Haunted by My Past by Nancy Marie

Word Count 20,231

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I don’t own them. I’m just borrowing them for some fun. Any original characters belong to their rightful owners, all others belong to me, and may not be used without my permission.

This story will be rated R for language.

Johnny Madrid Lancer ( 24 )
Scott Garrett Lancer ( 27 )
Murdoch Lancer
Teresa O’Brian
Sam Jenkins
Sheriff Ben Daniels – Green River
U.S. Marshal Ed Clark
Deputy U.S. Marshal Matt Caldwell
Deputy U.S. Marshal James Bullock
Walt Thomas – Rancher – Casper, Wyoming
Sarah Thomas – Wife
Cathy Thomas – Daughter
Joe Thomas – Son

.

Johnny, and Scott walked into the house, both soaked to the bone from the rain.

“  Man, it didn’t rain this much in Mexico.” Johnny said.

“ It keeps this up, and we will be having some serious flooding.” Scott said.

“ I imagine the streams are out of their banks?” Murdoch asked.

“ Yeah, and so are the rivers. The foot bridge is gone again.” Johnny responded.

“ Have you ever known it to rain this much?” Scott asked as he walked over and poured two shots of whiskey, handing one to his brother.

“ No, not this bad. Did you get the herds moved to higher ground?” he asked.

“ Almost. We still need to move the herd at south mesa. Only problem is, that stream is swelled and running wild. I’m not about to try and cross it on a horse.” Johnny said.

“ How many head you figure is there?” Murdoch asked.

“ Two hundred, mostly older stock.” Scott said.

“ Well, we’ll figure something out tomorrow. You boys go get cleaned up for supper.”

                                                                                              JML

Three men rode into Green River, stopping in front of the sheriff’s office.

“ Can I help you fellas?” Sheriff Daniels asked.

“ Sheriff, my name is Ed Clark. I’m a U.S. Marshal, and these are my two deputies, Matt Caldwell, and James Bullock. Almost need a boat out there.” the marshal said.

“ I got hot coffee on the stove if you fellas want some.” the sheriff said.

“ That’s mighty kind of you sheriff.” the marshal said. “You know of a ranch in these parts called Lancer?” he asked as he poured three cups.

“ Sure do. Lancer’s the biggest spread in the San Joaquin, why?” Sheriff Daniels asked.

“ We’re looking for a man, a killer. We heard he might be working there.” the marshal responded.

“ This fella got a name?” the sheriff asked.

“ Sure does, Madrid, Johnny Madrid. He’s a half-breed gunfighter. Who used to work down along the Mexican border.”

“ What’s he wanted for?” Ed asked.

“ Who said he’s wanted?” Deputy Bullock asked.

“ Pretty obvious when three badges walk into my office in a torrential rain storm asking me questions about him.” Sheriff Daniels responded.

“ Show him the wanted poster Matt.” the marshal ordered.

Matt took out a paper and handed it to the sheriff.

Wanted for Murder
Johnny Madrid
height 5 ‘9”
Blue eyes
dark hair

A Mexican half-breed believed to be roughly nineteen or so is wanted for the cold-blooded murder of Walt and Sarah Thomas of Casper, Wyoming.

“ Do you know him sheriff?” the marshal asked.

“ I know him, only he don’t go by Madrid anymore. His last name is Lancer. He came back here about four years ago. The old man, Murdoch Lancer had Pinkerton’s searching for him ever since his mother left in the middle of the night when Johnny was two. He grew up in Mexico, had it pretty rough down there I guess. His mother died when he was ten, killed his first man when  fourteen, killed the man who murdered his mother. He’s been called out only once since living here.” the sheriff explained. “ You sure you have the right man marshal? Murder don;t sound like something Johnny would do, especially cold-blooded murder.”

“ He’s a gunfighter. All gunfighters do is murder.” Deputy Bullock said.

“ Son, you would do best to not think so bad about folks you know nothing about.” the sheriff said. “ I’ll take you out to Lancer tomorrow. It’s too far to ride this late in the day.”

“ Alright sheriff. It probably would be better if we had someone along that Madrid knows.” the marshal said as he headed to the door.

“ The hotel down the street is a good place to stay. Cafe next door serves real good food.” Daniels said as he followed them out.

“ Oh sheriff, I wouldn’t think about riding out there and waning Madrid if I was you.” Deputy Bullock said.

“ I have no intention of doing that. I said I would take you there in the morning, and I will.” the sheriff said before turning, and going back in his office, closing the door.

“ Damn it James, when are you going to learn to keep that mouth of yours shut. We need the local laws help bringing Madrid in. Now I don’t want either one of you to say anything about why we are here. We don;t need him tipped off and running.” the marshal ordered.

                                                                                          JML

“Morning.” Johnny said as he sat down, and poured a cup of coffee.

“ Good morning son.” Murdoch asked.

“ Sleep well brother?” Scott asked.

“ I always sleep well. I see it stopped raining finally, and the sun is out.” Johnny said as Teresa set a plate of food down for him. “ Thanks Teresa.”

“ Yes. It stopped raining around two this morning.” Murdoch said as Scott came into the kitchen. “ I want you boys to be careful today. There will still be water coming down from the mountains raising the rivers and streams. Don’t take any unnecessary chances.”

“ I figured we could ride along that stream and see if there’s a way of getting those cows across without losing any.” Scott suggested.

“ If they haven’t all drown by now.” Johnny added.

“ Will you be taking them to market this year?” Teresa asked as she sat down.

“ I figured we would drive a herd to the rail-head to ship this fall.” Murdoch responded.

“ What we need is a couple of new breeding bulls to strengthen the bloodline.” Johnny suggested.

“ A good breeding bull cost money son.” Murdoch said.

“ But wouldn’t the bull be worth the price in the long run if he produced better, stronger cows for us?” Teresa asked.

“ Yes, but right now Lancer isn’t financially stable enough to purchase a new breeding bull.” Murdoch said. “ I’m afraid repairing damage from the storm is going to be extensive, and expensive.”

“ What if I bought the bulls Murdoch?” Johnny asked. “ I have money save d up, at the right price, I might be able to purchase two.”

“ You have enough money saved up to purchase two breeding bulls?” Scott asked with a surprised look on his face.

“ Yeah I do Boston. Money is no  big deal to me.” Johnny responded.

“ Can I ask where you got the money son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Been saving it for a rainy day.” he responded as he stood up. “ Guess we better get at it.”

“ Guess so brother.” Scott said as he stood up.

“ I’ll think about your offer son.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and followed them outside.

“ Four riders coming.” Scott said.

“ The one looks like Sheriff Daniels from Green River.” Johnny said. “ Don’t recognize the other three.”

“ Well, you boys go ahead and get started.” Murdoch ordered. “ I’ll see what they want.”

Scott and Johnny went to their horses.

“ Johnny, hold on. Me and these fellas need to speak to you a minute.” Sheriff Daniels said.

“ What’s this all about Ben?” Murdoch asked. “ The boys have work to do.”

“ I’m sorry Murdoch, but this is important.” Ben said.

Johnny swung up in the saddle and found himself looking at two guns drawn on him.

“ What the hell are you doing?” Murdoch demanded.

“ Johnny Madrid, you’re under arrest.” Marshal Clark said. “ Take your left hand, and remove that pistol real slow like, tossing it over here, then climbed on down off that horse.”

“ Arrest for what? Who the hell are these men sheriff?” Johnny demanded as he tossed his pistol to the ground.

“ Names Marshal Ed Clark, from Cheyenne, Wyoming, these are my two deputies, Matt Caldwell, and James Bullock. I don’t like repeating myself. Get off that horse now boy!”

“ What am I under arrest for Marshal?” Johnny demanded.

“ Murder.” Marshal Clark responded. “ You, you keep your hands away from your gun also.”

“ Marshal, my brother has murdered nobody.” Scott said firmly as Cipriano, Frank, and Walt rode over to see what was going on.

“ Mister Lancer, I suggest you tell your men to stay back, and your son to do as the marshal said.” Sheriff Daniels suggested.

“ Johnny, get down son. Let’s go inside and straighten this out.” Murdoch ordered.

Johnny turned Barranca and started to dismount when he was slammed in the left side by a bullet, knocking him out of the saddle.

“ Damn it James!” Marshal Clark yelled as he dismounted.

“ You had no right shooting him. He was getting down!” Scott yelled as he dismounted, and ran to his brothers side as Murdoch, and Teresa hurried over.

“ Johnny, let me have a look son.” Murdoch said.

“ Frank, send someone for Sam!” Scott ordered.

“ Mister, I don’t care who you are. You had no call shooting my son. He was unarmed. I will have your badge for this.” Murdoch said with anger.

“ Looks like it grazed your ribs brother. Lets get you inside.” Scott said as he helped his brother to stand up.

“ Hurts like hell.” Johnny said.

“ Maria, hot water and bandages!” Murdoch yelled as they helped Johnny inside, and up to his room.

                                                                                            JML

Sam came downstairs early afternoon. “ He has a deep furrow from the bullet. I stitched the wound up. It doesn’t look like it hit a rib.”

“ When can he ride doc?” Marshal Clark asked.

“ Excuse me, you are?” Sam asked.

“ Sam, this is Marshal Ed Clark, and his two deputies, Caldwell, and Bullock.” Murdoch said. “ They’re here to arrest Johnny for murder.”

“ Murder?” Sam asked. “ So it was one of you who shot him I take it?”

“ I asked you a question doc. How long until my prisoner can ride?”  Marshal Clark demanded.

“ Not for at least two weeks. The wound needs time to close up, and start to heal.” Sam said.

“ He’ll have to ride sooner than that. I’m not waiting around two weeks.” the marshal said.

“ Marshal Clark, you’re not taking my son out of here until Sam says he can ride.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ Mister Lancer, if you interfere in my arresting Madrid, I will have you arrested also. Do I make myself clear?” the marshal threatened.

Murdoch stepped closer to the marshal. “ Your deputy shot my son when he was unarmed, and dismounting. I will be wiring the Governor in Sacramento, who happens to be a very good, close friend of mine. I will have your badges for this if you try taking Johnny from this house.”

“ Marshal, we have a hundred and fifty hands working for us. Every one of them ready to protect Johnny. Do you really want to go that far?” Scott asked.

“ Stop it. All of you, just stop. This isn’t helping Johnny any.” Teresa said as she walked into the grand room.

“  I want Madrid transferred to your jail in Green River sheriff. The doctor can tend his wound there until he can ride.” the marshal ordered.

“ I’m doing no such thing. You heard what the doc said. You put him in a wagon, and it will tear the stitches out.” the sheriff said. “ Murdoch, you have a jail cell here. Why don’t we transfer Johnny to that until he can ride?”

“ You are not moving my patient for at least twenty four hours. I need to make sure he doesn’t develop a fever of infection.” Sam said firmly.

“ Alright Lancer, you win for now, but I want my prisoner shackled to prevent him escaping.” the marshal ordered.

“ You are not shackling my son in his own home. He won’t be going anywhere marshal.” Murdoch stated flatly.

“ He can either be shackled, or one of my deputies stays with him at all times. Now which do you prefer?” Marshal Clark asked.

“ That man doesn’t go anywhere near my brother marshal.” Scott ordered.

“ Young lady, would you kindly show Deputy Caldwell which room our prisoner is in please?” he asked.

Teresa looked at Murdoch. “ The door is open. Sam, come in the kitchen and I;ll get you some coffee, and something to eat.” she said before turning and heading to the kitchen.

“ No gun. I don’t want your man up there wearing his gun. That marshal, is a policy of mine. No wearing of firearms in the house.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ That man is my prisoner Lancer. You don;t go telling me my deputies can’t wear their gun when guarding him. He has escaped being caught for four years now.” the marshal said firmly.

“ He so much as tries to escape, and I’ll ill him.” James said.

Scott couldn’t stop himself. Swinging as hard as he could, he hit Deputy Bullock hard, knocking him backwards into the back of the couch. “ You sonofabitch, you so much as go near my brother again………….”

“ Enough Scott!” Murdoch yelled as he grabbed him. “ Go outside and cool off.” he ordered.

