I don’t own them. I’m just taking them out for some fun. All original characters belong to their rightful owners. No money is being made from this. Any characters outside Lancer belong to me, and may not be used without my permission.
Johnny Madrid Lancer
Elizabeth ( Beth ) Brooks
James Thomas( outlaw )
Joe Hughes (outlaw )
Roy Morales ( outlaw )
Andy Parker ( stage driver)
Seth Butler ( Stage guard)
Emma Thomas ( Station cook, wife of outlaw James Thomas )
Carl Price ( Maricopa stage station )
Billy Price ( son )
Ben Sanders ( sheriff of Phoenix )
Carl Price ( station operator Maricopa )
Billy Price ( son )
Peter Chancellor ( Fiance )
Frank Davis ( outlaw )
Charlie Davis ( outlaw )
Hank Anderson ( sheriff of Barstow )
Ed Miller ( deputy of Barstow )
David Clark ( deputy of Barstow)
Synopsis: Johnny is on his way back from Fort Bowie, Arizona, from making a contract agreement to sell cattle to the army. Elizabeth Brooks is riding the stage with him. She’s running away from a prearranged marriage she doesn’t want. While in Phoenix, she learns that he is the gunfighter Johnny Madrid. She is very rude to him when he introduces himself as Johnny Lancer, she becomes very angry, telling him she knows he is the gunfighter Johnny Madrid. The stage gets robbed, the driver and shotgun rider killed. Furious she is in the middle of nowhere with a man who she believes to be a cold-blooded killer from the dime novel she bought in St. Louis and read about on her way west, she tells the robbers who he is in the hopes of being let go. When the robbers laugh and shoot johnny down in cold-blood before leaving, she knows the grave mistake she made. Left with no water, Johnny tells her about an abandoned farmhouse not far away. They make it to the farmhouse as a bad thunderstorm is hitting. She is angry because she has to remove the bullet, something she knows nothing about, but Johnny tells her how to do before passing out. The robbers, who assumed Johnny was dead, find out he is still alive and a game of cat and mouse starts with Elizabeth trying to keep them hidden and alive until Johnny is well enough to defend them. Murdoch while in town learns from a newspaper that Johnny Madrid killed during a stage robbery. Scott, refusing to believe his brother is dead, leaves in search of him.
This story will be rated R. There might be some cursing, but nothing drastic.
Word count: 42,450
Murdoch rode into the Lancer yard and dismounted as his oldest son Scott came out to greet him. “ Got a wire from Johnny.” Murdoch said as he handed his horse off to a hand.
“ Good news I hope.” Scott said.
“ Very good news. The army at Fort Bowie will take five hundred head of steers. Your brother says the army wants them delivered by fall.” Murdoch said as they walked inside.
“ Sounds like Johnny did a good job negotiating with them.” Scott said. “ Shall we have a drink to celebrate?”
“ Thank you. Your brother did more than good son. He has the contract signed with the agreed upon price of sixty two dollars a head.” Murdoch responded.
“ Sixty two dollars a head………….That’s……….thirty one thousand dollars.” Scott said as he handed his father a drink.
“ A price we could make three times of if we drove them to Kansas or Colorado.” Murdoch added.
“ I take it these cattle we deliver are not just to feed the army?” Scott asked.
“ No, they are to feed the miners also through the winter I expect.” Murdoch responded.
“ Looks like little brother is becoming a better price negotiator than you are sir.” Scott said with a smile.
“ Your brother still has a lot to learn about ranching, and so do you. I think I will go get cleaned up before supper.” Murdoch said.
Scott couldn’t help but smile as he walked out onto the veranda. Once again his little brother proved to their father he knew ranching.
“Stage west to Yuma Crossing leaves in ten minutes…..ten minutes folks.” Andy Parker, the stage driver said from the door into the stage station.
“ You going west alone young lady?” Emma Parsons asked.
“ Yes I am. I have been all the way from Boston.” Elizabeth Brooks responded.
“ It will only be the two of you inside that stage. You watch yourself with him.” Emma said softly as she watched the other rider walk outside.
“ I can take care of myself.” Elizabeth said.
“ You not being from these parts, please take heed of what I say. That man you will be riding with, that’s Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter.” Emma said firmly. “ Trouble finds him wherever he goes. He’s a cold-blooded killer.”
“ I assure you ma’am, I have no intention of speaking to that man.” Elizabeth said before walking out to board the stage.
“ Let me help you ma’am.”Johnny said.
“ I don’t need your help. Kindly keep your filthy hands off me.”Elizabeth ordered as she slapped his hand away and climbed in.
Johnny sighed. “ Gonna be a long trip.” he said as he climbed in and closed the door as the stage lurched forward.
“ Money is on the stage.” Ray Morales said as he dismounted. “ Driver, guard and two passengers. A man and woman.” he added.
“ How much you recon there will be Tom?” Joe Hughes asked.
“ Twenty thousand dollars is what she said she heard is being shipped this time.” James Thomas responded.
“ How come we don’t split the money in thirds instead of you taking half?” Joe demanded.
“ Kid, you want to keep breathing, you best not be asking such foolish questions.” Ray ordered.
“ Yeah, but it’s us who are taking the risk of being shot. She’s at that station taking no risk. It just don’t seem right that James gets half and we only get a quarter each.” Joe said.
“ You know what they will do if they figure out she’s the one telling us?” James demanded as he walked over and grabbed Joe by his shirt.
“ Take it easy James. The kid didn’t mean nothing. He was just asking.” Ray said as he walked over and put a hand on James’ arm.
“ If you’re so unhappy with the arrangements, ride out. I can find another man to replace you with no trouble.” James said as he shoved Joe backwards.
“ Got no call to be rough with me. I was just asking. We’ve rode together for two years now. You and Ray are like brothers to me I ain’t never had.” Joe said.
“ We got six hours before that stage comes through Picacho Pass. Get some grub and rest kid.” James ordered.
“ Listen James, I didn’t want to say anything around the kid,but one of the passengers can be some serious trouble for us.” Ray said softly.
“ He the law or something?” James asked.
“ Worse. It’s Johnny Madrid.” Ray said.
“ Madrid………….Are you sure?” James demanded.
“ Emma said it was, and I never known her to lie.” Ray responded.
“ Damn. I thought he was killed by a firing squad a year or so ago down in Sonora. He just a passenger, or an extra guard?”
“ Emma didn’t say. What are we gonna do?” Ray asked.
“ You and the kid will take care of getting the money. I’ll take care of Madrid.” James ordered.
“ What brings you out here Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“ Do I need a reason to stop by and see an old friend?” Sam asked as he climbed down from his buggy.
“ No. You are always welcome here Sam. Come on inside.” Murdoch responded.
“ Any word from Johnny yet?” Sam asked as they walked into the house.
“ I received a wire from him yesterday. He’s headed back now with the contract signed.” Murdoch responded.
“ I have to say, I was a little surprised you sent him and not Scott to negotiate with the army.” Sam said.
“ I almost did send Scott, but I’m glad I didn’t.” Murdoch said as he poured two brandy’s and handed one to Sam.
“ I take it he did good then?” Sam asked as he took the drink.
“ The army is buying five hundred head of steers at sixty two dollars a head. We have to deliver them in the fall so they have meat to get thru the winter.” Murdoch explained.
“ That’s a lot of money Murdoch. I’d say Johnny did Lancer good.” Sam responded.
“ I thought I heard someone.” Teresa said as she walked into the grand room. “ Will you be staying for supper Sam? I made a pot roast, and just took biscuits out of the oven.”
“ I would have to be a fool to turn down your pot roast Teresa.” Sam said.
“ Good. I’ll set another place.” she said before heading back into the kitchen.
“ I seen in the paper the the Butterfield Overland stage has lost almost a million dollars to robbers.” Sam said as he sat down on the couch.
“ Yes, I seen the article. Knowing when the money is on the stage tells me someone on the inside is telling those robbers.” Murdoch said as he sat down in a blue chair across from Sam. “ In two years time, that’s a lot of money. Whoever they are, they leave no witnesses alive to describe them. The reward is up to twenty five thousand dollars now.”
“ It’s only money they steal. Never any gold shipments.” Sam said.
“ Gold is risky business. Whoever they are, their smart. They know gold would draw more attention to them than money. Easier to get away with money too.” Murdoch said.
“ I expect if there’s any money on the stage Johnny is riding, the robbers won’t be so lucky.” the doctor suggested.
“ If there is Sam, I hope Johnny uses good judgment if he does try and stop them.” Murdoch said.
“ How far west you going?” Johnny asked.
“ I believe that is none of your business.” Elizabeth responded rudely.
“ Look, I was just trying to make pleasant conversation ma’am. I figured since it’s a long trip, it wouldn’t do no harm in talking to a pretty lady. Names Johnny Lancer, from Morro Coyo, California.” he said. “ I’m a third owner of the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley. Where you from?”
“ Just stop it okay. I know all about you, and will not converse in a pleasant conversation with the likes of you.” Elizabeth snapped back.
“ Lady, I just met you so you couldn’t possibly know anything about me, except what I just told you.” Johnny responded.
“ Oh really. I know your name is not Lancer, it’s Madrid. You are nothing more than a cold-blooded killer.” she responded. “ I know how you like to call me out and gun them down, just so you can be known as the fastest.”
“ Lady, I don’t know where you got your information from about me, but you are wrong. Yeah I used to be Johnny Madrid, but I go by Lancer now. I have never called anyone out, and I am not a cold-blooded killer. The men I have killed I gave every chance to walk away.” Johnny responded with anger.
“ Save your lies for those trollops in the saloons you like to go to after you kill a man.” Elizabeth said with disgust in her voice.
“ Wow lady, you got a lot of hate in you. I feel sorry for any man who marries you.” Johnny said before pulling his hat down, and crossing his arms as he leaned back to try and sleep.
Elizabeth stared at the man across from her. She couldn’t help but wonder what made someone become a killer. Reaching in her bag, she pulled out a dime novel, Johnny Madrid, the deadliest killer of the southwest. Opening the book, she read the description. Johnny Madrid, a man, or I should say, a boy of mixed race, sometimes called a half-breed, or in Mexico where he roams, a mestizo. It is believed he has a gringo father, and a Mexican mother. Dark hair with stone cold blue eyes that send a shiver down a mans spine. Madrid is believed to have killed his first man in a cantina down along the border of Mexico at the young age of twelve or thirteen. Countless men have died facing his deadly colt, though the actual number is not known. Some say Madrid smiles when he says his name. Some say he tries to talk the person he faces out of dancing with him. Dancing being the phrase a gunfighter uses when called out by another who was foolish enough to think they could beat him. This writer has personally witnessed Madrid gun down two of the best in Nogales once. Both men called him out into the street where he stood as calm as a sleeping baby. Nobody knows how he does it, but every time, Madrid beats them to the draw. Some have cleared leather, some never made it to even try to draw before a bullet from Madrid’s gun cut them down. Having the reputation of being the fastest gun west of the Mississippi river comes with a price. That price being there is always someone out there who thinks they are faster, and can beat him to the draw. Maybe some day someone will beat Madrid, nobody knows. The following three stories I was told happened along the Mexican border.
Elizabeth put the book away since it was getting too dark to read. There was no doubt in her mind now about the man sleeping across from her. A ruthless, cold-blooded, heartless killer.
“ It’ll be dark in an hour. The stage should be coming along. Ray, I want you to take out the guard. Joe, once the stage stops, you take care of getting the money. I’ll handle the two passengers.” James ordered.
“ You think they’ll send a posse after us again James?” Ray asked.
“ They’ll send someone once the stage comes in without the driver. We’ll be long gone by then. They won’t be able to track us through Texas Canyon with all that granite rock.” James responded.
“ Yeah. We should have picked this place sooner.” Joe said.
“ We use the same place, and it allows a posse to set us up for a trap dummy. Why you think James chooses a different spot every time to rob the stage! I swear kid, sometimes you act like you ain’t got no damn sense.” Ray said.
“ I ain’t stupid.” Joe snapped back.
“ He didn’t say you was stupid kid. He said you ain’t got no sense. There’s a big difference.” James cut in. “ Let me put it in a way you should understand okay. Think before you speak. Sometimes you say things that just don’t make any sense. Think before you speak. That’s all he is saying.”
“ Right. Hell kid, I know you’re not stupid. You can’t be, you’re riding with two of the best robbers in Arizona.” Ray said.
“ Get ready, here it comes.” James ordered.
Ray chambered a round in his rifle and waited until the stage got closer before firing, hitting the guard square in the chest.
Andy pulled back on the reins and slowed the teams down as three riders appeared in the road, all with rifles aimed at him.
“ Do the smart thing driver, and toss down that strong box you have up there, then climb on down.” Joe ordered.
“ You two in the stage, come on out with your hands were we can see them.” James ordered.
“ Do something.” Elizabeth said to Johnny.
“ Lady if I try anything all I do is get us killed. Just do what they want, and you’ll live to see the sun set.” Johnny said as he opened the door and motioned for her to step out.
Andy tossed down the strong box before climbing down. “ You’re the ones who been robbing the stage.”
“ That would be us old man.” Ray said.
“ I know now how you know when we have money on board. I know how you’re doing it now.” Andy said.
“ And how would that be?” James asked as he watched Elizabeth and Johnny climb out of the stage.
“ Emma at the station. She’s the only one the law never suspected. She knows when we have money, and it’s not but a half a days ride from here.”Andy said.
“ Not bad old man. Too bad you opened your mouth though, cause now we have to kill you. All three of you.” James said. “ You see, Emma is my wife. Actually it was her idea to do this, and I must say, it has paid off very nicely. Ray.”
Ray took aim and fired his rifle, knocking Andy backwards, dead before he hit the ground.
“ You got the money yet kid?” James asked just as another shot rang out.
“ I do now. Woo e, would you look at all that money.” Joe said as he started shoving it into his saddlebags.
“ Wait, what if I told you something important to you? Would you let me go?” Elizabeth asked.
