Services Rendered by Nancy Marie

Word count 33,913

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I don’t own them, I’m just taking them out for a little adventure, and fun. Any and all characters from Lancer belong to their rightful owners at CBS, any other characters are the sole property of me, and may not be used without my permission.

This story will have an R-rating for mild adult content, language, and abuse. In the beginning there will be childhood flashbacks of abuse Johnny received the night his mother was killed, and at the orphanage that some might find disturbing.

Johnny Madrid Lancer
Murdoch Lancer
Scott Lancer
Teresa O’Brian
Sam Jenkins – Doctor

HOP Ranch, Pueblo, Colorado
HOP Livestock Company
Horse Creek Land and Cattle

Samuel A. Plumer – President
William Holmes – Vice President, and Superintendent
William T. Hurd – Secretary, and Treasurer

Toby Myers – Owner, Circle M Ranch
Pete Sanders – Owner, Double O Ranch
Cal Bennett – Foreman, Circle M Ranch
Ed Murphy – Foreman, Double O Ranch
Seth Johnson – Foreman, HOP Ranch
Bob Gray – Range Boss, Horse Creek Land and Cattle
Tom Burnham – Owner, Twin Creek Ranch

Joe Perry – Rustler, Double O hand
Keith Barnes – Rustler, Double O hand
Ken Sullivan – Rustler, Circle M hand
Ron Price – Rustler, Double O hand
James Brooks – Rustler
Tom Ward – Rustler

   JML

“ I tell ya, we can’t keep losing cattle, and horses like we are!” Toby Myers said.

“ You all know I was hit night before last. They made off with fifty head of cattle and ten horses.” Pete said.

“ Toby, we know the Circle M has been losing cattle more than the other ranches in the area.” William Holmes said.” Followed by you Pete, at the Double O, and Tom at Twin Creek.”

“ It has to be an inside job. They know where my sock is,and how many men are with them every time they hit. So far I’ve had two hands shot, and Pete, he’s had a man killed. We need to hire someone to stop this before I lose everything I have worked the better part of my adult life building.” Toby said.

“ We hired a man, someone who is the best at ending things like this.” Samuel Plumer said.

“ The man we hired is pricey, but comes highly recommended to handle this matter, and put an end to it.” William Hurd said.

“ Just who is this man you hired?” Pete asked.

“ Madrid!” Hurd responded.

“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter from Sonora, Mexico?” Toby asked.

“ You know him?” Samuel asked.

“ Just by reputation. He’s the best gunfighter west of the Mississippi. Isn’t a man around can beat him. He’s stopped a lot of range wars.” Toby responded.

“ When will this Madrid be here?” Pete asked.

“  Next month. In the meantime, I suggest you double the guards on your herds.” Holmes suggested.

“  And if it is an inside job?” Toby asked.

“ Only tell your foreman what your plans are. Let your ranch activity be on a need to know basis until Madrid gets here.” Hurd suggested.

  JML

Madrid walked out of the hotel in Socorro, New Mexico, and stepped down to his horse. Sliding his rifle in the scabbard, he secured his saddlebags, and started to mount up when he heard what he so hated to hear.

“ Johnny Madrid! ” Red Jackson asked as he stepped out into the street. “ We have unfinished business.”

Johnny stepped away from his horse, and faced the man standing fifty feet away. “ We have no unfinished business Red.”

“ That’s were you’re wrong. You see, you cost me a good job down in Texas, so I figure as long as you’re still breathing, I won’t be able to make any decent money.” Red said.

“  Turn around and walk away Red.” Johnny said.

“ I’ll walk away after I kill you.” Red responded.

Johnny knew Red was just as fast, if not faster than him, but he had an advantage Red didn’t have. Something he learned when he was younger, and the other kids at the orphanage would beat him up. He got to know when they would hit him from the pupil of their eyes. A split second before they would hit him, he seen their pupil would get bigger. Why he didn’t know, but it gave him a much needed advantage over every man foolish enough to call him out.

“  I got places to be Red, so if you want to dance, get on with it.” Johnny ordered.

“ The only place you be going Madrid, is hell.” Red said as he went for his gun.

Johnny seen what he was waiting for, drew, and fired his colt that vital split second before Red’s gun fired. Standing there with his gun still aimed at the man, he watched as Red slowly dropped to his knees, a red stain spreading across his chest.

“ I’ll see you in hell.” Red said as he fell forward dead.

Johnny looked around, and could see there were no other threats, so turning he went to his horse, mounted up, and rode out of Socorro, New Mexico, headed north.

JML

“ Finished with that stretch of fence along the north section.” Scott said as he walked into the grand room, over to the side table,and poured a drink.

“ A letter came for you son.” Murdoch said as he handed the letter to him. 

Scott took the letter. “ It’s from grandfather.” he said before downing his drink, and opening it. “ Any word from the Pinkerton’s about Johnny?” he asked.

“ No, nothing son.” Murdoch responded. For twenty  years now he had desperately searched for his youngest son. Twenty years ago he awoke one morning to find his second wife, Maria had left him in the middle of the night, taking his precious blue-eyed boy youngest son with her. 

“ It would seem grandfather will be in Denver, for two weeks.” Scott explained.

“ When will he be there?” Murdoch asked.

“ He says next month.” Scott responded.

“ Next month, that will put him there about the same time we will be down in Pueblo visiting my old friend William Holmes at the HOP ranch.”

“ I’ll ride to town tomorrow and send him a wire letting him know.” Scott said.

“ That’s fine son. I promised Teresa she could see Denver and do some shopping.” Murdoch said.” It’s been five years since you’ve seen him.”

 JML

Madrid made camp along a stream with plenty of lush green grass for his horse, and wood for a fire from a long ago dead cottonwood tree a beaver had cut down. Sitting back against his saddle, he looked up at the stars twinkling as the last rays of light disappeared on the horizon.

“ Soon old man. As soon as this job is over I’m coming for you, and when I do I’m going to send you straight to hell for what you did to my mother you gringo bastard.” he said as he watched a shooting star streak across the night sky as a coyote yapped in the distance. 

Twenty years ago his father had thrown him and his mother out of his house. For eight years he watched his mother be beaten and abused by men just to earn enough pesos so they could eat. At first as a young boy, he didn’t know what his mother was doing with the different men. She would stagger to the shanty with a man and order him outside, regardless of the weather conditions. Many times he would sleep in the straw bedding of a burro or in the hayloft of a livery stable just to stave off the cold, or stay dry from the rains. As he got older, Johnny learned what it was the men did to his mother, he would hear them grunting. Numerous times he had heard his mother begging the man to not hit her, that she would do whatever he wanted, and usually did. He’d seen his mother on her knees in front of the man, doing what she was to him something he vowed he would never make a woman do.

Johnny closed his eyes as images of his mother the last night he seen her mother alive came flooding back to him. Her screams echoing in his mind as a tear ran down his face. It was the early hours of dawn when he heard the fight. Heard his mother full of anger, pleading with the man, saying she didn’t steal his money, and to stop hitting her. He heard the sound of a slap, followed by a crashing sound. When he hurried into the room, he found his mother bloody, in a corner of the room as the man stood over her. He couldn’t see the knife in the mans hand as he jumped on his back and started pounding on him, begging him to stop hurting his mother. The man grabbed him, and seen his blue eyes, an evil look coming to his face as he threw the boy down onto the bed.

“ Hell whore, why didn’t you tell me you had a half-breed kid? Now I can have me some real fun.” the man had said as he started beating him.

When he regained consciousness, Johnny had found his mother covered in blood in the corner of the room, her eyes open,but lifeless from a broken neck. Johnny had made a promise that morning, a promise that he would find the swine who killed her, and he would make him pay with * his * life. Something that took him three years to finish once he got away from the orphanage for good. Numerous times he had run away, only to be brought back, beaten , and locked in a closet with no food, or water for days at a time. The other children beating on him, whenever they could because he was a half-breed. The padre, an older man, hated him like no other. Several times he would tell the other children to stay away from him, that he was the devils child spawned from a Mexican whore.

For three years his anger grew for the man responsible for killing his mother. Finally, just shy of his sixteenth birthday. He found the man in a saloon just across the border in Laredo. Walking in, wanting nothing but a bottle of tequila, and a whore for the night, Johnny couldn’t believe it when he seen the man sitting at a table, playing poker. Walking over, Johnny stood six feet away from one of the two men he vowed to kill.

“ You want something boy?” the man asked. “ I bet four bits.”

“  Your name before I kill you.” Johnny said with enough coldness to be a blizzard.

“ Go away boy, I got no time for you.” the man ordered.

“ Stand up!” Johnny ordered. 

The man sat back in his chair. It was then he noticed the cold blue eyes staring back at him. “ Do I know you?”

“ Six years ago you killed my mother you sonofabitch, and now I’m going to kill you.” Johnny responded.

Sitting there, the man remembered who he was looking at now. “ The whore’s half-breed.” he said as he looked at the gun on Madrid’s hip.

“ Your mother got what she deserved. She stole money from me.”

“ My mother never stole anything from you.” Johnny said. “ I’m going to ask you one last time, what’s your name?”

“ Ben Davis, is my name boy. What’s yours?” the man asked as he stood up.

“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid.” Johnny said with coldness.

The other three players stood up, and moved away from the table. The saloon becoming deathly quiet as the other customers watched and waited.

Johnny seen the mans face change as he recognized the name. For three years he had built a reputation as the fastest gunfighter along the border, and now he stood facing the main reason he strapped on a gun.

“ To hell you say.” Ben said as he went for his gun, but never cleared leather as a bullet slammed into his chest, knocking him back against the wall.

Johnny stood and watched the life leave Ben Davis’ eyes as he slid down the wall with a small red stain over his heart. That was four years ago. Now only twenty years old, with a reputation as the fastest, deadliest gunfighter, Johnny hired his gun hand out to the highest bidder, but never crossed the line. He always made sure he stayed on the right side of the law. This job, the one he was headed too, several ranchers were having both horses and cattle stolen. He knew there was only one way that many horses and cattle could disappear so fast. 

 Payment for this job wouldn’t be cheap. He decided since he would obviously be going up against several men, it would cost them twenty five dollars a day, with a thousand due upon completion of the job. A more than fare price he figured considering the odds would be stacked against him. Tossing out the remaining coffee in his cup, Johnny scooted down into his bedroll and tried to sleep.

  JML

“ Their getting smart. Sanders and a couple other ranchers had a meeting.” Joe Perry said.

“ Yeah, so did old man Myers.” Ken Sullivan added.

“ Word has it they hired someone to come here and stop the rustling.” Ron Price said. “ A gunfighter.”

“ Gunfighter……….are you sure?” Tom Ward asked.

“ That’s what I heard Myers tell his foreman Bennett. Said he didn’t know when he would show up though.” Price responded.

“ Don’t matter none. There’s six of us, and only one of him.” Perry said.

“ Maybe we should back off for a spell. Let things cool down some before we hit them again.” Ward suggested.

“ Don’t go turning all yellow on us now Ward. You’re in this just as much as the rest of us. It makes no difference who they hire.” Brooks said as he stood up, tossed his coffee, and went to his horse. “ Our buyer wants five hundred head of cattle,and another two hundred head of horses. He’s willing to pay a very good price, so lets not disappoint the man.”

“ Lets get these nags moving.” Barnes ordered.

  JML

“ I can’t believe how beautiful those mountains were Murdoch. I’ve never seen mountains so tall, and they still have snow on them.” Teresa said.

“ Those would be the rocky mountains. Some of those peaks are well over ten thousand feet up.” Scott said.

“ It’s hard to believe miners are up there panning for gold.” Murdoch said.

“ Gold, that high up?” she asked.

“ Yes. Just below the snowline. Some stay all year while others only stay until the snow gets too deep.” Murdoch explained.

“ That seems a bit foolish.” Teresa said. “ Risking your life for gold.”

“ Gold makes men do foolish things Teresa.” Scott said.

“ Are you excited about seeing your grandfather again?” she asked.

“ Yes I am, but a part of me cannot help but wonder why he is in Denver?” Scott responded.

“ I must admit, Denver is a long ways away from Boston. Maybe he’s making a business deal.” Murdoch suggested.

“ Denver was flooded out in 75 and again in 78, so it’s a relatively new city again.” Scott said.

“ If I remember correctly, they lost their newspaper, a Methodist church, City hall,and numerous offices, warehouses, and outbuildings to the flood. Eight people lost their lives, and an enormous number of livestock drowned. The damage estimate was approximately three hundred and fifty thousand dollars and left many people homeless.” Murdoch explained.

“  Denver!” the porter said. “ Pulling into Denver now folks.”

 JML

Johnny stopped his horse and listened. The echo of the canyon walls told him he wasn’t alone. His horse perked his ears forward, listening to the sound also as it got louder. Looking around he found a small cutout in the wall to his left, and reined his horse over to it just as a herd of horses came at him at a fast trot. Noticing seven riders with the herd. He noticed there were at least three different brands in the herd. Patting his horses neck to keep him calm as the herd trotted past.

“ Sorry mister. Didn’t expect there to be anyone riding in this canyon.” Perry said as he  reined his horse over closer to Johnny.

“ You lost mister?” Barnes asked as he rode up.

“ No, just riding thru.” Johnny responded. “ Good looking horse flesh.”

“ Yeah, moving them to summer grazing. Names Joe Perry, range boss for Horse Creek Land and Cattle.” 

Johnny watched the two men closely. He could tell by the way they were acting, something was off. “ Well, I guess I’ll be moving along now.”

Barnes reined his horse over to cut Johnny’s off. “ What business you got here mister?” he demanded.

“ Hey I’m just riding thru. I got no beef with you mister.” Johnny said.

“ Barnes, let him go.” Perry ordered. Sorry about that.”

“ Like I said mister, I’m just passing thru.” Johnny said.

“ Just make sure you keep on riding. Strangers ain’t welcome around here.” he said before spurring his horse, and galloping off down the canyon.

Johnny smiled. “ Right friendly bunch. I do believe I just found the rustlers boy.” he said as he patted his horses neck.

JML

Bob Gray galloped into the HOP ranch yard, and dismounted as William Holmes walked out of the house.

“ Where’s the other two, Hurds and Plumer?” Gray asked.

“ They went back to Detroit, to handle affairs there. Why, what’s wrong?” William said and asked.

“ I lost thirty head of horses last night. Two hands were shot.” Bob  responded. “ I want to know when Ma……… when he’s going to get here, and stop this? I can’t keep losing horses like I am.”

“ I don’t know when he will be here. He is coming.” Holmes responded. “ Look, as soon as I know he is here, I’ll send word to you, Sanders, and Myers.”

“ I’ll give you one week. He don’t show up by then, I’m taking matters into my own hands.” Bob said as he mounted up. “ I’m not going to keep losing horses and men over this. I’ll go to the army at Fort Bent.”

“ The army will tell you they can’t do anything Bob. They’re there to protect from Indians, not rustlers.” Holmes said.

“ I guess you forget I have a contract with the army. You got one week.” Bob said before turning his horse, and galloping off.

Holmes could understand the mans frustration. Whoever was behind the rustling, definitely  knew the area, and had to work for one of the ranches in the area. 

JML

“ Hello sir.” Scott said as he walked up to his grandfather, and shook his hand. “ It’s good to see you again sir.”

“ Scotty, I’m glad to see you still have your manners my boy.” Harlan said. “ Hello Murdoch, Miss Teresa. I have a Barouche waiting to take us to the hotel.”

“ I’ll get our luggage.” Scott said.

“ How long can you stay in Denver?” Harlan asked.

“ About a week. I have an old friend down in Pueblo, I had scheduled to visit.” Murdoch said.

“ Well, lets get you to the hotel and settled. Your room is already paid for. They serve very good food there.” Harlan said as he climbed in the Barouche. 

“ Wow, would you look at this room. It’s almost as big as the grand room back home.” Teresa said an hour later as they walked into the suite.

“ You will find the water closet off on the left. There’s running water available for a bath.” the hotel bellboy said. “ Shall I start the water for a bath for one of you?” he asked.

“ That won’t be necessary.” Scott said as he pulled out some money and tipped the young man. “ Thank you.”

“ Thank you sir. Enjoy your stay.” the porter said before leaving.

“ Oh my, the rooms are huge.” Teresa said as she walked into one of the bedrooms.

“ Well, I shall leave you to rest up. I’m sure you’re tired. Can I expect you to join me for dinner in the hotel restaurant, say eight o’clock?”

Harlan asked.

“ That sounds fine grandfather.” Scott responded.

 JML

“Rider coming Mister Holmes.” Seth Johnson, the foreman said.

Johnny rode up to the big ranch house and stopped his stallion. “ You William Holmes?” he asked.

“ I am. You must be Madrid?” he responded. “ Get down and come inside. Seth, send a rider to have Myers, Sanders, and Gray come here.”

“ I’d prefer if nobody outside you two know I’m here just yet.” Johnny said as he dismounted.

“ Alright. Seth, see to the mans horse.” Holmes ordered.

“ You the foreman here?” Johnny asked.

“ I am.” Seth said.

“ Leave him, I want to talk to you.” Johnny said.

“ I was expecting you sooner. I hired you a month ago.” Holmes said.

“ It’s a long ride from Mexico.” Johnny said as he looked around the room.

“ You come highly recommended. They say you’re the best in fact.” Holmes said.

“ That depends on what you want done, and how you want it done Mister Holmes.” Johnny responded.

“Me and my partners have spent a considerable amount of money on bringing in Hereford cattle. Bulls precisely from Canada.” William said. “ Drink?’

“ No thank you. Is that the bulls I rode past?’ Johnny asked.

“ It is. Every one of them is registered. Come all the way from Herefordshire, England. Bigger, fatter, more meat than what ranchers raise now. There is a group of men who have taken it upon themselves to start rustling cattle and horses from me and three other ranches. The Double O is owned by Pete Sanders. The Circle M is owned by Toby Myers, Twin Creek, owned by Tom Burnham, but he don’t run no stock, and then there’s Horse Creek Land and Cattle. They got hit the other day. Lost thirty head of prime horses.” Holmes explained.

“ What type of brand does Gray run?” Johnny asked.

“ The Rocking H.” Holmes responded. “ Why?”

“ I seen that thirty head in a canyon two days ago just south of the border. Six riders with them. The one said his name was Joe Perry, range boss for Horse Creek. Said they were moving the horses to summer grazing.” Johnny said. “ There was another man,  Barnes. Wasn’t to happy I was in that canyon.”

“ Are you absolutely sure about the names?’ Seth asked.

“ Mister, in my line of business I’m always sure. They were riding horses with the Double O brand on them.” Johnny responded.

“ Canyon south of the line. That would be Sugarite canyon. They can run the stock they steal across Johnson Mesa into Oklahoma and sell them.” Seth said.

“ You being the foreman, I bet you know every hand pretty good?” Johnny asked.

“ Most of my men have worked for me several years.” Holmes said.

“ You notice any who stay together pretty much with work, at chow, or when they go into town on Saturday nights?” Madrid asked.

“ Not here, but I’m sure the foremen at the other ranches have.” Seth said.

“ And why do you say not here?” he asked.

“ Because I have a feeling I know who they are now. You said the ones name was Joe Perry, and another one named Barnes. Every Saturday night you will find those two along with Ken Sullivan, and Ron price, both hands for the Circle M.” Seth responded.

“ Okay, that takes care of four of the six men I seen.” Johnny said.

“ Look, why don’t you show Madrid where he can bunk, and clean up.” Holmes suggested.

“ Alright Mister Holmes.” Seth said 

“  I want you to go about your daily business. Don’t change your routine just because I’m here.” Johnny said.

“ If Perry and Barnes seen you. They’re going to know something is up.” Seth said.

“ They ordered me to keep on riding. Said strangers weren’t welcome, but you see, I never was any good at following orders. As far as them seeing me, I’ll let them see me when I’m ready too.” Johnny said.

“ How much?” Holmes asked.

“ Twenty five dollars a day, and a thousand when the job is finished.” Johnny responded.

“ That’s a bit high.” Seth said.

“ You can always hire someone else, but I guarantee nobody else will get the job done.” Madrid said.

“ Alright, twenty five dollars a day, and another thousand when the job is done.” Holmes said. “Oh, Gray was here the other day. He said he’s ready to contact Fort Bent and see if the army will do anything.” Holmes said.

“ He’s a fool. The army doesn’t get involved with rustlers.” Madrid said.

                                                                                                    JML

“ So what brought you to Denver?” Murdoch asked.

“ A business opportunity. I guess you could say I am looking to expand my business west.” Harlan responded. “ More people are moving west, so that will mean more warehouses will be needed for storage. Especially now that the railway goes all the way to San Francisco.” 

“ Are you aware that Denver flooded out in 75 and again in 78?” Murdoch asked.

“ Yes. Eight people lost their lives in the last flooding. They lost many of their businesses, and warehouses. I have had a meeting with Horace Tabor, a  very wise and wealthy business man.”

“ Tabor, isn’t he the man who had the Tabor Grand Opera house built?” Teresa asked.

