me. Scott is right here also.”

“ Hey little brother, bought time I see those blue eyes.” Scott stated as he sat on the edge of the bed and offered a glass of water.

“ Not to much Johnny. I don’t want you getting sick and throwing up. It could tear those stitches out.”

Johnny took a couple sips of the welcomed cool water as he became more focused. “ Hey Boston, thanks.” he said softly.

“ Johnny, I need to know where you hurt and if you have any feeling in your right side.” Sam asked, noting Johnny’ right arm was limp.

Johnny looked down at his right arm and moved his hand, making a fist. “ Hurts in my back Sam, about the middle…..I can’t feel my leg though.”

“ But you can feel your arm and move your fingers?”

“ Yeah.” he answered.

“ Well as the swelling goes down I think you will feel your leg and be able to use it again……You almost waited to long John to get that bullet out….Mind if I ask why?”

“ Didn’t care.”

“ Well that’s going to stop brother…….I’m here now and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you throw your life away.” Scott stated firmly.

Johnny looked up at him and smiled. “ Sorry about what I said to you brother, in the barn.”

“ Don’t worry about it Johnny. I’m your brother and I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.”

“ I’m a fallen angel, brought down from the heavens Scott, almost at rock bottom.”

“ Maybe, but you haven’t hit rock bottom yet and I’m not going to let you.”

“ Uh John, there’s a matter we need to discuss.”

“ Yeah, could I get something to eat Sam. I’m starved.”

“ You can have some broth for now, at least until I know you won’t be sick. Uhm Scott why don’t you talk to Johnny while I go get some?” am suggested as he headed to the door. “ Help him with his personal needs also.”

Scott waited until Sam left the room. “ You need to…..”

“ Yeah but how?” Johnny asked.

“Scott helped Johnny take care of business, he knew it wasn’t easy for his so independent little brother having to have help. Neither brother spoke until a few minutes later after Scott had him situated in the bed sitting up.

“ He’s here ain’t he?” Johnny asked, breaking the silence.

“ Yeah he is. He came with Sam and we haven’t allowed him to see you until you said he could. We told him he wasn’t going to see you alone.”

“ I have nothing to say to him Scott. He’s not my father. My mother was right about him. He never wanted me, if he did he wouldn’t treat me like he has.”

“ Why don’t you tell him that brother. Stand up to him Johnny and tell him how * you * feel.”

“ Won’t so  no good……..So you left Lancer huh….why?”

“ Because of the way he would talk about you. I guess the last straw was when we found out you have a wanted poster out for murder in Chihuahua for killing the man who shot you in the back.”

“ I killed him in self defense Scott.”

“ I know, he also received reports from the Pinkerton’ about you and the men you’ve killed since Sonora.”

“ I’ve killed a lot of men since Sonora Scott. Some I called out just to do it. Until I started working for Wells Fargo, I didn’t care.” Johnny said as he massaged his right hand.

“ What changed you?”

“ Mitchell.”

“ Mitchell?”

“ Yeah he reminded me of you a little. Riding shotgun we’d talk and he reminded me of you, without the eastern accent though.”

“ Well he seems like a really nice man and his wife Clarissa is. Teresa could take some cooking lessons from her.”

“ How is Teresa?”

“ She was hurt and angry you didn’t come back with us and then when our father said you were not welcomed back at Lancer she was really upset, mostly at him and let it be know with her meals.”

“ I miss her Scott. Several times I came close  to coming to see the two of you, but……”

“ I understand………Carl said Wells Fargo is happy they got you.” Scott stated wanting to change the subject.

“ Yeah, they pay real good too.”

Sam came back with some chicken broth. “ Did you tell him?”

“ I don’t want to see him Sam. I don’;t want to hear his lies, but Scott brought up a good point so…… tell him I’ll see him tomorrow.”

“ Alright, Well I think I will go get some rest. Scott you see that he eats all this broth and gets some rest.” Sam asked.

“ I will.” Scott answered as he sat down to help his brother eat.

“ Thanks Sam, for all you’ve done.”

Murdoch walked into the room the next afternoon with Sam, finding both his sons there.

“ Well, I’ll leave you three alone. Remember what I said Murdoch. I mean it.” Sam stated firmly before leaving the room.

Johnny glanced at Scott, then looked down at his lap.

“ I’m glad you’re going to be alright son.” Murdoch said as he sat down.

“ Don’t call me that……..Don’t you dare call me your son……If I was you wouldn’t treat me the way you do. He told me how you said I’m not welcomed back at Lancer…..Let me tell you something old man….Lancer is my birthright and my home, or so I thought……….My mother was right about you, you don’t want me except at your convenience. I’m not one of those puppets on a string you can toy with. I have feelings and all I wanted was a father who I had hoped would love me and believed in second chances, but you don’t. I don’t know if I will ever go back to Lancer old man, Scott can if he wants but right now I’m not.”

“ Johnny, I know I’ve said this to you before, but I assure you that this time I mean it. I want you and Scott both at Lancer, but I understand and I have nobody to blame but myself for this. Lancer is your home, your birthright and…….I started building those corrals and barns for that horse business you mentioned for me to start when you left…..It will be there waiting for you to run, both of you if you choose to come back.”

Johnny winced from a pain in his back. “ Scott….”

“ I’ll get Sam.” Scott answered as he headed out the door.

“ Can I do anything for you.” Murdoch asked as he stood and moved over next to the bed.

“ No, I…….I’m tired.” Johnny answered just as Sam came into the room.

“ I’m putting an end to this meeting. Murdoch.” Sam stated firmly. “ I think you should leave now.”

“ Alright Sam, I’m going. Johnny, Scott please remember what I said and think about it.” he asked before walking out.

“ How you feel?” Scott asked his brother three weeks later.

“ The same as I did yesterday Scott.” Johnny said as he stepped away from a log he had just placed six bottles on.

“ Johnny, you don’t have to do this yet. Give yourself more time to heal up.” Scott pleaded.

Johnny answered him with turning, drawing and firing. “ Damn it.”

Scott starred in aw at the speed and accuracy his brother had just three weeks after Sam removed the bullet. “ What’s wrong?”

“ I’m slow Scott after the first shot.” Johnny said as he reloaded.

“ Johnny, I know you’re the expert here on this, god knows it’s kept you alive in the past, but I still think you are rushing this.”

“ I have to Scott, and you know why.” Johnny answered. “ Show me what you got.”

“ What?….Johnny you know I’m no gunfighter.”

Johnny walked over to Scott and removed his pistol. “ It has a hair trigger so keep your finger off it until it clears the holster.”

“ Johnny I can’t…”

“ Yeah you can Scott. I know you can shoot……….Look if you’re going to stay with me you have got to be better. Now I’m not saying go and get called out, but the way you wear your gun, you’re advertising that you are a gunfighter……..And the next time I see you with your gloves on your gun I’m gonna kick your ass.”

Scott laughed. “ You thought about what he said any?”

“ Who, our father?”

“ Yes our father.”

“ I have, but I don’t know Scott. Something inside me died when Jesse and Micheal were murdered.”

“ Especially Jesse huh?……….You loved her Johnny and it’s alright to hurt over a loss, some people take longer to accept it and move on, others never do……….It’s life brother and sometimes life sucks.”

“ Shut up Boston and draw. If you’re going to work for Wells Fargo with me you need to be  better with a hand gun.” Johnny said, closing the discussion.

Johnny went back to work for Wells Fargo after three months off. His back was still a little sore but his aim and draw were back. Scott practiced every morning just about with his brother to perfect his use of a hand gun. He would never be as fast as his brother or as deadly, but he now hit every time what he aimed at, and that made Johnny proud, even though he would never say it.

Being proud of a trade was something most people had, Johnny however did not. A gunfighter wasn’t allowed to, just like they weren’t allowed to have a conscious ether, but again, Johnny did. Those two traits alone could get a man in his profession killed.

“ So the two of you ready for a long one?” Carl asked stepping out of the office to the brothers sitting in chairs outside, soaking up the morning sun.

“ He needs broke in Carl, what we got?” Johnny asked.

“ A no passenger one Johnny.” Carl said, knowing Johnny knew what he meant. “ All the way to Denver on this one. It’s going to the mint.”

“ A no passenger?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah.” Johnny said glancing at him. “ How many men?”

“ Two inside, four outriders and two up top……….Johnny it’s a quarter million dollars.”

“ Did you say?” Scott started but was cut off.

“ I don’t like it Carl……That much money on one stage is going to bring trouble.”

“ Let’s go to my place were we can talk in private boys….Too many ears out here.” Carl said as he stepped down into the street followed by Johnny and Scott.

“ You mean you have been guarding money coming into El Paso, not out Johnny?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah Boston I have and now our employer want’s it moved to Denver……..most of the money is for the railroad Scott……It’s distributed out from there.” Johnny told him. “ How much we making on this one?”

“ Hundred a day, plus expenses and ammunition.” Carl answered.

“ When?” Johnny asked.

“ Monday, the special stage will be here then.”

“ I take it by special you mean?”

“ Yeah, the iron horse Johnny…..It’ll have eight horses pulling it at all times and the way stations along the way we change out at already have good strong replacement horses waiting……thanks to you and your horse knowledge. There will be eight change outs that will include remounts for the four outriders so you might want to leave that flashy palomino of yours here this time buddy.”

“ Guess you’re gonna have to butter that spoiled stallion up brother before we leave out.” Scott said with a smile.

Johnny glanced at his brother and cracked a slight smile at the corner of his mouth. “ I don’t like this Carl…….That’s a lot of money and I have a feeling the wrong people know we are moving it.”

“ Go on brother.” Scott said.

“ I learned a long time ago to trust that gut of yours, so spit it out because this is my last job and I want to make it back to enjoy my child when it comes.” Carl said.

“ You.” Johnny said. “ Hey congratulations buddy.”

“ Thanks spill it buddy.”

 Johnny, Scott and Carl talked and planned well into the night, Each and every detail planned out to the fullest. Johnny and Carl knowing the country they would be crossing helped.

“ So you think this will work brother?” Scott asked as the two walked back toward the hotel.

Johnny stopped. “ Yeah it will, I don’t like that many people knowing about that money Scott.”

“ I trust you totally little brother. You know what you are doing and I don’t doubt you one bit on this……..but let me ask you something.”

“ Go ahead.”

“ You gonna quite after this or keep working for Wells Fargo?”

“ Money’s damn good Scott, but I was thinking of moving on, why?”

“ Well I was thinking, they say wild horses run pretty good in Wyoming and Montana, the Dakota’ too. What would you say to me and you starting up a horse ranch?” Scott asked. “ Think about it Johnny, I have a feeling there is going to be a need for good quality horses and with your knowledge and the special way you have with a horse……Hell we could even do it here in Texas.”

“ That what you want us to do brother?……..Starting a breeding ranch takes a lot of money and time.”

“ I know that. I could manage the books and financial end of it, look all I’m asking is for you to think about it okay?”

