Reputation by Nancy Marie

Word Count 19,311

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

This story will be rated R for cursing, adult content, and sensitive talk. All warnings will be placed when needed.

Johnny Madrid
Murdoch Lancer
Scott Lancer
Teresa O’Brian
Sam Jenkins – doctor
Loretta King
Myra King
Ben Wright – deputy sheriff
Will Young – deputy sheriff
Richard Johnson – sheriff
Ned – gunfighters
Steve – gunfighter
Sparks – gunfighter

Chapter 1

“ We finished the fence on the north pasture.” Scott said as he walked into the house.

“ Good. Have the men start moving the cows into there tomorrow.” Murdoch said.

“ I already did.” Scott said as he walked over and poured a drink.

“ We’ll leave at weeks end to take the herd to Fort Bowie.” Murdoch said.

 “  Sounds good. I’ll make sure the men are ready.” Scott said. “ How long do you think it will take us to get there?”

“ Sixty days should see us there. I don’t want to push the herd over fifteen miles a day. Any more and we start taking weight off them.” Murdoch responded. “ Sixty days of pushing with the dumbest, orneriest critter on gods green earth. The cow is nothing but a lot of trouble tied up in a leather bag.”

Scott couldn’t help but laugh at his fathers statement. “ Then why do you have over ten thousand head of them?”

“ Because nothing beats a good thick steak son.” Murdoch responded with a smile.

“ That I would have to wholeheartedly agree with you on.  Any word yet on Johnny?”

“ No……it’s like he just disappeared.” his father said as he sat back in his chair.

“ At least we know he’s still alive, and why it has been so hard finding him………How do you feel knowing who he is now?”

“ I don’t know what to think son. The report says he did it to stay alive when Maria was murdered. He spent time in a Mexican prison. That alone would be hard to survive.” he said.

“ I’m sure the Pinkerton will find him again.” Scott said. “ I’m going to go get cleaned up before supper.”

“ Alright son.” Murdoch said.

JML

“ Can I talk to you?” Loretta King asked.

“ Pretty lady, you shouldn’t be in here.” the man said.

“ I’m not afraid of them. They all know who I am, and what I’ll do to them.” Loretta said as she sat down. “ You’re Johnny Madrid. They say you’re the best, and that’s what me and my sister need….the best.”

Johnny sat back in his chair and took a good long look at the woman sitting across the table from him. He could see the tall tell signs of both fear, and worry in her brown eyes. Letting his eyes drop lower, he could see her shirt fit snugly in all the right places. Her hands were rough from hard work. Long blonde hair cascaded down over both her shoulders covering her breast.

“ You know who I am, and what I am. Who are you, and why do you want to hire me?” Johnny asked.

“ My name is Loretta King….. Look, I can’t talk to you here. The wrong person might see. There’s a stand of cottonwood trees next to a small lake, could you meet me there tonight at midnight?” she asked.

“ I ain’t cheap lady.” he said.

“ Please…I’m begging you.” she said as she stood up. “ Please.”

Johnny sat there watching the woman walk out of the saloon. From the back there was no doubt she was all woman. He’d been around enough to know that whatever was going on, the woman was clearly afraid. Finishing his beer, he stood up, and walked over to the bar.

“ You want another?” Max the bartender asked.

“ No. You know that woman?” Johnny asked.

“ Loretta King, yeah, her and her sister  younger sister Myra have a real nice ranch about ten miles out of town. There father started it up about five years ago when they came here from Missouri. Place was in shambles, but him and those two girls worked their…..Well they made it into a right fine little ranch.” Max said. “ Their father was killed a little over a year ago, and the girls have been trying to stay and  keep the place.”

“ How many acres they got?” Madrid asked.

“ Five hundred acres.” he said.

“ How’d their father die?”

“ Gunned down outside by our good sheriff.” Max said.

“ Gunned down hell. Toby was murdered by that bastard, and you know it Max.” a man named Cutler said.

“ Cutler, I know it….Hell everybody in town knows Toby was murdered.” Max snapped back.

“ Why don’t you get rid of the sheriff if your that unhappy with him?” Madrid asked.

Max walked around the bar to be closer.“ Let me tell you something Madrid.” Max said softly. “ A couple months ago Richard Johnson…..”

“ If that’s even his name!” Cutler cut in.

“ A few months ago…he rode into town and two days later our beloved sheriff lay dead in the street, and he was wearing the badge. There isn’t a man in this town with the balls to take it away from him either.” Max said.

“ Him and his two deputies extort hard earned money from every business in town. He says we either pay up every week, or we get burned out, beaten up, or killed.” Max explained.

“ He’s after Loretta to marry him.” Max said. “ She’s young, and he figures he can bully her into marrying him.”

“You can bet that once they learn your in town, he’ll send his two deputies to give you a friendly warning.” Cutler said.

“ Let them come. I don’t nudge easily.” Johnny said. “ I’ve dealt with their kind before. I’ll see ya later Max.”

“ He might be just what this town needs to get rid of those three.” Cutler said after Madrid left.

“ Might be.” Max said.

JML

“ Did you see him?” Myra King asked.

“ I did. I asked him to meet me tonight at midnight at that small lake with the cottonwoods.” Loretta said.

“ So what’s he like?” Myra asked.

“  You can definitely tell he’s a half-breed. He don’t look much older than me.” Loretta said. “ When he looked up into my eyes, I got a chill down my back. I have never seen eyes as blue as his. He talked real soft, and I noticed as we talked, his eyes kept track of what was going on in the saloon. He sat with his back to the wall in a corner.”

“ I heard he’s a real ladies man.” Myra said. “ That just one look at him makes a woman want to take him to bed.”

“ Where did you hear talk like that?” Loretta asked.

“ From a couple of those saloon girls yesterday when you were in the store. They said he knows how to please a woman, and leaves them wanting more.” Myra said.

“ I don’t want you listening to those saloon girls talk. Besides you’re only seventeen. You don’t need to be hearing, or thinking about talk like that.” Loretta said. “ Let’s go feed the stock, and then I want you to get supper going while I take a bath.”

“  You’re only two years older than me.” Myra said as they headed out to the barn.

JML

“ Madrid?” a female voice asked from the trees.

“  That’s a good way to get yourself shot lady. If it wasn’t for the moon showing your figure.” Johnny said as he dismounted.

“ I didn’t think you would come.” Loretta said.

“ Let’s just say I’m curious about why a pretty lady like you would need my help?” he said as he dropped his reins. “ So what do you need me for?”

“ I need you to help me and my younger sister keep our ranch.” she said.

“ I did some checking after you left.” he said. “ How come the sheriff wants your land?”

“ He wants me to marry him. I turned him down….twice.” she said.

“ So what is it you want from me?” he asked.

“ I want to hire you. Maybe with you around he’ll stay away.” she suggested.

Johnny knew what she was asking would be risky. Especially with the man set on having her be his wife. Walking closer to her he could see her breathing got faster. “ How far are you willing to go in this?”

“ What do you mean?” she asked.

“ I mean, how far are you willing to take this?” Johnny said and asked.

“ I’ll do whatever I have to do Madrid to keep our ranch. It’s all me and my sister have that our father built up.” Loretta said as she looked into his blue eyes.

“ As long as you understand what the stakes are once this starts.” Johnny said as he went to his horse and mounted up.

“ Oh I understand….I understand perfectly.” she said. “ Wait, where are you going?”

“  I’ll be around.” Johnny said before riding off.

JML

“ You riding out to see that King gal?”  Deputy Wright asked.

“ I am. I haven’t been to see her in a month.” the sheriff said. “ Wanted to give her some time to think over my offer.”

“ You might as well face the truth, that girl ain’t gonna marry you.” Deputy Young said.

“ She will if she wants to keep that ranch of hers.” Sheriff Anderson said.

“ What about her sister. She’s what….seventeen.” Will asked.

“ Just about ripe for picking.” Ben said with a smile.

“ I don’t want either one of you touching her.” the sheriff ordered. “ Not until I say.”

“ Yeah well just so you two know she’s mine.” Ben said.

JML

“ You’ve been here a month. Thank you for all you have done so far.” Myra said.

“ Fences needed fixed. I figured I would start on the corrals and barn roof tomorrow.” Johnny said.

“ You think my sister’s pretty?” she asked.

Johnny looked at the girl and smiled. “ I think you are both pretty.”

“ Do ya like her?” Myra asked.

“ I can see why a man would be interested in making her his wife.” he said.

“ That’s not what I asked you.” she said.

“ Myra, come inside and help me start supper.” Loretta said as she came out onto the porch.

“ I know ya like her Johnny. I seen how ya look at her.” Myra said before going inside.

“ I’m sorry if my sister is bothering you.” she said.

“ No bother….I find it…….”

“ Damn!” Loretta cut in.

Johnny looked and seen a lone rider approaching. “ That him?”

“ Yes.” she said.

“ Go inside, and don’t come out until he leaves.” Johnny ordered.

“ Who the hell are you?” Sheriff Anderson demanded.

“ You know who I am sheriff. ” Madrid said.

“ What’s your business here?” he demanded.

“ Varmint control for the sisters.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ They’ve been having varmints coming onto their property and well….I’m here to make sure they stop.”

“  If you’re threatening me boy, I can arrest you right here, right now.” Anderson said.

“ You can try. They don’t want you coming here anymore, and Loretta isn’t interested in marrying you.” Johnny said. “ So what you’re going to do is turn that horse around and leave here. You come back, I won’t be so nice.”

“ You arrogant sonofabitch. Just who the hell you think you are?” he demanded.

“ Madrid…..Johnny Madrid.”

“ Loretta…….Loretta come on out here!” he yelled.

“ She doesn’t want to see you.” Johnny said. “ I know what you are, and what you’re doing to the good people of Millville.”

“ Army’s got no jurisdiction here!” Anderson said with anger.

“ I wouldn’t be too sure about that.” Johnny said. “ You murdered the real sheriff and have been extorting money from the businesses in town. I’ve dealt with men like you before. It’s always a pleasure to stop you, and that’s exactly what I intend on doing. That badge means nothing to me. So if I were you, I’d leave  and never come back.”

“ You think one on three is a downfall Madrid? We ain’t leaving, you are. I’m coming back here, and you better be gone.” he said. “ You hear me Loretta…..you don’t make him leave, I’ll take everything you have!”

“ Get off the property……now!” Johnny ordered.

Anderson turned his horse and went for his pistol, but never cleared leather as a bullet grazed his upper left arm.

“ Next one kills you!” Madrid said with coldness.

“ You’re a dead man Madrid!” Anderson yelled before riding away.

JML

“ Let them rest Frank. We’ll take them across the Gila river in the morning.” Murdoch ordered. ‘ I want you to scout the river in the morning for an easy place for the wagon to cross.”

“ Sure thing Mister Lancer.” Frank said.

“ River looks a little down.” Scott said. “ Should be easy for them to cross it.”.

“ How far is Fort Bowie after we cross?” he asked.

“  About five miles.” Murdoch said.

“ That close. You riding in ahead of the herd to let them know we are coming?” Scott asked.

“ I am.” he said. “ You know son, for your first cattle drive, you have done a real good job. I’m proud of you.”

“ Thank you sir. I think I will turn in now.” Scott said as he tossed the remaining coffee in his cup, and stood up.

JML

“ Anderson rode into Millville and dismounted. His left arm hurting, he walked into the office. “ Go get that damn doctor and bring him back here.” he ordered.

“ What happened to you?” Ben asked. “ She shoot you?”