“ Why yes he is young lady. He has also helped fund the building of several other businesses and homes in town.” Harlan responded. “ Perhaps we could attend tonight’s show since you will be leaving soon?”

“ Oh could we Murdoch?” Teresa asked with enthusiasm. 

“  I attended one with Catherine once, I think I will pass on attending another.” Murdoch responded. “ You go with Scott and Harlan. I think I will retire to the room.”

“ Are you alright sir?” Scott asked.

“ I’m fine son. It’s just this young lady has about walked me out of my boots these past few days. You go and have a good time.” Murdoch responded as he stood up. “ You go and have a good time young lady.” he said before heading to the stairs.

“ Did I say something wrong?” Harlan asked.

“ No sir. He’s just got something on his mind.” Scott said.

“ Has there been any word on his other son, Johnny?” Harlan asked.

“ Nothing yet sir.” Scott responded.

“ It’s hard on him. When I sat with him when he was recovering from being shot, he would ask for her.” Teresa said.

“ I imagine the not knowing why she left him is as bad, if not worse than knowing where his youngest is?” Harlan asked.

“ At least with me he knew where I was, and that I was still alive.” Scott said.

“ He did, but he never came to see you in those twenty four years.” Harlan said.

Scott looked at Teresa. He knew what his grandfather just said was a lie. His father had told him how he came to see him on his fifth birthday, and how his grandfather had threatened to take him away where he would never see him again. Swallowing his anger, Scott decided it would be best to just let it go, for now.

“ Well, shall we?” Harlan asked as he stood up.

 Chapter 2

Johnny sat his horse just inside the treeline watching a small herd of cattle grazing along the Arkansas river. No hands could be seen anywhere near the herd. Had they gotten wind he was there to put a stop to the rustling, and bring the men responsible to justice by either the law, or his colt? The past week he rode over every inch of the HOP ranch, as well as the other three being hit, learning every wash, hill, or canyon on the land. The Double O land ran next to the Circle M. Making it easy to steal cattle or horses from one, and drive them onto the others land,and go southwest to the canyon he first encountered Perry and Barnes. Lightening flashed in the distance, as the rain started coming down as he turned his horse to head back to were he made camp in an area Seth said they didn’t use for grazing due to poor vegetation. 

“ I guess you don’t listen too well boy.” Perry said. “ I told you to keep riding. That we don’t like strangers around here.”

“ He’ll wish he’d listened.” Barnes said as he chambered a round into his rifle.

“ Don’t shoot him. Someone might here the shot and come investigating.” Perry ordered. “ Climb on down from that horse.”

Johnny dropped his reins and slowly climbed down as two more riders came out of the treeline.

“ Sullivan, get his gun.” Perry ordered. 

“ We’re gonna teach you what happens when you don’t listen boy.” Barnes said as he dismounted, and walked up to Johnny. 

                                                                                                  JML

“ There mighty fine looking bulls Samuel.” Murdoch said.

“ They better be for what they cost me and my business partners.” Holmes responded.

Murdoch turned and looked around the ranch. The main house structure consisted of both log and stones. A huge fireplace at each end to stave off the cold winter nights. Three barns with corrals and two with hay built of logs, a tack house, and bunk house, all built soundly to withstand the winds.

“ So how often do these business partners of yours come out here mister Holmes?” Scott asked.

“ About three times a year. Plumer is the president, Hurds is the secretary and treasurer.” Holmes responded.

“ And what is it you do?” Murdoch asked.

“ I’m vice president, and superintendent of this fine ranch.” Holmes said his foreman Seth walked up to them.

“ Mister Holmes, look.” Seth said as he pointed toward the gate.

“ That’s Johnny’s horse!”  he said as they started walking toward the horse walking in with it’s rider slumped over it’s neck.

“ One of your hands?” Murdoch asked.

“ What…….no. We’ve been having some rustling going on.” Holmes said as the horse walked up to them and stopped.

“ Looks like someone worked him over pretty good.” Scott said.

“ Who is he?” Murdoch asked.

“ Johnny Madrid.” Holmes responded as they got Johnny down, and carried him into the house. 

“ He may have some broken ribs.” Scott said.

“ What happened?” Teresa said as she hurried over to them.

“ Go in the kitchen and ask Martha to get hot water and bandages.” Holmes ordered as they placed Madrid on a bed, and started removing his shirt.

“ The amount of blood on his shirt, he has to be shot!” Murdoch said as they removed Johnny’s shirt. “ Oh my god.”

“ That’s going to need stitched up.” Holmes said.

“ Scott, keep Teresa out of here. I don’t want her seeing this.” Murdoch ordered.

                                                                                                JML

“ I can’t believe the scars on that boys body.” Holmes said.

“ You said that’s Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter. Why the devil is he clear up here in Colorado?” Murdoch asked.

“ I hired him. We have a group of rustlers hitting my ranch and three others. Me and my partners brought him here Murdoch. You seen my bulls. I can’t afford to have one of them stolen.” Holmes responded. “ Madrid comes highly recommended. He’s worth every dollar I’m paying him.”

“ Just what does a cold-blooded killer make doing what you hired him to do?” Scott asked.

“ He’s not a cold-blooded killer. I had him thoroughly checked out. He has never been wanted by the law. The only ones he is wanted by are the Rurales in Mexico.” Holmes said firmly. “ He found out who two of the rustlers are on his way here. Murdoch, you know a rancher can’t afford to lose stock. Bob Gray is the range boss for the Horse Creek Land and Cattle, he has a contract with the army to supply remounts for them. If he keeps losing horses, he’ll lose that contract. Toby Myers and Pete Sanders could lose their ranches if this isn’t stopped .”

“ It’s hard to believe someone so young could be a gunfighter.” Teresa said. “ He can’t be more than twenty or so.”

“ He’s twenty two. Grew up in Sonora, Mexico. Was in an orphanage for a spell after his mother was murdered when he was ten. At sixteen he found the man who killed her. Ever since he was sixteen he’s been known as Johnny Madrid down along the border. Men hunt him down, call him out and try to kill him.” Holmes said as he went to his desk and pulled out a thick file he had on Madrid. “ This is everything the Pinkerton’s could find out bout him. Trust me Murdoch, that boy laying in there is not a cold-blooded killer.” he said as he walked over and handed the file to Murdoch. “ The boy was abused in the orphanage by the padre and other kids. He’s been beaten, stabbed, shot, cut with a knife, whipped, and god knows what else has been done to him.”

Murdoch took the file and opened it. “ I’ve been below the border. It’s rough for anyone trying to survive down there.” he said as he started reading.

“ Yeah, and worse for a half-breed kid with blue eyes.” Holmes added.

“ A what?” Scott asked.

“ A half-breed. His mother was Mexican, and his father a gringo. Below the border that’s rough, especially for a ten year old.” Holmes explained.

“ Oh my ………..” Murdoch said.

“ What’s wrong?” Teresa asked.

“ Your Pinkerton man, is he absolutely sure about what’s in this file?” Murdoch asked.

“ Yes, why?” Holmes asked.

“ Scott, take a look at who he says the name of the mother is.” Murdoch said as he handed the paper to Scott.

“ It can’t be. There has to be a mistake sir.” Scott said. “ That can’t be………”

“ Would one of you mind explaining to me what is going on?” Holmes asked.

“ His mother………..Maria De La Vega.” Murdoch said.

“ Yes, do you know her?” Holmes asked.

“ Know her. She was my second wife. The one who left in the middle of the night, and took my youngest son with her.” Murdoch said.

“ Murdoch, are you saying that that boy laying in there is your missing son you told me about?” he asked.

“ He can’t be my brother.” Scott said.

“ There’s one sure way of knowing for sure if he is.” Murdoch said. “ My Johnny had a birthmark on his right hip that looks like a heart.”

 JML

“ His horse must have carried him off.” Barnes said.

“ As bad as we beat him?” Sullivan asked.

“ He might have been able to get on his horse.” Perry suggested.

“ Maybe a grizzly found him, and dragged his sorry carcass away.” Price suggested.

“ Should have just killed the sonofabitch and been done with it.” Barnes said.

“ He’s hold up somewhere healing. He’ll come out of hiding, and when he does, he will be killed.” Perry said. “ Lets go get those heifers we seen. They’ll fetch a nice price.”

JML

“ Well, I was wondering when you were going to open them eyes.” Holmes said.

“ How……”

“ Your horse brought you in here two days ago.” Holmes said as he poured some water. “ Here, drink this.”

Johnny welcomed the cool feel of the water on his dry throat. “ Thanks.”

“ You feel like telling me what happened?” he asked.

Johnny tried to sit up.

“ Here, let me help you.” Holmes said as he placed pillows behind Johnny, and helped him sit up. “ Your ribs are pretty bruised up. I don’t think they’re broke though.”

“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he waited for the pain to ease. “ I was watching some heifers down by the Arkansas river. When the storm got closer, I started back to camp, and had just crossed the meadow when they came out of the treeline.”

“ Who?” he asked.

“ Perry, Barnes, and a man named Sullivan. I didn’t get the names of the other three with them.” Johnny said as the bedroom door opened.

“ I thought I heard voices.” Murdoch said as he stepped into the room. Looking into the piercing blue eyes, he knew without a doubt he was looking at his long lost son Johnny lancer.

“ Who are you?” Johnny asked.

“ I’m……….”

“ Why don’t you wait out in the other room? I’ll be out in a few minutes.” Holmes cut in and said.

Murdoch looked at the man, and then back at Johnny. “ I’m glad to see you awake, and that you’re going to be okay young man.” he said before turning, and leaving the room.

“ Who was that?” Johnny asked again.

“ An old, dear friend who’s come to visit me with his son and a young lady who is his ward.” Holmes responded. He didn’t feel now was the time for Johnny to learn who Murdoch was. “ I’ll have Martha fix you something to eat that will be easy on your stomach.”

“ Listen, I need you to keep quiet about knowing who three of them are.” Johnny requested. “ You know who those men are don’t you?” he asked.

“ Alright. It will stay between you and me for now.” Holmes responded. “ I know, and I have to say, I never expected them to be the ones responsible.” Holmes said before walking out of the room, and closing the door.

“ You mind telling me why you had me leave the room?” Murdoch demanded when Holmes walked into the living room.

“ He’s been thru enough right now Murdoch. He doesn’t need to learn your his father until he’s stronger.” Holmes responded. “ He’s going to be bed ridden for at least a week because of those stitches, and he won’t be able to ride again for at least three weeks. That’s plenty of time to tell him. Now if you will excuse me, I need to have Martha prepare him something to eat.”

“ I still can’t believe that is my little brother laying in that room.” Scott said.

“ Why?” Teresa asked. 

“ Why, I would think the answer to that would be obvious Teresa.” Scott responded.

“ Is it because he’s Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter, or are you surprised he’s even still alive?” she asked.

“ Teresa, I have always wanted to find my brother alive and well, and yes it bothers me who he is, or I should say, who he has become.” Scott responded.

“ Alright you two. Teresa, me and Scott are just in shock is all. I have searched for Johnny for twenty years now. Every letter from the Pinkerton’s I expected to tell me he was found, but dead. That fear I have had until two days ago.” Murdoch said.

“ I know that Murdoch. It just seems like the two of you want to condemn Johnny, based on those Pinkerton reports before either of you get a chance to know him.” Teresa said. 

                                                                                                JML

Johnny opened the bedroom door and stepped out into the hallway. He could hear voices coming from the living room. Slowly he began walking toward the voices.

“ I understand your frustration Bob.” Holmes said.

“ No you don’t. I’m a small time rancher. I can’t wait around for your man to heal up, just so they can kill him next time.” Gray responded. “ I wrote to the army at Fort Bent.”

“ I can tell you what they will say.” Johnny said as he walked into the room.

“ You shouldn’t be out of bed yet Johnny.” Holmes said.

“ I’m fine.” Johnny said. “ I take it you’re Bob Gray, the owner of Horse Creek Land and Cattle?”

“ You must be Madrid. You mind telling me how the hell they got to you? I thought you were supposed to be the best?” he asked sarcastically.

“ Mister, since you’re not the one paying me, I don’t believe I have to explain a damn thing to you.” Johnny said as he stepped closer to Toby.

Murdoch stepped closer to them. “ I think you both should calm down.”

Johnny looked at Murdoch, and then Scott. “ And just who the hell do you think you are?”

Holmes stepped over between them. “ Toby, I think you better leave now. You’re bringing the army into this wasn’t necessary. It’s a private matter for the local law to handle.”

“ The local law won’t do anything, and you know it.” Toby spat before heading to the door. “ I’ll say this one time. I’m giving my men orders to shoot any man dead who don’t work for the Circle M  ranch. Those they happen to capture alive, I will personally string up from the tallest tree I can find.” he added before storming out, and slamming the door.

“ He’s usually a rational man. I’m sorry Johnny.” Holmes said.

“ Sometimes being rational only makes things worse.” Johnny said.

“ Listen, I need you to sit down.” Holmes ordered. “ I have something I need to tell you.” 

“ Teresa, why don’t you go see if you can help Martha prepare lunch while the four of us talk?” Holmes asked.

“ I have a right to………….”

“ Teresa……….do as you’re told young lady.” Murdoch ordered.

Johnny sat down and watched the young girl storm from the room. “ Just who the hell are you mister?”

“ Johnny, I need you to stay calm and listen to what I have to say. Can you do that for me please?” Holmes asked.

“ I am calm. I just don’t like surprises.” he said.

“ I had you checked out by the Pinkerton’s before I hired you. I needed to know who it was I was hiring. They sent me this on you.” he said as he handed Johnny the file to read.

Johnny opened the file and glanced at it before closing it, and tossing it on the table. “ Yeah so?”

“ This man is a very old, dear friend of mine from California. His name is Murdoch Lancer.” Holmes said.

Johnny looked at the big man and then at the tall blonde standing next to him. Standing up, he walked over to the man he vowed to kill.

“ So you’re the sonofabitch who threw me and my mother out of your house twenty years ago.” Johnny spat. “ I swore that if I ever found you, I would kill you.”

“ I never threw you and your mother out. I awoke one morning and found her gone, you along with her.” Murdoch responded.

“ That ain’t the way I heard it.” Johnny said.

“ I don’t care what you heard., it’s past, bad or good, right or wrong, it’s past and gone.” Murdoch said sharply. “ I have searched for you for twenty years.”

“ It’s true Johnny, he has all the Pinkerton reports back at Lancer.” Scott said. “ He would receive a report every month.”

Johnny walked closer to Murdoch swung, and hit the big man as hard as he could, knocking him backwards.

“ That’s enough!” Scott yelled as he grabbed Johnny.

“ No. leave him be son. Let him go.” Murdoch ordered.

“ It’s obvious your mother told you lies about me, and for that……..I’m sorry.” Murdoch said.

“ You called him your son. Is that true?” Johnny asked with anger. “ Did you get thrown out also?”

“ Scott has only been back at ……………..”

“ I asked him old man………..not you.” Johnny said. “ He throw you out of his house too?”

“ No. as my father………our father just tried to explain to you. My mother died giving birth to me. I was raised by my grandfather in Boston.” Scott said. “ You need to learn manners, and how to show respect.” he added.

“ Oh I have manners Boston. As far as respect. You have to earn that from me. I don’t give respect to anyone who doesn’t earn it.” Johnny responded. “ So your mother died giving birth to you. I mean no disrespect, but how come your grandfather raised you and not him?”

“ It was my decision. There was a range war going on, and it was safer for him to not be at Lancer.” Murdoch said.

“ I’ve been in a few range wars. Never heard of one that lasted what twenty four, twenty five years. Seems to me old man, you like to bed beautiful women, get them with child, and then throw them out.” Johnny said.

“ Don’t you ever speak of Catherine or your mother in that way again. I did what I thought was right for Scott. I had no say in the matter with you because your mother stole you from me in the middle of the night.”

“ She ran off with another man.” Teresa said from across the room. “ He was some kind of gambler or something. She just packed up and left with him.”

Johnny walked over to her. “ Did he tell you that?”

“ No my father told me, and it’s true.” she said. “ If anybody was done a wrong Johnny, it was Murdoch Lancer. And there’s something else you out to know.

“ Alright!” Johnny said as he went to turn away from her, but was stopped when she grabbed his arm.

“ No, no listen. When your father wasn’t sure whether he would live or die,I sat with him, and he kept saying your mothers name Johnny. Asking for her. So if you want to hate him because he’s stubborn or wrong headed lots of the time, or proud, well there faults, but don’t hate him for your mother Johnny, because he loved her.” Teresa said with firmness.

Johnny glared at her a few seconds before turning and walking outside.

“ Give him some time. He has a lot to accept.” Murdoch said.

“ And if he doesn’t accept what he just learned sir, what then?” Scott asked.

“ We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Murdoch said.

“ Murdoch, I’m sorry I disobeyed you, but I had to tell him. He wasn’t believing you or Scott.” Teresa said.

“ It’s alright sweetheart. I think you’re the one who finally got thru to him.” Murdoch responded. “ Where are you going?”

“ Out to try and talk to my brother.” Scott responded as he headed for the door.

  JML

Johnny walked out to the barn and found his black stallion peacefully eating hay in the end stall. “ Hey boy.” he said softly as he walked into the stall. “ I owe you for bringing me back here. We finish this job buddy, we’re going back to Mexico. At least down there I know who I am.”

“ He’s a beautiful animal.” Scott said as he walked into the barn.

“ What do you want?” Johnny asked as he started to saddle the black.

“ I came to see if I could talk to my little brother.” Scott responded.

Johnny came out of the stall, and grabbed Scott by his shirt, shoving him back against a support beam. “ Don’t you call me brother just because we share that old mans blood. You mean nothing to me.”

“  So you won’t give me at least one hour of your time?” Scott asked.

“ Time is money Boston.” Johnny said as he went back to finish saddling his horse.

“ Have you got any plans?” Scott asked as he rubbed the blacks face.

“ Yeah, I got plans. I’m going back to Mexico when this job is over. Down there I know who I am.” Johnny said as he tightened the cinch.

“ So you’re just going to take off, and go back down were the Rurales will kill you?” Scott asked

“ That’s right.” Johnny said.

“ You’ll be dead before you’re thirty.” Scott said.

“ That comes to us all.” Johnny said. “ I’m not afraid of dying Boston. I expect it very time some damn fool calls me out.”

“But when you go, you won’t even leave a small ripple.” Scott said.

“ That it Boston, I mean the sermons over ain’t it?” Johnny asked as he led the black out of his stall.

“ What you have in that house is the only good thing that’s ever happened to you your whole life, and you’re going to just up and walk away from it, and all for nothing. But I guess that’s all you got going for you.” Scott responded. “ It was nice knowing you brother.” he said as he held out his hand.

“ How would you feel if the last twenty years of your life was all a lie?” Johnny asked.

“ I wouldn’t run away from it.” Scott said.

“ I’m not running away. I was hired to do a job, and I’m going to do it.”

“ Let me come with you. That way you have someone to watch your back for you.” Scott suggested.

“ Seth, saddle the eastern dandy here a good horse would ya?” Johnny asked as he led the black out of the barn, and toward the house.

                                                                                                  JML

“ Perry’s not going to be happy he finds out we are stealing these heifers without him.”  Ward said.

“ You think I give a rats ass what Perry thinks. He made himself the boss. Him, Barnes, and Sullivan have jobs. The three of us only have what we make from these cows. “ Brooks said.

“ Let’s get these cows moving to that box canyon we found so we can get them settled before dark.” Price suggested.

                                                                                                JML

Johnny stopped the black and dismounted slowly. Looking down at the ground, he found tracks from three riders pushing a small herd of cows. “ There’s three of them. About an hour ahead of us.” he said as he mounted up. “ Headed toward Purgatoire.”

“ Purgatoire?” Scott asked.

“ It’s a river that runs off the Arkansas river here. There’s a box canyon I stayed in on my way here. They might be headed there. There’s plenty of grass and water to last a week.” Johnny said as he reined the black to start following the tracks.

“ You think these three are part of the ones who beat you up?” Scott asked as they rode along.

“ If they are, it will be a day they won’t like.” Johnny responded. “ You ride pretty good for an eastern dandy.”

“ I was four years in the army. I served under General Phil Sheridan.” Scott responded.

“ Yeah, who’s he?” Johnny asked.

“ A very important man. I was his 1st  Lieutenant.” Scott said.

“ You say was. What happened, you get transferred?” he asked.

“ No, I was captured and spent a year in Libby prison.” Scott said.

“ I heard of that place, and it wasn’t nice things.” Johnny said as he stopped his horse. “ You any good with a rifle?”

“ I hit where I aim.” Scott said.

Johnny pulled his Henry rifle from the scabbard and handed it to Scott. “ I’m not one to trust easy Boston, so……”

“ Understood.” Scott said.

“ Follow this deer trail up on top. It’ll allow you to see the entrance to that box canyon I mentioned.” Johnny said before moving the black out again.