“ Yeah, okay………you want to join me in finding some female company?” Johnny asked bluntly, changing the subject.

“ Uh no I think I will head to the hotel and get some sleep… go ahead and have a good time brother.”

“ Alright, don’t wait up. I’ll see you in the morning brother.” Johnny said patting him on the back before walking away.

Two hours later Johnny stood fastening his gun belt as Jenny lay on the bed watching him.

“ You’re a man of many talents Johnny.” she said as she moved to the edge of the bed.

“ I aim to please.” he said with a smile as he picked up his gun.

“They know about the shipment…………A man I had the other night was drunk and well….”

“ Well what Jenny?” Johnny asked.

“ All that money that’s being shipped to Denver…..this man said he and his gang were gonna become real rich real soon, and he asked me if I wanted to leave with him.” Jenny said with concern in her voice. “ Johnny, I know he’s talking about Wells Fargo because he also said he was going to get to kill the infamous Johnny Madrid in the process……..I asked him how he expected to kill you, being so fast and all and he said that he had an inside man.”

“ An inside man?……..Jenny did he say who?” Johnny asked as he stepped over to her.

“ Yeah he did.” Jenny told him. “ Johnny, it’s Carl.”

“ You’re absolutely sure of the name Jenny?”

“ I’ve never been more sure of anything before in my life….Johnny don’t go please, it’s a trap and I don’t want you getting killed.”

Johnny placed his hand under her chin and softly ran his thumb along her jaw. “ Thanks you for what you told me……Nobody will know. I’ll handle this okay.” he told her before claiming her mouth for a minute then stopping and leaving the room.

Jenny sat there staring at the empty space where Johnny was standing seconds before, her heart praying that she didn’t read a front page report about the only man to make her feel like a woman being gunned down. Being a whore, most women just took what they got for a dollar, but Johnny was different. Johnny knew how to make her feel special and he took the time to pleasure her before himself, sometimes more. He always paid her three times what she charged so usually he would be her only customer of the night when he came to see her.

Johnny told Scott what he learned in their room. “ Johnny are you sure this, Jenny is right?”

“ No I’m not Scott, but how else would she know about this?………..I don’t go around telling people, and I sure as hell didn’t tell her.”

“ What are you going to do brother?” Scott asked.

“ Nothing, I’m tired of being lied to and used Scott…….I’m getting out….I’m going to alert Wells Fargo corporate in the morning and I’m quitting……I should have a long time ago.”

“ Wait a minute Johnny, you’re going to do nothing…….That don’t sound like you.”

“ I’ll deal with what Jenny told me Scott, but as far as guarding the shipment,  I’m out. I’m headed to Nevada, up by Virginia City, maybe make some money guarding the silver mines or start that horse ranch you suggested brother.”

“ Johnny I think you should confront him. He used you brother and quiet frankly it pisses me off.”

“ Yeah I know, look come with me to the office, we’re going to check the books and see how many shipments Carl worked.”

“ Okay, what about our boss, won’t he be a little suspicious of our checking?”

“ Nope, see I always look at the books and well, he don’t really have a choice in the matter.”

“ No I guess he wouldn’t.” Scott stated as the two walked to the office.

Three hours later Johnny, walked out of the office with his brother. 

“ Want me to come along?” Scott asked.

“ Nope, don’t worry, I won’t kill him, but he’ll wish I do when I’m done with him.” Johnny said before walking away.

Carl Mitchell came out of his house when he see Johnny headed toward him. He could tell by the look on his face, Madrid was pissed.

“ Hey Johnny, what’s wrong.” Carl asked as he stepped down off the porch.

Johnny walked up and hit his friend hard in the mouth then grabbed him by his coat and jerked him up again. “ You sonofabitch…….did you really think you could get away with it?” he demanded before hitting him again.

“ What the fuck are you talking about Johnny?” Carl demanded as he wiped at the blood on his mouth.

“ You know damn well what I’m talking about Carl……..I checked the books, I know you were the one behind those previous robberies, I know it was you who suggested I be hired to protect them……..You fucking lying bastard……..I trusted you.”

“ Johnny, let me explain, please?”

“ You got nothing to say that I want to hear…..What you’re going to do Carl is go down to that office and tell it all. You are also going to tell who, how many, where and when that shipment was going to be hit.” Johnny ordered firmly with coldness in his eyes.

Three weeks later Johnny and Scott with three pack horses rode out of El Paso headed northwest toward Nevada. Scott didn’t try and talk much to his brother the first two days out, knowing he was still hurting from being betrayed by someone he considered a friend for almost two years.

“ Scott, why don’t you go fill the canteens up after you get that fire going.” Johnny said tightening Barranca’ cinch.

“ And where are you going brother?”

“ Gonna have a look around before dark is all.” he said as he swung up in the saddle. “ I’ll be back.”

“ Okay, I’ll have supper ready when you do, be careful.” Scott said as he picked up the canteens and coffee pot.

Johnny sat on top of the hill looking down where their camp was when dust caught his eyes in the distance, knowing their camp would only be spotted if whoever rode into the canyon Johnny stayed put watching. After about an hour a glint clearly off something shiny told him that whoever it was had a rifle out and was tracking, who he didn’t know, but his gut told him he would soon enough when movement on his right at the bottom of the canyon in the shadows caught his eyes. Looking down, he waited and watched as the person worked their way to Barranca about three hundred feet from him and mounted up.

Johnny not knowing who it was in the distance decided not to whistle since the rider was below him, moving like a cat to within about twenty feet above them he jumped and knocked the rider off his horse, rolled and came up, colt drawn, facing a knife in the hands of a boy about fifteen years old, bruised and dirty.

“ Take it easy boy, I don’t want to hurt you, but I’m not going to let you steal my horse either.” Johnny said as he lowered his colt, but didn’t put it away. “ Those riders in the distance looking for you?”

The boy lowered his knife finally, but didn’t speak.

“ Look if you’re running from those men, me and my brother have a camp they won’t find in the canyon.” Johnny told him before calling Barranca over and swinging up in the saddle. “ My brother’ got supper cooking if you’re hungry.” Johnny said as he moved Barranca over and held out his hand and moved his left foot from the stirrup for the boy to swing up behind if he chose. Johnny knew hunger and knew that this boy hadn’t eatin anything for some time.

“Thank you.” was all he got for now as the boy swung up behind him.

“I was about to give up on you coming back before dark brother.” Scott said as he noticed the boy behind his brother.

“ Fix a plate of food up Scott for our friend here. I’m gonna take care of Barranca.” Johnny said as the boy jumped down.

“ Sure brother.” Scott said, noticing how disheveled the boys appearance was, let alone how tattered his clothes were. “ I’m Scott Lancer and the one who brought you here is my brother Johnny, you got a name?” he asked as he dished up a plate and handed it to him.

“ Andy.” the boy said between bites. “ Andy Cutler.”

“ How old are you Andy?” Scott said handing him a cup of coffee. “ Sorry only got coffee to drink.”

“ Fifteen.” he answered as he took the preferred cup of hot liquid.

Scott noticed how Andy kept an eye on his brother at all times. As he shoveled the food in and talked to him.

“ Coffee any good brother?’ Johnny asked as he walked over.

“ Isn’t it always Johnny………Brother this is Andy Cutler, he’s fifteen and that seems to be all he wants to share with us for right now.” Scott said noticing Andy still watching Johnny closely.

“ Yeah well Andy I suggest you talk to us so what know what we might be up against and why if those riders find us in the morning.” Johnny said as he took a plate handed to him. “ Thanks.” he told Scott.

“ Look kid, me and my brother are not going to hurt you, but I bet those men following you do….you think about it and come morning you decide.” Johnny said. “ Oh and if you’re thinking you can leave in the night, I’m a real light sleeper and my horse over there he don’t like being woke up, makes him cranky.”

Scott coughed lightly to cover up his laugh, but his brother still heard it and slapped him playfully in the stomach.

The next morning Andy was still asleep, deep in the blankets as Scott walked over and handed his brother a cup of coffee.

“ I think he knows what you are….or were brother.” he said as his brother took the cup.

“ Who Andy?” Johnny asked before sipping the hot brew.

“ Yeah, last night he never once took his eyes off you when you were taking care of Barranca, nor when you came over to eat after.” Scott said as he stepped closer to him. “ Johnny, you said there are men possibly tracking this boy….I think he is in need of our help brother……I feel it.”

“ I know Scott, but I’m not getting myself into something I know nothing about….Besides we’re headed to Nevada to start that horse ranch remember.” Johnny said as he saddled Barranca.

Movement caught both brothers attention as Andy got up and walked over to them.

“ You’re a gunfighter aren’t you?” the boy asked, looking straight at Johnny.

Johnny walked around Barranca and looked over his back at Andy. “ What do those men want with you Andy?”

“You’re Johnny Madrid ain’t ya?….The fastest gun in the southwest on both sides of the border.” Andy stated.

Scott took a hold of Andy’ shoulder and turned him around to face him. “ My brother asked you a question Andy so why don’t you answer us……We have a right to know if those men he seen last  night are going to be shooting at us.”

“ Nobody is after me.”

“ Then what are you doing out here in the middle of know-where alone.”

“ My horse died…….I tried to steal one of theirs and they been following me ever since.”

“ You just said nobody is after you Andy.” Scott stated.

“ Andy.” Johnny said as he stepped around Barranca. “ Do those men speak Spanish or look like me?”

“ Like you?” the boy asked confused.

“ Yeah, mixed, halfbreed, speak both English and Spanish, wear big knives, smell like they haven’t had a bath in months.”

“ Yeah why?” Andy answered.

“ What’s up Johnny?”

“ Pack up now…I want us out of here before that sun is up.” Johnny ordered.

“ Johnny……”

“ Those men are Comancheros  Scott…..and I don’t really want to go up against them.”

Thirty minutes later Johnny, Scott and Andy were headed out, hopefully away from trouble Johnny wanted no part of.

                                                                                                 Chapter 22

                                               This chapter is dedicated to the memory of  Southern Frau, my mentor

Johnny, Scott and Andy rode hard for three days until they were well into the mountains of Northwestern Arizona. Territory Comancheros rarely came into.

“ It’s getting colder brother.” Scott stated. “ We might want to find us a town and replenish our supplies and get some winter clothes.”

“We can do that in Prescott.” Johnny answered. “ The horses need grain and a night or two in a barn with rest will do them good.”

“ Brother, a soft bed sounds good to me after sleeping on the cold hard ground these past few weeks since leaving El Paso.” Scott said with a smile.

“ You’re to soft Boston. You have no idea what hard living is.” Johnny said as he stopped Barranca and got down.

“ I may not have lived the life you have Johnny, but I do know what a hard life is. I was in the war remember?”

“ Did you sleep out in the cold and wet with your men or did you have a nice tent to sleep in at night Scott?” Johnny asked with a slight coldness to his voice.

