I don’t own them. I’m just borrowing them to take out for a weekend ride. All original characters from the TV show Lancer belong to their rightful owners. All others belong to me.
As with all my other stories, this will have an R rating for cursing, but nothing drastic, and some mild adult content.
Johnny Madrid Lancer
Cole Thurston ( Deputy Marshal- Abilene, Texas )
Luke Johnson ( Marshal, Abilene, Texas )
Zeb Cooper- rancher
Paul Cooper- son
Doc Carver, Hardyville
Sheriff Behan, Hardyville.
Allen Martin, Senior Pinkerton, Texas Division.
Word count: 31,830
“ Can I help you gentlemen?” Scott asked.
“ We’re looking for the Lancer spread.” one of the men said.
“ You found it. I’m Scott Lancer. What can I do for you?”
“ I’m Marshal Luke Johnson, and this is my Deputy Cole Thurston. We’re here from Abilene, Texas to arrest a man we have learned has been hiding out at your ranch.” Marshal Johnson said.
“ Everyone who works for Lancer has been here several years Marshal. Do yuo have a description of this man?” Scott asked.
“ I do. I have a dodger on him.” The marshal responded as he pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to Scott.
Scott read the name at the top of the wanted poster, and got an immediate sick feeling in his stomach.
“ From the look on your face, I’d say that man is here?” Marshal Johnson asked.
Scott handed the paper back to the marshal just as Johnny and Teresa walked over to them.
Deputy Thurston drew his gun, and aimed it right at Johnny. “ Don’t do anything stupid Madrid, or I’ll put a bullet in you.”
“ Now hold on.” Scott said as he stepped between Johnny and the deputy.
“ What’s this all about Marshal?” Johnny asked.
“ They have a wanted poster on you Johnny, for murder. That five thousand dollar bounty is a bit much don’t you think?” Scott demanded.
“ What murder?” Johnny asked as they deputy got down.
“ I want you to take your left hand and undo that gunbelt real slow boy.” Marshal Johnson ordered.
“ I asked you what murder marshal!” Johnny said as he unbuckled his gun belt and let it drop to the ground.
“ Move away from him young lady. You men stop right there. I’m a U.S. Marshal, and I have a warrant for his arrest.” Marshal Johnson ordered. “ Hook him up Cole.”
Deputy Thurston pulled out a pair of wrist shackles from his saddlebags and walked over to Johnny. “ Hold out your hands.” he ordered.
Johnny held out his hands as he glared at the marshal. “ I asked you, what murder?”
“ Four years ago, in Abilene, Texas, you gunned down Zeb Cooper, in cold blood right in front of his son Paul. You were found guilty and sentenced, but escaped on the way to the prison farm. I’ve been hunting for your sorry ass for the last three years boy, but you managed to stay one step ahead of me, until heard some talk in a small town two hundred miles south of here called McCalls Crossing. They knew right where I could find you. Said you were using an alias name of Johnny Lancer.” Marshal Johnson explained.
“ Marshal, I don’t know anyone named Cooper, and I have never murdered anyone. I was in Mexico in a prison there when this murder was supposed to have happened. Check with the Pinkerton man my father hired to search for me! They found me there, right before I was to be executed.” Johnny pleaded.
“ Get him a horse.” the marshal ordered.
“ Get Johnny a horse Walt.” Scott ordered.
“ Not Barranca.” Johnny said.
“ Marshal, at least take my brother into Spanish Wells and hold him in jail there while you verify what he said. It’s the truth. The most it would cost you is a day, maybe two.” Scott pleaded.
“ I’ve spent enough time looking for this killer. He’s going back to Abilene, to work the rest of his sorry ass life busting rocks.” the marshal responded as Walt brought a horse over.
Johnny smiled when he seen what horse Walt saddled. Juniper required special shoes with a bar on his hind feet. He knew his father and brother would be able to follow them.
“ Get on the horse, and don’t even think of trying anything.” the deputy ordered. “ That poster says dead or alive Madrid. You’re gonna make us five thousand dollars each when we get you back to Abilene.”
“ Shut up Cole and get him on the horse.” the marshal ordered. “ Me and my deputy are excellent shots. So I would think twice about following us and trying to rescue him.” he said as he mounted up.
“ I’m going with you.” Scott said.
“ No you’re not.” Marshal Johnson ordered.
“ Stay here and take care of Teresa and the ranch Scott. Murdoch left you in charge. There’s nothing you can do for me, except get me killed.”
“ Murdoch will be back from the Governors inauguration in Sacramento tomorrow Johnny. We’ll get you out of this little brother.” Scott said.
“ I’ll see ya Scott, Teresa.” Johnny said as the three started riding away.
“ Scott, we have to do something.” Teresa pleaded.
“ Walt, saddle my horse. I’m going to town and send a wire to the Pinkerton’s And anyone else I can think of to get Johnny out of this.” Scott ordered before turning and going in the house, followed by Teresa.
“ Scott, I’m scared. Johnny wouldn’t do something like that.” Teresa said with tears in er eyes.
“ I know. That man is not a marshal.” Scott said.
“ How do you know?” she asked.
“ The one named Cole. He said they will be getting paid five thousand dollars each. No lawman can collect on a bounty. And Johnson was quick to tell him to shut up. I’ll be back.” Scott said.
“ Mister Lancer. I gave Johnny ole Juniper cause he has to have those special shoes on his back feet with a bar across them. We can follow them at a safe distance and get Johnny back.” Walt said.
“ Thanks. I want to do this legal for Johnny. I don’t think those men are the law. I think they’re bounty hunters and that reward poster is private. Johnny may have been a gunfighter, but I know my brother, he wouldn’t murder anyone.” Scott said as he mounted his horse and took off.
“ You and your big mouth almost ruined everything back there.” Luke said.
“ We pulled it off.” Cole responded. “ We got Madrid.
“ Yeah, we got him, but your big mouth may have told them we aren’t the real law dummy.” Luke said.
“ It’s getting dark. Where you want to make camp at?” Cole asked.
“ Looks like as good a place as any up ahead.” Luke responded.
“ You know, I’ve heard of a pair of bounty hunters with your names who work down around Laredo. You’ll never get me back to Abilene.” Johnny said.
Cole drew his gun and swung it, grazing Johnny in the right temple. “ You don’t speak unless spoken too mestizo.” he ordered.
“ My friend is a right testy Madrid. Get off your horse nice and slow.” Luke ordered.
Johnny did as he was told as blood ran down the right side of his face.
“ Get the leg shackles and chain out Cole.” Luke ordered. “ Move over there and sit on that log.”
Johnny walked over to the log and sat down as Cole came over and knelt down in front of him. “ I wants me a good nights sleep, so don’t even think of trying anything Madrid. I get real mad if I don’t get a good nights sleep.”
“ I wouldn’t dream of disturbing your sleep. A man as ugly as you are, needs all the sleep he can get.” Johnny said smartly.
Cole finished putting the shackles around Johnny’s ankle, and fastening the other end to around a three foot root. “ Stand up.” he ordered.
Johnny knew what was coming, and prepared himself for the blow as best he could.
Cole smiled, showing tobacco stained teeth. “ I guess you don’t hear so good.” he said right before he hit Johnny hard, knocking him backwards over the downed tree.
“ Cole, knock it off.” Luke yelled. “He’s just doing it to get you riled up, so you’ll make a mistake and he can try and escape. Got take care of the horses while I start a fire.”
Murdoch walked into the house mid morning.
“ Sir, am I glad you’re back.” Scott said.
“ What’s going on around here?” Murdoch asked.
“ I think you better sit down while I tell you what happened yesterday.” Scott suggested.
Murdoch sat in shock as he listened to what Scott told him happened.
“ And you let them take him?” he demanded.
“ I had no choice sir. I couldn’t risk Johnny or Teresa being shot. He’s riding Juniper, so we will be able to track them.” Scott responded back.
“ No, of course you couldn’t. I’m sorry son. Have you heard anything back from the Pinkerton’s yet?” Murdoch asked.
“ No. I left orders to bring word to the ranch as soon as they respond.” Scott said.
“ You sure about what the deputy said?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m sire sir.” Scott said.
“ Cole Thurston and Luke Johnson. Did you put out a wire asking about them?”
“ I did. I sent it to the sheriff in El Paso. Something tells me those two are known around the border.” Scott said.
“ Alright, Teresa, I’ll take you to stay with Aggie. I don;t want you staying here alone. I don’t know how long we will be gone.”
“ Alright, I’ll go pack. Please bring Johnny back home. I know he didn’t do this.” she said before leaving the room with tears in her eyes.
“ She’s been crying the whole time since Johnny left.” Scott said.
“ What exactly did this man say when Johnny told him he was in Mexico about to be executed when this murder was supposed to have happened?”Murdoch asked.
“ He didn’t care. He said he had spent three years looking for him, and wasn’t going to waste another day.” Scott responded.
“ This Rancher putting up the reward money. What was his name?” Murdoch asked.
“ The one Johnny was supposed to have murdered, a rancher named Zeb Cooper. His son Paul, is the one offering the reward according to what they said.” Scott said. “ They said Johnny was found guilty and sentenced to a prison work camp for life.”
“ We will see about that.” Murdoch said as Teresa came into the room.
“ I’ll go saddle a horse for Teresa.” Scott said.
Apprise the two men mentioned in your wire are not lawmen, but bounty hunters. The one named Thurston has a bad temper, and has beaten prisoners. It is reported he has even shot a couple, claiming they were trying to escape. I checked on a wanted poster for Madrid, and found none to exist in the state of Texas. Upon further checking, I have learned it is a private bounty. The man, Zeb Cooper was killed, but not by Madrid, he was shot down in a drunken brawl and at the time of his demise, Madrid was in a Mexican prison awaiting execution a week before I found him in front of a firing squad. The bounty is offered by the son, a Paul Cooper. I have sent all documents that will prove your sons innocence to our Amarillo office and an agent will meet you in Abilene.
Senior Pinkerton Detective Agent
“ I have everything ready.” Scott said.
“ We’ll leave at first light, head south and catch the train.” Murdoch said.
“ Time to wake up Madrid.” Thurston said as he kicked Johnny in the ribs.
Johnny rolled on his side, wrapping his arms around his ribs.
“ Boy, you sure don;t hear to good.” Cole said as he drew his foot back to kick Johnny again.
Johnny reached out and grabbed the mans foot, knocking him off balance, causing him to fall to the ground.
“ Why you sorry sonofabitch.” Cole said as he wrestled with Johnny. “ I’m gonna beat some manners into you.” he said as he got up and swung at Johnny.
Johnny stood ready when a shot hit at his feet. “ Knock it off Cole. I’m not going to tell you again. It’s a long ride to Abilene, and Cooper won;t be none too happy if Madrid don’t show up alive.” Luke ordered.
Cole grabbed Johnny by his shirt and yanked him to his face. “ I won;t forget this boy.” he said between tobacco stained teeth before shoving Johnny backwards.
“ You’ll do best to stop goading him Madrid. He won;t think twice about beating you to within an inch of your life.” Luke said as he came over with a cup of coffee and plate of food for him.
“ Don’t care for his method of waking someone up.” Johnny said as he took the cup of coffee and plate of food.
“ He beat a man once so bad, hit him in the nose, it shattered his skull. Don’t let his size fool you.” Johnson said before walking back over to eat his breakfast.
“ Sorry folks but this is as we can go. A rock slide took the track out last night a couple miles ahead. There’s a stage heading east that leaves in an hour that can get through.” the train conductor said.
“ Damn!” Scott said as he stood up.
“Looks like the livery is across the way. Let’s go see if we can buy a couple horses.” Murdoch said as they walked off the train.
“ They have a weeks head start on us, and now this delay.” Scott said.
“ Johnny’s alright son. I don’t think they will kill him. This Cooper fella wants him to suffer in a work farm for the rest of his life. If he’s killed, he won’t get that satisfaction.” Murdoch said as they walked up to the livery. “ Besides, riding the train this far made up a lot of time for us.”
“ Hello, can I help you gents?” an older man asked.
“ We would like to purchase two horses if you have any for sale?” Murdoch responded.
“ That’s what I do. Come on in and take a look. I have several more for sale out back.” the man said. “ Since you’re so tall, I have a really nice, long-legged chestnut mare in that end stall there. She’s a bit high spirited, and nobody wants to buy her.”
Scott went in the stall and looked the mare over. “ How much?” he asked as he ran a hand over her back.
“ Hundred dollars and she’s yours. She’s only four years old, and I promise, she is good and sound. Just, like I said, a little high spirited.” the man said.
“ I’ll give you one seventy five for the chestnut and this sorrel here.” Murdoch said.
“ I’ll throw the tack in if you make it two even?” the man asked.
“ Done.” Murdoch said.
“ River looks awful high.” Cole said.
“ Yeah. Rains in the mountains must have raised it. Let’s go downstream some and see if we can find a better place to cross.” Luke suggested.
“ There’s a wider place upstream about half a mile we can cross at. There’s no rapids. The horses will be able to swim it better. You go downstream and the rapids get worse.” Johnny said.
“ Like I’m going to believe what you say.” Cole said.
“ Look, you can believe me or not believe me. I don’t much care. If you want to get swept away and drown, fine by me.” Johnny responded.
“ You better be right Madrid.” Luke said. “ Let’s go.”
Thirty minutes later all three looked at the river.
“ I’m going to take the shackles off you so you can swim if needed. You try and run, and I’ll kill you.” Luke said as he unlocked the shackles.
“ I won’t run. You have my word.” Johnny said.
“ Cole, you go ahead. We’ll keep Madrid between us.” Luke ordered.
Johnny waited until Cole’s horse was about a quarter way across before he made Juniper enter the river. Sliding off and hanging on to the saddle-horn as the mare snorted as she swam, drifting downriver a little with the current. He could see Cole had made it to the other side and was now on dry land.
Luke made his horse enter the water and start swimming across. About halfway across, his horse started to panic and thrash about as Johnny reached the other side.
“ Hang on Luke!” Cole yelled.
“ He needs help!” Johnny said.
“ I can’t swim.” Cole said.
Johnny kicked Juniper and went back in the river, trying to reach Johnson before it was too late.
“ Madrid, get back here!” Cole yelled as he drew his gun and fired.
Johnny felt the bullet tear through his left side as Juniper reached Johnson. “ Grab hold of her tail!” Johnny ordered as he turned Juniper back toward shore.
“ Sit on his back and pump him out!” Johnny said as he drug Johnson up on the bank.
“ I’m…..I’m alright.” Luke said between coughs. “ Just need a minute to rest.”
Johnny put his hand to his side and could feel the blood start oozing between his fingers.
“ I owe you my life Madrid.” Luke said as he stood up. “You could have let me drown.”
“ If I’d have done that, your partner there would have blamed your death on me.” Johnny said. “ Besides, I’m not a murderer, and if I had let you drown, that would have been murder.”
“ Ain’t that sweet Luke? A killer with a conscious.” Cole said. “ You disobeyed me boy.”
“ Leave him be Cole. The man saved my life. Go downstream and see if you can find my damn horse.” Luke ordered.
Johnny watched as Cole rode downstream. “ Johnson.” Johnny said before falling off Juniper.
“ Damn.” Luke said as he went to Johnny’s side. “ What’s wrong?” he asked as he turned him onto his back and seen the blood. “ Damn him. Hold on.”
“ What’s wrong with him?” Cole asked as he came back leading Luke’s horse.
“ You shot him is what’s wrong. He has a bullet in his side that needs to come out.” Luke responded.
“ I thought he was trying to escape us.” Cole said.
“ Riding back into the river, have you gone mad?” Luke demanded. “ He needs a doctor.”
“ Hardyville.” Johnny said.
“ What’s that?” Luke asked.
“ Hardyville. It has a doctor there. Go east about a mile and then take the road south and it will take you to it.” Johnny responded.
“ Can you make it that far on a horse?” Luke asked.
“ I can make it.” Johnny said.
“ Sheriff, I have a patient over at my office who came in about two hours ago.” Doc Carver said.
“ And why would that concern me you old coot?” Sheriff Behan asked.
“ He was shot, and he’s wearing shackles.” the doc said.
“ Shackles?” the sheriff asked as he stood up.
“ Yes sir. Two other men brought him in. The one was wearing a U.S. Marshal’s badge. The other fella was his deputy.” the doctor explained. “ Sheriff, the prisoner is Johnny Madrid.”
“ Madrid, are you sure?” the sheriff asked.
“ Positive. I heard the deputy say his name. They were upset when I told them he couldn’t ride a horse for at least a week.” he said.
“ They still at your office?” the sheriff asked as he got a shotgun down and loaded it.
“ No, they went to the hotel to get a room.” Doc Carver responded.
“ Alright, you go back and take care of Madrid.” the sheriff ordered. “ I’ll go find out what’s going on.”
“ Thanks to you, we’re stuck in this town for a week.” Luke said as he set his saddlebags down on the bed.
“ We ain’t staying here no week.” Cole responded.
“ We wouldn’t be here at all if you had used your damn brains and seen Madrid was trying to help me, and not escape. I told you that temper was going to get you in trouble. If you don;t start controlling it better, this partnership is over.” Luke said firmly as someone knocked on the door. “ I’m guessing that will be the town sheriff. Keep your damn mouth shut.” he ordered as he went and opened the door.
“ Afternoon.” Sheriff Behan said as he walked into the room. “ I’m Sheriff Behan. I understand you two brought a man in who’s been shot. Care to explain?”
“ Sure sheriff. I’m Marshal Luke Johnson and this is my Deputy, Cole Thurston. The man over at the docs office is our prisoner, Johnny Madrid.” Luke responded.
“ You got paper on him?” the sheriff asked.
“ Sure do. It’s in my saddlebags.” Luke responded ans he removed the paper and handed it to the sheriff.
“ This is a private bounty. Since when does a U.S. Marshal and his deputy hunt a man down for a private bounty?” Carver asked.
“ Murder is murder sheriff. Madrid killed this Zeb Cooper four years ago in Abilene. It’s taken us this long to locate him to bring back.” Luke explained.
“ I see, and just where did you locate Madrid?” the sheriff asked.
“ Working at a ranch in California.” Luke responded.
“ Why’s that matter? He’s our prisoner sheriff. You have the dodger on him right there.” Cole said.
Luke shot Cole an angry look.
“ I make it my business whenever someone comes into my town that’s been shot. Especially when it’s Johnny Madrid.” the sheriff responded.
“ You know of Madrid do you Sheriff Behan?” the marshal asked.