                                                                                                  JML

“ That will hold them.” Price said. “ Plenty of grass and water for a week.”

“ Yeah, I still think Perry will find out and be angry with us for cutting them out of this sale.” Ward said.

“ You worry to much. Get on your horse. We need to get back before dark.” Brooks said.

“ Hold it right there fellas!” Johnny yelled. “ You on the ground, drop that gun belt.” he ordered.

“ Show yourself mister!” Price ordered.

“ Yeah, show yourself. This is private property.” Brooks yelled.

“ I know who’s property it is. You boys are under arrest for rustling cows.” Madrid said. “ You on the ground. I’m not going to tell you again, drop that gun belt now, and step away from it!”

Ward slowly moved his left hand to unbuckle his gun belt, letting  it drop to the ground, and stepping away.

“ You on the buckskin, step down, and unbuckle your gun belt.” Johnny ordered.

“ Like hell I will.” Brooks said as he went for his gun, only to be knocked clean out of the saddle as a bullet slammed into his chest.

“ I’d do as he says.” Scott yelled from above.

Price looked at Brooks on the ground with a big hole in his chest. Climbing down, he slowly unbuckled his gun belt, and stepped away.

Johnny rode out from behind the rocks  and stopped the black. His pistol aimed at Price. “ You boys are under arrest for rustling cattle. I could shoot you both dead right here, or hang you for it, and save the good citizens the hassle and expense of a trial.”

“ I don’t want to swing from no rope.”Ward said.

“ Shut up!” Price ordered. ‘ I knew we should have killed you.”

“ You want to try now?” Johnny asked with coldness as Scott rode down to them, and dismounted.

“ Just who the hell are you?” Price demanded.

“ Hey Boston, why don’t you do the honors and tell this jackass who I am?” Johnny asked as he stood there.

“ Johnny Madrid.” Scott said.

“ Madrid, the gunfighter from Mexico?” Price asked with a sickly look on his face.

“ You still want to give me trouble?” Johnny asked.

“ No, look, if we tell you what you want to know, will you let us go?” Price asked.

“ Nope. I don’t know which one of you are responsible,but men have been killed by you fellas. About all I can do is tell the law you were real cooperative with us, and told us who else is rustling, and who the man is buying the stolen horses and cattle.” Johnny responded.

“ So we could still hang?” Ward asked.

“ Possibly.” Johnny said as he cut some rope to tie their hands behind their backs.” Get on that horse, and don’t try anything stupid.” he ordered.

                                                                                                JML

“ Mister Holmes, you better come out here sir.” Seth said.

Holmes came outside followed by Murdoch. “ I’ll be damn, looks like they got three of the rustlers.”

Murdoch couldn’t help but breath a sigh of relief seeing his oldest was still alive.

“ Are these three part of the ones rustling?” Holmes asked.

“ They are.” Johnny responded as he dismounted. “ Had an interesting talk with them on the way here.”

“ Seth lock them up in the shed. We’ll hang them at first light.” Holmes said.

“ Hang, Madrid, you said if we told you who else was in on it, and who the buyer was, we wouldn’t hang.” Ward pleaded.

“ That’s not his call to make. Stealing stock is a hanging offense in Colorado.” Holmes said.

“ Mister Holmes, they deserve a trial.” Johnny said.

“ Alright, did you two steal horses and cattle from the Double O ranch, or the Circle M ranch?” he demanded.

“ It wasn’t our idea mister. We had to go along with them others.” Price said.

“ And what about the Horse Creek Land and Cattle, were you forced to go along when you stole thirty head of horses and shot two men dead?” Holmes demanded.

“ Look, we…….” Price started as he was yanked from the saddle. “ You have to take us in.”

“ Madrid, stop them.” Ward pleaded as he was dragged from his horse.

Johnny glared at Holmes . “ If you want to know who is buying the stolen stock, and the others who are involved, you better think twice about lynching these men.” 

“ Are you threatening me Madrid?” Holmes demanded.

“ No sir. I’m just trying to keep you from making a big mistake is all. Shooting a man who is stealing stock, while he’s doing it is one thing, but hanging him  without a trial, that’s murder.” Johnny said.

“ He’s right Samuel. This isn’t the way.” Murdoch added.

“ You all heard me ask them if they were involved. I don’t know how they do things in California Murdoch, but out here, the ranchers are the law when the duly appointed sheriff won’t do anything.” Holmes said.

“ Let the army have them then.” Scott suggested. “ They have jurisdiction. They can have a trial and or be locked up in their stockade until a U.S. Marshal can come here from Denver.”

“ Mister Holmes, I know you’re not the kind of man who wants to lynch another man. If you were, you wouldn’t have had me checked out by the Pinkerton’s before you sent for me.” Johnny said.

“ You’re right. Seth see to it these men get fed and tomorrow I want them escorted to Bent’s Fort to be locked up until the Marshal can get here from Denver.” Holmes ordered. 

“ Yes sir.” Seth said as he led the two men to the shed.

“ Madrid, I want to see you.” Holmes ordered before heading inside.

 Chapter 3

“ I’m glad you’re okay son.” Murdoch said.

“ Why wouldn’t I be alright?” Scott asked. 

“ What happened out there?” he asked.

“ What happened was I backed up my brother when he needed it sir.” Scott responded before heading inside.

“ Let’s get one thing straight Madrid. I hired you, I’m the one paying you. Therefore you work for me. If you ever challenge my authority again, you can pack up and leave.” Holmes said. “ Is that understood?”

“ There’s something you need to keep in mind Mister Holmes, I never was very good at taking orders. You said nothing about lynching these men when I brought them in.  Now there are three men still out there, as well as the buyer and one other person.” Johnny said as he walked over and poured a drink, and downed it. “ Now either you do what we agreed to in the beginning, or I’ll ride out, and you will never know who those others are.”

“ You really are an arrogant sonofabitch, but you got the audacity of a full regiment.” Holmes said. “ You have my word those two won’t be harmed. Seth will see to it they get to Bent’s Fort.”

Johnny poured another shot, plus one for Holmes, and handed it to him. “ You might want to sit down.” he said as Scott and Murdoch walked into the room. “ How well do you know the Twin Creek ranch owner?”

“ Tom Burnham, not much. He’s only been here a couple years. Don’t run no stock. Pretty much keeps to himself. Why?” Holmes asked.

“ How many acres he own?” Johnny asked as he walked over to the fireplace.

“ I think it’s something like a hundred acres. Look, why all the questions about a man who has no cattle?” Holmes demanded.

“ Because he’s the one behind this.” Johnny responded.

“Those two tell you that?” Holmes demanded.

“ Ward did.” he said.

“ He’d say anything to try and save his miserable hide. There is no way the Twin Creek ranch is behind this.” he responded.

“ Look, Ward has nothing to gain from lying to me. Burnham is the one who sets up the sales and meeting places just across the line in Oklahoma.” Johnny said.

“ Mister Holmes, doesn’t your property run adjacent to the Twin Creek ranch?” Scott asked.

“ Yes in two stretches it does.” Holmes responded.

“ And how many cattle have been rustled close to his ranch?” Johnny asked.

Holmes sat back and shook his head. “  Of the two hundred head I’ve lost, all but about fifty have been near his spread. But that could just be a coincidence. It don’t mean he’s responsible for it.”

“ You said he runs no stock, so if he runs no stock, why do cattle tracks go from your property over to his at a section of fence-line that is actually a gate?” Johnny said. 

“ You said three of the men who beat you were Joe Perry, Keith Barnes, and Ken Sullivan. Perry and Barnes work for Pete Sanders at the Double O. Sullivan works for Toby at the Double M.. The three you brought in, I’ve never seen before.” Holmes said.

“ Ron Price, and Tom Ward. The dead man is James Brooks.” Johnny said.

“ Can I ask why you killed Brooks?” Murdoch asked.

“ Not that it’s any of your business old man, but he was stupid and went for his gun.” Johnny said as he walked over to him. “ I didn’t kill him, Boston did.”

“ Let’s get something straight right here, right now boy, You do not disrespect me by calling me an old man. Like it or not am your father, and nothing you can do will change that. You said respect has to be earned from you, well that goes two ways boy.” Murdoch said firmly. “ Now……….you can call me pa, father, or Murdoch, but if you ever call me old man again, I will teach you proper manners in addressing a person.”

Johnny couldn’t help but laugh. “ You know, you act worse than this kid I knew in the orphanage who got teased all the time about his name. If you think you’re gonna lay a hand on me……..think again.” Johnny said with coldness.

“ You don’t give at all do you sir? All pride and Johnny’s cut from the same mold. Not one inch of give.” Scott said.

“ Johnny, you said they told you who the buyer is.” Holmes cut in.

“ I did.” Johnny said as he continued to glare at Murdoch a few more seconds before turning to face his employer. “ Bob Gray, range foreman for the Horse Creek Land and Cattle company.”

“ That makes no sense. Just before you arrived he came here and said he lost thirty head of horses.” Holmes said.

“ Yeah, the thirty head I seen in that canyon.” Johnny responded. “ He has a contract with army to supply remounts. If he can’t, then he loses that contract.”

“ That makes no sense. Why would he have his own horses stolen and risk losing that contract?” he asked.

“ It makes sense if he was offered a better deal to supply horses for the miners. He’s being paid seventy five dollars a head by the army. He can make three times that amount from the miners per horse.” Johnny explained.

“ I just read in the Denver post that a new strike of silver was discovered in Leadville.” Murdoch added. “ That will mean more people coming to Colorado, and those people will need a means of transportation.”

“ I’ll kill him. That dirty sonofabitch won;t get away with this. He’s responsible for men dying.” Holmes said with anger. “ So Bob Gray and Tom Burnham are in this together.”

“ Yes sir. See, Ward and Price both said that the horses they’ve stolen so far have all been sold to a H.A.W. Tabor in Leadville. He’s….”

“ A very wealthy man.” Murdoch cut in. “ The opera house in Denver is named after him.”

“ As well as several businesses in Leadville.” Johnny added.

“ Where in Oklahoma do they meet with the buyer?” Holmes asked.

“ All they said was it was across the line.” Johnny said.

“ Sugarite canyon runs into Oklahoma. Tomorrow we’re going to take a ride and see if we can find out where.” Holmes said.

“ Why don’t we set him up?” Scott asked.

“ Set him up how?” Holmes asked. “ He’s going to know we have those two and the third one is dead.”

“ Don’t mean he’ll stop rustling.” Johnny said.

“ Alright, but what about Toby and Pete, do we let them know what’s developed?” he asked.

“ Send a man to  have them come here..” Johnny responded.

                                                                                               JML

“ Those three idiots got what they deserved.” Perry said.

“ Price and Ward are still alive. They’re taking them to Bent’s Fort to be locked up until a trial.” Sullivan said.

“ If they testify against us, then we will hang for sure for murder.” Barnes said.

“ We’d hang anyway. Stealing horses and cattle is a hanging offense in Colorado.” Price said.

“ So we’re gonna ride after them, and shoot them down?” Sullivan asked.

“ Unless you want them to testify, yeah, we are.” Price said as he headed to his horse, and mounted up.

“  Let me tell you something Sullivan, if you try and back out now, or go to the law, I will gut you from your dick to your throat.” Barnes said firmly as he mounted up.

                                                                                               JML

“ Four riders coming in.” Scott said.

“ That would be Toby, and Pete.” Holmes responded. ‘ Looks like they brought their foreman with them.”

“ How well you know them?” Johnny asked.

“ They’ve been with them from the time they started their ranches. You can trust them Johnny.” Holmes said as the men rode up.

“ You sent word you wanted to see us.” Toby said.

“ I did. You were told to come alone.” Johnny responded.

“ What’s this all about Holmes?” Pete asked as they dismounted.

“ Come inside and we’ll tell ya.” Holmes said.

Johnny watched the men as they walked into  the house.

“ Johnny, I would like you to meet Cal Bennett, foreman for the Circle M, and Ed Murphy, foreman for the Double O. Two real good men.” Holmes said.

“ Murphy? I’ve heard of you.” Johnny said as he looked at the gun hanging low on the mans hip.

“ And you’d be Johnny Madrid?” Murphy asked.

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

“ We do. I met Murphy eleven years ago in Pasquale.” Johnny responded.

“ You ever find the man you were hunting for?” Murphy asked.

“ Yeah, I found him, and I sent him straight to hell.” Johnny said as he walked over to the man. “ Been a long time.”

“ You’ve made a name for yourself kid. Quit a reputation from what I’ve heard.” Murphy responded as the two men embraced.

“ Would you two care to share with us how you know each other?” Holmes asked.

“  Nothing to tell.” Murphy responded. “ What you doing way up here in Colorado kid?”

“ He works for me. We now know who is responsible for the rustling, and killing.” Holmes said.

“ Who?” Toby asked.

“ I’ll let Johnny explain it to you.” Holmes said.

“ Who are these two?” Pete asked.

“ Friends of mine. Murdoch Lancer and his son Scott.” Holmes responded.

Johnny explained everything he knew and was told by Price and Ward. Who the remaining rustlers were. About Burnham, and who the main man behind it all is.

“ Tom Burnham doesn’t even run stock. How in the hell did he get mixed up with the likes of H.A.W. Tabor?” Pete Sanders asked.

“ That we don’t know.” Holmes said. “ Johnny thinks we should bait them to catch them.” 

“ Bait them?” Toby asked.

“You  meaning like in Pasquale?” Murphy asked.

“ Yeah.” Johnny responded. “ It worked there. I think it will work here too.”

                                                                                              JML

“ You want one of us to go down there and see if anyone is still alive?” Barnes asked.

“ What for? They’re dead.” Sullivan said.

“ All except the one you let get away.” Perry said as he stood up. ‘ Get your ass down there and make sure they’re dead.”

“ And if they ain’t, put a bullet in their head to make sure.” Barnes ordered.

Sullivan glared at Barnes. “ I’m getting tired of you ordering me around Barnes. You too Perry.” he said as he stood up. “ You go down there. I’m leaving.”

Perry watched Sullivan go to his horse and mount up. “ Somebody could have heard the hooting. I’m not sticking around.”

Barnes looked at Perry, then aimed his rifle, and shot Sullivan in the back as he rode away, spooking his horse, and causing him to fall to the ground dead.

“ Never was any good for anything but complaining.” Barnes said as he stood up, and walked to his horse. “ What do we do about the one who got away?”

“ Nothing we can do. He’s got to much of a head start on us. He won;t know who it was done the killing.” Perry responded. “ Let’s go have a talk with Burnham.”

                                                                                                  JML

“ Mister Holmes!” a hand yelled as Seth galloped into the yard.

Holmes came outside followed by everyone. “ What happened?”

“ Ambush, they’re all dead.” Seth said as he dismounted.

“ Ambushed, by who?” Toby demanded.

“ If I had to take a guess, I would say Perry, Sullivan,and Barnes.” Pete said.

“ How the hell did they know they were going to Bent’s Fort?” Toby demanded.

“ Somebody told them, or they figured that would be the safest place to hold them.” Johnny said. “ They didn’t want them to testify against them.”

“ Damn it! What the hell do we do now?” Pete asked.

“ Seth, have our horses saddled. We’re going after Burnham. I’m not playing around anymore. That sonofabitch is going to pay for this.” Holmes ordered.

“ Count me and Scott in on helping you.” Murdoch said.

“ Why, this don’t concern you old man?” Johnny demanded.

“ Johnny, we can use the extra guns.” Holmes said.

Johnny walked over to Murdoch. “ Just so you know who is running this show. Stay out of my way.” he said with coldness.

“ When this is all over, you and me are going to have a serious discussion about showing me respect.” Murdoch responded.

“ I may have your blood running thru my veins, but that don;t mean I have to like you.” Johnny said. “ Or respect you.” he added before heading outside.

“ You can tell he’s your son Murdoch.” Holmes said. “ He has your attitude.” he added before heading outside.

                                                                                              JML

“ What the hell are you two doing here?”  Burnham demanded.

“ They know about us.” Perry said.

“ What the hell you talking about?” Burnham asked.

“ The other three, Brooks, Price, and Ward, got caught trying to seal cattle on their own. Brooks was killed, and they caught Price and Ward.” Barnes responded.

“ Where’s Sullivan?” he asked.

“ Sullivan met an untimely death.” Barnes said. “ Just like Ward and Price.”

“ And you idiots came here! What the hell were you thinking?” Burnham demanded. 

Barnes pulled his pistol. “ I’d be real careful who you’re calling idiots Burnham. Remember, we can kill you just as easy as we killed Sullivan, Price, and Ward.”

“ Get off my land……….now!” he yelled.

“ Not before we get the money you owe us.”Perry said as he dismounted, and walked up to the man. “ Where is it?”

“ It’s not here.” Burnham said.

Perry grabbed him by his shirt, and yanked him to within inches of his face. “ You’re lying.”

“ It’s not here I tell ya.” he said.

Barnes aimed his pistol and fired, hitting the man in the left knee.

Perry let him fall to the ground screaming in agony. 

“ You sonofabitch!” Burnham yelled.

“ I’m going to ask you again, where’s the money you owe us?” Perry demanded.

“ I told you it’s not here.” he said.

Barnes cocked his pistol and fired, hitting Burnham in the other knee. “ I wonder how he’s gonna run this place with no legs?” he asked as he cocked the pistol again.

“ You better tell us or the next bullet will shatter your elbow.” Perry said.

“ Go to hell!” Burnham said.

Perry grabbed the mans left arm and held it out as Barnes walked over, place the end of the barrel against his elbow, and pulled the trigger.

“ One last time. Where’s our money?” Perry asked.

“ Alright……….alright……….I’ll tell you, but you have to promise not to kill me.” Burnham said.

“ Sure, we promise.” Perry said as he looked at Barnes.

“ Left side of the fireplace, there’s a loose rock. The money is behind it.” Burnham said.

“ You better not be lying.” Perry said before going inside.

“ You’re gonna help me right?” Burnham asked.

“ Got it. Nice amount of money here. Looks like over twenty thousand dollars.” Perry said as he came back outside.

“ There’s sixty five thousand there.” Burnham said. 

“ You know, he’s right.” Perry said.

“ Now help me, please.” he begged.

“ I hate beggars. Don’t you Barnes?” Perry asked.

“ Oh yeah.” Barnes responded as he went to his horse, and mounted up.

“ Let’s get out of here.” Perry said as he mounted up.

“ Beggars are weak.” Barnes said as he rode over to Burnham, and aimed his pistol at the man.

“ You promised me you would help me.” Burnham said.

“ I am. I’m helping you go to hell.” he said before pulling the trigger.

                                                                                                JML

“ Check around inside.”  Holmes said as he dismounted and went to Burnham’ body.

“ Oh my god. They tortured him.” Murdoch said.

“ There’s been a stone removed from the fireplace. They got  whatever it was they were after.” Scott said as he walked out of the house.

“ Most likely they were after the money from the stolen stock.” Seth said.

“ There were two of them. They headed east.” Johnny said.

“ Only two, there were three left.” Toby said.

“ I have a ranch to run. I can’t go chasing after them.” Pete said.

“ Me either.” Toby said

“ Madrid, go after them” Holmes ordered. “ Kill them, or bring them back alive, I don’t care.”

“ After what they did here, they won’t be coming back alive.” Johnny said.

“ Take Seth with you.” Holmes said.

“ Nope. He needs to stay and help you with the ranch. Only one I want going with me that I know I can trust is Boston.” Johnny responded. “ You up to it?” he asked.

“ Ready whenever you are brother.” Scott said.

“ Now see here. I’m not letting the two of you go after those two killers.” Murdoch said. “ I’m coming with you.”

“ You ain’t invited old man.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle.

“ I’m coming, and that’s final.” Murdoch said as he mounted up.

                                                                                                  JML

“ So where do we go?” Barnes asked.

“ Texas seems like a good enough place to go.”Perry responded.

“ Texas, why there?” he asked.

“ Because it’s  nice and big, and won’t be easy to find us.” Perry said.

“ You think anyone has found the body yet?”

“ Oh I imagine they’ve found him by now. They’re probably scratching their heads wondering what they’re gonna do now.” Perry responded.

“ And what if they come after us?” Barnes asked as they crossed the Arkansas river.

“ They ain’t coming after us. None of them will leave their ranch.” Perry said as they rode up the bank on the other side, and dismounted.

“ Madrid might. He was hired to stop the rustling remember? I’ve heard once he takes a job, he don;t stop till it’s finished.”

“ You sound like you’re afraid of him.” Perry said with a laugh. “ Let him come. Once we cross the border, there’s way too many canyons and such for him to track us. We keep riding , and we’ll be  in Amarillo, putting it to a couple good whores, and drinking whiskey.”

“ So what you plan on doing with your half of the money?” Barnes asked.

“ Let’s see, half of sixty five thousand………..that’s thirty two thousand five hundred each. That’s more money than I have ever seen in my lifetime.” Perry responded.

“ All that money can’t be from the cows and horses we rustled.” Barnes said.