                                                                                               JML

Johnny was sitting up in bed when Murdoch opened the door, and walked in with the marshal and Deputy Caldwell.

“ How you feeling son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Like I’ve been shot for no fucking reason.” Johnny responded with anger. “ What the hell did he shoot me for? I was getting off my horse like you said to do.”

“ Language son, please.” Murdoch said.

“ Answer me.” Johnny demanded.

“ My deputy felt you were going for another gun.” the marshal said.

“ I had no other gun you stupid sonofabitch. I removed the only gun I had on me.” Johnny spat back.

“ Mister Lancer, I suggest you tell your son to curb his temper.” the marshal ordered.

“ Johnny, you know I don’t permit the use of language like that in the house. Getting upset isn’t going to help anything.” Murdoch said. “ I have wired the governor about this matter, and I have wired the Pinkerton’s. I asked them to look into this supposed murder you were supposed to have done.”

“ I’ve never murdered anyone. Any man I have killed, I killed in a fair fight that they started by calling me out.” Johnny said.

“ Son, were you in Casper Wyoming four years ago, before you came home?” Murdoch asked.

“ Casper, Wyoming, no Murdoch. Four years ago I was fighting in the Mexican war, captured and put in Puerto Peñasco prison until that Pinkerton man saved me seconds from being shot.”

“ That’s right. Marshal Clark, I have Pinkerton reports to verify what my son has just said.” Murdoch stated.

“ Where are these reports?” he asked.

“ Locked in a drawer in my desk downstairs.” Murdoch said.

“ Alright. Matt, you stay with Madrid, while I go have a look at these so called reports.” the marshal ordered.

“ Marshal, who says I killed the Thomas’s?” Johnny asked.

“ Their son, and daughter. They heard you ride up when they were in the barn doing chores. Said you got off your horse, and when Walt Thomas walked out to see what you wanted, you shot him down in cold blood. They then said you went in the house, and shot his wife, Sarah. The sheriff of Casper said that wasn’t all you did to her. Said her dress was torn open at the top, and that you had raped her before you shot her in the head.”

Johnny lowered his head. “ I have never murdered anyone marshal, and I would never rape a woman. Those kids didn’t see me.”

“ Said they heard you tell their father who you were when he asked.” the marshal responded.

“ I swear they’re wrong marshal.” Johnny said softly.

                                                                                               JML

“Scott, I don’t like this. Johnny wouldn’t do such a thing.” Teresa said.

“ I know. Something just isn’t right about this whole thing.” Scott said.

“ What do you mean?” she asked.

“ Why did it take four years. It’s not like Johnny has been hiding. Even when down along the border, he could have been arrested by any lawman.” Scott explained.

“ Didn’t they have a reward poster on him?” she asked.

“ Yes, but those can be made up by anyone.” Scott said as his father and the marshal came downstairs. “ Is something wrong?”

“  The marshal says your brother was supposed to have committed this murder four years ago.” Murdoch responded as he unlocked the bottom drawer, and removed the Pinkerton reports he had on Johnny. “ Four years ago, your brother was fighting in the Mexican Revolution, captured, and put in prison until the Pinkerton I hired found him, and freed him.”

“ Marshal Clark, do you remember the oath you took to become a marshal?” Scott asked.

“ Yes I do, why?”

“ Would you recite the words for us?” he asked as he looked at his father.

“  It says that I swear I will faithfully execute all laws, percepts, directed to me under the authority of the United States, and true returns make, and in all things well and truly, without malice or partiality, perform the duties of marshal.” he responded.

“ I believe you forgot something.”Murdoch said. “ You left out the part where during your continuance in said office, you take only your lawful fees.  Now unless that wanted poster says it is issued by the state of Wyoming, the town of Casper, you are in violation of that oath.”

“ Who are you working for? Who put out the wanted poster on my brother Marshal Clark?” Scott demanded.

“ I work for the state of Wyoming boy. I’m here to arrest your brother for the murder of Walt, and Sarah Thomas. Take him back to Casper, and see him hang.” Marshal Clark responded. “ Look, Lancer, I’m sorry, but these are not legal proof. They’re not proof he wasn’t in Casper, and didn’t committed the murders.”

                                                                                            JML

Johnny stepped out of the cell two weeks later, and held out his hands for the deputy to put shackles on his wrist.

“ I want no trouble out of you Madrid. It’s a long ride back to Casper.” Marshal Clark ordered as they started walking out of the barn where the cell was.

“ You’re making a mistake marshal. I didn’t kill those people. I was never in Casper four years ago.” Johnny said as they walked out to their waiting horses.

“ Tell it to the judge boy.” Deputy Bullock said as he shoved Johnny forward.

“ Me and you are going to have a talk when this is over, and I prove I’m innocent.” Johnny said.

“ You keep that attitude up boy, and you won’t see Casper.” Bullock said softly.

Johnny stopped and turned to face Bullock. Take these shackles off me, and we can do this right now.” Johnny responded with coldness.

“Get on your horse Madrid.” Marshal Clark ordered. “ Just were do you think you are going?” the marshal demanded as Scott walked out putting his rifle, and saddlebags on his horse.

“ With you. I’m not letting you take my brother to Casper alone. Your deputy already shot him once when he was unarmed marshal.” Scott said.

“ Lancer,  I can’t stop you from going, but I will arrest your ass if you try and do anything stupid.” the marshal said firmly.

“ They hang me brother, I want you to bring Barranca back home.” Johnny said.

Murdoch walked over to his son. “ I’m going to do everything I can son to get you out of this.”

“ I know. Teresa, you take care of this old man for me.” Johnny said as he ignored Bullock, and walked over to give her a hug.

“ I will Johnny.” she said with tears in her eyes. “ You come back home to us.”

“ Get on your horse Madrid.” Bullock ordered as he grabbed Johnny by the arm, and pulled him away from her.

“ Scott, keep in touch son. Let us know where you’re at.” Murdoch said. “That deputy has it in for your brother. Watch him.”

“ Yeah. I’ll keep an eye on him.” Scott said as he walked over and gave Teresa a hug. “ Hopefully we will both be home for Christmas.”

“ Be careful son.” Murdoch said as Scott mounted up. “ Remember what Sam said about that wound.”

“ I know, try and keep him from tearing it open. I have bandages and such that Teresa packed. I’ll send a wire when we get to Carson City.” Scott said before turning his horse, and taking off to catch up with his brother.

                                                                                            JML

“ This rain is getting worse. We’ll stop and wait it out in the next town we come too. If they have a jail there, I’ll lock you up in it Madrid.” Marshal Clark said two weeks later.

“ And if they don’t?” Deputy Caldwell asked.

“ If they don’t, then he’ll stay shackled in a room.” the marshal responded as they started down out of the Sierra’s.

“ We should have taken the killer by train.” Bullock said.

“ Casper isn’t going to pay for us to extradite him to Laramie, and then buy horses to get to Casper. Besides, we don’t need to put a lot of innocent people’s lives at risk.” the marshal said.

                                                                                           JML

“ Have you heard from Scott?” Teresa asked.

“ Not since they were in Carson City.” Murdoch responded.

“ I can’t believe this is happening.” she said. “ Johnny would never do such a thing Murdoch.”

“ I know. I’ve been going thru these reports, and none of them say he has ever been in Wyoming. He’s worked in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, but never in Wyoming.” Murdoch responded as he sat back in his chair. “ I’m going to ride into town tomorrow and send another wire to the Pinkerton’s, asking them to contact the prison Johnny was in in Sonora. I will also have a man waiting for their arrival in Casper, when we have proof my son is innocent.”

“ Who do you think did this?” she asked.

“ The marshal said the two children seen Johnny murder their parents. Said they seen him ride up, and dismount. When the father came out of the house, he was supposed to have told him who he was, and then shot him dead.” Murdoch explained.

“ And the mother?” she asked.

“ Johnny was supposed to have raped her, and then shot her in the head before leaving.” he said.

“ Johnny………….he would never do that.” she said.

“ Those children seen someone murder their parents, but it wasn’t my son. Someone was using his name, for whatever reasons that day.” Murdoch said.

“ What if that person still is using Johnny’s name? What if he gets wind of the real Johnny Madrid being taken to Casper, and tries to kill him?” Teresa asked.

Murdoch looked at his ward,  her eyes were red from crying. When both his boys came home, he worried about her safety, especially around his wild son Johnny, but that worry quickly disappeared when he seen both boys treating Teresa as a little sister. “ You know, when the boys came home, especially Johnny, I was worried about your safety, but it didn’t take me long to see I was wrong to worry. They way Johnny and Scott get along, it’s as if they had been raised together. And then you, watching you and Johnny especially would bring a smile to my face. Both boys will be home again. Whoever this person is, they will be caught, and Johnny will be cleared.”

“ Did you know that every morning Johnny would sneak around the house to the back, and give me a rose from the garden?” she asked.

“ No I didn’t know that.” he said.

“ He would tell me, a rose is a thing of beauty, and  that when he looks at me, he sees a rose. He said he never imagined he would have a brother, but to also have a little sister to protect made him happier than anything.” Teresa explained.

                                                                                            JML

“ What can I do for you?”  Sheriff Fred Long asked.

“ Names Marshal Ed Clark, I need to keep a prisoner locked up in your jail until this storm passes.”

“ Alright.” the sheriff said as he stood up, and grabbed a set of keys from his desk. “  Cells are back here.”

“ Move.” Bullock ordered as the sheriff unlocked the outer door, and opened it.

“ Got four cells. These two front ones don’t have a window.” the sheriff said as he opened the door to the front left cell.

“ Inside Madrid.” Clark ordered.

“ Madrid, as in Johnny Madrid?” the sheriff asked.

“ Unless you know of another?” the marshal asked as he shoved Johnny inside the cell.

Johnny held out his wrist for the shackles to be removed.

“ Shackles stay on.” the marshal said as he closed the door.

“ Any chance of getting something to eat, and maybe a bath marshal?”

“ You’ll eat when I say, as for a bath, I’m not about to give you a chance to escape Madrid.” the marshal said as he locked the cell door.

“ Bullock, I want you on first watch. I’ll have Matt come relieve you around midnight.” the marshal ordered.

“ There’s a cafe across the street open until ten. I can have them fix some food for your prisoner marshal.” the sheriff suggested.

“ There’s no need to leave those shackles on him Marshal.” Scott said.

“ They stay on until I say they come off.”

“  Marshal, my brother has a right to clean up and have something to eat.” Scott said. “ He’s in a cell, he can’t go anywhere.”

“ He’ll get something to eat when I say. I told you to not interfere Lancer. Sheriff, under no circumstances is this man allowed in this jail after we leave.” the marshal said firmly.

“Look marshal, I don’t need no trouble in my town, and Madrid is trouble. Someone finds out he’s here, and decide they want to call him out, I can’t stop them.” the sheriff said.

“ There won’t be anyone calling Madrid out. He’s going to Casper to hang for murder.” the marshal responded.

                                                                                             JML

Johnny lay on the cot with his eyes closed when he heard the outer door unlock and open.  “ Come over here.” Bullock ordered as he pointed his pistol at Johnny, and cocked it.

Johnny stood up, walked over to the bars.

Bullock took the shackle key from his pocket. “ Unlock the right one, put your arms thru the bars, and re-shackle it.”

A sick feeling hit Johnny in the pi of his stomach. Only one reason he was being forced to shackle himself to the bars. “ Guess this is were you try and teach me some manners?” he asked sarcastically as he re-locked the shackle.

“ Not exactly. You see, gunfighters like you, well they depend on their speed and flexibility to beat whoever they’re facing.” Bullock said as he took hold of the chain. “ I could beat you where the marshal wouldn’t see the bruises, but on my way here, I thought what better way to fuck you up than this.” he said as he yanked down as hard as he could on the chain, causing the cold steel to bite into flesh. “ How’s that feel killer?”

Johnny expected a beating once shackled to the bars, not this. The pain shooting thru his arms, up to his shoulders as he tried desperately to ease the pain. “ Hijo de puta, te juro que te voya matar por esto.” ( You sonofabitch, I swear I’m going to kill you for this.)

Deputy Bullock yanked again on the chain, causing the shackle to bite deeper into flesh. “ See, doing this to you, the marshal will figure you just tried to get your shackles off during the night.”