“ I do, and I’m having a hard time believing this here dodger you have on him. So I’ll tell ya what boys. I’m going to send a wire out, and if your story checks out, you can leave with your prisoner when the doc says he can ride. If it doesn’t, well, I have a nice cozy jail across the way.” Sheriff Behan said as he walked to the door and opened it. “ Oh, don’t think of taking your prisoner out of here before I say. I’m placing a deputy with him, and once he can be moved from docs, he’ll be moved to my jail.” he added before walking out, and closing the door.
“ Damn it. He starts asking questions he’s gonna find out we’re not the law.” Cole said with anger.
“ Calm down. He finds out we’re bounty hunters there isn’t anything he can do. He has to let us take Madrid. The Supreme Court ruled on that two years ago. We work for law enforcement. He can’t touch us.” Luke explained.
“ You better be right, because I got no problem blowing a hole in that tin star sheriff. Madrid is worth a lot of money to us. I’m not going to let that get away.” Cole said as he went to the door and jerked it open.
“ Where you going?” Luke asked.
“ To get a drink.” Cole responded as he walked out and slammed the door.
“ There’s a sheriff I know in Hardyville. We’ll stop there and see if he’s seen them.” Murdoch said.
“ How far is that?” Scott asked as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ Four days ride. Hopefully the river isn’t to high, and the ferry can take us across.” Murdoch responded.
“ And if it is?” Scott asked.
“ Then we get wet swimming across.” he responded.
“ Damn rain had to wash their tracks away.” Scott said as he leaned back against his saddle.
“ I know you are worried about your brother Scott, so am I. We have to keep a level head on this and do it the right way. Whether they are bounty hunters or not. The Supreme Court ruled two years ago that bounty hunters worked with the law, and had just about all the same rights as a lawman when tracking down a fugitive.” Murdoch explained.
“ Johnny is not a fugitive.” Scott said firmly.
“ I know that. Look, we’ve come a long way in a week. The storm had to have slowed them down too.” Murdoch said.
“ The two of you have come a long way in your relationship.” Scott said.
“ It was trying at times. Still is, but I couldn’t be happier having both my sons home.” Murdoch responded.
“ You remember that time Johnny left after the trouble with the mustangs?” Scott asked.
“ How could I forget. I was afraid I had lost him again.” Murdoch responded. “ You know, when all that trouble was over, I rode out to where he was finishing the fence. I still remember what I said to him that day.”
“ The look he had was one of hurt, until Teresa spoke up.” Scott said.
“ Telling your son that the only thing wrong has always been him, after spending a lifetime searching for him is the hardest thing a father can ever say to his son. Telling him I thought I made myself clear, but in case I didn’t, listen, and listen hard. I don’t need you, now or ever, and ordered him off my land. That’s when you showed up with your wound and Teresa spoke up and told him about Stryker and his men waiting outside for him to come back. Those words still haunt me son. I never should have said what I did to him. It should have been me tell him, not Teresa.”
“It worked out in the end though. What happened when you rode out to Johnny when he didn’t come back with the work crew for lunch?” Scott asked.
“ He told me he figured he would miss chow. Get a jump on the job. I told him I seen a stand of wild horses out by Black Mesa that morning, and asked him how much longer he would be. He said he was going to lay out a string line to keep the crew busy until dark.” Murdoch said as he remembered that day so vividly. “ I told him that was good thinking, then I walked over to the tree and told him a mans life can be laid out like a row of post holes. That sometimes maybe that’s not all good. Maybe there’s a time when a man has to listen to the faraway sound of a train whistle. Kind of break the pattern. That maybe there’s even a time when the most important thing in the world is to go out after a wild mustang. He asked me if they were out by Black Mesa, and I told him about forty as near as I can figure. No telling how long they will be there. You know how a wild horse will move on. You know what he said to me, he said, yeah, a wild horse will really move fast, when he’s a mind too.”
“ That sounds like something my little brother would say.” Scott said with a smile. “ I think he’s settled down now. He’s happy at Lancer. I’ve noticed he doesn’t wear his gun except when out on the range away from the house.”
“ I noticed that too. He’s more relaxed like he should be.” Murdoch said.
“ Sheriff, he’s awake if you want to talk to him.” Doc Carver said.
“ Thanks.” Sheriff Behan said as he headed to the back room.
Johnny lay in bed, his right leg shackled to the end of the bed.
“ Madrid, I’m Sheriff Behan. You remember me?” he asked.
“ I remember you. You and my old man worked together tracking a man to Mexico the year he met my mother.” Johnny responded.
“ Got you chained up pretty good I see.” the sheriff said as he walked over and sat down by the bed. “ Care to explain what’s going on?”
“ Got my own personal escort to Abilene.” Johnny said.
“ So I’ve been told. Any truth to that dodger they have on you?” he asked.
“ Nope.” Johnny said as he scooted to sit up in the bed more. “ Can you pour me some water?”
“ Sure. How’d you end up shot?” Behan asked as he poured the water and handed the glass to him.
“ Thanks. Thurston has a temper. We were crossing the river and Johnson’s horse spooked. I went back in to save him, and he thought I was trying to escape and shot me.”
“ Wait a minute, you crossed that swollen river, save a mans life who intends on taking you back to Abilene to hang for a murder you didn’t commit, and get shot in the process of doing so. Murdoch was right, you do care about people.” Sheriff Behan said.
“ I’m not being taken back to hang sheriff. They’re taking me to a prison work farm. It seems that’s a private bounty, and the man paying it wants me to work the rest of my life digging holes and busting rocks.” Johnny explained.
“ I sent out some wires asking about those two and this whole thing. I told them that they couldn’t leave here until I know for sure what is going on.” Behan said.
“ I was in a Mexican prison in Sonora waiting to be executed by firing squad a week before that murder happened sheriff. A Pinkerton man found me the day of my execution and bought my freedom. I was nowhere near Abilene when Zeb Copper was killed.” Johnny said.
“ You tell them that?” the sheriff asked.
“ I tried to explain it to them, but they wouldn’t listen. Johnson said he had spent three years looking for me, and wasn’t going to waste another day.” Johnny responded.
“ Where’s your old man and brother now?” he asked.
“ Hopefully trailing me. Or at least they were until the rains washed our tracks away.” Johnny said.
“ Tracking you how?” the sheriff asked.
“ My horse. They haven’t notice the mare I’m riding has special shoes on her hind feet.”
Sheriff Behan stood up. I have a deputy outside. As soon as the doc says you can be moved, I want to put you in my jail. You’ll be a lot safer there, and you won’t have to wear that iron.”
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as the man walked out of the room.
“ I strongly suggest you let him rest a few more days. He could tear those stitches out.” Doc Carver pleaded.
“ Look doc, we’re grateful for all you done for our prisoner, now let us be. We still have a long ride to Abilene.” Cole said.
“ I’ll take those badges from you.” Sheriff Behan ordered. “ You two come back as bounty hunters. I don;t know how you acquired these badges, but you don’t leave my town with them. Hand them over.”
Luke and Cole removed their badges and handed them to the sheriff. “ You’ve been more than hospitable sheriff.” Cole said as he pushed past the man.
“ Get on your horse Madrid.” Luke ordered.
“ I’ll be seeing you again sheriff.” Cole said as he mounted up.
Johnny moved as slow as he could getting on Juniper, so he wouldn’t tear the stitches loose. “ Thanks doc, sheriff.” he said as Luke put the shackles back on his wrist.
Murdoch and Scott rode into Hardyville just after dark and stopped at the livery. Both men exhausted and cold from the relentless rain the past few days.
“ Howdy, you two look frazzled to the bone.” the livery man said.
“ Got room for two?” Scott asked.
“ Sure do. All the way down on the end on the left.” the man said. “ I’ll get them some hay and grain.”
“ Thanks. Is there a hotel in town where we can get a hot bath and a decent meal?” Scott asked.
“ Hardyville Manor just down the street.” the man said as he pitched hay into the stalls for the horses.
“ Tell me, is Mike Behan still the sheriff here?” Murdoch asked.
“ Sure is. You friends of his?” he asked.
“ We go back a long ways. You know where I might find him?” Murdoch asked.
“ In the hotel eating supper right about now I expect.”
“ Thank you. How much?”
“ Two dollars will cover everything.”
Murdoch paid the man. “ Thank you.”
Sheriff Behan couldn’t believe his eyes as he watched two men walk into the hotel lobby. Standing up, he walked over behind them as they acquired a room.
“ You got business in my town?” he asked.
“ Mike, it’s good to see you.” Murdoch said as they shook hands.
“ Scott, you two look like hell. Why don’t you get cleaned up and I’ll come back and talk to you.” Mike suggested.
“ Alright. We’ll see you in about an hour.” Murdoch said as he picked up the room key and his saddlebags, and started for the stairs.
“ Your hot baths will be ready in about ten minutes gentlemen.” the lady said.
“ Thank you ma’am.” Scott said.
“ I wish I could say this is a visit Mike.” Murdoch said.
“ I already know why you’re here. They left about four days ago after staying five days so Johnny could heal up some.” Mike said.
“ Heal up?” Scott asked.
“ He was shot by Cole. He told me he saved the one from drowning in the river when his horse spooked when they were crossing it, and Cole thought he was trying to escape and shot him.” Mike explained. “ Doc removed the bullet, and told them he needed more time to heal, but they weren’t having it. I did some checking on those two and took their badges. They’re bounty hunters, both of them.”
“ I knew they weren’t real lawmen.” Scott said.
“ How bad was Johnny hurt?” Murdoch asked.
“ Took a bullet in his left side. Doc Carver removed it and said he would be alright, but he shouldn’t be out there riding a horse. He tears the stitches out and he could get an infection.” Mike explained.
“ Damn.” Scott said as the server brought them coffee. “ I apologize for swearing ma’am.”
“ That’s alright. I’ll have you food out to you in a few.” she said with a smile before leaving.
“ Why didn’t you stop them from from leaving here with Johnny?” Murdoch asked.
“ You know I can’t stop a bounty hunter Murdoch. Not since that law passed two years ago allowing them to do what they do.” Mike responded. “ I talked to Johnny, and he told me how he was in a Mexican prison waiting to be executed when this murder was supposed to have happened. Said those Pinkerton’s would have the proof he needs to clear him.”
“ Allen Martin, the Senior Pinkerton out of El Paso sent us a wire. He has sent all proof to the office in Amarillo and a Pinkerton man will meet us in Abilene with that proof and they better damn well set my son free.” Murdoch said with anger.
“ What we could use is some dry weather so we can track them.” Scott said.
“ Yeah, Johnny told me about the mare he’s riding and the special shoes she wears on her back feet.” Mike said.
“ Where’s the next town you recon?” Cole asked.
“ Santa Rita. Madrid here can have a bath now that his wound is healed up.” Luke responded.
“ Throw his ass in a stream and let him take a bath that way.” Cole said.
“ In case you’ve forgotten Cole, he has a hole in his side from you shooting him three weeks ago. A little kindness with a prisoner can go a long way in the end. You might want to try and remember that.”
“ He got all the kindness he’s gonna get from me. He cost us a week in that damn town.” Cole snapped back.
“ An hour with a good Mexican whore, and you’ll be in a better mood.” Luke said.
“ I ain’t babysitting Madrid while he takes no damn bath.” Cole said.
“ Won’t have too. Rosie’s place has a room with no windows, and only one way in or out. He can take a bath there while we have ours.” Luke responded.
Johnny smiled slightly. Any other time the thought of a woman giving him a bath would be great, but this time, this time he just couldn’t see the enjoyment of having a woman wash him all over from the inside out. Carmen was the sweet little woman he’d had at Rosie’s six years ago at a young age of fourteen. The morning after, he knew the girl was more than satisfied, and a bit shocked someone so young, could be such a pleasure in bed.
“ You ever been to Rosie’s Madrid?” Luke asked.
“ I’ve been there. Six years ago.” Johnny responded.
“ Six years ago, hell that would make you just a kid.” Luke said.
“ Hell, they probably had to strap a board across your ass so you wouldn’t fall in. Probably felt sorry you have such a little pecker.” Cole said with a laugh.
“ Carmen had no complaints.” Johnny said.
“ Carmen. Boy there is no way a fourteen year old half-breed Mexican banged that girl. She’s the highest priced, best girl Rosie has.” Cole said.
“ Care to make a bet on that?” Johnny asked.
“ Alright. I’ll bet you a days riding without those shackles on your wrist, and if you’re lying, then you get to ride belly down for a day shackled to that horse. We have a bet?” Cole suggested.
Johnny stopped Juniper and rubbed his nose. “ Can I have a drink of water?” he asked.
“ Do we have a bet or not Madrid?” Cole asked as he handed him his canteen.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he took a long swig of the brackish cool water. “ Alright, but instead of a day without the shackles on my wrist, how about a night’s sleep without the leg iron and chain?” he said as he handed the canteen back to Cole.
“ You’re wrist are getting pretty raw from wearing the shackles Madrid. You sure you want to pass up a day without?” Luke asked.
“ I can handle the rawness on my wrist better than my ankle.” Johnny responded.
“ You’re our witness to this Luke.” Cole said.
“ Why didn’t you say something?” Luke asked.
“ You really need to ask that?” Johnny said.
“ That’s why you limp. Damn, I thought maybe you twisted your ankle or stepped wrong on a rock.” Luke said. “ Look Madrid, regardless of what you think, I’m not a bad man.”
“ Yeah, then what are you doing with someone like him?” Johnny asked.
“ Because he’s good, or he was. We’ve been together ten years. These last few, he’s really changed. Between you and me, this is our last job together. I’ll have enough money saved up I can finally buy a ranch and start breeding horses.” Luke explained. “ You’re not lying about Carmen are you?”
“ Nope. Been having fun with whores since I was thirteen.” Johnny said as they rode into Santa Rita and stopped outside Rosie’s place at the west end of town.
“ Hold out your hands.” Luke said as he took the key to the shackles out if his vest pocket. “ Every man has dignity.” he said as he unlocked the shackles. “ Besides, I’m gonna love seeing you prove to Cole, you’re not lying.”
Johnny dismounted and walked around to stand by Luke.
“ Let’s go Madrid, I wanna see you eat crow and lose this bet.” Cole said.
Johnny smiled slightly at Luke, before heading up the stairs and inside.
“ As I live and breathe…………Carmen, Carmen get your ass down here now girl!” Rosie said as she walked up to Johnny. “ We heard you were killed by a Mexican firing squad four years ago.” she said as she touched his face.
“ Hello Rosie. You look good.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny, is it really you?” Carmen asked as she came down the stairs. “ We thought you were dead.” she said as she reached the bottom of the stairs.
“ I’m not dead querida.” Johnny said as he stepped closer to her.
Carmen wrapped her arms around Johnny and hugged him.
“ Carmen, how long have you known him?” Luke asked.
“ Six, seven years. Johnny was only fourteen our first time together, but he didn’t let his age stop him from performing better than any man twice his age in bed.”
“ Rosie, I need a bath set up for Madrid in that room you have with no windows.” Luke requested.
“ Okay, but why Carmen has a great room and bed.” Rosie responded.
“ Because Madrid is our prisoner. We’re taking him back to Abilene for murder.” Cole said. “ He’s worth five thousand dollars each to us.”
“ Johnny was shot three weeks ago. He could use a good bath.” Luke explained.
“ Alright.” Rosie said as she looked at Johnny.
Carmen came downstairs early the next morning and found Rosie sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. “ Morning.”
“ Morning. Did you have a good time with Johnny last night?” Rosie asked.
“ Just like always.” Carmen said as she poured a cup of coffee. “ Rosie, I don’t believe Johnny committed this murder. It’s not his style. Besides, he told me last night he was in that Mexican prison when this murder was supposed to have happened. There’s no way he could be in two places at the same time.” Carmen said as she sat down.
“ Neither do I.” Rosie said.
“ We have to help Johnny.” Carmen said.
“ How? You know Cole. He’ll kill us if we try anything. That man is brutal.” Rosie said.
“ He shot Johnny. They were crossing a swollen river, Johnny said he went in to save Luke and Cole shot him. Said he thought Johnny was trying to escape.” Carmen explained.
“ Saving the life of a man who is taking you to hang for a murder you didn’t commit. Not too many men would do that.” Rosie said.
“ He’s not being taken back to hang. He said it’s a private bounty, and the person paying it wants him to serve the rest of his life working in a prison work farm.” Carmen explained. “ He said he found his family three years ago. That’s where he was when they arrested him. His last name is Lancer.” Carmen explained.
“ Lancer, of California? Well I’ll be damned. Sophie, my sister I told you about, she runs a place in a town called Spanish Wells. She said in her last letter, this one son named Johnny Lancer would come in sometimes. I never would have dreamed it was Madrid.” Rosie explained. “ Is Johnny still asleep?”
“ Yeah. You know, I feel sorry for any woman who becomes his wife. That man is unreal in bed. I wish more of our clientele could be as satisfying as he is.” Carmen said as Luke walked into the kitchen.
“ Good morning ladies.” Luke said. “ I need to have a word with you two if I may?”
“ What about?” Rosie asked.
“ Madrid. What he said coming here has bothered me. Then both of you said you thought he was executed in a Mexican prison four years ago.” Luke said.
“ Yeah, Everybody around then knew Johnny was fighting against the Rurales and the way they were treating the peasant farmers under the orders of crooked President Benito Juárez. Johnny fought against Porfirio Díaz and was caught. He was in a Mexican prison being beaten and starved for six months.”
“ Until the day of my execution when the Pinkerton came charging up in a wagon and bought my freedom.” Johnny added as he walked into the kitchen. “ As I tried to tell you back at Lancer, I was caught in March. The Pinkerton rescued me in August.”
“ This Pinkerton you say came charging up that bought your freedom, you remember his name?” Luke asked.
“ Allen Martin. The only reason I remember is because I stole his gun and wanted to pay him back for it.” Johnny responded.
“ Stole his gun?” Luke asked.
“ Yeah, he paid those Rurales, but they weren’t happy with what he gave them. The idiot showed them he had a lot more money.”
“ So they tried to steal it and you stopped it?” Luke cut in and finished.
“ Yeah. Look, I got no reason to lie to you. I didn’t kill Zeb Cooper.”
“ For some reason I believe you kid.” Luke said. “ Your bounty means I can finally get the ranch I’ve been wanting, but not if it cost an “innocent man his life.”
“ What about Cole?” Johnny asked.
“ That’s going to be a problem. A big one that I don’t think is going to believe us. He’s set on that money.” Luke said. “ We’ll just have to try, but not here. His temper, I don;t want Rosie or any of her girls hurt. You haven’t seen his temper like I have.”
“ I seen the men you’re asking about five days ago in Santa Rita at Rosie’s place. They spent the night and left mid-day the following day headed east.” a man said.
“ If we cut southeast, we stand a chance of catching up to them.” Scott said.
“ The younger man of the three, do you remember, did he seem alright?” Murdoch asked.