“ Well, that depends on what it is lady. Hand over that there bag.” James said as he kept his rifle aimed at Johnny’s chest. “ Reach over with your left hand and take out that pistol, real slow like, and toss it away.”
“ It’s about him. He’s Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter.” she spouted off.
Johnny sighed and looked at the lady after tossing away his pistol. “ She’s mistaken. My names Lancer, not Madrid.” Johnny said as he glared at the woman.
“ Oh I don’t think she’s mistaken Madrid.” James said as he pulled the hammer back on his rifle and aimed it at Johnny. “ You all done kid?”
“ Got it all.” Joe said as he went to his horse, and mounted up.
“ Send the stage on.” James ordered.
“ I can’t shoot no woman.” Ray said as he fired a shot at the lead horses feet, and sent them running.
“ Me either.” Joe added.
“ We’re not. The desert will kill her.” James said.
“ Wait, you can’t leave me with no water.” Elizabeth said.
“ Lady, we can do anything we want.” James said right before he pulled the trigger, hitting Madrid, knocking him backwards to the ground. “ It’s at least a ten mile walk in either direction. You have a chance to make it, but I doubt you’ll escape the Apache. Course a mountain lion might come along and kill ya.”
“ Or maybe the Comancheros. If she’s still alive when they get done with her, she just might bring them a nice price across the border.”
“ Let’s go boys.” James said as he mounted up.
“Andy must have had trouble! He’s never late.” Carl Price, the station operator for Maricopa station said.
“ You wants I should ride out and see if I can find him pa?” Billy Price asked.
“ No son. It’s too dangerous at night. If he left Tucson on schedule, there’s sixty miles between us and there.” Carl responded. “ We ain’t expecting another stage until Friday, we’ll leave at first light.” he said as they headed inside.
Elizabeth watched in horror as the three riders disappeared as the sun started to go behind the mountains. Turning around, she walked over to where Madrid lay on the ground bleeding from a bullet hole in his left shoulder. “ Just great. Now what do we do mister gunfighter?” she demanded.
Johnny rolled onto his right side, then sat up and placed his right hand on his shoulder wound. He knew the bullet went clean thru. He could feel the blood running down his back. “I need your help to stop the bleeding.” he said.
“ Why should I help a killer like you?” she spat.
“ Because I’m your only chance of getting out of this desert alive lady……So……..so drop the attitude and find something on the driver you can use to shove in the hole in the back of my shoulder.” Johnny ordered.
“ I am not taking something from a dead man. What kind of person do you think I am? Have you no respect?” she demanded.
Johnny stood up and walked over to her. “ I know exactly what kind of person you are lady. A spoiled rich bitch from back east. Well let me tell you something, out here you take what you need to survive, even if that means taking something off a dead man.”
Elizabeth lashed out and slapped Johnny hard across the face. “ Don’t you dare speak to me like that.”
“ Did you really expect them to leave you water telling them who I was? Especially since they shot and killed an unarmed old man?” Johnny asked as he staggered over to the driver and knelt down, pulling a kerchief from around the mans neck. “ Lo siento old man. Let me guess, Emma at the station in Tucson, she told you who I was didn’t she?” he asked. “Never mind the fact that I was unarmed also, and they shot me too.” he added as he walked over and picked up his pistol. “ At least we have my gun.”
“ She warned me about you, but I told her I already know all about you Madrid.” she responded. “ As far as them killing you………..”
“ I told you I go by Lancer now.” Johnny cut in as he stuck the kerchief in the hole in the front of his shoulder. “ I know of a place we can go until daylight. We stay here and the Apache will find us. They’ve most likely heard those shots.”
“ Everybody knows Indians don’t attack in the dark. We need to stay here. Someone will be along shortly to help us.” Elizabeth said as she sat down on a rock. “ As far as them shooting you. I’ve read all about you, and how you take pride in your trade of being a cold-blooded killer. They were doing society a favor ridding them of you.”
“ Where do you get your misguided information lady. Apache don’t care if it’s day or night, and neither do coyotes and mountain lions. Both of which will smell that dead body soon and come to feast. Now do you really want to be stupid and stay here with a dead body that will start stinking in this heat real soon?” Johnny asked as he checked for anything else they could use the driver might have in his pockets. “ Damn I wish I had my saddlebags.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to where she was sitting on the rock. Reaching down, he pulled the knife out of the inside of his left boot. “ Take that and cut two strips off the bottom of that skirt your wearing.” he ordered.
“ I most certainly will do no such thing.” she said as she tossed the knife on the ground.
Johnny reached down and grabbed her with his right arm, jerking her to her feet. “ I’m really tired of your attitude lady. I’m the only hope you got of getting out of this desert alive. I don’t give a damn what you’ve read in some damn dime store novel about me. The people that write that shit aren’t interested in the truth. All they care about is selling their novels. It’s sixty miles in either direction to help. Now cut me off two strips of that damn dress like I asked.” he ordered as he pushed her back down onto the rock roughly.
“ There’s the stage pa.” Billy said as he pointed over the side of the mountain.
“ Oh lord. You stay up here and look around for anything that might tell us who the passengers are if there were any. I’ll go down and see if there’s anyone inside it.” Carl said.
“ Alright pa. I’ll look for tracks from the horses too.” Billy responded.
“ Those horses are long gone son. Most likely the Apache found them.” Carl said as he started down the mountain. “ Hey, here’s someones saddlebags. See what’s inside.” he said as he tossed the saddlebags up closer to his son.
Billy grabbed the saddlebags and tossed them up on the road as he watched his father reach the stagecoach laying on its left side, the rear wheels busted off as well as the hitch.
“ It’s empty. Nobody inside, and I didn’t see anyone who might have been thrown out.” Carl yelled up to his son as he started to make his way back up to him.
Billy opened the saddlebags and found a shirt, socks, and some other small things inside the one pouch. Opening the other he found a pair of pants and some papers. “ Hey pa, take a look at these.” he said as he handed the papers to his father.
“ It’s an army contract with Fort Bowie for the delivery of five hundred head of cattle in the fall by a rancher named Murdoch Lancer in Morro Coyo, California. That’s clear up in the San Joaquin valley. Signature on the paper here says John Lancer. He must have been his son.”
“ What we gonna do pa?” Billy asked.
“ We’re gonna go back and notify the sheriff in Phoenix, lot a good that’ll do. Then I’ll write a letter to this Lancer ranch telling them what happened, and get these contract papers to him.” Carl said.
“ But we don’t know what happened to him pa, or Andy and Seth.” Billy said as they walked to their horses.
“ I know what happened son. There were Apache arrows in that stagecoach.” Carl said as he mounted up and started for home.
“ I need to stop.” Johnny said as he leaned against a rock and checked his wound. “ There’s an old miners shack about half a mile west of us. Last time I stayed there during the winter, the stove was good, and the roof didn’t leak. There’s a stream out back that runs out of the rocks.”
“ Can you make it that far? You’ve lost an awful lot of blood.” she asked.
“ I’ve had worse. I’m going to need you to do something for me when we get there though, otherwise I’m going to bleed to death.” Johnny said as he wiped the sweat from his brow.
“ Alright. I’ll do what I can, but only with the guarantee you get us out of here alive.” she responded.
“ Can I ask what your name is?” he asked.
“ My name?”
“ Yeah, as opposed to calling you lady.” Johnny said.
“ It’s Elizabeth Brooks.”
“ Very elegant name Miss Elizabeth Brooks.” Johnny said with a smile as he started walking again.
Two hours later Johnny sat at the small table in the shack as a fire burned in the wood-stove. “ You ever cauterize a wound before Beth?” he asked.
“ I’ve heard of that being done to soldiers in the war, but no, I’ve never done it, or seen it done.” she responded as she looked thru the cabinets for some kind of food or coffee.
Johnny pulled a shell from his gun belt, and started prying the lead off with his knife. “ You’re gonna have to pour this gun powder in the wound and then light it on fire.” he instructed.
“ I’m doing no such thing. The pain alone could kill you.” Beth said.
“ You have to. I’ll most likely pass out. I’ve done it before. It’s the only way to stop the bleeding. Pour it in both holes, and light them at the same time.” Johnny said.
“ You’ve cauterized your own wounds before. Oh my ………..”
“ Yeah, only I used my knife for the scar along my ribs on the right side. Was walking out of a bar when a fella decided he wanted to cut me with his knife. I don’t mind telling ya, holding a red hot knife blade to your own flesh, well……….I think you get the picture. What’s the matter, didn’t that dime novel you read about me tell you I’ve been shot twelve times, knifed six, and whipped and beaten by the Rurales while in a Mexican prison?”
“ Excuse me.” Beth said before going outside.
“ Guess not.” Johnny couldn’t help but wonder what she was running from? What made this woman so bitter? She had beauty, and seemed well educated and elegant. Why was a woman like her traveling out west all alone. Maybe if he played his cards right, he would learn the answer to those questions. Right now though he needed her to help him stay alive so he could get the both of them out of the desert alive.
“ How is it you knew about this place?” Beth asked as she walked back inside and laid something white on the table.
“ I came across the miner who lived here dying from an Apache arrow five years ago. I did all I could for him, but it was too late, infection set in and he died. I buried him out back, and set his two burros free that he had.” Johnny responded.
“ That was nice of you to do.” Beth said as she checked the water she was heating. “ Okay, I’ll do this, but I can’t guarantee you I won’t……..”
“ Won’t what, get sick or faint. Lad……….Beth, as long as you set light both at the same time, we will probably both pass out together, me from the pain, and you from being…………squeamish.” Johnny said.
“ I think tomorrow you own me an explanation about who you are.” she said as she set about cleaning the wounds of dry blood. “ you know, I remember hearing a doctor tell my father once that a wound bleeding is a good thing sometimes. It lessens the chances for infection.”
“ You sound like a nurse.” Johnny said.
“ I thought about becoming one back in Boston, but things changed.” she responded as she rung out the cloth.
“ Who was he?” Johnny asked.
Beth looked at him. Was she making it that obvious she was running from a man? “ Who?” she asked.
“ The man you are running from.” Johnny responded. “ I would say a woman of your class, it’s a prearranged marriage you don’t want. Am I right?”
“ I’m sorry, but my personal life is none of your business.” she said snidely.
Johnny knew the pleasantness was now gone, but at least he had seen it. He also knew he was right. “ Let’s get this over with.” he said as he stood up and walked over to the cot, and sat down.
“ You are sure you want me to do this to you?” Beth asked.
“ Yes.” Johnny said before putting a piece of firewood in his mouth to bite down on.
Beth couldn’t believe the scars she seen on his back. “ My god.” she said softly.
“ My life hasn’t been an easy one.” Johnny said.
“ Murdoch, when do you expect Johnny will be home?” Teresa asked.
“ He should be home next week.” Murdoch responded.
“Good. I want to throw him a welcome home party.” she said.
“ A welcome home party, why?” he asked.
“ Because he’s been gone almost two months now, and I have missed him. I know Scott misses him too. It’s just not the same around here with him gone.” Teresa responded.
“ I have to say, I miss Johnny too. I don’t know what I would do if I lost either of them again.”Murdoch responded. “ Go ahead and have a welcome home party for him sweetheart, but just for the family. You know how he hates crowds.” he added as Scott walked into the house.
“ How who hates crowds?” Scott asked.
“ Johnny. Teresa wants to have a welcome home party for him.” Murdoch responded.
“ I’m sure he would like that as long as you make him a chocolate cake.” Scott said as he walked over and poured a drink.
“ How’s the round-up going?” Murdoch asked.
“ Good. We rounded up about a hundred and fifty head today.” Scott said as he walked over and sat down on the couch. “ I expect we should have five hundred by the end of the week in the south pasture.”
“ Good, I’ll ride into Green River next week and ask Randy to come out and do a health check on them.” Murdoch said.
“ Cipriano, and Frank have been checking their health as we round them up. Any we find that look sick, we are putting in the pen.” Scott explained.
“ That’s good son. That will make Randy’s job go a lot easier.” Murdoch responded.
“ You have time before supper if you want to clean up Scott.” Teresa said.
“ I do believe I will go do just that little sister.” Scott said as he stood up.
“ Son, maybe after supper, you and I can play a game of chess.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I’d like that. I’ll see you two at supper.” Scott responded before heading upstairs.
For four days Beth wiped Johnny’s body down with cold water, trying to keep it cool as his body fought infection and fever. Four days of hearing him talk in both Spanish and English, crying out he was sorry to his mother, and two people named Scott, and Teresa. He had said his life hadn’t been an easy one. Seeing the scars made her wonder if that was what he meant? Some from bullets, some she could see were from a knife, but it was the long, rough scars across his back that bothered her the most. She had seen that type of scar before on one of the servants her father had when she was a child back in Boston. How someone could be so barbaric and whip another human she could not understand. The dime novel she had about Johnny Madrid said nothing about the scars, and why he had them. Was it possible she was wrong about him? Could it be he was right when he said the writer only cared about making money, and not telling the actual truth about him. The truth about what really made him become a gunfighter. Was life in Mexico that bad? Did his mother inflict some of those scars, or where they from this person named Scott he kept mumbling?
Murdoch walked into the house a week later, placed the mail on his desk, and sat down.
“ Is something wrong sir?” Scott asked, noticing a look of shock on his fathers face. Receiving no response, Scott walked over to the desk and asked again as Teresa walked into the grand room.
“ What’s wrong?” Teresa asked.
“ I don’t know.” Scott responded. “He won’t answer me.”
“ Murdoch, what’s wrong?” she asked with worry in her voice.
“ He’s dead.” Murdoch said.
“ Who’s dead?” Scott asked.
Murdoch looked up at his oldest with tears in his eyes. “ Johnny.”
“ What? How?” Scott demanded.
Murdoch handed him the newspaper he had gotten when in town.
“ This doesn’t mean he’s dead.” Scott said. “ They found no bodies. Johnny could still be alive.”