“ Look.” Scott started as he got down from his horse. “ Sometimes I slept in a tent yes, but most of the time I was in the rain, heat and frigid cold with my men Johnny…….Why the hell do you think I had it easy while in the war?………..You think because you, Johnny Madrid had it rough below the border that nobody else did…….Well let me tell you something brother……I have went days without food and water so filthy to drink it would gag that damn horse of yours.” Scott snapped back.

Johnny stepped over to Scott. “ The grandson of a rich man like Harlan Garrett and the only heir to his estate…….I know damn well you didn’t have it rough Scott……..not like your men and sure as hell not like me……you weren’t beaten for having your blue eyes and dark hair….you weren’t beaten or shot at for stealing bread because you hadn’t ate in a week or longer…… haven’t done time in a Mexican prison where the slop the call food has maggots and other things crawling in it, but hey that’s okay because after a while you’re so fucking hungry you don’t care what you eat and that includes rats.” Johnny said before turning away to take care of Barranca.

Scott grabbed his brothers arm and spun him around. “ Let me tell you something brother……I spent a year in that hell hole prison called Libby, so don’t tell me I don’t know what it’s like to be in a Mexican prison, because I can promise you brother, doing time in a  Mexican prison is like a vacation compared to Libby.”

“ Stop it you two.” Andy cut in as he stepped between the brothers.

“ Stay out of this kid, it don’t concern you.” Scott interjected. “ My life hasn’t always been cushy like you think Johnny. My grandfather had no influence on what I did in the army.”

“ Yeah, well if he didn’t then how’d ya get out of Libby then huh?”

“ Me and six of my men escaped, but I was the only one who survived.” Scott answered sharply.

“ Because of ol’ Harlan Garrett I’d bet…..You be surprised what money can buy……..Hell if I had someone rich they could have paid the Rurales off and got me out of prison also……..It’s a cold had life brother and if you’re going to ride with me then the sooner you realize that, the longer you might live.” Johnny said tightening his cinch and mounting back up. “ Stay headed northwest, you’ll reach Prescott before dark.”

“Where are you going?” Scott asked as he grabbed Barranca’ reins.

“ I’m going to make sure we aren’t still being followed……I’d like company for a night or two a lot prettier than you are brother and I’d like it without trouble.”

“ Johnny, about before….I’m sorry.”

“ Forget it Boston, hell we’re brothers remember and if my memory serves me correctly you told me brothers have disagreements……I’ll see you in Prescott……Oh, get me a room under Lancer…I don’t……..”

“ I know….you don’t have to say it Johnny……..Might as well use our old mans name for something right?” Scott said as he went and opened his saddlebags and took out a pair of field glasses. “ Here just make sure the sun doesn’t hit the glass to show where you are, you’ll be able to see who it is following us, if they still are from a mile away.” Scott said as he stepped over and put the glasses in his brothers saddlebags.

“ Thanks.” Johnny said before riding off.

“ How come Johnny doesn’t want to use Madrid Scott?” Andy asked.

“ Because Andy, Johnny would like to put that part of his life behind him, so as a friendly suggestion to you…….don’t call him Madrid ever…….and if he does get called out * don’t * distract him in any way because it could get him killed.” Scott said as he mounted up and started out.

Johnny stayed just inside the tree line as he watched six riders following another who was out in front, clearly looking for tracks. “ Damn it.” he said softly as he reached in and removed the field glasses his brother gave him and let the reins lay across Barranca’ neck. “ Stand still boy.” he said as he adjusted the view and got a good look at who was trailing him.

“ Son of a bitch, we got serious trouble amigo.” Johnny said as he looked at the riders about a mile off. Reaching down he took out his rifle and got down from Barranca. “ You stay here boy.” he said ground tying the stallion before moving off in the shadows of the trees.

Johnny stopped and crouched behind a huge fallen tree waiting as he heard the hooves of the riders horses getting closer. Taking out his colt he laid it in a cutout in the tree as he took aim with the rifle.

Calico Jack rode just off to the left of the five other men riding with him. A bounty hunter by trade and a cold blooded killer by heart, Calico Jack was as ruthless as they came. Born of a whore mother who didn’t know who his father was, Jack grew up with coldness and hatred. Some would dare to say that the man would gut you like a fish just to watch you die. Only one man had ever survived and escaped Calico Jack’ capture, and that man he now trailed with nothing but pure hatred in his heart and a coldness in his veins that could freeze a river.

A halfbreed boy barely seventeen and hell bent for leather on making a reputation for himself as a gunfighter below the border had crossed the line with Jack when he killed another man in Laredo for beating on a whore. Normally Jack wouldn’t care, but the man killed happened to be his younger brother.

Working down in Durango, Mexico Jack couldn’t believe his luck when he heard that a halfbreed named Johnny Madrid was working for Wells Fargo in El Paso, Texas. Problem was buy the time he and his men had gotten to El Paso, Madrid had left town a week before. Now following an Apache tracker Jack knew it wouldn’t be long and he would get the chance to avenge his little brothers death.

A rifle shot brought him back to reality as he watched the Apache tracker fall backwards off his horse with a bullet hole in his head.

“ It’s Madrid, take cover.”  Jack yelled as he jumped from his horse seconds before two of his men fell dead.

Johnny knew that without the tracker, Jack wouldn’t be able to follow. Taking out two of Jack’ men in a matter of seconds gave him the upper hand even more. Staying down behind the tree, Johnny chambered more shells into the rifle, he could hear horses squealing and galloping away. Rising up just enough to see over the log, Johnny took aim and waited with his finger on the trigger. His patience paid off as one of Jack’ men decided to change positions, firing Johnny dropped him dead after only three steps.

“ Madrid……I won’t rest until you’re dead you halfbreed bastard…….I’m going to gut you from your dick to your throat for killing my brother.” Jack yelled.

Johnny located Jack and sprayed him with bullets, then shot at the feet of the two remaining horses, spooking them off before moving back into the shadows and heading to Barranca. Killing another never set well with him, but when it came down to survival, that and that alone made a difference.

“ Easy boy.” Johnny said as he approached Barranca and slid his rifle into the scabbard before swinging up in the saddle. “ I just bought you a couple days of rest and grain amigo.” he told his friend as they rode away heading to Prescott.

“My brother will be coming in later on tonight….Johnny Lancer……I wish for him to have a room all his own, me and Andy here can share a room.” Scott told the clerk as he signed the register.

“ Yes sir mister Lancer……..Are you by chance related to Murdoch Lancer of Morro Coyo, California?” the older man asked as he handed Scott a key.

“ He’s our father, why?”

“ No reason, I just had heard of him and how he has the biggest spread in California……..will you be staying with us long sir?”

“ A couple days……..headed back from a business trip……Could you have a hot bath set up in my room for us while we go take care of our horses?” Scott asked as he paid the man and took the key.

“ Yes sir, right away….will your brother be wanting one as well when he arrives?”

“ I expect so, we’ve been on the trail for a bit.”

“ Very well…..oh Martha’ cafe about a block down serves up real good food and is open till midnight, our dinning room closes at eight so your brother won’t be able to get a hot meal here I’m afraid until morning when it opens again at six.”

“ Alright, I expect my brother will probably eat at the saloon before he comes here. Thank you sir…….Come on Andy let’s take our stuff up to the room so we can  get the horses settled for the night.” Scott said as he picked up his rifle and headed to the stairs.

Johnny rode into Prescott about midnight. The only sounds came from the saloon down the street. Tired and not really wanting any, Johnny took care of Barranca and headed to the hotel.

“ Yes sir, can I help you?” the night clerk asked gruffly perturbed he had been woke up.

“ Yeah I have a room.” Johnny said, noticing the clerk was looking at him in a way he knew wasn’t good.

“ And who would you be?” the clerk asked sharply.

“ Johnny Lancer.”

The clerk checked his ledger and found a room indeed had been reserved for Johnny Lancer. Turning to his right the clerk removed a key and tossed it on the counter at Johnny.

“ Mister.” Johnny started as he picked up the key. “ You got a problem with me?”

“ I know who you are……Madrid…..I don’t know why you’re using the name of a well respected rancher like Murdoch Lancer, but you’re kind isn’t welcome here. I will be letting the owner know in the morning who you are and you will be leaving this hotel in the morning.”

“ Is that so……well let me tell you something.” Johnny said as he grabbed the man by his shirt and pulled him up on the counter so fast, the clerk had no time to respond. “ I am Johnny Madrid, but I am also the youngest son of Murdoch Lancer and my older brother Scott Lancer is in a room upstairs right now… why don’t you check your ledger there and see what room he’s in and we can get this matter cleared up right now……Oh I’m also certain that when my old man comes to Prescott next time he will be glad to stay at another hotel.” Johnny told the man inches from his face before shoving him back.

The clerk just stared at Johnny as he fixed his shirt and tie before turning his back to him and walking to the back room.

Johnny stood there and watched the man walk away before heading upstairs, a much needed hot bath and soft bed was what he wanted, but knew that tonight he would only get one of the three things his body wanted.

Scott and Andy sat in the dinning room eating breakfast when Johnny came down the stairs the next morning and spotted them.

“ Morning brother.” Scott said as he motioned the waiter over.

Johnny sat down and even without looking he could feel the clerks eyes on him. “ Coffee…..and steak, eggs and potatoes.” he told the waiter as he removed his hat and waited for the clerk to leave. “ I got trouble Scott, trouble of the worst kind.”

Scott leaned over the table a little and spoke softly. “ Those trailing us?”

“ Yeah…..there were seven now there’s only three.”

“ Three, then they should give up Johnny.” Andy spoke.

Johnny shot Andy a hard look. “ Shut up.” he ordered.

“ Johnny, who is it?” Scott asked.

“ Calico Jack……he won’t stop until we dance Scott.”

“ Why is he after you?”

“ He’s a bounty hunter and cold ruthless killer…….I killed his brother when I was seventeen.”

“ So we should ride out then? Stay ahead of this Jack.” Scott stated.

“ Nope, not until I get what I came here for brother.” Johnny answered as the waiter brought his coffee and food.

“ Your meal has been paid for mister Madrid.” the waiter said softly.

“ By who?” Johnny demanded.

“ Me mister Lancer.” the hotel manager said as he walked over. “ I would like to apologize for the way you were treated last night………I know who you are and I assure you you are welcome here for as long as you want to stay……anything I can get you, you just let me know.”

“ I appreciate that, I would like a hot bath and I’ll probably be bringing some company to my room later.” Johnny said as he glanced at his brother.

“ Uh company?…….Oh I see….there is a very fine establishment at the north end of town sir. The ladies there are quiet nice and it is run very proper I assure you.”

“ Yeah I know, I’ve been there before.” Johnny answered as he cut into his steak.

“ Very well then. I will have a hot bath drawn for you and ready in an hour if that’s alright?”

“ Works for me.”

Scott waited until the manager left before speaking. “ Do you think it’s wise we stay here so you can?” he asked glancing at Andy.