“ He seemed okay when they rode out.” the man responded. “ Course that one fella, he looked like he was fit to be tied angry at that younger one though. Told him to keep his smart mouth shut as he locked the wrist shackles on him. The other fella, he protested it and I thought that mean tempered one was gonna shoot him right out of the saddle.”
“ Thank you. We appreciate your speaking up.” Scott said.
“ Oh, just one more question. The younger one, was he riding a bay mare with three white socks and a white face?” Murdoch asked.
“ Sure was.” the man said before walking away.
“ At least we know he’s still alive, and alright.” Scott said.
“ These horses need a rest, and so does my back. We can head out at first light.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Alright. I don’t think Johnny would want us riding two good horses into the ground, especially since we know where he is going.” Scott responded.
Johnny sat drinking a cup of coffee as the sun was setting behind Antelope Ridge. Come near a thousand miles. I figure we’re about five hundred miles from Abilene.” Luke said.
“ So you’re going to still go through with this? Even after what you heard at Rosie’s?” Johnny asked.
“ Still trying to work that out, so we both don’t end up with a bullet in the back.” Luke responded.
“ You sonofabitch. You knew about it all along didn’t you?” Cole said as he came over and grabbed Johnny by his shirt, hitting him hard in the mouth.
“ Cole, knock it off.” Luke yelled as he stood up. “ What the hells the matter with you?”
“ His horse is what’s wrong.” Cole spat. “ She has special shoes on her back feet.”
“ Yeah she wears special shoes.” Johnny said between coughs.
“ Who’s following us?” Cole demanded.
Johnny wiped the blood from his chin as he looked at Luke.
Cole drew his gun and cocked it, pointing it at Luke. “ Unbuckle your gunbelt and toss it over here to me…….now.” Cole ordered.
“ Don’t do this Cole.” Luke said as he tossed his gunbelt over to him.
“Get mounted. We’re leaving.” Cole ordered.
Johnny walked over to the mare.
“ Not that one. Take his horse.” Cole ordered. “ I figure leaving you out here on foot assures me you won’t be following.”
“ After riding together for ten years, this is how you want to end it Cole?” Luke asked.
“ The only reason you’re still alive is because of that. So count your blessings. Move out Madrid.” Cole ordered as he mounted his horse and wrapped the reins to Juniper around his saddlehorn.
“ They’re probably in Texas by now.” Scott said.
“ We’ll get Johnny back son.” Murdoch responded.
“ You mind sharing with me just how you plan on doing that without getting Johnny killed?” Scott asked.
“ To tell you the truth, shy of busting him out, I haven’t a clue.” Murdoch responded.
“ What about your political friends? Could they help?” Scott asked.
“ I met Senator Flanagan just recently at the governors inauguration. He seemed like a nice enough man, but I doubt he would help us.” Murdoch responded.
“ Okay then, what about the governor of Texas?” Scott asked with a slight anger to his voice.
“ I know you’re frustrated son. So am I, but we have to remember, this is Texas, not California, we will be dealing with. I think our only hope in help is the Pinkerton agent who will meet us in Abilene.” Murdoch responded.
“ You know, all this time one thing keeps bothering me about all of this!” Scott said.
“ What’s that son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Why? Why is this Paul Cooper so bent on having Johnny spend the rest of his life in a prison work farm for the murder of a man Johnny never met. I mean, five thousand dollars is a lot of money to pay out for someone.” Scott asked.
“ That is a lot of money. When we meet this Mister Cooper, I fully intend on demanding an answer to that very question son.” Murdoch said.
As the first rays of light started to show to the east, Johnny struggled to stay standing, exhaustion, lack of food and very little water were beginning to take their toll on his body. For nine days now, Cole had made it a point to find a place he could shackle his arms above his head, making him struggle to stand as the metal cut into his wrist more every night. Rain pelted his skin, and stung his eyes as lightening flashed in the distance. Even though he was cold, Johnny welcomed the coolness as he swallowed what he could.
“ Looks like this weather will be with us a while. Guess I don’t need to worry about letting you have a bath in the next town or having a drink of water either.” Cole said as he saddled their horses. “ The next town has a jail, and a pathetic tin star lawman running it. I’m going to be nice and lock your ass up in that jail so I can have me a hot bath and woman for the night.”
“ I swear I’ll catch up to you again Cole, and when I do, I’m going to kill you, you sonofabitch.” Luke said as he wiped the sweat from his eyes as the sun started to sink in the west. “ Wait a minute, that’s smoke.” he said as he spotted a small trail of smoke creeping toward the sky. Not wanting to get shot, he called out. “ Hello the camp!”
Scott grabbed his rifle as him and his father stood up.
Luke walked into camp. “ I’d be most grateful if you could spare a drink of water?” Luke asked as he looked up at Scott. “ You.”
Scott chambered a round into his rifle and pointed it at Luke. “ You got one minute to present my brother, or I’m going to blow a hole in you.”
“ Scott!” Murdoch called out. “ What’s this all about son? Who are you mister?”
“ This is one of the men who took Johnny!” Scott said as he walked up to Luke. “ Where’s my brother?”
“ I don’t know.” Luke said right before Scott hit him hard in the mouth.
“ That’s bull, you and that other man took him……Now where is he?” Scott demanded as he grabbed Luke and yanked him up to him.
“ Look, you have every right to be angry with me. I know Johnny is innocent now.” Luke pleaded.
“ Where’s my son?” Murdoch demanded.
“ I don’t know. Cole jumped me four days ago. He found the special shoes on the mare your son was riding.” Luke explained.
“ And why the hell should we believe anything you say?” Scott demanded.
“ I have no reason to lie to you. I learned the truth at Rosie’s in Santa Rita. I tried to reason with Cole, but he won’t listen. He’s bent on taking Madrid to Abilene.” Luke responded.
“ Why? Why does this man Cooper want my son to spend the rest of his life in a prison work farm?” Murdoch demanded.
“ Can I have a drink of water and sit down to continue this conversation?” Luke asked.
“ Of course. We have some rabbit stew left.” Murdoch said as he picked up his canteen and handed it to Luke.
“ Thank you. I can never make up the grief I’ve caused you both. All I can do is try and help you get your son back alive. That’s if you would let me?” Luke explained.
“ You really think I’m going to trust you?” Scott asked harshly.
“ Yes we are son. He deserves a chance.” Murdoch cut in.
“ Like the chance he gave Johnny to explain he was in a Mexican prison when that man was murdered?” Scott demanded.
“ When Rosie seen Johnny, the look in her eyes no person could ever fake, and then Carmen, when she seen him, I knew then I had made a horrible mistake. I seen it in her eyes when she said she heard he was killed in Mexico at the same time Zeb Cooper was killed in Abilene. I know a woman would never show what I seen that night in her eyes if it wasn’t true.” Luke said before taking a big gulp of water.
“ You never answered my father’s question. Why does this man want my brother in prison?” Scott said.
“ I don’t know. Me and Cole just happened to be in Abilene when Paul Cooper approached us offering five thousand dollars for us to bring him in for the murder of his father, at the time we believed him. Had no reason not too. We had both heard of Johnny Madrid, hell everybody in the south knew his name. Me and Cole never thought we would spend three years looking for him though.” Luke explained.
“ You spent three years looking for my son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Not entirely no. Me and Cole took plenty other jobs. Had too since Cooper isn’t pay anything until Madrid is brought to him alive. He was very adamant about that. Said if Madrid wasn’t able to feel what he had planned for him, he wouldn’t pay.”
“ That day at Lancer, you said you wanted to see him busting rocks for the rest of his life. Why? Most bounty hunters could care less what happens to their prisoner once they are brought in and they get paid for their troubles.” Scott said.
“ Let me ask you a question. How come you didn’t stop us that day at your ranch? You had way more men and guns. You could have done it. How come you let us ride out of there with your brother without putting up a fight?” Luke asked. “ Unless it’s because of the very pretty young lady who was standing there, or you thought that just maybe your brother was guilty!”
“ That young lady happens to be my sister, and no I never thought that of my brother. Unlike you, I know Johnny. I know he would never kill someone in cold blood.” Scott responded with anger.
“ Son, I know that now. You served in the war, and I’d be willing to bet, you served time in one of those hell hole prisons I heard about either during, or after the war. How many mistakes have you made in your adult life Mister Lancer? Mistakes you regret making?” Luke asked.
“ My personal life is none of your business.” Scott snapped back.
“ Scott, he’s making a good point son, and you know it.” Murdoch cut in. “ I’m guilty of thinking your brother could have when he first came home, but that was until I, like you, got to know him.”
“ The only doubts I have ever had about my little brother is in him staying here. As you seem to forget, almost every day you dug your spurs into him for one thing or another.” Scott responded.
“ Mister Johnson is it?” Murdoch asked. “ What happens to my family is of no concern of yours. I know you were making a point to Scott, and I’m willing to forget that, but I will not have you speaking ill of any member of my family.”
“ Something you might want to remember…..Mister Johnson, Lancer takes care of its own.” Scott added.
“ What the hell is this?” Deputy Miles demanded as he stood up.
“ Got a prisoner I need to keep in your jail for the night so I can gets me a bath and good nights sleep.” Cole said.
“ Sheriff won’t be back till after dark.” Miles said.
“ Give me the keys to your cell.” Cole demanded.
Miles pointed to the hook by the door to the cells. “ Who is he?”
“ Johnny Madrid.” Cole responded as he pushed Johnny into the back cell. “ I want nobody near my prisoner.” Cole ordered as he tossed the chain up over the top bars.
“ You locking him up like that in a cell?” Miles asked.
“ Damn right I am. He’s worth five thousand dollars to me. I’m taking no chances on him getting away. His discomfort is of little concern of mine. I get paid on delivery of him alive.” Cole said as he locked the chain to a bar on the side.
“ Bailaremos antes de que esto termine. Te enviaré al infierno.” ( We will dance before this is over. I will send you to hell.) Johnny said coldly.
Cole jerked the chain, forcing Johnny to stand on his tiptoes. “ Any time you think you can take me, you’re welcome to try Madrid.”
“ You can’t leave that man strung up like that all night.” Miles ordered.
Cole walked out of the cell and closed the door, locking it. “ My prisoner boy. He stays locked up just like that.”
Miles watched as Cole walked out of the jail and crossed the street to the saloon. Turning, he walked back to the cell and opened it. “ Sheriff gets back, he’ll get you out of these shackles. Those wrist are pretty bloody. We got us a doctor, but until the sheriff gets back and gets you unshackled, he won’t be much good.”
“ What town is this?” Johnny asked.
“ Pinõn.” Miles responded. “ Are you really Johnny Madrid?”
“ I used to be.” Johnny said. “ Can I get a drink of water?”
Miles unlocked the cell and dipped a cup in the bucket. “ How long he had you trussed up in those shackles?”
“ Just him, a week. There were two of them until he decided he didn’t like the truth.” Johnny said before he he started drinking the water.
“ What truth?” Miles asked.
“ Truth about me. I was supposed to have murdered a man in Abilene four years ago. Problem is, I was in a Mexican prison four years ago about to be executed.” Johnny said. “ Thank you.”
“ I heard of ya. Never heard about you being wanted for murder. Sure ain’t seen no wanted posters with as high a bounty as yours.” Miles said.
“ That’s cause it’s a private bounty paid by the son of the man I was supposed to have killed.” Johnny said.
“ Private bounties don’t give a man the right to treat another like he is you. I expect Sheriff Duncan will put a stop to this treatment when he gets back.” Miles said.
“ Duncan….Matt Duncan?” Johnny asked.
“ Yeah, that’s him. You know Sheriff Duncan do ya?” Miles asked.
“ Some.” Johnny responded.
“ There’s a sheriff in a town called Pinõn. I expect Cole will be wanting some sleep. There’s a jail there he can lock Madrid up in.” Luke said.
“ His name is Lancer, not Madrid.” Scott cut in.
“ Scott, you and I both know a part of your brother will always be Johnny Madrid.” Murdoch said.
“ I meant no disrespect toward Johnny, Mister Lancer.” Luke said.
“ I know you didn’t. What were you saying about the sheriff in Pinõn?” Murdoch asked.
“ He knows your son…….first hand. Me and Cole stopped there asking around about him. Someone in town told the sheriff, and well, he ordered us out of town, and it weren’t for fear of a gunfight. We found out at the livery, Johnny saved the sheriff’s life, and he gets real testy of anyone who comes looking for him.” Luke explained.
“ This sheriff’s name, would it happen to be Matt Duncan?” Scott asked.
“ You know him son?” Murdoch asked.
“ If it’s the same man, just what Johnny told me about him once when we were fixing fence.” Scott responded.
“ I know you like to keep what your brother tells you confidential, but do you think that maybe just this once you could tell the old man?” Murdoch asked.
“ He found the sheriff wounded and dug the bullet out. Sheriff Duncan was tracking the Jesse Evans gang for cattle rustling and armed robbery. Word has it, the sheriff was ambushed in a draw. Madrid came along and found him.” Luke cut in.
“ How do you know this?” Scott asked.
“ Because me and Cole were also hunting that gang for the reward.” Luke responded.
“ How far is it to Pinõn?” Scott asked.
“ Two days east.” Luke said.
“ How do you know Cole will stop there?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t, but after crossing the White Sands, he’s gonna be tired, filthy and probably want a whore. Pinõn is the first town he’ll come across.” Luke responded.
“ Well. We better get some rest so we can get an early start.” Murdoch suggested.
Sheriff Duncan walked into his office. “ Why are you still here?”
“ Been waiting on you Matt. We have a prisoner in the back was brought in a couple hours ago.” Miles responded.
“ Prisoner, brought in by who?” Matt asked as he removed his gunbelt
“ Wouldn’t give me his name, but you know the prisoner.” Miles said. “ It’s Johnny Madrid, and he could use the doc some.”
Matt grabbed the keys and went to the back. “ What the hell is this? Why is he chained up like an animal?” he demanded.
“ I tried Matt, but this man, he said he didn’t care. That Madrid was his prisoner and he was to stay chained up like that until he comes to get him in the morning.” Miles explained.
“ Where’s that sonofabitch at now?” Matt demanded.
“ He went to the saloon when he left here.” Miles responded.
“ You hold on a few minutes kid. I’ll get those damn things off you. I’ll bring the doc back with me also. Billy, grab that scatter gun and come with me.”
“ That’s him over there sheriff.” Miles said.
“ Cole Thurston.” Sheriff Duncan said. “ He’s one of the worst bounty hunters there is. You say it was only him?”
“ Yeah. Johnny told me how he turned on another man about a week ago that was with them. Said he left the man to die with no gun or horse.” Miles responded.
“ Go to the side and come downstairs, keeping that scatter gun aimed at him.” Matt ordered before he started walking over to the table Cole Thurston sat at.
“ I was wondering if you were gonna come see me sheriff. I was about to head upstairs with Lucille here and make her earn her dollar. What do you want?” Cole asked.
“ Lucille, you won’t be making anything from this man tonight.” Sheriff Duncan ordered. “ Stand up real easy Thurston, and keep both hands were I can see them!”
“ Why. I haven’t broke no laws in this town.” Cole said as he went to pour another shot of whiskey.
“ In my territory, wrongful incarceration is against the law.” Sheriff Duncan said. “ So is chaining a man up like an animal. Now stand up. I’m not going to tell you again.”
Cole stood up and turned to face the sheriff. “ You must be talking about that piece of meat I have locked up in your jail. He’s my prisoner sheriff, so how I treat him is of no concern of yours……..So why don’t you take that tin star badge you wear and leave me alone before you start to make me mad.” Cole said as he started to walk toward the sheriff.
“ That’s far enough Thurston. The sheriff told you to take that gunbelt off. I suggest you do as he said, unless you want cut in half by this here scatter gun!” Miles ordered.
Cole turned and looked toward the top of the stairs. “ Well, I guess you grew some there deputy. You sure you got what it takes to pull that trigger?”
“ You wanna try me and find out?” Miles said as he cocked the scatter gun.
What few patrons in the saloon stood up, and moved across the room. Some went behind the bar as others went under the stairs, along the wall to watch.
“ I’ll ask you one last time to unbuckle that gunbelt and let it fall to the floor.” Sheriff Duncan said.
Cole watched the deputy as he reached with his left hand and unbuckled his gunbelt, and let it fall to the floor. “ I’ll have both your badges for this.”
“ I believe you know where the jail is, move!” Sheriff Duncan ordered. “ Miles, pick up his gun. Lucille, I need you to go get doc and have him come to my jail. I got a man who needs him.”
“ I know I slowed you down. I’m sorry.” Luke said as he rode double with Scott.
“ How far across these White Sands?” Murdoch asked.
“ About thirty miles. It’s another ten miles to Pinõn once we clear the sands.” Luke responded.
“ You are slowing us down, but I can’t abide leaving a man out in the middle of nowhere on foot. Including a man who wanted to take my youngest son from me.” Murdoch said.
“ Who still might.” Scott added.
“ Look, I assure you, I have no intention of harming Johnny.” Luke said.
“ How fast is Cole?” Scott asked.
“ You mean to draw, he’s fast, real fast.” Luke responded.
“ You think he’s faster than my brother?” Scott asked.
“ I’ve never seen your brother draw. All I know is what I’ve heard about him being the fastest west of the Mississippi river.” Luke responded. “ He goes up against him, I think he’ll lose. That’s how fast Cole is.”
“ My son will not be going up against this man.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ Mister Lancer, I mean no disrespect to you sir, but I don’t think that’s your call to make. Johnny is a grown man. Under normal circumstances, I don’t think he could beat Cole. What he’s been put through, and is being put through by Cole is reason enough for Johnny to beat him.” Luke said.
“ Vengeance!” Scott added.
“ And what if my son wants vengeance against you for what you have done to him?” Murdoch asked.
“ The only thing I did was not listen to Scott and Johnny back in California.” Luke said.
“ So you say.” Scott said.
“ I got no reason to lie to either of you.” Luke said as he jumped of the back of Scott’s horse. “ Leave me here. I can make it to Pinõn.”
Murdoch stopped, and turned his horse around. “ Mister Johnston, we will not be leaving you out here to walk. What you do when we get to Pinõn is your decision alone. Until then, please try and understand our hesitance in believing you have no further interest in Johnny.”
“ Where’s the damn key to those shackles and chain?” Duncan demanded.
“ Why? Madrid’s my prisoner, not yours.” Cole said.
Duncan grabbed Cole by his shirt and slammed him up against the wall. “ You either come up with that key or I’ll see you get sent to Yuma prison for at least ten years.”
“ It’s in my left coat pocket.” Cole said as the door opened.
“ Sheriff, Lucille said you had a man who needed my attention.” Doc Miller asked.