“ Son, the Apache took your brother. He’s gone.” Murdoch said with a quiver in his voice.
“ No, I don’t believe it. Johnny is still alive Murdoch. There’s a chance he could just be hold up somewhere hurt.” Teresa said.
“ She’s right. I won’t accept this. I know my brother.” Scott said. “Look, Cipriano and Frank can finish the round-up. I’m leaving in the morning to catch the stage to Los Angeles, where I’ll buy a horse and ride east from there.”
“ There’s nothing to find son. If the Apache didn’t take him, then the predators probably found him.” Murdoch said as he walked over and poured a drink.
“ I refuse to believe that. How can you write Johnny off as being dead so easy? You know he’s a fighter.” he asked.
“ I never should have sent him.” Murdoch said as he stared out the big bay window. “ I never should have let him go alone.”
“ This isn’t your fault sir.” Scott said. “ Johnny is still alive, and I will bring him home. I will send a wire letting you know I’ve reached Los Angeles.”
“ How long I been out?” Johnny asked softly on the morning of the fifth day.
“ Four days. You had a pretty high fever that finally broke yesterday afternoon.” Beth responded as she poured some water in the cup. “ Here, sit up and drink some water. You need it.”
Johnny sat up with her help, and welcomed the cool water as it soothed his parched throat, and dry mouth.
“ I have some quail left if you think you could eat something?” she said.
“ Where did you get quail?” Johnny asked.
“Out back. There’s been a big covey of them coming to get a drink in the evenings from the stream.” Beth responded.
“ Okay, how on earth did you manage to kill a quail?” Johnny asked as he slowly stood up, and walked over to the table with her help.
“ When I was a kid, one of the slaves my father had taught me how to throw rocks to kill pigeons. Rocks are a lot cheaper than bullets, and quieter. I got very good at it. So good in fact, my father started bragging about me, and I would earn money in the summer going around killing them for other people.” she explained.
“ You always live in Boston?” Johnny asked as he started eating some of the quail. We had a winter home in South Carolina we would go to every year. My mother hated Boston winters.” Beth responded. “ Who is Scott? I ask because you said his names several times when you were unconscious.
Johnny sat back in the chair and looked at her. For some reason he couldn’t explain, or understand, he felt like he could talk to her. Tell her things like he did his brother. “ Scott is my older brother. He’s from Boston also.” Johnny responded. Wondering what else he said when unconscious. “ He was raised by his Grandfather, Harlan Garrett.”
“ Harlan Garrett of Garrett Enterprises?” Beth asked.
“ You know him?” Johnny asked.
“ My father does business with him. Your brother, he’s taller than you, with sandy blonde hair?” she responded and asked.
“ Yeah that’s Scott. His mother died giving birth to him. His grandfather raised him. Up until a couple years ago, he grew up in Boston, and I grew up in Mexico.” Johnny explained.
“But if his grandfather raised him, his last name would be Garrett. You said your last name is Lancer, not Madrid.” Beth said.
“ Garrett was Scott’s mothers maiden name. His grandfather and our father don’t get along. Harlan hates the fact that his daughter married our old man, and moved out to California with him.” Johnny responded.
“ And Madrid?” she asked.
“ Just a name I took.” Johnny said.
“ The scars. How did you get them?” she asked as she poured some more water.
“ From people who don’t like half-breeds. The whip scars I got from the Rurales when I was in a Mexican prison. They didn’t like it much me fighting against them in the revolution.” he said.
“ Revolution?” she asked.
“ A lost cause war against the rich Dons and corrupt Mexican army. There are a lot of good people in Mexico, they needed someone like me to help fight against the corruption. To try and stop the rich from stealing land, food, and whatever else they wanted from the little guy.” Johnny explained. “ My mother was killed when I was ten. No matter what village we went to, there were always kids who thought it better to beat me up. One kid gave me this scar on my right palm. He did it just to see if my blood was red like his. Some of the scars I got from a priest in an orphanage. He despised Mestizos. Said I was the devils spawn. That my mother should have drown me at birth. He beat me, locked me in a closet, and starved me whenever he could until I ran away.”
“ Is the abuse why you started using a gun?” she asked softly.
“ Yeah. At first I thought using a gun got me respect, when in reality all it got me was fear. I became good at my trade, and one day decided to put my trade to good use. I started hiring my gun hand out in range wars. I’ve never killed anyone in cold-blood, and I have always stayed on the right side of the law, except in Mexico. Down there, I will be shot on sight.” he explained.
Beth stood up and walked over to her bag, and took out the dime novel she had. “ This is nothing but lies, and I was foolish enough to believe them.” she said as she walked back over, sat down, and handed the novel to him.
“ I’ve seen this one. Read it last year. Thought it pretty funny actually. He did get some of it right though, but most of what’s in there is lies.”
“ You know about this?” Beth asked with a shocking look.
“ You don’t become the best and not know. There will always be someone out there writing lies about someone, just to make money, just like there will always be someone who thinks they are faster than me.” Johnny said.
“ And that don’t bother you?” she asked.
Johnny stood up. “ If I let everything people say about me, bother me, I would have been killed a long time ago. We’ll leave at dark.” he said as he walked over and lay back down on the cot.
“ Morning. You need to regain some strength. It won’t hurt us to stay until then.” Beth said firmly.
Scott boarded the stage in Visalia, a day after leaving Stockton, headed south. Last night at the station during supper he overheard two men talking about how Johnny Madrid, finally got what he deserved. Riddled with arrows and scalped by the Apache Indians. Keeping his anger in check, he spoke up.
“ Excuse me, but how do you know for sure Johnny Madrid is dead? He asked.
Staring at him coldly, one of the men finally responded. “ Because it’s on the front page of the newspaper.”
“ I wouldn’t believe everything you read in a newspaper mister.” Scott said as he stood up. “ Thank you for the meal ma’am.” he said before he walked outside. He knew that if he stayed in there a minute longer, he would belt both men for what they said about his brother. Tomorrow he would reach Los Angeles, buy a horse, and supplies.
“ So who are you running away from?” Johnny asked as they walked along headed northwest.
“ What makes you think I’m running from someone?” Beth asked.
“ I got real good at reading people Beth. You’re running away from someone.” Johnny responded. “ Now, I don’t figure it’s your family so much as I do a man.”
Beth stopped walking. “ There is a very prominent family in Boston named Chancellor. My father and Mister Chancellor grew up together. Their son, Peter expects me to marry him.”
“ A prearranged marriage?” Johnny asked. “ Only you don’t want it.”
“ No I don’t. A person has the right to decide who they spend the rest of their life with. It shouldn’t be because the parents want it just so their companies can merge together.” Beth responded.” Peter was okay to be around until he got older. We ended up going to Harvard together, and that’s when he started to change. It was a change I wanted nothing to do with, and I certainly wasn’t going to marry him.”
“ What kind of change?” Johnny asked, figuring it would help her release the anger she was holding inside if she talked about it.
Sitting down in the shade of a bolder. “ Come sit down. I need to check your wound.” she said. Ignoring his question.
Johnny sat down next to her. “ Some people called my mother a whore because of what she did to earn enough pesos so we could eat. I didn’t really know what she was doing with the different men who would come and go from the shack we lived in until I was about nine. A bad storm came up suddenly. I didn’t know my mother had a man with her. They never heard me come in because of the wind and rain. She had a blanket hung in the door, but was hearing these weird sounds and grunting coming from the room, so I looked. I asked her about it later and she told me what they were doing, then she beat me, and made me watch her and another man who had showed up. She said I was getting old enough to learn by watching. I tried not to, but she lashed out with a long leather strap every time she caught me not watching them………Then………then the men started to beat me too.”
“ Oh my……….A child should never see their mother doing that.” Beth said. “ You said she was murdered when you were ten. Did they ever capture the one who killed her?”
“ No, but I did. He was the real reason I started using a gun. He was the first man I ever killed. He knew who was killing him though right before I put a bullet thru his heart.” Johnny said without remorse.
“ It’s still a little red on your back, but the front wound is healing up nicely.” Beth said.
“ Exit wounds are always bigger and take longer to heal up. Entrance wounds push strands of fabric from your clothes and whatever else the bullet goes thru into your body.” Johnny explained.
“ Have you ever removed bullets yourself ?” she asked.
“ More times than I care to remember. Digging a bullet out of your shoulder is no easy task. Cauterizing a wound to stop the bleeding isn’t for the weak. I’ve done it with gunpowder like I had you do, and my knife blade heated up in a fire.” Johnny responded.
“ Alone?” she asked.
“ Yep, just me and my horse usually.” Johnny said.
“ How far to a town?” Beth asked.
“ Six days walking northwest will put us in a small mining town called Sanford. Only problem is, there’s no telegraph there so I can’t send a wire to Murdoch.” Johnny responded.
“ Who is Murdoch?” Beth asked.
“ My father, Murdoch Lancer.” Johnny said.
“ This fella, Peter Chancellor, the one you’re running from. Is there any chance he could come looking for you?” Johnny asked.
“ To tell the truth, I never gave that a thought. I suppose he could. He does stand to lose a lot if we don’t get married.” Beth responded.
“ Hey James, you seen the paper?” Ray asked.
“ No, why?” James responded.
“ Take a look at who made the front page.” Ray said as he handed the paper to him.
James read the paper, then laid it on the table. “ So.”
“ So, so, you read it. They say he was killed by Apache’s. You sure you killed him?” Ray asked softly. “ You know he’s been shot numerous times by others and survived. We can’t afford him to still be alive and talk. He heard what the driver said.”
“ Yeah, and what you told the driver about Emma.” Joe added. “ You left that woman alive. She could have nursed him back, or found help.”
“ Guess we better take a ride and make sure.” James said. “ And if he is still alive, I’ll put the bullet in his head to make sure he’s dead.”
“ Where we gonna start lookin?” Joe asked.
“ Back where we stopped the stage at Picacho Pass. We’ll see if there’s any footprints leading away from there.” James explained.
“ It’s been over a week. You think there will be any still?” Ray asked.
“ Hasn’t rained, so yeah. There’s an old miners shack up in them hills. The woman would have not known about it, but Madrid might if he’s still alive.” James responded.
“ If he is still alive, which way you think he’d go?” Ray asked.
“ Northwest. There’s water, and food available. We’ll ride out in the morning, and check in Sanford.” James said.
“ What’s Sanford?”Joe asked.
“ A small mining town that a man named Fred Adams, started in sixty six when he found gold. They got a post office built there last year. Not too much in the way of a town, but it’s got a few businesses.” James explained.
Murdoch walked into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, and found Teresa sitting at the table with her head down.“ You alright?” he asked. Receiving no response,Murdoch placed a hand on her left shoulder.
“ It can’t be true.” she sobbed. “ Johnny can’t be dead. We just got him back.”
Murdoch sat down next to her. “ Look at me Teresa.”
Teresa wiped her eyes, and looked at him.
“ When I read that article, a part of me believed it to be true. I think it was from the shock of seeing it on the front page of the paper. My son didn’t survive everything he has been thru just so he could be killed by Apache Indians. I sent a wire to Fort Buchanan asking of any stagecoach attacks that have happened in the last two weeks. I got a response back today.”
“ What did they say?” she asked.
“ There has been only one. Ten days ago a band of Apaches attacked the stage station at Apache Pass. Patrols have found no sign of Indians around where Johnny was supposed to have been killed.” Murdoch explained.
“ I don’t understand. Why would the newspaper say he was dead?” Teresa asked.
“ I don’t know. Hopefully Scott will find the answer when he gets there.” he responded. “Now, I want you to dry those tears, and put a smile on that face. You know Johnny wouldn’t want his little sister crying, and neither do I.”
“ That makes three of us.” Sam said. “ I knocked, but nobody answered.”
“ I’m sorry Sam, we didn’t hear you knock.” Murdoch said. “ You going to be alright now?” he asked.
Teresa wrapped her arms around him, and gave him a hug. “ I’ll be alright.” she said. “ Sit down Sam. I’ll get you some coffee.”
“ Thank you. I can’t stay long. I thought I would stop by while doing my rounds, and see how the two of you are doing?” Sam said as he sat down.
“ Here you go. I’ll leave you two too talk.” Teresa said before leaving the kitchen.
“ She’s taking it pretty hard.” Sam said.
“ Johnny isn’t dead Sam.” Murdoch said as he handed him the telegram.
“ Why in the world would the newspaper say he was killed in an Apache attack on the stage?” Sam asked.
“ I think I know why. I think the stage was robbed, and Carl Price was told to say it was Apaches to cover it up.” Murdoch suggested.
“Everybody knows the stage has been robbed numerous times over the last two years. It’s been in the paper.” Sam said.
“ Yes, and how many more before Butterfield loses their contract to carry the money? Whoever, and however they are doing it, the robbers have taken over one hundred thousand dollars. That’s a huge loss to Butterfield. I talked to Jim at the bank, and he thinks as do I, that it’s an inside job. Somebody is telling them when there is money on that stage.” Murdoch said.
“ But if it’s an inside job, why can’t the law find out who it is, and catch these thieves?” Sam asked.
“ You’ve rode on a stagecoach Sam,what’s the one thing all stage stations have every fifty miles, and in the big towns like Tucson?” he asked.
Sam took a sip of his coffee, and thought for a minute. “ A cook. Do you think one of the robbers has an inside source through a cook?”
“ I think the wife of one of the robbers works at a station, and it’s her telling them. Think about it Sam. Why would the law suspect a woman would be the source! Almost all the robberies happen between Tucson and Maricopa Wells station. I think she works right there in Tucson, and sees when the strong boxes is loaded, and if it’s carrying gold or money.”
“ You just might be right Murdoch. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve read anything about gold being stolen.” Sam responded.
“ Gold’s risky business. People would ask questions if these robbers had gold. Money is less likely to draw attention to them.”
“ Have you heard anything from Scott yet?” Sam asked as he stood up.