“ No she didn’t shoot me. Go get the damn doctor.” he ordered.

“ What happened? Will asked as Ben left the office.

“ Johnny Madrid is what happened. Sonofabitch is at her place.” Anderson said.

“ Johnny Madrid…..the gunfighter?” Will asked.

“Yes Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter.” Anderson said with anger. “ Unless you know of another. I’m going to kill that bastard.”

“ She do, hire him?” Will asked as he brought water over to the desk.

“ Seems her and the town. He knows what we’ve been doing, and ordered us to leave.” Anderson said as the doc came in.

“ What’s wrong?” doc asked.

“ Blood all over my damn arm not enough to tell ya what’s wrong?” he snapped back. “ I’ve been shot. Clean it up, and stitch it up.”

JML

“ How come you didn’t kill him Johnny?” Myra asked.

“ It’s easy to kill a man, but it’s impossible to bring him back.” Johnny said. “ Don’t you ever get to a point where you take killing lightly. It’s not a good thing to kill a man, or cause a man to get killed. Makes you sick inside.” Johnny responded.

“ But he’s just gonna come back here with his two deputies and gun you down.” Myra said.

“ It’s getting late. Myra, why don’t you go on inside and turn in.” Loretta said.

“ It’s still early.” Myra said.

“ You have school tomorrow. Now stop arguing with me and go to bed.” Loretta said firmly.

“ Yeah okay. Goodnight Johnny.” she said before heading inside.

“ Your sister is headstrong.” Johnny said as he stood up and stretched his back.

“ Take a walk with me?” Loretta asked.

Myra smiled as she watched from her bedroom window as her sister and Johnny walked off toward the the San Pedro river.

“So what made your father decide to leave Missouri?” Johnny asked.

“ When my mother died he just couldn’t live there anymore. So he sold the business, packed up some things and moved us out west here.” she said as they stopped at the waters edge.

“ How long were they married?” Johnny asked.

“ Twenty four years. Myra took it hard. She was really close to our mother. Me, I was close to my father. He taught me a lot about horses, and being able to shoot a gun to kill food.” Loretta said as she sat down on a downed cottonwood tree. “ I come here sometimes to think when Myra is in school. The sound of the river helps clear my head. What about you, do you have any family?”

“ No, my gringo father threw me and my mother out when I was a baby. I grew up in Mexico.” Johnny said. “ Been on my own pretty much since I was ten.”

“ On your own. Where’s your mother?” she asked.

“ She was murdered. I spent two years in an orphanage until one day I ran away, and they couldn’t find me.” he said.

“ I’m sorry.” Loretta said softly.

“ You know this has started. He’s going to come back. You think you can shoot a man?” Johnny asked.

“ I’ll do whatever I have to do to stop him. I’m not going to let that man bully me into marrying him.” she said firmly. “ This is all me and Myra have. This ranch and each other. It’s was a good town, full of friendly people until they came here. Do you have a girl?”

( WARNING, ADULT CONTENT )

Johnny walked over to stand in front of her. “ No. Someone like me can’t. It’s not safe for them.” he said. “ Don’t you know gunfighters and pretty girls don’t mix?” he asked.

“ You don’t look dangerous to me.” she said.

“ I am.” Johnny said as he gently touched the left side of her face, and lowered his lips to hers, gently kissing her. Pulling back just enough to look in her eyes. Smiling he kissed her again, running his tongue over her lips before sliding it inside, making her moan as she wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him to her.

Loretta needed this. She needed to be loved, even if it would just be the one time between them. Kissing him sent waves of new feeling through her body. Her stomach got tight, yet felt like it had butterflies in it. When he slid his tongue in her mouth she couldn’t stop the moan from escaping her lips as she wrapped her legs around his waist. Running her hands up and down his shirt, feeling his chest hairs at the top gave her feelings she’d never had before. Feeling her stomach tighten as he ran a hand over her breast, then down between her legs, rubbing her mound with his right hand as his left went inside her shirt and started squeezing her breast. Unable to stand it any longer, Loretta stood up and started removing her clothes.

“ I can’t promise you a commitment.” Johnny said as he undid his gunbelt, and placed it on the branch.

“ Even if it’s just tonight……I’ll take it.” she said as she slid her pants down, and stepped out of them.

“ I don’t have a blanket.” Johnny said as he undid his pants.

“ I do. I keep one to lay on at night as I look up at the stars..

Johnny smiled as he watched her spread the blanket out and lay down. Tonight he would take away all her worries, and all her tension. Tonight they would become one with each other as they both sought satisfaction that only a man and woman can have together. Positioning himself between her legs, he guided his hardness to her entrance and slowly pushed into her. Once he was all the way in, he held still to allow her body time to adjust to the intrusion. Kissing her lips, he started running his tongue down her neck to her bare breast. Sucking on e first the left one, then the right as he started to move in and out of her. Raising up on his hands he kept moving as he watched her face change. When she grabbed his butt and pulled him back down to her, he knew she was almost there. Quickening his thrust, as he felt her muscles tighten around him and her thighs start to quiver.

“ Johnny…..I…….Oh my……” Loretta stammered as she clung to him tightly.

( END WARNING )

JML

Johnny woke up, and stretched before sitting up in bed. Looking around he knew he wasn’t in the bunkhouse.

“ I was wondering when you would wake up.” Loretta said as she walked into the room and set a tray down on the table next to the bed.. “ You always like that when you make love?”

“ I am with a good woman.” he said. “ Myra gone to school?”

“ She left an hour ago.” she said.

Johnny grabbed her and pulled her down on the bed. “ Good.” he said before claiming her mouth.

JML

“ You sure that will bring him to us?” Will asked.

“ It will once he knows what’s happened.” Anderson said.

“ She sure was fun. Youngest I ever had. Hated having to kill her though.” Ben said.

“ Oh I bet you are.” Will said with sarcasm.

“ Look, I want the two of you ready for when he comes into town. Madrid ain’t no fool. We’re only going to get one chance at him.” he said.

“ How you want to play this out?”  Ben asked.

“  He’ll come into town with Loretta, that I’m sure of. When he does, they’ll go to the docs. When they come out, we arrest him for the girls murder.” Anderson said. “ Nobody in this town will say otherwise.”

“ Not if they know what’s good for them they won’t.” Will said.

“ But what if they do. We can hang for killing their sheriff, raping, and killing that girl.” Ben said. “ I ain’t swinging from no rope. Not when it was you who told us to do it.”

“ Shut up and do what you’re told and you won’t. I told you to rape her, I never said kill her.” Anderson said with anger.

“ You’re the one who raped and killed her.” Will said. “ I never touched her.”

“ Both of you shut the hell up!” the sheriff ordered.

JML

“ You are an incredible man in bed Johnny Madrid.” Loretta said as she snuggled down next to him. “ I know you said you can’t commit to a relationship, and I understand why……But I just want you to know….you will always have a place here.”

Johnny rolled over on top of her, and slid inside her. “ That’s more than anyone has ever offered me before.” he said as they started making love again.

“ Loretta!……….Loretta you home?” a mans voice yelled.

“ Talk about lousy timing.” Johnny said as he quickly got out of bed and got dressed. “ Who is it?” he asked.

Loretta got out of bed, put her robe on, and looked out the window. “ It’s Max from the saloon, and looks like Cutler is with him.” she said.

“ Loretta!” Max yelled.

“ Maybe they’re gone.” Cutler suggested.

“ They’re here. Both their horses are in the corral.” Max said. “ Loretta!”

“ What are you doing here Max, and why are you yelling?” Loretta asked as she  came to the door.

“ Loretta…..it’s……it’s your sister…….Myra.” Max stammered.

“ What happened?” she asked as Johnny came out of the bedroom. “ Is my sister alright?” she asked.

“ I’m sorry Loretta……she’s dead.” Cutler said as he bowed his head.

Loretta couldn’t stop her knees from buckling, and falling to the floor. “ No……oh god no!” she yelled as she started shaking, and sobbing.

JML

“ Alright people……I want you to all go on about your business. There’s nothing here for you to see!” Sheriff Anderson yelled as him and his two deputies walked over with scatter guns. “ Go on home!”

Loretta hurried into the doctors office with Johnny.

“ Loretta…….I’m sorry.” doc said.

“ Where is she?” she asked.

“ In the room in the back.” he said.

Loretta slowly walked to the back room to find a still form laying on a bed, covered up to her chin with a white sheet. Walking over she sat down in the chair next to the bed and sobbed.

“ How doc?” Johnny asked.

“ Looks like whoever attacked her……when they were finished, they strangled her to death.” the doctor explained.

“ Who did it doc?” he asked as his anger started to grow.

“ I think you know who Johnny…….Everybody in town knows who did it.” he said.

Johnny  pulled his colt, and spun the cylinder. “ Take care of her doc.” he said before heading outside.

“ Johnny Madrid………..you’re under arrest!” Anderson yelled from across the street.

Johnny knew Anderson and his deputies were responsible for Myra’s death. “ We all know who killed her Anderson…..and why.”

“ You killed her you sonofabitch.” Will spat.

Johnny stepped out into the street and calculated how far apart he was from the three men. Two of them having scatter guns he didn’t much like, but was glad they were standing about five feet apart. The one on his far left only having a pistol he figured he would take down last since a pistol did less damage than a shotgun.

“ Alright, drop the hardware gun hawk!” Ben ordered as doc and Loretta came outside.

“ You’re under arrest for the rape and murder of Myra King!” Anderson said.

“ You’re not arresting me for something I didn’t do.” Johnny said.

“ You raped, and strangled that girl to death.” Ben said. “ Doc told us.”

“ That’s a lie Ben Wright….I never told anyone except Johnny in my office a few minutes ago.” doc said.

“ Seems to me the only way you would know how she died is if you were the one who killed her.” Johnny said.

“ Johnny’s right. He was with me when my sister was killed.” Loretta yelled. “ Anderson and his two thugs have run roughshod over this town long enough people. They murdered our sheriff, and now my sister………How many more innocent, good people are we going to let them kill?”

“ She’s right. I’m going to lose my business because of them taking half of what I make every week.” Max said. “ They take whatever they want, when they want, and never pay for anything. They need to be stopped.”

“ Big talk from a little man who don’t wear a gun.” Will said.

“ He may not have a gun……but I do.” Johnny said.

“  You people know what we can do to you. Are you willing to risk that?” Anderson said.

“ It’s over for you three.” Johnny said.

“ Like hell it is!” Will said as he brought his shotgun up.

Johnny drew and fired, dropping him before he could even bring his shotgun up to fire, turning he fired the colt as Anderson, fired, and a white hot pain ripped thru his right arm.

Pushing the pain aside, he spun around to kill Ben as a bullet tore thru his left side, dropping him to his knees.

“ I’m going to kill you Madrid!” Anderson said as he struggled to cock his pistol again.

Johnny stood up and turned back around to face the man. His right arm dangled at his side, the colt still in his grip as blood started to drip from his hand. Pushing the pain to the back of his mind as he struggled to stay conscious. Bringing the colt up, he fired and hit Anderson square in the chest killing him.

JML

“ I can’t thank you enough for this beef Murdoch.” Major Ambrose said as he shook Murdoch’s hand.

“ Lancer is glad to help out the army Major.” he responded.

“ You have any luck finding your youngest boy yet?” the major asked.

“ Not yet, but at least now we know why.” Murdoch said. “ It seems he changed his name. He became a gunfighter by the name of Johnny Madrid.”

“ Madrid…….well hell Murdoch, I know where he’s at.” he said.