Johnny dropped to his knees as the pain became to much to bear. Biting the inside of his mouth to keep from screaming out as his breathing became labored as he desperately tried to block out the excruciating pain his wrist now had.

“ I gotta hand it to you half-breed, I fully expected you to scream out. The last man I did that too, well, he screamed like a baby.” the deputy said as he unlocked the shackle. “ Put it back on, and let me hear it lock.” he ordered.

Johnny brought his arms down, and looked at his wrist. Blood seeped from the top of his right hand where the shackle bit into his flesh, both wrist started to swell up and bruise.

Bullock grabbed a handful of hair and yanked Johnny’s head back into the bars. “ I said put the shackle back on. Do it now.” he ordered.

Johnny put the shackle back on his injured right wrist, and scooted away from the bars.

“ I don’t want to hear a word from you.” James ordered as he opened the door. “ You say anything, and I will kill that brother of yours.” he added before closing, and locking the outer door.

                                                                                             JML

“ Get on the horse Madrid.” Marshal Clark ordered.

“ Johnny Madrid, we’re calling you out!” a man yelled from down the street.

Johnny turned and looked down the street. Three men stood in the middle of the street, poised.

“ Oh sweet Jesus.” Sheriff Long said. “ I told you this could happen marshal.”

Marshal Clark stepped out into the street. “ You boys best forget about this. Madrid is my prisoner. Turn around and walk away.” he ordered.

“  The hell you say. We’re calling Madrid out.” the one man responded.

“ I told you, Madrid is my prisoner. There ain’t going to be no gunfight. Now if you three are so set on dying, me and my deputies will be more than happy to oblige.” Marshal Clark said firmly

“ Marshal, that’s Robert Miller doin’ the talking.” the sheriff said. “ The other two are Charlie Anderson, and Daniel Young. They rode into town a week ago. Been looking for trouble ever since.”

“ Get on your horse Madrid, Matt, take him out of town.” the marshal ordered as Scott walked up next to him with his Henry rifle.

“ Alright Marshal. I guess today’s your lucky day Madrid.” Miller yelled before turning and walking to the saloon with the other two.

“ Don’t think this is over Marshal Clark.” Scott said. “ Those three intend on trying to kill my brother.”

The marshal looked at Scott, and then down at the Henry rifle. “ You any good with that?” he asked as they walked back to their horses, and mounted up.

“ I hit what I aim at marshal.” Scott responded as they rode to catch up with Matt, and Johnny.

                                                                                            JML

Murdoch sat at his desk, and opened the letter he received from the Pinkerton he hired.

Mister Lancer

I have acquired information about your son being in Puerto Peñasco prison in Sonora, Mexico four years ago. The Captain in charge has provided proof your son was indeed in said prison awaiting execution at the time of the murders in Casper Wyoming. I have also learned that another man has been going around the border towns the last four years claiming to be Madrid. I have sent the information I have ahead to the agent in Casper, and am now following up on this Madrid impostor.

Alan Martin
Pinkerton Agent, Southwest Division
El Paso, Texas.

Murdoch set the letter down, leaned back in his chair, and said a silent prayer that the Marshal would accept this proof that his son was not the killer, and release him.

                                                                                          Chapter 2

“ Come on over here Madrid so I can shackle you to your saddle.” the marshal ordered.

Johnny stood up, and walked over to his saddle, holding out his wrist.

“ What the hell is this? Looks like you tried to get these off while in that jail.”  the marshal said as he unlocked both shackles.

Scott came over and seen his brothers wrist. “ Jesus Johnny.” he said.

“ Sit down, and let your brother clean them wrist up. I guess you won’t be trying that again.” the marshal said.

“ What the hell Johnny. Where did you think you could go brother?” Scott asked with a wink. He knew the last thing his brother would ever do is damage his wrist, especially his right wrist. He knew who was responsible for the injuries. Glancing over at him, he could see Bullock was watching them real close.

“ Guess you’ll be wearing an ankle shackle tonight.” the marshal said as he dropped one at Johnny’s feet. “ From the looks of those injuries, you must have a high tolerance for pain boy. That had to hurt like hell the way your flesh is peeled down.”

“ I have some of that salve Cipriano made up in my saddlebags. I’ll put some on before I wrap them up.” Scott said.

“ Thanks.” Johnny said softly as he looked at Bullock watching him.

“ Why you making such a fuss over his wrist for. He’s gonna hang?” Bullock asked. “ Killers like him ain’t worth the time to doctor up.”

“ Why you being so hard on him for James? He hasn’t had a trial, and been found guilty yet. All we have is the word of two kids who never seen his face. They just heard him say his name.” Caldwell said.

“ Don’t go getting all soft Caldwell. He’s a killer, and he’s going to hang.” Bullock responded.

“ Let me tell you something Bullock.  I know men like you. I’ve seen what men like you can do to an innocent man. Vigilante justice. You think that badge gives you the right to be judge, jury, and executioner. Well it don’t. He was no threat to us back at Lancer when you shot him down.” Caldwell said as he stood up, and walked over to Johnny. “ Madrid, I want to ask you something, and I want you to tell me, the marshal, and your brother the truth. Did you try to get the shackles off last night and do that to your wrist?”

Johnny looked up at Deputy Caldwell. He could tell by the mans eyes, he was asking out of concern. “ Let it go.” he said softly.

Caldwell knelt down next to Johnny. “ I know there is no gunfighter out there who is going to deliberately injure their wrist like this. Especially their gun hand wrist.

“  Let it go deputy. Please.” Johnny responded. “ Like the man said, I’m not worth the trouble. I’m just a worthless killer.”

“ You’re a human being Johnny.” James said. “ Let me look at your wrist.”

“ What are you getting at James?” the marshal asked.

Deputy Caldwell looked at Johnny’s wrist, carefully turning them over to see the bottom side. “ Look at this marshal.”

Marshal Clark walked over and looked at Johnny’s wrist. “ Damn. You didn’t do this did you?” he asked softly.

Johnny sighed, and looked away. “ Don’t matter marshal. You seem to already know what happened.”

“ I was wrong Madrid. Who did this to you?” Marshal Clark said.

“ It was your Deputy  who did it marshal.” Scott said. “ My brother would never do something like this to himself.”

“ He’s right Ed. I’ve seen those type of wounds before on a man. They’re from someone pulling down really hard on the chain. Most lawmen think it happens from the prisoner trying to get free of the shackles. The way the wounds are shows there is no way Johnny did this to himself.” Deputy Caldwell explained.

Marshal Clark turned to confront his deputy when a shot rang out in the darkness.

“ Hello Madrid!” Miller yelled. “ Oh don’t worry, we won’t kill ya yet. We got all the way to Casper to do that.”

“ That damn sheriff must have told them where we are headed.” the marshal said.

“ Don’t worry Marshal Clark, you and your deputies, Caldwell, and Bullock, we won’t kill you….yet.” Miller yelled. “ It’s funny what a tin star will tell you with a little prodding.”

“ Hey Madrid, I’m looking forward to dancing with you!” Young yelled.

“ See marshal, all you had to do was let us kill Madrid back there in town. Now you get to wonder when or if we are going to put a bullet in anyone besides Madrid.” Miller yelled. “ Have a good night.”

“  Why are those three so intent on killing you?” the marshal demanded.

“ Why do you care marshal? You’re taking me to hang for a murder I didn’t commit. You afraid they’ll kill me before we get to Casper, and rob you of whatever you’re being paid to bring me in?” Johnny responded with anger.

Bullock walked over, and hit Johnny in the lower back with his rifle butt, dropping him to his knees. “ I’m tired of your smart mouth half-breed.”

“ Bullock………..that’s enough!” the marshal yelled.

“ You touch my brother again……and I promise you, that badge won’t stop me.” Scott said as he knelt next to his brother.

“ Bullock……………you’re fired.” Marshal Clark said. “ Take off that badge, and ride out…………..Now.” he ordered.

“ Fired, why?” Bullock demanded.

“ For shooting Madrid when he was unarmed, for the abuse you did to him while he was locked up, and in shackles, and for what you just did to him.”

“ Fine, I’ll leave.” Bullock said with anger as he took off his badge, and tossed it on the ground at the marshal’s feet.

                                                                                           JML

“ Is that a wire from Scott?” Teresa asked.

“  Yes.” Murdoch said as he opened the telegram and read it. “ They’re in Salt Lake city.”

“ You think they had trouble as to why they’re not farther along?” she asked.

“ Trouble, or the weather slowed them down.” he responded.

“ I sure hope it isn’t trouble, and the boys are alright.” Teresa said.

“ He says they are okay.” Murdoch said as he went to sit down at his desk.

“ What about the Pinkerton you hired, have you heard from him at all?” she asked.

“ Yes I did a couple weeks ago.” he said as he opened the bottom right desk drawer, took out the letter he had received, and handed it to her to read. “ It would seem that you were right. There is someone going around saying they are Johnny Madrid.”

Teresa took the letter and read it. “ The Mexican prison gave him proof?”

“ I was shocked also. Especially knowing how they feel about Johnny.” he said. “ And the fact that he escaped from execution, making them look bad.”

“ Maybe they have a reason for doing it?” she suggested.

“  Johnny will not be going back to Mexico for any reason. When they come home, and they will come home, that boy isn’t leaving this ranch.” the Lancer patriarch said firmly.

“ Why would someone do this Murdoch?” she asked. “ I just don’t understand how someone can go around saying they are Johnny,  and murder innocent people.”

“ I’m sure we will have all the answers soon Teresa.” Murdoch responded.

                                                                                            JML

“ I’m going to trust you too not try anything, and let you take a hot bath.” the marshal said. “ Matt, you and Scott go order us all something good to eat from the restaurant downstairs.”

“ You sure you want to stay here alone with him?” Matt asked.

“ We’ll be fine.” the marshal responded.

Johnny stepped behind the divider, undressed, and climbed in the hot bath.  Leaning back, he welcomed the hot water as it relaxed his sore aching body.

“ Tell me something Madrid, How’d the son of a man like Murdoch Lancer become a gunfighter?” the marshal asked.

“ I became a gunfighter to stay alive Marshal. Being a half-breed kid in Mexico with blue eyes, you get beat a lot.” Johnny said.

“ Mexico, so you didn’t grow up at that ranch?” he asked.

“ Up until four years ago, I had never been on Lancer since my mother left in the middle of the night when I was two.” Johnny said. “ She lied to me, and told me my old man threw us out, which he didn’t. She left in the middle of the night with some gambler man, and took me with her. He hired the Pinkerton’s to search for me for the past eighteen years. When they found me four years ago, I was seconds away from being shot by a Mexican firing squad.”

“ Your old man showed me reports from Pinkerton’s, that said they had a hard time finding you. Why’d you change your last name from Lancer, to Madrid?” the marshal asked.

“ I never knew what my birth name was until I was ten. My mother told me when she was dying.” Johnny responded.

“ Dying, she get sick?” he asked.

“ No, she was murdered by a man. The first man I ever killed.” Johnny said. “ I made her a promise that I would hunt that man down, and kill him. It took me three years, but I found him, and sent him to hell. As my reputation grew, and I got faster, and better with my gun, I came to realize that what I thought was respect from people when I rode into a town, was actually fear. I didn’t want that. I took the name Madrid, and kept using my gun, getting better and better. I started hiring out to help in range wars, or small villages fight against tyrants, and the Rurales. I fought in the Mexican war against the Rurales, and rich Dons who were stealing from the peasants, and killing good, decent, innocent people. Seven months into the war, I was wounded, and captured. I spent four hellish months in Puerto Peñasco prison in Sonora, until the Captain decided it was time to kill me, and several others they had captured. I was seconds away from being shot when the Pinkerton man came barreling up in a wagon and said he was looking for Johnny Madrid, that the Captain back in the village said might be one of his prisoners. I asked him why he was doing this, saving my life, and he told me my father wanted to see me. That he was willing to pay a thousand dollars for one hour of my time. The Rurales decided they wanted more, and tried to steal the rest of his money. I grabbed his gun, and shot them. That was four years ago, and I have never been in Casper, Wyoming.”