“ It’s not. I think some of it is from his contract he had with the army to sell remounts. The rest, I have no idea where he got it from.” Perry said as he mounted up.

“ He squealed like a stuck pig though when I destroyed his kneecap.” Barnes said with a laugh.

“ Yeah, I figured after the first one he would tell us where the money was. Didn’t figure he would hold out thru both knees and an elbow.” Perry responded.

He asked us to help him, and I gotta say, sending him to hell was the best feeling I’ve had in a long time.” Barnes said as they headed southeast.

                                                                                               JML

Johnny, Scott, and Murdoch rode at a steady pace headed southeast as the mid-day sun beat down on them.  Angry the old man insisted on coming along.

“ You have an idea on where they are headed Johnny?” Scott asked.

Johnny slowed the black to a walk. “ Texas.”

“ Texas, that’s absurd.” Murdoch said.

Johnny stopped, and turned his horse to face Murdoch. “ Let me tell you something mister high and mighty Lancer, you invited yourself along, so as long as you are with us, keep your damn mouth shut. I know men like Perry and Barnes. They have a lot of money on them right now, and they’re just itching to spend some of it on whiskey and whores.”

“ Johnny.” Scott cut in. “ Why not go north, or even west to spend it?” he asked.

“ Because they’re probably known in those directions. They show up with that kind of money, people are gonna wonder. I don’t know of any man who doesn’t like to spend money on whiskey and whores. Amarillo has a place the law pretty much stays out of. Cutthroats and derelicts mostly go there.” Johnny responded as he continued to glare at Murdoch, just waiting for him to say the wrong thing. “ Men who like to bed a woman because he can’t control his lust.”

Murdoch had had enough. Dismounting, he went over and yanked Johnny off the black. “ I have had all I am going to take from you.” he said before hitting him hard in the mouth, knocking him to the ground. “ You are going to show me some respect or else.”

Johnny landed hard on his butt. Wiping the blood from his now split lip, he stood up, and pulled the colt. “ Nobody………..and I mean nobody touches me.” he said with deadly coldness as he brought the colt up to within inches of Murdoch’s face, and cocked it.

“ Go ahead and pull the trigger if you think that will solve all your problems.” Murdoch said. “ I can’t help that your mother lied to you about me. For that I’m sorry. I want us to be a family, the three of us. I want you to come back to California with us.”

Scott dismounted and slowly walked over close to Johnny. “ We want you to be a third owner in the largest ranch in the San Joaquin brother.”

“ Why?” Johnny asked. 

“ What the hell kind of question is that?” Murdoch responded.

“ It’s the question that determines if I pull the trigger or not.” Johnny said.

“ Because you’re my son, and I want you back home where you belong.” Murdoch said with anger. “ You think I want you out here were you could be shot down and die all alone………No damn it. You were born at Lancer, and Lancer is your home. Johnny………..son please, come home with us when this is over. Stop looking over your shoulder for the next bullet. Stop living by that gun. Start living as my youngest son, and Scott’s brother.”

Johnny lowered the colt, turned around, and walked a few feet away.  Standing there with his arms wrapped around himself.

                                                                                                  JML

“ I have a feeling we’re being followed.” Barnes said.

“  We cross the Cimarron river, we’ll be in Black Mesa country. If he’s following us, we should be able to see him.” Perry said.

“ Or maybe him see us.” Barnes responded. “ I want to hole up somewhere and kill this guy if he is following us. I’m not spending the rest of my life looking over my shoulder.”

“ Hell, if you didn’t want to be looking over your shoulder, you shouldn’t have started stealing stock.” Perry said.

“ Most don’t track a man into another state.” Barnes said.

“ They must be offering him good money to hunt us down.” Perry said as they started down the bank to cross the Cimarron river.

“  It’s still bugging me where Burnham got all that money.” Barnes said as they crossed the river.

                                                                                                   JML

Johnny stopped the black and dismounted. “ We’ll make camp here for the night.” he said as he started removing his saddle.

“ Can I ask why here? There’s still daylight left.” Murdoch asked.

“ Because if we keep going , it will put us at the Cimarron river at dusk. I don’t want to be an easy target for those two. They’ll most likely hold up in Black Mesa and try and pick us off. We leave at midnight, they won’t be able to see us coming so easy with only half a moon out.” Johnny said as he turned the black loose to graze. “ Do either of you have any grub in your saddlebags?”

“ Normally we would, but since we are not home, no, we don’t.” Scott said.

“ Here. It’s not much, but it will stop the hunger pains until I get back.” Johnny said as he tossed a small bag of jerky to Scott.

“ Thanks. Where you going?”

“ To catch us supper. Why don’t you two get a fire going, so we can have some coffee.” Johnny said as he tossed a bag of coffee beans to Murdoch.

Two hours later Johnny sat looking up at the stars as a nighthawk sang in the darkness, and a coyote yapped in the distance.

“ You’re pretty good at snaring rabbits brother.” Scott said.

“ Thanks. It’s not hard if you find their run before dark.” he said as he poured a cup of coffee.

“ Can I ask if you’ve thought about my offer any son?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny looked at Scott, and then Murdoch. “ You don’t get it do you?” he asked.

“ Get what son?” Murdoch asked.

“ I’m not your son. I haven’t been for twenty years.” Johnny said as he stood up.

“ You may have been away for twenty years, but you will always be my son. Nothing,……….and I mean nothing can change that.” Murdoch said as he stood up.

“ I don’t think you realize what it will bring if I go with you………..Men will come gunning for me. They will want me dead.” Johnny said.

“ Dead, why?” Scott asked.

“ My reputation Boston. I’m Johnny Madrid, the best there is, and as long as I’m alive there will be someone out there thinking they are faster than me. They will come, and they will call me out.” Johnny explained.

“ And they will be met with the reckoning of  Lancer.” Murdoch said.

“ And how many hands are you willing to risk to save mine?” Johnny asked. “ How many innocent lives will be lost just to save me, Johnny Madrid, good at my trade?”

“ It doesn’t matter. All that matters is I have both my sons back home with me where they belong.” Murdoch responded.

“ Man, you really are a piece of work old man.” Johnny said. “ Let me tell you something. I’ve made a living by this gun on my hip. It’s kept me alive all these years. I’ve had no one tell me what to do growing up. I’ve lived by my rules. Rules that have kept me alive since my mother died. I don’t take no crap off anyone, and I’ve never murdered anyone. I have stayed on the right side of the law,but have come real close to crossing that fine line, of breaking the code of a gunfighter. I’ve never been good at taking orders, I do things my own way. When I take on a job, it gets finished my way. The only true friend I have is that black stallion I ride. Me and him have a bond. Anyone calls me out, I try and talk them out of it. I don;t take pride in taking another mans life. Gunfighters are nothing more than fallen angels brought down from above the good book says. Men beyond redemption.”

“ That gun has kept you alive yes, and I’m thankful for that. But Johnny, don’t you think it’s time to come home, and stop living by that gun?” Murdoch asked.

“ Come home brother, and sleep on a real bed every night. Have hot meals three times a day. You have to try Teresa’ chocolate cake, pies, and cookies.” Scott added.

“ Never had them.” Johnny said.

“ You have never had a chocolate cake, or cookies?” Scott asked with shock.

“ Down along the border, they don’t bake a lot of what they would call luxurious foods Boston. Beans and tortillas are what most down there live on.” Johnny responded. 

 Chapter 4

“ They came out of the river here.” Johnny said. As he walked the black along the bank. “ Still headed toward Amarillo.”

“ What’s this Black Mesa like son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Hotter than hell in the summer. There’s only one place that will allow them to see a long ways off. There’s small canyon walls, plenty of 

rock foundations and such they could hide behind, and we wouldn’t even know they were there. There’s some places the Cheyenne and Comanche use in the winter they could hide, but only if they knew where to look.” Johnny responded.

“ So you’ve been up here before/” Scott asked.

“ Three years ago I did a job in Wichita, Kansas.” Johnny responded. “ Listen, if they are there, I want you two staying out of sight. I want them to think I’m alone.”

“ Alone, why?” Scott asked.

“ You play poker Boston?” Madrid asked.

“ Yes, but what does poker have to do with staying out of sight?” Scott responded.

“ You ever watch the other players? You know, look at their faces or watch what they do during a game?” Madrid asked.

“ No, I can’t say I have.” Scott said.

“ Maybe you should start. When someone has a good hand, you can tell by several ways, the obvious being he will keep upping the ante. Two being he can fidget, sweat, or get nervous. Keep his head down, but his eyes are looking around. He’ll shuffle his cards, front to back, or back to front. Course my personal favorite is he will all the sudden get chatty.” Johnny explained.

“ Okay, but I still fail to see what poker has to do with…………”

“ I believe what your brother is trying to say is, don’t reveal your whole card son.” Murdoch said.

“ Right. Always keep the element of surprise on your side if you can by holding back an ace card.” Johnny said

“ So me and Murdoch are your aces?” Scott asked.

“ Exactly.” Johnny said.

                                                                                                JML

“ Do you think they will catch them?” Teresa asked.

“ I expect Johnny will track them to hell and back.” Holmes said. “ He won’t stop until they are both caught, or dead.”

“ I can’t believe his mother lied to him the way she did.” she said.

“ Sometimes a person lies to make themselves feel better about something they did that they knew was wrong. I know that may not make sense to you young lady, but in Johnny’s case, I think it applies.” Holmes said. “ I’ve known Murdoch Lancer for many years. He’s a good, decent, hard man. Maybe, and I say maybe he just didn’t see the signs of what was to come. Maybe he believed Maria was happy at Lancer. Maybe there was something she was missing. Something she couldn’t find living there.”

“ Lancer is the most wonderful place on earth. I remember the stories my father would tell me about when they were building it up. How there wasn’t a single blade of green grass to be found anywhere.” Teresa said.

“ What happened to your father?” he asked.

“ Land pirates. They were killing and stealing ranches in the valley. One night they came to Lancer and stole a prized stallion. My father and Murdoch went after them. They chased them to Morro Coyo where they were ambushed. Murdoch had a bullet in his back, that’s why he limps sometimes. I wrote to Scott, and told him what happened. I asked him to come home, and he did. I became Murdoch’s ward.” she explained.

“ And Johnny, how do you feel about him now that Murdoch has found him?” Holmes asked.

“ I’m happy he has both his sons again, but a small part of me is afraid I think.” she said.

“ Afraid of what………..Johnny?”

“ I think so. It’s not that he would hurt any of us. I think I’m afraid Murdoch will lose him again.” she said. “ When I took care of him, all he did was ask for her, and his son. For twenty years he’s had a broken heart. I just don’t want it to be broken again.”

                                                                                                      JML

“  Perry, and  Barnes, keep your hands where I can see them and step away from your horses.” Johnny yelled.

“ What the hell!” Barnes said as he looked around.

“ Just stay calm. He’s just inside the treeline about three hundred feet to your left.” Perry said.

“ Who are you, and what do you want mister?” Barnes demanded.

Johnny knew these two wouldn’t be taken alive. He actually hoped for it as he stepped out of the trees with his Henry rifle.

“ You!” Perry said.

“ I knew we should have killed you.” Barnes said.

“ You can try now.” Johnny said with coldness.

Murdoch and Scott watched from the trees as Johnny walked closer to the men.

“ Can you hear what they’re saying?” Scott asked.

“ No, and I don’t like this.” Murdoch said.

“ You both know I have no intention of taking you back alive?” Madrid asked.

“ We figured as much. You really think you can kill us both Madrid?” Barnes asked.

“ Oh I’m gonna kill ya. You two are going to die a slow, painful death. It’s just a matter of when you’re ready to die.” he said with coldness. “ In fact, before I do, I think I’ll pay you back for that beating you gave me.”

“ You can’t fight us both!” Perry said with a smirk.

Johnny stepped up to him. “ Which one of you tortured Burnham?”

“ Go to hell!” Barnes said. 

“ Oh I will some day.” Madrid said. “ So where’s the money you stole from him? I know you have it. Why else would you torture the man, and then remove a rock from the fireplace.”

“ Not telling you shit.” Barnes said.

“ It was you who shot him huh?” Johnny asked as he stepped over to him.

“ He got what he deserved.” Perry said.

“ Really?” Johnny said as he chambered a round into the Henry, turned and fired. Shattering Barnes left ankle.

“ Oh my god.” Murdoch said.

“ He intends on killing them.” Scott said as they went to their horses, and mounted up as another shot rang out.

“ You sonofabitch!” Barnes screamed as Madrid shattered his right ankle.

“ Tell me, did he scream out in pain like you are?” Madrid demanded as he shot him in his other ankle as Murdoch and Scott rode up.

“ Johnny stop!” Murdoch ordered.

“ Go to hell old man. This is my show, so stay the hell out of it.” Johnny ordered. “ You think you’re so tough. You shoot a man, torturing him. You still think you’re tough?” he asked before shooting him again in his right elbow.

“ Johnny, you pull that trigger again and I will shoot you!” Murdoch yelled as he pulled his pistol, and aimed it at him.

Johnny turned and glared at Murdoch. “ Anyone who pulls a gun on me, better pull the trigger.” he said as he walked up and took hold of the barrel. “ You ready to do that, because I’m not afraid of dying. So go ahead and pull the trigger old man.”

Murdoch’s right hand started shaking. He couldn’t believe what he was witnessing, or hearing.

“ Johnny, this isn’t who you are. You are not a cold blooded killer. You told me so yourself.” Scott said.

Johnny never took his eyes off his father as he held the pistol with his left hand. “  There’s a difference between murder, and killing Boston. You having been in the war should know that.” he said before drawing his colt, cocking it, aiming, and firing, hitting Barnes in the head. 

Perry stood there a few seconds before swinging up in the saddle and taking off.

“ Damn it!” Scott said as he went for his horse.

“ Leave him.” Johnny ordered before whistling for the black. “ He’s mine.”

“ For the love of god son, don’t do this please. I’m begging you. You kill that man, and it’s murder. It makes you no better than them.” Murdoch pleaded as Johnny swung up in the saddle.

“ I always finish what I start old man.” Johnny responded before kicking the black, and galloping off after Perry.

“ Go after him son. Stop your brother from murdering that man.” Murdoch ordered.

Scott went to his horse, and mounted up. “ I doubt I can stop him, you couldn’t.” he said before taking off.

Murdoch stood there watching the trails of dust fade. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. His own son dared him to shoot him. Walking over to his horse, he untied his canteen, and took a swig before walking over and sitting down on a rock.

                                                                                                 JML

Perry pushed his horse hard thru the rock foundations, boulders, and washes. Glancing back over his shoulder, he seen Madrid gaining on him. He knew his horse could never outrun Madrid’s stallion, so he started looking for a place while he still had some distance between they. Seeing a wash ahead, he grabbed his rifle from the scabbard and dismounted once his horse hit the bottom. Scampering back up the side, he watched and waited until he seen Madrid’s horse come into view, riderless. Looking around for any sign as the black turned and galloped off to his right.

“ Where the hell are you Madrid?” he asked aloud as he wiped the sweat from his brow, and scanned again, looking for any movement.

“ I guess you don’t know this area that well.” Johnny said from behind him.

Perry spun around and fired, as he was slammed by a bullet in his right shoulder, causing him to drop the rifle.

Johnny walked over and picked up the rifle, and tossed it out of reach. He then removed Perry’s pistol, tossing over his shoulder.

“ I’m going to gut you.” he said as he pulled his knife from the inside of his left boot. “ I’m going to let you see your innards fall out, and then I’m going to split you wide open from your dick to your throat.” Johnny said as he brought the knife down, and plunged it into Perry’s gut.

                                                                                                    JML

Scott stopped his horse and looked for dust when he heard the blood curdling scream coming from ahead of him. He knew he was too late. He knew his brother had just killed the other man. Seeing the black standing off to his right, he slowed down as the wash came into view. Dismounting as Johnny climbed up out of the wash, a bloody knife in his hand.

“ What are you doing here?” Johnny asked as the black trotted over to him. “ Yeah, you did good boy.”

Scott walked over and looked down at the bloody body of Perry. His insides totally exposed. He had seen some bad things during the war, but never a man deliberately sliced open like Perry was.

“ Why Johnny? Why in gods name did you do that?” Scott demanded as he walked over to his brother and grabbed him by the arm, jerking him around to face him. “ You just murdered that man.”

Johnny drew his colt, and brought it up to within inches of Scott’s face. “ Don’t you ever put your hands on me again Boston. You and that old man know nothing about me………… I didn’t murder him……………. Those two bastards died the minute they started stealing stock.”

“ It wasn’t your place to execute them. They had a right to stand trial for what they did.” Scott responded with anger. “ You are not the law.”

“ The law, you want to talk about the law Scott?  The ranchers around here have lost stock for a long time, and what they call the law wouldn’t do a damn thing about it. I was hired to put an end to it, and I did.” Johnny responded back with anger as a sharp pain wracked his side. “ I’ve lived by my own rules for most of my life. I have never crossed the line and murdered anyone. Killing those two was no different than what you did in the war.”

“ There’s a huge difference between what you did and killing in the war Johnny.” Scott responded.

“ In your mind maybe, but I bet you did your fare share of what you call murder brother.” Johnny said snidely. “ You have never wanted for a damn thing your whole life. You don’t know what it’s like to go to bed hungry, or be so damn cold you thought you would wake up frozen. To be spit on just because you have blue eyes. Don’t you dare stand there and fucking judge me, because you don’t have that right. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me you didn’t commit murder and use the war as an excuse to get away with it.”

“ I have never tortured a man during the war. Every man I killed I was given orders to do.” Scott said.

“ Given orders. So I guess because someone else told you to kill another human being, that makes what you did alright?” Johnny asked as he tried to ignore the white hot pain in his side.

“ I spent a year in Libby prison, so don;t tell me I don’t know what it’s like to be cold, and hungry. Every day I watched men slowly die because they had nothing but rags to wear, and no food to eat. So don;t * you * stand there and judge me……….brother.” Scott snapped back.

“ A year. You spent a year in a prison. I’ve been in a prison ever since my mother took me away from that old man. For twenty years I’ve lived a life of hell because she did that. Every night I would be forced to leave the shack we lived in so she could bed some fucking man just for a few pesos to put food in our stomach.” Johnny spat back with a quiver to his voice. “ You and your fancy college education you think gives you the right to judge me, when you know nothing about me.” 

“ Just because I haven’t lived the life you have Johnny, doesn’t make me a bad person.” he said.

“ And my life does, is that it Boston?” he asked.

“  You made the decision to live by a gun Johnny, just like I did to join the army, or go to college.” Scott said. “  Our decisions we make in life, what we do is who we become. Sometimes they make us better, and stronger, and sometimes they don’t”

Johnny glared at his brother a few seconds before swinging up in the saddle, and heading back. Every step the black took causing a sharp pain, and nauseating feeling in his stomach.

                                                                                                  JML

Murdoch stood up, and said a silent prayer of thanks when he seen both his sons riding back toward him. He knew his youngest had killed the other man, and couldn’t help but wonder if he had met the same cruel, harsh death.

Johnny stopped the black, but didn’t dismount. “ There’s a storm coming in, we need to head to that abandoned farm house we passed five miles back before it hits.” he said as Scott rode up next to him and stopped. The look on his face told his father everything he needed to know, except how the man was killed.

“ We need to bury this man Johnny.” Murdoch said.

“ Maybe you didn’t hear me old man. I said there’s a storm coming. We need to get to that abandoned farmhouse before it hits.” Johnny responded. “ You want to stay and bury him, go right ahead.” he added before riding off.

“ He killed him didn’t he?” Murdoch asked as he watched Johnny ride away.

“ He did.” Scott said. “ I couldn’t stop him. He had already done it by the time I got there.”

“ He’s not my son. My son would never commit such a heinous act.” Murdoch said.

“ What does that say about me then?” Scott asked.

“ You! You would never do such a thing son.” Murdoch responded.

“ Johnny brought up something in our discussion we just had. When I killed men in the war, it was because I was ordered to do so. I may not have gutted a man like he did back there, but I’ve killed men with my saber, and gun. I’m no different than he is sir.” Scott responded before riding off to catch up with his brother.

                                                                                              JML

Johnny reached deep down inside to stave off the pain in his side. He knew it would only be a matter of time before he passed out from blood loss. He could feel the thick stickiness of the blood as it seeped from his wound, could smell the coppery smell blood had.

“ You alright?” Scott asked as he rode up next to him.

“ I’m fine.” Johnny said as Murdoch rode up to join them.

His body weak from blood loss, Johnny couldn’t stay in the saddle any longer when they reached the abandoned farmhouse. Passing out, he fell to the ground, and it was then that Scott seen all the blood.

“ Johnny!”  he yelled as he quickly dismounted,and went to his brother. “ Damn it, why didn’t you tell me you were shot?” he demanded.

“ Let’s get him inside.” Murdoch ordered.

                                                                                            JML

“ Something is wrong!” Teresa said. “ I can feel it. They should have been back by now.”

“ I’m sure they’re alright Teresa. They’ll be back before dark. I’m sure of it.” Holmes said.