“ No, nothing yet. He said he would send a wire when he reached Los Angeles.” Murdoch responded as he walked Sam out to his buggy.
“ Let me know.” Sam said as he climbed into the buggy. “ Thanks for the cup of coffee.”
“ Thanks for stopping.” Murdoch said.
“ Those lights down there are Sanford.” Johnny said.
“ How are we going to pay for anything?” Beth asked.
“ I have money in my boot. I learned a long time ago to keep some put away for an emergency.” Johnny said. “ I’ll get us a room and you a bath, if they have one, and see if there’s any horses to be bought.”
“ I hope you don’t think I am sharing a bed with you?” Beth demanded.
“ Lady, I have no intention of sharing a bed with you.” Johnny snapped back. “ Look, just keep your mouth shut, and whatever you do, don’t leave my side and go wandering around. Women are scarce, and I know what men like what’s down there will do if they think you’re alone.”
“ I can take care of myself.” Beth said.
Johnny grabbed her left arm. “ I mean it. That’s not Boston down there, and those aren’t the type of men you are used to seeing or being around. They will rape you in a second, and that’s trouble I don’t need, nor want. So do us both a damn favor and do as you’re told.” he ordered.
“ Let go of my arm. You’re hurting me.” Beth demanded.
“ Do you understand me.” Johnny asked.
“ Yes damn you. I understand. Now let go of me.” she demanded.
Johnny let go of her arm. And felt the sting of her slap a few seconds later. “ Lady, you slap me again, and you’re likely to find out what it feels like.” He said between clenched teeth before he walked past her starting down the hill.
Beth glared at the back of the man she both hated, and admired. Why she hated him so was hanging on his right hip. Why she admired him was because he was a survivor. He’d survived more than most men would ever be able to do. Rubbing her arm where he grabbed it, her anger grew. “ Tell me something Madrid, just how many women have you taken advantage of, or forced yourself on?” she said as she started to follow him down the hill.
Beth walked along the street, tensing a little when she seen two riders approach her and stop.
“ Do you see what I see little brother?” Brother Wade asked.
“ I sure do. I sees me a woman.” Brother Seth responded. “ Been a long time since we had us a real woman brother.”
“ Now what’s a fine looking lady like you doing in our little mining town?” Brother Wade asked as he dismounted, and grabbed her by the arm, jerking her around.
“ Let go of my arm.” Beth ordered.
“ Oh you’re a feisty one. I like a woman who fights back. Makes my dick harder.” Brother Wade said as he jerked her into the alley.
“ I get first dibs on her Wade. I’m the one who spotted her.” the second man declared.
“ I’m older.” Wade said as he shoved her down onto a crate and tore her shirt open, exposing her breast.
Beth screamed as she tried to fight them off.
“ Go ahead and scream woman. Ain’t nobody gonna help you.” Wade said as he squeezed her breast.
“ Please don’t do this.” she pleaded.
“ She’s begging you for it brother. Give it to her good.” Brother Seth said.
Wade brought his mouth down on hers, only to scream out in agony as Beth bit his bottom lip as hard as she could, blood running down her chin and dripping onto her chest as he rose up.
“ You rotten bitch. You bit me.” Wade said before he slapped her hard across the face.
“ Get off her you piece of shit.” came a cold as ice voice from behind them.
Seth drew his gun and spun around as a bullet tore thru his chest.
Wade stood up and looked at his brother laying on the ground, his eyes open and blank.
“ You sonofabitch, you killed my brother.” Wade said reaching for his gun as a bullet tore a path thru his heart.
“ Damn it. I told you not to go anywhere alone. I told you this would happen.” Johnny said with anger. “ What the hell were you thinking? I told you I would be right back to get you.”
Johnny removed his coat and offered it to her.
Beth stood there a few seconds just staring at the two dead bodies as a tear ran down her face. “ You sonofabitch. How dare you violate me like that.” she said aloud as she started kicking the man in the chest and head.
“ He’s dead lady, he’s dead. Enough. We need to get out of here.” Johnny said as he grabbed Beth by the arm and drug her away from the bodies toward their horses. “ Those two won’t be needing these horses.”
“ Let go of me damn you. Let go of me now.” Beth ordered as she slapped Johnny hard across the face.
“ Lady, I just had to kill two men because you wouldn’t listen, and wait in the room.” Johnny said with anger. “ Now get on the damn horse.”
Scott stepped off the stage late afternoon in Los Angeles, four days after leaving Stockton. Sending a wire to let Murdoch know he made it, and would be leaving in the morning. Walking into the livery he found the owner cleaning stalls.
“ What can I do for ya?” the man asked.
“ I’m looking to buy a good, sound horse.” Scott responded.
“ I have some good young stock in the corral out back.” the man said. “ Names Percy.”
“ Scott Lancer.” Scott said as he shook the mans hand.
“ Lancer, you any relation to a Murdoch Lancer from that that big spread I’ve heard so much about up in the San Joaquin?”
“ He’s my father.” Scott responded.
“ You don’t say. Seen an article in the paper about his son being killed.” Percy said. “ Ask me, I don’t think he was killed by no Apache Indians. I think it was that gang that’s been robbing the stage every time they have a money shipment on board.”
“ Why do you say that?” Scott asked.
“ Sonny, everybody knows the Apache hasn’t attacked a stage in that area in over two years. Not since Fort Buchanan, and Fort Bowie increased patrols.” Percy responded. “ Paper said no body was found of your brother or the driver. Apache don’t carry off but their own dead, and that’s only if they can. I used to be a blacksmith for the army, until I got to old according to them. You be surprised what you can learn when your just a blacksmith, especially when those boys would come in from patrol.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, how did you end up here?” Scott asked.
“Retired from the army and came here three years ago. Figured people around here could use a good honest blacksmith.” Percy responded. “ You looking for your brother?”
“ Yes I am. I don’t believe he’s dead, and until I have proof that is more than what a newspaper says.” Scott responded as he looked over a long legged chestnut mare. “ How much for her?” he asked.
“ You’re the first person to look at her since I bought her two months ago. Most people want a shorter horse. I bought her from a widow here in town. I know that mare is sound, not a mean bone in her body.” Percy said. “ Fifty dollars and she’s yours.”
“ I’ll give you seventy five if you shoe her and throw in a saddle and bridle.” Scott said.
“ Young fella, you just bought yourself a horse. Come on in the office and I’ll write you up a bill of sale.” Percy said.
“ What can I get you fellas?” the bartender asked.
“ Whiskey. Say there hasn’t been a good looking young lady around lately?” James asked.
“ There was one came in last night. She was with a man though. They stayed at the hotel across the way. Seen them leave right after Madrid killed two foolish miners who tried raping her. He sent them brothers straight to hell. Did the town a favor killing those two.” the bartender said.
“ Madrid, you mean the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Ray asked.
“ The one and only.”the man said.
“ You happen to know what way they headed when they rode out?” James asked.
“ West. I heard Madrid say they were going to Maricopa Station.”the man said before walking away.
“ So Madrid is still alive. If him or that woman talk to the law.” Joe said.
“ Shut up.” James ordered.
“ You should have shot the sonofabitch in the head.” Joe said as he slammed his whiskey glass down.
“ Bartender, come here.” James ordered.
The bartender knew these three could be trouble. He’d seen their kind many times before bust a place up. “ Look, I don’t want no trouble.”
“ Ain’t gonna be any. You said Madrid and the woman rode west. What’s the terrain like between here and that station?” James asked.
“ Rocks, boulders, cactus. Only a man on a horse or afoot can get through.” the man said. “ You after Madrid, or that sweet little lady he’s with?”
“ I don’t see’s how that’s any business of yours mister.” James responded.
Johnny stopped a few miles out of town and dismounted. “ You need to clean that up before it gets infected.”
“ I………..I’m sorry Johnny. I should have listened to you. I didn’t think there would be anyone but us out that early.” Beth said as Johnny helped her down from the horse.
“ It’s okay. I probably did that town a favor killing those two.” he said as he removed the canteen.
“ God knows how many other women they’ve raped.” she said as she tried to close her shirt up.
“ Here, let me show you a trick I learned for when you lose a button.” Johnny said as he pulled out his knife and walked over to a barrel cactus. “ Growing up, I learned how to stitch up my wounds and mend my socks when I had some using a cactus thorn for a needle, and hair from my horse. Ouch.” he explained as he walked back over. “ Now I’ll just make a small cut for the hair to go thru, and you can stitch your shirt closed.”
“ Why didn’t we just go back to the road for the next stage after you healed up?” Beth asked.
“ I wasn’t about to take a chance on those three coming back and putting another bullet in me.” Johnny responded. “ You have a horse now, so feel free to leave anytime you want.”
“ Let’s get one thing straight Madrid. If it wasn’t for me you would be dead right now. So I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t be such a bastard to me.” Beth said with anger.
“ And if it wasn’t for you not doing as told back there in Sanford, I wouldn’t have had to kill those two men, and you wouldn’t have almost been raped.” Johnny snapped back. “ You people from back east are all alike. You come out west, and don’t have a clue what it’s like living out here. You don’t know how to survive without you fancy clothes, and some innocent black person to wait on your spoiled ass all the time.”
“ At least I was brought up with manners, and taught how to respect others.” Beth responded. “ You……….you don’t know the first thing about respecting a lady.”
“ Respect is earned lady. If you want respected, then you have to earn it, and the best way for you to do that is to stop being such a bitch.” Johnny said.
“ How dare you call me that. If we were in Boston, you would be thrashed for speaking to a lady like that.” Beth said.
“ We’re not in Boston, and the sooner you get that into your thick skull, the better it will be for both of us.” Johnny said as he walked past her, and climbed up on a rock, looking back east. “ Shit, take your horse up into those rocks now.”
“ What? Why?” she asked.
“ Dust.” Johnny said.
“ Maybe it’s someone who can help us.” she suggested.
“ It’s not, trust me.” Johnny said.
“ You don’t know……….”
“ Lady, it’s the three men who robbed the stage.” Johnny cut in. “ Now do as I said and lead your horse up into those rocks.”
Scott led his horse out of the barn as the sun started rising. The Livery owner had his horse all ready for him when he got there. Saddlebags full of supplies, and two canteens secured to the saddle, he mounted up, and headed east toward Ehrenburg, Arizona, where he would cross the Colorado river, and ride east to the Maricopa Wells, about two hundred miles east, and somewhere within that two-hundred miles was his brother, either hurt and needing him, or like the newspaper said. Dead! The stage driver told him it was roughly two-hundred and twenty-five miles to the river. Riding from sun-up to sun-down, Scott figured he would be in Arizona in eight days or less, depending on how hard he rode. The mare seemed to have a good smooth canter, he felt the mare could do almost all day eating up the miles.
Mid-afternoon, Scott slowed the mare down to a walk to cool her off. Like his brother, he too could appreciate good horse flesh, he felt the mare was just that. Thunderheads could be seen ahead of him. Big white, fluffy clouds bringing the promise of rain to quench the thirst of the desert, and it’s many plants, and animals.
“ Where are you little brother?” Scott said aloud. Something deep down inside kept telling him to head east toward Maricopa wells. A feeling he couldn’t explain really. Head had learned in a class at Harvard, that twins can sometimes feel what the other feels, even when miles apart. That when one twin died, the other knew it immediately. Though him and Johnny were not twins, or full-blooded brothers, they had a connection with each other from the moment they met. A bond nobody would ever be able to break.
“ Where the hell is he? We should have caught up to them by now.” Ray said.
“ Tracks are headed west. We keep going, we’ll find them.” James responded.
“ What if he’s not going to that station? What if he rode north toward Phoenix instead?” Ray asked.
“ Maybe. Bartender said the horses they took from the two men Madrid killed aren’t the best. The woman, she’s slowing him down, but he won’t leave her. It’s against his nature to leave her to save himself.” James responded.
“ Joe, go down in that wash and look up and down for tracks.” James ordered.
“ Maybe we rode past them somewhere. They could have seen our dust and laid low someplace until we past.” Ray suggested.
“ I don’t think so. Madrid is still headed to that station, and that’s where we are going.” James said as he rode down into the wash. “ You see anything?” he asked Joe.
“ Nothing. Not even a rabbit track.” Joe responded.
“ Let’s go.” James said as he rode up out of the wash on the other side.
Johnny slowly stood up, and watched the three riders disappear. “ Okay, you can stand up now.”
Beth stood up. “ Great, they’re ahead of us now, and will be waiting for us at the station. What now genius?” she demanded.
“ We follow this wash south. There will be enough light from the moon we can continue riding after dark.” Johnny responded.
“ Okay, let me ask you this. When do we eat something? I can’t keep going like this with no food.” Beth said.
“ Let me see if those two had any jerky in their saddlebags.” Johnny said.
“ Jerky! What’s that?” she asked.
“ Dried out meat. Usually beef, but sometimes buffalo,deer, or even elk.” he responded as he found nothing to eat in his saddlebags. “ Haven’t you ever eaten jerky before?”
“ No.” Beth said.
“ No, I guess a fancy woman like you wouldn’t lower yourself to eat something like jerky. You’re too used to fancy dinner plates and silverware, crystal glasses, and some poor black woman or man doing all your cooking, and serving.” Johnny said as he pulled out some wax paper with jerky wrapped up inside.
“ Just because a person is wealthy, and likes fine things, doesn’t make them a bad person Madrid. Yes my father has servants who do our cooking, cleaning, serving of meals, and other things. That’s not a crime. My father treats his workers with respect. I would appreciate you not talking about my family like we are animals.” Beth snapped back.
“ Lady, my brother fought in the Civil War to end slavery. It is now against the law to own slaves.” Johnny said as he unwrapped the jerky , and handed her a piece. “ Suck on it. The juice with stave off thirst and be easy on your stomach.”
Beth took the piece of jerky. “ Thank you. My father doesn’t own slaves.” she said.
“ Does your father pay his workers in cash?” he asked.
“ No.” she said as she tried the jerky.