“ You do?”

“ Yeah…He’s in Millville.”

“ Millville! Are you sure?” Murdoch asked.

“ I’m positive. Two sisters hired him to protect them from some men who murdered the sheriff a couple months back and is extorting money from the townsfolk.” the major said.

“ Where is this Millville?” he asked.

“ About twenty miles southwest of here. Sits on the other side of the San Pedro river.” Major Ambrose said.

JML

“ Will he be able to use his arm again doc?” Loretta asked.

“ I expect he will if he gives it time to heal up. A couple of the buckshot went deep in the muscle. I’ll be able to know more once he’s awake, and I have him move that arm around some.” doc said. “ You care for this young man don’t you?”

“ I do, but he already told me he can’t commit. That it would be to dangerous because of who he is.” she said as she placed a cool cloth on his forehead.

“ Listen, I’m going to ask Marge to come sit with him a spell.” doc said. “ You need some rest.”

“ I’m alright doc.” she said. “ I don’t want anyone else here.”

“ Alright then lay down on the bed next to him. You will be of no help when he wakes up if you don’t get some sleep. I’ll stop back by in the morning to change his bandages.” he said as he went to the door. “ I’m real sorry about Myra. She didn’t deserve that.”

JML

Murdoch and Scott rode into Millville just before sundown and dismounted at the livery.

“ Can I help you gents?” the man asked.

“ Need to board our horses for the night.” Murdoch said.

“ Alright, with hay and grain that will be four bits each.” the man said.

“ Maybe you can help us. We’re looking for someone we were told was here.” Scott said. “ Goes by the name of Johnny Madrid.”

“ What do you want with Madrid?” he asked.

“ Look, we mean him no harm. Johnny is my son. I’ve been searching for him for nineteen years.” Murdoch responded. “ Please, do you know where he’s at?”

“ What’s your name?” he asked.

“ I’m sorry, I’m Murdoch Lancer, and this is my oldest son Scott.” Murdoch said.

“ I’m Percy Edgewater. I tell you where Madrid is at and you hurt him in any way….you two will have this whole town to answer too. Do you understand?” Percy said firmly.

“ Yes sir.” Scott said.

“ He’s at the hotel healing up.” Percy said. “ He got shot up pretty good a couple days ago ridding this town of some varmints.” he said. “ You can put your horses in those two stalls on the right.”

“ Do you know how bad he was shot?” Scott asked.

“ Took part of a shotgun blast to his right arm, and I believe a bullet in his side.” he said. “ Damnedest thing I ever seen. Madrid stood there bleeding and managed to face down Anderson, and send him to hell. Sent all three of them to hell.”

                                                                                                  Chapter 2

“ What can I do for you gents?” the hotel clerk asked.

“ Need a room and we……..”

“ Excuse me. How’s he doing doc?” the clerk asked.

“ He’s lucky to be alive. Would you send some food up for Loretta? That girl is going to make herself sick if she don’t eat and get some rest.” doc said.

“ Excuse me. Are you talking about Johnny Madrid?” Murdoch asked.

“ Who wants to know?” doc asked.

“ I’m Murdoch Lancer, this is my oldest son Scott. Johnny is my youngest son.” he responded.

“ He’s in room twenty three. I’ll take you up to him.” doc said. “ I was under the impression Madrid had no family.”

“ I gave you the room next to his.” the clerk said as he handed Scott the key.

“ It’s a long story doc, but I assure you, he is my son.” Murdoch said as they followed him upstairs.

“ The young lady taking care of him is very protective.” doc said as he stopped outside the room. “ He hasn’t been conscious yet.”

“ Will he live?’ Murdoch asked.

“ He will, but the use of his right arm is another matter.” doc said as he opened the door. “ Loretta, I have some food being brought up to you. I expect you to eat it.”

“ Who are they?” she asked.

“ Well he says Johnny is his son.” doc said. “ I’ll be back in the morning. You mind me and eat that food young lady.”

“ Thanks doc.” she said as he left and closed the door. “ So you’re the sonofabitch that threw him out when he was a baby.” she said with hatred.

“ Young lady, I don’t much care for that kind of language.” Murdoch said as he walked over to look at his son. “ I never threw him out.”

“ Johnny’s mother left in the middle of the night taking him with her. Murdoch has been searching for him for nineteen years.” Scott said.

“ And just who are you?” she demanded.

“ Murdoch and Scott Lancer.” he said.

“ Lancer, you’re the one who sold beef to the army.” Loretta said.

JML

Johnny opened his eyes and blinked several times. He could here a female voice talking to one….no two different males, but who. Slowly sitting up, he found his pistol hanging on the bed post, pulled it out with his left hand, and cocked it.

“ Who the hell are you?” he demanded in a raspy voice.

“ Johnny don’t…..It’s okay!” Loretta said. “ Put the gun down. They’re not going to hurt you.”

Johnny un-cocked and slowly lowered the pistol. “ Who are they?” he asked as she picked up the pistol and put it back in the holster. “ How long have I been out?”

“ You’ve been out five days. Here drink some water.” she said as she poured a glass of water and held it to his lips. “ As for who they are, I’ll let him tell you.”

Murdoch walked over and looked down into blue eyes he never thought he would look into again. “ Are you in pain? Do you need some laudanum?”

“  I can take the pain.” Johnny said. “ Who are you and what are you doing here?”

“ My name……son, why don’t you take Loretta down to get something to eat.” Murdoch suggested.

“  Are you sure sir?” Scott asked.

“ I’ll be fine son.” Murdoch said.

“ I’ll be back.” Loretta said before bending down and giving Johnny a kiss. “ Just hear what he has to say…….please.” she said before kissing him again, then leaving with Scott.

“ Start talking.” Johnny said as he raised up, and scooted back against the headboard.

Murdoch sat down in the chair next to the bed.“ My name is Murdoch Lancer. The other man is my oldest son Scott. We have a ranch outside a town called Morro Coyo called Lancer. It’s one hundred thousand acres of the best land in the San Joaquin valley, and also the biggest. I have ten thousand head of cattle, and a hundred and fifty vaqueros who work for me.”

“ Look……Lancer is it. I’m not going to be able to hire my gun arm out for a while, so you might want to look elsewhere for a gun-hawk.” Johnny cut in and said.

“ I don’t want to hire you or your gun arm son. Scott is twenty four years old. His mother died giving him life. A couple years after Catherine died, I met a beautiful Mexican woman down in Matamoros, Mexico. She……we got married after a whirlwind courtship, and I took her home to Lancer. That woman’s name was Maria.”

Murdoch stood up, and walked over to look out the window. “ Two years later I awoke to find her and my blue-eyed baby boy gone. She had packed up and left in the middle of the night. Run off with another man. A gambler or something..”  he said as he picked some papers up on the table and walked back over to Johnny. I searched for nineteen years not knowing if my youngest son was still alive, and where he was at. That is until a few months ago when I received this letter from the Pinkerton agent I hired to look for him. I think you need to read this.” he said as he handed the letter to Johnny.

Johnny took the papers from him, and started to read.

JML

“ How do you think it’s going up there?” Scott asked.

“ Good I hope.” she said.

“ I’m sorry about your sister.” Scott said. “ Have you thought about what you are going to do now?”

“ Thank you.” she said softly. “ To be honest no I haven’t. I can’t run that place by myself. The two of us could barely do it before Johnny came along and fixed the fences, windmill and barn roof.”

“ You could sell the place and start a new life somewhere else.” Scott suggested. “ Do you have any family?”

“  I don’t want to go back to Missouri. There’s nothing there for me, like there’s nothing here for me either.” Loretta said.

“ How close are you and my brother?” he asked.

“ Not as close as I would like us to be. Johnny already told me he can’t commit to a relationship. He said it would be too dangerous because of who he is.” she said.

“ Who he is is my brother.” Scott said. “ I’m hoping he will come back with us to Morro Coyo and live the life he deserves to have.”

“ What do you know about him?” she asked.

“ I know he became a gunfighter to stay alive. That his mother was murdered when he was ten, and he’s been on his own ever since.” he responded. “ That he spent two years in a Mexican prison. He’s never been wanted by the law, or committed murder. He has hired his gun out to help those less fortunate. Which tells me my little brother has a soft heart, and likes to help others.”

“ Johnny in a way did commit murder. Anderson wasn’t a threat anymore. He didn’t have the strength to pull the trigger again. He was  dying, but Johnny still shot him in the heart.” Loretta said. “ He killed those three because of what they did to this town, murdering our sheriff, extorting money from people for so called protection every week. But I think he faced down all three of them mainly because of what they did to my sister. They raped her, and then strangled her to death. Anderson wanted me to marry him. I kept refusing. I guess he thought he could force me into marriage. Your brother does have a soft heart. He’s a kind, caring, loving person. Someone who’s real easy to fall in love with.”

“ Did this man, Anderson shoot my brother?” Scott asked.

“ He’s the one who put the buckshot in his right arm.” she said.

“ Then he was justified in shooting the man. He was defending himself.” he said.

“ Would you mind walking with me to the cemetery to visit my sister’s grave?” she asked.

“ I would be glad too.” Scott said as he offered his arm to escort her.

JML

Johnny set the papers aside and stared down at his left hand. “ My mother said you threw us out. That you didn’t want a bastard half-breed for a son.” he said with anger.

“ Son….I…..”

“ Don’t call me your son. I’m nobody’s son!” Johnny cut in and said with anger. “ You threw us out. My mother told me you got her pregnant and then married her so you wouldn’t tarnish your good name with a bastard child.”

“ That’s not true.” Murdoch said calmly. “ Look…..like it or not you * are * my son. I have been searching for you ever since she left in the middle of the night. I don’t know why she lied to you, but she did. I didn’t marry her because she was pregnant with you. I married Maria because I loved her. She was a beautiful woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. You have no idea the hurt I have felt since I lost you. How every single day I worried about you, wondering if you were still alive or not.” he said firmly, yet calmly. “ When I found out you were going by a different name a couple months ago, most of that worry diminished, but learning who you were now I had a new worry.”

“ And what worry would that be old man?” Johnny asked sarcastically.

“ If you would end up in an alley or on a trail somewhere dead.” his father said. “ Look, come back to Lancer with us. Claim your birthright son. A third of that ranch is yours.”

Johnny flipped the covers off him and and swung his legs over the edge of the bed.

“ You’re in no condition to be getting out of bed yet young man.” Murdoch said.

“ Let me tell you something old man….I may have your blood running thru my veins, but that don’t mean I care about you.” Johnny said firmly. “ I care about one person only…….me, and I plan on keeping it that way. I’ve survived on my own without you, so don’t go thinking I need you now, because I don’t. You mean nothing to me.”

“ You got your mothers temper.” Murdoch said.

“ Don’t you dare speak about my mother. You know nothing about my mother.” Johnny said with anger. “ You know nothing about what it was like for us in Mexico. How she had to do what she did so we would have a few beans and tortillas to eat and a run down shack to stay in. You didn’t see her when she was killed.”

“ No I didn’t son…..And I wish to god you…….I wish I knew why she left me.” Murdoch said with a quiver to his voice. Turning around, he walked over to the table and sat down. “ I only know what’s in that report…..I’m sorry for all the pain you’ve had to go thru growing up. I never wanted that for you son. I never got a chance to see you grow up. Your mother took that away from me.”

Johnny slowly walked over to the table and sat down. Even though his head was down, he could see his father was shaking. “ I don’t know if I can do it. All my life I have had a hatred for you because of what she told me.” Johnny said. “ Now you come into my life and tell me it was all a lie. You want me to just forget nineteen years of my life.”