“ And if they’re not?” she asked.

“ The I will ride out with Seth and look for them.” he said. “ Now why don’t you go help Martha in the kitchen.” 

Teresa headed to the kitchen. Inside she knew something was wrong. She knew someone was hurt.

                                                                                               JML

“ He’s lost a lot of blood son. I don’t know if he’ll make it. The bullet tore thru muscle, but the blood loss……….I don’t know.” Murdoch said.

“ I can’t believe the scars he has.” Scott said.

“ The report said he’s had a rough life. I guess I never really fully understood until I seen them.” Murdoch said softly as lightening flashed outside the window. “ I didn’t mean what I said back there son. I guess I’m just shocked he could kill so easy.”

“ How do you know killing is easy for him? When you were a sheriff, was it easy for you to kill another man?” Scott asked.

“ No son it wasn’t. I never wanted to, but some gave me no choice.” Murdoch responded.

“ You just said it, choice. That’s clearly something my little brother has not had much of in his twenty three years.” Scott said. “ He started living by a gun to stop the abuse. He told me it was to have respect,but then he seen it wasn’t respect, but fear others had for him. I guess in a way, me and you are like those people. We both fear him, because we don;t know him. One of my professors told me once, never judge a book by it’s cover. Isn’t that what the two of us have been doing to Johnny, judging him by his cover?”

“ Yes son, we have. I owe him an apology. I just pray I get the chance to apologize to him.” he said.

“ I’m going to go check on the horses before dark.” Scott said as he stood up. “ I’ll get some more firewood for the night too. It needs to stay warm in here for him.”

“ Alright son.” Murdoch said as he wiped the sweat from Johnny’s forehead. “ Please don’t die son. We have so much to catch up on. I want you to come home with us to Lancer. I don’t want you living by that damn gun anymore.”

                                                                                                JML

“ There’s an abandoned farmhouse they will most likely be hold up in.” Seth said as he mounted up.

“ Don’t you worry Teresa, we’ll find them.” Holmes said as he mounted up.

Teresa stood there and watched as Holmes and his foreman rode away. All she could do was pray they found them, and brought them all three back.

                                                                                              JML

“ No,madre, por favor no me dejes. Por favor, no mueras.”  ( No, mother please don’t leave me. Please don’t die.) Johnny pleaded as the life left his mother. “ Te lo prometo, lo encontraré y haré ue pague por matarte.”   ( I promise you, I will find him, and make him pay for killing you.)

Murdoch sat back in the chair. He knew very little about how Maria had died, and now it appeared his son had possibly witnessed her death.

“What did he say sir?” Scott asked.

“ I’m sorry, what son?” Murdoch said.

“ Johnny, what did he just say in Spanish?” he asked.

“ He was pleading with his mother to not leave him. He said he promised her he would find the man and make him pay for killing her.” Murdoch responded as he stood up, and walked over to look out the window. 

“ Do you think he witnessed his mothers death?” Scott asked as he walked over to stand next to him.

“ I think so son. I also think he found the man responsible and killed him.” he said as he turned to look at his youngest laying on the cot.

“ Hello in the house!” a voice yelled.

Scott looked out the window. “ It’s Mister Holmes and his foreman Seth.”

Murdoch went to the door , and opened it. “ Do you have any bandages?” he asked.

“ We thought something was wrong. I have medical supplies in my saddlebags.” Holmes said as he dismounted. “ How bad is it?”

“ Bad.” Murdoch said as they went inside.

“ Did he get them?” Holmes asked as he removed his coat.

“ Yes he killed them. Is that what you want to hear Samuel?” Murdoch snapped back. “ My son killed both of them. The one called Barnes he killed just like Burnham was killed. The other one he chased down and gutted.” 

“ Take it easy Murdoch.” Scott said as he put a hand on his fathers back. 

“ I’m sorry Samuel. My son may be dying, and…………excuse me, I need to get some fresh air.” Murdoch said before walking outside.

“ What is it Scott? What really set him off.” Holmes asked.

“ I think I’ll go tend to our horses sir.” Seth said before walking outside.

Scott told him what Johnny said about his mother, and killing Perry and Barnes.

“ Oh my god. The report I have said nothing about that. Just that he was ten when his mother was murdered.” Holmes said.

“ I imagine Teresa is worried about us?” Scott asked.

“ She had a feeling yesterday that something was wrong. I told her me and Seth would ride out and look for you. Seth knows this area real good, so he figured if something had happened, you would be hold up here.” he said.

“  We caught up to them five miles from here, chased Perry another three miles or so. He rode almost ten miles losing blood, and never said a word.” Scott said as he changed his brothers bandage.

“ He won’t die. You’ve seen the scars on his chest and back. Madrid is tough.” Holmes said.

“  Every man has a limit to what they can take. I hope you are right. I hope I get the chance to be with my brother. To get to know him more.” Scott responded.

                                                                                                  JML

Johnny woke up finally after three days of fever. Looking around, he found himself alone in the abandoned house. Sitting up, he swung his legs over the side of the cot as the front door opened, and his brother and father walked in.

“ What do you think you are doing?” Scott demanded as he went to him.

“ I don’t need your help. I can make it.” Johnny said as he pushed Scott’s hand away, and stood up.

“ Let’s get something straight right here, right now little brother, you are not alone anymore. When someone offers to help you, the proper way to respond is by accepting that help.” Scott said as he offered his hand in support again.

“ You always so pushy Boston?”  Johnny asked as they slowly made their way to the door.

“ I can be much worse if I need to be.” Scott said.

Twenty minutes later, Johnny sat on the cot again and looked at Murdoch, who was watching him. “ How long we been here?”

“ Four days. You were out for three of them with a high fever.” Murdoch responded. “ Do you think you can eat anything?”

“ I’m starved.” Johnny said as Scott wrapped a blanket around his shoulders.

“ Can I ask why you never said anything to me about being shot brother?” he asked.

“ Didn’t think it was that big a deal. Not like it’s the first time I’ve been shot.” he said.

“ Seth brought us some supplies to get us by until you’re strong enough to ride back to the ranch.” Murdoch said as he brought him a plate of stew.

“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he took the plate and started eating. “ I’ll be able to ride in a day or two.”

“ We can stay longer. You lost a lot of blood.” Murdoch said.

“  They get Tabor or Fryer?” Johnny asked.

“ Samuel talked to the sheriff, and he was told that there’s not enough evidence to implicate Tabor, and Fryer swears he was never involved in any of it.” Murdoch responded.

“ Fryer left town after the sheriff let him go, and nobody has seen him since.” Scott added.

                                                                                                JML

“ Why don’t you stay on here Johnny? Winters coming on, and it’s a long ride back down to Mexico.” Holmes said.

“ Yeah, but it don’t get as cold, or snow down there.” Johnny said as Teresa walked into the room. “ Just the person I wanted to see.”

“ I am?” Teresa asked.

“ Yeah, look, would you take a ride with me?” Johnny asked.

“ I would love to Johnny, but Murdoch and Scott won’t be back till later.” she said.

“ I didn’t ask them, I asked you to take a ride with me. You afraid to be alone with me Teresa?” he asked.

“ Of course not. Mister Holmes, would you…………”

“ Say no more young lady. I will tell them you took a ride. You should show her the waterfall John.” Holmes said.

“ I plan too.” Johnny said as they walked out.

                                                                                             JML

“ She did what?” Murdoch demanded.

“ Calm down Murdoch, she’s fine. Johnny needed to talk, so I suggested he take her for a ride to a place I know will help him.” Holmes said.

“ Have you gone mad? She’s an innocent child, and you allowed her to ride to god knows wherever with that unruly boy?”

“ Murdoch, would you calm down Johnny is a good person. He needed someplace private to talk to Teresa. Someplace where you wouldn’t be, and intimidate him.” Holmes responded.

“ Teresa isn’t exactly a little girl anymore sir.” Scott added.

“ All the more reason she should not be out there alone with him.” he snapped back.

“ Why, you afraid Teresa might like him, or are you afraid Johnny might like her, and maybe try and kiss her?” Holmes asked.

“ He better not dishonor her I any way. Where did they go?”

“ I promised Johnny  I wouldn’t tell you, and I’m not.” Holmes said.

“ Sir, like it or not, Teresa just might be the key to getting Johnny to come home with us. She got thru to him before.” Scott suggested.

                                                                                                   JML

Johnny stopped the black, and dismounted. “ I wanted you to see this place.”  he said as he walked over and helped Teresa get down.

“ It’s beautiful.” Teresa said as she walked over and looked at the waterfall.

“ Are you afraid of me Teresa?” he asked as he walked over next to her.

“ Should I be?” she asked.

“ What do you know about me?” Johnny asked as he walked over and sat down on a log.

“ You mean about your past, nothing.” she responded as she walked over and sat down next to him. “ Murdoch never knew until we came here who you had become. Why he could never find you for all those years.”

“ My life hasn’t been easy. Especially as a half-breed kid.” Johnny said softly. “ Kids at the orphanage would pick on me, and beat me up because of my blue eyes. One kid even cut me once just to see if my blood was red like his. Hell even the padre beat me. He used to lock me in a closet for several days with no food, and barely enough water to survive. I remember this one Christmas, we all got an orange. He took mine from me and said the devils child doesn’t get to enjoy such a treat. He took my orange from me, dragged me outside to the burro, made me pick up some ………… and made me eat it. He said that’s what a devil child gets.”

Teresa couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It saddened her that someone so kind, and gentle could be treated so badly. Especially by a padre. “ I’m sorry Johnny. That man was wrong to treat you like that.”

“ That’s why I wear this Teresa.” he said. “ I wasn’t going to allow anyone to abuse me again. People were going to respect me or else.”

“ How old were you when your mother died?” she asked.

“ Ten. She was murdered right in front of me. I tried to stop him,but couldn’t. He beat me badly after he killed her. I came too, and the padre said it was because I was a devil child that she died.” Johnny explained as he stood up, and walked over to the waters edge. “ I found him years later, and made sure he knew who I was before I killed him. I promised her I wouldn’t stop until I found him, and I didn’t. After that I decided to keep using my gun, and got better, and faster. Soon I learned it wasn’t respect most people had for me. It was fear. I started seeing how the peasants were being treated by the Rurales, and rich dons, and decided to hire out to help them. Most times I was paid in beans and a place to sleep. I started fighting for a cause, and I have always stayed on the right side of the law. Soon I found women wanted me, and I wanted them too. I’ve been shot ten times now, stabbed six, cut five, and whipped by the Rurales. Every time someone calls me out, I wonder if they will be the one to kill me. I’ve come close to dying several times, and I’m not afraid to die either.”

“ Why did women want you?” she asked as she stood up, and walked over to him.

Johnny turned, looked into her brown eyes, and smiled. “ Because I learned at a young age how to respect, and treat a woman. I have two reputations Teresa. One with my gun, and the other with  woman. I never abuse them, and I won’t stand for any man laying his hands on a woman in an abusive way.”

“ Can I ask how old you were?” Teresa asked with a smile.

“ Fifteen, Why?” Johnny asked.

“ I guess I was just curious.” she said softly.

“ You got a fella back home?” he asked.

“ No. I mean, I’ve went to dances and socials……….but never alone. Murdoch was always right there watching over me. I felt like they never wanted to kiss me because of him.”

“ So these boys you  went with, they never tried to kiss you?” he asked.

“ No. In the buggy, they wouldn’t even sit that close to me, even though Murdoch would be up front driving. I’m nineteen years old Johnny, and…………..”

Johnny brought his hand up under her chin, lowering his lips to hers. “ And never been kissed, until now.” he said softly as he touched her lips with his.

Teresa felt weak in the knees as he stomach flipped, and new feelings started running through her body.

Johnny broke off the kiss. “ And now you have.” he said as he stepped back from her and smiled. “ If I go back to Lancer………..it will be because of you, and Scott, not him.” 

“ What…..why…….because of me, why?” Teresa stammered. “ He’s your father.”

“ He sired me is all Teresa. He’s not my father.” Johnny said. “ I always wanted a big brother when I was growing up. Someone who could protect me from the abuse I got,but that never happened. Then I come here and learn I have a brother. I want to get to know Scott better, and I’d like to get to know you a lot better too.  That is if you’re sure you’re not afraid of me, and want to get to know me better?”

Teresa stepped up to him. “ I’d like that.” she responded as she put her arms around his neck.

Johnny brought his lips to hers again, sliding his tongue between them, deepening the kiss just enough to have her wanting more, but keeping his own wants in check as he pulled her to him, letting her feel what kissing her was doing to him.

Chapter 5

( WARNING, THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS ADULT SEXUAL CONTENT THAT IS CLEARLY MARKED. IF YOU CHOSE TO READ THAT PART, FINE, IF NOT, FINE. THE CHOICE IS YOURS, AND YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.)

Murdoch stood looking out the window, watching for signs of Teresa and Johnny returning. His anger growing as he thought of his ward out there alone with his son.

“ Would it be so bad if Johnny and Teresa did get together?” Samuel asked.

Murdoch turned to face him. “ He’s reckless, and irresponsible toward women. Teresa is an innocent child.”

“ With all do respect sir, Teresa is nineteen years old. She’s not a child anymore.” Scott said. 

“ If he takes advantage of her, dishonors her in any way……….I will beat that boy to within an inch of his life.” Murdoch responded.

“ Really? You  seen how Johnny’s not afraid of you when you beat on him. How he dared you to shoot him. Are you really willing to lose him again if they do get together?” Scott demanded. 

“ I have a feeling that if he does choose to go back to Lancer with you, it won’t be because of you Murdoch. It will be because of Scott, and that young lady.” Holmes said.

“ I’m afraid I have to agree with Mister Holmes.” Scott said.

Murdoch turned to look back out the window. Seeing two riders come into the yard, and stop at the barn corral, one on a big black horse, he headed outside.

Johnny dismounted and went to help Teresa down. Placing his hands on each side of her waist to steady her.

“ Thank you Johnny.”

Lowering his lips to hers, he gently kissed her again. “ Anytime querido.” he said softly before they started toward the house.

“ You have some explaining to do young lady. I will not have you going off alone with him.” Murdoch said as he walked up to them.

“ Murdoch, I was perfectly safe.” Teresa said. “ I’m nineteen, I don’t need a chaperon.”

“ As long as you are my ward, I say when you need a chaperon young lady. You will not go anywhere alone with him again. Do I make myself clear?”

“ I’m of legal age now Murdoch. I was only your ward until I reached eighteen. I am now nineteen, and perfectly capable of making my own decisions.”

Murdoch turned on Johnny. “ You mind telling me just what you thought you were doing taking Teresa on a ride without a chaperon?” 

“ You best back off old man.” Johnny ordered. “ You don’t tell me what I can and cannot do.”

Murdoch swung and hit Johnny hard in the mouth, splitting his bottom lip as Scott and Holmes walked out.

“ Murdoch, enough!” Scott yelled as he went and stood between them. “ Have you gone mad?” he demanded.

“ Did he dishonor you?” Murdoch demanded.

“ No, all we did was talk and nothing more.” Teresa said as she went to Johnny’s side. “ You had no right to hit him.”

“ Teresa, take Johnny inside and get that cut cleaned up.” Scott ordered.

Johnny spit blood at his fathers feet. “ You ever lay a hand on me again old man, and it will be the last time you ever do anything.” Johnny said with coldness before walking away.

“ Murdoch Lancer, you are a fool. You searched for that boy for twenty years, and now you want to run him off. I just don’t understand you.” Samuel said before heading inside.

“ Do you want Johnny to come back to Lancer with us, or would you prefer he go back to Mexico, where he stands a chance of getting caught and put in a Mexican prison again, or killed?” Scott demanded. “ I for one will say this, if he doesn’t go back with us. I am not going to let him leave here alone.” he added before turning and heading inside.

                                                                                              JML

“ Scott, can I talk to you?” Teresa asked.

“ Sure. What’s on your mind?”

“ Johnny.”

“ I figured as much.”

“ He said he’s not going back on the train. That he’s riding back. I want to go with him. I want to ride back to Lancer with him.” Teresa said.

“ Teresa, that’s a long ride, and Murdoch isn’t going to allow you to do it.” Scott responded.

“ He will if you go with us.” she said.

“ With you. Ride a horse all the way back to California instead of on the train where I would be out of the weather?” he asked. “ Teresa, do you have feelings for Johnny?”

“ Yes I do, and he has feelings for me. Scott, I’m nineteen. I’m legal age.” she said.

Scott crossed his arms and looked at her. “ Alright, let me talk to Murdoch. I’ll tell him Johnny won;t ride back on the train because of his horse.”

“ Oh thank you.” Teresa said as she went and hugged him.

“ I’m making no promises.” he said as he hugged her back.

                                                                                              JML

“ I hate to see you leave my friend. Me and Martha have really enjoyed the company.” Samuel said.

“ I can’t believe I let you and Scott talk me into letting him and Teresa ride back to California with Johnny.” Murdoch said.

“ He’s a good man Murdoch. If something does happen between the two of them, why can’t you be happy for them instead of angry?” Samuel asked.

“ Because of how he is. He’s had no proper upbringing. He doesn’t know how to respect a woman, and Teresa is just a child.” he said.

“ Teresa is hardly a child. She’s nineteen, almost twenty. Let it happen and be happy. It could be what keeps that boy at Lancer, and alive.” Samuel responded.

“ You and Martha come out to California for a visit.” Murdoch said as he climbed up in the buggy.

“ We’ll do that now that the train runs all the way thru.” Holmes said as Murdoch slapped rein and left.

                                                                                               JML

Two weeks later Johnny stopped the black and dismounted. We need to make camp and get the tent up so Teresa stays dry. It’s going to be raining hard in a couple hours.”

“ Yeah, I’ve been  noticing the lightening in the distance.” Scott said as he dismounted, and went to the pack-horse carrying the tent and sleeping bags.

“ Teresa, could you gather some wood and get a fire started?” Johnny asked as he took a rope off the other pack-horse and made a picket line for the horses.

“ It’s so beautiful here.” Teresa said two hours later as she removed the lid to the biscuits.

“ Yeah, it sure is.” Johnny said as he watched her, and smiled.

“ Wait until you taste Teresa’s biscuits brother.” Scott said. “ She is a very good cook.”

“ Oh yeah. You able to make any Mexican dishes?” Johnny asked.

“ Yes. Maria taught me. I like stuffed peppers the most. Of course Scott doesn’t care for them. He says they’re too hot and spicy.” Teresa said.

**** WARNING ADULT CONTENT ****

Johnny woke around midnight to the sound of thunder and lightening as the rain came down hard. Standing up, he slipped his rain slicker on, rifle, and went outside the tent to check on the horses. Little did he know he was being watched as he left the tent. Walking over to the horses, he checked the picket-line to make sure it was still tight before checking each lead rope. When he got to the black, he stopped and rubbed the stallions face. “ Hey buddy. I don’t know about doing this. A part of me wants to take off and go back to Mexico, the other part says to stay, and get to know my brother. The girl, I don’t know.  She’s something though, and driving me crazy. I tell ya buddy, when I kiss her lately, I want to make her mine all the way. It’s taking everything I have to not take her clothes off and make her a woman.”

“ Then why don’t you do it right now Johnny?” Teresa asked from behind him.

Johnny turned and faced her. “ You always eves drop on another persons conversation?” he asked as he walked over to her as the rain stopped.

“ You always talk to your horse?” she asked.

Johnny placed his hands on each side of her face, and guided her back against a tree as he started running his hands over her body. Feeling her nipples hard excited him more as he pressed against her, wanting satisfaction.“ I want to make you mine Teresa.” he said as he ran his hands down, and rubbed forbidden places his body so desperately wanted to touch, to enter.

.

Teresa moaned aloud as her body started responding to his touch. She didn’t understand what was happening, but found herself clinging to him tightly as his hands brought feelings she never expected to feel. 

“ Teresa, you drive me crazy. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. Will you marry me?” Johnny asked.

“ Yes.” she said.

“  We can get married in Grand Junction.” he said

“  I can’t wait that long.” Teresa said as she started to remove her clothes. “ I want you now Johnny. Please.” she begged.

Johnny knew there was no way he could walk away from this moment. Removing his coat, he placed it on the ground, and guided her down after he removed his clothes. He didn’t care about the rain, or the wind. All he cared about at that moment was making Teresa his, and his alone. Positioning himself between her legs, he guided his tip to her entrance, and with one hard thrust, entered her, breaking the barrier. Hunger, and passion is all he felt now. That and the need for release. He felt her muscles start to protest the invasion, then start to spasm, he knew it wouldn’t be long and she would experience her first climax with him when her legs started to shake. Claiming her mouth, and moaning as his body let go seconds before hers exploded, driving him over the top.

**** END WARNING ****

Scott woke up and found himself alone in the tent. Getting up, he slipped on his coat and went outside. Walking over to the horses, he heard moaning, and an unmistakable sound he knew meant only one thing. Cautiously walking toward the sound, he seen what he knew was happening. Lightening flashed, allowing him a brief glimpse of his brother and Teresa at the base of  a tree, neither one aware he was there as they made love. “ Little brother, you will marry her.” he said before turning and going back to the tent.