“ You said you hired out. How much money did you charge for your gun hand?” the marshal asked as he poured two drinks of whiskey, and brought one to Johnny.

“ Thanks. Most of the time I worked for food, and a place to sleep marshal.” Johnny responded. “ You see me as a killer, but in reality, the only difference between you and me is that badge you wear. I have never murdered anyone in cold blood, and I sure as hell never raped and murdered a woman.”

“ One of those files said you worked for Wells Fargo. Doing what?” he asked.

“ Guarding payroll, and gold shipments out of  Yuma to Los Angeles.” Johnny said as the room door opened, and his brother walked in with Matt, both carrying platters of food.

“  James just rode in with those three from the other night.” Matt said as he set his platter down on the table.

“ He see you?” the marshal asked.

“ I don’t think so.” Matt responded.

“ It won’t take them long to find out we’re here though. All they have to do is ask around.” Scott added.  “ I told the clerk that we would make his life a living hell if he told that we were here.”

“ I doubt they will do anything yet. James is a womanizer. He likes his whores, and I imagine they will all be wanting to get drunk since they know where we are headed.” the marshal said.

“ He always been like that?” Johnny asked as he walked out from behind the divider, and sat down in a chair.

“ Known the man six years. I never knew he was like that until you.” the marshal said.

“ What about you? You said he had done to another man what he did to me.” Johnny asked.

“ He did, and it was my mistake to not report it.” Matt responded.

“ Well, lets eat, and get a good nights rest.” the marshal ordered.

                                                                                             JML

“  Johnny Madrid, I’m calling you out you murdering sonofabitch.” a man yelled from the middle of the street.

Madrid sitting at a table in the corner with a saloon girl next to him sighed. “ Duty calls.” he said as he stood up. “ Let me go kill this guy, and then me and you will go upstairs.” he said before claiming her mouth for a few seconds, and then heading outside.

“ Now why’d ya have to go and ruin my evening mister?” Madrid asked as he stepped out of the saloon.

“ I’m going to really ruin your evening you bastard. You killed my brother in cold blood. Shot him down just because Jeb bumped into you, spilling your drink.” the man said.

“ That was your brother huh? I hate wasting good tequila.” Madrid responded. “ And I hate being disturbed when I’m fixing to get fucked.” he added as he drew, and fired, hitting the man in the head. “ You all seen it. He called me, Johnny Madrid out.”

“ You never gave him a chance.”  a man said.

“ You shot him down in cold blood.” another said.

Madrid smiled, turned, and walked back into the saloon. “ Shall we?” he asked the whore as he took her hand and headed upstairs.

                                                                                             JML

“ I think you better see this Ed.” Deputy Caldwell said as he handed a newspaper to him.

Madrid kills again in cold blood.

Yesterday evening a man brazenly called the gunfighter, Johnny Madrid out of the saloon, and demanded justice for the killing of his brother by the gunfighter. Usually cool, calm, and collective, Madrid walked out of the saloon, faced the man, exchanged some words, and shot him down. The gunfighter then turned, walked back in the saloon, and spent the night with a woman until dawn the following morning when he rode out of town headed northeast. Eye witnesses say they have never seen anyone so fast, and deadly before. That when Madrid drew, and fired, it all happened in less than a second. Previous reports and eye witness accounts say Johnny Madrid  always tried talking his opponent out of a gunfight, yet this reporter has come across several articles going back four years of a different, more deadly Madrid. This reporter also has learned that four years ago, Madrid rode to a ranch in Casper, and for whatever reasons, gunned down the rancher, and then raped and murdered the wife. The two children, who were in the barn doing chores at the time witnessed this brutal murder, stating that they heard him ride up, tell their father his name was Johnny Madrid, pull his deadly colt, and shot the man dead. Neither child got a look at the mans face, but described his saddle as being flashy, with silver, and riding a brown and white paint. When I tried to interview the woman he went upstairs with here,given a black eye, and other visible bruises, she refused to answer any questions for fear of her life. It would seem the law is even afraid of this man, given why sheriff  Gray, made no attempt to arrest the killer.

Marshal Clark finished reading the article, and handed it to Johnny. “ Nobody knows who * you * are. I’m going to take the shackles off you, and we are going to go talk to this whore, and then the sheriff.”

“ Jesus.” Johnny said as a sick feeling hit him hard as the marshal removed the shackles.

“ I don’t want you to say anything Johnny. We’re going to go into the saloon, sit down, and have a beer. Matt, I want you to ask the bartender who the woman is.” the marshal said. “ Tell him we heard she’s his best, and we have money to spend for a good time with her upstairs.”

“ What about our badges. He’s going to be suspicious of a marshal and deputy coming in wanting to spend time with…….”

“ We’ll take them off until upstairs.” the marshal said.

“ We told you Johnny didn’t do it marshal.” Scott said.

“ I’m aware of that Scott. Look, I didn’t know it was someone else using his name, and neither did you. I aim to get to the bottom of this before we leave Green River. Now lets go.”

                                                                                             JML

“ You fellas wanted to see me?” the woman asked.

“ That depends, are you Grace?” the marshal asked.

“ I am. Look, if you’re looking for some fun with me, It will cost you dearly. I usually don’t take on four at once.” Grace said.

“ You have a room we can go too?” he asked.

“ Upstairs. It will cost you twenty. Since there’s four of you, I’ll give you two hours.” Grace responded.

Ten minutes later, Grace walked into her room, and started to unbuttoned her dress. “ Okay, who want’s to go first?” she asked.

“ That won’t be necessary ma’am.” the marshal said as he took out his badge and showed her. He noticed the bruises on her face, and black eye.

“ What the hell is this?” Grace demanded.

“ We’re not going to hurt you. I want to ask you a couple questions is all.” he said.

Scott took out some money and gave it to her.

“ Alright, ask.” she said as she buttoned her dress back up.

“ Johnny Madrid, can you describe what he looks like?” the marshal asked.

“ Marshal, I would prefer to stay alive. If Madrid finds out I talked to you he will kill me.” she said.

“ He won’t hurt you ever again. You have my word on that ma’am.”

“ Alright. Johnny Madrid, about twenty four I’d say, red hair, green eyes.”

“ What about scars on his body?” Scott asked.

“  Scars, no, he had no scars on his body.” she said.

“ Are you sure?” Scott asked.

“ Mister, I was with the man all night fucking, I think I would remember if he had scars. The only thing that stands out about him is his Spanish. Some gringos should never try and speak the language.” she explained.

“ Gringo. You mean Madrid wasn’t a Mexican mix?”

“ No. Look, if this is about the man he gunned down, the fool called him out. I heard a left handed man was fast, but Madrid, he’s more than fast. That man is deadly.” she said.

“ Left handed?” Johnny said.

“ Ma’am, did he say anything about where he was heading?” the marshal asked.

“ He said he was headed to Casper to take care of some unfinished business there.” Grace said. “ Knowing how he likes to be with women, he probably won’t be in Casper for a week or longer. He likes to sleep in a bed. Told me he despises sleeping out on the ground.”

“ What shade of blue would you say his eyes are?” Scott asked.

“ Like yours, a soft grayish blue color.” she said.

“ Ma’am, I want you to meet the real Johnny Madrid.” Marshal Clark said.

“ You, I had a funny feeling inside when I looked into your eyes.” Grace said.

“ Come again?” Matt asked.

“ His eyes, stone cold blue, yet mesmerizing at the same time. I’ve heard women talk who have been with you when I was down in Tucson. They used to say you could make them shiver with cold when they looked into your eyes until you made love to them. Said once a woman looked into those blue eyes, she was doomed to be bedded by you.” Grace explained.

“Well, thank you for your time ma’am.” Marshal Clark said as he went to open the door.

“ Wait a minute. If you think I’m going to have the real Johnny Madrid in my room and not get at least a kiss marshal, you thought wrong.” Grace said as she walked up to Johnny.

Johnny smiled. Inside he wished he had the time to really thank this woman for her help as he lowered his mouth to hers, sliding his tongue inside to really give her a memory.

“ Let’s go Madrid.” the marshal ordered.

“ I come back this way I’ll really thank you for all you’ve done.” he said softly before walking away.

Grace stood there trying to get her breathing under control as she watched them leave her room. “ I look forward to it.” she said as Scott closed the door.

“ Lets go back to our room. I want to talk to you Madrid.” the marshal said.

“ I thought we were going to go see the sheriff next?” Matt asked.

“ Because that woman won’t say anything. The sheriff might, and I don’t think Johnny wants it known he knows about someone pretending to be him.” the marshal said.

 “ Besides she said he was headed to Casper to take care of some unfinished business.” Johnny said.

“ Her description was pretty good about him and his horse.” Scott said.

“ Yeah, not too many men riding around on a brown and white paint with a flashy silver saddle.” Matt said.

“ That saddle ring any bells with you Johnny on who it could be?” Scott asked.

“ No. I have no idea who it could be Scott.” Johnny responded.

“ If he likes sleeping in a bed every night, and not on the ground, he’ll most likely head towards Rawlins, and cut north from there.”Matt said.

“  That’s what I was thinking. We can head due northeast and get to Casper before him by a day or two.” the marshal said. “ You two up to some hard riding?”

“ If it clears my brother marshal, I’d ride day and night.” Scott said.

“ Barranca’ a mustang, he can handle it.” Johnny said.

“ Okay, lets plan on riding at first light.” the marshal said as they headed back to the hotel. “ Riding hard we can get there in six days.”

                                                                                             JML

“ Mister, you ain’t Johnny Madrid.” the man said. “ Johnny Madrid is a half-breed Mex, with blue eyes. I know because I’ve known him since he was a pup.”

“ You calling me a liar mister?” the impostor demanded.

“ That’s exactly what I’m calling you boy, and I would think real hard about going for that gun of yours. There’s a pistol aimed at your gut right now.” the man said. “ I don’t know what your game is boy, but going around using another mans name, and reputation, if you’re even any good with that gun, don’t fly to good with me.” he said as he stood up. “ Now, what you are going to do, is stand up real slow, go outside to that fancy show pony you rode in on, and you are going to ride out of  Rawlins.”

The impostor stood up slowly, keeping his hand away from his gun as he walked out to his horse. “ We’ll meet again mister, and when we do, it will be me killing you.” he said as he mounted up. “You got a name mister?”

“ Sure, I got a name. It’s Val Crawford.” Val responded. He could see the impostor knew the name. “  Don’t you ever come back, or I will kill you.”

“ I have unfinished business to attend to in Casper. When I’m done there, I’m going to come back here, and kill you.” the impostor said before riding out of town.

“ It can’t be good, him saying he has unfinished business in Casper Val.” Reed said.

“ I think I’ll take me a ride up to Casper. He’s using Johnny’s name. I want to know what this unfinished business is he has, and just what all else he’s done to tarnish my friends name.” Val said as he stepped down into the street, and headed to the livery.

                                                                                            JML

“ How do we know we can trust you?” Miller asked.

“ You don’t. That half-breed killer cost me my job, and I intend on making him pay.” Bullock responded.

“ So they are taking Madrid back to Casper for a murder he says he didn’t do. I say we kill him before he gets there.”  Anderson suggested.

“ Problem with doing that is which way they go out of Green River.” Young said.

“ They’ll most likely ride to Fort Steele, and see if there’s been any trouble.  It’s easier travel.” Bullock said.

“ Fort Steele, where’s that?” Miller asked.

“ About twelve miles east of Rawlins. Army post mainly to protect the train and travelers from attacks by the natives.” Bullock responded.

“ As long as you know, it’s us who are going to get the recognition for killing Madrid.” Anderson said firmly.

“ I don’t give a shit what you three want to claim, as long as he’s dead is all I care about.” Bullock said

                                                                                           JML

“ Teresa, I got a telegram from Scott.” Murdoch said as he walked into the grand room.

Teresa came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands. “ Is it good news?” she asked.

“ They’re in Green River. Say the marshal knows the truth now., and he will send another wire from Casper.”

“  I wonder how he found out the truth?” she asked.

“ I don’t know sweetheart, but at least he knows Johnny is innocent.” Murdoch responded.

                                                                                           JML

“ We’ll be in Casper tomorrow afternoon.” Marshal Clark said.

“ Where’s this ranch located?” Scott asked.