“ Yeah doc. He’s in the cell in the back. I was just getting the key to the damn shackles this man is making him wear.” Sheriff Duncan responded. “ You get to stay in my other cell. Move your sorry ass now.”
Miles unlocked Johnny’s cell and allowed the doc to go in.
“ That’s my prisoner Sheriff. You got no right locking me up and freeing my prisoner. That man is a murderer!” Cole yelled.
“ Unless you want to find yourself bound and gagged, I suggest you shut the hell up now.” Sheriff Duncan ordered as he went in and unlocked the shackles around Johnny’s wrist.
Johnny almost collapsed from exhaustion as he was helped over to the cot in the cell.
“ I’m going to need some hot water Matt. His wrist are in pretty bad shape.” Doc said.
“ I’ll get some heating. He looks exhausted.” Matt responded.
“ Told me he was always tied to a branch overhead so he had to stand. That’s been the last five days I think.” Miles said.
“ Miles, go to my office and in the back is a glass cabinet. I need a small jar that says carbolic acid on it.” Doc ordered.
“ How bad is he doc?” Matt asked.
“ How the hell could you do this to another human being mister?” Doc demanded.
“ How bad is he doc?” Matt asked.
“ His wrist are raw and deep. It looks like his left wrist for whatever reasons is worse than the right one.” Doc explained.
“ Like the weight was more on it than the right one?” Matt asked.
“ Yeah. Do you know him Matt?” Doc asked.
“ Yeah, he’s the man I told you about. The one who saved my life that time. He’s Johnny Madrid.” Sheriff Duncan responded.
“ Johnny Madrid,the gunfighter! Well that explains the wrist. Still, he’s not going to be drawing or shooting no gun for some time. What this boy needs is rest, and plenty of it.”
“ Here ya go Doc.” Miles said as he walked into the cell.
“ Aah good. Let’s get this boys wrist tended too.” Doc Miller said.
Cole lay on the cot in his cell and watched the sheriff and his deputy walk out of the jail. Sitting up, he threw his legs over the side and reached inside his left boot, pulling out a knife with a six inch blade. “ Now I just need that damn doctor to show up so that deputy comes back here with the keys!” he said as he tucked the knife under his pillow.
“ Morning Miles. How’s our patient this morning?” Doc Miller asked as he walked into the jail.
“ Slept all night with hardly a stir. I think he might be waking up this morning though!” Miles responded.
“ I see you got the sheriff to go get some sleep!” Doc said.
“ Yeah. He was reluctant, but I finally got him too.” Miles said as he walked over to pour the doc a cup of coffee. “ You look like you could use this.”
“ Thank you. I was rousted out early. The Simmons youngest boy fell out of the hayloft this morning and broke his arm.” Doc responded.
“ He gonna be alright?” Miles asked.
“ He will, but I expect that older brother of his will never be alright. Little Jacob told me his brother pushed him deliberately. I keep telling Mary and David they need to stop coddling that boy and start disciplining him before he gets his little brother hurt or worse.”
“ What’s a man got to do to get a drink of water around here?” Cole asked.
“ You’ll get some with your meal.” Miles responded.
“ Yeah, well your patient is awake and sitting up deputy.” Cole said.
Miles and Doc Miller walked back to the cells. “ Well, glad to see you awake young man.” Doc said.
“ I’ll get you some water.” Miles said as he unlocked Johnny’s cell so Doc could go in.
“ Who are you?” Johnny asked.
“ Some people call me a lot of things, but mostly I’m the doctor in this town. I treated your wrist last night. Cleaned them up as good as I could, and wrapped them up.” Doc responded.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he looked and noticed Cole in the cell across from him. “ That look is good for you. A bastard like you deserves to be behind bars.”
“ Go ahead and laugh Madrid.” Cole said as Miles walked back by with water for Madrid. “ I won’t be in here long.” he said as he stood up and walked over to his bars.
“ Let’s see how those wrist look.” Doc said.
“ You got a name?” Johnny asked.
“ Doc Miller, most everyone just calls me Doc.” he responded.
“ You any relation to a Sam Jenkins back in Morro Coyo?” Johnny asked as Doc unwrapped his left wrist.
“ No, I was an only child. Who is he, this Sam Jenkins?” Doc asked.
“ Our doctor for the valley. He has spunk like you.” Johnny said. “ You wouldn’t happen to have any coffee around would ya?”
“ Sure do. I’ll go get ya a cup.” Miles said.
Cole grabbed Miles around the neck and pulled his pistol from the holster. “ I suggest that unless you want the good doctor and this deputy to die, you come over here and unlock my cell right now Madrid!”
Johnny stood up and put a hand on Doc Miller’s shoulder before walking out of his cell. “ They’ll hunt you down and kill you.”
“ They have to catch me first. Unlock my cell and then step back in yours.” Cole ordered. “ Toss the keys onto my bed.”
Johnny did as he was told as Cole released the deputy and came out of his cell.
“ You, deputy, put the shackles back on my prisoner. Stand over there in the corner Doc. Don;t either of you do anything stupid, and you’ll live to see another sunset.” Cole ordered. “ Wait, take the bandages off his wrist. He don’t need them, and I want those shackles not coming off.”
Doc removed the remaining bandage from Johnny’s right wrist. “ Ve con dios.” ( Go with God ) Doc said.
Cole walked over to Deputy Miles. “ You were a big man last night with that scatter gun, and again this morning when I asked for some water. Let’s see how big a man you are now?” he said as he plunged the knife deep into Miles gut, and jerked upward as he twisted the knife.
“ What the hell is wrong with you! He did everything you wanted! You didn’t have to kill him!” Johnny demanded.
“ Gotta lock ya inside Doc. I know that tin star sheriff will be back sometime later and find ya. Tie his hands behind his back and gag him Madrid. Do it real good too cause I’ll be checking.” Cole said.“ Aah, sounds like the stage is right on time. Hurry it up! Oh, tell the sheriff I’d stay to thank him in person for his hospitality, but me and Madrid have to be getting to Abilene.”
Sheriff Duncan crossed the street and was stopped by Lucille. “ How come you let that man go?”
“ Let what man go Lucille?” he asked.
“ That man in the saloon last night. I seen him get on the morning stage with another man he had in shackles.” Lucille responded as Sheriff Duncan took off at a run toward his jail.
“ Miles……Miles you in here?” Sheriff Duncan yelled as he entered the jail. Banging could be heard coming from the back. Peeking through the small barred window in the door, Matt could see Miles on the floor and Doc trussed up, sitting on the cot.
“ What the hell happened Doc?” he demanded as he entered the cell and untied the docs hands.
“ That one you had locked up. Miles went to get Johnny a cup of coffee and he grabbed him, took his gun and ordered Madrid to unlock his cell. He stabbed Miles because of whatever happened last night and he didn’t get a drink of water he wanted. Miles told him to wait until you got here.”
“ Damn it.” Matt said with anger as he left the cell and walked back out front.
“ You going after him Matt?” Doc asked.
“ I have no jurisdiction in Texas or out of this damn county.” Matt said with anger.
“ So he just gets away with murdering Miles. Is that it Matt?” Doc asked angrily. “ He said he was still taking Madrid to Abilene, so why don’t you get off your ass and go after him. Nobody in this town is going to fault you for going after Miles killer.”
“ I never should have went home. I should have stayed here with Miles.” Duncan said as the door to his office opened.
“ Excuse me, are you the sheriff?” Murdoch asked.
“ Look, I’m a little busy right now mister, so unless it’s……….”
“ I’m looking for my son. He may have come through here with another man as his prisoner. I would just like to know if he has been seen?” Murdoch asked.
“ Your son? What’s your sons name?” Matt asked.
“ Johnny Lancer, but he is more known as Johnny Madrid. The man who is with him is named Cole Thurston, a bounty hunter.” Murdoch responded.
“ You say he’s your son. You the rich American who threw him and his mother out when he was a baby?” Sheriff Duncan asked.
“ Look sheriff, I’m not going to stand here and debate my personal business with you. Johnny is my son.” Murdoch said firmly as Scott and Luke walked into the office.
“ Has he been here?” Scott asked.
“ I don’t know. The sheriff here seems to not believe me about Johnny being my son.” Murdoch responded.
“ Sheriff, what he says is true. I’m Luke Johnson, I was Cole Thurston’ partner for near ten years until last week. We were taking Madrid to Abilene based on a lie I didn’t know about until Santa Rita.”
“ Cole Thurston murdered my deputy and took Madrid out of here this morning. Doc Miller here treated his wrist last night and was here to check them when Cole got free from his cell.” Matt explained.
“ You going after him?” Luke asked.
“ He gets to Abilene and turns Madrid in, he’ll be long gone by the time I could get there. He took the morning stage out.”
“ Ate you sure he took the stage sheriff?” Luke asked.
“ Lucille seen them get on it. Why?”
“ Because Cole, he hates riding a stage.” Luke responded.
“ Yeah well he just murdered a man, so getting away on a horse after murdering my deputy was the only thing he was thinking about. Lucille said he was asking about the stage last night at the saloon before I arrested his ass.” Matt said. “ That stage won’t be stopping until Sulphur Springs, and that’s thirty miles east. They stop there long enough to switch horses and such and then are gone again. That’s the way the east bound stage runs. It’ll stop for a quick one hour break just across the Texas line, but then it’s gone again.” Matt explained.
“ Well, it’s Johnny we are after sheriff. You’re more than welcome to ride along with us.” Murdoch said.
“ I have no jurisdiction outside this county, and I sure as hell have none in Texas.” Sheriff Matt Duncan snapped back.
“ Alright. I’ll make you a solemn promise that Cole Thurston will pay for murdering your deputy. You have my word on that.” Murdoch said.
“ You say you treated my brothers wrist. How bad are they?” Scott asked.
“ Left one is rubbed raw. Both were bleeding from being hung above his head every night. From nears I could tell, he was trying his best to keep the weight off his right wrist. It wasn’t as bad as the left one.” Doc Miller explained.
“ And being absolutely exhausted. He was out the whole time Doc scrubbed and cleaned his wrist. He never once moved, moaned or nothing.” Matt added. “ From what Miles told me, this Thurston was pretty much keeping him from sleeping. He even had him trussed up in my cell wearing those damn shackles.”
“ Do you know what horses they rode in on?” Luke asked.
“ Not a clue. I wasn’t here when they came into town. I imagine their horses are at the livery still.” Matt responded.
“ I think I’ll go see if my horse is there.” Luke said.
“ I’ll go with you. Just in case the livery owner doesn’t believe you.” Scott said.
“ Texas state line folks. We’ll take a one hour break for food and to switch out the horses.” the stage driver said.
“ You try anything, and I’ll make you wish you were dead.” Cole said coldly before stepping off the stage. “ Get down.”
Johnny stepped off the stage and looked around. As he wiped the sweat from his brow.
“ Oh my, is that man going to be traveling with us?” a woman with a small child asked.
“ Yes ma’am he will, but don’t you worry none, you and your daughter will be safe.” Cole responded.
“ Don’t think much of a man being trussed up in iron like he is mister.” the stage driver said as he led a horse past.
“ He’s a killer. You want him loose around these innocent people old man?” Cole said and asked.
“ Hell mister, we’re all killers when it comes right down to it. Don’t give ya no right to wear a badge and treat your prisoner like he’s less than a dog.” the stage driver said as he hooked up the trace lines.
“ Like I said, Madrid here is a killer, and since he’s my prisoner, I’ll treat him any damn way I want.” Cole responded.
“ Madrid, you’re Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter. I’m sorry sheriff, but this is as far as you go. There’s a lot of men who would love to kill that man. I can’t be having my other passengers lives put at risk.” the stage driver said firmly.
“ This prisoner is going to Abilene, on this stage mister. You try stopping us from riding, it will be the worst mistake you’ve ever made. The old woman and kid can stay here and take the next stage.” Cole ordered.
“ Now see here sheriff.”
“ He’s not a sheriff. He stole that badge in Pinõn after he killed the deputy there. Do what he says. He’ll kill you and not think twice about it old-timer.” Johnny cut in.
Cole walked up to Johnny. “ I don’t remember giving you permission to talk.” he said right before he slammed the rifle barrel into Johnny’s mid-section, making him double over. Grabbing a hand full of hair, Cole pulled Madrid’s head back against his shoulder. “ You might want to think about that woman and kids lives before you go spouting off at the mouth again boy.”
“ Like I said before, killing you is going to be a pleasure before this is over Thurston.” Johnny responded.
“ Get the team switched out. We’re leaving. You and that brat can take the next stage.” Cole ordered. “ Get your ass back inside that stage!” he ordered Johnny. “ Throw down all that damn luggage from up top. We don’t need to be carrying it.”
“ They were here sheriff. Might testy in fact when I made him get off the stage while we changed out. He was none too happy about a woman and her daughter boarding the stage either.” Dan said as he pitched feed to his stock. “ You got those horses ready for that westbound stage boy?”
“ Yes sir, all ready and waiting pa.”
“ Why you so interested in this sheriff and his prisoner Matt?” Dan asked.
“ He’s not a sheriff. He’s a bounty hunter, and he murdered Miles.” Matt responded.
“ Young Peter Miles is dead, sweet mother of Mary. That boy never hurt nobody before. Why?” Dan asked with sadness in his voice.
“ Because he helped me arrest the man. He stood up to him with a scatter gun. Lancer, my jurisdiction ends here. As much as I’d love to, I can go no farther. You catch that murdering sonofabitch, make him pay for killing Peter.” Sheriff Duncan said.
“ I made you a promise sheriff. He will pay.” Murdoch responded.
“ If you stay on this road, it will take you right into Texas and all the way to Abilene.” Dan suggested. “ There’s stage stops where you can rest up and get a decent meal.”
“ Thank you. You’ve been more than helpful. We’ll see you sheriff.” Murdoch said before riding out with Scott and Luke.
“Abilene, Texas mister.” the stage driver said as he stopped the stage in front of the hotel.
Cole stepped out of the stage. “ Come on out Madrid, nice and easy.”
“ Marshals office is across the way if you want to lock your prisoner up.” the driver suggested.
“ Who’s the law here?” Cole asked.
“ Marshal Bill Anderson. Don’t take no gruff from nobody, and gets the job done. Since he came here, Abilene has been a lot safer on a Saturday night.” the man said.
“ Station operator says they were here a few days ago. Said Thurston ordered a woman and her daughter off the stage and made the driver leave with just him and Johnny.” Scott explained. “ He also said Johnny saved the stage operators life and possibly the woman and child’s too. Said Johnny spoke up and told the driver about Thurston not being the law, and too do what he says because he will kill them.”
“ We have over two hundred miles to ride. They put Johnny in that prison work farm, how the hell we gonna find him, let alone get him out?” Luke asked.
“ Where’s the next telegraph?” Murdoch asked.
“ That would be Andrews. It’s about twenty miles east. Not much there, but they have a telegraph office.” Luke responded.
“ What do you know about Abilene?” Scott asked.
“ Like what?” Luke asked.
“ Where is this prison work farm this Paul Cooper wants my brother to spend the rest of his life at?” Scott asked.
“ I don’t know of but one northeast of Abilene.” Luke responded. “ It used to be an old mission back in the seventeen hundreds. I believe it was called Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá. It had another place built next to it called Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas, that I guess was later renamed Presidio of San Sabá. They abandoned them because of Apache’s until about twenty years ago…………..Damn.”
“ What’s wrong?” Scott asked.
“ Zeb Cooper bought the land that old mission and Presidio are on. There’s an old mine there called Los Almagres, the Lost Spanish Mine. It’s reported to have a good vein of silver because of this one type of rock called Ochre.” Luke responded.
“ I’m familiar with Ochre. Many a man has staked his life on that damn rock!” Murdoch cut in.
“ What is Ochre?” Scott asked.
“ Ochre is a rock composed of concentrated iron oxide minerals and is sometimes associated with precious metal ores, including silver. It can be found all over the Sierra’s and in Nevada.” Luke explained.
“ I’m amazed you would know so much about minerals.” Murdoch said.
“ I haven’t always been a bounty hunter Mister Lancer. I used to be a foolish miner who staked his life on that damn rock as you say.” Luke explained.
“ You say this mission is on Paul Cooper’s land?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes sir. His spread is pretty big. I believe it’s the biggest spread around Abilene.” Luke said.
“ Biggest doesn’t mean anything to me. That man, for whatever reasons wants my son to suffer for the rest of his life working for him, he has another thing coming.”
“ I was ready to give up on you ever finding him and hire someone else to do the job.” Paul Cooper said “ Where’s Johnston?”
“ We had a falling out a few weeks ago. The sonofabitch wanted to let Madrid here go.” Cole responded as he dismounted.
“ Let him go, why?” Paul asked.
“ Because of what some damn whore said. Her and Madrid here claim he was in a Mexican prison awaiting execution when your old man was murdered.” Cole said.
“ What makes you think I wanted Madrid here for my father’s death? I had to have a reason to on the poster. My father was a drunk, and a coward who was gunned down in a drunken brawl. No, what is between us is personal. Get down.”
Johnny dismounted and stood next to his horse, watching the man responsible for all his pain and suffering the last two months. “ Do I know you mister.” he said.
Paul walked up to Johnny, an evil grin on his face. “ Looks like those shackles have been on you for the whole trip. No worries though because those wrist bracelets will be replaced with ankle ones where you’re going.” Paul said. “ I thought by now you would have learned to not speak unless spoken to. No matter, what you will be allowed and not allowed to do, my man Sergio is real good at teaching. Especially with his whip. Take and chain him up. Make sure he understands the rules.”
“ Guess you were all talk Madrid. Have a nice life in hell.” Cole said.
“ I will kill you before this is over.” Johnny said softly before being jerked away to two post sticking out of the ground about six feet. Two shackles and chains hung from each post. One at the bottom, and one at the top.
“ Make sure they don’t pull so much as to damage his shoulders or arms. I want him to be able to work.” Paul said as he walked away, followed by Cole.
Sergio locked the ankle bracelet and wrist bracelet on the left side first. “ I heard you are the greatest, fastest pistolero in my native country. That you have helped many peasants against men like my boss. For that I thank you, but this is not Mexico, this is Texas, and here, a man like yourself means nothing. If I am ordered to, I will follow orders and punish harshly when told too do so, or if you speak when not spoken too, you will be punished. Try and escape, and I’ll hunt you down with that pack of hounds over there.”
“ I don’t know your boss. This isn’t right what he’s doing.” Johnny said as Sergio fastened the shackles on his right side.
Sergio walked around to stand in front of Johnny. “ ¿No entendiste lo que dije sobre no hablar a menos que tú también hables?” ( Did you not hear what I said about not speaking unless you are spoken too?)
“ Al diablo con tus reglas.” ( To hell with your rules.) Johnny responded.