“ No….We can’t change the past. All I’m asking of you is to give me a chance, a chance at a future with you. Come home to Lancer, give it a year. If at the end of that year you don’t want to stay, I won’t stop you from leaving.” Murdoch said.

“ You have no idea what you are asking of me. The trouble that will follow me.” Johnny said as he stood back up. “ Men will find me, and they will call me out.”

“ Lancer takes care of it’s own son. I don’t have a man working for me that wouldn’t back you up.” he said.

“ That’s just it, as long as I’m alive, men will come to try and kill me.” he said.

“ Why?”

“ Why? Because I’m Johnny Madrid, the best there is. I’m good at my trade, so good it’s put a target on my back because as long as I’m alive, nobody else can have the reputation I have.”

“ You mean men will come to try and kill you because of your reputation?”

“ That’s the price I pay for being the best and fastest.” he said as he walked over and sat down on the bed. “ I make no promises. I’ll give your offer some thought.”

Murdoch stood up and walked over to the door. “ That’s all I ask. We have the room next door if you want to talk again.” he said before leaving.

JML

“ Okay, lets see how much mobility you have in that right arm.” doc said. “ I want you to slowly straighten your arm out, and stop the minute you feel any pain or tightness.”

Johnny slowly straightened his right arm out and stopped when a sharp pain coursed from his wrist to his shoulder.

“ What are you feeling?” doc asked.

“ It’s tight in here.” he said as he indicated the crook of his arm.

“ That’s your Biceps Brachii muscle. It’s tightened up from not being used.” doc explained. “ I want you to do this several times a day to stretch it back out. But don’t force it. You do and you could do irreparable damage and never be able to straighten your arm again…Or draw a gun with that arm. I also don’t want you trying to lift anything yet. Judging from the scars you have I’m sure you know what you can and cannot do.”

“ I do doc.” Johnny said. “ Thanks for everything.”

“ You know young man….You gave this town back to the people. They are extremely grateful to you for what you did.” doc said as he closed his bag up. “ Whatever your plans are, stay safe.”

“  If you’re hungry, I was thinking we could go to  a restaurant and eat.” Loretta said after doc left.

Johnny stood up, walked over to the door, and locked it. “ After.” he said as he walked over to her and started removing her clothes.

“ Johnny……I…..do you think you can?” she stammered as her body started to respond to his touching forbidden places.

“ I know I can.” he said before claiming her mouth.

“ What are you going to do now?” Johnny asked an hour later as he lay holding Loretta in his arms.

“ Your brother asked me the same question.” she said. “ I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I’m going to sell the ranch and start my life over. There’s nothing for me here anymore.”

“ Got any idea on where you would go?” he asked.

“ No.” she said. “ What about you?……..What are you going to do Johnny?”

“  Seems he wants me to go back with them to this Lancer. Give it a year to decide if I want to stay, or leave.” Johnny said. “ Said he wouldn’t try and stop me if I decided to leave.”

“ Why do you think she did it….your mother I mean, why do you think she lied to you about your father for all those years?” she asked.

“ I’ve been trying to figure that out. Here we were struggling to get by when we could have had it all.” he said. “ With her dead, I’ll never know.”

“ Sounds like it’s a fare sized ranch, with a lot of cattle.” Loretta said.

Only been on one ranch that was bigger. Down in Mexico. Don Luis Terrazas estancia, Quinta Carolina. He has over eight million acres. It stretches one hundred and sixty miles north to south, and two hundred miles east to west.” Johnny explained. “ I know because I worked for the man for one winter killing varmints.”

“ Seems like killing varmints is your calling.” Loretta said before getting out of bed, and getting dressed.

“ I told you I can’t commit to a relationship that night along the river.” Johnny said as he sat up.

“ I know. I just…….”

“ What?” he asked as he got out of bed.

“ I wish things were different. That you weren’t a gunfighter.” she said.

“ So do I…..Look, I’m who I am, and nothing will ever change that. I can’t risk some man coming along and using you to get to me.”  Johnny said.

“ I said I know. Look….we had a good time. Go home with your family. I don’t ever want to see you again.” Loretta said before leaving the room with tears running down her cheeks.

JML

“ You ready to go home little brother?” Scott asked as he climbed in the saddle two weeks later.

Johnny swung up in the saddle of the coal black stallion, looked at Scott a few seconds, then at Murdoch. “ One year.” he said before riding away.

Scott watched as his brother handled the big stallion with ease and confidence. He could tell the animal was high spirited like his own mount. “ Can I ask where you got such a beautiful animal?”

“ He’s a Mexican mustang. I broke him three years ago when he was a two. The band stallion kicked him out of the herd, and he was lonely. I made camp one night and he walked right into my camp. He was sweet on my mare. Stayed around and followed me a couple days, so I decided to put a rope on him, and gentle him down so he would be ready when I put a saddle on his back.”

“ How did he respond to the saddle?” Murdoch asked.

“ Crow hopped a couple times, stopped, turned his head back at me, and waited. Best damn horse I’ve ever had.” Johnny said.

“ What happened to the mare?” Scott asked.

“ I gave her to a Mexican family in exchange for a little food, and to sleep in their barn the night.” he said.

“ He carries himself real good. Deep chest, big haunches. He’d make a good cow pony.” Murdoch said.

“ He’s never been around cows and I’ve never roped off him.” he said. “ I do have him ground tied trained, and he’s not gun shy either. He’ll come back to me if I whistle, and if someone is riding him, he’ll do everything he can to buck them off. He’ll also left me mount him on the right side if needed.”

“ You trained him to allow all that yourself?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah…why, does that shock you?” Johnny asked sarcastically.

“ No…I did not mean it that way. I meant…….I know people who would pay to have their horse be like that.” Scott said.

“ Lancer is a cattle ranch. We are not in the breaking, training, and selling horses business.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ But we could be sir. There are more Mustangs on Lancer than anywhere else. And we have the finest Capanero de Palomino’s in the San Joaquin.” Scott said.

“ I have money saved up. Maybe I’ll buy a place and start a small horse ranch.” Johnny said.

Murdoch stopped his horse. “ Let’s get one thing straight right now. I didn’t build Lancer up to be in the horse business. There is no money in horses. It takes too much time and money.”

“ You know I believe I said I would give you one year.” Johnny said.

JML

“ He wasn’t killed in Mexico..” Steve Long asked.

“  Who you talking about?” Ned Christie asked.

“ Madrid. He’s not dead.” Steve said. “ I just heard he gunned down three men in an Arizona town called Millville.” he said.

“ Madrid is dead.  You’re mistaken.”  Ned said.

“ Nope. The sheriff was telling his deputy three men, Richard Anderson, Ben Wright, and Will Young were gunned down in a deadly gunfight that lasted a few minutes. Says Johnny Madrid faced these men and when the fight was over, all three were dead, and Madrid was wounded.” Steve said.

“ When was this?” Ned asked.

“ A few months back.” he said.

“ You said he was wounded, how bad?” Sparks asked.

“ Shotgun blast hit his right arm, and another bullet tore thru his side.” Steve said. “ Messed his gun arm up pretty good.”

“ So Madrid is still alive.” Ned said as he stood up.

“ What are you going to do?” Sparks asked.

“ Find the sonofabitch and make sure he’s dead this time.” he said with venom in his voice.

“ Wait a minute Ned. Madrid faced down, and killed three men. What the hell makes you think we can kill him this time?” Sparks asked.

“ Because one he took a shotgun blast to his right arm. He won’t be as fast, and two…..he won’t see us coming.” Ned responded.

“ But we don’t even know where to look for him. That shootout happened a few months ago. He could be anywhere by now.” Sparks said.

“ We’ll go to that town……what was the name…….Millville, and start asking there.” Ned said.

JML

“ There it is son, as far as the eyes can see…..Lancer.” Murdoch said as the three men looked down at the huge ranch below a month after leaving Millville.

“ All the way to the San Bonito’s mountains in the distance.” Scott said.

“ You ready to go home?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny followed them down the hill to a huge white arch across the road with an L in a circle in the middle of it.

“ That’s the Lancer brand son.” Murdoch said as they road under the arch.

“ I am sure looking forward to Teresa’s good cooking.” Scott said.

“ Who is Teresa?” Johnny asked.

“ She’s my ward. Her father was my foreman for years. He was killed five years ago by some men who stole a prized stallion I had.” Murdoch said as he stopped his horse. “ Johnny, Teresa is to be treated like a sister to you and nothing more. Is that understood?”

“ She’s not your kid?” Johnny asked.

“ She is, just not by blood. I don’t want you thinking of her like those saloon girls you’re used to frolicking with.” Murdoch said firmly.

Johnny glared at his father a few seconds. “ I’m going to tell you something you might want to keep in mind old man. Nobody threatens me, and I never was one for taking orders.”

Scott couldn’t help but smile. He admired that his little brother was standing up to the man most men dared to disobey.

Teresa came running out of the house a few minutes later as the Lancer men rode into the yard. Frank, and Walt came over to take their horses.

“ Welcome home sir…Scott. We’ll take your horses.” Frank said.

“ Frank….Walt, this is my little brother Johnny.” Scott said as he dismounted and handed him the reins.

“ Johnny, welcome home.” Frank said. “ That’s a fine looking stallion. Can I take him for you?”

“ Yeah sure. Not to much grain, and watch him, he’s a water hog.” Johnny said as he handed the reins to him.

“ I missed you two so much.” Teresa said as she hugged Murdoch.

“ I missed you as well sweetheart.” Murdoch said. “ Teresa…..”

“ Scott, you better give me a hug.” she said as she ran over to him.

“ Teresa, this is Johnny.” Murdoch said.

“ Pleased to meet you Johnny. Are you a new hand?” she asked.

“ No…..he’s my Johnny.” he said.

Teresa walked over and looked into the bluest eyes she had ever seen. “ You found him!” she said as she gave him a hug. “ Oh Johnny, it is so good to finally have you home. I wish I would have known Murdoch, I would have prepared a big welcome home celebration feast.”

“ Maybe tomorrow night. It’s been a long journey, and we are sore and tired. Scott, why don’t you show John his room, and where he can clean up?” Murdoch suggested.

JML

Johnny came downstairs to find his father sitting at the head of a huge table. Four big high-backed chairs were on each side and one at each end of the massive table.  “ Why don’t you have a seat here.” Murdoch suggested as he indicated an empty chair on his right between him and Teresa.

 Scott sat across from him and smiled. He could tell by watching his brother when he sat down, never in his life had he used anything more than a plate and fork.

“ Why so many glasses?” Johnny asked.

“ One is for water, one for milk if you like, a wine glass because we always have a little wine with supper, and this little one is for our after-dinner brandy.” Scott explained.

“ The small fork is for eating your salad with Johnny.” Teresa said.

“ Don’t care for rabbit food much.” Johnny said as he gave her a smile.

“ Don’t care for, or never had son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Not a lot of vegetables grown in Mexico. Mostly beans and tortillas. Milk was usually goat or sheep’s milk.” Johnny said. “ As for wine, I don’t fancy drinking grapes people stomped on with their bare feet. I prefer tequila or whiskey.”

“ I have a sideboard over there with some fine brandy, whiskey, scotch, and tequila.” Murdoch said.

“ You always eat like this?” he asked.

“ Is something wrong?” Teresa asked.

“ No, just never seen so much food put down at one setting is all.” he said.

“ Supper is getting cold, lets eat.” Murdoch said.