“ Ten miles east of town, but the kids don’t live there anymore. They’re in town living with  a couple who run the general store.” Matt said.

“ You think Bullock and those other three will try something before we get there, or wait?” Scott asked.

“ I expected them to try something by now. Still might tomorrow. I don’t think they’ll want to take the risk in town. Not with the law and such.” the marshal said.

Johnny heard a noise and stared off into the darkness.

“ Something wrong?” the marshal asked.

“ Someone is out there.” Johnny said.

“ Hello the camp!” a man yelled from the darkness as he walked closer to the light.

“ That’s far enough mister. State your business.” Marshal Clark ordered.

“ Seen your fire, and was hoping you could spare some coffee.” Val said.

“ I said state your business mister.” the marshal said again.

“ Relax marshal. I mean no harm. Names Val Crawford.” Val responded as he walked into camp and stopped.

“ You look like you seen a ghost old man.” Johnny said.

“ Just who the hell you calling an old man?” Val asked gruffly.

Johnny stood up, and walked over to the man. “ You.” he said before giving the man a hug. “ What the hell you doing up here in Wyoming?”

“ You two know each other I take it?” Scott asked.

“ Know each other? Hell I’ve known Johnny since he was a reckless pup.” Val said.  “ This is strange finding you here kid.”

Scott poured Val a cup of coffee. “ It’s not skillet coffee, but it’s hot.”

“ Thanks. So the kid told you about my coffee huh?” Val asked.

“ Said it’s the best around.” Scott responded.

“ Wyoming is a long ways from Mexico. Why you here Val?” Johnny asked.

“ Headed to Casper. Had a run in with a fella in Rawlins. Damnedest thing though, this fella said he was you.” Val explained.

“ He riding a brown and white paint with a fancy silver saddle” the marshal asked.

“ That’s him. I called him on being you. Told him I knew the real Madrid, and he wasn’t him. I ran him out of town.” Val responded. “ Said he had unfinished business in Casper, and once that was taken care of, he was coming back to kill me. Now, why are you clear up here in Wyoming?” he asked.

Johnny explained everything that had happened, and why they were headed to Casper.

“ Jesus kid. I can’t believe someone would be foolish enough to try and say they was you. You got any idea who it is, or why they’re doing it?” Val asked.

“ Been doing some thinking on that Val, and can’t think of anyone who would from my past.” Johnny said.

“ You seemed to not be the only ones headed to Casper tonight.” Val said.

“ Four riders?” the marshal asked.

“ Yeah. I didn’t get close enough to see them, but there were four. You know who they are?”

“ Yeah. Robert Miller, Charlie Anderson, Daniel Young, and James Bullock.”  the marshal responded. “ Bullock was my deputy until a couple weeks ago when I fired him.”

“ Fired him, why?” Val asked.

“ For abusing my brother.” Scott said.

Val looked at Scott. “ Brother?”

“ Yeah, this is my older brother Scott Lancer.” Johnny said.

“ Well I will be damned. How the hell did the two of you meet?” he asked.

“ When I went home four years ago. It seems my mother lied to me about us being thrown out, and never told me about Scott.” Johnny explained.

“ Damn kid, I’m real happy for ya.” Val said. “ So that’s why I haven;t been able to find ya all this time.”

“ Yeah. I was in a Mexican prison seconds away from execution when a Pinkerton man my old man hired found me, and saved my ass.” he said.

“ Johnny is a third owner of the largest ranch in the San Joaquin Valley.” Scott said.

“ You don’t say. Well I’m really happy for ya kid. So then you got out of the game then?”

“ Yeah, except for when some fool calls me out, I have.” he said.

“ Just how big is this ranch?” Val asked.

“ One hundred thousand acres.” Johnny responded. “ Ten thousand head of cattle, and enough fence-line to repair to keep a man busy for the rest of his life.”

“ Don’t forget about all the streams we have to clear of brush too brother.” Scott added.

“ So why you going to Casper?” Val asked.

“ Four years ago a rancher and his wife were murdered. The man who did it said he was me. Only problem is, I was in that Mexican prison when it happened.”

“ So someone seen this other fella and said  it was Johnny Madrid who killed them?” he asked.

“ Their two kids. They were in the barn when he rode in, told their father he was me, then shot him dead. He then went in the house and raped the woman before killing her.” the marshal explained. “ Said they heard him say his name was Madrid,but never seen his face.”

“ You said this happened four years ago. How come so long before you’re going back there to clear this up?” he asked.

“ Didn’t know about it happening. I went to Lancer when I was freed by the Pinkerton agent. The marshal here came to Lancer to arrest me over a month ago, and take me back to hang for the murders.” Johnny explained. “ I kept telling him I was innocent, but he didn’t believe me until Green River when Matt found a newspaper article about me supposedly killing a man there.”

“ We talked to a key witness and their description of Madrid didn’t match up.” Marshal Clark said.

“ What happened to your wrist buddy? That part of ranching?” Val asked as he noticed the fresh scars on both Johnny’s wrist.

“ One of the reasons I fired my deputy.” the marshal said.

                                                                                         Chapter 3

“ We have to cross that river down there.” the marshal said.

“ You think that might be where they will try it?” Scott asked.

“ As good a place as any to ambush us.” Clark responded. “ That bend you see will be the best place to cross. It’s shallow this time of year except on the other side it gets deep.”

“ I see no sign of them,but that don’t mean they’re not waiting in the rocks for us to be in that river.” Scott said.

“ Those downed trees across the river would be good cover for them to get us in a cross fire.” Johnny said.

“ Any way around this, or another place to cross up river maybe?” Scott asked.

“ There is, but it would mean half a days riding.” Matt said.

“ Lets go.” Johnny said as he started Barranca down toward the river.

                                                                                            JML

“ Wait until they’re all in the river before you shoot.”  Miller ordered. “ I want him to be a sitting duck in that water.”

“  We know, we know.” Anderson said as they watched the riders approach the river. “ There’s five of them now.”

“ Don’t matter non. Madrid’s riding the pale colored horse in the middle.” Bullock said as he took aim with his rifle.

                                                                                         JML

Johnny guided Barranca into the shallow river, and started across, his eyes kept scanning the other side as they reached the middle of the river.

“ It will start to get deeper in a few feet.” Matt said as a shot rang out.

Scott looked and seen his brother lean forward in the saddle as Barranca bolted into the deeper water.

“ Johnny!” Scott yelled as he went after his brother.

“ Johnny Madrid!………I told you we would kill you!” Miller yelled as he stood up from behind the downed tree.

Johnny pulled his colt, and fired, hitting Miller in the chest as Barranca lunged up out of the river. Feeling a bullet slice thru flesh in his upper left arm.

Scott jumped from his horse and took aim with his Henry rifle, rolled, and fired, dropping Charlie Anderson dead.

Marshal Clark rode downriver to try and get behind them when his horse screamed out in pain, and went down hard  throwing the marshal into the water.

Val and Matt rode around behind the shooters and dismounted. “ Give it up!” Val yelled.

“ Like hell I will!” Young yelled as he stood up, only to fall back against the downed tree dead from a bullet to the center of his chest.

“ That leaves only you Bullock. Come on out and face me!” Johnny yelled. “ You wanted to kill me so bad. Now’s your chance to try. They won’t interfere. I owe you for what you did to me. Come out and face me.”  he said as he cocked his pistol, and fired, sending wood splinters spraying Bullock. “ Stand up or the next one goes in your head.”

Bullock stood up. “ I’m no match against your gun.” he said.

“ Scott.” Johnny said as he walked toward Bullock.

“ I got him brother.” Scott said.

“ Who said anything about guns?” Johnny said as he removed his gun belt and handed it to Val. “ I see you wear a knife. Let’s see how good you are with it.” he said as he pulled his knife from the inside of his left boot.

“ I’m not fighting you with knives.” Bullock said as he took his knife out, and threw it on the ground.

Johnny looked at the knife in his hand, and then back at Bullock. “ Guess I’ll bet your ass then.” he said before swinging, and hitting Bullock hard in the jaw, knocking him down.

Bullock rubbed his chin as he glared at Johnny. “ I’m going to beat you to within an inch of your life half-breed.” he said as he got up and lunged at Madrid, catching him in his midsection, sending him down hard onto his back.

Johnny brought both knees up and flipped Bullock over onto his back before standing up. “ Seems to me you can only beat a man when they’re in shackles.” he said.

Bullock stood up and went after Johnny again, only to find himself being hit in the face as he once again went down.

“ Damn James, I thought you could fight!” the marshal said.

“ Hell I’ve seen children fight better than he is.” Val said.

“ A woman could kick his ass the way he’s fighting.” Matt said.

Bullock seen his knife on the ground behind Madrid. Knowing it was his only chance he lunged at Madrid again, and grabbed the knife when he went down.

“ I told you I would kill you.” James said as he turned, and lunged out with the knife, slicing flesh as a bullet slammed into his chest, knocking him backwards. “ I…..killed….you……” he said as he took his last breath.

Johnny  felt a sharp pain in his side as the knife James had sliced thru his shirt, and flesh.

“ Johnny!” Scott said as he went to his brother. “ How bad is it?” he asked.

“  I’ve had worse.” Johnny said.

“  I’ve heard that before brother.” Scott said. “ Sit down so I can take a look.”

Johnny pulled his shirt out of his pants before he sat down. “ Good shooting brother.”

“ I didn’t see him pick up the knife Johnny. I’m sorry.” Scott said. “ This isn’t long, or deep, but it is going to need a couple stitches.”

“ I’ll get it.” Val said as he went to Barranca, and pulled the small leather pouch he knew Johnny carried with thread and needle.

“ How come you didn’t try and stop it?” Johnny asked the marshal.

“ He had it coming to him for what he did to you.” the marshal said.

                                                                                            JML

“ Marshal Clark I presume?”

“ Yeah, and you are?” the marshal asked.

“ My name is Chas Schumacher, I’m a Pinkerton Detective. I have some valuable information for you regarding a prisoner you brought back here from California.” the detective said as he removed a large envelope and handed it to the marshal. “ Inside you will also find records of Madrid’s incarceration in a Mexican prison at the time of the murders.”

“ I am already aware of Madrid being innocent, but I’m sure he will appreciate the information. Can I ask who hired you?” the marshal said and asked.

“ His father.” the man said. “ Well, if you will excuse me. I have a stage to catch.”

                                                                                             JML

“  Can I ask who stitched you up young man?” the doctor asked.

“ My brother. He’s pretty handy to have around.” Johnny said.

“ Well the stitches are nice, tight, and close together. Overall the wound looks good. I’d take it easy though, so you don’t tear them out.” the doctor said as he washed his hands in the bedside basin. “ I must say, I have never seen anyone with as many scars as you have young man. I see this one isn’t but a couple months old from the color.”

“ I haven’t had an easy life doc. I appreciate you checking me over.” Johnny said as he stood up, and put his shirt on.

“ Thanks doc.” the marshal said as he walked the man to the door.

“ So what’s the plan amigo?” Val asked.

“ The plan is to stop this impostor before he tries to kill those two kids.” the marshal said. “ I left word with the livery to let me know if anyone rides in on a brown and white paint with a silver saddle. In the meantime, why don’t you two get caught up on old times, and get some rest Johnny. I’ll see you three in the morning.”

“ He rode all the way to California to arrest you for a murder you didn’t commit?” Val asked.

“ Yes he did. The man Johnny fought, shot Johnny when he was unarmed, and getting off his horse.” Scott said.

“ You……I can’t believe you are his brother.” Val said.

“ Murdoch was married to his mother when he bought Lancer and built it up to what it is today.” Johnny said.

“ My mother died giving birth to me. I was raised by my grandfather in Boston. Me and Johnny showed up at Lancer at the same time. He stopped the stage ten mile outside Morro Coyo to get a ride. Neither of us knew the other existed.” Scott said.

“ How’d ya all find out you was brothers?” Val asked as he sat down on the couch in the room.

“ Teresa, she’s Murdoch’s ward. He father was the foreman at Lancer for fifteen years until he was killed.” Scott responded.

“ You sure are being quiet.” Val said to Johnny.