Sergio walked over and picked up his whip. “ I’m going to give you your first lesson in following the rules.” he said as he uncoiled the whip.
Johnny knew the burning pain that was coming as he closed his eyes and sucked in air as the first crack of the fine leather struck his skin.
“ Can I help you?” Sheriff Lee Atkins asked.
“ Possibly. My name is Richard M. Brewer. I’m from the Pinkerton Detective Agency. I was sent here from Amarillo. Do you know a Paul Cooper?”
“ Yeah I know Paul. He’s a local rancher. Why?” Sheriff Atkins asked as he stood up.
“ Because he has a man by the name of Johnny Madrid imprisoned illegally for personal reasons.”
“ Now see here mister. I don’t care who you are. You don’t come to my town and go making false accusations like that about one of our leading citizens. I’ll throw your ass in jail for defamation of character so fast.” Sheriff Atkins said as he walked around his desk and faced the Pinkerton agent. “ Get the hell out of my office!”
“ Sheriff, I suggest you think strongly about how you handle this.” Pinkerton Brewer said before walking out of the office and across the street.
“ George, mind the jail. I’ll be back in a couple hours.” Atkins said as he strapped on his gun.
“ I think I will ride out and see how my capture is doing.” Paul Cooper said as he mounted his horse.
“ Rider coming in sir!” a hand said.
“ Sheriff Atkins, what are you doing here?” Paul demanded.
“ I thought you should know there’s a Pinkerton man in town. He came to my office asking about you.” Sheriff Atkins responded. “ He said he’s here with proof that you have a man named Johnny Madrid imprisoned illegally.”
“ And you thought it necessary to ride right out here right after talking to him didn’t you?” Paul asked.
“ Well yeah. I thought you would want to know.” Atkins responded.
“ You imbecile. He was baiting you to see what you would do. Get the hell out of here before I shoot you for being so stupid.”
“ Now see here Paul, I’m the law in this county. Do you have this Johnny Madrid or not?” Sheriff Atkins demanded.
“ Who I have or don’t have on my estancia is of no concern of yours sheriff.” Paul responded.
“ Mister Cooper told you to leave sheriff. I suggest you ride away now while you still can.” the hand said.
“ You’ll rue the day you did this Paul.” Sheriff Atkins said as he turned his horse and galloped away.
“ You men go on without me. I need to go out and check on the progress t the mine.” Paul ordered.
“ Where exactly are we to meet this Pinkerton man from Amarillo?” Scott asked.
“ There’s four hotels in Abilene, Hotel Grace, Drake Hotel, The Wooten Hotel, and The Windsor Hotel. All four are pretty pricey. He’ll either be at one of those or at the Taylor County Courthouse.” Luke suggested.
“ His wire said he would be staying at the Drake. If he’s not there, then he will be at the courthouse.” Murdoch responded.
“ The Drake is at the other end of town on the left.” Luke said.
“ Where’s the sheriff’s office?” Scott asked.
“ U. S. Marshal’s office is just before the Drake. As for the sheriff, his office is just ahead on the right.” Luke responded. “ You’ll have better luck with the marshal helping you than the sheriff.”
“ We’ll see what Mister Allen has done. He may have already contacted them.” Murdoch said as they rode up to The Drake Hotel and dismounted.
“ How far is it to Cooper’s ranch from town?” Scott asked as they walked into the hotel.
“ Ten miles, but he won’t have him there.” Luke responded.
“ Can I help you gentlemen?” the clerk asked.
“ Yes, I’m Murdoch Lancer, we are supposed to meet a Richard M. Brewer here.” Murdoch responded.
“ Mister Lancer, I’m Pinkerton Brewer. I have already acquired rooms for you and your son.” Agent Brewer said as he walked over. “ Let’s go upstairs and talk.” he suggested.
“ I’ll stay down here Mister Lancer.” Luke said. “ Cole might still be around.”
“ Your rooms are across from mine.” Brewer said as he unlocked his door. ‘ Come on in. Agent Martin was very adamant in his letter about what is going on. I have everything needed to prove your son did not commit this said murder. Drink?”
“ Thank you. Have you spoken to the local law?” Murdoch asked.
“ I did. The Marshal Bravin will accompany us. It was rather entertaining when I spoke to the sheriff however.” Brewer said as he poured three drinks.
“ How do you mean?” Scott asked as he took his drink. “ Thank you.”
“ Well, I was ordered out of his office, and he said he would not have someone spreading defamation of character lies about a leading, upstanding citizen. Before I walked out of his office, I told him to think strongly about how he handled this.” Agent Brewer responded as he handed Murdoch his drink.
“ Why do I get a feeling the sheriff will not be helping us?” Scott said.
“ He rode out not five minutes after I left his office. Headed northeast. The Cooper ranch is the only thing northeast of Abilene.” Brewer said.
“ You think he warned this Paul Cooper about us?” Scott asked.
“ I’d be willing to bet he did son.” Murdoch said.
“ That may be bad for Johnny. If this Cooper fella knows we are here for Johnny, What’s to stop him from killing him, or having him taken someplace we will never find him at?” Scott responded.
“ The sheriff doesn’t know about you two, only me. Who is the man downstairs?” Brewer asked.
“ Luke Johnston, the other bounty hunter who took my son. It would seem he learned the truth while in Santa Rita. Thurston turned on him in New Mexico. Left him stranded with no horse or gun.” Murdoch explained.
“ And you trust him?” Brewer asked.
“ We’re not sure yet.” Scott said.
“ How do you want to play this out Mister Lancer?” Brewer asked.
“ Luke said the Cooper ranch is ten miles from here. We don’t know where he has Johnny at for sure. I think we should clean up, rest up, and have supper with the marshal tonight. See how he wants to handle this. Get a good nights rest, and ride out at first light.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Senor Cooper, I thought you were going to Abilene today?” Sergio said as he walked over to Paul.
“ I had planned too, but my plans changed.” Paul responded as he walked over to were Johnny was swinging a pickax, busting rock.
“ Stop working Madrid.” Sergio ordered.
Johnny stopped swinging the pickax and let it fall to the ground.
“ He needs gloves. His hands, the blisters are deep.” Sergio said.
“ He is not worthy of gloves. His hands will toughen up with time.” Paul responded. “ You still don’t know why I had you brought here do you? Why I spent so much money and looked for you for so long.”
Johnny stood looking at his hands, swaying back and forth a little, ignoring his captor.
“ I asked you a question! Don’t make me repeat it.” Paul said.
Johnny raised his head and looked through ice cold blue eyes at the man. “ Something wrong with your hearing? I already told you, I don’t know you, and I have never seen or heard of you before.”
“ Six years ago in Austin, you were in a gunfight. An innocent young girl was killed during that gunfight.” Paul explained.
“ I only fired one shot, and it hit Wheeler in the chest. I never shot an innocent girl.” Johnny responded.
“ No, no you didn’t. The other man fired a wild shot as he died from your bullet. It was his bullet that killed her. She would still be alive if it wasn’t for you. I mean, what’s one more dead man, or in this case, an innocent young girl to the mighty Johnny Madrid. Tell me something Madrid, how many other innocent people have been shot because of you?”
“ Look, I’m sorry an innocent girl was killed. I didn’t know anyone else was shot……I’m sorry.” Johnny said.
“ You’re sorry. Oh trust me, you will be sorry for the rest of your life. That innocent young girl was my little sister. It was her first trip to Austin with our father. You have no idea what it did to my father having her die in his arms. Having to bring her lifeless body back home. He was never tha same after we buried her.”
“ I didn’t kill her!” Johnny said firmly. “ Punishing me for something I didn’t do is wrong. The man who killed your sister is dead. I’m sorry your father got in a drunken brawl and was killed. It’s not my fault.”
“ It is your fault. A man like you should not be allowed to even be in a town where there are good, decent, innocent folks around. You and your kind are not welcome anymore.” Paul spat.
“ I’m not a gunfighter anymore. I’ve been living with my family in California. That’s where your bounty hunters found me. I’m not in the game any more.” Johnny responded.
“ The sheriff came to visit me this morning. He said there is a Pinkerton man in town asking about me. He says I am a bad man. That I am holding an innocent man a prisoner. He could not be further from the truth. You ask any man who works for me and they will tell you I am a good and caring boss. I pay well, and treat all my hired hands with dignity and respect. Now you, you do not work for me in the same manner as my other hands do. No you Madrid, you are what is called slave labor.” Paul said as he stepped closer to Johnny.
“ That Pinkerton agent is the least of your worries. My old man and brother are coming here, and they will find me, and when they do, they’re gonna be sending you straight to hell.” Johnny said coldly.
Paul lashed out and hit Johnny in the face.“ I’m afraid you have made a grave mistake Madrid. Teach him what happens when I am threatened.”
Murdoch and Scott met Pinkerton Brewer, and Marshal Bravin outside the hotel at dawn.
“ Mister Lancer. I learned why Paul Cooper has a vengeance against your son.” Pinkerton Brewer said as he handed the report to Murdoch.
“ Oh my god. And he blames my son for this?” Murdoch said as he handed the report to Scott to read.
“ It would appear so sir. I put out a request for anything in the last five, six years that involved your son or anyone named Cooper. That’s the only thing I could find out that happened in Texas.” Agent Brewer responded.
“ Might I suggest we stop standing around here, and get going to this Cooper ranch?” Scott cut in.
“ Marshal Bravin, what can I do for you sir?” Paul asked.
“ I’m here on official business with these other men Mister Cooper.” Marshal Bravin responded.
“ I’m sure Mister Cooper is aware of why we are here Marshal Bravin. Seein’s how the good Sheriff Atkins hightailed it out here to tell Mister Cooper I was asking about him.” Pinkerton Brewer said.
“ I did have a visit from the sheriff the other day. I don’t appreciate anyone going around saying I’m a bad man. Including you, Pinkerton man. It’s called defamation of character, and it’s against the law.” Paul said.
“ You have Mister Lancer’s son here Cooper. You’re holding him against his will. I know this because you hired me and Cole Thurston to track him down, and bring him back here to you.” Luke cut in. “ The paying price was five thousand dollars, each.”
“ I’m afraid you’re mistaken. I don’t know you, and I sure as hell wouldn’t pay you an exuberant amount of money as you are claiming.” Paul responded.
“ No, you wouldn’t me because I learned the truth, but you did Cole.” Luke said. “ You paid him five thousand in cash last week.”
“ I don’t know anyone named Cole.” Paul said.
“ Mister Cooper. It would be in your best interest to stop lying to us. Mister McMasters at the bank is prepared to testify in a court of law. He showed us the transaction. A transaction that states it was bounty money. H e said you alerted him about this happening four years ago.” Marshal Bravin explained.
“ Six years ago your father and little sister went to Austin. Tragically she was killed from a stray bullet fired by a man who had just been killed in a gunfight. Everyone who witnessed the fight said it was an accident. That Johnny Madrid was not responsible for her tragic death. Yet you, a person who wasn’t even there to see what happened, blamed Madrid, and after your father was killed in a drunken brawl, you decided to have Madrid hunted down and brought to you to pay for something he didn’t do.” Agent Brewer explained. “ Wrongful incarceration and or imprisonment is against the law Mister Cooper.”
“ Slavery ended with the civil war. Where’s my brother?” Scott demanded.
“ Am I supposed to know who your brother is young man?” Paul asked.
Murdoch dismounted and walked up to Paul. “ Johnny Madrid is my son. Where is he?”
“ A man of your stature claiming someone like Madrid as their son. I’m sorry but I find that funny.” Paul responded.
Murdoch lashed out and grabbed Paul by his shirt. “ I suggest you take me to my son now, or be ready to spend the rest of your life in prison. I am very good friends with Governor Davis, and several other prominent citizens of Texas……..Now where is my son?”
“ Mister Lancer, threatening me will not get you what you want.” Paul said as his foreman Dan walked over to them.
“ He’s with Sergio working at the Los Almagres, the Lost Spanish Mines.” Dan said. “ I’m sorry Mister Cooper, but I won’t be a part of this any longer.”
“ Take us to him, please.” Scott asked.
“ Mister Cooper, I’m placing you under arrest for wrongful imprisonment and possible attempted murder.” Marshal Bravin said as he pulled out a pair of handcuffs from his saddlebags.
“ That half-breed is responsible for my sisters death. If he hadn’t been in Austin, she would never have been shot.” Paul said with anger as the marshal put the wrist irons on him. “ I had every right to punish him for my sisters death.”
“ Mister Lancer, you go get your son. I’ll make sure the doctor is ready when you get to Abilene.” Marshal Bravin said.
“ Have him be ready in my room at the hotel.” Murdoch ordered as they rode away.
“ I did not say you could stop and take a rest Madrid. Get back to work now.” Sergio ordered.
“ Go to hell.” Johnny responded as he threw down the pickax and looked at his bloody hands. “ You or your coward boss want anymore rocks busted, you can do it yourselves.”
“ I am ordering you to get back to work!” Sergio said as he uncoiled the whip.
“ Big man as long as you have that whip in your hand.” Johnny said.
“ Get back to work Madrid. I will not tell you again.” Sergio ordered.
“ A man starts listening to lies, he’s no longer a man. Your boss is nothing more than a tyrant. Just like those I fought against in Mexico. He don’t give a shit about you or anyone else. All he cares about is himself.” Johnny said right before the sting of the whip came across his lower back.
“ You dare to disobey me, and speak of my boss like you do.” Sergio said as he repeatedly hit Johnny’s back with the whip until he was down on the ground. “ Mi prima peleó contigo en México. Es por ti y esa maldita revuelta mexicana que está muerto.” ( My cousin fought with you in Mexico. It is because of you and that damn Mexican revolt he is dead.)
“ Tu primo era más hombre de lo que nunca serías. Al menos tenía las agallas para enfrentarse a hombres como tu jefe.” ( Your cousin was more of a man than you will ever be. At least he had the guts to stand up against men like your boss.)
“ Mi primo era un tonto. Escuchar a hombres como tú solo mata a otros. Nunca puedes ganar contra hombres como Paul Cooper.” (My cousin was a fool. Listening to men like you only gets others killed. You can never win against men like Paul Cooper.)
“ Puedes hacerlo si eres lo suficientemente hombre como para enfrentarte a él.” ( You can if you are man enough to stand up against him.)
“ I will show you who is man enough.” Sergio said with anger before he started whipping Madrid again.
“ That’s the mine down there.” Dan said.
“ My god, someone is whipping him.” Murdoch said.
Scott pulled his rifle and fired, hitting the dirt at the mans feet.
“ Swing that whip again, and the next one goes in you.” Scott yelled. “ Drop the whip and back away from him……now!”
Sergio dropped the whip, and backed away from Johnny. He recognized the foreman Dan, riding down the hill with the other men.
Sergio kept his hands away from his gun as he backed away from Madrid.
“ My god. Johnny, son can you hear me?” Murdoch asked as he carefully moved Johnny.
“Hey pa. Can I go home now?” he asked softly as he tried to sit up.
Murdoch stood up, and walked over to Sergio. “ You sonofabitch!” he said before lashing out and hitting Sergio as hard as he could in the face. “ You like to beat on a defenseless person. Why don’t you try beating on me?”
“ Mister Lancer, stop.” Agent Brewer said as he grabbed the big man by his arms.
“ Let go of me. I’m done.” Murdoch said.
“ Take it easy brother. Let us help you.” Scott said as he seen how bloody his brothers hands were. “ Let me get something to wrap around your hands to keep the dirt out.”
“ I’m okay. It don’t hurt no more.” Johnny said before passing out.
“ We need to get him to a doctor now.” Murdoch said as he came back over to his son. “ You’re lucky I don’t put a bullet in you right now for what you have done to my son.”
“ I was only doing what I was ordered to do senor. It is Madrid who brought the beatings on himself by not following orders. Anyone who doesn’t follow orders, has to be punished.” Sergio responded.
“ Get him on a horse. We’ll take him to the marshal. He can keep his boss company in jail.” Murdoch ordered. “ You have a doctor in Abilene?”
“ Doc Barlow, he’s a real good man. He can help your brother.” Foreman Dan said as he tied Sergio’s hands up.
“ Help get him on my horse.” Scott ordered. “ I’ll hold him. You lead my horse Murdoch.”
“ Easy brother. Doc’s not trying to hurt you on purpose.” Scott said as he sat on the bed wiping the sweat from Johnny’s brow.
“ No me dejes hermano.” ( Don’t leave me brother.)
“ Not a chance. Hey, you think I would come all the way to Abilene, Texas, just to leave you. No, I’m not going anywhere little brother. Murdoch is here also.”
“ Hey pa. Go home now?” Johnny mumbled.
“ Soon son. We’ll go home soon.” Murdoch responded.
“ I need him unconscious for what I have to do. Some of these wounds are deep and I need to clan them out. It’s not going to be a pleasant thing.” Doc Barlow explained as he took a syringe and small bottle from his bag.
“ What is that?” Scott asked.
“ Morphine. Like I just said. What I have to do is going to be very painful. It’s better if he isn’t awake to feel it.” Doc responded.
“ He said it doesn’t hurt anymore when we got to him, just before he passed out.”
“ No morphine Scott, please.” Johnny begged.
“ A couple of these wounds are deep. I’m going to have to cauterize them to stop the bleeding.” Doc Barlow explained.
“ Done it myself before Doc. I can stand the pain.” Johnny said softly.
“ You heard him Doc. Do what you have to do.” Scott said.
“ During the war, I knew men who were bigger and stronger than Johnny, and none of them could stand what he just went through last night without screaming.” Scott said.
“ I’m afraid I would be one of those men too son.” Murdoch said.
“ I know his back will heal, and he will have more scars to bare, but what worries me is his hands. I’ve never seen someones hands so blistered and raw.” Scott said.
“ It’s going to take time, but I think he’ll heal up okay son.” Murdoch responded. “ I’m going to go down and get us some breakfast, unless you would like too do it?” Murdoch said as he put his coat on.
“ No, I made Johnny a promise that I wouldn’t leave him. That I would be here when he wakes up.” Scott responded. “ You might want to send a wire letting Teresa know we have him back.”
“Yes. I’ll tell her we are taking the train home as soon as Johnny can travel. The hotel manager said there is a freight train that usually has one passenger car that runs up to Denver, from there we can take the stage up to Cheyenne and catch the train to Sacramento from there.”
“ The sooner we get him home, the sooner he can start healing inside.” Scott said.
“ Now keep those hands wrapped and that salve on them at least until you get home and your own doctor can look at them.” Doc Barlow said. “ Mister Lancer, Mentally your son…..Sometimes it helps to talk about what happened. It can help with the healing, which I’m sure you can agree with, but something I must ask you.”
“ Johnny didn’t grow up with me. Most of the older scars he got in a Mexican prison four years ago. His life up until three years ago was hard.” Murdoch explained.