“ We need winter supplies Boston and the horses need a good rest…..once we leave here and head north it’s gonna be mighty cold, not so much snow mind you as there will be wind.”

“ What about the boy?” Scott asked.

Johnny looked at Andy. “ You got plans?” he asked him.

“ I ain’t got nobody or nothing Johnny.” Andy responded.

“ Well I’ll tell you what Andy……You can come along with me and my brother up into Nevada, we’re gonna start a horse ranch and if you want, you can be a part of it……Now before you answer I gotta tell ya, it’s gonna be hard back breaking work building a place to live, rounding up Mustangs and breaking them, but if you’re willing to pull your fare share, we’ll make you a partner.”

“ You mean it? On the true Johnny?”

“ On the true.”

Murdoch walked out of the barn and found Teresa hurrying toward him with an envelope in her hand.

 “ Murdoch, this letter was delivered to you from the Pinkerton agency this afternoon.” she said as she handed it to him.

Murdoch took the envelope and hugged his ward. “ Thank you darling. How was your day?”

“ It was okay….that’s about Johnny and Scott isn’t it?”

“ I expect so….Lets go inside where I can warm these old tired bones up.”

One hour later Murdoch sat at his desk reading the wire.

“ Well…is it about Johnny and Scott?” Teresa asked.

“ What?….Oh sorry darling, yes it is.”

“ Well……where are they?……Are they alright?”

“ They are in Prescott, Arizona it would seem, waiting out a blizzard. The Pinkerton man says he learned they have a younger boy with them named Andy Cutler and the three of them when the storm breaks are headed up into Nevada somewhere to start a horse ranch it would seem.” Murdoch said before standing up. “ I think I will go get cleaned up before supper.”

“ Alright.” Teresa answered, noticing Murdoch lay the wire on his desk before heading upstairs without another word. When he was gone and she heard his door close, Teresa picked up the wire and read it.

Mister Lancer

I have located your son Scott Lancer in Prescott, Arizona. He is still with Johnny Madrid. Another boy about fifteen in age is with them, Goes by the name of Andy Cutler. Held up in Prescott due to winter storm. Staying at hotel under the name of Lancer. Have learned disturbing news about Madrid. It would seem that Madrid ambushed seven riders before storm and  killed four of them, it is not clear why this happened, but a survivor states that he and his friends were riding and just happened upon Madrid and without cause Madrid opened fire on these men. One man in question who survived the attack goes by the name of Calico Jack. Upon asking around I have learned that this Calico Jack and Madrid knew each other in the past. Madrid killed Jack’ little brother in a fair fight and because of what I have learned, I believe Jack and his men were tracking Madrid to kill him. I do not believe Johnny Madrid ambushed these men just to kill them. I believe this was for survival only. Calico Jack has vowed to gut Madrid sir once he catches him for the murder of his brother.

This man is a bounty hunter and as ruthless as they come sir. I’m afraid that when they meet, Madrid will be killed as well as your son Scott and this younger man with them. I will be waiting for your word on what you wish me to do next here in Prescott at the White Dove hotel.

Sincerely C. Baxter

Pinkerton Agent.

Teresa wiped at the tears in her eyes as she let the letter drop to the desk. “His son Scott. Johnny is your son also Murdoch.” she said aloud as her anger started to build.

“ What are you doing?’ came a sharp voice from behind her.

Spinning around with tears in her eyes Teresa picked the letter back up. “ Your son……….you only accept Scott as your son….why?”

“ As long as Johnny wears that damn gun and uses it, he will always be Madrid….I tried to accept that part of him Teresa, I know I wasn’t always fare to him when he was here, but I can’t accept that gun or the risk of you being hurt or anyone else on this ranch because of his past…..And now Scott’ life is in danger as well as this fifteen year old boy riding with them.”

“ I am your ward until I reach twenty one, that is in two years. At that time I will be leaving Lancer and finding Johnny and Scott.” she stated firmly before walking out of the room.

Murdoch stood there in shock as the words his ward had just spoken hit home. First his son and now his ward was leaving and all because of……..Sitting down at his desk, Murdoch placed his head in his hands.

“ How could I have let this happen?…..Where did I go so wrong at Lord?” he asked.

“ Andy open the gate.” Scott yelled as he and Johnny guided about thirty head of mustangs toward the big corral.

Andy swung the ten foot tall gate open and climbed up on the fence out of the reach of kicking feet as the mustangs ran past and into the corral, jumping down when it was safe and closing it again.

“ Let’s cut the two stallions out now Scott. Both of them will be good for breeding and we don’t need them fighting.” Johnny said as he threw his rope over the big coal black stallion and jerked the slack out and wrapped the rope around his saddle horn. The stallion protested for a few seconds before settling down and walking over toward Johnny and Barranca.

Scott threw his rope and got the big chestnut stallion and together the brothers took them both out of the corral.

“ Put him in the corral we just finished Scott….I’m gonna put this big boy in the paddock to start working him after lunch.” Johnny said as he led the big black away.

“ Don’t forget we have that army colonel coming out her this afternoon to look at what we got brother.” Scott yelled.

“ I got stew on the stove for lunch Scott.” Andy said as he followed Scott to the corral.

“ Sounds good Andy…..I’m hungry enough I could eat a bear I think.” Scott told him as he released the stallion.

“ Man he sure is something, ain’t he Scott?” Andy said as he watched the big chestnut run and buck around the corral.

“ Yeah, he’s a tall one that’s for sure….Come on lets go eat.”

“ Well boys…..I really like what I see……I like it so much that I think you just got yourselves a deal.”

Scott looked at Johnny and smiled.

“ Hundred dollars each, broke?”

“ That’s right. You can deliver that many in four months right?” the colonel asked.

“ Yes sir, we have the amount you wanted already broke and just brought another thirty head in this morning.” Johnny answered.

“ Very well…….I’ll be back with a regiment in three months to pick them up…….If we could go inside I have the contract already drawn up, waiting you three’ signature.”

That night Johnny and Scott sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee.

“ We need to hire a cook brother, Andy tries but we need someone who can cook, clean and due the wash and other things needed around here. I don’t think it’s fare he’s stuck here most of the time and not out there with us rounding up horses.”

“ Yeah I know, I was thinking the same thing Scott………..You know it’s been two long back breaking years brother, but I think we’re doing good. How about we take a ride into town the three of us Saturday and enjoy our selves? We can put the word out that three bachelors are looking for a woman interested in cooking, cleaning and such.”

“ That little brother sounds good to me……I think Andy would like it also. I’m sure there’s maybe a widow woman around who would be interested in the job.”

“ Okay, I’m gonna go check on the stock, I’ll see ya in the morning.”

“ You mean you’re going to go spoil a certain horse like you do every night before bed brother……..I’ll see ya.”

“ Thanks Johnny, you too Scott for this. I sure hope we can find someone who’ll take over the cooking and such.”

“ Andy, I want you to know that when I offered you a partnership, I didn’t mean for what ya been doing.”

“ I know that Johnny. You and Scott got the experience with horses not me. It wouldn’t make much sense if I went out trying to do your job now would it?”

“ No, but still, I think it’s about time you start learning the business end of a horse ranch…..Scott’ been helping you with your schooling, Scott I want you to start teaching Andy the books at night. He might as well start learning it…….During the ay Andy you’re going to either be out with me checking the stock or watching and learning how to break a horse okay?”

“ You mean besides breaking them to ride, learning how to talk to them and read their body language?”

“ Yeah I do.” Johnny answered as the three stopped their horses outside the mercantile. “ Andy you give old man Johnson our list of supplies and while you’re in there why don’t you get yourself some new clothes……..Scott can help you out.”

“ And just where will you be, need I ask brother?”

“ I’m gonna go down to the feed mill and order the grain we need….I’ll meet you both at the saloon in a half hour.” Johnny answered before walking away.

“ So what do you think?” Aggie asked.

“They’re fine animals Aggie. Somebody trained them well.” Murdoch answered. “ Mind telling me where you acquired them from?”

“ A ranch outside Virginia City, they cost me plenty, but the trainer has a reputation that once word gets out, he will be the biggest seller in the southwest.”

“ Are you saying you purchased those two from the  Double L ranch Aggie?” Murdoch asked with a slight annoyance to his voice.

“ Why yes I did. I heard about them and sight unseen I sent a letter asking the price and low and behold two weeks ago I received word I could pick them up.”

“ I inquired about purchasing cutting horses from that same ranch just two months ago and was told that they had no horses to sell.”

“ Maybe that’s because Johnny and Scott……….” Aggie started.

“ What did you say?………What about Johnny and Scott?”

“ Nothing Murdoch….Look I need to go get ready for a dinner engagement I have tonight…..I’ll see you later.” Aggie said before heading to her house knowing she had said more than she should have.

Murdoch stood  there in the shade of the old oak tree, unspoken as he watched the two cutting horses work a moment longer before mounting and riding home. One person he knew at Lancer would know who owned the Double L ranch, and if his suspicions were correct, especially with what Aggie said, or started to say, Murdoch would be taking a trip to Nevada by weeks end.

“Bartender three beers and a shot of tequila.” Johnny ordered as Scott and Andy walked into the saloon.

When the bartender left Johnny slid a glass of beer over in front of Andy. “ You’re seventeen now, drink it if you want.”

“ You mean it?” Andy asked glancing at Scott who gave him a nod.

“ Andy, how’d you like to become a man tonight?”

“ Johnny…..”

“What?……Hell I was fifteen my first time with a whore Scott……Look Andy if you want to be with one, I’ll pay for her…….It’s up to you.”

“ Uh I don’t know Johnny, I’m…..I don’t think so, not yet.”

“ Okay, hey that’s fine, don’t sweat it okay. Only you know when your ready for sex…….now if you two will excuse me. I have plans upstairs that don’t include either of you.” Johnny said as he stood up and polished off his beer and shot. “ I’ll meet you for dinner at the cafe.” he added before walking over to the girl he had his eye on and heading upstairs.

“ I make Johnny mad at me Scott?” Andy asked.

“ No you didn’t Andy. Come on, lets go see about our order at the mercantile and look around some before we meet Johnny.” Scott stated as he stood up.

“Well I don’t know about you two but I feel a hell of a lot better.” Johnny said after putting his napkin on his plate and picking up his coffee. “ You want some desert Andy?”

“ No Johnny, I’m full.”

“ Okay then, what say we head back to the ranch now, we got horses to start breaking tomorrow.”

“ No rest for the wicked I’m afraid Andy.” Scott said with a grin as he stood up. “ I got the meals brother.” he added as he put some coins on the table.

Walking outside to their horses, none of them were aware they were being watched as they mounted up and rode out of town.

Three days later Scott walked out of the house and watched as a rider approached at an easy gallop. When the rider got closer he could tell it was a woman. As she approached he stepped off the porch and couldn’t stop the smile that came to him he couldn’t stop.