“ Murdoch likes to eat breakfast and supper at six o’clock sharp.” Teresa said as she passed him the potatoes. “ Is there a certain meal you like more than others Johnny?”

“ Mostly spicy Mexican food, but this looks really good Teresa. Thank you.” he said as he spooned some potatoes on his plate. “ How come so early for breakfast?”

“ You will find the days work starts at seven around here son. We eat breakfast, then I go assign the days work to the hands.” Murdoch explained. “ It will take you time to adjust.

“ So I’m just a hired hand to you?” Johnny asked.

“ I pay a dollar a day and  I expect a fare days work from you just like every other man who works on this ranch.” he said.

“ Mending fences and clearing streams is the most work to be done brother.” Scott said. “ We just delivered three hundred head of three year old steers to Fort Bowie. We have branding to start soon, as well as castrating.”

“ I have line shacks up at Top Mesa, North Mesa, Cedar Canyon, and South Mesa. I keep them fully stocked with supplies year around for the workers. We have corrals for branding at North and South Mesa shacks.” Murdoch explained.

“ Each shack can house eight hands. Cedar Canyon and Top Mesa only two hands can stay at them. They are there mainly to provide needed shelter should a storm blow in suddenly.” Scott said.

“ So where did you go to school at Johnny?” Teresa asked.

“ Didn’t get much schooling. I can read, write, and do some math. The orphanage I was in after mamma died. They were more interested in beating me to teach me lessons.” Johnny said.

“ I know growing up in Mexico wasn’t easy for you son, and I’m sorry you had to.” Murdoch said. “ Can I ask you to tell me about your mother?”

“ I already told you that day. There’s nothing else to tell.” Johnny responded sharply.

“ Did she get sick Johnny?’” Teresa asked.

Johnny looked at his father then at Teresa. “ She was murdered.” he said as he stood up. “ Excuse me.”

“ I’m sorry Murdoch, I didn’t mean to make him angry. I didn’t know.” Teresa said.

“ I think all the questions could have waited until he was settled in.” Scott said as he stood up. “ You go drilling him about his past and he’s going to shut down and leave. Is that what you want?”

“ All I did was ask him about his mother.” Murdoch said.

“  Just like you drilled him on the ride home. Just like you practically threatened him about Teresa earlier.” Scott said. “ You have to remember, Johnny has been on his own since he was ten years old. He’s had nobody to raise him, teach him, or more importantly, he’s had nobody to love and care about him.” he said before walking out.

“ Is Johnny going to stay here?” Teresa asked.

“ I don’t know sweetheart. He said he would give it a year.” he said.

JML

“ Looking for a man. Maybe you’ve seen him?  We heard he was laid up here from being shot up.” Ned asked Max.

“ Ain’t nobody here who’s been shot up. We run a nice quiet town mister.” Max said.

“ Not what I said.” Steve said.

“ Mister, you better tell us where we can find Johnny Madrid, or I’m going to bust this hand of yours up!” Sparks said as he grabbed Max’s right hand.

“ I told you, ain’t nobody…….Oh my god……..stop!” Max pleaded as Sparks broke two of his fingers.

“ Next will be your wrist, and then your arm if you don’t tell us where we can……” Sparks said.

“ I don’t know where……….Please stop!” Max pleaded.

“ Where?” he demanded again.

“ Mister please…..I swear I don’t know where he went. He left here with two men four months ago.” Max responded.

“ Where did he go with these two men?” he demanded.

“ I don’t know where they went.” he said.

“ Do you know their names?” Steve asked.

“ Please stop mister…..I’m begging you.” Max pleaded right before his hand was shoved backwards, breaking his wrist bones. “ Lancer. I think their last name was Lancer!”

JML

Johnny came into the house four months later muddy and bleeding from a cut on his left temple. Walking over to the sideboard he poured a shot of tequila and downed it.

“ What happened to you?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny turned around to face him. “ The next damn cow that tries to gore me when all I’m doing it trying to free her damn calf….I swear I will put a bullet right between her eyes.”

“ Johnny….you’re bleeding.” Teresa said as she jumped up, and hurried over to him.

“ It’s just a scratch querida.” he said.

“ That’s more than a scratch Johnny. That’s going to need stitches. Come with me into the kitchen so I can clean it up.” Teresa ordered.

“ I’ll send someone to get Sam.” Murdoch said. “ Teresa, leave it. Johnny, go upstairs and get cleaned up before Sam gets here.”

“ But Murdoch, it’s full of mud.” she said.

“ Exactly. The mud is keeping it from bleeding. Go on upstairs son. I’ll be up in a minute to help you.” Murdoch said before heading outside.

“ Thanks anyway Teresa. Sorry about my language.” Johnny said before giving her a kiss on the cheek and then bounding upstairs.

                                                                                      Chapter 3

“ Alright Murdoch, which one of your hands got in a fight with a steer and needs stitched up.” Sam said as he walked into the house.

“ Johnny did.” Murdoch said. “ He was getting a calf free when the mother attacked him, put a good gash in his temple.”

“ You know, I still can’t believe you found that boy.” Sam said.

“ Sometimes I can’t believe it either Sam. He’s been home four months now, and I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet he’s home.”

“ He up in his room?” he asked.

“ Yes. I had him leave the mud in the wound. It’s deep and the mud was keeping it from bleeding. Teresa wrapped it up so he could take a bath and get the mud off him before you got here.”

“ Mud can work as a good poultice.” Sam said as he headed upstairs.

“ You have soft hands querida.” Johnny said.

“ I thought girls were supposed to have soft hands Johnny.” Teresa said with a smile.

“ They are……and soft skin too.” he said. “ How old are you?”

“ I was born two years after you on December first.” she said. “ In fact, everyone in this house’s birthday is in December. Murdoch’s is on the twenty eighth, Scott’s is on the nineteenth, and yours is on the twenty third. You were almost born on Christmas.”

“ And I delivered you young man.” Sam said as he walked into the room. “ Teresa, would you get me some fresh hot water and bandages please?”

“ I already have hot water on the stove. I’ll be right back.” she said before leaving.

Sam walked over and set his bag down on the table by the window. “ Okay young man. Let’s see what we have.”

“ I could have saved you a trip out here and cleaned and stitched it up myself doc.” Johnny said as Sam started removing the bandage.

“ Oh, are you a doctor?” Sam asked.

“ No, but I’ve stitched myself up before and dug bullets out of my body when there were no doc to be had.” Johnny said.

“ Those look fresh in your right arm. Someone shoot at you with buckshot?” Sam asked.

“ They did, but they won’t no more.” he said as a sharp pain hit him in the back and made him suck in his breath.

“ You alright?” Sam asked. When Johnny didn’t answer right away, Sam knew something was wrong more than the head wound.  “ I delivered you nineteen years ago in this very house.” Sam said as Teresa came in the room. “ Just set it on the table Teresa.”

“ Do you want me to stay and help you?” she asked as she set the hot water and bandages down.

“ No. I can manage.” Sam said.

“ Thanks Teresa.” Johnny said as she left the room.

“ Johnny. Did that cow get you anywhere else with her horns?” Sam asked as he started cleaning the wound out.

“ Not her horns. She hit me in the back with her head. Her horn got me when I turned.” Johnny said.

Sam put six stitches in the head wound.“ Take your shirt off. I want to see your back.” he ordered.

“ Look doc, you might as well know.” Johnny said as he removed his shirt. “ I was shot in the back last year. The bullet is still in there. I think it moved when she hit me.”

“ How do you know?” Sam asked as he sat down on the bed next to him.

“ Because my left arm and hand went numb for a couple minutes. It’s happened before, but not that bad, and not for that long.” Johnny explained.

“ Can I ask why you didn’t have it removed?” Sam asked as he started feeling around the wound. “ Let me know if this hurts.”

“ It did.” Johnny said. “ Weren’t no doctors to be had. At least none I could trust with my life.”

“ How about here?”

Johnny jerked away from Sam.

“ That bullet needs to come out John. If it stays in there much longer…….You could have another episode like today that won’t go away and you will have a permanent paralysis on your left side.”

“ Jesus doc. You’re just full of good news.” Johnny said. “ Can you do it?”

“ I can, but it’s a long, dangerous operation. I won’t know where the bullet is for sure until I cut you open. Healing will be long, and slow.” Sam responded. “ I take it you never told them!”

Johnny shook his head. “ So you’re saying that if I don’t get the bullet taken out I will end up paralyzed in my left arm?”

“ Yes, and it could affect your whole left side.” Sam said. “ Would you like me to tell them?”

“ When can you do it Sam?” Johnny asked.

“ I can come out first thing in the morning.”  Sam said as he washed his hands off. “ I don’t want you out of this bed young man. I’ll go tell them.”

Murdoch stood speechless as he tried to understand what Sam just told him.

“ Murdoch, I can see anger in your eyes. I need Johnny to stay calm, and not move around too much. That bullet is right next to his spine.” Sam said.

“ When will you operate Sam?” Teresa asked.

“ As soon as the sun is up. The more light I have, the better. I’ll go back to town and get some things I will need and be back out here by five.” Sam said. “ Just try not to upset him. I think he’s having a hard time accepting what I told him. I don’t want him coming down those stairs. I’ll do the operation right there in his bed so we don’t have to move him.. Murdoch, go easy on that boy. Even though he won’t say it, I have a strong feeling he is really scared right now.”

“ That makes two of us Sam.” he said as he walked Sam out to his buggy.

“ It’s just an observation, but I think he’s afraid you will be made at him over this. That boy up there is just like you Murdoch, all pride, and not one ounce of give.” Sam said.

“ His first night home I made a huge mistake trying to get him to talk about his mother. It’s made him be distant from me. I think tonight I will try and rectify that mistake with my son.”

“ Just keep that Scottish temper of yours in check. I’ll be back around five in the morning.” Sam said. “ He’s going to have a long recovery from this.”

“ Breakfast will be ready.” Teresa said as she walked out to join them. “ When will Scott be back from San Francisco?” Teresa asked.

“ Tomorrow afternoon.” he said.

“ I’m going to go see if he wants something to eat.” she said before heading back inside, and upstairs.

JML

( WARNING, SENSITIVE TALK )

“ Can I come in son?” Murdoch asked.

“  I was just sitting here thinking.” Johnny said softly as his fingers played with the curtain. “ My first night here….I…I was a little overwhelmed by everything. I mean it was all new to me. Hell I didn’t know what all those glasses or silverware were for. I’ve never ate a meal on anything fancy before. When you asked me about my mother…..I got…….I don’t know….scared I guess is the word.”

Murdoch walked over and sat down in the chair across from his son.

“ I guess I’m still overwhelmed. I mean if someone had told me six months ago that I would have what I always dreamed of having when growing up…I would have told them they were crazy. That a man like me doesn’t deserve a family, or to live a life like this. I still don’t think I do… All I ever thought about was being the best at what I do. It was the only thing that mattered to me. The better I got, the more people needed me. Even whores wanted me just because of my reputation. I’m not proud of who I am. I did what I had to do to survive Murdoch.”

“ And I’m glad you did son. Because if you hadn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting here with you right now.” Murdoch said.