“ Val, do you remember a kid who took a fancy to us when we did that job outside Laredo?” Johnny asked.

“ You mean the one where they were stealing his old mans cattle every night, and taking them just across the border?” Val asked.

“ Yeah. Remember what he said to us when we were getting ready to leave after?” he asked.

“ Something like, he wanted to be just like us when he grew up.” Val responded. “ I remember you came unglued on that kid. Telling him what we did was no life.”

“ Johnny, do you think that kid is the one doing this?” Scott asked.

“ Age is right. So is the description Grace gave us.” Johnny said.

“ Was he left handed?” Scott asked.

“ Come to think of it, no he wasn’t.” Johnny said.

“ Listen buddy, why don’t the three of us go have a cold beer? I’ll buy.” Val asked.

“ I don’t think so Val. Until this is over, I don’t want someone recognizing me, and calling me out.” Johnny said. “ I need this bastard to come in.”

“ Alright, well I will see you two in the morning then.” Val said as he headed to the door.

                                                                                             JML

( WARNING, WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ CONTAINS A FLASHBACK  THE LITTLE GIRL TELLS THAT SOME MIGHT FIND DISTURBING. IT’S NOTHING DRASTIC, BUT I FEEL I SHOULD WARN READERS. )

“  Marshal, you bring that killer back?” Stan Sullivan asked.

“ Stan, Martha, can we come in?” the marshal asked.

Stan stepped aside so the marshal and Johnny could enter his home. “  So what do you need to talk to me about?”

“ Cathy, Joe, how you two doing?” he asked.

“ Hello Marshal Clark.” Joe said.

“ Hello marshal. Did you catch the man who killed our parents?” Cathy asked as she stood up.

“ Cathy, Joe, I want you to meet someone. This is Johnny………..Lancer.” he said.

“ Hello Mister Lancer.” both children said.

“ Hi. Can I ask how old you two are?” Johnny asked.

“ I’m almost twelve, and he’s nine. Why?” Cathy asked.

“ The marshal told me what happened to your parents, I’m sorry.” Johnny responded. “ The marshal said you didn’t get a look at his face, but heard him tell your father who he was. Do you think you would recognize that man again if you heard his voice?”

Cathy looked at her brother, then at the marshal. “ We will never forget the sound of his voice Mister Lancer.”

“ I don’t want Joe hearing this. The boy has had some bad nightmares.” Stan said firmly. “ Joe, you go on up to your room and stay there until I say you can come back downstairs.”

“ You seem like a pretty smart little girl. Tell me what you remember about him. Can you do that?” Johnny asked after Joe went upstairs.

“ Me and Joe were in the barn doing our evening chores when we heard him ride in. I went to the door and watched our father come out of the house. He asked the man what he wanted. The man said his name was Johnny Madrid, then he pulled his gun, and shot our father dead. He had red hair down to his shoulders almost, because I could see it under his hat when he got off his horse. I was trying to keep Joe quiet, so’ he wouldn’t know we were there. Our mother came out of the house, and ran to our father. That man grabbed her by the arm, and dragged her back inside. We could hear our mother screaming, and dishes breaking, I made Joe hide up in the hay loft. I ran to the house, and looked inside the window………..”

“ Is this really necessary Marshal Clark?” Stan cut in demanding.

“ Mister Sullivan, please……….Go on Cathy.” the marshal said.

“ He was on top of my mamma, his hands were holding hers above her head. Mamma’s dress was torn almost off her as he lay on top of her making weird noise. She kept screaming for him to stop, but he wouldn’t. He said she needed to know what a real man felt like. Then he got up, pulled his pants up, took out his gun, and shot her in the head.” Cathy said as the tears started falling.

“ Cathy……….Cathy, look at me please.” Johnny asked.

Cathy dried her tears and looked at Johnny.

“ Sweetheart, you’re being a very brave girl. I need you to think. You were looking in the window, after he shot your mother, what did he do?” Johnny asked.

“ He went thru our stuff, breaking dishes, taking food. He was looking for something. After a couple minutes he came back outside, walked over to our father, knelt down, and went thru his pockets. I think he was looking for money. He got on his horse, and rode away after that.” she said.

“ You had to have seen his face at some point. Think.” Johnny said. “ What color was his skin?”

“ It was……….he was a pale white like Danny. Mamma told me once that children with red hair have a……..what is that word…….”

“ Light complexion?” the marshal asked.

“ Yeah, that’s it. He was almost ghostly looking.” she said.

“ Cathy, this man is the real Johnny Madrid.” the marshal said. “ The man you seen murder your parents was not him. He’s what’s known as an impostor. Do you know what an impostor is?”

“ Someone who says they are someone they’re not.”  she responded.

“ Yeah, that’s it exactly.” the marshal said.

“  You’re the real Johnny Madrid? What the hell is going on marshal?” Stan demanded.

“ Cathy, why don’t you come with me to the kitchen, we can make some cookies.” Martha said as she stood up.

“ We learned in Green River that the killer is an impostor Stan. He gunned a man down the day before we got there. Eye witness accounts gave us a good description of him.” the marshal said. “ Look, he’s headed here. He told the woman he was with that he would be back, but he had unfinished business he had to take care of in Casper first.”

“ Unfinished business. You mean that man is coming here to kill Cathy, and Joe?” Stan asked.

“ We believe so. He somehow learned there were two witnesses to him killing their parents. Now, he’s not going to know they’re not at the ranch, and will probably look there first. When he comes into town, that is when we will arrest him.” the marshal said. “ I need you too stay inside, keep them inside until this is over.”

“ What about my store?” Stan asked.

“ We can put a sign up saying closed due to illness.” Johnny suggested.

“ You have a lot at stake in this young man. What are you going to do?” he asked.

“ Face him, and find out why?” Johnny said. “ Mister Sullivan, I promise you this, that man, whoever he is, will not harm either one of those children. You have my word on that sir.”

“ Which do you prefer?” Stan asked.

“ Prefer sir?”

“ You say you’re Madrid, but the marshal said your last name was Lancer. Which do you prefer?”

“ Lancer. I just want to live a normal life with my family back in California.”

“ Well Mister Lancer, thank you.” Stan said.

                                                                                             JML

“ Marshal, that horse you were looking for, it just came into town, and is in my barn.” the livery owner said.

“ What about the rider?” the marshal asked.

“ He was asking me questions about the Thomas murders. Said he was a relative of the kids, and wanted to know where they were. Said he just learned of their parent’s murder. Said he’d been back east. Marshal, I knew Walt and Sarah Thomas. That man is not related to them kids.” the livery man said.

“ Okay. Go on back to the livery. Don’t talk to anyone about this.” he ordered.

“ I won’t.” the man said before turning and leaving.

                                                                                             JML

“ That’s him.”  Scott asked.

“ That’s him.” Johnny said as he stepped out of the hotel lobby.

“ Johnny, let the marshal handle it.” Scott requested.

“ Can’t.” Johnny said as he walked down into the street as the marshal came out of his office. “ Johnny Madrid………I’m calling you out.” he yelled.

People stopped on the street, and watched as Johnny walked out to the middle of the street, and stopped. Realizing what was going to happen, women ushered children off the street, and others sought refuge behind doors, or between buildings.

The impostor stepped out into the street and faced the real Madrid. “ I don’t know you mister, but if you want to die, I’ll more than oblige ya.” he said as he stood ready.

“ I know why you’re here, and I’m not going to let you do it.” Marshal Clark said. “ Drop your gun belt and step away.” he ordered.

“ Now marshal, this fella called me out. I have a duty to answer his call.” he said.

“ You know who he is?” the marshal asked.

“ No, just another fool about to die.” the impostor said.

“ Why don’t you ask him his name?” Val said as he stepped out into the street.

“ You again. I said I would come back and kill you old man. You being here saves me a long ride.” he said.

“ Ask him his name.” Scott ordered as he stepped down into the street with his Henry rifle in hand.

“ Okay, since they want me to know your name, who are you mister?” he asked.

“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid. The real one.” Johnny said. “ I don’t much care for someone going around using my name, and murdering innocent people.” Johnny could see a hint of fear hit the kids face when he realized he was facing the man he had pretended to be for over four years.

“ You can’t beat me. Nobody can.” the kid said.

“ I can, and I will. I just want to know two things. Your real name, and why?” Johnny asked.

“ I just figured I would is all. As for killing innocent people, I needed to build a reputation. You know, so I started killing. The more people I killed, the faster I got, and the more people respected me.” the kid said.

“ That’s not respect, that’s fear. I used to think the same, but soon learned they feared me. I built my reputation the hard, honest way kid. I never killed anyone I didn’t try and talk out of it. Every man got a fare chance. You have no idea what it’s like to kill a man just because he wants your reputation. I know you don’t because you’re a cold-blooded killer who’s trying to be a big man who will never be important.” Johnny said.

Without warning, the kid drew and fired, hitting Johnny, dropping him before he could clear leather.

Scott went to his brothers side, and seen the kid was going to fire again. Aiming  his rifle the same time Val drew, both  hitting the kid, knocking him backwards dead. He couldn’t believe his brother never got the chance to clear leather before the kids bullet slammed into him.

“ Jesus. He beat him.” Val said as he came over with the marshal.

“ He’s still alive, but has a bullet in his chest.” Scott said as he picked his brother up. “ Let’s get him up to our room.”

“ Docs coming.” the marshal said as he followed them inside.

                                                                                             JML

“  I never thought I would see the day someone could beat Johnny. He never even cleared leather before he was shot.” Val said as they waited for word on his friend.

“ He told me the day would come when someone faster called him out.” Scott said. “ He always knew it could happen.”

Marshal Clark entered the hotel room. “ How is he?”

“ Don’t know yet. Doc is still in there removing the bullet.” Scott responded.

“ Listen, I had a Pinkerton agent come see me yesterday. It seems your father hired him. He gave me this.” the marshal said as he handed the envelope to Scott. “ It’s proof your brother is innocent. That he was in a Mexican prison at the time of the murders. I told him I already knew he was innocent. I thought maybe Johnny would want that.”

“ Thank you.” Scott said as he took the envelope from him.

“ Listen, I have to ride to Cheyenne. I hope your brother pulls thru. Tell him to drop me a letter sometime letting me know how he’s doing.” Marshal Clark said as he went to the door to leave.

“ Marshal………….you’re a hard man, but fare. Thank you.” Scott said as he shook the mans hand.

“ Oh, the sheriff won’t be bothering you about what happened. I explained everything to him.” the marshal said before leaving.

“ Seems like a good man.” Val said.

“ You would think differently if you had been at Lancer the day he showed up and arrested Johnny.” Scott said as the door opened, and the doctor walked out.

“ He’s alive, why I don’t know, but he’s alive. The bullet was lodged close to his heart. Another half inch to the left, and it would have pierced his heart. Given he doesn’t get an infection, he has a chance.” the doctor explained.

“ His heart, Oh lord.” Val said.

“ I don’t know how long he will be unconscious, but it’s crucial that he stay as still as possible to let the wound heal up on the inside. I had to stitch up an artery, and he could bleed to death if he tears them out moving around to much. He has got to stay calm.” the doctor explained. “ I left some laudanum next to the bed. Give it to him if he wakes up and is in pain.”

“ For how long doctor?” Scott asked.

“ Two weeks at least.” he said. “ You know where my office is. I live in the back, so come get me if there’s a problem. Otherwise I will stop by to change the bandages tomorrow.”

“ Thank you doctor.” Scott said as he walked the man to the door.

“  Val, I need to go send a wire to our father telling him what’s happened.” Scott said.

“ You go ahead. I’ll go stay with him.” Val said.

                                                                                                  JML

“ Oh my god.” Murdoch said as he read the wire he just received.

“What’s wrong Murdoch?” Teresa asked.

Unable to find the words, he handed the wire to her to read.

“ Oh no.” she cried. “ Johnny can’t die.”

“ I always feared this would happen.” Murdoch said with a quiver to his voice. “ He said someone would come along that would be faster. I had just hoped after four years, it would never happen. That he could live the life he had come to love here at Lancer as a son, and brother.”

“ We have to go there Murdoch. Johnny, and Scott need us.” Teresa pleaded.

“ It’s too far Teresa, and I can’t leave the ranch.” he said.