Teresa stopped her horse and jumped off and ran to his arms. “ Scott…….oh Scott I finally found you.” she said as she hugged him tightly.

“ Oh man little sister, you are a sight for sore eyes……..What on earth are you doing here?”

“ I came here to be with you and Johnny……Where is he?”

“ Johnny and Andy are out checking on a herd, they’ll be back by supper time…….Come on inside. I made some lemonade this morning and I have a fresh pot of coffee on.”

“ Here they come, little brother is going to be just as surprised, if not more than I was when you rode up.” Scott said with a smile. “ Go into the kitchen, we were going to hire a cook, I’ll tell him we did and for him to go in there and check you out.”

Teresa smiled and kissed Scott on the cheek before heading into the kitchen.

“ Man brother, either you learned how to cook while we were gone, or you hired someone.” Johnny said as he came thru the door.

“ Well in a way little brother I hired someone I guess you could say.” Scott answered, trying his best not to smile.

“ Shit brother from the way it smells in here hire her.”

“ She wants to meet you first Johnny, she’s in the kitchen now finishing up desert I believe.”

“ Andy you go clean up, I’ll just be a minute……….Oh we had a cat problem brother.” Johnny said over his shoulder as he headed to the kitchen.

Scott looked at Andy. “ A cat problem?” he asked.

“ Yeah, we found one of our neighbors cows that had gotten through our fence, dead, dang if that cat didn’t come back to the kill while we were there Scott.” Andy told him. “ Johnny drew and killed that cat so fast, I don’t think it knew what happened.”

“ Okay, listen you go get cleaned up for dinner, we have a special guest tonight Andy.” Scott told him.

“ Who?’ Andy asked.

“ You’ll find out, now go.” Scott said as he gave a gentile push to the boy, heading him to the stairs.

Teresa was bent over taking an apple pie from the oven when she heard a very familiar sound, spurs she hadn’t heard in a long time jingle as the man who wore them came into the kitchen.

“ Excuse me ma’am, my brother said you wanted to talk to me about the job.” Johnny said.

Teresa stood up, keeping her back to him as she set the pie on top of the stove and closed the door before turning around.

“ Why yes I did.” she said with a smile.

“ Teresa.” was all Johnny could barely say as a lump came to his throat.

“ You just gonna stand there staring at me or do I get a hug?” she asked with a big smile.

Johnny took two swift steps and grabbed her up in his arms and swung her around as he hugged her tightly.

“ Oh man I never thought I’d see you again…….what are you doing here?”

“ Oh Johnny I feel the same way…..I came looking for you and Scott…..I heard in town you were looking for a cook so what better way to find your ranch.”

Johnny let her down. “ Wait a minute…’re here looking for us…..Where is he Teresa?”

“ Back at Lancer I suspect Johnny…….Oh I have so much to tell the two of you. So much has happened.”

“ Teresa, did he send you here?” Johnny asked as he placed his hands on her shoulders.

“ No, listen go clean up and I’ll tell you and Scott everything okay.” she ordered.

The next morning Johnny sat at the kitchen table cleaning his rifle Scott had gotten him with his name engraved in the stock for his birthday a year ago when Teresa came into the room.

“ You’re up early, or did you not go to bed?’ she asked as she poured a cup of coffee.

“ It’s good to have you here Teresa.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over and placed the rifle by the back door. “ Listen….I’ll pay you fifty a month if you stay and cook and clean for us.”

“ No you won’t Johnny.” she responded. “ You give me a roof over my head and let me buy a new dress once in a while and I’ll stay here as long as you and Scott want me to stay.”

Johnny walked over and pulled her into a hug just as Scott and Andy walked into the room.

“ Are we interrupting something Johnny?” Andy asked.

Johnny let Teresa go and turned facing Andy. “ No, Look I don’t know what you think Andy, but Teresa is my little sister and nothing more…You will give her respect and do as she ask……..If you don’t then you’ll answer to me….Is that understood?”

“ Yeah, I was just teasing you Johnny……Teresa I’m sorry for making it sound wrong.”

“ Apology accepted Andy, would you go get me some eggs for breakfast please?” she asked.

“ Sure.” Andy answered as he headed to the back door.

“ I know someone didn’t get any sleep last night….What’s up brother?……Why you cranky this morning?” Scott asked as he sat down and took a sip of his coffee.

“ I guess I’m letting it bother me what Teresa said was in that letter.” Johnny responded.

“ About him referring to me only as his son right?”

“ Yeah Scott…….Hell I don’t know why I should. He was never a father to me growing up, and I know that wasn’t his fault….I did what I had too to survive, but he can’t see past that…..All he does is lie to me telling me he is willing to accept my past, when deep down he don’t want to…..I’ve put up with bigots my whole life Scott, but when it’s your own father who is one……..Look just forget it….I’m gonna go check the horses.” Johnny said before heading out the back door.

“ So you still have him?” Teresa asked as she walked into the barn.

“ You bet I do.” Johnny said as he stepped away from his friend. “ Spill it girl, we may have been apart for a spell, but I know when something is on your mind, so out with it Teresa.”

“ It’s that man, Calico Jack…… he still after you Johnny?”

“ Been seven years since we first met, two since we crossed paths again…..I didn’t kill him then so I imagine he’s looking for me.”

“ Did you ambush him two years ago in Arizona?”

“ Teresa…..I did what I had to do for Scott and Andy……yeah I ambushed him and killed four of his men…..It wasn’t murder Teresa, it was survival…….Listen Jack is brutal and a cold blooded killer, he just uses bounty hunting as an excuse to kill legally.”

“ You killed his little brother when you were seventeen…….why?”

“ Because he was beating a whore Teresa and I won’t stand by and let a man abuse a woman, regardless of who she is.”

“ That’s what I love about you Johnny, your compassionate, gentile and you care about others. That’s what makes you so special.” Teresa said, changing the subject because she knew it was bothering her brother talking about it. “ You think you could take me into town so I can get a few things this morning?”

“Sure, you better get on inside and cook me up a good breakfast little sister so I have the energy cause I know how you like to shop.” Johnny said with a grin.

“ You are a bottomless pit Johnny Lancer.” she responded teasingly before leaving the barn.

“ Only to your cooking Teresa.” he yelled after her as he poured grain into Barranca’ bin. “ Tell ya amigo, it’s sure good having Teresa here with us now. Looks like you get the day off buddy.”

Calico Jack rode into Virginia City to the saloon and got down from his horse, tying off he stepped up onto the walk and looked up and down the street before walking inside. It was mid morning so nobody really was in the saloon except a couple of old men drinking coffee and the bartender.

“ What can I get you?”

“ A beer and some information……I’m looking for an old friend of mine. I heard he has a ranch around here somewhere.” Jack said as he took a dollar out and laid it on the counter.

“ Here ya go,………what’s your friends name and I can tell ya if he’s here or not.”

“ Johnny Lancer.” Jack said before taking a sip of his beer.

“ Oh the Double L ranch, it’s about ten miles southeast of town.”

Jack downed his beer. “ Much obliged.” he said as he turned and walked out, leaving the dollar on the counter.

“You sure you got everything Teresa?” Johnny asked as he climbed into the wagon.

“ Yes, for now….I’ll have to really check your food supply and make a list later on what you need, or I should say have.” she answered with a smile. “ So, do you or Scott have a girlfriend yet?”

Johnny looked at her a second and laughed. “ Heck neither of us has had the time to go courting a girl, what with building the ranch up and now getting that army contract…….you know he wrote requesting to purchase our horses two months ago?”

“ Who did?” Teresa asked as she wrapped her left arm around his.

“ Murdoch, I answered him back telling him that we had no horses for sale at this time, course two weeks after I sold two stallions to the Conway ranch………I don’t think he knows who he wrote to Teresa.”

“ You know he goes over there every week Johnny……..I’m sure he will see them and find out where she got them from.”

“ Yeah, he won’t come here though………Hell if he does it would be because of Scott or you…..he made it clear I’m not his son as long as I wear this gun, or as long as men call me out wanting to kill me.”

Murdoch rode under the log pole arch with the Double L name carved into it late afternoon. As he approached he noticed how the place was set up very well. A big two story cabin set off away from the barns with a big garden next to it. The barn, bigger than the house had corrals all around it with bigger corrals, all full of horses not far from them. What really caught his eye was a row of small one horse pens adjacent to each other in a row, all with three sided shelters for the horses and all with a water trough split between two. Whoever the owner of the ranch was, definitely knew how to set up a horse business, never before had he seen such a professional business like he was seeing now as he rode up to the house.

Scott and Andy came out of the house and Scott stopped suddenly in his tracks.

“ You okay Scott?” Andy asked, noticing how Scott’ mood suddenly changed.

“ What do you want?” Scott asked gruffly.

Murdoch sat his horse, shocked at who he was seeing before him.

“ I asked you a question.”

“ I……I’m here to speak to the owner of the ranch.” Murdoch stammered out finally.

“ You’re looking at one of them…….What do you want?”

Murdoch got down. “ You…….You own the Double L?”

“ Me, Andy and Johnny, now I’ll ask you again, what do you want?”

“ I came here to buy horses……I didn’t know it was you and Madrid who owned this place.”

“ He isn’t Madrid any more mister…….Hasn’t been for a long time.” Andy cut in.

“ Boy, he’ll always be Madrid, the sooner you realize that, the better.”

“ Johnny’ my boss and friend……Him and Scott are good to me…….I don’t know who you think you are coming here, but it’s pretty clear Scott don’t want you here so why don’t you get back on your horse and leave.”

“ I happen to be their father, I will not…….”

“ Andy.” Scott cut in. “ Why don’t you go check on that mare that’ about due…….I can handle this.”

“Sure Scott.” Andy answered, giving Murdoch a hard look as he walked past.

“ You know he’s not going to want you here, so why don’t you leave now before him and Teresa get back from town?” Scott said as he stepped of the porch.

“ I know you weren’t brought up to be rude son, you could at least  offer me a cup of coffee and let me let my horse rest…….It was a long ride.”

“ This is a working ranch…..I don’t have time to play host to you sir.” Scott answered as he stepped past, headed to the barn.

Johnny and Teresa rode along laughing and talking about old times when a shot rang out, hitting under the horses feet.

“ Hang on.” Johnny yelled as he slapped the reins and urged the team into a full gallop.

“ Johnny.” Teresa called out as several more shots rang out hitting the wagon.

“ There’s a bend in the road coming up, we’ll never make it at this speed…..I want you to jump Teresa.” Johnny ordered as he slowed the team down.

“ What about you?” she asked with fear in her voice.

“Don’t worry about me, now jump and roll as soon as you hit the ground.” he ordered.

Teresa jumped just as another shot rang out, hitting the ground and rolling like she was told, her body stopped, battered and bruised she got up and watched in horror as the wagon flipped with Johnny still aboard, the team taking off at a full run, free now of the burden of weight they were pulling.