                                                                                                JML

“ How far to the next town?” Scott asked three days later.

“ Grand Junction. We should ride in there late afternoon. They have a real nice hotel we can stay at. I figured we could give these horses a day or two of rest.” Johnny responded.

“ I want to ask you two something.” Scott said as he stopped his horse. “ Teresa, you’re of age, do you want to spend the rest of your life with Johnny?”

“  Yes.” Teresa responded without hesitation.

“ Little brother, do you want to marry Teresa?” he asked.

“ I do more than anything Boston.” Johnny responded.

“ Then I suggest when we get into Grand Junction, we get a couple rooms, cleaned up, and find us a preacher.” Scott suggested.

“ Johnny, you’re catholic.” Teresa said. “ Wouldn’t you like to be married in a catholic church, or by a catholic priest?” she asked.

“ My mother never told me. I just assumed I was since she always wore this medallion around her neck until she died.” Johnny responded. “ I doubt there will be a catholic church in Grand Junction, Teresa. Any church that will marry us is fine with me querido.”

                                                                                               JML

Murdoch sat at his desk going thru the ledgers entering receipts of purchases made while he was gone. Before the trip to Colorado, his life seemed almost perfect. He had his oldest son, and Teresa,but not his youngest. Now that he had both his sons, a part of him wished he had never found Johnny. Thinking back to that violent day in Colorado. Seeing his son brutally torture, and kill one man, and then as Scott had said, taken a knife and gutted the second man, was something he just couldn’t get out of his head. As soon as he had gotten back, he wrote to the Pinkerton’s and requested everything they could find out about Johnny Madrid. Specifically killings he had committed, why, and if he was wanted anywhere for murder.

Knowing his good son, and Teresa were out there somewhere with him riding back to California, angered him. Why he had let them talk him into allowing it to happen, he couldn’t understand. Sitting there, he vowed that if anything happened to either Teresa, or Scott, and he was at fault, he would have him hunted down, and killed.

“ You must be lost in thought to not hear me knock.” Sam said as he walked into the grand room.

“ I’m sorry Sam, I was thinking.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ What brings you out here?”

“ Well I stopped to see how that hands broken arm is doing, and Cipriano told me you were back. The ladies will be glad Teresa is back. There’s a church social Sunday, and you know how everyone likes her cookies.”

“ Teresa isn’t here Sam. I don’t know when, or if  she will be coming back to Lancer, Scott either.” Murdoch said as he walked over and poured them a brandy.

“ Would you care to explain?” Sam asked.

“ Have a seat, and I will.” Murdoch said.

                                                                                               JML

“ Congratulations Johnny, Teresa.” Scott said.

“ Thanks.” Johnny said as they strapped on their guns, as they walked out of the church.

“ Johnny Madrid! I’m calling you out you half-breed bastard.” a man yelled from down the street as they walked outside.

“Isham.” Johnny said. “ Scott, take Teresa inside.” 

“ I want to stay with you Johnny.” Teresa said as she held his arm.

“ Go with Scott sweetheart. Please.” Johnny responded. “ Scott………..get her out of here now.” he ordered.

“ Teresa, come on. You staying could get him killed.” Scott said as he took her arm and lead her away.

“ I thought it was you I seen ride into town with those two.” Isham said.

“ Why you doing this Al? I got no beef with you.” Johnny said.

“  We’re fallen Angels. Brought down to hell the good book says. Men beyond redemption.” Isham responded.

“ Isham, don’t do this please. Turn around and walk away. We were friends, I don’t want to kill you.” Johnny pleaded.

“ Can’t Johnny boy.” he said.

Scott lead Teresa to the hotel entrance, and started inside, but stopped when she jerked free of his hold. “ Help him Scott.” 

“ Teresa, if he gets distracted at all by me or you, it can get him killed. Now please, go inside.” Scott responded.

“ Then I will.” she said as she grabbed his pistol and started back into the street.

“ Teresa don’t!” Scott yelled as he hurried after her, grabbing her by the arm, stopping her.

Johnny heard Scott yell and for a split second looked, seeing his new bride coming back  into the street with a pistol in her hand. In that split second, Isham drew and fired, hitting Johnny in the right thigh, causing him to fall as he drew and fired, hitting Isham in the chest. Getting up ,he limped over to him, and knelt down. “ Why Isham, why’d you do it?”

“ Call it good at my trade.” Isham said before his eyes closed forever.

Teresa hurried to Johnny as he stood up. “ Let me help you.”

“ What the hell were you thinking? Damn it, I told you to go inside. You almost got me killed. It’s not a game Teresa. When I get called out, I have to be able to stay focused. He could have turned and shot you.” Johnny said with anger as Scott came over.

“ Johnny, I’m sorry. She jerked free of me. I told her, but she grabbed my gun.”  Scott said as he put an arm under his brother’s left arm to help him to the hotel.

                                                                                             JML

“ I can’t believe after all these years you finally found Johnny, and of all places, working for your friend in Colorado. You had to have been shocked, and relieved?” Sam asked.

“ Did you hear a word I said Sam? He’s a gunfighter, and not just any gunfighter, my son is Johnny Madrid.” Murdoch responded.

“ I heard you Murdoch. I heard everything you said. Why are you letting who he had to become to stay alive bother you?” Sam responded and asked.

“ Because he’s a killer Sam, and now Scott and Teresa are out there with him riding back here. Teresa claims she loves him. I know what he’s going to do. He’s going to dishonor her, get her with child, and leave her. He has no concept of what responsibility is.” Murdoch responded with anger.

“ Do you know that for a fact is what he will do? Scott is with them. He will make sure Johnny doesn’t do anything to harm Teresa.” Sam said.

“ We were both with him when we tracked those two rustlers down, and caught them. I even had my gun pointed at him. He took hold of the barrel and dared me to shoot him Sam. My own son dared me to kill him. He murdered those two men. He tortured them, and then he murdered them, and neither me nor Scott could stop him.” he said.

“ He can’t be all that bad if you let them ride back with him. Didn’t you have a whirlwind courtship with his mother, and get her pregnant with Johnny before you married her?” Sam asked.

“ I was in love with Maria. What happened between us wasn’t lust, it was love. With child or not, I would have still married her. All that boy knows is whores in saloons, and Teresa is an innocent young lady he is going to take advantage of. Mark my word Sam, by the time they get back here, he will have found a way of dishonoring her.”

“ Murdoch Lancer, you are a stubborn fool at times.” Sam said. “ I’m going to go check that hands arm.”

“ Will you stay for supper Sam? It’s been quiet around here. I could use the company.” Murdoch asked.

“ That’s why I stopped by so late. I could use a good cooked meal.” Sam said as he headed to the door. “ I’ll be back.”

                                                                                             JML

“ How is he doc?” Scott asked.

“ The bullet just grazed his thigh. He shouldn’t be riding for at least a week. Try and keep him off it as much as possible.” the doctor said as he went to the door and opened it to leave. “ Stop those tears young lady, he’s going to be fine. He was asking for you.”

“ Thank you doctor.” Scott said as the man stepped out of the room.

“ This isn’t how it was supposed to be Scott.” Teresa said.

“ You better go on in there and face him now.” Scott said. “ I’ll be in my room across the hall reading a book if you need me for anything.”

Teresa opened the bedroom door and walked in.

“ Close the door, and come here.” Johnny said.

Teresa closed the door, and slowly walked over to the bed. Tears running down her face.

“ Why you crying?” Johnny asked as he scooted to sit up more.

“ Because I didn’t listen to you, and almost got you killed.” she said.

“ Sit down.” Johnny said as he patted the bed.

Teresa sat down, and wouldn’t look at him. How could she after what she had almost done.

“ Hey, can you at least look at me querido?” Johnny asked softly.

Teresa slowly turned her head, and looked at him.

Johnny placed his left hand under her chin as he leaned forward. “ It’s okay. Now you know okay. I’m gonna be alright. The bullet just grazed my thigh.” 

“ I’m so sorry Johnny.” she said softly.

****  WARNING ADULT CONTENT ****

Johnny brought his lips to hers. “ It’s me who should be saying I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled at you like I did out there on the street.” he said softly as he ran his thumb over her quivering bottom lip. “ I love you Teresa, and right now all I can think about is seeing, and touching your naked body.” he said before kissing her as his hands started touching her, trying to get to the places he wanted to touch, and kiss.

Teresa moaned aloud as Johnny slid his tongue inside her mouth, as his left hand went under her dress and up her left leg stopping on her thigh. She wanted to feel what she did that night in the mountains again. Wanted to feel her body quiver and explode as she trembled. 

“ I want to make you mine Teresa. I want to consummate or marriage. Please take your dress off and let me see you.” Johnny begged.

Teresa stood up and got out of her dress as fast as she could. Stepping out of it as Johnny flipped the covers off to reveal he was wearing nothing but the bandage wrapped around his right thigh. Climbing in bed next to him, she laid down on her left side, facing him as their mouths came together, both moaning in pleasure as their bodies started responding to the touch of bare flesh against bare flesh. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pulled him over on top of her as she wrapped her legs around him, feeling his hardness as he pressed against her.

Johnny slid his right hand down over her stomach, and down between her legs, parting her folds as he started bringing her pleasure. Watching her writhe and arch as he slid two fingers inside, bringing her to her second climax before he positioned himself allowing himself to slowly enter her. “ I’m sorry Teresa. It’s going to hurt a little when I go all the way in you.” he said as he braced himself above her and started moving slowly.

Teresa couldn’t believe how her body was being drove to new pleasures. Feeling a tightness as he finally entered her, she bucked up against him as she pressed him down onto her tighter. “ Take me Johnny.” she begged.

Johnny did one last thrust, breaking the barrier and stopped to allow her body to adjust to the new feeling, and invasion. “ Oh Teresa, you’re everything I thought I would never have.” he said as he started moving in and out of her slowly.

“ I want to give you children Johnny.” Teresa said as their rhythm increased.

“ I want a son to teach more than anything.” he said as his body started to glisten with sweat. His shoulder blades showing with every movement.. Raising up on his hands as he slowed his movement, knowing he would send Teresa over the edge. “ You like that?” he asked.

“ I love feeling you inside me Johnny. You’re making me feel so alive every time you move, it’s like a whole new feeling down there, and it gets stronger every time.” Teresa responded as she ran her hands up and down his arms as he hovered over her.

“ I have so much I want to show you. So many different ways we can pleasure each other. It makes me want to explode just thinking about what I want you to do to me.” Johnny said as he lowered himself. “ Let it go querido, let it go.”

Teresa’s thighs started to quiver, and shake as she exploded. Her muscles tightening around him as she bite into his left shoulder to keep from screaming, sending Johnny over the edge as well.

**** END WARNING ****

                                                                                             JML

“ That was very good Maria. Thank you.” Sam said. “ I imagine you’re pretty happy Johnny is coming home?”

“¿Encontraste a Johnny?”   ( You have found Johnny?) Maria asked. “ ¿Mi pequeño Johnny viene a casa?” ( My little Johnny is coming home?)

“ I hadn’t said anything to Maria yet about finding him Sam.” Murdoch said.

“¿Por qué no me dijiste esta buena noticiq? Sabes lo mucho que significa para mí.”   ( Why did you not tell me this good news? You know how much he means to me.) Maria said.

“ Maria, Johnny……….Have you ever heard of a gunfighter named Johnny Madrid?” Murdoch asked.

“  Si, he oído hablar de él. Es amado por mi gente en México. Ha ayudado a muchos a luchar por la libertad contra los malos Rurales y los ricos Don que roban a los campesinos.”  ( Yes, I have heard of him. He is a loved by my people in Mexico. He has helped many fight for freedom against the bad Rurales and rich Dons who steal from the peasants.)

“ Maria, my…………..your Johnny is Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter. He’s a killer.”

“ Murdoch, that’s being a bit harsh don’t you think?” Sam asked.

“ I know what I know Sam, and I seen him kill remember.” Murdoch said.

“ So you have no problem calling your own flesh and blood a cold-blooded killer. I will never understand you Murdoch Lancer. That boy did what he had to do to stay alive. What he did is no different than when you wore a badge and killed.” Sam snapped back.

“ Mi Johnny no es un asesino como dices, y te arrepentirás de haber dicho cosas tan horribles sobre él.”  ( My Johnny is not a killer like you say, and you will  regret saying such horrible things about him.) Maria said before going back in the kitchen.

“ Let me ask you something Murdoch, Are you angry at Johnny because he became Johnny Madrid, or are you angry because he’s your son who became Johnny Madrid?” Sam asked.

“ What kind of question is that Sam?”

“ Just answer it. Or do you feel because he’s your son, he could never do such a thing?” he asked. “ You told me the only reason he is coming back here is because of Scott, and Teresa. I can’t help but wonder why he isn’t coming back here for you also?”

“ She filled his head with lies about me. That’s why he never came back. Standing in that living room, you didn’t see the hate he had in his eyes for me when he learned I was his father. The boy has no respect for me. Calls me an old man when he addresses me,and now he has corrupted an innocent young lady.” Murdoch responded with anger.

“ Why do you find it necessary to punish Johnny for what his mother told him. He was just a child. Until he met you in Colorado, he had no way of knowing the truth. As for respect Murdoch, that has to be earned, and from the way you’re acting right now, I can see why he doesn’t show you any.” Sam said as he stood up. “ I should be getting back to town. I hope you come to your senses by the time they come home. Because something tells me that if you haven’t, and you lash out at that boy, he will go back to Mexico, and you will lose not only him, but Scott too.”

                                                                                            JML

**** WARNING ADULT CONTENT ****

“ You sure you feel like riding Johnny?” Scott asked. “ I mean, we can stay a few more days if you want?”

“ I’m sure Boston. I killed a man in this town. They don’t really want me here any longer.” Johnny responded as Teresa walked in.

“ Well, I guess I better go see if I can purchase another tent. Somehow I have a feeling you two will be wanting your privacy at night.” Scott said with a smile as he headed toward the door. “ Oh, I look forward to having some nephews and nieces to spoil.”

“ Working on that brother.” Johnny said as he watched Scott walk out. Hobbling over, he locked the hotel room door from the inside, turned and smiled at his beautiful wife. “ You heard him. He expects some nephews and nieces.” he said as he hobbled over to Teresa, and claimed her mouth with hunger as his hands went between her legs, making her moan aloud as she started undressing him.

“ Johnny, slow down. We have all afternoon, and night.”  Teresa said as he walked her backwards to the bed, and pushed her down on it.

“ Just the thought of being inside you excites me.” he said as he stepped out of his pants, reached down, and raised her legs up onto his shoulders as he slid inside her. Standing there, watching her breast jerk with every thrust he made as he sought release. Letting his right hand go down and rub her spot, bringing her to climax seconds before his own. 

Teresa couldn’t believe how aggressive Johnny was being with her.  Taking her with such roughness, it shamed her. Their first time together on their wedding night, he was so kind and gentle. Now it seemed like he was getting excited by taking her by force. No gentleness, this time at all. 

**** END WARNING ****

One month later, Johnny, Scott, and Teresa sat in a cafe in Carson City, Nevada eating supper. “ I think I’ll send a wire to Murdoch in the morning letting him know where we are, and that all is well.” Scott said.

“ I can hardly wait until you see Lancer Johnny. The view from on top of the hill is like no other. Lancer is like no other.” Teresa said.

“ Let me ask you something Teresa, have you given it any thought if he doesn’t want me there?  Especially when he learns we’re married. He’s not going to be thrilled about that.” Johnny asked.

“ Yes I have. I’m your wife Johnny. I go wherever you go.” Teresa responded.

“ Even if I went back to Mexico?” he asked.

“ Yes.” she said.

“ Johnny, he may be upset, but you have me and Teresa in your corner. Don’t let him run you off Lancer. Don’t let him run you away from your birthright, your heritage. You have every right to be there, regardless of what he thinks. A third of that ranch is yours brother. Are you willing to ride away from owning just over thirty three thousand acres, a third of ten thousand head of cattle, and more wild horses than you could break in a lifetime?” Scott asked.

“ It’ll never happen. He’s going to find some way of taking you from me Teresa, and I can’t bare the thought of losing you.” he said

“ You are not going to lose me Johnny.” she said. “ I’m almost twenty, Yes I was his ward, but that was until I was eighteen, not twenty one.”

“ Johnny, if he tries to break you two’s marriage, we can hire a lawyer.” Scott added as the waitress came over.

“ As I live and breath, Johnny Madrid.” she said. “ I never thought I would see you again.”

Johnny looked at the woman, and then Teresa. “ Charlotte, what are you doing in Carson City, Nevada?” he asked as he stood up, and gave her a hug.

“ You do remember me.” she said as she hugged him back, and gave him a quick kiss on the lips.

Teresa tossed her napkin on her plate, and stood up. “ Lady, and I use that word loosely, you touch my husband again, and you will find your arm broke.” Teresa said firmly as she stood up.

“ Husband?  Oh my god, Johnny……ma’am I am so sorry. I thought you were with that gentleman. Please forgive me.” Charlotte said.

“ Are you in the habit of doing that to a customer?” Teresa demanded as she glared at Johnny.

“ I said I was sorry ma’am, and no I’m not. Johnny is an old dear friend.” Charlotte said.

“ Teresa, I knew Charlotte in El Paso. She worked at a store there.” Johnny explained.

“A store. Is that what they call whore houses in El Paso?” she demanded.

“ That’s out of line Teresa. Charlotte, I’m sorry for my wife’s rudeness.” Johnny said.

“ Is there a problem here?” the manager asked.

“ No, no problem sir.” Scott said. “ Just a mistake is all.”

“ Kissing my husband I would hardly call a mistake.” Teresa said.

“ I knew Charlotte before back in Texas a couple years ago.” Johnny explained. “ It was just a harmless kiss.”

“ Charlotte, why don’t you go take care of the other customers?” the manager suggested.

“ Yes sir. Again, I’m terribly sorry ma’am. It was good to see you again Johnny.” Charlotte said before walking away.

“  She should be fired.” Teresa said.

“ I’m sorry for what she did, but Charlotte is my best worker, so she won’t be getting fired young lady.” the manager said before walking away.

Johnny looked at Teresa and then Scott. “ I’m going for a beer.”

“ Johnny, I think we need to go up to our room, and talk about what just happened.” Teresa said.

“ What just happened was you called a friend of mine a whore Teresa, without letting me even explain how we knew each other.” Johnny said before walking out.

                                                                                             JML

Teresa heard the door open, and then close to the hotel room. Sitting up in bed, she turned the lamp up a little. One look at Johnny told her he was still angry with her.

“ Johnny.” she said softly.

Johnny removed his gun belt, then sat down in the chair and removed his boots. Sighing as he sat back in the chair. 

“ Johnny, can we talk?” she asked.

“ Teresa, you……….. I’ve had many women in my past that I have took to bed, but not all of them were whores. Charlotte ran a store with her brother in El Paso.  Her brother was killed by a man who decided to rob them. I killed that man when he came out of the store shooting. Yes I slept with her.” he explained as he stood up, and removed his clothes. “ If you can’t trust me, or you’re going to react to a woman from my past like you did earlier tonight, then this marriage isn’t going to work.” 

“ I know you’ve had women in your past Johnny. I just never expected one to show up, and kiss you right in front of me.” Teresa responded. “ How do you think that made me feel seeing you kiss another woman right in front of me?”

“ Jesus Teresa, she kissed me. It’s not like I put my tongue in her mouth or took her to bed. Charlotte didn’t know I was married. It was an honest mistake. One * you * handled wrong when you accused her of being a whore.” Johnny said as he walked over to the bed, and sat down next to her.

“ I’m sorry. It’s just that……….It shocked me.” she said.

“ Like it didn’t shock me?” he asked. “ Let me tell you something little lady, what I did with women from my past, is just that, my past. It’s you I take to bed, it’s you I am in love with, it’s you I want to give me children.”

“  How about if you go to town and get drunk. Will you refuse a whore then, or will you not care, and take her to a room and fuck her?” she asked with anger. 

Johnny stood up, shocked at the words he just heard come from Teresa’s mouth. “ First of all, I don’t get drunk because of who I am. It would get me killed. Second, I don’t ever want to hear you talk like that again.”

Teresa stood up, and stepped closer to him. “ Hear me now Johnny, if you ever……..ever take a whore to bed from this day forward, I will leave you. I don’t care if it was a mistake, you were drunk and didn’t know what you were doing, or got kidnapped, and forced to * fuck * whoever she was. I will leave you.”

“ I told you not to talk like that to me, and don’t threaten me Teresa.” Johnny said as his anger started building.

“ I said my peace.” Teresa said before turning to climb back in bed.

**** WARNING ADULT CONTENT ****

Johnny grabbed her with his right arm, pulling her back against him as his left hand pulled her nightgown up, allowing him access to her. “ You’re my wife.” he said before shoving her back on the bed. “ You don’t tell me what to do.” he said as he positioned himself over her, and took her roughly. “ I’ll never let you leave me.” 