“ If he don’t pay them for their work, then they’re nothing more than slaves to do the work him or your mother won’t belittle themselves to do in that big fancy house you ran away from.” Johnny said as he mounted up.
“ Has anyone ever told you that you are a cold-hearted bastard Madrid.” Beth said with anger. “ How many people have you belittled in your time? How many people have you looked down upon because you thought you were better than them? We don’t abuse our help, and never have. They have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over their head when they sleep.”
“ But are they free to leave if they wanted too without being hunted down because your rich papa thinks they’re his personal property?” he asked.
Beth moved her horse up alongside Johnny. “ Why would they want to leave, when they know they have it good working for my father?”
“ Lady, you really are blind to the truth. Growing up with a silver spoon in your mouth, not wanting for a thing has clouded your judgment. I know first hand what it’s like to be a slave. To go days without eating. Wearing clothes that are so torn and tattered, you would be better off going naked. Having the cold cut through you like a knife because you don’t have a coat to wear, or shoes on your feet. Having a priest taunt you with the other children in the orphanage with their new coat, shoes, or clothes as he tells you, the devils child doesn’t get to wear nothing but rags. My whole life I’ve put up with shit from rich bastards like your father. He may be back in Boston, or wherever, but he’s no different than the rich Dons of Mexico I fought against. Looking down on the little man because he thinks he’s better than them with all his fancy things and money.” Johnny spouted off. “ I have never looked down on anyone except the rich for how they treat the less fortunate, and I have never belittled anyone. My father has the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley, over one hundred thousand acres. We have over ten thousand head of cattle, and he has over a hundred and fifty vaquero’s who work for him. Some have families and children. They are all treated with respect, those with family have a home to live in, the single men stay in the bunkhouse. Every worker is paid a dollar a day with Sunday off. None of them have to buy the food they eat. Lancer takes care of it’s own. That’s the difference between you eastern dandies, and us hard working western folks. We don’t view others less than us just because we have money and they don’t. Lancer has helped more people than your rich father ever has. We’ve helped ranchers pay their taxes when they couldn’t, helped them through droughts with water, and helped rebuild after a fire or storm wiped their home out. Does your family get out there in the weather and do anything like that?”
“ My father makes very generous donations to Boston General and Harvard.” Beth said. “ Besides, I thought you grew up an orphan in Mexico?” Beth asked snidely.
“ I did. As I told you before I only just found my father a couple years ago.” Johnny responded.
“ So now you’re suddenly the lost wayward son of a rich rancher who found his way home. Sounds to me you and your family are just like mine.” Beth said.
Johnny stopped his horse. “ Lady, we are nothing like you or your family.”
“ Yes sir, can I help you?” the hotel clerk asked.
“ I’m looking for someone, and I was wondering if perhaps you seen her.” the man said as he pulled a photo from his coat pocket. “ She may have been in here a few weeks or so ago.”
“ Oh yes I remember her. Very elegant looking lady. Definitely not from around here. She was headed west. Said she wanted to go as far as the stage could take her.”
“ And how far is that?” he asked.
“ She in some kind of trouble?” the clerk asked.
“ No, She’s my fiance, and we had a slight disagreement. I’m afraid she took off before I could explain or apologize to her.”
“ Stage goes all the way to San Francisco. Now if you don’t mind, I have other people waiting.” the clerk said.
“ Of course, please excuse me. Just one more question. Where might I acquire a good steed to take me to this San Francisco?” the young man asked.
“ Most people buy horses from the livery stable. I strongly suggest you take the stage. It’s a lot faster than you riding across Apache country alone.” the clerk suggested.
“ Very well then. One one-way ticket to San Francisco.” he said.
“ And the name on the ticket?” the clerk asked.
“ Chancellor, Peter Chancellor, of Boston, Massachusetts.”
The clerk smiled and shook his head as he made out the ticket. “ Stage leaves at six in the morning headed west. You have any luggage?”
“ Just one bag.” Peter responded.
“ Alright. Be here at five-thirty to board.”
“ Thank you.” Peter said as he picked up his ticket and bag.
“ Hotel down the street is the fanciest one we have.” the clerk said.
“ Again, thank you.” Peter said before walking out.
The clerk couldn’t help but smile and laugh. “ Damn eastern folks coming out west more and more. I hope he don’t find that young lady. No wonder she left him.”
“ I got a wire from Scott. He made it to Los Angeles.” Murdoch said as he walked into the kitchen where Teresa and Maria were preparing supper.
“Señor Scott,¿ cree quepodrá encontrar a su hermano con vida?” ( Senor Scott, he thinks he will be able to find his brother alive?) Maria asked.
“ Sí lo hace María. Todos lo hacemos.” (Yes he does Maria. We all do.) Murdoch responded.
“Y si no encuentra, ¿ entonces qué?” ( And if he doesn’t find him, what then?) she asked.
“ We just have to keep praying that he does find Johnny alive.” Teresa said.
“ María, sé queJohnny significa más para ti que el resto de nosotros de una manera que nunca lo haremos. Ayudaste a Sam a traerlo a este mundo. Nos ayudaste tanto a mí ya su madre con él. Sé enmi corazón que mi hijo todavía está vivo y queentrará al patio con su hermano antes del invierno.” (Maria, I know Johnny means more to you than the rest of us in a way we will never have. You helped Sam bring him into this world. You helped me and his mother so much with him. I know in my heart my son is still alive, and he will ride into the yard with his brother before winter.) Murdoch said. “ Teresa, I have to attend the governors ball in San Francisco in November. Would you like to go with me?”
“ I would love to go to a big city like San Francisco, but if Johnny and Scott aren’t home, I don’t think I could go and enjoy myself Murdoch.” Teresa responded.
“ Alright, If the boys are not home by then, I won’t go. I’ll send him a letter explaining so he will know if we don’t show up.” Murdoch said before walking out of the kitchen. All this time he never really thought of how this would be affecting his cook. How the possibility of Johnny being dead would be to her or Cipriano. The Segundo was after all his uncle. Heading outside, Murdoch decided he needed to have a long over due talk with Cipriano about what’s happened.
“ I need to stop and rest. I can’t keep going like this.” Beth said as she stopped her horse.
“ Alright. We’ll rest a couple hours under those trees over there.” Johnny said as he dismounted and walked his horse over to the trees.
“ Wish we had something to eat that wasn’t dry and tough.” Beth said as she dismounted.
Johnny unsaddled his horse. “ I’ll see if I can snare a rabbit while you rest.”
Beth started unsaddling her horse. “ These saddles are heavier than what I’m used to.”
“ I’ll unsaddle your horse for you. Come on over here and sit down.” Johnny said as he spread his saddle blanket out for her to lay on. “ Just use the saddle as a pillow.”
“ Thank you. So what do you think will happen when we get to the station?” Beth asked as she sat down on the blanket.
“ We’ll ride in as close as possible and I’ll see if they’re there. What happens is up to them I guess.” Johnny said as he pulled some dry grass and started rubbing the horses down. “ You know they intend on killing us because of what we heard the driver say about the ones wife being the inside source to the money shipments?”
“ I wish I had never come out west.” Beth said.
Johnny looked at her, and could see the fear in her eyes. “ I have no intention of letting them kill either one of us.”
“ I hope you kill them all.” Beth said as she stretched out on the blanket.
“ This coming from the lady who thinks of me as a cold-blooded killer?” Johnny asked.
“ It’s like you said when you killed those two in Sanford, killing those three will be doing the society a big favor.”Beth responded.
“ So, as long as I kill someone you feel needs killed, it’s alright regardless of the effects killing them would have on me?” he asked.
“ What do you mean, effects?” she asked.
“ Lady, I have………..every night I’m haunted by the faces of the men I’ve killed. So don’t take killing lightly. It’s easy to kill a man, but it’s impossible to bring him back to life.” Johnny said.
“ I think I know what you are saying. I remember the first time I killed a pigeon. I hit it with a rock, and it lay on the ground fluttering it’s wings as blood dripped from it’s beak until it died.” she explained. “ I felt bad, and still do.”
“ What about those quail you killed. You still feel bad for killing them?” he asked.
“ That’s different. I killed them to eat. To stay alive.” she responded.
“ You killed to survive, which is what I did to those two in Sanford, and will do in Maricopa if it comes down to it. Survival is the biggest instinct man has. Survival is why I started using a gun.” Johnny explained.
“ Here I am in the desert, and I’m cold.” she said as she ran her hands up and down her arms.
“ Here.” Johnny said as he brought her his coat. “ Most people think the desert heat will kill them, but never figure on the nights getting cold enough they can die from exposure. The biggest misconception a person can have in this country.”
“ Thank you. How will you stay warm though?” she asked.
“ I’m used to it. I’ll get a small fire going so I can cook us a rabbit later.” Johnny said as he started gathering wood from around the trees.
“ I guess you learned all this survival stuff the hard way?” she asked.
“ I learned my lessons the hard way on my own, and some from the Indians who live in the desert.” he responded. “ So just where were you going to go when you left Boston?”
“ I never really thought about it. I just figured to head west and start my life over away from Peter.” Beth said. “ I heard about the west being open, and not a lot of people, so I boarded the train to St Louis, and took the stage from there to San Francisco. Never really thought about what I would do once I got there. And I sure didn’t figure on this happening to me.”
“ San Francisco is a big city. There’s both good and bad there. Down by the wharf where the ships come in, men have been shanghaied and forced to work on ships. There’s areas that are not safe for women either. They get taken and forced to work in brothels.” Johnny explained.
“ You sound like you’re trying to talk me out of going.” she said.
“ Not at all. I’m just telling you the facts. You have to pay attention to the area you’re in. The signs are there. You just have to see them.” he said.
“ Like when you warned me about not venturing out alone in Sanford?” she asked.
“ Exactly.” Johnny said.
“ We have no matches. How are you going to start the fire?” she asked.
“ With this.” Johnny said as he pulled out a small blackish rock from his pocket.
“ What’s that?” she asked.
“ Flint rock. It creates a spark when struck.” he said as he got the fire going. “ There’s several types of rock you can use to start a fire when you hit them together. You stay here and warm up. I’m gonna go get us a rabbit.”
“ Hey pa, there’s three riders coming.” Billy Price said.
Carl came out of the station and looked at the three riders. “ Trouble.”
“ What you mean pa?” Billy asked.
“ That’s James Thomas, the outlaw, riding with him is Ray Morales and Joe Hughes. They’re no good outlaws son. Don’t say anything to them. Let me do the talking.” Carl said.
“ Howdy, mind if we water our horses?” James asked.
“ Help yourself.” Carl said.” There’s a cup there too if you want a drink. Best, coldest water for a hundred miles.”
“ Thanks.” James said as they dismounted. “ Hey, you haven’t had a man and woman ride through lately have ya?”
“ No, can’t says I have.” Carl responded.
“ Either he’s lying, or we beat them here.” Joe said.
“ Shut up.” James ordered.
“ My pa’s got no call to lie to you mister. We ain’t had no man or woman stop that’s riding a horse.” Billy said.
“ Billy, go tend to the stock.” Carl ordered.
“ But pa……….”
“ Do as I say.” Carl cut in. “ Got a rabbit stew on the stove if you fellas are hungry. You’re welcome to have some. Fresh made biscuits too.”
“ That’s very kind of you.” James said. “ Billy is it, why don’t you go with my friend here and take care of our horses. Give them a good currying down, hay and grain. We’re going to be here a while. And Billy, just remember your pa will be inside with us in case you get a notion to run away.” James added as he pulled his gun.
“ When’s the next stage due? And don’t even think about lying to me old man.” Ray asked.
“ Nine tomorrow morning.” Carl responded. “Please don’t hurt my son. He’s all I have.”
“ He does as he’s told, he won’t be hurt. Let’s go inside and get out of this heat.” James responded.
Scott sat looking up at the stars a days ride from Phoenix, and found himself wondering if just maybe his little brother was doing the same thing as he remembered how sometimes late at night, after their father had went to bed, he would see his brother stand down at the corral just looking up at the stars. He couldn’t help but laugh as he remembered when he told Johnny what he learned at Harvard about the Greek Gods and how they had given names of importance to certain star shapes.
( flashback )
“ That one right there, that’s called the Big Dipper.” Scott said.
“ I guess it does look like one. What’s that one there that looks like a W? It got a name?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. That’s Cassiopeia, the Vain Queen in Greek mythology. It’s said in the history books that she boasted about her unrivaled beauty.” Scott responded.
“ So all these constellations, how they take those shapes? I mean, did those Greek Gods move the stars around to take each ones shape?” Johnny asked.
“ That’s what they say. The Greek Gods were very powerful. Zeus, is the king of the Gods. He ruled Mount Olympus, and is the God of the Sky, weather, thunder, lightening, law, order, and justice.” Scott explained.
“ Law, order and justice huh? He have a queen?” Johnny asked.
“ Sure did. Hera, the Queen of the Gods, and Goddess of marriage, women, childbirth, heirs, kings, and empires.” he responded.
Johnny stood there looking up at the stars, silent for a moment. “ Is there a Greek Goddess of love?” he asked.
“ Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of love, beauty, desire, and pleasure.” Scott said with a smile.
“ That’s my kind of Goddess.” Johnny said.
“ My professor told us that the Greeks created images of their deities for many purposes. A temple would house the statue of a god or goddess, or multiple deities, and might be decorated with relief scenes depicting myths. Divine images were common on coins. Drinking cups and other vessels were painted with scenes from Greek myths.” Scott explained. “ I don’t think you would have liked living back then though.”
“ Why’s that?” he asked.
“ Clothing in Ancient Greececonsisted of lengths of rectangular linen or wool fabric. The Greeks wore light clothes as the climate was hot for most of the year. Their garment usually consisted of two main parts: a tunic, and a cloak.” Scott explained.
“ So something like a dress?” Johnny asked.
“ Kind of, yes.” he responded.
“ Sounds like some strange, yet mighty powerful people up there in those stars looking down on us.” Johnny said.