“ Johnny.” she yelled as she took off running to him. “ Johnny, please talk to me.” she pleaded as she fell to her knees next to him.

“ Teresa……you alright?” Johnny asked as he opened his eyes.

“ I’m fine…..are you alright though?”

“ Yeah, I……..” Johnny stopped and just stared.

“ Hello Madrid.” A voice said as the rider, rifle in hand rode out of the tree line.

“ Calico Jack.” Johnny said as he forced his sore body to stand, keeping his gun arm out away from his pistol.

“ Little lady, would you be so kind as to remove Madrid’ gun and toss it away?” Jack asked as he stopped his horse and brought the rifle barrel down, aiming it right at Johnny’ chest.

Teresa carefully removed Johnny’ gun and tossed it about twenty feet away.

“ Step away Teresa.” Johnny ordered.

“ I told you I was going to gut you breed the next time I seen you……..she can watch you die and maybe after, me and her will have us some fun.” Jack said as he got off his horse.

“Leave her out of this Jack….it’s between me and you.”

“ I know you carry a pig sticker in your boot, so little lady I want you to get that knife out for Madrid.”

“ Go ahead Teresa, it’s in the inside of my left boot.” Johnny told her.

Teresa reached down and pulled the knife out. An eight inch blade, razor sharp with a bone handle glistened in the afternoon sun.

“ Very good, now hand it to Madrid then step away……..Oh don’t even think about trying anything little lady because I just might have me a man up in those trees watching.”

Johnny took the knife from her and  flipped it in his hand. Special made and very well balanced, the knife could slice a man’s head off with no effort. Standing, feet just apart, Johnny waited for Jack’ first move. Jack was a good foot taller than Johnny and an easy fifty pounds heavier, but he had the advantage being smaller he could move faster, something he had learned in previous knife fights.

Jack smiled as he removed a knife from his back that was bigger than Johnny’ by at least four inches. “ They call this an Arkansas toothpick boy.” Jack said then lunged at him, confident he would strike and kill within seconds, he lashed out with speed.

Johnny lashed out with his knife, connecting with Jack’ upper left arm as he side stepped away from his blade. Drawing first blood as Jack came back at him swiftly and both men went down hard to the ground.

“ Johnny.” Teresa screamed as she watched in horror as her brother fought not only for his life, but hers as well.

Being heavier Jack got the upper hand and pinned Johnny to the ground as he tried again to drive his blade down into Madrid, rolling onto his back he brought his feet up and flipped Johnny over his head and quickly got up.

Johnny landed hard onto his back, the wind knocked from him and his sore body protesting the abuse it was receiving as he gasped for air and got up. His knife laying several feet away to his right.

Scott stopped just shy of the barn when he heard horses running in, looking he seen it was the team that Johnny and Teresa had left with.

“ Andy…….saddle my horse now.” he yelled as he waved at the team as they galloped in covered in lather. “ Easy boys, easy……….whoa, it’s alright. Take it easy.” he said as he approached the tired horses.

“ What is it?………What’s wrong?” Murdoch asked as he hurried over.

“ This is the team Johnny left with this morning.” Scott stated before taking off to the house and grabbing his rifle, returning as Andy led his horse out. “ Andy something has happened.” he said as he swung up in the saddle. “ I want you to stay here and wait until I come back..understand?” Scott ordered.

“ Wait…..I’m coming with you son…………you may need help.” Murdoch ordered as he headed to his horse.

Jack laughed as he drew blood finally slicing his blade across Madrid left side.

“ Hows that feel breed?” he asked as he wiped at the sweat running down his face.

Johnny heard the sound of horses approaching as he glanced at the deep cut across his ribs. Blocking out the pain he tightened the grip on his knife and went at Jack, driving his head into the mans chest, causing them both to go down hard. Struggling and getting weaker Johnny brought his right knee up into Jack’ groin hard, bringing a scream of pain from the man as he re-positioned his knife and brought it down swift and fast into the mans  side just below his left arm.

“ Not as bad as that hurts you.” he said as he pulled his knife out and tried to bring it down again.

Jack still had his knife and brought it up and across Johnny’ back, slicing thru his leather jacket from the top of his right shoulder down and across his spine as he flipped Johnny off him and got up.

Madrid knew that if he didn’t end this now he would be dead the next time Jack’ knife found his flesh. Weakening from the fight and blood loss Johnny forced himself to stand as the two horses he heard came to a stop and he found himself looking at his brother, rifle in hand and father.

“ He’s mine Scott.” Johnny said as he struggled to stay standing on weak legs.

“ Oh look, your brother is here now, just in time to watch you die.” Jack stated as he spit dirt from his mouth.

“ You kill my brother and I will kill you……..There’s  no way you’re riding away from here Jack.” Scott said as he chambered a round into the rifle.

“ Maybe so, but at least I’ll have justification in killing this bastard for killing my brother.” Jack said as he felt something sting his neck.

“ You can join him.” Johnny said as he came up behind Jack and in one swift move sliced the mans neck clean thru.

Jack tried to turn and talk but found himself dropping to his knees as his life drained from his body, looking up at Madrid before falling forward dead.

Scott got off his horse and ran to his brother just as Teresa reached him also.

“ Take it easy brother……we got you.” he said as he grabbed Johnny and helped him to the ground.

“ He’s hurt Scott, he was cut on his back and chest.” Teresa informed him.

“ There’s medical supplies in my saddlebags.” Scott said. “ Let me have a look Johnny.”

“Take me home Scott.” Johnny said between clenched teeth as he looked up and found his father kneeling down with bandages.

“ Here son…..lets get his wounds wrapped up to get him home so we can stitch him up.”

“ I don’t need your help old man, go a……way.” Johnny said before blackness claimed him.

                                                                                                   Chapter 23

                                                       This chapter is dedicated to the memory of Southern Frau, my mentor

Johnny woke and found he hurt more than he did after breaking several horses in a day. Moaning as he opened his eyes and found the sun shining into his room as a cool cloth was placed on his forehead.

“ I was wondering when you were going to wake up brother.” Scott said as he poured some water.

“ Teresa.” Johnny said softly.

“ Here drink this.” Scott ordered as he gently brought Johnny’ head up. “ She’s fine, bruised up and sore, but the doctor said she would be okay………..How do you feel?”

“ Like I’ve been stomped on by all those horses I’ve broke.” Johnny responded as he laid his head back down. “ Thanks…………Where is he?”

“ Downstairs……..mad because I won’t let him come up here and see you.”

“ How long I been out?”

“ Two days……..doc wants you to stay on your side for a couple days, oh and he wants you  staying in bed for at least a week. You got quiet a few stitches in your back and chest and he doesn’t want you tearing them out.”

“ Is she okay?”

“Who……Teresa?…..I told you she was.”

“ No Scott………..she seen a side of me I never wanted her to see…….anybody to see.”

“ Johnny, our little sister knows you did what you had to do and both her and you are alive because of that……..She may want to talk to you about it, I don’t know, but what I do know is she will kick my butt if I don’t go let her know you’re awake.”

“ I don’t want to see him yet Scott…….I need time to think.”

“ Johnny, you don’t have to see him at all, this is our place, not his……He doesn’t call the tune here brother…..I’ll have Teresa bring you up some broth.”

Johnny lay with his eyes closed when he heard a soft knock. “ Yeah.” he said softly as he tried to get comfortable. Confined to laying on his side was not something he liked.

“ Johnny.” came the voice he wanted to hear.

“Yeah, Teresa come around here so I can see you please.”

Teresa walked around the bed so Johnny could see her. “ Hi, I brought you some chicken broth I made up just for you.” she told him as she set the tray down on the table. “ I also brought you some tea, and before you ask  no it’s not willow bark tea.”

“ I don’t think I’ll be able to manage very well laying on my side like this sweetheart…..You mind helping me?”

“ Haven’t I helped you before?” Teresa asked with a smile.

Johnny noticed the bruises on her face and arms and it pained him knowing he was the cause of them.

“ Let me put some pillows behind your back so you can turn a little to drink this.” she said as she reached over him for a pillow.

Johnny reached up and took her right arm at the wrist. “ I’m sorry Teresa, I would never do anything to hurt you or cause you to get hurt.” he said softly and with sadness in his voice.

Teresa looked down at him and seen the sorrow in his eyes. “ I know that Johnny……you have only hurt me once, and that was when you left Lancer………..but I forgive you for that because you have a good life now and you and Scott are together and becoming very successful with this horse ranch.”

“ Teresa, you seen a part of me I never wanted anyone to ever see….Are you okay with that?”

“ What, the knife fight?” she asked as she placed a pillow behind his shoulders. “ Johnny, I’ve seen a lot growing up on Lancer that a lady should never see, but it’s a part of life. What you did not only saved your life, but mine a s well….and I’m glad you’re as good as you are with a gun and a knife because I don’t want to lose you.”

“ You’ll never lose me, as long as I can stay alive, you will always have me.”

“ I just hope men leave you alone and let you live the life you so desperately want to live Johnny, I mean I’m glad you have Madrid in you, he’s kept you alive all this time, but I want Johnny Lancer more even though you are both one in the same………I want you to have the peace you so deserve and live a good happy life here on this beautiful ranch with Scott and maybe find a lucky lady, fall in love and get married and have children… you think you could roll onto you back just a little so you can drink this?”

“ Yeah, If you help me a little I can.” Johnny told her. “ You know, if I ever do get lucky and find someone Teresa, I would want them like you.”

“ Like me?…..Why?”

“ Because you’re beautiful, caring and you accept me for who I am and what I’ve done in my past.” he told her before taking a sip of the broth.

“ Any woman who catches you is going to be the luckiest gal around Johnny……If she doesn’t accept you because of your past, then in my book she isn’t worth your time and doesn’t deserve you.”

“ Thanks…..listen I want you to show Andy where you would like your rose garden so he can get busy on it for you.”

“ A rose garden, why?” she asked trying to hide a smile.

“ You know why…..there’s only one gal I love giving a rose to every day and since I haven’t been able to for a couple years, I’d like to start again……that is if it’s alright with that special girl?”

“ You know it is Johnny.”

“ He say anything to you about being here?”

“ Scott has him staying in the bunk house, which he’s not to pleased about……Andy offered him his room while he’s here but Scott told him no, that unless you said it was alright, he could stay out there.”

“ I just keep remembering what you said that that letter said. About Scott being his son.” I try not to Teresa, but I can’t.”

“ Johnny, when you’re stronger and if he’s still here, I think the two of you should get this settled once and for all……..I think you need to step up and let ‘er buck I believe I heard you say more than once…..stand up to him Johnny.”

“ That’s easier said than done little sister.”

“ No it’s not, look haven’t you put up with crap like he’s been giving you your whole life?”

“ Yeah, so?”

“ So call him on it……Me and Scott already have Johnny……..Tell him that you are sick and tired of him being a two faced bigot, remind him that whether he likes it or not * you * are his son, that it’s his blood that runs through your veins and like it or not he can’t do a damn thing to change that.”