“  My mother was protective of me at first. Then it seemed as I got older and her customers noticed I was a half-breed, she would get angry at me and not them. She allowed them to beat on me. Told me I was worthless, and that she should have drowned me when I was born. It got to were I would stay away most of the time, especially at night when the men came.” he explained. “I found this small cave up in the hills I would stay at just to stay away from her and the beatings. I found her the next morning after she was murdered. I knew who did it. He showed up before I left. I told mamma not to, but it only got me slapped by her, and beaten by him. When I walked into the shack, I knew something was wrong because the table and chairs were busted. I seen one of the table legs with blood on it. I picked it up and seen it had hair in the blood. I found mamma on the bed under a blanket. Her face was…….he had beaten her so bad, her head was split open, and I could see.” Johnny stopped, stood up, and walked over to pour a glass of water. Looking over at his father he could see tears running down his cheeks. “ I don’t like to talk about my past because it’s just that……my past. What’s done is done and nothing can change it.”

Murdoch ran his hands down his face to wipe away the tears. “ Son, I have a firm belief. I believe that every man deserves a chance t redemption.”

“ Two years later I found that sonofabitch in a cantina in Nogales. He didn’t remember me when I walked up to his table.” Johnny said with anger. “ I told him who I was, and why I was about to kill him. He stood up and tried to draw. I gave him his redemption when I shot him in his dick and stood there watching him bleed to death.”

“ My god.” Murdoch said softly.

“ Does it shame you knowing what I did?” Johnny asked.

“No son…It doesn’t.” his father said. “ I know you want to leave your past in the past son, but I have seventeen years I know nothing about except what the Pinkerton agent learned about you. Can I ask why you spent two years in a Mexican prison?”

“ Fighting for a lost cause. I was in the Mexican army trying to end the tyranny. To better things for the less fortunate.” Johnny said. “ Twenty of us were in this small village resting when about a hundred Rurales rode in. Me and three others were the only ones to survive. After about a month, they made examples of the other three by firing squad. Me…I was subjected to two years of being beaten, whipped.”

“ Can I ask how you got away from there?” Murdoch asked.

“ They let me go a few months after the war ended.” he said. “ I’m pretty tired. I think I’m going to turn in now.”

JML

Scott walked into the house to find his father sitting at his desk. “ Why is Sam here?”

“ I didn’t expect you back until this afternoon.” Murdoch said.

“ Grandfather had to return to Boston.” Scott said. “ What happened?”

“ It seems your brother was shot in the back last year, and the bullet was never removed.” he said as he stood up, and walked over to pour a cup of coffee. “ Yesterday he was getting a calf out of the mud when the mother charged him. She hit him in the back, and it caused the bullet to move.”

“ I heard him tell Sam he would have spells where his left arm and hand would suddenly go numb after a sharp pain.” Teresa said. “ It would only last a couple seconds, but yesterdays lasted longer.”

“ Sam said if he didn’t remove the bullet, Johnny would end up paralyzed in his left arm, and possibly his whole left side.” Murdoch added.

“ I guess I am going to have to remind my little brother he is no longer alone. That he has people who care about him now.” Scott said.

“ I expect you will have plenty of time to talk to him. Sam said he will be laid up for some time while he heals.” Murdoch said as Sam came downstairs.

“ Okay, I removed the bullet, and it looks good.” Sam said.

“ Will he be alright?” Scott asked.

“ I think he will. The hard part will be keeping him in bed. He will have to stay on his stomach for a day or two, and then we can move him to lay on his right side. I inserted a tube down his throat so we can get fluids in him.” Sam explained.

“ When will he wake up?” Murdoch asked.

“ Not for some time. I want him to stay as still as possible, so unbeknownst to him, I gave him more morphine to keep him out until tomorrow. I don’t want him tearing the stitches out.” he said.

“ You want some coffee, and something to eat Sam?” Teresa asked.

“ I would love a cup of coffee.” he said.

“ Can I go see him?” Scott asked.

 “ You can go sit with him. Maria was just cleaning up.”

JML

Scott walked into his brothers room as Maria was gathering up the bloody cloth’s. “  Tu hermano….estará bien. Él es fuerte.” Maria said. ( Your brother…he will be alright. He is strong.)

“ I hope so.” Scott said as he walked over and sat down in the chair.

Maria placed a hand on his left shoulder. “ Siéntate con él. Preguntó por ti mientras el doctor lo hacía dormir.” she said. ( Sit with him. He asked for you as the doctor made him go to sleep.)

“ I can’t lose him Maria.” Scott said.

“ Él estará bien.” she said before leaving the room.  ( He will be alright.)

“ Seems I can’t leave you alone for a week without you getting yourself hurt.” Scott said. “ Haven’t you figured out it’s not smart to pick a fight with a cow? They are nothing more than trouble tied up in a leather bag…..Listen, you have people who care about you now. I can understand it’s hard to trust someone given the life you’ve had, but that is not you now Johnny. You don’t have to live by your gun any longer. You have everything you deserve right here for the res of your life. Stop trying to go it alone, because you are not alone……Not anymore.”

Murdoch stood outside Johnny’s room listening to Scott talk to his brother. A smile on his face. Turning around, he walked back downstairs to let Scott be alone with his brother.

JML

“  How the hell we gonna find where Madrid is at Ned? California is a big state.” Steve asked.

“  Bartender said he left with two men named Lancer right? Well it just so happens there is a huge cattle spread in the San Joaquin valley called Lancer. It’s just outside a town called Morro Coyo.” Ned said.

“ How the hell did you find that out?” Sparks asked.

“ That whore I was with last night. Seems she was from a town called Green River.” he said. “ We’ll find Madrid on that ranch or in town.”

“ That’s a good six hundred miles from Yuma.” Steve said.

“ I don’t care how far it is. I made a promise to my brother the day he was put in the ground that when I was old enough, I would find Madrid and kill him. If you want out just say so and we can part ways here.” Ned said firmly.

“ Hey, your brother was like a big brother to us. We’re with you Ned.” Sparks said.

JML

Murdoch walked out onto the veranda two months after Johnny’s surgery. “ You doing alright son?”

“ Yeah. Just soaking up some sun.” Johnny said.

“ I need to talk to you about something.” his father said. “ We need to drive a herd to the stock pens. We will be gone two weeks. What I would like to know is if you think you can run this ranch while me and your brother are gone?”

Johnny looked at his father. “ You want me to run this ranch for two weeks while you are gone?”

“ Yes. I think you can do it. Course it will mean keeping the books up, and I know you don’t like doing them.” his father said with a smile.

“ Yeah, I can do it. I mean, Sam released me for light work, and my back don’t feel up to any hard riding just yet.” Johnny responded. “ Frank and Walt can keep me up on what needs done.” he said.

“ Alright. There’s one more thing I want to discuss with you.” he said. “ I always let Maria have the two weeks off when we do this. Teresa will be going to stay with her friend Marcy. So it will be just you in the house.”

“ Murdoch, I’ll be fine. I’ve been alone nine years of my life remember? Look… there’s always a hand close by.” Johnny said.

“ Alright son. We will be leaving by weeks end.” Murdoch said.

Johnny walked into the kitchen to fix some supper. Four days ago his father and brother left with the herd. Every morning he gave the hands their assignments fort he day and took the progress reports in the evenings from Frank. He liked Frank, he was a good hard worker who told it straight, and made sure all the duties were completed at days end. He was also the only black man who worked at Lancer, not that it mattered any to Johnny. They were both around the same age. Last night he had supper with the hands in the bunkhouse , and played some poker. Tonight he figured he would eat something simple. Going down to the root cellar he cut a chunk of meet off the steer his father had butchered before they left. Dropping the meat in the skillet, he went to the front door and opened it.

“ What are you doing here?” Johnny asked.

“ Can I come in?” Loretta asked.

Johnny stepped aside to allow Loretta to enter. “ I’m cooking me so supper.” he said as he walked back to the kitchen.

“ You hungry?” he asked. “ I just put a big steak on and was just about to make some biscuits up.”

“ I haven’t eaten a thing all day.” she said. “ Let me do that.”

“ Nope, I got it all under control. So you going to tell me why you came here?” he asked.

“ I needed to see you again.” she said. “ I sold my ranch and went back to St. Louis for a couple months. I wasn’t happy there, so I decided to come out here.”

“ You could go anywhere, and you come here, why is that?” Johnny asked. “ Especially since you made it very clear you didn’t want to see me again.”

“ Johnny, what I said that day……..I was hurt and angry. I lost my sister and was……..I was losing you.” Loretta said.

“ I told you I can’t commit to a relationship.” Johnny said.

“ I’m not asking you to marry me.” she said.

“ Why did you come here.” he asked as he put the biscuits in the oven.

JML

“ What do we do now?” Sparks asked.

“ We’re going to ride out to that ranch in a few days and see if we can get hired on.” Ned said.

“ Hired on……..I thought we came here to kill Madrid, not work as cowhands!” Steve said.

“ We did, and we will. First I want to toy with him some. Have a little fun with him.” Ned said. “ I want you two to start cutting fences and spooking off any cattle you can.”

“ Cutting fences in daylight is risky business Ned. We’d be better doing that at night.” Sparks said.

“  Did I say anything about doing it in the daylight………Frank, sometimes I wonder if you have a damn brain. Cut the fences away from the house.” Ned said.

“ And Madrid, when do we go after him directly?” Steve asked.

“  We go after him when I say we do, and not before.” Ned said.

“ How?” Sparks asked. “ How you plan to do it?”

“ I’ll figure that out and when I do, I will shoot that sonofabitch down.” Ned spat.

JML

Loretta walked out the back door and seen Johnny sitting on the bench, looking up at the stars.“ You are a wonderful cook Johnny.” she said as she walked over to him. “ I don’t think I have ever had a steak that tasted so good.”

Johnny stood up and stepped closer to her. “  I’ve thought about you many times since leaving.”

Loretta smiled at him as she stepped closer. “ I can’t stop thinking about you Johnny.”

“ I can’t commit.” he said before gently kissing her lips.

Johnny woke up, and found himself alone in bed. Slipping his pants on, he went down the back stairs to the kitchen, expecting to find Loretta there. Instead he found a note on the table next to a dimly lit lamp.

Thank you for last night. You’re an incredible man in bed. There will never be a man who can come close to making me feel what you did last night. You are a man of many talents Johnny Madrid. Talents I will forever remember, and cherish.

Loretta

“ Johnny.” Frank said as he walked into the kitchen.

“ Frank, something wrong?” Johnny asked.

“ Someone cut all the fence along the south gully last night. We have at least fifty head stuck in the sand trap.” Frank said.

“ Damn…..Alright, Pull the men off the bridge detail and start pulling them out.” Johnny ordered.

“ Yes sir. Someone also ransacked the line-shack too and destroyed the lean-too and corral.” Frank said.

“ Damn. Any tracks?” he asked.

“ Two riders. They came across the Mendoza spread to ours and went out headed north.” he said.

“ Alright, Take whatever men you need to get the cattle out of that sand trap. Have Walt take six men to repair the fence. The line-shack will have to wait.” Johnny said.

 “ Are you alright?” Johnny said.

“ Yeah, couldn’t……was up late last night working on the books.” Johnny said as they walked into the grand room.

“ If I had a beautiful lady like her, I wouldn’t sleep much either.” Frank said with a smile. “ She left at sunrise. She told me to tell you to stay with your dream.”

JML

Ned, Sparks, and Steve rode into the Lancer yard.

“ Can I help you?” Johnny asked.

“ Looking for a job. We were told you might be hiring.” Ned said as he dismounted.

“ You ever work a ranch before?” Johnny asked as he looked the man over.

“ A little in Texas.” Ned said. “ Down along the border.”

Johnny didn’t like the looks of the men, and how he wore his gun. All his instincts were telling him these men was not a cowhands.

“ Can’t use you. We hire cowhands, and you ain’t a cowhand.”  Johnny said.