( end flashback )
“ What I wouldn’t give to be looking up at these stars with you right now little brother.” Scott said as he tossed the now cold coffee in his cup, and settled down in his bedroll for some sleep.
“ So how come you’re not married?” Beth asked as Johnny saddled the horses. “ I mean, you say you are the son of a very wealthy, rich rancher.”
“ I guess I could get married, and maybe some day I will, but right now it’s too soon.” Johnny responded.
“ Too soon?” Beth asked.
“ I’ve only been out of the game a couple years. I still have men out there who want my reputation, and the only way they can get it is if they kill me. That wouldn’t be fair to the person I married.” Johnny explained.
“ You want kids some day?” she asked.
“ I would love to be a father, and have the chance my father didn’t have with me or Scott.” he said.
“ So Scott, he’s not married either I take it?” she asked.
“ Not unless he did while I’ve been gone.” Johnny said. “ So what was it like with this Peter fella?”
“ I told you already.” she said.
“ You never answered my question though. What changed in him when you went to Harvard that made you not want to marry him?”he asked as he led her horse over to her.
“ He slept with someone I thought was my best friend. When I confronted him about it, he said it shouldn’t matter because we weren’t married yet.” Beth explained. “ I told him I will not marry a man who will not be loyal and faithful to our marriage. He grabbed my arm and twisted it so bad, I couldn’t use it for a week. He told me that once we were married, I would do what he said, when he said, and he would see whomever he wanted. That I could do nothing to stop him.”
“ A man like that needs taken out behind the barn and taught some manners. Did you tell your father?” he asked as he handed her the reins.
“ I tried, but he wouldn’t listen. All he kept saying was I was mistaken, and how important the merge of their companies was to him.” Beth said before mounting up.
“ So your father, the man you defend basically put his company ahead of his own daughter. He ignored the fact that the man he wants you to marry will abuse you.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle. “ And you call me a cold-hearted bastard.”
“ Where you going boy?” Ray asked.
“ I have to get six horses ready for the nine o’clock stage.” Billy said.
“ Go help him Joe.” James ordered.
“ Me, I know nothing about harnessing up horses. Why can’t Ray go with him?” Joe demanded.
“ Because I told you to do it. Now git.” James ordered.
“ I don’t know why you allow him to ride with us. The kids becoming more defiant toward you. He’s getting a smart mouth on him.” Ray said.
“ I’ll knock him down a size or two then he won’t be so smart mouthed, and will do what he’s told.” James said.
“ You think Madrid and that lady will show up today?” Ray asked.
“ Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter!” Carl said aloud. “ Oh lord, you fellas ain’t fixin to try and kill Madrid here are you?”
“ That’s exactly what we are going to do old man. Only this time when I shoot him, he will be dead.” James responded.
“ Can you see if they are there?” Beth asked softly.
“ I don’t see their horses, but they could be in the barn.” Johnny whispered. “ No wait, there’s one of them just come out of the barn.”
“ Who’s the kid with him? He wasn’t with them.” she asked.
“ The station masters son Billy. They must have his father inside.” Johnny said.
“ What are you going to do?” she asked.
“ Wait until midnight, and then go down and steal their horses.” he said.
“ You try anything and you could end up getting that man and his son killed.” Beth said with anger.
“ Do you really think they are going to leave them alive if they kill us? If you do, then you haven’t learned a damn thing lady.” Johnny snapped back. “ Taking their horses is the only way I see us getting away from them. It will buy us some much needed time and miles.” Johnny responded.
“ James………..James.” Joe yelled from the barn.
James opened the door, and went outside. “ What the hell you yelling about?” he asked.
“ Our horses are gone!” Joe responded.
“ Ray, our horses are gone.” James said as he headed to the barn.
“ Saddles are gone too.” Joe said as James came in the barn
“ Sonofabitch. That bastard came in during the night and took them. You were supposed to keep watch. What the hell did you do, fall asleep?” James demanded.
“ I can’t stay awake all day and all night. Ray should have taken some of the watch. It’s as much his fault as it is mine Madrid stole our horses.” Joe pleaded.
James hit Joe hard in the mouth, knocking him back into the stall. “ You stupid, irresponsible kid. If you were with a damn whore, you’d have no trouble staying awake.” he said as he reached down and grabbed Joe by the shirt, pulling him back up. “ Get your sorry ass out there and start looking for tracks. Ray, go grab three horses from the corral.” he ordered.
“ My stock ain’t broke to ride. They’re only broke to harness and pulling. You try riding one and he’ll buck you off for sure.” Carl said.
“ Damn it. You better not be lying to me old man.” James said with anger.
“ Try one and see for yourself.” Carl responded.
“ Where’s the nearest place to get three good horses?” Ray demanded.
“ They sell riding horses at the Gila Ranch station.” Billy said.
“ How far is that from here?” James asked.
“ Seventy miles. The stage will have you there by early afternoon. They make a thirty minute stop at Desert Stage station to water the horses, and then go on to Gila station. Phoenix is only thirty-five miles, but ain’t no stage runs there.” Carl said. “ Billy, get them horses over here. The westbound stage is coming.”
“ I found three sets of tracks up the road a ways. He cut up into the rocks using a deer trail.” Joe said. “ What are we doing?”
“ Taking the stage to Gila Station, buy some horses, find that sonofabitch, and kill him.” James said.
“ He’s got all our ammo, and supplies. All we have are our pistols.” Ray said.
“ Don’t matter. A pistol will kill just as good as a rifle.” James said as the stage rolled into the station and stopped.
“ I bet he headed to Phoenix.” Ray said.
That’s where we’re headed after we get us some horses.” James responded.
“Admit it. You didn’t think I could get away with it did you?” Johnny asked as they rode along.
“ So where do we go now?” she asked.
“ To Phoenix, to talk to the sheriff there, get a bath, and some sleep, Then we’ll head to Lancer. If you still want to go to San Francisco.” Johnny said.
“ Will you take me?” Beth asked.
“ I’d think you would want to be rid of me by now. I am after all a cold-blooded killer in your eyes.” Johnny responded.
“ That was before I got to know you a little better.” she said.
“ Lady, you know nothing about me.” Johnny said.
“ How far is it to this ranch you call home?” she asked.
“ A little over seven hundred miles. Should take us about twenty days if we ride forty miles a day give or take to get there.” he explained. “ I’ll send a wire to Murdoch and get money from the bank and buy what we’ll need.” Johnny said.
“ How far?” she asked.
“ Roughly thirty five miles. You can sleep in a soft bed, eat a hot meal, and take a hot bath.” Johnny responded.
“ That sounds wonderful.” Beth said.
Scott rode into Phoenix late evening three days after crossing into Arizona. The mare had no problem doing forty or so miles a day .After stabling his horse at the livery, he walked to the Golden West Hotel to check in.
“ Can I help you sir?” the clerk asked.
“ I’d like a room for the night.” Scott said.
“ Certainly. If you would just sign the register. It’s two dollars a night.” The clerk said as he got a key. “ Will you be wanting a hot bath drawn?”
“ Yes I will.” Scott said as he started to sign the register. “ Excuse me. When did Johnny Lancer check in?” he asked.
“ Him and the young lady with him checked in a couple hours ago.” the clerk said. “ Your in room nine, up the stairs and first hallway on the left.” the man said as he took the money.
“ Thank you.” Scott said as he picked up his saddlebags and headed upstairs. Taking note of the room number his brother had.
“ Are you about ready to go get some real food?”
“ Yeah, just give me a second.” Johnny responded as he walked over, and sat down on the bed to put his boots on.
Beth stepped into the room and to Johnny’s surprise, closed the door. “ I have to say, wearing a dress again sure feels nice.”
Johnny looked at her and smiled. “ Looks good on you. Blues your color.” he said trying to keep his eyes from wandering up and down her beautiful figure of a body.
“ Is something wrong Johnny?” she asked.
“ Not at all.” he said as he stood up, strapped on his gun, and started walking to the door, but stopped when she put a hand on his arm.
“ You’re a terrible liar.” she said softly as she stepped to within inches from him. She could tell his breathing changed, and feel the heat starting to come from his body. “ I know you like what you see.”
Johnny couldn’t believe how Beth was acting. The woman drove him crazy with her burst of anger toward him one minute, and the next being nice.“ I’m not going to lie. You’re a beautiful woman, but………” Johnny said before her lips touched his, and he found himself lost in the fresh smell of her hair, and the softness of her lips as they brushed against his.” Beth, I’m not what you want. I thought you were a lady?” he asked as he fought the urge to claim her mouth.
“ You’re exactly what I want.” she said as she ran her hands up around his neck.
Johnny sighed and gave in. Lowering his mouth, he eagerly claimed hers, pulling her to his chest more. Responding to her moans, he ran his hands down her back as he parted her lips and enjoyed the feel of a woman in his arms.
Beth found she couldn’t stop herself. She knew what she was doing was dangerous, but after spending so much time in the desert with him, nursing him, she couldn’t stop. She had seen his body while he fought the fever, and what she seen drove her to these forbidden urges, moaning as he deepened the kiss.
Johnny moaned as his body started to respond to her touches. “Beth………we need to stop this now before it goes to far. This isn’t right.”
“ It feels right to me.” she said as she ran her hands down his chest.
“ You’re a lady, and………” Johnny said, stopping suddenly when someone knocked on his door.
Johnny held a finger to his mouth, telling her to be quiet as he pulled his colt and went to the door, opening it. “ Scott, what the hell are you doing here?” he asked with surprise.
Scott stepped into the room and grabbed his brother up in a hug. “ I could ask you the same thing.” he said. “ I knew the newspaper lied, I knew you weren’t dead.” he said as he hugged his brother.
“ Dead. What are you talking about?” Johnny asked.
Scott then proceeded to tell him about the newspaper article.
“ Why would the newspaper say that?” Beth asked.
“ Scott, this is Elizabeth Brooks. She was on the stage with me when it was robbed.” Johnny said. Glad his brother had showed up when he had. He didn’t know how much longer he could refuse the advances Beth made on him.
“ Ma’am, it’s my pleasure to meet you.” Scott said.
“ It’s nice to meet a fellow Bostonian.” Beth said as she wondered just how far Johnny would have went, had they not been interrupted.
“ It has to be the robbery.” Johnny said as he walked over and poured three shots of whiskey, and then told his brother everything him and Beth had been thru.
“ Have you told the sheriff yet?” Scott asked.
“ Not yet.” Johnny said. “ I figured we would go see him in the morning.”
“ I need to send a wire to Murdoch first thing in the morning letting him and Teresa know you are alive.” Scott said.
“ I’ll bet the old man believed what he read.” Johnny said as he poured them all another shot.
“ I think he was more shocked than anything brother. He was almost in tears.” Scott said. “ So, do you think those three men will still look for you?” he asked.
“ You bet they will. Me and Beth are witnesses to what was said. With what we heard, we can put them and the woman in prison and hung.” Johnny said.
“ I hate to interrupt, but could we please go get something to eat that’s actually food?” Beth asked.
“ You two go ahead. I’ll join you after I get a hot bath and change.” Scott said. “ I have room nine down the hall.”
“Morning.” Scott said as he joined his brother in the hotel diner.
“ Morning.” Johnny responded.
“ Can I get you some coffee and breakfast sir?” the waitress asked.
“ Yes please. Where’s your lady friend?” Scott asked.
“ She ain’t my friend Scott. We just happened to be on the same stage together when it was robbed.” Johnny responded. “ You ever hear of the Brooks family back in Boston?”
“ Brooks, name doesn’t ring a bell.” Scott responded. “ Why?” he asked.
“ She knows Garrett Enterprises. Her father is a big shot rich man who does business with your grandfather.” Johnny said. “ I’ve known a few women in my time brother, and I gotta say, Beth is…………That woman turns so damn fast. One minute we’ll be talking, and the next I’m a cold-blooded killer in her eyes.” Johnny said.
“ Sounds to me like you like her brother.” Scott said as he sipped his coffee.
“ Trust me, I don’t.” he responded.
“ Funny, I got the feeling I interrupted something last night.” Scott said with a smile.
“ We walked six days to Sanford, a small mining town. I told her to not go anywhere alone when we were there. She didn’t listen, and I had to kill two men because of her.” Johnny explained. “ We took their horses and headed to Maricopa, but ended up with those three robbers trailing us. So I headed to the Maricopa station, and night before last, they were at the station waiting, so I waited until midnight, went down, and stole their horses.”
“ So you think that once they get horses, they will continue to hunt the two of you?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah I do.” Johnny said.
“ So where is she going?” Scott asked.
“ San Francisco. She’s running away from a man her father is trying to force her to marry so he can merge with that families business.” he responded.
“ And who would that be?” Scott asked.
“ Peter Chancellor. I asked her if there was any chance he would come looking for her. She said she never thought about it, but basically yeah, he could. He stands to lose a lot of money if they don’t get married.” Johnny explained.
“ Chancellor. I remember him. Arrogant guy. Liked to belittle others, thinking he was better than anyone else. He was in my math class. Quite rude to women too.” Scott said. “ His father does business with grandfather. I don’t blame her for running away from him. What are you going to do?”
“ She wants me to take her to San Francisco.” Johnny said.
“ Are you?” he asked.
“ I don’t know Scott. Hell she had me as a cold-blooded, heartless killer from the first time I laid eyes on her in Tucson. Seems she was reading one of those damn dime store novels about me. Besides, I have three men hunting us who intend on killing me. The one already shot me when I was unarmed, and killed the stage driver and guard. Not to mention her fiance may be showing up. All I want to do is go home, sleep in my own bed, eat Maria, and Teresa’s cooking, and not have to worry about being slapped or called a cold-blooded killer.” Johnny responded.
“ Sounds to me like you might be falling in love with her.”Scott said.
“ You ‘re crazy Scott. She is not my type, and most of the time all we do is argue.” Johnny responded. “ How did you get here so fast?”