“ Teresa.”

“ What…I’m upset Johnny and I’m sick and tired of the way he has hurt you…..You’ve been hurt enough and a father is not supposed to hurt their children.”

“ Man you’ve grown up and changed since I seen you last.”

“ Yes I have, now you get some rest. I’ll let Scott know you drank all the broth and tea.”

“ Thanks, hey tell him that if he wants to wait until I’m stronger, we’ll talk. If not then he can ride out and never come back here again.”

“ Okay,  now rest and don’t you dare think about getting out of that bed until the doctor says.”

“ I won’t, thanks Teresa.”

Johnny walked out of the house five days later with Teresa at his side, welcoming the warm sun on his face as they walked to the barn to see the new foal his beloved Barranca had sired.

“ His color is just….well you’ll see. Barranca I think knows he’s the father. He’s been watching from his stall and if any of us go near the foal he nickers and paws at his gate.” Teresa said as she open the barn door for him.

“ He didn’t stay did he?” Johnny asked.

“ No, he said he had to get back to Lancer, but would come back in a couple weeks to talk to you.” Teresa answered.

Johnny smiled as he stepped in and heard a very familiar whinny greet his ears, walking over he took out the carrot he had in his back pocket.

“ You didn’t think I’d come out here empty handed did you amigo?” he asked his friend.

Barranca snorted, smelled the carrot then took a bite of it as he laid his head on Johnny’ shoulder.

“ Yeah I missed you two buddy.” Johnny told him as he scratched that special spot. “ So, you seen your son yet?” he asked and received a blow as the golden stallion took the rest of the carrot from him.

“ Well I’m gonna go take a look, maybe I can get the mother to allow you to see him buddy.” Johnny told him as he patted his neck before walking down to the other end. Barranca nickered loudly and pawed his stall, tossing his head around.

Johnny walked slowly up to the stall and looked over at a three day old foal laying stretched out in the straw. The mare came over and nuzzled his hand.

“ Teresa would you give her some grain for me?” he asked as he opened the stall door and stepped inside. “ I just want to check him over mamma, I’m not going to hurt him.” he told the mare as he patted her neck and rubbed her face.

“ I think someone is jealous.” Teresa said as she poured grain into the bin for the mare.

Johnny walked over and carefully knelled down next to the foal who raised his head up and speaking softly in Spanish ran a hand over the foals face and neck as he looked the foal over.

“ His color is beautiful Johnny.” Teresa said from the gate as she made over the mare.

“ Yeah, he’s the color of copper, four white socks, a white mane and tail, he sure is gonna be a big one. Come on over here and help me get him to stand up.” Johnny asked his sister.

 Teresa came over and with some gentle nudging and prodding the foal stood up, blew his nose, nickered softly then placed his soft muzzle in Johnny’ hand.

“ I think he knows who his master is already.” Teresa said as she ran a hand over the foals haunches.

“ Yeah, look at his chest Teresa, look how deep it is, how big his haunches are.”

“ He definitely has muscles.” Teresa said with a smile.

“ He’s going to be a good horse to work cattle just like his father. Could you hand me that lead rope there?”

Teresa handed him the rope. “ What are you going to do?”

“ You’ll see, open the gate will ya?”

“ Johnny are you sure you’re healed up enough for this?” Teresa asked as she swung the gate open. “ What if he bolts or something, it could tear your wounds open.”

“ He won’t, look how calm he is……Put a lead rope on the mother and take her outside.”

 Scott and Andy rode up just as Teresa walked out with the mare.

“ Teresa, do I dare ask where my brother is?” Scott asked as he dismounted.

“ He’s bringing the foal out, he wanted me to bring the mother out first.” Teresa answered as she stopped the mare.

Four sets of eyes looked to the barn door as Johnny and the foal calmly walked outside into the afternoon sun. A soft nicker and stomp of her foot came from the mare as she called to her baby.

The foal paid her no mind as it’s ears listened intently to whatever Johnny was saying to it in Spanish.

“ Take the mare from Teresa, Scott……..Keep a good hold on her……..Andy go open the paddock gate for me.” Johnny asked as he walked past.

Andy dropped his reins and hurried over ahead of Johnny to open the gate slowly so he didn’t spook the baby.

Johnny walked past and inside with the foal away from the fence about forty feet and stopped. The foal, ears forward listened to Johnny as he dropped the lead and placed his right hand on the left side of the foals neck and slowly ran his hand over every inch of his flesh and legs, talking softly as he did.

“ He sure has a gift with horses don’t he Scott?” Andy asked as he watched intently.

“ Yes he does, some I believe would call him a horse whisperer Andy……I’ve heard of men with the gift Johnny has with a horse, but until I came out west I never witnessed it.”

“ And now you are witnessing it done by your brother.” Teresa added with a smile.

Johnny ran his hands over the foal as he walked around him several times before stopping in front of the little guy and undoing the lead rope.

“ What’s he doing now Scott?” Andy asked softly.

“ I believe he is seeing if the foal is locked on to him only now…….I think Johnny is going to walk away from the foal and see if it follows him.” Scott answered.

Johnny did just that, and the foal, unsure stood there a few seconds before it started following him all around the paddock. After about thirty minutes Johnny stopped and appraised the foal.

“ Let the mare in here now so he can nurse while she eats some of this green grass Scott.” Johnny said as he started toward the gate, followed by the baby.

“ Brother.” Scott started as he let the mare go. “ You have a gift that is rare amongst horsemen. You have a true talent and it’s a real pleasure to watch you do that with a horse, especially one so young.”

“ Thanks Boston………He’s going to be a real good one once hes old enough to break.”

“ You think he’ll stay that color Johnny?” Andy asked.

“ Pretty much yeah, he might lighten up a little once his baby fur comes off, but yeah I think that’s his color.”

“ What are you going to name him?” Teresa asked.

“ Don’t know yet….Have to see what his attitude is later, for now just copper I guess.”

Johnny worked the foal every afternoon as his wounds healed up. He even let Barranca romp with the little guy in the paddock under the watchful eye of it’s mother in the adjoining paddock.

“ Watch this Teresa.” Johnny said as he tapped the foal’ left front hock and got him to drop on his right knee and stick his left one out in front of him. Johnny tapped him again and the foal laid down then sat up on his butt and nuzzled Johnny’ neck.

“ He sure is smart Johnny.” Teresa said as a horse riding in got their attention.

Johnny looked and sighed. His father trotted into the yard and over to the corral, leading a big Palomino mare.

“ Teresa, How are you?” he asked as he got down.

“ I’m fine, if you will excuse me I have a pie that needs to come out of the oven.” she said as she walked past.

“ What, I can’t even get a hug from you?” Murdoch asked, stopping her.

Teresa looked at Johnny who motioned with his head. “ I’m in a bit of a hurry, I don’t want my pie burning.” she answered before walking off after giving him a short, quick hug.

Murdoch turned to his youngest who had come out of the corral just as Scott and Andy rode up.

Johnny couldn’t help but notice the fine build of the mare his father had brought. Strong thick neck, big round haunches and as gold as a Nevada sunrise.

“ Nice mare.” he said softly.

“ I was wondering if I could leave her here and breed her to Barranca son, that is if it’s alright?” Murdoch said as he noticed the beautiful foal and it’s striking color. “ Who sired that beauty?”

“ Barranca, so you want to breed her to my horse huh?……….Why? You got studs at Lancer.”

“ Her and Barranca are both Capanero De’ Palomino’s is why…..She has the same bloodline as Barranca son.”

“ Don’t call me that.” Johnny snapped. “ I’ve never been your son.” Johnny said as he checked the mare over.

“ Excuse me?” Murdoch said. “ Johnny you have always been my son and always will be.”

“ That’s bullshit and you know it…….You only want me as your son when it’s of your interest……Let me tell you something old man, all my life I put up with hatred and bigots like you because you satisfied your carnal lust and I’m the result of that……When I came to Lancer I wanted what my mother told me to be lies, and after a while I thought they were, but you know, in the long run, the truth came out, and she was right………you don’t want me as your son, know how I know that’s true?………..I’ll tell you old man……….A father, if he really wanted to be one, would accept what his son did to survive below the border, he would welcome him back into his life and not give a shit about the past……..You welcomed Scott with open arms……me, hell all you could see with me was a cold blooded killer. A disgrace to the Lancer name, hell you didn’t even introduce me as your son like you did Scott…….No you always called me your other boy or Johnny….*NEVER * once did you say this is my youngest son you selfish bastard……….I don’t need you and I don’t need Lancer, you got nothing I want.” Johnny said as he stood there clenching his fist.

Scott stood there and listened to his little brother vent all the hurt and anger he’d kept inside all this time out to their father. Inside he was proud of Johnny for standing up to a man most people gave a wide berth to. A man used to being the one calling the tune.

“ Look,  know I’ve treated you wrongly in the past….Nothing I say can change that Johnny, but like it or not, it’s my blood that runs through your veins………I’d give anything to change the way I treated you, I’m an old man who’s been a fool……I came here hoping we could make amends and start over….I know you and Scott have your own lives now with this ranch, I know you will never come back to Lancer, and I have no one to blame but myself for that…….I brought this mare here, hoping we could start a business contract together and maybe, just maybe become a father and son like we should have years ago Johnny.”

Johnny glanced at Scott before walking a few feet away and wrapping his arms around himself and lowering his head trying to stop the trembling and tears that threatened to fall.

“ Scott, take him inside and start drawing up a contract for breeding………It’s gonna cost you two hundred a mare to breed to Barranca, payable three months after when I know it took.” Johnny said before walking back into the corral to Copper. “ Andy, take the mare and put her in a stall and feed her, his horse also.” he ordered as he took the lead rope and walked away with the colt.

Murdoch handed off his horse and mare to Andy and followed Scott into the cabin. The smell of a fresh apple pie greeted him as they walked in.

“ It wasn’t easy for him to stand up to me like that was it son?” he asked as he removed his hat.

“ No it wasn’t.” Scott answered as they walked into a room with a big desk and plush chair. Books were on shelves around three sides of the room with a big window facing south behind the desk. “ Have a seat.” Scott said as he sat down behind the desk and took out pen and paper from the top right drawer.

Murdoch noticed how intricately made the desk was. The legs big and solid, three drawer on each side with a long one in the middle. One the right he noticed ledgers marked breeding, contracts and expenses, clearly of Scott’ doing he assumed.

Scott noticed his father looking at the ledgers. “ Those were Johnny’ idea…Log everything separately instead of like you do…makes it easier to balance.”

Murdoch raised a brow, surprised at what he heard, but did not comment.

“ Believe it or not, my little brother is quiet smart when it comes to running a business, he may not have an education like me, but he knows what he’s doing, and is becoming very successful around these parts.”