“ I expect that hard life is why he became Johnny Madrid. His back muscles will take time to heal. It will be some time before he will be able to do any heavy lifting or strenuous ranch work. Your other son, Scott has a bottle of laudanum, just in case he needs it during the trip to ease with the discomfort so he can sleep.” Doc Barlow said.
“ I appreciate everything you have done for my son Doc. Thank you.” Murdoch said as he reached out to shake hands.
“ One more thing. Given the severity of the blisters on his hands, he may struggle to hold a fork or knife for a while. Have him flex his fingers and make a fist during the day. It will help him get his strength back in his hands.” the doc said.
“ You folks need to get aboard now.” the conductor suggested.
“ He can soak in a hot bath when you get to Denver. His back will be healed up enough for that. Just make sure he doesn’t bend over to much or try and lift anything for a while.” Doc Barlow said as he watched Johnny board the train.
“ We will. Again I appreciate everything you’ve done.” Murdoch said.
“ He’s the first patient I have ever had stay fully conscious when I cauterized a wound.” Doc Barlow said before turning and walking away.
“ Mister Lancer, I know my saying it doesn’t help, but I really am sorry for what I caused your son to be put through. The pain and hurt your whole family has been through.” Luke said.
Murdoch took a deep breath. “ You did cause my family and especially Johnny a lot of pain, but I feel you realizing the truth and delaying him getting to Abilene sooner, helped save him from more abuse than what he received.”
“ I want you to know, I’m done with being a bounty hunter. I think I’ll find me a job up in Montana. They say they need lawmen up there in Virginia City or Bannock. Hell, I might even become a prospector again. Lots of silver up there.” Luke said before walking away.
“ We’ll be arriving in Denver in about an hour Mister Lancer. There’s usually a coach taxi at the station that can take you to a hotel for the night. There’s a morning stage, and afternoon stage that runs up to Cheyenne, to catch the train on west.” the conductor said.
“ Thank you.” Murdoch said.
Most of the trip from Abilene to Denver, Johnny dozed on and off during the night, or just sat staring out the window. Hardly touching any of the food his father or brother would buy at the stops. Embarrassed over not being able to hold a fork or knife, and barely able to hold onto a sandwich.
“ When we get checked in, I want a hot bath. I’m tired of smelling myself, and I know others can.” Johnny said without looking at his father.
“ Doctor Barlow said you could soak in a hot bath when we got to De never. He said your back would be healed up enough.” Murdoch responded.
“ Don’t much care for what the doc thinks or says. I know my body better than anyone. In case you’ve forgotten, I’ve been whipped before.” Johnny said.
“ No I haven’t forgotten son. I would appreciate a little cooperation from you while you heal up. To do as the doctor instructed, just once.”
“ Hey Boston, you think maybe after, we can walk around?” Johnny asked, ignoring his father. “ I’ve never been to a big city like Denver. I’d kinda like to look around, maybe find something to take back to Teresa.” Johnny asked.
“ Sure. You mean to tell me in your travels, you have never been to a city little brother?” Scott asked.
“ Nope. A man like me was never needed in a city.” Johnny responded.
Cole Thurston rode up to the Cooper ranch and dismounted.
“ What do you want here?” Paul asked.
“ I thought I would come by and see Madrid busting rocks.” Cole responded.
“ He’s not here, get off my land.” Paul ordered.
“ Hey now, what do you mean he’s not here? He try to escape and you kill him?” Cole asked.
“ No. Now get the hell off my property before I have you shot for trespassing.” Paul ordered.
“ I spent four years looking for him. I think I have a right to know what happened.” Cole said.
“ What happened. I’ll tell you what happened. His rich father showed up with the marshal and arrested me for wrongful imprisonment, but not before I had that bastard for a week and beat him bloody with a whip. They left Abilene headed for home last week on the train to Denver.” Paul responded with anger.
“ Well, it looks like I’ll get to finish what you weren’t man enough to finish, since I know where he lives in California.” Cole said as he mounted his horse. “ And I won’t even charge you for killing him.”
“ Johnny, I went out to a shop down the street and found a pair of gloves I thought maybe you would like to wear instead of the bandage wrap.” Scott suggested. “ They’ll be loose enough on you they shouldn’t hurt your palms.”
“ Thanks brother. To tell the truth, I wasn’t gonna wrap them anymore. I need to start toughening them up again.” Johnny said as he took the gloves and put them on. “ So, since you’re the city fella, lead the way. Show me around this here city.”
“ I’m from the wrong city little brother. I’m afraid I know nothing about Denver. I believe our father has been here a few times though.” Scott responded.
“ That’s who I was talking to. But maybe some day we can go to Boston and let you show me around.” Johnny said.
“ Maybe someday we can.” Scott said. “ Shall we go.”
“ Is something wrong pa?” Johnny asked.
“ No, no, I was just enjoying hearing the two of you banter. I’m afraid it is something I feared I would never hear again.” Murdoch said. “ Do you have an idea on what you would like to get Teresa son?”
“ I was thinking maybe a nice piece of jewelry. She doesn’t have much.” Johnny responded.
“ That will be three hundred dollars sir.” the train ticket master said.
“ How long until we reach Sacramento?” Murdoch asked as he paid the man.
“ If no problems weather wise in the mountains, you should be in Sacramento in three days.” the man responded. “ Train will be arriving in two hours, so you have time to get something to eat if you wish.”
“ Thank you.” Murdoch said as he took the tickets and walked over to Scott and Johnny standing on the platform. “ You hungry son?”
“ Actually I am. I think my appetite is coming back.” Johnny responded.
“ I think it’s because we are closer to home, and he’s thinking about Maria and Teresa’s cooking.” Scott said with a laugh.
“ You may be right son.” Murdoch added. “ Let’s go eat some lunch.”
“ Hey, you never did say what you found for Teresa.” Scott said as they walked toward the cafe.
“ You’ll see it when I’m ready to give it to her.” Johnny responded.
Cole Thurston stepped off the train in Denver and headed to the closest hotel for the night. Thanks to a herd of stinking sheep on the tracks, he missed the last stage up to Cheyenne, and has no choice but to stay in Denver for the night.
“ Can I help you sir?” the clerk asked.
“ Need a room and a hot bath for the night.” Cole responded.
“ Very well, you’re in luck, it’s been a slow week. I can offer you a room with a private bath for just twenty dollars, or you can have a room with the bath down the hall for ten dollars.” the clerk said.
“ Private will be fine. Had a slow week huh? Maybe you remember three men who might have stayed here in the last couple of days. Goes by the name Lancer?”
“ I’m sorry sir, but it’s against our policy to say who has stayed with us.” the clerk said.
“ Murdoch! You’re back.” Teresa yelled as she stood up and hurried down the steps.
“ Hello Teresa.” Murdoch said as he dismounted and wrapped her in his arms. “ Oh how I missed you.”
“ Where are Scott and Johnny?” she asked.
“ Scott took Johnny on home. I need to speak to you about Johnny before we go home.” Murdoch responded.
“ Murdoch Lancer, why you old bear. You better get on up here on this porch and give me a hug.” Aggie said.
“ Your last wire didn’t say when you would be arriving.” Teresa said as they stepped up onto the porch.
“ Hello Aggie. It’s good to see you. Teresa, sit down so I can talk to you.”
“ Is Johnny alive?” she asked with a quiver in her voice.
“ Yes. The man responsible for all this had Johnny for about a week before we got to his ranch and got Johnny back. During that time, a man who works for Mister Cooper beat Johnny numerous times with a whip. He was beating him when we got there.” Murdoch explained.
“ Oh heavens. Will he be alright?” Aggie asked.
“ With time. He was made to bust rock with a pickax from sunup to sundown, without gloves. His hands were pretty raw, and are still healing up. He has trouble holding onto a fork or knife. The doctor in Abilene said it’s going to take some time for him to be able to have full use of his hands again.”
“ Oh no. How horrible.” Teresa said.
“ Murdoch, did you ever learn why this man hated Johnny so much?” Aggie asked.
“ Yes we did. It would seem that six years ago Johnny was in Austin, Texas. He was called out by a man, whom he killed with one shot, but the man was able to get a shot off before he died. Zeb Cooper was also in Austin with his daughter. The mans stray bullet hit her. I guess she died in her fathers arms in the street. Johnny never even knew she had been shot. I guess the father turned to drinking after and was killed in a drunken brawl a year later. Paul Cooper, blamed Johnny for all of it, even though he wasn’t the one who shot the little girl. He said and felt it was Johnny’s fault she was killed because he was in Austin.” Murdoch explained.
“ That’s not right. Johnny never would have……Oh Murdoch, if Johnny just learned of this……It could……”
“ We know. He hardly said a word until we got to Denver. He has to come to terms with what’s happened Teresa, but more than that, he has to come to terms with why it happened. Even though it was wrong what Paul Cooper did.” Murdoch said.
“ How can we help?” Aggie asked.
“ To tell you the truth Agatha, I haven’t a clue. I don’t know if he has ever had to deal with something like this before. I do know just from watching Johnny, he shuts down almost totally when he’s hurt. He’s lost a lot of weight since he was taken, and hardly ate anything until we got to Sacramento.”
“ Let’s go home. I want to see Johnny.” Teresa said.
“ Alright, you go pack your things up while I have your horse saddled.” Agatha said.
“ I’ve never been so helpless and scared before in my life Aggie. When I seen that man beating Johnny with a whip, I wanted to kill him.” Murdoch said.
“ That’s understandable. Your a father. You never got a chance to protect Johnny when he was growing up, now that he’s a grown man and home, you have a natural parental instinct to protect him.” Aggie said. “ What happened to the man responsible for this?”
“ Paul Cooper, he’s a prominent leading citizen in Abilene with a big cattle ranch. The marshal said he would most likely not serve any jail time for what he did. That the courts would consider what he did as grief for the loss of his sister and father.”
“ So he gets away with it. Sometimes the law is wrong. Allowing someone to get away with what he did just because he’s a prominent leading citizen. That law needs to be changed.” Aggie said as Teresa walked out.
“ Yes it does, but that’s Wyoming. It’s still pretty wild and open there. The ranches there go by miles, not acres on size. They hold a round up every year in sections where all the cattle ranchers get together to gather and count how many cattle they have.” Murdoch explained.
“ So it’s open range. It’s to easy for the bigger ranchers to take from the smaller ones running cattle like that. Especially unbranded calves.” Aggie said.
“ I agree. You ready sweetheart?” Murdoch asked as he took her valise and secured it to her saddle.
“ I had so much fun Mrs Conway. Thank you for allowing me to stay with you.” Teresa said as she gave Aggie a hug.
“ You are welcome here any time Teresa. It;s nice to have another female to talk female things with.” Aggie said.
“ Scott, it’s so good to see you again.” Teresa said as she jumped off her horse and ran to him.
“ I missed you too Teresa.” Scott said as he gave her a hug.
“ Did you send someone for Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes sir. Walt went. Johnny took a hot bath and is now in the kitchen probably still being scolded by Maria.” Scott responded.
“ ¿ No te alimentaron mientras estabas fuera?” ( Did they not feed you while you were gone?)
“ No mucho.Extrañé tus tamales y pimientos.” ( Not much. I missed your tamales and peppers.)
“ A veces creo que solo te gusto por mi cocina.” ( Sometimes I think you only like me for my cooking.)
“ No, no solo tu cocina….Bueno, sobre todo.” ( No, not just your cooking…….Well mostly.)
“ Tus manos, espero que castiguen a esos hombres por lastimrte.” ( Your hands, I hope they punish those men for hurting you.)
“He tenido peor. Estaré bien. Tomará Más que manos crudas y sangrientas y un látigo para mantenerme abajo.” (I’ve had worse. I’ll be alright. It’ll take more than raw, bloody hands, and a whip to keep me down.)
“ Ningún niño u hombre debería sufrir como tú has tenido que sufrir.” ( No child or man should suffer like you have had to do.) Maria said with tears in her eyes.
Johnny walked over and turned Maria around to face him. “ Te amo como una madre.” ( I love you like a mother.) Johnny said before wrapping his arms around her, giving her a hug.
“ Is everything alright?” Murdoch asked.
“ Everything is fine old man.” Johnny said. “ Eres una buena mujer que tiene un gran corazón.”( You are a good woman who has a big heart.)
“ There’s someone else who would like to see you son.” Murdoch said.
Johnny kissed Maria on the forehead and gave her a smile before turning to see Teresa standing next to Murdoch, tears in her eyes. “ Lets go in the other room.”
“ Is something wrong?” Scott asked.
“ No. I think we walked in at the wrong time son.” Murdoch responded before turning to leave the kitchen.
Johnny walked into the grand room, stopped and turned to face Teresa. “ He tell you what happened.?” he asked.
Teresa nodded as tears welled up in her eyes.
Johnny walked over to her and placed a hand under her chin. “ I never thought I would look in those brown eyes of yours ever again. “ he said softly.
“ Can I hug you?” Teresa asked.
“ I hope so.” Johnny said as he wrapped his arms around her. “ I’m afraid you are going to be stuck with me around the house for a while though. Think you can handle playing checkers with me sometimes?”
“ I think we will manage.” Teresa said with a smile as Sam walked into the house.
“ Well I’m glad to see my patient is on his feet.” Sam said.
“ Where else would I be you old saw bones?” Johnny asked with a laugh.
“ I see you’re still an insubordinate. How about we go up to your room so I can see what you have?” Sam responded. “ Teresa, you might as well come along since you will be the one caring for him mostly.”
“ Sam, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Murdoch cut in.
“ Relax old man. Teresa has seen my scars from being whipped before. You and Scott have a ranch to run. Fall round-up needs to start. She can handle it.” Johnny said.
“ I really wish you wouldn’t call me an old man son. I am your father. Is it to hard for you to be a little kinder with your words?” Murdoch suggested.
“ I’ll try and remember that Murdoch.” Johnny said as he turned and headed upstairs, followed by Sam and Teresa.
“ I swear, I think you like goading your father on at times John Lancer.” Sam said as they walked into Johnny’s room.
“ Maybe. Someone has to keep it interesting between us.” Johnny said as he pulled his shirt over his head, and tossed it on the chair.
“ Okay young man, lay flat on your stomach on the bed so I can see these wounds.” Sam instructed.
Teresa couldn’t help but put her hand to her mouth as her breath caught when she seen the marks. “ How could anyone do that to another?” she asked.
“ They usually do it out of anger, hate, or to be superior over those who are weaker than them.” Johnny said. “ They also do it because they are the weak one, and want to put fear into the stronger so they don’t fight back. I was being beaten the day Murdoch and Scott showed up because I had had enough. I told Sergio I wasn’t following their rules any longer.”
“ You did that even knowing you would be beaten, why Johnny?” Teresa asked.
“ I guess it’s because I never was very good at taking orders.” Johnny responded.
“ Young man, given how deep some of these lash marks are, might I suggest you start practicing taking orders?” Sam asked. “ Were these cauterized?”
“ Yeah, a couple of them were doc. Only way Doc Barlow could stop the bleeding after he cleaned them out.” Johnny said.
“ You still have any of that salve left from when Pedro burned his leg?” he asked.
“ I think so. Do you want me to put that on his back?” Teresa asked.
“ Yes. It will help keep them from pulling as they heal. Now…..sit up so I can have a look at your hands.” Sam requested.
“ They weren’t burned Doc. Was made to use a pickax without gloves from sun-up to sun-down. They blistered pretty good the second day and started bleeding once the blisters got deeper.” Johnny explained as Sam checked his fingers.
“ Teresa, I need you to make a ball of yarn as tight as you can get it. Make it about three times the size of an egg. I want you young man to squeeze that ball of yarn several times a day. It will help stretch those finger muscles back out and strengthen your palm. Teresa, you can massage his hands also and rub them down with that cream also.” Sam instructed. “ Can you hold anything in your hands, like a fork or coffee cup?
“ Fork I struggle to hold, but I manage with a cup of coffee by using both hands to pick it up. I mostly keep from making a mess.” Johnny said.
“ Well, I hope Murdoch doesn’t expect you to be able to do any work for a while, because those hands are going to take time to heal. The same with your back.” Sam said.
“ I’ve been through it before with my back Sam, you know that. I’m more concerned with my hands. Will I get full use of them back?” Johnny asked.
“ Right now there is no way of knowing that answer for sure John. Let Teresa help you as much as possible. Have Scott help you get dressed, and I know you have your pride, but remember, there is no shame in asking for help.” Sam responded.
“ Are you sure the two of you will be alright?” Murdoch asked again.
“ Yes. Me and Johnny will be fine.” Teresa responded. “ You’re only going to be gone a week.”
“ Just watch he doesn’t try to break any horses while we are gone. His back isn’t healed up for that yet.” Murdoch said.
“ Neither are my hands.” Johnny said from behind his father. “ You worry to much Murdoch. I’ll be fine. I know what I can and can’t do. I’m no way near ready to start breaking horses again. All I’m going to do is help Teresa with training that mare I gave her. She’s already broke to ride. It’s time she learns how to train a horse.”
“ Alright son. I guess I do worry too much.” Murdoch said as they walked outside.
“ Little brother, you get to go to the next Cattleman’s meeting.” Scott said.
“ Nope, don’t like big towns. Had my fill with Denver.” Johnny responded.
“ I wonder how ole Toby Jenks and Dan Marvin are going to agree to those new rules the association is trying to force all the smaller ranchers to agree too?” Tom asked.
“ Old man Lancer went with his oldest son Scott to try and get the association to see reason on these new rules. Mister Lancer has always been good to us smaller ranchers in the valley.” Jay responded.
Cole Thurston finished his beer and smiled as he walked out of the saloon.
“ Murdoch and Scott will be back day after tomorrow.” Teresa said. “ I can hardly wait to show Murdoch what you helped me teach Rose.”
“ Teresa, can I ask you something?” Johnny asked as they sat playing a game of checkers
“ You know you can ask me anything Johnny Lancer.” Teresa responded.
“ I……I was just wondering what you would do if Scott wanted to be more than a brother to you?” he asked.
Teresa sat back in her chair, and smiled at Johnny. “ Well I don’t really know. I’ve never thought about Scott as anything more than a brother to me.”
“ No dreams or what they call fantasies?” Johnny asked.
‘ I have dreams.” Teresa responded. “ But not about Scott.” she added.
“ Who?” Johnny asked.
“ Mrs Conway says my thoughts and feelings are changing because of my age. I’m sixteen, most girls my age have a boyfriend. She says it’s normal for a girl to have fantasies about someone they are close too, or would like to be. She says it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“ Stay here. I have something I want to give you.” Johnny said as he stood up and headed upstairs to get the gift he had got her in Denver.