“ I took the stage to Los Angeles, bought a real nice long-legged mare, and headed here seven days ago.” Scott explained.
“ May I join you?” Beth asked.
“ Certainly.” Scott said as he stood up,and pulled a chair out for her.
“ Good morning. I’m sorry I overslept.” Beth said as she sat down, and smiled at Johnny.
“ No problem. I figure we’ll ride out after we see the sheriff and you send a wire to Murdoch letting them know I ain’t dead.” Johnny suggested.
“ Teresa, Maria, I got a wire from Scott.” Murdoch said as he walked into the kitchen. “ Johnny’s alive. He’s with him in Phoenix. Say’s they should be home in about twenty days, but that trouble is following them.”
“ Trouble, I wonder what kind?” Teresa asked.
“ I wish I knew. What I don’t understand is why they don’t take the train or stage home.”Murdoch said.
“ Sabía que mi Johnny volvería sano y salvo a casa. Debemos prepararles una fiesta. Conozco a mi Johnny, será demasiado flaco.” Maria said with tears in her eyes.( I knew my Johnny would come home safe and sound. We must prepare a feast for them. I know my Johnny, he will be too skinny.)
“ You don’t think it could be the men who robbed the stage do you Murdoch?” Teresa asked.
“ It could be. Maybe they thought they had killed Johnny, and found out he’s still alive. If that’s the case, they won’t stop until either they’re dead, or he is. He’s a witness to what they did.” Murdoch responded.
“ So let me see if I understand the two of you correctly. You say you were on the stage when it was robbed, and that you are Johnny Lancer, the youngest son who the newspaper said was dead, and that you young lady are Elizabeth Brooks, and that you too were on that stage?” Sheriff Sanders asked.
“ Yes. We both witnessed those men murder the driver and guard. They shot them down in cold blood sheriff.” Beth said. “ And they shot Johnny also.” she added.
“ Madrid, I don’t know what you are trying to pull, but this has got to be the wildest tale I have ever heard. You claiming these three men robbed the stage, murdered the driver and guard, shot you when you were unarmed, and what, left the lady here to die in the desert?
“ How many stages have been robbed of only money sheriff?” Johnny asked.
“ In the last two years, Nine I believe.” the sheriff replied.
“ And don’t you find it a little odd that in that time, not one shipment of gold was taken?” Johnny demanded.
“ Just luck. It don’t mean nothing.” the sheriff said as he stood up.
“ It wasn’t luck sheriff. James Thomas is married to the cook at the Tucson station. That’s how they know when there’s gold or money on the stage.” Johnny explained.
“ Now you got no call to go saying some innocent woman is telling them about the shipments.” Sanders said. “ Now, I suggest the three of you get out of my office, better yet, out of my town before I arrest all three of you for slander.”
“ Forget it Johnny. You’re as good as talking to a wall trying to get this man to listen.” Scott said.” You might want to know Sheriff Sanders, I sent a wire to the sheriff in Tucson before we came here. I told him exactly what my brother and the young lady told you. I believe I will send him another wire telling him how you refuse to do anything about this.”
“ If you expect me to believe the word of a gunfighter, you are sorely mistaken boy. Now get the hell out of my town.” the sheriff ordered.
Johnny, Scott, and Beth walked outside.
“ Now what do we do?” Beth asked.
“ Johnny Madrid! I’ve waited a long time for this Madrid.” a man said from down the street.
“ What’s going on?” Beth asked.
“ Take Beth out of here.” Johnny said as he stepped out into the street to face the man.
“ Keep her here Scott, and quiet.” Johnny ordered as he stepped out into the street.
“ Surely you are not going to let him kill that man?” Beth demanded.
“ Lady, shut up. You’ll get my brother killed.” Scott ordered.
“ Me and you have a score to settle Madrid.” the man said.
“ I got no beef with you mister. I don’t even know you.” Johnny said as he let Madrid take over.
“ You killed my brother in Nogales, four years ago,remember?” the man said.
“ I might if I knew his name.” Madrid responded.
Beth turned and opened the door to the sheriffs office. “ You have to stop this sheriff.” she pleaded.
“ Lady, I ain’t no fool to go getting in the middle of a gunfight. That man was fool enough to call Madrid out. Besides, gun fighting ain’t against the law.” the sheriff responded.
Beth turned and started to step down into the street when Scott grabbed her arm, spun her around. “ You make one more move, or say anything, and I will throw you in jail.” Scott ordered.
“ The name Frank Davis ring any bells Madrid?” he asked.
Johnny stood there watching the kid standing a hundred feet away. “ I remember him. I gave him every chance to drop his gun and go sleep it off.”
“ You had no right killing him.” the man said.
“ He shot and killed the deputy sheriff, and was about to murder the sheriff so yeah, I shot him.” Madrid said.
“ It was none of your business Madrid, what my brother did.”
“ I made it my business. Walk away kid. This isn’t worth dying over. Ride out and I’ll forget all about this.” Madrid said.
“ He was my brother.” the kid said.
“ Can I at least know your name? So they know what to put on your headstone kid since you won’t walk away from this.”
“ Charlie Davis, you half-breed sonofabitch.” Charlie said as he went for his gun,but felt the red hot pain of a bullet slice thru his right side. Drawing his colt, the kid cocked it, and started to bring it up.
“ Damn it kid don’t!” Madrid said as he put another bullet in the kids right shoulder, causing him to drop the gun, and cry out in pain.
Johnny walked up to the kid , and kicked the gun away.
“ Kill me. Don’t leave me alive damn you.” Charlie pleaded.
“ I’m not killing you kid, because I’ve killed enough kids like you who wouldn’t walk away when I gave them the chance.” Johnny said as he turned and walked over to his brother. “ Still think I’m a cold-blooded killer?” he asked with ice in his voice before heading to the hotel.
“ I don’t understand. He could have killed that kid. Why didn’t he?” Beth asked.
Scott looked hard at Beth a few seconds before following his brother to the hotel.
“ I’m telling you, he could have killed that kid, but didn’t.”a man standing at the bar said. “ Damn-est thing I ever seen Madrid do. He even pleaded with the kid not to do it before he shot him again in his shoulder.”
“ Excuse me. You saying someone called Madrid out, and he didn’t kill him?” James asked.
“ Mister, that’s exactly what I’m saying. You don’t believe me, then ask the sheriff. He seen it, and did a lot of other folks in town.” the man said.
“ When was this?” Ray asked.
“ Yesterday morning.” the man said.
“ And Madrid, where’d he go?” James asked.
“ Rode out a short time later with a woman and another fella headed west.” the man said before walking away.
“ Can I ask why you left Boston?” Beth asked.
“ To be with my father.” Scott responded.
“ I’m gonna check the horses.” Johnny said as he stood up, and walked away.
“ Your brother is a cold-hearted person.” she said as she watched him walk away.
“ With all due respect ma’am. You know nothing about my brother.” Scott said.
“ I think I do considering I just spent god knows how many days with him. I had to cauterize his wound. Something I might add wasn’t all that pleasing to do.” Beth responded. “ He has done nothing but put my family down because we have servants, and are wealthy. It’s not my fault he chose to live the life he’s lived. I didn’t make him chose to live by a gun, going around killing people for what he called a reputation.”
“ Enough!” Scott said louder than intended. “ I will not have you badmouthing my brother. He had to do what he did to survive in Mexico, and I am damn glad he did. He would be dead if he hadn’t, and I would have never got to know the best person I have ever known. You seen how he gave that kid every chance to walk away. Yes he could have killed him, but he didn’t. Johnny is the most kind hearted, gentlest person I know. And unless I am mistaken, you would be dead right now if it were not for him knowing how to survive in the desert. So the next time you want to talk down about him, remember you are still alive because of him.”
“ He didn’t have to kill those two men in Sanford. He could have run them off. He had his gun drawn, they didn’t.” Beth snapped back. “ He likes killing, and you’re defending him for it.”
“ He would have never been in that situation had you done as he told you, and stayed inside.” Scott responded.
“ So he told you what happened?” she asked.
“ Yes. Me and my brother have an open trust. He knows he can talk to me about anything, and I can him as well.” Scott responded as his brother walked back over to the fire.
“ I’m tired of your attitude toward me lady. I’ve had all I’m going to take from your mouth.” Johnny said as he walked back over to the fire.“ Look, it was just bad luck our paths crossed, and we ended up on that stage together. I don’t need any more trouble, and that’s exactly what you are. You’ve been rude to me from the start. You told those robbers I was Johnny Madrid, just to spare your miserable, rich, spoiled life. Out here you survive, or you die. I could have left you, but I didn’t. I didn’t because that’s not who I am. Regardless of what you think. Go on back to Boston. You don’t belong out here.”
Beth stood up, and walked over to him. “ You bastard. How dare you.” She stammered before she slapped him hard across the face.
Johnny grabbed her by the arms, and jerked her to him.
“ Johnny.” Scott said as he stood up.
“ No Scott, it’s alright. I won’t hit her.” Johnny said. “ The truth hurts don’t it. You’re so used to getting your way, you can’t stand the fact that out here, you don’t have those servants to wait on you hand and foot. Out here it’s do as you’re told, when you’re told, and keep your damn mouth shut.” he said firmly before releasing her arms. “ Oh, and one more thing. You ever touch me again………..”
“ You’ll what………… You didn’t think so bad of me in your room before he showed up.” Beth said.
“ So what do we do now?” Joe asked.
“ What do you mean, what do we do now? We find those two, and kill them.” Ray said.
“ Yeah, but you heard that man. There’s another man riding with them. What if he’s a gunfighter just as good as Madrid?” Joe asked.
“ Makes no difference who he is. He interferes, he dies.” James said.
“ You sound like you’re getting cold feet kid.” Ray said.
“ I’m not getting cold feet. I just……….We have enough money, why don’t we ride out, and forget about killing those two?” Joe asked.
“ Because up until now, nobody has known who we are. I’m not letting Madrid and that woman live, and keep looking over my shoulder for some damn tin star arresting me.” James said.
“ You want to stretch a rope Joe? Because that’s what will happen if we don’t take care of them.” Ray added. “ They won’t hang his wife for her part, but you can bet the three of us will stretch a rope, and I don’t plan on having a bunch of strangers watch me piss and shit my drawers as I struggle to breath as the rope tightens around my neck.”
“ How do you know what happens to a man when he hangs?” Joe asked.
“Because I’ve seen it. Your boots come off, you thrash around with your feet trying to stand on something that’s not there as the rope bites into your skin more and more, squeezing your throat shut as your bowels let go. And all the while, people are gawking at you as you slowly suffocate.” Ray explained. “ Course if you’re lucky, when the trap door opens, and you fall, your neck snaps and you just twitch a little. Seen that happen to a man,but he didn’t die right away. Took him ten minutes for his heart to stop beating.”
“ Enough. You’re free to leave any time you want kid.” James said firmly.
“ I know a certain palomino who is going to be glad you’re home.” Scott said.
“ How’s he doing?” Johnny asked.
“ Being spoiled rotten by me and Teresa. I even caught Murdoch out there with him a few times.” Scott responded.
“ Barranca a dog of yours Johnny?” Beth asked.
“ No, Barranca is a palomino stallion Johnny broke that nobody else could get near. They’re best friends.” Scott responded.
“ Sounds like he’s a magnificent animal. Do you breed him?” she asked.
“ Did Murdoch get my wire about the contract with Fort Bowie?” Johnny asked. Ignoring Beth’s question.
“ Yes, and I have to say, I have never seen our father so pleased. Before I left, we had just over a hundred head of steers rounded up. Murdoch was going to have the vet come out and do a health check on them.” Scott responded.
“ I lost the contract papers though. They were in my saddlebags, and those went with the stage when they ran it off.” Johnny said.
“ I’m sure Murdoch can figure something out.” Scott said.
“ Is this how it’s going to be the remainder of the trip, you ignoring me?” Beth cut in asking.
“I’m gonna take a ride up there and make sure we’re not being followed.” Johnny said. “ I’ll catch up to you at sundown.”
“ Excuse me. I’m looking for my fiance. She took the stage headed to San Francisco. She would have been thru here about two weeks ago.” Peter said.
“ Kid, a lot of people ride the stage west. You got a picture of this fiance of yours?” Emma asked.
Peter pulled out the picture he had. “ Her name is Elizabeth Brooks.”
“ Right pretty gal. If she’s your fiance, what’s she doing headed west on a stage?” Emma asked.
“ We had a slight disagreement. Purely my fault, but I am afraid she left before I could tell her how sorry I am. Have you seen her?” Peter asked.
“ She was here. She got on the westbound stage three weeks ago. Only problem is, she got on it with a gunfighter named Johnny Madrid. I warned her about him before she boarded the stage. Don’t know where she’s at, or if she’s even still alive.” Emma said.
“ Why do you say that?” Peter asked.
“ The stage was attacked a couple hours after leaving. Up at Picacho Pass. They found it over a cliff, but found no bodies. A search party looked for a week, but found nothing. No sign of any survivors. Course that don’t surprise me none. Those damn Apaches are real good about hiding bodies. Hell a woman like her, they could have taken hostage and had their fun with before killing her.” Emma explained.
“ Apache’s. What about this gunfighter you said she was forced to ride with?” Peter asked.
“ He’s a dangerous one. Likes to have his way with women. Kills just to kill.”
“ That woman you be looking for. I seen her just the other day she was with Madrid and another fella in Phoenix. They rode out headed west right after Madrid was called out.” a man said.
“ Called out?” Peter asked.
“ Gunfight. He could have killed the kid, but only wounded him. The sheriff ordered them out of his town.” the man explained.
“ He must be forcing Elizabeth to stay with him.” Peter said.
“ Not likely. They came out of the sheriff’s office. If he was forcing her to stay with him, she sure didn’t act it when they rode out.” the man explained. “ Well, I’ll see ya next week Emma.”
“ I will find this man you call Johnny Madrid, and if he has harmed Elizabeth in any way, I will kill him.” Peter said.