“ And in case you’re wondering, no I haven’t been called out……People around here know who I was and they accept that and are more than glad to give me a second chance, unlike you old man.” Johnny said as he walked into the room followed by Teresa with a tray with coffee she set on the desk.

“ Thank you Teresa.” Johnny told her. “ Think I could talk you into a piece of that pie I’m smelling?”

“ Maybe.” she answered as she shot a hard look at Murdoch before walking out of the room.

Scott finished up the contract and handed it to Johnny to look over.

Reading what his brother had written up, Johnny handed it back to Scott. “ You need to put in there that this is a cash only contract.”

Scott glanced at their father then put pen to paper and added what his brother requested.

“ Lancer checks have always been good.” Murdoch stated with firmness.

“ Maybe, but they aren’t worth a thing to me here…..It’s cash every time or we can forget this deal right here and now.” Johnny stated firmly. “ Like I said before old man, I don’t need you, and I don’t need Lancer.”

“ Then why do you call this ranch the Double L and why do you go by Lancer for your last name instead of Madrid?” Murdoch demanded.

Johnny stepped up to within mere inches of his father. “ The only reason I use Lancer as a last name is because I want people to know who my father is and what a bastard he is…..sign the contract if you choose and leave….You’re not welcome here anymore.”

Murdoch signed the contract and stood up. “ I’ll have the cash for you in three months, when the mare is delivered back to Lancer.”

“ Fine, any other mares you want bred, you have someone else bring them here.” Johnny ordered with coldness in his voice.

“ Scott, Teresa.” he said as he headed to the door.

“ I’ll see you out sir.” Scott said as he followed his father.

Johnny went and sat at the desk and took the ledger he kept records of breeding contracts listed in.

“ Are you alright?” Teresa asked.

“ Yeah.” he answered without looking up. He heard footsteps, knowing Teresa had left him to be alone.

“ Your brother is a bastard in all aspects son.” the big man said as he led his horse out of the barn.

“ With all due respect sir, my brother is just like you, you’re both stubborn pigheaded fools, you the most…….You can’t see past what happened in his past to see what a good person Johnny is.” Scott said as he decided to give his father a piece of his mind. “ Johnny has so much love and caring for others inside…….the only time he’s angry is around you…You don’t give at all do you, all pride and Johnny’ cut from the same mold, not one inch of give.”

“ Don’t you stand there and lecture me about pride…….I came here hoping to make amends with my sons, why don’t you talk to him. He lectures me about not letting the past go, how about him?…..Why should I, when he can’t seem to do the very thing he wants me to do?”

“ Because Johnny isn’t the one who treated him like dirt, you are……You have no idea what it’s like for me to hear my brother in his room at night crying, when he had a fever he was begging for you to forgive him, to accept him as your son the way you should have…You spent all those years looking for him, claiming you wanted him back when in reality all you really wanted was his gun to save Lancer from Day Pardee……after that Johnny was nothing more than a hired hand to you, except he did twice the work of anyone else at Lancer, including me……every day I seen it in his eyes how he was begging you to be the father you should have been……and every day his heart got broke more and more when you weren’t…….How’s it feel knowing that because of your bigotry ways you ran off the best thing to ever happen to you?…Hows it feel knowing you will never come to know what a great man Johnny has grown up to become?”

“ I may not have raised you Scott, but I know your grandfather did not raise you to speak to me like you are now……I know I’ve made mistakes I can’t repair with your brother….I know what I’ve lost….I’m reminded every day at Lancer with you two boys and Teresa not there anymore….That house is empty and I would gladly give it all away if I could have you both back, but I can’t….you’re both grown men and have your own lives now….maybe, just maybe Johnny will see past the wrong I’ve done him some day and give me a chance again.”

“ I wouldn’t count on that happening any time soon sir, from any of us.”

“ I’ll expect the mare back in three months. Wire me ahead that you or whoever is bringing her back and I will have the money.” Murdoch said before kicking his horse and riding off.

Scott watched his father ride off before heading back inside finding his brother sitting at the desk, his back to him, looking out the window.

“ Go ahead and say it brother.” Johnny said without turning around.

“ Say what?” Scott asked as he walked over and poured a cup of coffee.

“ How I was a bastard to our father…..How I shouldn’t have talked to him like I did.”

“ You had every right to Johnny, in fact I was a little surprised you were as nice as you were to him……..He did mention one thing though outside after I gave him a piece of my mind.”

“ Yeah, and what’s that brother?” Johnny asked as he stood up.

“ He wanted to know why he should forget the past when you clearly won’t on how he treated you.”

“ Really?…..And what did you tell him?”

“ I told him, why should you when he’s the one who treated you like dirt and used you to his benefit and a few other things.”

Johnny smiled as he took a sip of his coffee. “ Maybe someday I will Scott, but right now I can’t……..We need to start rounding up those horses to drive to Arizona for the Army tomorrow.”

“ We going to hire some men to help us drive them?”

“ Yeah…..I think we might be able to get a few men from the Thompson spread to help us out. We can ride over there after lunch and talk to Chris about it.”

“ Sounds like a plan brother….I’m going to go wash up for lunch.” Scott said as he set his cup down. “ Oh Johnny, I’m proud of how you handled today little brother……..and I want you to know I’m proud to have you as my brother, coming out west and finding I had you is the best thing to ever happen to me.” he stated before walking away.

Johnny stood there watching his brother walk away with a smile on his face and pride in his heart.

Ten years past and the Double L ranch became the biggest horse ranch in the state of Nevada. Johnny’ special ability with a horse became well known clear back on the east coast. People brought there horses to him to train or fix a problem that had occurred. With his fame came a price and it seemed nobody disagreed with it.

Barranca was retired from stud service when he fell one day when Johnny was out riding him. Fifteen was old for a horse and Barranca and Johnny had worked many a days together. The golden stallion had sired over two hundred babies in his breeding carrier, four of which Johnny kept for himself, including Copper, whom he rode regularly after retiring his friend.

Johnny, Scott and Teresa would ride to Lancer and spend Christmas with Murdoch or visit whenever the business allowed. Lancer had twenty of Barranca’ foals, all excellent working horses and every one of them worth the price it cost for them.

Murdoch after years of loneliness did finally become the father he should have been to Johnny and even became a partner in their ranch helping them to grow. The Clarkston stables and Conway ranch became proud owners as well as Lancer of several good breeding stallions.

Andy Cutler met a sweet gal and got married, he signed off his part of the Double L and moved back east with his new bride, sending a  letter a couple times a year, especially around holiday time.

Johnny never dreamed he would live to see the day he would turn thirty five as he was on this day. Celebrating it with his family. Both him and Scott  had a beautiful woman they both had been courting for over a year. The promise of marriage and grandchildren Murdoch did not see coming in the near future because both of his sons were to busy with their growing ranch. The two ladies in his sons lives were just what he had hoped both sons would find, especially Johnny.

Johnny’ past as Madrid had seemed to finally come to an end. Nobody came looking for him to claim his reputation. Murdoch even noticed how his youngest son didn’t even bother to wear his gun these past couple years, though he doubted Johnny didn’t keep up with his deadly draw.

Teresa met a man from Kentucky and after the two married, she moved back there with him and the two ran a thoroughbred farm outside of Lexington. She too like Andy kept in touch with her brothers several times a year.

“ You alright son?” Murdoch asked as he poured a shot of Brandy for the three of them.

“ Yeah, I was just thinking about everything that’s happened in the past fifteen years.”

“ A lot has that’s for sure little brother…..Why just think, if we hadn’t met that day or I hadn’t decided to come to Lancer.”

“ I’d be dead Scott…we all know that I was hell bent for leather back then making a name for myself, but when I came here I came here to kill you old man, because I believed the lies my mother told me.”

Murdoch cleared his throat. “ And now son, after all that’s happened between us, how do you feel about me?”

“ As a father you’re not that bad, hell as a son I know I haven’t been easy to get along with. We’ve had our times, but they are in the past now.”

“ So right you are son…….Johnny here’s to you on your thirty fifth birthday, a day I never thought I would get to see……Happy Birthday son.”

“ Here’s to you little brother, may your future be as bright and successful as we hope it to be without those forbidden encounters.” Scott said as the three Lancer men drank to a future full of promise.

The End.


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.


19 thoughts on “Forbidden Encounter by Nancy Marie

    1. Thank you Linda. I like having a strife between Johnny and Murdoch. I think it’s because Johnny grew up away from Lancer, in Mexico, and is set in his own ways. Lived by his own rules. He did after all in the pilot say he was never any good at taking orders.


    1. Nancy replied: Thank you. I love to write Lancer stories. It brings me joy doing it for the fans. Having someone comment about a story I wrote really means a lot to me. Comments, whether good or bad, are what keeps a writer writing, and striving to be better.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great story – long, interesting plot spanning different times and places. There is well written adventure and interesting and changing family dynamics, made more interesting by the way in which the central characters are portrayed as quite complex. I would like to thank Nancy for the time, creativity and energy she has given to writing this story which I really enjoyed and will certainly read again.


    1. Thank you for your kind words. I’m sorry I didn’t thank you sooner. It pleases me that you liked it, and will read it again. Your words are very kind, and comments like this are what a writer strives to read. Again, thank you for taking the time to read my story, and comment.


  2. This was absolutely wonderful. I’ve been staying up way too late to read this. I found this story to put you through the emotional ringer. The emotions just flew off the page. I was hoping that Teresa and Johnny would get together; but maybe in another story that will happen.


    1. Thank you. I’m sorry you stayed up way too late to read my story, but it pleases me that you did. I strive to put the emotions in my stories more than anything. I want the reader to feel what the character feels if at all possible. I have written several stories with Johnny and Teresa together. I will get them posted here when I can so you can read them.
      Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and comment


  3. Great story. One of the few writers that get Johnny’s Madrid persona accurate and the fact he really is “good at his trade”. Murdoch always hated that and never let it go. The emotional highs and lows of the story were wonderful plus the inclusion of other episode stories – the characters. Well done. I loved it!


    1. Thank you. Johnny’s persona is so easy for me to write. I have so much fun doing it. Putting him at odds with the old man because he’s both Johnny Lancer, and Johnny Madrid makes it fun. I love sneaking in something someone said from an episode. I figure if the shoe fits, wear it right. I may not start out to do that, but sometimes it just pops in my head, and my muse says run with it, so I do. Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and comment.


    1. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. I strive to please the readers, and make the story good. Thank you for reading my story, and taking the time to comment.


  4. Great imaginative story lines. Couldnt put it down. No housework this week worth the eye strain and late nights. Thank you Nancy.


  5. Just finished reading this for the second time. Its sointeresting i keep finding more in it. So well written and detailed.


    1. Wow, thank you. I love taking extra time on details. I’m a stickler for accuracy on towns, and products for the year my story takes place. Thank you for reading it a second time.


  6. Thank you for a great story. I couldn’t figure out how Murdoch would get out of the dog house but you figured a perfect way. I love all your stories. Thank you for making your work available.


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