“ I told you I……..”

“ I know what you said.” Johnny said.

“ I guess we heard wrong about Lancer being a fare place to work for.” Ned said.

“ We are. We just don’t make it a habit of hiring trouble. Now if you don’t mind, I have work to do.” Johnny said. “ Walt, how many cows left in that sand trap?” Johnny asked.

“ We got them all out and the fence back up.” Walt said.

“  Okay, send a man out to take inventory on what will be needed to fix the line-shack so we can get started on that tomorrow.” Johnny ordered.

“ Already done. I put it in on your fathers desk.” he said.

“ Alright, I’ll take a look at it and probably send you into town to pick up what’s needed tomorrow.” he said.

“ Johnny….I just want to say, you’ve done a right good job running the ranch while your father is gone.” Walt said. “ Me and the boys…well we weren’t too sure about you at first, but we are now. You’re a good man, and a good boss.”

“ Thanks. You’re a good man too Walt.” Johnny said.

JML

“  You looking forward to being home tomorrow?” Murdoch asked.

“ I would be lying if I said I was not.” Scott said. “ I wonder how Johnny has been faring with being all alone in that big house at night.”

‘ I’m sure he’s doing fine son.” Murdoch said. “ He will probably be surprised we come home a day earlier than expected.”

“ With what we made selling to the fort and now here. We have made a pretty good profit this year.” Scott said.

“ Yes we have. I figured we could buy some new fall stock to strengthen the herd.” his father said.

“  Maybe a new bull or two also?” Scott asked.

“ Maybe.” he said. “ I know it’s five months away, but has your brother said anything to you about what he would like for Christmas?”

“ Johnny has been living out of his saddlebags for so many years, I don’t think he knows how to appreciate anything more than his gun and a good horse.” Scott responded.

“ Well hopefully the two of us can figure something out in the next five months.” Murdoch said.

JML

“  The fence is down up at black mesa.” Frank said.

“  Cut?” Johnny asked.

“ Yeah. Tracks show three riders this time.” he said.

“ Okay, saddle my horse. I want you  to ride with me.” Johnny said.

“ Isn’t your father and brother due back today?” Frank asked.

“ Yeah. I’ll be ready in ten minutes.” Johnny said before heading back inside.

JML

“ Man it’s sure good to be home.” Scott said as they rode into the yard and dismounted.

“ Yes it is son. I wonder where your brother is?” Murdoch said.

“ Welcome home Mister Lancer…Scott.” Walt said as he walked over to them.

“ Thanks. Where is Johnny?” Murdoch asked.

“ Out with Frank. We’ve been having someone cut fences at night. He’s out by black mesa now tracking them.” Walt said.

“ Saddle me a fresh horse Walt.” Scott said.

“ Son, I’m sue your brother can……”

“ Extra help never hurt.” Scott said .

“ Alright son. Be careful.”

JML

“ Drop it!” Johnny ordered.

Sparks spun around.

“ Don’t be stupid. Cutting fences is just jail time. Don’t make it any worse.” Johnny said. “ Toss your gun over here.”

“ Johnny, behind you!” Frank yelled.

Steve fired, his bullet hitting Johnny in his left forearm as he turned around to face Sparks.

Ned knew Steve and Sparks were dead. “Sonofabitch!” he said as he went to his horse, mounted up, and took off.

“ There’s one getting away.”  Frank said.

“ Let him go. We have these two.” Johnny said.

Frank walked over to Johnny. “ You’re not going after him?”

“ No.” Johnny said. “ They look familiar?”

Frank looked at the two dead bodies. “ They came to the ranch the other day looking for work.”

“ Yeah, and I’d be willing to bet the one who rode away is the third guy with them.” Johnny said.

“ Riders coming.” Frank said.

Johnny stood up. “ Hey brother, you’re back early. How’d you know where we were?”

“ Walt told us. Who are these two?” Scott asked.

“ Don’t know. These two and a third man showed up the other day asking for a job. That’s the first time I ever seen them.” Johnny said.

“ Johnny……you think maybe they’re responsible for cutting the fences?” Frank asked.

“ Could be. You and Carl take these two into Green River. Tell Gabe what happened, and that I’ll be in tomorrow to see him.” Johnny said.

JML

Murdoch came outside when both his sons rode into the yard. “ Glad to see you made it back son.”

“ Was just taking care of some ranch trouble.” Johnny said as he dismounted.

“ Walt told me what happened.”

“ They killed two of them before I got there.” Scott said. “ Frank, and Carl took the bodies to Green River.”

“ Let’s go inside.” Murdoch said.

“ There were three of them. They rode in here a couple days ago wanting a job.” Johnny aid as he went to the sideboard and poured a shot of tequila. “ I didn’t like the looks of them, so I told them we weren’t hiring.”

“ Walt said fences had been cut.” Murdoch said.

“ Yeah, about a week before they came here. I think it was done by the two me and Frank killed.” Johnny explained.

“ So there is one more still out there.” Scott said. “ With his companions dead, he will probably leave.”

“ He won’t. He’s here for me.” Johnny said.

“ How do you know that son?”

“ I know because of the way he looked at me, and how he wears his gun.” he said. “  I’ve seen it before.”

“ Johnny, your left arm.” Murdoch said.

“ It’s just a scratch.” Johnny said.

“ Young man, the last time you said it was just a scratch……..”

“ Yeah, don’t remind me.” Johnny said.

“ Let’s go in the kitchen.” Scott said.

JML

Johnny came downstairs the next morning to find Murdoch sitting at the kitchen table. “ Morning.”

“ Son. So how was it being here all alone for two weeks?” his father asked.

“ Okay. Frank and Walt did a good job keeping me apprised of what needed done. The men did good. I had the footbridge crew get the cattle out of the sand trap. Took them three days.” Johnny said as he poured a cup of coffee. “ Frank did an inventory of what’s needed to repair the north line-shack.”

“ North line-shack son?” Murdoch asked.

“  We’re not sure, but it was ransacked the first night fences were cut. They also destroyed the lean-too, and corrals.” Johnny said as he sat down.

“ And this?” Murdoch asked as he tossed the letter on the table. “ Would you care to explain this?”

Johnny sat back in his chair. “ Murdoch…..I.”

“ Isn’t she the young lady you worked for in Millville?” his father asked.

“ She is. Look Murdoch…..I didn’t know she was going to show up here. She spent the night, we made love, and she left the next morning.” Johnny said. “ I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to happen. At least not in your house.”

“ But it did.” he said.

“ And because it did, you will no longer trust me to be here alone and run the ranch?” Johnny asked.

“ What happened between you and this young lady has nothing to do with how you ran this ranch son.” Murdoch said. “ A problem came up and you handled it like a boss would. And for that I’m proud of you.”

“ You are?” he asked.

“ Yes I am.” Murdoch said as Scott came downstairs. “ I’m going to ride into Green River with you.”

“ Okay. I’m just going to tell Gabe what I told you yesterday.” Johnny said.

                                                                                        Chapter 4 ( final chapter )

“ And you never seen any of these men before that day they rode up asking for work?” Gabe asked.

“ No.” Johnny said.

“ Any luck finding out who they are Gabe?” Murdoch asked.

“ The one goes by the name of Sparks. The other one is Steve Long.” Gabe said. “ Both of them and  third man are wanted for cattle rustling down along the Texas, Mexico border.”

“ Who’s the third man?” Johnny asked.

“ Ned Christie.” Gabe said.

“ Christie…You sure about that last name?” Johnny asked.

“ I’ve got a dodger on him right here. Does the description fit?” Gabe said and asked as he handed him the poster.

“ You know him son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Not him.” Johnny said.

“ But you know the name?” Gabe asked.

Johnny sighed. “ Yeah….Five years ago I killed a Zachariah Christie during a bank robbery. Four men rode into Nogales, when it was all over, three of the robbers were dead as well as a woman, and three men.”

“ Wait…..I remember that robbery. It was all over the front page of the newspapers.” Gabe said. “ The sheriff was killed in that robbery too?”

“ Yeah.” Johnny said. “ I wasn’t going to get involved in it, but when they gunned down an innocent woman, and the sheriff, I wasn’t going to stand by and do nothing. Nobody in town would do anything, so I did.”

“ This Zachariah Christie, was he one of the innocent citizens killed son?” Murdoch asked.

“ No…..He was one of the robbers.” Johnny said.

“ If he was one of the robbers…..why is his son after you?” Gabe asked.

“ Maybe he doesn’t want to accept why his father was killed.” Murdoch said.

“ Okay…From what you told me, and what Frank said when he brought the bodies in yesterday……You’re good to go Johnny. Both killings were justified.” Gabe said. “ Do you want the reward on those two?”

“ I’m not in the habit of taking blood money.” Johnny said as he walked to the door.

“ That’s funny coming from a man like you.” Gabe said.

Johnny turned to face Gabe. “ Hiring my gun hand out isn’t the same sheriff, and you know it. Killing a man for the price on his head is something I have never done, and will never do. I killed those two because of what they did to Lancer property, and for trying to kill me and Frank. You go getting those two confused, then maybe you need to take off that badge.” Johnny said before leaving.

“ I never thought I would hear something like that come from you Gabe.” Murdoch said.

“ He’s a killer, and always will be Murdoch.” Gabe said. “ It’s just a matter of time before he kills on the wrong side of the law.”

“ He’s my son, and he came home to live the life he deserves.” Murdoch said as he opened the door to leave.

“ He may call himself Lancer now, but you know as well as I do, men like him never change. He will always be Johnny Madrid.” Gabe said as Murdoch closed the door.

“ He’s right you know.” Johnny said as his father walked up to him. “ I’ll always be Johnny Madrid.”

“ I don’t believe that son.” Murdoch said. “ I think a small part of you will be, but you were born Lancer.”

“ Born Lancer, but I didn’t grow up Lancer. I grew up as Madrid.” Johnny said before mounting his horse.

Murdoch mounted up. “ Let me ask you this son, and I don’t want an answer right away. I want you to think about it.” Murdoch said. “ Which are you more?” he asked before they started out of town.

JML

“ Scott…….you better come outside.” Frank said. “ Your fathers horse just straggled in without him.”

Scott hurried outside. “ He left with Johnny this morning.”

“ I can’t find anything wrong with him. Not a mark on him other than sweat from running back here from wherever.” Walt said.

“ Murdoch went with Johnny to Green River to talk to Gabe.” Scott said. “ I want you and Walt ready to ride in ten minutes.”

JML

Johnny stuffed his kerchief in his fathers shoulder wound. “ Don’t you die on me old man.”

“ I could have shot you down in town, but I knew you would be riding back this way, so I thought I would wait, and here you are!” he yelled before firing his rifle again.

Johnny shielded his father as shards of rock sprayed all over them.

“  Come on out Madrid!” Ned yelled. “ Come out or I’ll shoot you down where you are!”

Johnny knew he needed to get his father help, but could only pray his fathers horse went back to the ranch. Looking over at his stallion, his heart broke seeing the only loyal friend he ever had laying in the road.

“ Hey Madrid….you’re being awful quiet!” Ned yelled. “You unhappy I killed your old man. Now you know how I felt. Imagine my shock when I learned he was your old man while in town. Instead of calling you out, I decided I would let you feel the pain I did five years ago when you killed my paw. You gunned him down in Nogales for no reason.”

“ Your paw and three other men robbed the bank and killed the sheriff, and four innocent people. One of them a woman!” Johnny yelled.