Powerless to stop him, or the excitement her body felt, Teresa lay there, and found herself meeting every thrust he made with her own. Feeling her body ready to explode at any second, she wrapped her legs tightly around his waist, pressing her head back into the mattress. “ Oh Johnny.” she moaned as wave after wave of pleasure wracked her body as her muscles tightened around him.

Knowing he wasn’t ready just yet, Johnny rolled over onto his back, pulling her on top of him, and started moving as his hands went to her hips,  “ You’re mine, and I will never let you go.” he said as continued harder until he felt himself finally let go.

**** END WARNING ****

Teresa got out of bed and went to the basin to wash off. Bruises started showing on the inside of her thighs. Her whole lower body hurt from the aggressive way her husband took her hours before. A part of her liked how the roughness drove her crazy, yet at the same time, it scared her. She never dreamed Johnny would treat her like he did last night. Had she made a mistake marrying him? If it came to it, and she did try to leave him, what would he do? Last night he told her he would never let her leave. Touching her stomach, she wondered if it was too late. Was she carrying his child now? Would he be faithful to only her, or would he seek satisfaction from a whore if she was with child? Tears started running down her cheeks as she washed off, unaware Johnny had gotten out of bed and came up behind her.

“ You alright?” he asked softly as he placed his hands on her shoulders.

“ I’m fine.” she responded as she turned and walked back over to the bed.

“ Teresa, last night……….last night we both got carried away. I’m sorry if I hurt you querido.” he said as he pulled something small out of his coat pocket.

“ Last night was like I didn’t even know you. Like I didn’t even know myself Johnny.” she said. “ I was afraid of you, yet my body liked it.”

Johnny walked over, and knelt down in front of her. “  I never meant for last night to happen the way it did. I wanted to give you this then.” he said as he opened a small wooden box, revealing a beautiful silver ring inside.

“ Oh Johnny, it’s beautiful.” Teresa said as he slipped it on her finger.

“ Now everyone will know you are mine.” he said.

“ Johnny, make me a promise.” she asked softly as she looked at the ring.  “ Promise me we never make love like that again?” she asked.

“  Only if you promise to never talk like you did last night querido.” he responded.

Teresa wrapped her arms around him, and pulled him to her. “ Deal.” she said as she lay back, pulling him with her as she wrapped her legs around him. “ Make love to me.” 

                                                                                               JML

Murdoch rode into Green River, and dismounted in front of his lawyers office.

“ Murdoch, what brings you to town?” Randall asked.

“ I need to ask you some legal questions.” he said.

“ Alright. I was about to get some lunch, but come on in.” he said. “ What can I do for you?” he asked as he closed the door.

“ It’s about Teresa being my ward. I need to know, did she become of legal age at eighteen?” he asked.

“ Let’s see…………..Teresa……….yes here it is. Her father was killed six years ago. The courts awarded her as your ward until eighteen. Why, is something wrong?” Randall asked.

Murdoch told him about Johnny and his fears of what he would do to Teresa.

“ I understand your concerns Murdoch, but my hands are tied. It’s on record that she is of legal age at eighteen, not twenty one like with men.” Randall explained. “ You say you found your youngest son in Colorado?”

“ Yes.” he said.

“ That can be a problem in itself I’m afraid.” he said.

“ What do you mean?” Murdoch asked.

“ Johnny is entitled to a third of everything you own as is Scott.” Randall responded.

“ Even though he didn’t grow up at Lancer, he can take a third of the ranch from me?”

“ Scott grew up in Boston, and you have him a third owner and Johnny’s third pending his being found. Do you want me to write up another agreement stating each owns a third and all it’s holdings, but you call the tune?” he asked.

“  If he signs the contract, then he’s obligated to the ranch then?” Murdoch asked.

“ As far as the ranch is concerned yes. The only way he would forfeit his third would be to leave Lancer, for more than a year.”

“ Is there any way that can be changed to say three months instead of a year?”

“ I’m afraid not Murdoch. It’s a law. Why all the questions?”

“ You ever hear of a gunfighter named Johnny Madrid?” he asked.

“ Yes, he runs down along the Mexican border. Why?”

“ Because that is who my Johnny is.”

“ Wait a minute, are you saying your son is the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?”

“ Yes, and it would  seem Teresa………….I wish I had never took that damn trip to Colorado.”

“ Teresa what Murdoch?” Randall asked.

“ Teresa * thinks * she is in love with  Johnny. He said under no circumstances would he come back to Lancer if Teresa couldn’t ride back with him. Scott went with them, but I doubt he will be able to stop that boy from dishonoring her.” Murdoch said with anger.

“ Johnny is how old?”

“ Twenty three, and irresponsible.”

“ If he has, you may be able to do something, but it would require using his past as a gunfighter.” Randall said.

“ I will beat that boy to within an inch of his life if he has done anything to dishonor her.” Murdoch said. 

“ I suggest you do it the legal way, if at all possible Murdoch. They could be married, and if they are, I’m afraid there is nothing you can do unless he signs the agreement as Johnny Madrid, and not Johnny Lancer.” Randall said. “  If he signs it not as a Lancer, or  he leaves  for one month, and he’s not gone on business for the ranch, then the contract would become null and void.”

Murdoch stood up. “ After what I witnessed him do in Colorado, and given his past, I doubt it will take a year. Thank you for your time Randall.” he said as they walked outside.

“ Hey Murdoch!” Fred yelled as he hurried toward him. “ I got a wire for you from Scott.”

“ Thank you Fred.” Murdoch said as he took the wire and read it. 

“ Is everything alright?” Randall asked.

“ They’re in Carson City.” Murdoch said.

“ They should be here in two days then. I’ll see you Murdoch. Just remember what I said.” Randall said before walking away.

 Chapter 6 ( Final Chapter )

Scott stopped his horse on top of the hill. “ There it is brother, Lancer as far as the eye can see. One hundred thousand acres.” 

Johnny dismounted and dropped the reins, walking over to look down at the valley below. 

“ Think  you could handle living here?” Teresa asked as she joined him.

Johnny put his arm around her. “ As long as I have you by my side, I can live anywhere querido, but this will do.”

“ The bell is ringing, so I think we have been spotted.” Scott said.

“ Bell?” Johnny asked as he helped Teresa back on her horse.

“ In the tower on the north side of the house. There’s one at the south side also.” Scott said. “ You ready to ride down there and see the house you were born in?” he asked.

“ Let ‘er buck.” Johnny said as he swung up on the black.

                                                                                           JML

“ Three riders coming down the hill with two pack-horses Mister Lancer.” Frank said as Murdoch came out of the house.

“ Cipriano, did you tell the men?” Murdoch asked.

“ Si patrón. They know who he is.” Cipriano responded. “ It is hard to believe my nephew is the famous pistolero, Johnny Madrid. I cannot imagine how you must have felt when you learned who our Johnny had become.”

“  I’m not so sure he is my Johnny Cipriano. Not after what I seen him do in Colorado to those two men.” Murdoch said.

“ But did you not tell me, those two men were very bad?” Cip asked.

“ Yes, but no man deserves to die the way Madrid killed them two.” Murdoch said as he watched the three riders pass under the Lancer arch.

“ Do you not want him at Lancer because of who he became?” the segundo asked.

Murdoch looked at him. “  Not if it’s going to endanger anyone’s life.” he said as they rode up.

“ Sir.” Scott said as he dismounted. “ Cipriano, it’s good to see you.”

“ And you Senor Scott. Welcome home.” Cipriano said as he looked at Johnny. 

Johnny dismounted and went to help Teresa down. 

“ It’s good to have you home son.” Murdoch said as he watched Johnny help Teresa down, noticing the silver band on her left hand.

“ Thank you Johnny, Murdoch.” Teresa said as she went to give him a hug. “ Oh I missed you.”

Murdoch wrapped his arms around his ward, hugging her tight. “ Are you alright?” he asked.

“ I’m fine. It;s good to be home.” Teresa said.

Johnny stood next to the black, looking at the size of the house.

“ Senor Johnny, I am your Tio.” Cipriano said.

Johnny looked at the man. “ My Tio?” he asked.

“ Si, your mother’s brother. Did she not tell you about me?” Cip asked.

“ My mother told me nothing about Lancer, except that the old man ran her off.” he said.

“  We will have time to catch up. I will take your horse.” Cip said as he took the reins. “ He is a magnificent looking animal.”

“ Gracias.” Johnny said.

“ Frank, Walt, take care of these horses. See that they all get a good brushing and turn them out in the south paddock so they can graze on the grass.” Murdoch ordered.

“ Yes sir Mister Lancer.” Frank responded as him and Walt walked over and took the horses.

Teresa walked over to Johnny, and put her arm around his waist. “ Shall we show you the inside? ”  she asked.

Walking into the big house, Johnny was taken aback by the size of the room as he walked in. On his left was a big table he figured is were meals were eaten. On his right, he seen a huge desk in front of a big window.

“ Come on in brother.” Scott said. “ Want a drink?”

“ Sure, tequila.” Johnny responded as he walked over and looked at a map on the wall of Lancer. It showed every rode, stream, wash, pond, and lake. “ Black Mesa.” he said aloud.

“ What’s that brother?” Scott asked as he walked over, and handed him his drink.

“ Thanks. It’s quite a spread.” he said.

“ I’ll be glad to show you around, and introduce you to the hands.” Scott said.

Johnny walked over to the desk, and picked up a picture of a beautiful blonde haired woman. “ Your mother?” he asked.

“ Yes, that’s his mother. The other one is your mother, Maria.” Murdoch said.

“ She’s a beautiful woman.” Johnny said as he set the picture down.

“ Johnny, why don’t I take you upstairs and show you our bedroom? ” Teresa asked.

“ Your bedroom is down here Teresa. Scott can show him to his room upstairs.” Murdoch said.

“ She sleeps with me old man.” Johnny said.

“ So you did dishonor her. You will not be sleeping together in my house.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ Murdoch, me and Johnny got married in Grand Junction, Colorado.” Teresa said as she showed him the wedding ring she wore.

Murdoch looked at the ring, then at Scott. “ You allowed this marriage to happen?” he demanded.

“ Yes sir I did. Teresa is of age, and they love each other.” Scott responded.

“ She is my ward. I did not give my permission for her to marry him.” he snapped back.

“ Look, we can argue about this, or you can accept the fact that she’s my wife, and not you, or anyone else is going to change that.” Johnny said as he walked up to Murdoch. “ The only difference is, I waited until we were married to take her to bed.”

“ You took advantage of an innocent girl.” he said.

“ He didn’t take advantage of me. Murdoch, please, I love Johnny, and he loves me. Why can’t you accept that?” Teresa pleaded. “ I’m not a little girl anymore.”

Murdoch looked at her, at the tears welling up in her eyes, threatening to spill out. “ I……….I promised Paul I would take care of you, raise you to be a proper lady.”

“ And you have. Everything I know, I learned from you.  Please, can’t you be happy for me?” she asked. “ For us?”

“ Are you sure this is what you want?” Murdoch asked.

“ Murdoch, I have never been more sure of anything.” she said.

“ Are you mature enough to be a husband, and provider for her?” Murdoch asked.

“ I’ll have no problem providing for my wife.” Johnny responded.

                                                                                             JML

Johnny settled in at Lancer, and worked hard along side his brother and the hands. Every day he got to know a little more about Murdoch, and how he came to the valley, bought Lancer,and with a lot of hard work, blood, and sweat,  built it up to be the biggest ranch in the valley. Word had gotten out about Murdoch’s prodigal son returning to Lancer. Some smirked at him after learning he had married Teresa. Other’s talked behind his back, or whispered, pointing a finger whenever he went to town with Scott, or a hand to get supplies. The Cattleman’s Association wasn’t impressed with him being there. They felt having a notorious gunfighter living in the valley would only bring trouble. Something Johnny didn’t want, especially now that he had a wife. Every Sunday he would ride with Teresa to a secluded area on the ranch, and make love to her in the afternoon sun when she came back from church. The one day of the week he looked forward to, because nobody would be round, and he could do things to Teresa sending her over the top moaning, begging him to do more, or even screaming when she would climax.  Tomorrow, he planned on seeing if he could get her to do something to him they hadn’t done yet, something he fully intended on doing to her. 

“ Have you had Randall draw up a new contract yet for Johnny to sign with us?” Scott asked.

“ Not yet. I want to see if he’s going to stay first. The boy has never had anything beyond that gun to commit to before he married Teresa, and came here.” Murdoch responded. “ Are you going to town tonight?”

“ No. I thought I would stay here tonight and see if I can beat Johnny at a game of chess.” he said. “ Where’s Teresa?”

“ I believe in the kitchen with Maria preparing supper.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ What do you think about selling off three hundred head of those two year old’s this fall?”

“  Wouldn’t that depend on the market price?” Johnny asked as he walked into the room.

“ Yes it would, but we can’t afford to feed them thru the winter when we can ship them to market Johnny.” Murdoch responded.

“ You have a problem with calling me your son?” Johnny asked. “ I hear you say it all the time to Boston, but not once have you said it to me. Kinda makes me feel like you don’t want me here.”

Scott walked over to the sideboard. “ Drink brother?”

“ No thanks.” he responded. “ You going to answer me?”

“ Did you get that stream cleared out?” Murdoch responded.

“ I guess that’s my answer. I’m going to get cleaned up.” Johnny said before turning and heading upstairs.

Scott watched his brother go upstairs. He could tell he was hurt when he got no answer.“ Is what he asked true?” he demanded.

“ What happens between me and Johnny is of no concern of yours.” Murdoch responded as Teresa walked into the room.

“ Has Johnny come in yet?” she asked.

“ He just went upstairs.” Murdoch said.

“ You have no idea how much it hurts him do you? He’s trying so hard to have you love him as your son.” Scott said.

“ What’s wrong?” Teresa asked.

“ It would seem Murdoch can’t bring himself to call Johnny his son. He hasn’t said it to him once since we got here, and Johnny asked him why,and as usual, Murdoch ignored him.” Scott said.

Teresa turned and went upstairs. She knew her husband would be hurting, or upset, and wanted to be there for him.

                                                                                         JML

Johnny sat on his bed with his head down. “ I’m such a fool to think he would ever accept me as his son. All I am is another hired hand, and will never be anything else in his eyes.” he said aloud as he stood up, and walked over to the window, looking out at the horses in the lower paddock grazing on grass.

“ Are you alright?” Teresa asked as she walked in and closed the door.

Johnny turned and faced her. “ You married a fool.” he said.

“ No I didn’t. I married the man I love more than anything.” she said.

“ That man is never going to accept me as his son Teresa. I’m nothing more than a hired hand here.” Johnny said with anger.

“ He will Johnny. It’s just going to take time. You’re both still getting to know each other.” Teresa responded as she walked over to him. “ He’s searched for you for twenty years. That’s a long time, and a lot of money spent searching for someone you think he doesn’t want here.”

“ If he wants me here, then why can’t he acknowledge me as his son? Back in Colorado, he said me and Scott would be equal partners with him in this ranch. I’ve seen no contract to sign, and he sure as hell has never called me his son. I’ve busted my ass these last four months doing every chore he gives me, and then some. Is it good enough for him………..no.” Johnny said.

“ I seen him sitting at his desk this afternoon just staring at the picture he has of your mother. He never even heard me come in the room.” she said. “ I think……..I think he wants to ask you about her, but he’s afraid to.” she said.

“ Tomorrow being Sunday, you going to church with him?” Johnny asked as he removed his shirt.

“ I usually do, but tomorrow I thought we could go swimming and lay in the warm sun, making love.” she suggested.

“ That’s sounds fine to me, but I plan on making love to you right now.” Johnny said as he stepped over to her, and fumbled to undo her shirt.

“  What about supper?” she asked as she tossed her head back when his mouth claimed her left breast.

“ Later.” Johnny said as he walked her over to the bed, and they fell onto the mattress.

                                                                                             JML

**** WARNING ADULT CONTENT ****

“ I just love it here.” Teresa said as Johnny helped her down. “ The waterfall is so beautiful.”

“ It is beautiful, but not as much as you are.” Johnny said as he started undressing. “ You going to get in the water with me?” he asked as he removed his pants.

“ Yes.” she said as she started to remove her clothes.

Johnny dove in the water, standing up in waist high water. Watching Teresa undress making him excited as she stepped into the water.  

“ Oh that feels so good.” she said as she walked out to him.

Johnny pulled her to him, claiming her mouth with hunger as he let his right hand go down between her legs.

Teresa threw her head back as she clung to him, digging her fingers into his biceps as she relished in the feeling she was beginning to crave more and more.

Johnny stepped back into a little deeper water, bringing her with him. “ Wrap your legs around me.” he said as he picked her up.

Teresa smiled and wrapped her legs around him. Feeling him enter her, she moaned aloud as she threw her head back, bucking against him as he matched her moves. Water splashing around them as bare skin slapped bare skin. His hardness touching her in the right spot, driving her crazy as her breathing got faster.

He could feel her tighten and knew she was there as his own satisfaction came.

**** END WARNING ****

Thirty minutes later Teresa rest her head on Johnny’s right shoulder. Him in just his pants, and her wearing just her shirt. “ Sometimes I wish we could stay like this forever.” she said softly.

“ So do I.” Johnny said. “ You have any regrets about marrying me?” he asked.

Teresa raised up, and looked into his blue eyes. “ None.” she said. “ Johnny, I’m going to have a baby.”

Johnny stared into her brown eyes for several seconds.

“ Did you hear what I said?” she asked.

“ You mean it, You’re carrying our child?” he asked.

Teresa nodded. “ Sam said I’m about three months.”

Johnny stood up, and reached down for her, pulling her up to him. “ I didn’t think this day could get any better.” he said before being knocked forward into her, and slowly dropping to his knees. “ Teresa.” he said as he fell forward, as a red stain spread across his back.

“ Johnny!”  Teresa yelled as she grabbed his shirt, and pressed it to the wound. Seeing a lone rider coming toward her, she grabbed his pistol, and pulled the hammer back, keeping it at her side. Shocked when she seen the rider was a boy who couldn’t be more than eighteen.

“ Name’s Parker, Andy Parker. I knew it was you I seen in town last week. You ain’t the fastest anymore Madrid.”

Teresa brought the pistol up, and fired, hitting the kid, knocking him out of the saddle.

Knowing there would be no hands working, Teresa stood up, and went to the black, tied the reins up. “ Johnny needs help boy. Please go home.” she pleaded before she sent the stallion away.

                                                                                               JML

“ Mister Lancer, Scott, you better come out here. Johnny’s horse just came in without him.” Frank said.

Murdoch, and Scott hurried outside. “ Saddle our horses.” Murdoch ordered. “ And send someone for Sam. We don’t even know where the devil they went.”

“ I do. Teresa said they were going swimming at the waterfall.” Scott responded.

“ Hitch up a wagon, and bring it to the waterfall up at Black Mesa.” Murdoch ordered. 

“ Make sure there are plenty of blankets and bandages.” Scott ordered as they mounted up, and took off. 

                                                                                              JML

Teresa sat on the ground holding the shirt to Johnny’s wound as tears rolled down her face. “ Please don’t die. Please, somebody find us,” she sobbed.

“ Teresa!”  Scott yelled as he rode up and dismounted, hurrying to his brother. “ How bad is it?”

“ It’s bad Scott, he was shot in the back.” Teresa said as Murdoch rode up and dismounted.

“ Are you alright?” he asked as he hurried to her side.

“ I’m fine. That boy shot Johnny in the back.” she said. “ We didn’t even know he was there.”

“ Frank is bringing a wagon, and Sam will should be there by the time we get him home.” Murdoch said. “ Let’s get some fresh bandages on the wound.”

                                                                                            JML

“ I want everyone out but Scott.” Sam said as he walked into the bedroom.

“ I’m staying Sam.” Teresa said.

“ No you are not young lady. Murdoch, take her downstairs now.” Sam ordered.

“ Come on Teresa. You need to clean up.” Murdoch said as he took her arm, and guided her out of the room.

“ Sam, please…….don’t let him die.” she pleaded from the door.

“ I’ll do everything I can for him.” Sam said.

Teresa walked into the grand room, and over to the couch to sit down. “ Why, why did he do it?”

Murdoch poured a little brandy and brought it to her. “ Here, drink this.” he said. 

Teresa took the brandy and took a sip. “ Today was such a special day for us. I can;t lose him Murdoch.”

“ You won’t lose him sweetheart. Johnny is tough. He’ll pull thru this.” he said.

                                                                                            JML

Sam came downstairs four hours later. “ He’s alive.” he said as he walked into the grand room.

“ How bad is it?” Murdoch asked.

“ The bullet was deep, but it missed his spin, and all the other vital organs.” Sam explained. “ I don’t know when he will wake up, he’s in a deep phase of unconsciousness. He’s going to have to stay still so he doesn’t tear the stitches out when he does wake up.”