“ He’s your son, and he may be dying, and all you can say is it’s too far, and you can’t leave the ranch.” she said.

“ Teresa, if I could go I would be on the first stage out, but I can’t. I’m sorry. Scott will keep us apprised of his condition.”  he responded.

                                                                                              JML

Scott sat in the chair next to the bed, watching over his brother like he has been doing for the past week. Standing up, he stretched his back muscles, and let the blood flow to his legs. Every day was a blessing his brother was still alive. Tomorrow he would send another wire to Murdoch. Walking over to the window, he pulled the shade up to allow the mornings sun to come in. Standing there, Scott watched as a beer wagon delivered to the saloon just down the street, another freight wagon could be seen unloading crates of things at the general store the Sullivan’s owned. Stan Sullivan had come by twice checking on his brothers progress, both times saying how grateful he was for all that his brother did to save Joe and Cathy Thomas. If there was one thing he learned not long after meeting his little brother, was…….he would not stand for any child to be abused. Something Scott figured he felt because of the horrible, cruel abuse Johnny had gotten from both adults, and children when growing up. From the time his little brother barged into his room their first morning at Lancer, they had grown closer every day. Each learning something about the other. Smiling, Scott turned and looked at his brother laying there, his long eye lashes resting on his cheeks, so noticeable from afar. The silver St. Christopher medallion on a silver chain around his neck,  laying just above the bandages wrapped around his chest.

Secretive of his past frustrated Scott sometimes. Knowing his brother did some things he was ashamed of, but would never speak of. He himself had done some things during the war his grandfather, father, and brother would be disgusted by if they knew. Especially when he was in Libby prison for a year, things that still, like his brother, haunted him to this day. Walking back over to the bed, Scott found himself looking into deep blue eyes.

“ I’d about given up on you brother.” he said with a smile. “ You have no idea how good it is to see those blue eyes again.”

“ What happened?” Johnny asked in a whisper.

Scott knew his brother would eventually find out what happened, so he thought it would be better if he heard it from him instead of Val.

“ You were shot. Doc was able to remove the bullet, but it was touch and go.” he said.

“ How bad?” Johnny asked.

Scott poured a glass of water. “ Here, drink some of this, you’ve been unconscious for a week.” he said as he held the glass to his brothers parched lips.

“ Thanks.” Johnny said softly as he welcomed the cool feel of the water. “ How bad Scott?”

“ The bullet was lodged close to your heart. You have to remain still for a while yet so you don’t pull the stitches out he had to put inside you to stop the bleeding.” he explained.

Johnny closed his eyes, and tried to remember what happened. “ Did I kill him?”

Scott stared at his brother a few seconds before he stood up, and walked back over to the window. How was he supposed to tell his brother the kid beat him? That he never cleared leather before the bullet entered his chest.

“ Scott.”

“ He beat you Johnny.” he said finally before turning, and walking back over to sit in the chair. “ He beat you to the draw. You never even cleared leather before he shot you brother. Me and Val killed him.”

“ He beat me?” Johnny asked.

“ Yes, I watched in horror as his bullet entered you, and you fell to the ground.” Scott said with a shaky voice.

“ He beat me. I never cleared leather.” Johnny said. “ I knew the day would come I would face someone faster than me. If he beat me to the draw, why is he dead, and not in jail to hang for the murders?”

“ Because the sonofabitch was going to shoot you again Johnny. You were laying there on the ground, and he was going to shoot you again.” he said with anger.

“ Take it easy brother. We both knew…………I told you and the old man it was a matter of time before I faced the one who would be faster than me. I’m just glad I’m able to go home with you alive, and not in a pine box.” Johnny said.

                                                                                            JML

“ Well young man, I have to say, you are a miracle. Anyone else would have died from that wound.” the doctor said.

“ Just lucky I guess doc.” Johnny said. “ When can I take a bath?”

“ I see no reason why you can’t. As long as you let your brother help you. That wound is healing nicely, but could still tear open if you should fall.” the doc said.

“ When ya think he’ll be able to ride doc?” Val asked.

“ Riding I wouldn’t recommend for a month at least.” he said.

“ He won’t ride until you say he can doc.” Scott said firmly.

“ That’s right doc. Even if we have ta sit on him ta keep him off a horse until you say.” Val added.

“ Damn, I have such good friends.” Johnny said sarcastically. “ No offense doc, but I know my body better than anyone. I know when I can ride.”

“ I almost lost you buddy. You ain’t sitting in no saddle until the doc say.” Val said firmly.

“ Fine. My friends. I have a host of friends. How come you’re being so quiet big brother?”

“ Oh I think Val is speaking plenty for both of us.” Scott said. “ But I will add this, and it’s a promise, so you better listen little brother. If you even try to ride Barranca before the doc says, I will as your big brother, knock the living daylights out of you. I almost lost you Johnny. This isn’t a joking matter. You have no idea what I went thru wondering if you were going to live or die. How I sat here late at night crying because I couldn’t bare the thought of losing you. Not to mention what Murdoch, and Teresa probably went thru when I told them what happened.”

“ You told Murdoch I was shot. Damn Scott, did you make sure and tell him that bastard drew faster than me?” Johnny asked with anger.

“ Well, I think I will leave you now.” doc said as he headed out the room.

“ Don’t get an attitude with me Johnny. He had a right to know his youngest son was fighting for his life. If telling him makes me a bad guy in your eyes, then go to hell little brother, because you are acting like a selfish little bastard who hasn’t even thought about me or Val’s feelings thru all this.”

Johnny stood up, and put his shirt on. “ You think I ask for men to call me out Scott?” he demanded. “ Do you think I like taking another mans life? Every fucking one I kill haunts me.”

“ I think you two need to cool down.” Val suggested. “ Johnny, all your brother is saying……….”

“ I know what he’s saying Val…………For four years I have struggled to get that old man to treat me like his son. To forget I’m also Johnny Madrid. This is just going to give him another excuse the next time we have a fight, or I have to kill someone.”

Scott walked over and pulled out the file he got from the marshal. “ I think you need to see this brother.” he said as he held the file out.

Johnny walked over and took the file. “ What’s this?” he asked.

“ Open it.” Scott said.

Johnny opened the file and looked thru the papers. Reports dating back to his first skirmish with the Rurales, his time in prison, and when he was freed by the Pinkerton agent just seconds from execution. “ Where did you get this?”

“ A Pinkerton agent gave it to the marshal when we got here. Murdoch hired him right after we left. Now you tell me if that’s someone who doesn’t care about his son? Tell me he hasn’t accepted that you are both Johnny Madrid, and Johnny Lancer?” Scott responded.

“ Your pappy cares about you John. I don’t know much about families, I never had one, except you. I do know families have disagreements. It don’t mean he doesn’t love ya still.” Val said.

“ Before we left Lancer, I made a promise to Teresa I intend on keeping.” Scott said.

“ What promise?” he asked.

“ That we would both be home for Christmas.” Scott said.

                                                                                             Chapter 4 ( Final Chapter )

“ Teresa!” Murdoch said as he walked into the grand room. “ I received a wire from Scott. They will be leaving at the end of the month to come home.”

“ You think they will make it by Christmas?” she asked.

“ Scott said he would try and have them both home by then.” he responded.

“ Yes, but Johnny was shot.” she said.

“ Teresa, I don’t think Scott would let Johnny leave Casper if the doctor didn’t say he could ride.” Murdoch said.

“ Maybe they could take the train?” she asked.

“ They could, but Johnny rode Barranca, and the cost of bringing his horse all that way in a train car would be too expensive. Now I want you to stop worrying. They will be here, and I think we should plan a special Christmas this year.” he responded.

                                                                                             JML

“ You ready to go home brother?” Scott asked as he mounted up.

“ More than ready brother. How about you Val, you ready to go to California with us?” Johnny responded, and asked his friend.

“ I am if you two would stop your palavering and get your skinny, sorry asses moving.” Val responded.

“ You know Val, I do believe you and my old man are going to get along just fine.” Johnny said with a smile as he started Barranca out, headed west.

“ Yeah well just remember, I’m only coming with you because you said I could get a job as sheriff.” Val said.

“ Johnny.” a man said as he walked up to them. “ I just wanted to wish you well, and thank you.”

“ It’s me who should be thanking you for what you said in that article.” Johnny said.

“ Well, I just hope it helps. You take care of yourself.” the man said as he shook Johnny’s hand. “ You’re nothing like I pictured a gunfighter to be.”

                                                                                               JML

“ Maybe we should pick up a pack horse for supplies. We could hit snow going back when we get up in the mountains.” Scott suggested six days later.

“ We can probably find one in Green River.” Johnny said.

“ Might be better to get one from Fort Bridger.” Val suggested. “ Those trappers won’t be wanting a horse thru the winter costing them money. Trapper supply store there we can get pretty much everything we’ll need.”

“ And trouble too Val. Some of those trapper just wait for someone to come in and rob them. I don’t want any trouble. I want to go home.” Johnny said.

“ You wouldn’t be wanting to stop in Green River because of a certain woman would you little brother?” Scott asked.

“ I owe her my life Scott. I told her I would stop if I ever came back thru and thank her, and that’s what I intend on doing.” Johnny said.

“ What woman?” Val asked.

“ A woman at the saloon. Her description is what told the marshal he had the wrong man.” Scott said. “ Little brother intends to thank her.”

“ You always were a man of your word buddy. Guess it will be just me and Scott when we get there.” Val said with a smile, and laugh.

“ I’m sure you two will find something to do for the night.” Johnny responded.

                                                                                              JML

Grace stood at a table watching some men play poker when she heard the door open. A smile coming to her face when she seen who walked into the saloon. “ I’d say this is my lucky night.” she said softly as she walked over to the three men who sat down at a table in a corner. “ What can I get you boys?” she asked.

“ Three beers and a bottle of tequila.” Johnny said.

“ Make mine whiskey.” Val said.

“ Coming right up.” she said before walking away with a smile.

“ You still drink that poison?” Val asked.

“ You didn’t seem to mind it before.” Johnny said.

“ Still don’t, but why ruin my gut if’n I can have whiskey.” Val said. “ So where is this woman?” he asked.

“ She just took our order.” Scott said.

“ You don’t say. That’s a fine looking woman. You sure you can handle her amigo?” Val asked with a grin. “ I mean, she might be too much woman for ya.”

“ I’ll be just fine.” Johnny said as Grace came back over with their drinks.

“ You don’t have to worry anymore.” Johnny told her as she served their drinks.

“ Thank you. To tell the truth, every time that door opened I held my breath afraid it would be him coming back.” she responded.

“ Well you can relax, and stop being afraid.” Scott said.

“ You fellas hungry?” she asked.  “ We have some big steaks in the back.”

“ Sounds good.” Johnny said.

“ Okay, three steaks coming right up.” she said.

                                                                                            JML

“ Any idea when the boys will be back?” Sam asked.

“ They were in Green River, Scott’s last wire said.

“ I imagine it was pretty scary for you when he said Johnny was shot?” Sam asked.

“ I was horrified Sam.” Murdoch said. “ I knew someone would come along and beat him, but after four years here, I had hoped Johnny could live a life of peace, and not have to worry about being called out even again. I still do.”

“ You know the papers wrote about the gunfight?” Sam asked.

“ No I didn’t Sam. I only know what Scott said in his wire.” he responded.

Sam stood up, and walked over to his coat, pulling out a newspaper. “ This is from last week in the Sacramento paper. It may help Johnny live that life he wants now.” he said as he walked back over to the table, and handed the paper to Murdoch.