“ You lying sonofabitch!” Ned yelled before he fired several shots at the rock Johnny was behind.

Johnny heard the sound of approaching horses.

“ This ain’t over Madrid!” Ned yelled before getting on his horse, and galloping off.

“ Johnny!” Scott yelled as he jumped from his horse.

“ Walt….Murdoch’s shot……Go get Sam!” Johnny ordered.

“ How bad is it?” Scott asked.

“ He was shot in the shoulder. Bullet passed clean thru.” Johnny said.

“ Are you alright?” Scott asked.

“Stay with him Scott.” Johnny said as he went to Scott’s horse, swung up in the saddle and took off.

“ Damn it Johnny don’t!” Scott yelled.

JML

“ How’s Mister Lancer?” Frank asked.

“ Sam said the bullet passed clean thru. He’ll be alright with rest.” Scott said. “ Any sign of my brother?”

“ None. Me and the men searched until it was too dark to see tracks.” Frank said.

“ Which way were the tracks headed when you lost them?” Scott asked.

“ Southeast.” Frank responded. “ Want me to go with you?”

“ No. I have a feeling my brother is going to blame himself for Murdoch being shot, and not come back after he catches up with that man.” Scott said. “ My horse has a bar on his right hind shoe. I’ll be able to track him.”

“ I hope you find him and bring him back. Me and the men like Johnny. He’s a good person.” Frank said before walking away.

Scott turned and went back inside. “ Teresa, I need three days provisions packed.”

“ Where you going?’ Sam asked.

“ After my brother.” Scott said. “ I’ll leave at first light.”

“ Murdoch wants to see you.” Sam said.

Scott went upstairs to his fathers room. “ You should be resting sir.”

“ Where’s Johnny?” Murdoch asked.

“ He went after the man who shot you.” Scott said.

Murdoch told him what he had learned about the man while in town. “ Go after your brother….Bring him back here son.”

“ I was leaving at first light sir. I want you to do as Sam and Teresa say while I am gone.”

JML

Johnny drew his colt as he slowly walked up to within twenty feet of the man kneeling next to the fire. “ Stand up real slow.” he said as he cocked his colt.

“ I was wondering how long it would take you to catch up to me.” Ned said. “ How’s it feel having your old man shot dead like you did mine five years ago?”

“ Your father deserved to die.” Johnny said. “ Stand up real slow like and keep your hand away from that gun.”

Ned stood up real slow. “ You’re not taking me to the law.”

“ No I’m not.” Johnny said. “ You shot my father, and for that. I’m going to send you straight to hell.”

“ That’s what I thought.” Ned said as he spun around and fired.

Johnny fired hitting Ned in the right shoulder making him drop his gun as Ned’s bullet tore a crease along his right side. Cocking his colt, he stepped closer to him. “ I said I was going to send you to hell.” Johnny said before he pulled the trigger, hitting Ned in the gut.”

“ You sonofabitch!” Ned spat.

Johnny pulled the trigger again, putting another bullet in Ned’s gut.

“ Go ahead……kill me.” Ned pleaded.

Johnny walked over and picked up Ned’s pistol. “ I don’t think so.” he said as he tossed the gun away. “ I think I’ll watch you bleed to death.”

JML

“ Scott!” Johnny said softly.

“ I bought gave up on you boy.” Scott said as he went to his brothers side.

“ How long I been out?” Johnny asked as he tried to sit up.

“ Take it easy, take it easy.” Scott said. “ I found you yesterday afternoon.”

“ How’d you find me?” Johnny said as Scott helped him sit up.

“ My horse. He has a bar on his right rear shoe.” he responded as he poured some water in a cup. “ I cleaned, stitched, and redressed the wound.”

“ Thanks.” he said.

“ He’s going to be fine Johnny.” Scott said. “ Sam said the bullet went clean thru and didn’t do any damage.”

“ He send you after me?” Johnny asked.

“No…he didn’t send me.” he said.

“ So why’d you come….to get your horse back?” he asked.

“ No……I came to make sure my little brother doesn’t lose his way and comes back home.” he said.

“ I can’t Scott.” Johnny said as he stood up.

“ Would you care to explained to me why you can’t come home with me?” Scott asked.

“ I’d think that would be obvious.” Johnny said before walking away.

“ Not to me it isn’t little brother.” Scott said softly as he started fixing something to eat.

Johnny slowly walked back over to the fire. “ There coffee in that pot?”

“ There is.” Scott said as he poured him a cup and handed it to him.

“ Go home Scott.” Johnny said as he took the cup of coffee.

“ Not without you I won’t.” Scott said.

“ Go home….Go home before I get you shot.” he said.

“ You didn’t get Murdoch shot.”

“ Yes I did.” Johnny snapped back. “ It’s because of me he was almost killed. I told you both it would happen. That men would come looking for me. It’s not a game Scott. As long as Johnny Madrid is still alive, anyone around me is in danger…..Go home.”

“ I thought Johnny Madrid was a man of his word?” Scott asked. “ You told us you would give it one year. Was that a lie?”

“ You don’t understand…..”

“ Oh I get it little brother…….I understand you want to run scared. Something I never thought the infamous Johnny Madrid would ever do.” Scott said with sarcasm. “ Big bad Johnny can’t handle the fact that he has a family that loves him, and people who would gladly give their life to protect.”

“ Damn it Boston……..What if it had been you, Teresa, or Maria?”

“ It wasn’t……..Johnny, that man ambushed you and Murdoch.” he said.

“ He did it because I killed his father!” Johnny yelled.

“ Yes!…..But it wasn’t your fault. He chose to believe what he did instead of accepting the truth.” Scott snapped back. “Murdoch told me what happened five years ago. Look at all the lives you saved killing that man. Look at all the people you have saved being Johnny Madrid….But mainly….look at you and the man being Johnny Madrid has made you.”

“ What Madrid has made me is a cold-blooded killer brother……I caught up with Ned Christie, and I shot him twice in the gut. He begged me to end it, but all I did was stand there and watch that bastard bleed to death…..I did it because he shot Murdoch, and killed my horse.”

JML

Teresa walked into the grand room to find Murdoch sitting at his desk looking out the big window.

“ Scott will bring him back.” she said as she walked over to him.

“ I hope so sweetheart. I don’t want to lose him again.” he said.

“ He hasn’t been here a year. He told you he would give it a year.” she said.

“ He did, but in the time he’s been here I have learned that my son blames himself for anything that goes wrong.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ Me being shot by that man…..he’ll blame himself for it happening.”

“ No he won’t.” she said.

“ Teresa…he will…..He will because that man came here to kill him for killing his father in a bank robbery five years ago.” Murdoch said. “  I’m going to lose my son again, and I don’t think I can handle it.”

“ You’re not going to lose him.” she said. “ Now I want you to go back to bed and rest. Sam didn’t say you could get out of bed yet.”

“ I’m fine.” he said.

“ No you’re not. Now don’t argue with me. You need rest.” Teresa ordered. “ You are as stubborn as Johnny about staying in bed, and doing what Sam says.”

JML

“ You are not a cold-blooded killer.” Scott said with frustration. “ Look….you have two choices little brother. You can ride back with me the correct way, or……..I will kick your ass and tie you across the saddle….So what’s it going to be?”

Johnny glared at his brother. He could tell there would be no reasoning with him. “ You really are a stubborn sonofabitch brother.”

“ I am when I have to be.” Scott said. “ So are you going back with me?”

“ It’s a mistake……but I’ll go.” Johnny said.

“ Good choice. I’ll saddle the horses.” Scott said.

JML

“ Thank god.” Murdoch said as he watched both his sons ride into the yard.

“ Did Sam say you could be out of bed?” Scott asked as he dismounted.

“ He did.” Murdoch said as he looked at his youngest. He could tell by the way Johnny dismounted, he’d been shot.” How bad?”

“ It’s nothing.” Johnny said.

“ He has a deep crease along his right ribs.” Scott said. “ When I found him, he was passed out. I cleaned, and stitched the wound up.”

“ Sam is coming out today to check on Murdoch’s shoulder.” Teresa said as she walked over to Johnny and wrapped her arm around his left side. “ Lets get you inside.”

“ I was a little worried you wouldn’t find him and get him to come back.” Murdoch said as he watched his youngest walk inside with Teresa. “ How did you do it?’

“ I gave him no choice.” Scott said. “ I threatened to tie him across the saddle.”

“ Did he?” Murdoch asked.

“ Did he find him…..yes.” Scott responded. “ I can’t guarantee he will stay.”

“ He still has a couple months left of his one year agreement.” Murdoch said.

JML

“ Johnny……I need to speak to you.” Murdoch said as his youngest walked into the house.

“ Can it wait until tonight Murdoch?” Johnny asked.

“ No it can’t.” his father said. It had been three months since the trouble, and his youngest worked harder than ever every day since coming back with his brother.

Johnny sighed as he walked over to his father. “  I need to get back out……”

“Whatever you were doing can wait.” Murdoch said. “ Do you know what today is?”

“ Friday. Why?” he said.

“ You’ve been home one year today.” his father said as he opened the top drawer and took out a paper. “ What I have here is a contract. It offers you and Scott one third each of Lancer, but I call the tune.”

Johnny took the paper and read it as he walked over to the fireplace. “ You really want to do this?’ he asked as Scott and Teresa walked into the room.

“ Yes I do. Lancer is your birthright son.” Murdoch said as he walked over to him. “ What happened was not your fault, and I need you to understand that in no way do I blame you.”

“ Even though he came here gunning for me?” he asked.

“Any man who comes here to kill you has two choices. Choices you have no control over. Just like when you were called out. Ned Christie refused to accept what his father did. Coming after you was his wrong choice son, not yours.” Murdoch said.

“ You remember what you asked me when we were leaving Green River the day you were shot?” Johnny asked. “ I’ve been thinking about that a lot these last two months. That’s why I’ve been so quiet. Not wanting to go to town or anything. That’s all I ever wanted to be one time was Johnny Madrid, good at my trade. I did it because of the lies my mother told me about you. At first I thought it was important, but now………Now I know how wrong I was. I’m sorry you were shot Murdoch, but if you, Scott, Teresa, and anyone else on this ranch is willing to accept the risk that will come with me being here…..you have to know that as long as Johnny Madrid is alive, there will be someone come along and call me out.”

“ I guess you are Johnny Madrid. I guess a part of you always will be.” his father said.

“ You asked me which are you most.” he said.

“ Your answer?” Murdoch asked.

“ Well Murdoch you got a prodigal son if you still want one.” Johnny said.

“ I want that more than anything son.” Murdoch said.

 “ A son with a reputation.” Johnny added.

Finished
1 – 20 – 2022

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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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4 thoughts on “Reputation by Nancy Marie

  1. Não sei, temos o mesmo um ponto comum, sim Johnny é uma pessoa integra ele é o que é se aceita como tal e não se justifica, é um pistoleiro não anda contra a lei, sempre estuda suas probabilidades vê se as causas são justas antes de amarrar um contrato, amo “LANCER” desde de 2009 quando descobri as ” fanfiction” as tenho lido desde então e são todas muito boas todas dignas e realistas, parabéns continuem a eternizar nossos meninos numa época em que uma arma era proteção e sinônimo de justiça dentro da lei. Quando cada criança queria ser um herói e naquela época o herói não voava, não para bala no peito o herói sangrava e por vezes ate morria.

    Like

  2. Great story, I enjoy reading all the stories you have written. Right now I’m in the middle of a Nancy Marie marathon. Thanks for keeping us Lancer fans entertained 😆

    Like

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