“ I got this for you in Denver.” he said as he came back downstairs and into the grand room. “ I’ve been waiting for the right time to give it to you.” Johnny said as he handed her a small wooden box with a blue satin ribbon tied around it.
Teresa took the box and carefully opened it. “ Oh Johnny, it’s beautiful. It must have cost you a fortune. Thank you.” she said as she took the necklace out.
“ It’s called a Heart Charm. The man who sold it to me said it represents life and power, as well as guidance, intuition and truth.” Johnny explained.
“ It’s beautiful Johnny. Would you?” Teresa asked as she handed him the charm and held her hair up so he could fasten the chain.
Johnny stepped behind Teresa and fastened the chain. “ When I seen it, I knew I had to get it for you. It represents everything there is about you.” he explained as he fastened the chain. “ Go look in the mirror.”
Teresa walked over to the mirror on the wall, and smiled.
“ I love it.” Teresa said as she walked over and wrapped her arms around him, giving him a hug, and kiss on the cheek.
“ I’m glad. You never answered me though. Who do you think about?” Johnny suggested.
“ After all the baking I have done for you, you have to ask me that Johnny Lancer!” Teresa said as she placed her hands on her hips.
“ You know, when I came back here almost four years ago, I was tempted to try and have you. But then I got to know you, and I decided a sweet girl like you was something I could never have in my life. Not as a wife, and I say that because of my past. It wouldn’t be fare to you, or any girl I tried to have a relationship with, or fall in love with.” Johnny explained.
“ Is that why you go spend time with those other women?” she asked.
“ What other women?”
“ The ones who work in the saloons.”
“ Teresa, when I go to town with Scott on Friday or Saturday nights, it’s to have a few beers and play some poker. I’ve been with two girls in the three years I’ve been here. I’m a Lancer now. I have a whole new reputation to worry about upholding.” Johnny explained.
“ Then how come I smell perfume on your shirt when I wash it?” she asked.
“ Because sometimes they sit on my lap and try to get me to go upstairs with them. Which I don’t do.”
“ I wish Murdoch wouldn’t treat me like I’m a little girl. I’m a year younger than you and he doesn’t keep a tight rein on you.” Teresa said.”
“ Because I’m not a girl.” Johnny said with a laugh.
“ Well I should say not.” Teresa said as she picked up one of the small pillows on the couch next to her and hit him with it.
“ Hey. I’m still recovering and you’re beating me up.” Johnny joked. “ Listen, being serious, tomorrow I’m gonna have you ride Rose around the corral without a bridle. I want you to learn how to make a horse do what you want without the use of reins.”
“ Bridle-less?” Teresa asked.
“ Yeah. You can control a horse by hanging onto the mane and using your feet and legs against their sides. You can get a horse to do anything you ask it to, but only if it trust you. I think you and Rose will be like me and Barranca are with time, patience and training.”
“ Well, I think I am going to turn in.” Teresa said as she stood up.
“ How about just some biscuits and bacon for breakfast?” Johnny suggested.
“ Oh and Johnny, if you were to want to think of me more as someone other than your sister, I wouldn’t mind.” Teresa said as she walked over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Don’t stay up too late.”
“ I won’t.” Johnny responded as he stood up.
“ I wonder how Teresa is doing with helping Johnny with his hands?” Scott asked.
“ I imagine he’s able to hold a fork, or maybe use a knife now.” Murdoch responded.
“ You getting the association to postpone those new rules a year will make a lot of the smaller ranchers happy.” Scott said.
“ I figure we can have a meeting with them at Lancer about it.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I did some shopping this afternoon while you were in the meeting. Johnny went so long without nice things in his life.” Scott said. “ I bought him something really nice I’m sure he’s never had.”
“ That sounds good son, but are you sure your brother will like whatever it is you got him? I know he’s went without nice things, but have you thought about how maybe he doesn’t want things like what you or I like?”
“ True, but I think he will like what I got him.” Scott responded as he went over and opened his valise and pulled out a small wooden box. “ I’m sure he will like this.” he said as he handed it to his father. “ I had an inscription put inside.”
Murdoch took the box and opened it. Inside was a beautiful gold pocket watch with a leather braided strap attached instead of a chain. Opening the watch he read the inscription. ‘ Brothers for all Eternity ‘ “ That’s real nice son. I think your brother will like it.”
“ I figured he could use one when out working and he needs to be back at a certain time for something.” Scott said as he put the watch back in the box and back in his valise.
Teresa took the pan of biscuits out of the oven and set them on top of the stove. Last night she took a chance telling Johnny how she felt about him when she went to bed. She knew in her heart he had feelings for her too. Feelings beyond what a brother and sister would have for each other. Feelings that have been getting stronger ever since Murdoch and Scott left for San Francisco.
“ Where is he?” Cole asked as he cocked his pistol and stepped inside the kitchen door.
Teresa backed away from the stove, fear in her eyes as she looked at the gun pointed at her.
“ I don’t want to hurt you but I will if you don’t tell me where Madrid is at!” Cole said as he closed the door.
“ He’s……..he’s still asleep.” Teresa said.
“ You just go about doing what you were doing and I’m going to sit right here where I can wait and watch for him to come into the kitchen.” Cole said as he sat down in a chair. “ Pour me a cup of that coffee.”
Johnny finished dressing and started down the hall to the stairs and stopped. Something wasn’t right. Every warning bell was screaming in his head as the hair on the back of his neck stood up. Softly walking to the top of the back stairs he listened and heard a voice he hoped he would never hear again, Cole Thurston, and he had Teresa. Going back to his room, Johnny sat down on the bed and looked at his right hand, flexing his fingers. With so much at stake, he pulled the one gun he had hoped he would never have to wear again out of the top drawer of his dresser and unwrapped the belt. Pulling the short barreled colt from the holster, he pulled the hammer back one click and spun the cylinder. Just the thought of Teresa alone with a man like Cole Thurston angered him deeply as he strapped on the belt low on his hip. Leaving his room, he headed to the main stairs and slowly walked down them to the hall that leads to the kitchen. Stopping at Teresa’s bedroom door, watching he could only see the shadow of Teresa moving about the kitchen. Stepping closer as he listened to Teresa move about. He knew Cole was somewhere to the left since he could see from the light straight back to the kitchen door.
“ Why are you going to do this?” Teresa asked.
“ Why is something you don’t need to worry about little lady.” Cole responded.
“ I have a right to know why. Johnny is a good, kind hearted person. He has done nothing wrong.” Teresa said firmly.
“ Madrid is nothing but a killer. Oh sure he says he got out of the game, but you mark my word, a man like him will always be a cold blooded killer.” Cole said.
Teresa picked up the pan of water starting to boil on the stove, turned and threw the hot content in Cole’s face before running to the door.
“ You little bitch, come back here.” Cole yelled as he stood up and grabbed for Teresa as Johnny entered the kitchen.
“ Thurston!” Johnny yelled as he entered the kitchen.
“ Noooo!” Teresa screamed from the door as two guns went off almost simultaneously filing the kitchen with the smell of gunpowder.
Teresa scrambled to Johnny laying on the floor. “ Johnny, Johnny talk to me please!” Teresa pleaded.
“ Hey, you alright?” Johnny asked.
“ I’m fine. How bad are you hit?” Teresa asked.
Johnny moved his right arm so Teresa could see the blood seeping from his side. “ Just a scratch.”
“ Can you stand up?” Teresa asked.
“ I’m fine Teresa. It’s just a scratch.” Johnny looked over at Cole laying on the floor with a red stain on his chest. “ He beat me to the draw.”
“ He already had his gun out. He didn’t beat you.” Teresa said. “ Besides, you’re still alive and he’s dead.”
“ I heard what he said to you. He’s right you know. All I’ll ever be is a killer.” Johnny said as they made their way to the top of the stairs and started down the hall.
“ No he’s not Johnny. You are not a cold blooded killer. You are a kind, gentle, caring man.” Teresa responded.
“ Boy do I have you fooled. I know people who would disagree with you about that. Murdoch included.” Johnny said.
“ Well sometimes Murdoch is a fool Johnny. Sometimes it’s hard to believe he used to be a lawman. I remember a few times my father told me about him.”
“Why’d you say that to me last night?” Johnny asked as they walked upstairs.
“ Say what to you?” Teresa asked.
“ You know asking me if I wanted to think of you as someone more than a sister.” Johnny said as they reached his bedroom door.
“ Because I think it’s about time you know how I feel about you!” Teresa said as she helped Johnny to his bed.“ You sit tight while I run and get some bandages and hot water to clean that up.” Teresa asked.
Johnny watched Teresa leave his bedroom before standing up, removing his shirt, and walking over to the dresser to look at the wound in the mirror. “ Well Madrid, all the cards are on the table now, what are you going to do? She feels the same way as you do about her. The old man isn’t going to allow you to be with her.” he said softly. “ What right do I have to happiness? To have someone to love me, and give me children?” he asked himself as Teresa walked back in the room with a pitcher of hot water and bandages.
“ Come sit down in the chair so I can clean that up. It may need stitches.” Teresa said as she poured the hot water in the basin on the table.
Johnny walked over and sat down. His stomach doing a flop as he looked at the beautiful girl standing in front of him. “ Murdoch and Scott will be home tomorrow afternoon.”
“ I know.” Teresa said as she wiped the blood from his side.
“ Ever since I got back, my feelings for you have changed. When I look at you, I want to take you in my arms and……..Teresa, I’m sorry, but I’ve fallen in love with you and it’s driving me crazy.” Johnny said. “ Murdoch will never allow us to be together. I’m not good enough for you.” Johnny said.
“ This doesn’t need stitches, but it does need wrapped up to keep it from bleeding for a couple days.” Teresa said as she dried the wound.
“ Did you hear what I just said querida?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes I did. Miguel and Pedro are taking care of the body. I told them you didn’t need Sam. I also told them they didn’t need to go out and tell the hands what happened. That everything is fine now.”
“ It’s a good thing I gave Maria time off.” Johnny said as he inhaled the fragrance of her perfume.
Teresa finished wrapping the wound and tied it off. “ It is.” she said as she stood up and set the scissors, and roll of bandage down.
“ Thank you.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ Teresa, there’s something I have wanted to do for a long time.” he said as he stepped closer and placed his right hand under her chin. “ God I love looking into your brown eyes.” he added as he lowered his lips to hers.
Weakness is what she felt, weakness and butterflies in her stomach as she relished what she had longed to feel for so long.
Johnny ran his tongue over her trembling lips before pulling away just enough to look in her eyes. “ I’ve loved you for a long time Teresa. Sometimes at night I’ll lay awake and think about us together in forbidden ways.”
Teresa put her arms around Johnny’s neck. “ I dream of laying naked with you, feeling you making me yours.” Teresa responded as she reached up and ran her fingers through his chest hairs.
Johnny unbuttoned the first three buttons of her shirt, and slid his hands inside. “I’ll stop whenever you want me too.” he said as he lowered his mouth to hers.
“ I don’t want you to stop.” Teresa said before their mouths came together with passion.
He hadn’t had a woman since Carmen in Santa Rita months ago. His body was screaming with need, a need any saloon girl could satisfy for a few dollars. But this time the need was more than just having satisfaction, release, no this time he would be intimate, more intimate than he ever had with any woman since his first time at age thirteen in Mexico, when a much older woman taught him things he would need to know to please a woman in bed. Just thinking about it as their tongues melded together, made him painfully hard. Pulling her shirt free of her trousers, and unbuttoning the rest of the buttons. “ This would be easier if you had worn a dress.” he said as he pushed the shirt off her shoulders before walking her backwards to the bed. “ Do you want this?” he asked.
Teresa nodded as she removed her remaining clothes and climbed into bed. “ I’m sure.” she she said as she waited.
Johnny removed his pants and laid down next to her. The shimmer of her skin in the morning sun coming through the window. “ God I love you Teresa.”
“ And I love you.” she said as she enjoyed the feel of his touch.
Johnny felt Teresa quiver helplessly as he ran his left hand over her soft skin. “ Will you give me children?”
“ As many as I can.” Teresa said.
“ You want me to stop?” Johnny asked as he moved on top of her.
Teresa wrapping her legs around him, pulling him down to her was all the answer he needed.
“ What time is it?” Teresa asked as she splayed a leg over Johnny’s.
“ Early morning. The sun will be coming up soon.” Johnny responded as he played with her hair.
“ I wish we could stay like this forever.” Teresa said.
“ You know what’s going to happen if Murdoch finds out?” he asked.
Teresa moved to half lay on his chest. “ I don’t care. I want to be with you for the rest of my life Johnny. I love you.”
“ Even if it means leaving Lancer to be together?” he asked.
“ I made my choice yesterday, but apparently I wasn’t clear enough. So let me tell you again. Or rather show you.” Teresa said as she moved on top of him to make love again.
“ I better go downstairs and start supper. Murdoch and Scott will be back any time now.” Teresa said as she tucked her shirt into her trousers.
“ How are we going to be together once they’re back. We can’t exactly be together in the house once they’re back.” Johnny asked.
“ Why not use Rose as an excuse? You are training her for me. Murdoch won’t suspect anything if we ride out together. You could tell him we are training her.” Teresa suggested.
“ The South Mesa line-shack. There won’t be any hands there until spring.” Johnny responded.
“ And the waterfall up by Black Mesa. My father showed me it the year before he was killed. It’s secluded.” she added.
“ I’m going to go check on Barranca. I imagine he’s pretty upset with me for not being around him much these last two days.”
“ Let me change that bandage first before you put your shirt on.” Teresa said.
“ It sure will be good to sleep in my own bed tonight.” Scott said.
“ I’ll have to agree with you on that son. My back is pretty sore from riding in that stage coach.” Murdoch said.
“ That old bucket jarred everything lose it could inside that’s for sure. I wonder what Teresa is fixing for supper tonight?”
“ We shall find that out in about an hour son.” Murdoch said.
“ I wonder how the men are doing with the round-up and branding? It looked like we had a lot of calves this year.” Scott asked.
“ I’m thinking about buying a new bull. We need new bloodlines in the herd. A couple of our bulls are around eight.” Murdoch suggested.
“ True, but they have been siring some good strong calves.” Scott responded.
“ I want to ask you something son.” Murdoch said as he stopped his horse.
Scott stopped his horse also. “ Why do I get a feeling this is about Johnny?”
“ Have you noticed any change between him and Teresa since we came back?” Murdoch asked.
“ Like what?” Scott asked.
“ I guess what you would call playfulness between them. How she greets him in the mornings, and at supper time.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I have noticed Johnny is more clingy towards Teresa. That he watches her closer now. Like he’s trying to protect her from something unseen.” Scott responded. “ Why do you ask?”
“Teresa is almost seventeen. She has no gentlemen callers come to the ranch, or after church. I think it’s because of your brother. I think they’re afraid to come around.” Murdoch responded.
“ Let me ask you this. If, and I say if something has changed between them, and say Johnny comes to you and ask your permission to court Teresa, would you let him?” Scott asked.
“ Absolutely not. I want only the best for Teresa.” Murdoch responded.
“ And being your son, a third owner of the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley isn’t good enough for her?” Scott demanded.
“ As my son Johnny Lancer, yes. But you and I both know his past can come back at any time and take all that away from Teresa. She deserves better than that. She deserves someone like you son. That’s what I want for Teresa.” Murdoch said.
“ Well I can assure you, I have no interest in Teresa in that way. If you’ve had these doubt’s, or I should say fears about them together, why did you leave them alone for a week with the hands gone doing round-up, and nobody there to stop them?” Scott asked.
“ Because I would like to think your brother will show some restraint, and not betray my trusting him.” Murdoch responded.
“ Personally I don’t see anything wrong with it sir. Johnny has changed since he came home almost four years ago. There’s only a years difference age wise between them. I think Johnny would be a good husband for Teresa.” Scott suggested.
“ I don’t, and as long as I am in charge of that young lady,I will not permit the two of them to be together.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ You don’t give an inch do you. All pride and Johnny’s cut from the same mold.” Scott said before starting toward home again.
“ The only future he can give her is at the end of a gun. Johnny will never be able to support Teresa like she deserves. The only way he will be able to make any money will be with that damn gun he wears.” Murdoch said with anger.
“ You don’t know that. Johnny happens to be an excellent horseman and trainer. He may not have an education like I do, but my little brother knows a lot more than you seem to be willing to give him credit for knowing.” Scott responded. “ And another thing. If you hate Johnny so much, why did you just ride all the way to Abilene, Texas to save his life?”
“ Because he’s my son.” Murdoch snapped back.
“ It would seem to me he’s only your son when it’s convenient for you. Falling in love with someone who is of no relation to him is forbidden in your eyes. Just remember sir, with actions come consequences. Can you accept yours?”
Johnny walked into the house and could smell heaven coming from the kitchen. Walking in he found Teresa removing a chocolate cake from the oven. Walking up behind her, he put his arms around her. “ I can’t stand being away from you.” he said as he started kissing her neck as his hands wandered lower.
“ Johnny, we could get caught.” Teresa said as she responded to his touch.
Johnny sighed. “ You make that for me?”
“ Don’t I usually?” Teresa asked as she turned around and faced him.
“ The way I feel right now when I look into your brown eyes……..I never thought I would ever feel like this. I love you Teresa O’Brian” Johnny said.
“ And I love you Johnny.” Teresa responded.
“ I hear horses.” Johnny said as he tried to calm his body down.
“ Go out the back.” Teresa said as she opened the back door.
“ Teresa, Johnny!” Murdoch yelled as h walked into the house.
“ Murdoch…..you’re back. I heard you ride up, but was busy.” Teresa said as she walked over and gave the big man a hug. “ Scott, I missed you both so much.”
“ Is that a chocolate cake I smell?” Scott asked as he gave Teresa a quick hug and kiss on the forehead.
“ It is, I was taking it out of the over when you came in.” Teresa responded.
“ Where’s Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ I don’t know. I’ve been in the kitchen preparing supper and making the cake.” Teresa responded.
“ Murdoch, Scott, your home!” Johnny said as he walked in through the veranda doors.
“ Hey little brother. How you doing?” Scott asked as he gave Johnny a quick hug.
“ I’m fine. Teresa has worked wonders on my hands and fingers. Something wrong Murdoch?”
“ Where were you?” Murdoch demanded.
“ Murdoch!” Scott said.
“ I was out in the barn with Barranca.” Johnny snapped back.
“ Was there any trouble while we were gone?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny looked at Teresa. He knew his father would find out eventually about Thurston. Telling him now, he felt would be easier.
“ Cole Thurston came here.” Johnny said.
“ What?” Scott asked.
“ He came in the house the other morning. In the kitchen when Teresa was in there making breakfast.” Johnny explained.