“Can I see him?” she asked.

“ Yes, but I want you to promise me you will let Murdoch, and Scott relieve you after five hours.” Sam ordered.

“ I will Sam.” Teresa said before heading upstairs.

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

“ That would be fine.” Sam said. “ Have you seen the scars on that boys body?”

“ Yes, I seen them in Colorado Sam. He hasn’t had an easy life.” Murdoch responded as they walked to the kitchen.

“  Mi Johnny, ¿estará bien?” Maia asked.  ( My Johnny, will he be alright?)

“ Yes Maria. Sam said he will be with time and rest.” Murdoch responded. “ Why don’t you go on home now.”

“ Bueno. Teresa, ama mucho a Johnny. Tengo comida en el horno para ti.” Maria said as she opened the back door.  ( Good. Teresa, she loves Johnny very much. I have food in the oven for you.)

“ Thank you Maria. I’ll see you in the morning.” Murdoch responded.

Sam sat down and rubbed his face. “ I have never seen anyone with scars like that boy has Murdoch. My god, he’s been whipped, cut, stabbed, and shot I don;t know how many times.”

“ This makes the third time he’s been shot since Colorado.” Murdoch said as he poured them some coffee.

“ How are you two getting along?” Sam asked.

“ We’re not. We hardly speak.” he said as he sat down.

“ Is that because he married Teresa, or because your son is Johnny Madrid?” Sam asked.

“ To be honest Sam, I just don’t know anymore. These past four months he’s been here, I’ve seen how much he loves Teresa. He does his work. The hands all like him.” Murdoch responded.

“ You didn’t answer my question.” Sam said. 

“  I don’t think I can Sam. Every time I look at him, I see Maria, and remember how she stole him away from me that night.” he said.

“ What Maria did to * you * was not Johnny’s fault. You searched what…..twenty years for that boy. I would think you would be doing everything you could to try and get to know him. To be the father he never had growing up.” Sam stated.

“ When I was nursing him from a gunshot wound, he said some things that have be believing he witnessed his mother being killed.” he said.

“ And you want to know about her death?” the doctor asked.

“ I have a right to know how she died Sam. She was my wife.”

“ I suggest you forget about asking that boy that Murdoch. Asking him may do irreparable damage to what I think is an already strained relationship you two are having.”

                                                                                                JML

Teresa walked into the room and found Scott sitting next to the bed reading a book.

“ How is he?” she asked as she walked over, and sat down on the bed next to Johnny.

“ He hasn’t moved, or moaned. Sam said he may be in a deep phase of unconsciousness.” Scott responded. “ What happened Teresa?”

“ We were enjoying the day, and I had just told him I was pregnant, and he stood up. If I hadn’t, he would have never been shot.” she said.

“ I’m going to be an uncle.” Scott said.

“ Yes. What was supposed to be the happiest day of Johnny’s life, turned into a nightmare.” she sobbed.

Scott leaned back in the chair. “ Teresa, don’t blame yourself for this. Whoever that kid was, would probably still shot Johnny whether he stood up or not. In fact, him standing up may have saved his life. 

“ I killed him Scott. He was going to shoot Johnny again, and I killed him.” she said with tears.

“ You shot him?” Scott asked with shock. “ I thought Johnny………oh my god.”  he said as he stood up, and went over to sit next to her. “ Teresa, listen to me. You did nothing wrong. That kid was determined to kill Johnny. He gave you no choice. It’s because of you, Johnny is still alive.”

Teresa turned and put her head on his shoulder, letting the tears fall as Scott wrapped his arms around her. 

                                                                                             JML

Murdoch stopped outside Johnny’s bedroom, he could hear Teresa talking to him, trying to get him to wake up. What he heard pulled at his heart, and made him smile.

“ Teresa.” he said softly as he walked into the room.

“ You were standing out there listening?” she said as she wiped at her tears.

“ I’m sorry.” Murdoch said softly.

“ Are you mad?’ she asked.

“ That I’m going to be a grandfather, of course not. I’m happy for the both of you sweetheart.” he said. “ I know me and Johnny are having trouble getting along, and that’s mostly my fault, not his. I’m happy he gets the chance to be a father.”

“ Why don’t you call him your son like you do Scott? Does who he is shame you that much?” she asked.

“ No. Teresa, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this past week when I sit in here with him, and when in my room at night. I owe Johnny an apology for the way I have been toward him.” Murdoch said as Sam walked into the room.

“ Am I interrupting?” Sam asked.

“ No, I was telling Teresa how I have been a fool, and that I owe Johnny an apology for the way I have been treating him.” Murdoch said.

“ That, and the fact he’s going to be a grandfather.” Teresa added.

“ Has our patient showed any signs of waking up yet?” Sam asked as he sat down on the bed to check Johnny’s eyes.

“ No, he hasn’t moaned or moved. Sam, I’m worried.” Teresa said.

“ I know you want him awake Teresa, but being unconscious like he is, is letting his body heal.” Sam explained. “ Let me in there so I can  check his wound. Murdoch, help me sit him up so I can remove the bandages and check the wound.”

“ How is he?” Scott asked thirty minutes later when he walked into the room.

“ Good. The wound is healing up nicely. There’s no sign of infection. I’m going to insert a tube so we can get fluids down him.” Sam said as he pulled along black tube out of his bag.

                                                                                             JML

Teresa sat in the chair looking out the window as rain poured down three days later. Lightening would light up the night sky as the rain pelted the window. “ Teresa.” came a soft voice from behind her. Turning around, she found a pair of blue eyes looking at her.

“ Johnny.” she said as she stood up, and went to his side. “ I thought I was going to lose you.”

“ What……….what happened?” he asked hoarsely as he reached up and touched the tube inserted in his nose. ‘ What is this?”

“ It’s a tube Sam inserted so we could get fluids in you.” Teresa told him.

“ I want this out.” he said.

“ Sam won’t be here to remove it until tomorrow afternoon.” she said.

Johnny started pulling on the tube, ignoring Teresa telling him to leave it in. Gagging as he pulled it out. Coughing when it finally came out.

“ Here, let me get you some water.” she said as she poured a glass, and held it so he could drink.

“ Thanks.” he said as he tried to sit up, but stopped when his back protested.

“ Let me help you.” she said as she helped him to lean forward, and propped some pillows behind him.

“ Did you see who shot me?” he asked.

“  I did.  He rode up and was going to shoot you again. I killed him with your gun before he could.” she said. “ Do you know an Andy Parker?” 

“ No, why?” he asked.

“ Because that’s what he said his name was.  He said he knew it was you when he seen you in town the week before………and that you weren’t the fastest anymore.” she said. 

Johnny closed his eyes. “ I’m sorry Teresa.” he said barely above a whisper.

“ It wasn’t your fault Johnny. You had no way of knowing that kid would come after you.” she said.

“ The baby?”

“ Our baby is fine.” she said as she laid her head on his chest.

“  I remember you telling me you were pregnant. ” Johnny said as Murdoch walked into the room.

“ I thought I heard voices. Good to see you awake son. How do you feel?” the Lancer patriarch asked.

“ Sore,and tired. You feeling alright?” Johnny asked.

“ I feel fine. Better now that you’re awake. I see you removed the tube. You know, Sam isn’t going to be too happy with you doing that.”

“ I don’t care.” Johnny said. “ You said son.”

“ Yes I did. Listen, John, when you’re stronger, me and you need to have a father and son talk.”

“ Right now he needs rest. It’s almost midnight.” Teresa said.

“ Alright. I’ll see you two in the morning.” Murdoch said before walking out of the room, closing the door.

Johnny stared at the door for several minutes, until Teresa walked over and locked it.

“ Are you alright?” she asked as she walked over to start undressing.

“ I still don’t believe he just called me his son. He said it twice.” Johnny said softly as Teresa climbed in bed to lay next to him.

“ He was afraid he would lose you. I’ve never seen Murdoch so scared. I came up once and he didn’t hear me. He was sitting in the chair, holding your hand, and crying.” Teresa said as she snuggled up next to him with her head on his left shoulder.

“ Does he know?”Johnny asked.

“ He does.  He overheard me talking to you.” she said. “ Scott knows also.”

                                                                                            JML

Johnny sat on the couch looking at a cattle breed book when Scott and Murdoch walked into the room.

“ Well, I will see you two tonight.” Scott said as he headed to the door.

“ Have fun.” Johnny said.

Murdoch walked over and sat down in the blue chair across from Johnny. “ Can we talk son?” he asked.

Johnny closed the book and set it on the table. “ Sure.”

“ First off, I would like to tell you how sorry I am for the way I have treated you since you came home.” Murdoch said. “ I should have welcomed you, and I didn’t, and for that I am sorry son.”

“ I guess some of that is my fault. What you witnessed in Colorado didn’t help you accept me as your son.” Johnny said.

“ No, but still, I should have. I did search for you for twenty years after all. Sitting in your room, watching you lay there fighting for your life made me realize what a fool I’ve been. I came  so close to losing you twice since finding you.” he said. “ I need to know something son, and I’m hoping you will tell me. When you were with fever in Colorado, you said something that has bothered me since.”

Johnny started to get nervous. He had a feeling he knew what his father was going to ask him, and wondered if he should tell him the truth.

“ I need to know about your mother.”he said.

And there it was, the one question he had hoped his father would never ask. Standing up, he walked over to the fireplace. “  Murdoch, are you sure you want to know this?” he asked.

“ I need to know son. It won;t change anything between us, but it will give me some peace of mind.” he responded.

“ I was around four years old I think the first time I asked about you, she said my father was a worthless gringo, who only used her. That you only married her because she was pregnant. That you had thrown us out because you didn’t want a half-breed son. She beat me, and forbid me to ever ask about you again. I could never figure out why we moved round so much. Sometimes we were in a village a few months and we would pack up and leave, always in the middle of the night. I was forced to leave the shack we lived in if she had a man. She didn’t want them knowing she had a mestizo son. This one night, when I was ten, it was cold, and I came back wanting to get warm. She was with a man. I could hear them in the room.” Johnny explained as he walked over and poured a shot of tequila, and downed it to steady his nerves. “  All the sudden my mother started screaming for him to stop. I went to the door, and moved the blanket she had hanging up. He was on top of her, strangling her. She was thrashing around, hitting him with her fist trying to get him to stop.” he said as he poured another shot. “ I jumped on his back, hitting him, trying to get him to stop. He grabbed me and threw me against the wall. He got off the bed and came after me again, picking me up as he called me filthy names. I don’t remember him pulling the knife, but he must have because it was suddenly in his hand. My mother had gotten out of  bed, pleading with him to not kill me as she grabbed his arm. He spun around, and drove the knife deep inside her. He must have forgot about me, because he got dressed and left. I crawled to my mother and begged her to not die. When she took her last breath, I vowed I would find that bastard and make him pay for killing her. I would send him to hell.”

Murdoch stood up, and walked over to him, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“ I was put in the orphanage where I was beaten and abused by the priest and other kids until I was thirteen when I left. I got a gun from a dead man and practiced back in the mountains every day until I got good enough to start looking for that bastard , and kill him. I was sixteen when I finally found him in a saloon. I made sure he knew who it was killing him too. After that, I decided to hire out, and got better with my gun. I had a reputation as the best. Something I now wish I had never had.”

“ What was his name?” Murdoch asked.

“ Ben Davis.” Johnny said. “ When are you going to make me a third owner in this ranch?” 

“ When Sam says you can ride.” Murdoch responded.

                                                                                            JML

Johnny sat watching a herd of mustangs from the top of the hill five years later with his son in the saddle in front of him. “ That palomino stallion reminds me of how you used to be black.” he said. “ Barronco.” he said in Spanish.

“ What does……….Ba…rra……..Barranca mean papa?” Thomas asked.

“ Barronco….it means ravine. But I like your way of saying it son. He is a Barranca.” Johnny said.

“ Are you going to catch him papa?” Thomas asked.

“ I think I will son. The black is getting up there in age now. It’s time I retire him.” he said. “ We better head back. You know how your mother gets if I keep you out to long.”

“ Can we go to the top of the hill before we go home papa?” he asked.

Johnny smiled as he turned the black and started at an easy lope toward the one spot he loved more than anywhere else on Lancer.

                                                                                          JML

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

“ I never get tired of looking at Lancer from up here.” Johnny said.

“ Grandpa, tell me how far away Lancer goes.” Thomas asked.

“ From here, all the way to those mountains way over there. As far as the eye can see is Lancer.” Murdoch said.

“ The most beautiful place on earth.” Johnny said.

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

“ For services rendered.” Johnny said softly as he started down the hill to the life he cherished, and a family he loved.

The End

11/9/2020

Research Notes:

Sugarite Canyon:

Sugarite Canyon (pronounced “shug-ur-eet”) is located east of Raton Pass in a sparsely-populated region of lofty, steep-sided, flat-topped mesas; cone-shaped volcanoes; and old lava flows. Sugarite Canyon State Park, 3,600 acres in size, consists of a stream valley flanked by basalt cliffs with Bartlett and Little Horse Mesas to the west and Horse Mesa on the east. Elevations in the park are from 6,950 feet  at the park entrance to 8,350 feet on top of Little Horse Mesa. The park is about 4 miles long and 1.5 miles wide.

Most of the park is heavily forested with ponderosa pine and gambel oak forests. Along Chicorica Creek at lower elevations is a riparian forest of willow and cottonwood. Douglas fir, white fir, and aspen forests are found at higher elevations on north facing slopes. The flat top of Little Horse Mesa is a grassy meadow.

Research Notes:

HOP Ranch, Fountain, and Pueblo, Colorado.

The HOP Ranch was named for the three original partners – H for William T. Hurd, Superintendent of the Michigan Central Railroad stockyards in Detroit; O for William HOlmes of Wayland, Massachusetts, a six-year veteran merchant seaman and mate who had sailed aboard clipper ships throughout the world; and P for Samuel A. Plumer – a successful real estate investor and financier also of Detroit 

Hurd, Holmes, and Plumer formed a partnership in Detroit to establish a livestock enterprise in cattle and ventured to Denver, Colorado in 1871. From there they took a wagon to Fountain, Colorado where they located, established, and purchased rights to the land which would eventually become the HOP Ranch. William Holmes remained in Colorado to become the on-site ranch manager while Hurd and Plumer returned to their home base in Detroit. 

In its early days of operation, the HOP Ranch shipped cattle to market from the nearest rail-head in Hugo, Colorado for delivery to Kansas City and Chicago. Later when the railroad reached Pueblo, Colorado, cattle were shipped to market from nearby Fountain, Colorado. During typical ranch operating years, HOP Ranch would ship as many as one-thousand head of cattle to market. William Holmes and his younger brother James were among the first to import Hereford cattle to Colorado when they shipped a dozen well-selected cattle, mostly bulls, from Canada in 1874. After a visit to the ranch in October 1878, Wm. T. Hurd and his wife departed to winter in the east. Upon their departure, it was thought he and the Holmes brothers had “the finest lot of Hereford cattle in Colorado.” On October 30, they shipped to market “the finest lot of half blood Herefords that were ever shipped from the state.” This hearty breed of white-faced cattle would dominate the Colorado ranching landscape just a few decades later. 

Research Notes:

Twin Creek Ranch

Twin Creek Ranch was built in 1872 by Thomas Burnham. Located in Florissant, Colorado. The barn today was the home Burnham built back then and was in use until the Victorian home was built in 1887. Nestled on 62 acres, it is still in use today. There is a Trappers cabin on the property built in 1840 by mountain man and frontiersman, Kit Carson.

Research Notes:

Arkansas River:

The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. It generally flows to the east and southeast as it traverses the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The river’s source basin lies in the western United States in Colorado, specifically the Arkansas River Valley, where the headwaters derive from the snow pack in the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain ranges. It then flows east into the Midwest via Kansas, and finally into the South through Oklahoma and Arkansas.

At 1,469 miles, it is the sixth-longest river in the United States, the second-longest tributary in the Mississippi–Missouri system, and the 45th longest river in the world. Its origin is in the Rocky Mountains in Lake County, Colorado, near Leadville.

The Arkansas has three distinct sections in its long path through central North America. At its headwaters beginning near Leadville, Colorado, the Arkansas runs as a steep fast-flowing mountain river through the Rockies in its narrow valley, dropping 4,600 feet in 120 miles.

At Cañon City, Colorado, the Arkansas River valley widens and flattens markedly. Just west of Pueblo, Colorado, the river enters the Great Plains. Through the rest of Colorado, Kansas, and much of Oklahoma, it is a typical Great Plains river-way, with wide, shallow banks subject to seasonal flooding and periods of dwindling flow. Tributaries include the Cimarron River, and the Salt Fork Arkansas River.

Research Notes:

Purgatoire River:

The Purgatoire River ( Spanish: Río Purgatorio) is a river located in southeastern Colorado. The river is also known locally as the Purgatory River or the Picketwire River. Purgatoire means Purgatory in French. French trappers named the river to commemorate Spanish explorers killed in a Native American attack.

The Purgatoire River originates at the confluence of the North Fork Purgatoire and Middle Fork Purgatoire rivers near Weston in Las Animas County, Colorado, and flows generally east-northeastward approximately 196 miles to a confluence with the Arkansas River in John Martin Reservoir State Park near Las Animas in Bent County, Colorado.

Research Notes:

Bent’s Fort, Colorado:

Bent’s Fort is described as having been a structure built of adobe bricks. It was 180 feet long and 135 feet wide. The walls were 15 feet in height and four feet thick and it was the strongest post at that time west of Ft. Leavenworth. The construction of this fort was commenced in 1828 … at a point on the Arkansas somewhere between the present cities of Pueblo and Canyon City, having been disadvantageously located. Four years were required in which to complete the structure. On the northwest and southeast corners were hexagonal bastions, in which were mounted a number of cannon. The walls of the fort served as walls of the rooms, all of which faced inwardly on a court or plaza. The walls were loop holed for musketry, and the entrance was through large wooden gates of very heavy timbers. 

William and Charles Bent, along with Ceran St. Vrain, built the original fort on this site in 1833 to  trade with trappers and Native Americans, primarily the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, for buffalo robes. The adobe fort quickly became the center of the Bent, St. Vrain Company’s expanding trade empire that included Fort St. Vrain to the north and Fort Adobe to the south, along with company stores in Mexico at Taos and Santa Fe.

For much of its 16-year history, the adobe fort was the only major permanent white settlement on the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and the Mexican settlements around Santa Fe. The fort provided explorers, adventurers, and the U.S. Army a place to get needed supplies, wagon repairs, livestock, good food, water, camaraderie, rest and protection in the vast “Great American Desert”. The famous Western scout Kit Carson was a hunter for the fort from 1831 to 1842. During the war with Mexico in 1846, the fort became a staging area for Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny’s “Army of the West”. Disasters and disease caused the fort’s abandonment in 1849. Archaeological excavations and original sketches, paintings and diaries were used in the fort’s reconstruction in 1976.


In 1849 when a great cholera epidemic struck the Cheyenne and other Plains Indians, William Bent abandoned Bent’s Fort and moved his headquarters north to Fort Saint Vrain on the South Platte. When he returned south in 1852, he relocated his trading business to his log trading post at Big Timbers, near what is now Lamar, Colorado. Later, in the fall of 1853, Bent began building a stone fort on the bluff above Big Timbers, Bent’s New Fort, where he conducted his trading business until 1860.

When the fort was reconstructed in 1976, its authenticity was based on the use of archaeological excavations, paintings and original sketches, diaries and other existing historical data from the period.

Research Notes:

Black Mesa:

 Black Mesa is a mesa in the U.S. states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. It extends from Mesa de Maya, Colorado southeasterly 28 miles along the north bank of the Cimarron River, crossing the northeast corner of New Mexico to end at the confluence of the Cimarron River and Carrizo Creek near Kenton in the Oklahoma panhandle. Its highest elevation is 5,705 feet in Colorado. The highest point of Black Mesa within New Mexico is 5,239 feet. In northwestern Cimarron County, Oklahoma, Black Mesa reaches 4,973 feet, the highest point in the state of Oklahoma. The plateau that formed at the top of the mesa has been known as a “geological wonder” of North America. There is abundant wildlife in this short-grass prairie environment, including Mountain Lions, Butterflies, and the Texas Horned Lizard. The plateau has been home to Plains Indians.

In the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century the area was a hideout for outlaws such as William Coe and Black Jack Ketchum. The outlaws built a fort known as the Robbers’ Roost. The stone fort housed a blacksmith shop, gun ports, and a piano. The present-day Oklahoma Panhandle area, which was then considered a no man’s land, lacked law enforcement agencies and hence the outlaws found it safe to hide in the region. However, as new settlers arrived in the area for copper and coal mining and also for cattle ranching activities by grazing cattle in the mesa region, law enforcement became more effective, and the outlaws were brought under control.

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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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3 thoughts on “Services Rendered by Nancy Marie

  1. I really liked this story. It was different from the others because not all of the same story line was used , as in the other stories. You gave Johnny and the Lancers a new perspective.

    Like

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