Gunfight in Casper

Yesterday two men faced off in the street, both calling themselves Johnny Madrid, but only one was the real Madrid. This reporter witnessed the real Johnny Madrid gunned down by the impostor Madrid, never getting the chance to clear leather as a bullet slammed into his chest. Two men, named Val Crawford, a longtime friend of the real Madrid, and another man named Scott Lancer, both fired, killing the impostor when the kid walked toward the downed Madrid with the intent on shooting him again. A Marshal Ed Clark stood outside the sheriff’s office, watching the whole ordeal take place. When asked why he didn’t try an stop the gunfight, he explained to me how the impostor, whose real name was never learned, had four years ago, brutally murdered a rancher and his wife, Walt, and Sarah Thomas of Casper. The only witnesses to these murders were their two children, who told the law the kid rode up to their father, said his name was Johnny Madrid, and then shot the father dead. He then raped and murdered the wife. Marshal Clark traveled all the way to California to arrest the real Madrid, and extradite him back to Casper to hang for the murders. It would seem while on their way back, the marshal learned he had the wrong Madrid arrested thanks to an eye witness in Green River, and the daughter. Both describing the killer having shoulder length red hair, and light skin color with green eyes. A description those who know the real Madrid is not true. As for the real Madrid, and the extent of his wound I was told the bullet was in his chest, close to his heart, and he succumbed to said injury the next day. On a personal note, I have to say Johnny Madrid was nothing like this reporter thought a gunfighter is.

Murdoch set the article down. “ Succumbed to his wound. I wonder why the reporter lied when he said that?”

“ I’ve been thinking about that, and I think it’s so Johnny can come home, and be free of the fear of ever being called out again Murdoch. Think about it. Every major newspaper probably ran this story. When he comes home, he can be Johnny Lancer like you want.” Sam responded.

“ People in the valley know he’s Madrid though Sam. I don’t see it happening.” Murdoch said.

“ The people in the valley have come to know him as Johnny lancer, your son, and that’s how it will remain. You just need to have more faith my friend. In this, and in your son.” Sam said.

                                                                                              JML

Grace entered her room, followed by Johnny, and walked over to turn the lamp up. “ The newspaper said you died from your wound.”

“ Do I look dead to you?” Johnny asked as he removed his gun belt, and hung it on the back of the chair next to the bed.

“ No you don’t.” Grace said as she started removing her clothes.

Ten minutes later Johnny stood naked in front of her, his hands wandering over her body. It had been a long time since he had a woman, and tonight he knew would be one to remember. Bringing his hand up under her chin, he claimed her mouth with hunger as his right hand went down and teased her as she clung to him while they stood there building a fire that would last all night.

                                                                                             JML

“ This blasted snow.” Val said.

“ It’ll be rain in a couple hours.” Scott said.

“ Good, cause right now I can’t feel my damn feet, and my hands are froze to the reins.” Val grumbled. “ So what’s this Spanish Wells like?”

“ Like any other town in California. There’s a lot of real decent folks living there.” Johnny said. “ The mayor can be a real pain sometimes though.” he added.

“ And why’s that?” Val asked.

“ Because the Cattleman’s association will be the ones appointing you the sheriff of Spanish Wells, not him. Look, he’s a little man who tries to be big.” Johnny responded.

“ He does have his finer points, so they say.” Scott added. “ Just don’t ask me what they are.”

“ So where’s the next blasted town I can get me a hot bath to thaw out? Even my innards are cold.” Val asked.

“ Sacramento. We’ll stay at the Cattleman’s hotel the night. I’ll send a wire telling Murdoch to expect us by supper time.” Scott said.

                                                                                            JML

“ Teresa………..Teresa!”  Murdoch yelled from the grand room.

Teresa hurried into the grand room as she wiped her hands on her apron. “ What’s wrong? Why are you yelling?”

“ They are in Sacramento. They’ll be home tomorrow afternoon or evening.” Murdoch said with a smile.

“ Oh my, tomorrow. Me and Maria need to plan something special for supper.” Teresa said with excitement.

“ Teresa, calm down. Why don’t we have a special welcome home dinner Sunday for the boys instead. I’m sure they will be tired when they get here.” Murdoch suggested.

“ I guess you’re right. It’s just that I have missed them so much. I want to make them feel welcomed, and know they were both missed greatly.” she said.

“ I’m sure they will know sweetheart.” he said.

“ Oh Murdoch, this is going to be the best Christmas ever this year.” she said before heading back into the kitchen.

“ Yes it will.” Murdoch said as he let out a sigh of relief.

                                                                                                JML

“ What’s this?” Val asked.

“ Home.” Johnny said. “ From here, all the way to those mountains in the distance, Lancer, as far as the eye can see.”

“ Dam kid, you’ve done alright for yourself. I’m real happy for ya.” Val said.

“ We’ve been spotted.” Scott said.

“ Let’s go home brother.” Johnny said as he started Barranca, and the pack-horse down the hill.

Murdoch stood in the yard with his right arm around Teresa as he watched his two sons ride into the yard.

Scott stopped his horse, and smiled.

“ Scott Lancer, don’t you dare remain on that horse another second. You get down here and give me a hug right this minute.” Teresa ordered.

Scott dismounted as Johnny, and Val rode up and stopped. “ Oh I missed you little sister.” he said as he wrapped his arms around her, and picked her up.

Teresa wrapped her arms around her big brother as tears streamed down her face. “ Oh I missed you so much.” she said.

Murdoch walked over to his youngest. “ Welcome home son.”

Johnny smiled as he dropped his reins and dismounted. “ Didn’t think I would ever see you again.” he said  softly.

“ The feeling was mutual son, trust me.” Murdoch said.

Johnny looked at Teresa standing next to Scott. Holding out his arms. “ You gonna just stand there, or do I get a hug too?” he asked.

Teresa looked at him with a smile on her face a second before hurrying over, and wrapping her arms around him. “ Oh Johnny, I was so scared I would never see you again.” she said with tears as she hugged him.

“ Hey.” Johnny said as he stepped back, and put his hand under her chin. “ I had to come back, you and Maria are the only ones who know how to feed me good.” he said before giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“ Who’s that?” she asked.

“ I’m sorry. You gonna get your butt down, or you plan on staying on that horse all night?” Johnny asked.

“ Course I’m gonna get down.” Val grumbled as he dismounted.

“ Murdoch, Teresa, I would like you to meet a good friend of mine, Val Crawford.” Johnny said.

“ Mister Crawford, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Teresa said.

“ Ma’am.” Val said. “ Call me Val, saying mister makes me feel old.”

“ I would like to thank you for what you did for my son, both my sons Val.” Murdoch said as he shook Val’s hand.

“ The kid’s pretty special to me, and  Scott ain’t so bad for an eastern dandy.” Val said.

“ I think I’ll take that as a compliment.” Scott said.

“ Welcome back Johnny, Scott.” Frank said as he came to take their horses.

“ Thanks Frank.” Johnny said as he shook the mans hand. “ It’s good to be home.”

“ Well, I’m sure you boys are tired. Let’s go inside so you can relax. Teresa, would you get a bedroom ready for our guest?”

“ Certainly.” she said as she headed inside.

                                                                                             JML

“ Was everything alright Mister Crawford?” Teresa asked.

“ You’re asking a man who brews coffee in a skillet Teresa?” Johnny said with a smile.

“ I don’t remember you complaining when you drank my skillet coffee.” Val said grumpily.

“ This is what I’ve had to put up with since meeting Mister Crawford.” Scott said.

“ Why don’t we take our drinks in the other room, where we can relax and talk more?” Murdoch asked.

“ You make anything for desert Teresa?” Johnny asked.

“ I did, and as soon as I am done clearing the supper dishes, I will bring it in to you.” she responded as she picked up the empty plates.

“ I don’t know how that boy of yours can eat so dang much, and not gain any weight Mister Lancer.” Val said as they walked into the grand room.

“ I’ve wondered that myself Val.” Murdoch responded as they say down. “ So you are interested in become the sheriff of Green River?”

“ Your boys said you’d be needing one, and I’ve been one before.” Val responded.

“ There’s a cattleman’s meeting here next month. I can make the suggestion then to have you appointed, but I need to know a little about you for when they ask me.” Murdoch explained.

“ Murdoch, why not have Val at the meeting so they can meet him. That way he can answer their questions.” Johnny suggested.

“ That would be better. Would that be a problem?” Murdoch asked.

“ I can do that. But with one condition.” Val said.

“ What’s that?” he asked.

“ You let me work to earn my keep until then.” he said.

“ Alright. I pay a dollar a day, Sundays off.” Murdoch said. “ Can I ask how you and my son met?”

Val looked at Johnny, and the Scott. He could tell his friend didn’t talk much about his past. No gunfighter liked to.

“ I was shot, and he found me.” Johnny said.

“ Damn fool kid had two bullet holes in him. He faced down two men in Nogales. Two of the best you could say.” Val said. “ I seen him walk out in that street cocky as a spring chicken. He stood there just waiting for them to make the first move. I seen him get hit as he dropped them both dead. When he rode out of town, I followed, knowing he would die without help. If I’d a known back then what a royal pain in the ass he would beome to me, I never would’ve dug them bullets out of him. I’d a left him ta bleed ta death. When I realized he would live, I decided to take him under my wing, and try amd teach him some things that would help him stay alive, and not get shot.”

“ You’re such a liar Val. You know damn well it was me who taught you.” Johnny said with a smile. “ And there isn’t another person alive who could stand to be around you more than five minutes and not be mad at you.”

“ Who was the dummy that walked out in that street and faced those two? It sure as heck weren’t me. I got more sense than that.” Val responded with a grumpy voice as Teresa walked into the room carrying a platter with pieces of chocolate cake, and coffee.

“ I hope you like chocolate cake Mister Crawford?” she asked as she set the platter down.

Johnny walked over to Teresa, and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into a big hug. “ Thank you.” he said before giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“ Guess I know what your two weaknesses are now.” Val said.

“ What’s that?” Scott asked.

“ Sweets and pretty women.” Val responded.

“ Well, I’m glad you did follow my son, and save his life Val. For that I’m forever grateful to you.” Murdoch said.

                                                                                                JML

Johnny sat looking down at the place he’d come to love more than anything three years later. Val was appointed the sheriff of Green River by the cattleman’s association, and settled right in. Scott met and married a lady from back east who had come out west to see if it was as wild as the books she had been reading.  Sitting there thinking back to how because of his past, he’d almost lost his family, and life, and all because all those years ago he wanted to be good at his trade. Build a reputation as the best. Now, thanks to a newspaper reporter, he could live the life he wanted, with the family he loved.

“ I thought I might find you up here.” Murdoch said as he rode up next to his son.

“ Yeah, I like watching the sunset from up here.” Johnny said. “ I still remember the first time I looked out over this valley eight years ago.”

“ A lot has happened in that time.” Murdoch said.

“ You have any regrets while I was gone? You know, about having Johnny Madrid here, as your son?” he asked.

“ I won’t lie to you son, at first I did. I was a little scared of you I think, but then I started seeing the real you, and I realized I was being a foolish old man for feeling that way.” Murdoch responded.

“  I knew it would happen you know. I knew someone would come along that would be faster than me.” Johnny said. “ Every time I faced a man who called me out after I came home, I was terrified I would die. Terrified I would lose what I started to love. When I called that kid out that day, I was afraid, but I also knew it had to be done. I knew it had to end that day. Both for my reputation, and those two kids. I knew he was fast from witnesses who seen him gun men down. I just didn’t figure he would be faster than me, but he was. I never knew he drew his gun until I felt the bullet slam into me. I never seen the sign.” Johnny explained.

Murdoch sat his horse listening to his son talk about that day in Casper, Wyoming when he almost lost his youngest forever. Struggling to swallow a lump that just wouldn’t go down as his eyes became misty.

“ I hope I never scare you like that again Murdoch.” Johnny said softly.

“ So do I son. It’s all behind us now, and you can live that life you so deserve.” Murdoch said.

“ Yeah, a life where I’m not haunted by my past.” Johnny said as they started down the hill.

The End
11-20-2020

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PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
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.

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6 thoughts on “Haunted by My Past by Nancy Marie

  1. Hi, this was a longish and very involved story. I loved it. I’ve just spent a lovey, cozy evening very real Scot and Johnny. Also, a good Val, for whom I have great affection when he is written well…like this.

    Thank you. Please keep writing.
    Heather

    Like

  2. Nancy Marie, You developed an interesting storyline. I loved how you brought Val into the mix. Hopefully, he’s the only part of Johnny’s past that will stick around to “haunt” him. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  3. So, Johnny finally met his match, it’s a shame but it was bound to happen. If the imposter hadn’t Been killed maybe Johnny could have practiced a bit more and beat him, Johnny Madrid rules 😜

    Like

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