“ That man was in my house………Are you alright?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m fine. Johnny handled it.” Teresa responded.
“ Actually, she handled it by throwing a pan of boiling hot water on him to get out the back door. It gave me enough time to come into the kitchen and kill him.” Johnny explained.
“ I knew something like this would happen. That some day your damn past would put Teresa’s life in danger.” Murdoch said with anger.
“ That’s out of line sir.” Scott cut in. “ Johnny had no way of knowing that man would come back here.”
“ What the devil did that man want this time?” Murdoch demanded.
“ To kill me. Which I would say probably would have been for the better. At least in your eyes.” Johnny said before heading upstairs.
“ Murdoch Lancer………you were way out of line. That man came in the back door while I was fixing breakfast. Johnny had no way of knowing he was here at all until he heard his voice.” Teresa said before turning and storming out of the room.
“ Excuse me.” Scott said as he headed upstairs.
Johnny stood looking out his window when he heard his door open.
“ Can I come in?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah.” Johnny said as he walked over and sat on his bed.
“ So how bad is it?” Scott asked as he came in and closed the door.
“ How bad is what?”
“ Don’t play games with me Johnny. How bad were you shot?”
“ It was just a scratch. Teresa has been taking care of it for me.” Johnny responded.
“ Let me see.”
Johnny stood up and started unbuttoning his shirt. “ Like I said, it’s just a scratch. The only reason Cole was able to shoot me is because he had his gun out already. He was waiting for me to walk into the kitchen. If Teresa hadn’t done what she did, I probably wouldn’t be here right now.”
“ What did Sam say about it?” Scott asked.
“ He doesn’t know. The only ones who know what happened here the other morning are me, Teresa, Pedro and Miguel. They removed the body and buried it. Though I’m not sure where.”
“ Our little sister does make a good nurse.” Scott said.
“ She’s a damn good one. She’s good at a lot more than doctoring.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny, is there something happening between you and Teresa?” Scott asked.
“ Why would you ask that?”
“ It’s just that, I’ve noticed little things between the two of you. Listen, I think it’s alright. I like the idea of you and Teresa getting together.” Scott responded.
“ Yeah well that will never happen in the old mans eyes.” Johnny said.
“ Why would you say that?” Scott asked.
“ Isn’t it obvious? My past will never allow me to be good enough to be with Teresa.” Johnny snapped back.
“ Maybe you should stand up to him. Be the grown man you claim to be. You’re a third owner of this ranch Johnny, start acting like it” Scott said firmly.
“ You know damn well what he will say if I asked his permission to court Teresa, Scott. I have no future in his eyes. I will never be able to provide a stable, decent , safe life for her. All I will do is kill people for money!”
“ The way I see it little brother, you have two choices. One, you can court Teresa in secret so he doesn’t know, or two, you can ignore what he thinks or says and court her openly.” Scott suggested.
“ So how was San Francisco?” Johnny asked.
“ Noisy. But there were some very pretty ladies.” Scott said.
“ What about the new rules the association is trying to force the smaller ranchers to do?” Johnny asked.
“ Murdoch was able to get it postponed until next springs meeting. He’s going to have all the smaller ranchers meet here and discuss their options.” Scott explained.
“ Santee will be the only one to give Murdoch and the others trouble.” Johnny said.
“ Yeah, he is a bit of a hot head.” Johnny said. “ Guess we better head downstairs. Don’t want to keep the old man waiting on supper.”
“ Johnny, just a minute. I got you something in San Francisco, I thought you might like to have.” Scott said as he pulled the box from his pocket and handed it to him.
“ You didn’t have to get me anything Scott.” Johnny said as he opened the box.
“ I know I didn’t. I wanted too.” Scott responded with a smile.
Johnny opened the watch and read the inscription. ‘ Brothers for all Eternity.’ “ I don’t know what to say. It’s the nicest gift anyone has ever got me. Thank you.”
“ You are most welcome brother.” Scott responded.
For five months Johnny and Teresa met secretly every chance they could. Stealing passionate kisses whenever they could without being seen. Every day Johnny’s love for Teresa grew stronger. Every day he yearned for her touch. To smell the perfume she wore, or run his hands through her long brunette hair. Every day he would ride out and do that days chores, eager to get back that afternoon just to be with her more. He knew his brother had his suspicions about them being together, he welcomed their joining. With spring fast approaching, Johnny knew now more than ever what he had to do. He wanted to make Teresa his, and only his by marriage. Having a ring tucked away at the back of his top dresser drawer, he could wait no longer. Murdoch would be going to Sacramento to meet with the Governor. A trip that would keep him away three days. Three days Johnny could make love to Teresa and not worry about the old man catching them. He couldn’t believe his luck when his father asked him to go to the South Mesa line-shack and repair the roof and fencing before spring round-up. Just the thought of being able to hold her in his arms aroused his needs. Scott would be in charge of running the ranch those three days Murdoch would be gone, and that was fine with Johnny, since Murdoch already told him what he wanted him to do.
“ If you need more supplies, let your brother know. We need that line-shack finished so we can start spring round-up next week.” Murdoch said as he walked out to his horse.
“ Relax Murdoch. It will be done. I rode over there yesterday and took a look. I counted seven post I’ll have to replace, and there’s enough shingles to do the roof.” Johnny said.
“ Scott, I left you in charge.” Murdoch said as he mounted his horse. “ I’m counting on you.” he added before riding away.
Johnny stood there watching his father ride under the Lancer arch, hurt in his eyes. He knew exactly what his father meant saying his brother was in charge.
“ You alright?” Scott asked.
Johnny turned and looked at him. “ I’ll leave at first light for South Mesa, unless you want me to go up there now?”
“ In the morning after breakfast will be soon enough. Johnny, I didn’t ask to be put in charge the next three days.” Scott responded.
“ It’s not that. Is he ever going to accept me really as his son? I’ve been here four years now and I have busted my ass every day doing my assigned chores, I stay out well past dark making sure they get finished, yet it’s never enough for him. He never compliments me, or tells me I did a good job.” Johnny responded.
“ You should know by now little brother, how our father seems to forget to tell someone they did a good job.” Scott suggested.
“ Not someone Scott, just me.” Johnny said before turning and going inside.
“ I can manage if you would like to take a ride Teresa.” Scott said.
“ A ride?” Teresa asked.
“ Yes, a ride. I know a certain little brother who would probably like some company. Just make sure he gets the roof and corral finished.” Scott responded. “ Your horse is saddled and waiting out front.”
“ So you know?” she asked.
“ I’ve known for some time. I think you and Johnny make a good couple. When Murdoch learns of you two, I’ll defend you both all the way.” Scott said.
“ Thank you.” Teresa said as she wrapped her arms around Scott and gave him a hug. “ Wait, what about Maria?”
“ Maria already knows about you two. She told me she seen it in Johnny’s eyes, and how the two of you look at each other. Now get out of here. I believe my brother has something he wants to talk to you about.” Scott said as he hugged her back.
Johnny climbed down the ladder, glad the line-shack roof was finished. Looking at the corral his stomach reminded him he hadn’t eaten any lunch and the sun would be setting in about three hours. “ Guess I can at least lay out the post and rails that need replaced before dark.” he said aloud as he started walking toward the lean-too.
“ You always talk to yourself?” Teresa asked as she rode up.
Johnny spun around as a smile widened on his face. “ I must be slipping. I never heard you ride up. What are you doing here this late in the day?”
Teresa smiled down at him. “ Well, I’m following orders of my big brother Scott.” she said as Johnny helped her down. He told me to just make sure you get the work done so you don;t get in trouble.”
“ All that’s left is the corral.” Johnny said before he kissed her. “ God I missed you so much.”
“ “ How long will that take you to do?” she asked.
“ Half a day at most.” Johnny responded as he started unbuttoning her shirt.
“Take care of my horse and I’ll go start supper for us. I know you, you haven’t eaten anything all day.” Teresa ordered. “ And you’re going to need your strength.”
“ Yes ma’am.” Johnny responded as he took the reins and headed to the lean-too where Barranca was.
“ Senior Lancer, no estará contento con esto,¿ verdad?” ( Senior Lancer, he will not be happy about this will he?) Maria asked.
“ No, I’m afraid not Maria. For some strange reason that only our father knows, he feels Johnny is not good enough for Teresa. That he will not be able to provide for her.” Scott responded.
“ Se merece la felicidad. Ha tenido cosas malas en su vida. Me complace que haya encontrado a alguien que lo ame y le brinde felicidad e hijos.”( He deserves happiness. He has had so much bad happen in his life. It pleases me that he has found someone yo love him. And give him happiness, and children.) Maria said.
“ I expect my little brother will be making me an uncle before years end.” Scott responded with a smile.
“ La risa de los niños se ha ido de esta casa por mucho tiempo.” ( The laughter of children has been gone from this house for too long.) Maria said before heading back into the kitchen.
Johnny stood looking down at the woman of his dreams sleeping so peacefully, making him smile. Making love to her through the night only strengthened how he felt about her. About how much he loved her. He knew the remaining work needed to be finished, turning he walked to the door, grabbed his gun off the hat hook and headed outside to start work.
Teresa woke to find herself alone in bed. Sitting up, she looked around and found the shack empty. Seeing his gun gone, she knew Johnny was out working in the corral. Wrapping a blanket around her, Teresa headed outside.
Johnny set the last post and started to tamp the dirt when he heard the line-shack door open. Looking, he smiled as he watched Teresa walk toward him with just a blanket wrapped around her. “ Guess I won’t be finishing just yet.” he said as she walked over to him.
“ Good morning.” Teresa said.
“ Afternoon!” Johnny responded. “ What if a hand rode up right now and seen you like that?” Johnny asked.
“ You know as well as I do the hands don’;t like coming here until round-up.” Teresa responded. “ I didn’t like waking up to find you not there.”
“ I figured I would let you sleep.” Johnny said as he stamped dirt around the post.
“ Looks like you’re about finished.” Teresa said as she entered the corral.
“ This post and three rails and I will be.” Johnny responded.
“ Make love to me.” Teresa said.
Johnny stopped working. “ I finish this and I can make love to you the rest of the day and all night again.”
“ Right here, right now under this big ole oak tree.” Teresa said as she removed the blanket and spread it on the ground.
“ Damn.” Johnny said as he dropped the shovel and started removing his clothes. Both unaware they were being watched from the treeline.
“ You look like you’re a million miles away Johnny!” Teresa said.
“ I have something I need to say to you Teresa.” Johnny responded as he sat up. “ Every second I spend with you, I fall in love with you just that much more.”
“ And I do with you too.” Teresa added.
Johnny reached for his pants and pulled out a small wooden box. “ I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want you by my side for all eternity. Would you marry me?” he asked as he opened it, reveling a small diamond ring.
Tears welled up in Teresa’s eyes as she heard the words she so longed to hear Johnny ask her. “ Yes!” she said as she presented her left hand. “ Yes I will marry you Johnny Lancer.”
Johnny slid the ring on her finger, and pulled her into a hug. “ God I love you so much.” he said before laying down to make love to her.
“ Welcome home Murdoch.” Scott said as he walked out the veranda doors to greet his father.
“ It’s good to be home. How’s everything here?” the Lancer patriarch asked.
“ Good. The South Mesa line-shack is done. Johnny is out clearing the wash where the foot bridge was washed out. I have hands repairing fence-line along south meadow before we move the cattle. I was in the middle of finishing the books for the month.” Scott responded.
“ Where’s Teresa?” Murdoch asked as they walked into the house.
“ She’s in the kitchen with Maria preparing supper I believe.” Scott responded.
“ Have her come in here. I have something for her I need to get from my saddlebags.” Murdoch said before walking outside.
“ Mister Lancer. I did like you asked sir.” Clay said. “ You were right sir. She rode out to the line-shack and spent the night with him. I seen them together from the treeline yesterday sir.”
Murdoch let out a deep breath as his anger started to boil. “ Thank you Clay. Take care of my horse for me would you?” Murdoch asked before walking back inside.
“ Murdoch, welcome home.” Teresa said as she walked up and gave him a hug. “ How was it in Sacramento?”
“ Rainy.” Murdoch said. “ I got you a new book of poems I thought you might like to read in your spare time, but it would seem you have found something else to do in your spare time.”
“ Thank you.” Teresa said as she took the book.
Johnny walked into the house well after dark. A lone light burned in the grand room as he walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot of tequila and downed it.
“ How’d it go with the line-shack repairs?” Murdoch asked from the darkness.
Johnny spun around. “ Murdoch, I didn’t see you sitting there. It went good. I replaced two other post that I noticed were starting to rot through. The roof is all done as is the lean-too.” Johnny responded as he set the decanter down and put the stopper back.
“ How long did it take you?” Murdoch asked as he stood up and walked over.
“ I went out the morning after you left, finished the shack roof and did the lean-too roof in a day, then did the corral yesterday.” Johnny responded. “ Look, I did what you wanted, and I did what Scott asked me to do, so lay off! Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go take a hot bath.” Johnny said as he turned to walk away.
Murdoch grabbed Johnny’s right arm and spun him around. “ How dare you. How dare you take advantage of an innocent girl.” he said with anger before hitting Johnny hard in the mouth, knocking him backwards into the sideboard. The decanters falling to the floor, shattering. “ Get up!” Murdoch ordered.
Johnny knew without a doubt what his father was talking about. “ Murdoch, I was going to talk to you tomorrow about it.” Johnny said as he stood up.
“ Like hell you were. She’s only seventeen years old. She’s not one of your whores you go see in town.” Murdoch said as he grabbed Johnny and hit him again two more times before shoving him down into the broken glass. “ I’ll teach you to take advantage of an innocent girl.” Murdoch vented as he kicked Johnny hard in the ribs.
Johnny felt the sharp pain from his fathers boot connecting with his ribs. Rolling over onto his side in the broken glass, Johnny stood up.
Murdoch started toward him again, ready to hit him again when a shot rang out, hitting the vase on the small table at the end of the couch.
“ Next one goes in you old man.” Johnny said coldly as Scott came running downstairs and into the grand room.
“ What the hell is going on down here?” Scott demanded as Teresa came into the room.
“ Johnny, what happened to you?” she asked as she went to him.
“ Just a little discussion about me and you.
“ You don’t scare me. Get the hell out of my house.” Murdoch ordered
“ What is wrong with you Murdoch. We can work this out. Don;t do this.” Scott pleaded.
“ There’s nothing to work out brother. I love Teresa, and we will be married.” Johnny said, never lowering his pistol.
“ You don’t know anything about love. If you did, you would have never dishonored her like you did.” Murdoch said with anger.
“ And did you when you took my mother to bed and got her pregnant with me before you were married?”
“ Drop it Johnny.” Clay said from the veranda door as he cocked his pistol. “ Drop it now. I don’t want to shoot you, but I will if you don’t put the gun down.”
“ Lower your weapon Clay.” Scott ordered.
“ Not until he drops his gun.” Clay responded. “ Don’t make me shoot you Johnny.”
“ Murdoch, stop this before it goes to far.” Scott pleaded.
“ I’m not leaving without Teresa.” Johnny said.
“ Teresa isn’t going anywhere with you. Escort this filthy half-breed bastard off Lancer land. I ever see you on my land again, I’ll kill you.” Murdoch said.
Johnny lowered his gun as he stared at his father. His vicious words ringing in his ears. “ I knew it all along. My mother was right about you.” Johnny said with a quiver to his voice. “ I’m sorry Teresa. I never wanted it to go like this. I love you.” Johnny said before turning and walking to the veranda door, and stopping. “ I know it was you who seen us together and told him!” Johnny said before walking out.
“ Have you gone mad?” Scott demanded. “ You just killed your own son!”
“ I want him shot on sight if anyone sees him on Lancer land!” Murdoch said to Clay.
“ Yes sir. I’ll let the men know first thing in the morning.” Clay said before walking out of the house.
“ You knew they were together. You allowed them to be together when I was gone. You allowed him to dishonor an innocent young seventeen year old girl.” Murdoch said with anger.
“ I allowed my brother to be in love, to be happy. Something I would think you would want Johnny to have, but I guess I was wrong. I will be leaving Lancer in the morning, I will never be returning. Damn you Murdoch, damn you to hell for what you said to Johnny.” Scott said before turning and going upstairs.
“ I’m sorry I woke you up Sam.” Johnny said.
“ That’s alright. Is Scott with you?” Sam asked.
“ No, nobody is with me.” Johnny responded with a quiver in his voice,
“ You know what is said between us, stays between us John.” Sam said as he cleaned up a cut. “ Who did this to you John?”
Johnny looked at Sam as his eyes started to tear up.
“ Oh my God…..Why?” Sam asked.
“ Teresa and me. I’m not good enough for her Sam.” Johnny said. “ I’m a filthy Half-breed bastard in his eyes and nothing more.” Johnny said as a tear ran down his face. He didn’t care if Sam seen the hurt or not. “ All I ever wanted was to be loved. To have someone to love.”
“ Oh my God. Johnny, are you saying Murdoch beat you? That he said those hurtful things to you because you and Teresa……..” Sam asked as he shook his head. “ Has that man gone crazy? He rides all the way to Abilene to save your life, only to run you off a year later because you fell in love with Teresa?”
“ Pretty much Sam.” Johnny said as he started buttoning up his shirt.
“ Those ribs will be sore for a few days. Luckily he didn’t break or fracture them. I believe I got all the glass out of those cuts on your hands.
“ I need to write something for Scott and Teresa if I could?” Johnny asked. “ I know Scott will come here.”
Scott I ain’t much good at writing a letter, ain’t had much cause to until now, never had anyone who cared about me beyond my gun until you came along. I’m sorry brother, but I probably won’t be coming back to Lancer. I can’t, not after hearing those words come from his mouth. Take care of Teresa for me, don’t let her grieve over my absence, I’m not worth it. You have been the best big brother I could ever have, even though we had some bad times, I will always remember the good ones more. Guess what they say is true, a gunfighter is old if he makes it to my age. I’m sure glad I got to with you.
Please don’t grieve for me. You gave me something I never thought I would ever get the chance to have, a person to love who loved me. A person who accepted my past, and wanted a future with me. I never meant to hurt you. I will never love another woman. I can’t because my heart will always belong to you. Take care of Rose and keep up with her training. She’ll be a great horse for you. I love you my querida.
Johnny folded up the noted, wrote Scott and Teresa’s names on them, and handed them to Sam. “ It’s been a pleasure knowing you Sam.” Johnny said as he offered his hand to shake.
Sam swatted Johnny’s hand away and pulled him into a hug. “ You take care of yourself John. Write me a letter once in a while.”
“ I will Sam. I’ll see ya.” Johnny said as he walked outside to Barranca and mounted up. “ You’ve been a good friend Sam. Thank you.” he said before riding away.
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