“ Mister, man have tried to kill him over the past ten years, and he’s still alive. Go back to Boston, and forget about her.” Emma suggested.
“ I most certainly will not.” Peter said before walking out.
“ Heavy feet little brother.” Scott said.
“ I wanted you to hear me coming.” Johnny said as he walked into the light.
“ See anything?” he asked.
“ They’re a days ride back. Got close enough to their camp to hear the younger one named Joe is having second thoughts.” Johnny said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ Did you steal their horses again?” Beth asked.
Johnny didn’t bother to answer her. “ I figure they’ll catch up to us once we cross into California for sure.”
“ Probably so. You got something in mind?” Scott asked.
“ I want to leave while it’s still dark out. We need to put some distance between us and them.”
“ Where you want to set the trap at?” he asked.
“ Barstow. If we can get there in plenty of time, we can talk to the sheriff there, tell him what’s going on, and have him and his deputies arrest them.” Johnny responded.
“ And risk getting a lot of innocent people hurt or killed.” Beth cut in. “ You seen how they shot the stage driver down in cold blood. How can you even suggest doing something so barbaric?”
“ I’m not going to keep running from these guys okay. They want to kill us.” Johnny snapped back. “ Don’t you get that?”
“ Yes, but I don’t want innocent lives put at risk to save mine.” Beth retorted.
“ Wow, this coming from the woman who told those three I was Johnny Madrid. You got some nerve lady.” Johnny responded.
“ Nerve, you didn’t think so bad of me when you had your hands all over me back in Phoenix before your brother showed up.” Beth snapped back.
“ Who’s room were we in? And who’s the one who closed the door.” Johnny responded. “ Besides, I don’t remember you telling me to stop. You said you left Boston, and didn’t want to marry Peter because he slept with your so called best friend. Lady, after what you did in my room, I’m beginning to think it wasn’t him who cheated.”
“ Why you bastard. How dare you.” Beth said with anger.
“ I think what you are suggesting will work Johnny.” Scott cut in. Trying to defuse the situation before it escalated.
“ Exactly. And nobody will get hurt or killed, unless they choose to not surrender.” he said.
“ Just one question, how will they know we are in Barstow?”
“ I figure to tell the ferry operator I’ll be waiting for them there.” Johnny responded.
“ You thinking have the sheriff warn the people to stay off the streets until they’re captured?” Scott asked.
“But that puts the law at risk still.” she said.
“ They’re paid to take those risk lady. Man, the sooner I get away from you, the better off I’ll be. I’m gonna go take care of my horse.” he said as he tossed his coffee and walked off into the darkness.
Scott sat there looking at Beth across the fire watching his brother walk away. “ You like him don’t you?”
“ What, I most certainly do not.” Beth responded.
“ Funny, from what you said a few minutes ago, about what happened in his room before I showed up. I know a respectable lady would never do that.” Scott said.
“ I am a respectable lady. I got caught up in the moment. It was a mistake. One I have no intention of allowing to happen again.” Beth said as she looked over where she could see Johnny with the horses.
“ He’s been hurt enough okay. My brother deserves a woman who will accept both of him. Not someone looking to fill whatever it is you are trying to fill at his expense.”
“ You three wouldn’t be looking for two men and a woman would you?” the ferry operator asked.
“ What’s it to you?” James asked.
“ Have a message for you. The one said he’ll be waiting for you in Barstow. That they ain’t running no more.” the man said before walking away.
“ Barstow, the law is in Barstow James. He’s setting us up to be arrested.” Ray said.
“ Madrid wouldn’t do that. He plans to face all three of us.” James responded as he mounted up.
“ You’re not going there are you?” Joe asked. “ He’ll kill us.”
“ Then stay here. I’m sick of hearing you whine all the damn time anyway.” James said before riding away.
“ Ray, don’t go. It’s a trap.” Joe pleaded.
“ Sorry kid, but me and James have been together a long time. I’ll see ya.” Ray said as he mounted up and took off.
Joe stood there watching his two friends ride toward Barstow, and what he felt would be certain death.
Sheriff Henry Anderson walked out of the cafe and crossed the street as three riders stopped in front of his office.
“ Sheriff. We need to have a word with you.” Johnny said as he dismounted.
“ Alright. Come on inside.” the sheriff said as he opened his door.
Scott, Beth and Johnny walked inside the office and found two deputies also there.
“ What’s on your mind Madrid?” he asked.
“ You know who he is?” Beth asked.
“ It’s my job to know people lady. A man like Johnny Madrid especially. What brings you too Barstow?” he responded, and asked.
“ Sheriff, I’m Scott Lancer, Johnny is my brother. Now I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true, and too long a story to get into right now.”
“ Lancer……….Lancer. You’re the one the newspaper said was killed some time back. Something about Apaches attacking a stage or something?” the sheriff asked.
“ It wasn’t attacked by Apaches sheriff. It was robbed by three men.” Johnny responded. Then he and Beth told the sheriff and deputies what happened.
“ So you figure to lure them here to be arrested for robbing a stage in Arizona?” Sheriff Anderson asked.
“ That’s the plan.” Johnny said.
“ I hate to tell you, but there isn’t much I can do other than arrest them. They committed the crimes in Arizona. Therefore it’s up to them to handle it.” the sheriff explained. “ Did you tell the sheriff in Phoenix what you told us?”
“ Sheriff Sanders just laughed, and ordered us out of town.” Beth said.
“ Sounds like him. These are my two deputies Ed Miller, and David Clark. Real good men. If they do come here, I expect they’ll call you out. Now you say they were a days ride behind you. Go on over and get checked in the hotel, and get some rest.” the sheriff said.
“ Scott, why don’t you take Beth and get us rooms at the Cattleman’s Hotel while I stable the horses?” Johnny suggested.
“ Alright. You going to send Murdoch a wire telling him we are in Barstow?” Scott asked.
“ I can after. I’ll see you in a bit.” Johnny said before walking outside.
“ So he’s the missing son Johnny Lancer! I bet a man such as Murdoch was none to pleased to learn his youngest son became the infamous gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Sheriff Anderson asked.
“ My brother is a good person sheriff. You would know that if you knew him.” Scott responded.
“ Oh I know all about Johnny Madrid, and his fight for justice for the peon peasants in Mexico. How he tried to lead a revolt against the rich Dons there and the corrupt Rurales. Your brother is a one of a kind in his trade. Most gunfighters don’t give a damn about anyone or anything but themselves, but not him. I don’t know what made him take up a gun, except what them damn dime store novels say, but I know a lot of people are alive today because of him.”
“ Dime store novels only care about making money. They care nothing about writing the truth.” Beth said.
“ How far to Barstow?” Ray asked.
“ We should arrive mid-afternoon tomorrow.” James said.
“ I can’t believe Joe quite after all we been thru together.” he said.
“ Kid was a whiner.” James responded.
“ Still he could hold his own.” Ray said.
“ I’m not saying he couldn’t. I’m saying he was a whiner all the time. Tell the damn kid to do something and he would complain about it almost every time. He was getting on my nerves, giving me a headache, and I don’t want to talk about him anymore.” James said firmly.
“ Is that how you feel about me?” Ray asked.
“ No. You have enough sense to do as you’re told, when you’re told. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to get some sleep.” James responded.
“ Murdoch, any word from the boys?” Sam asked.
“ I just got a wire from Johnny. They’re in Barstow.” Murdoch responded.
“ That’s good. I imagine you’re a little antsy to have both boys back home?” Sam asked.
“ Yes I am, but not as much as Teresa and Maria. Those two are planning a feast that would feed the whole town.” Murdoch responded.
“ Something I don;t understand though. Why are they riding back when taking the stage would be so much faster?” Sam asked.
“ I wondered that myself Sam. I don’t think I am being told the whole story. I think there is something, or someone preventing the boys from doing just that.” Murdoch responded.
“ Knowing how that boy is prone to trouble, I hope you’re wrong.” Sam said.
“ So do I.” Murdoch said.” Have a cold beer with me before I head back?”
“ I’d like too, but I have to go out to the Simpsons. It seems their son Jacob fell out of the barn loft and broke his arm.” Sam said before walking away.
Murdoch decided to head home. He couldn’t help but think was someone or something preventing his boys from taking the stage home? If so, would it come to Lancer, or would his boys face whatever it was between Barstow and home?
Beth stood in front of the mirror in her room staring at herself as she thought back to Phoenix, and what happened, and almost happened between her and Johnny. Could she be falling in love with him. Is that why they fought so much? Why she found it necessary to be harsh to him most of the time. He was nothing like the men she was used to being around back in Boston. He had no bloodlines. Could that be why she was finding herself attracted to him, because he’s not like the fine upstanding people she has been around her whole life? Did the fact that he was a gunfighter excite her so much, that she wanted him to be hers, and hers alone?
“ You always get what you want Elizabeth Brooks, regardless of the cost, but this time getting what you want will be the challenge of all challenges. Before we part ways, I will have you Johnny Madrid. I know now all I have to do to seduce you is wear the right dress, and make the right advances that you won’t be able to refuse.” she said to her image in the mirror.
“ Somethings been on your mind since Phoenix little brother, and I don’t mean those men. Care to share?” Scott asked.
Johnny looked at his brother. “ I think you know what it is Scott.”
“ I’m pretty sure I do. Why don;t you tell me how you really feel about her.” Scott suggested.
“ She drives me crazy. One minute we’re getting along, and the next she’s tearing me apart with that mouth of hers.” Johnny responded. “ I’ve never met a woman like her, and………..I don’t know what to do about it.”
“ Sounds to me like you have a conundrum.” Scott said.
“If that’s one of your fancy Harvard words for problem, yeah I do.” Johnny said. “ In phoenix, before you showed up, she was all over me. I came real close to accepting what she was offering, and that’s what has me so damn confused.”
“ Care to explain a little better so I can help you?” Scott asked.
“ She’s a fine Boston woman. A lady. At least I thought she was until she closed my room door and advanced on me in a way a lady doesn’t do. At least not ones who don’t work in a saloon. Scott, she wanted me to take her to bed. That’s not something a fine, elegant woman does is it?” Johnny responded.
“What has she told you about her family back in Boston?” Scott asked.
“ Nothing really. Just that her father is a wealthy business man, her mother hates the winters, so they go to South Carolina in the winter. She never said what it is he does.” Johnny explained.
“ I’ve been thinking, and I know pretty much all the wealthy business people in Boston thru grandfather. I have never heard of anyone named Brooks though.” Scott said.
“ You think maybe she’s a fake? That she’s only pretending to be a snobbish, wealthy, spoiled brat?” he asked.
“ It’s a possibility. Maybe she’s a common girl from Boston, that Peter met and fell in love with, but his family doesn’t approve of.” Scott said.
“ But she said he’s abusive. Why would she lie about that?” he asked.
“ The Peter I knew in college was a ruffian. Abusive toward women, I can’t really say except what I did see once. He doesn’t like to be told no by anyone, so I expect that would include women too.” Scott said. “ How about I ask her at dinner? ” he suggested.
“ Being a fellow Bostonian, that just might work.” Johnny said.
“ I suggest we not keep the lady waiting then.” Scott said as they headed out the door.
“ Perfect timing.” Beth said. “ Shall we?”
“ Tell me Beth, do you happen to know a William Gaston back in Boston?” Scott asked.
Beth put her fork down, and picked up her glass of wine. “No, I’m afraid the name doesn’t ring a bell. Is he a business partner with your grandfather?”
“ No, he happens to be the mayor of Boston.” Scott responded.
“ I have no interest in politics I’m afraid, so I wouldn’t know who he is.” Beth responded.
“ Johnny said you went to Harvard. Can I ask what you majored in?” he asked as he glanced at his brother.
“ I didn’t take any special classes.” she said as she looked at Johnny.
“ So you didn’t major in anything specific then?” Scott asked.
“ No, my father sent me to Harvard because it was close to our home.” Beth responded.
“ So you then you must have lived on Boston Square. That’s were all the wealthy live.” Scott stated.
“ Yes, Boston Square.” she said.
Scott knew he had her in a flat out lie, but would wait until he was alone with his brother to tell him Boston Square was the name of a tavern he went to once.
“ How about we talk about something that can include Johnny?” Beth suggested. “ he’s been sitting there all evening and hardly said anything.”
“ I’m fine. Boston don’t talk about where he attended school much.” Johnny said.
“ Can I get any of you some desert?” the waitress asked.
“ Oh heavens no.” Beth said.
“ I’ll have a piece of apple pie.” Johnny said.
“ None for me. In fact, I think I will retire to our room and read a little before I go to bed. Beth, it’s been a pleasure.” Scott said as he dabbed his mouth, and stood up. “ I’ll see you in the morning.”
“ Good night Scott.” Beth said as he walked away. “ I get the feeling he was testing me with all those questions. Did you put him up to that?”
“ No.” Johnny said as the waitress brought him his pie.
“ I don’t know how you can do it. You are so skinny, yet you ate more than me and Scott combined.” she said with a smile.
“ Comes from going days without food as I was growing up.” Johnny said as he started to feel uneasy with Scott gone.
Scott stood on the stairs for a few minutes watching his brother and Beth talking. He wanted to see if the unladylike demeanor came out toward his brother again. He didn’t have to wait long to see his brother start to feel uncomfortable. “ Careful brother.”
“ Who’s there?” Murdoch asked.
“ It’s me.” Teresa said as she walked over, and squatted down next to the chair he was sitting in.
“ Suppose it would do no good to tell you to go to bed?” he asked.
“ I’ll fix the fire.” she said. “ You’re thinking about your sons out there, aren’t you?”
“ They’re strangers to me.” Murdoch said.
“ It will take a little time.” Teresa said as she picked up a blanket and brought it over to cover him up. “ But once they get to know you, really know you.”
“ Stop hating me.” Murdoch cut in.
“ Oh they don’t hate you. They want to love you.” she said.
“ I outta get myself a dog. They don’t answer back.”Murdoch said as Teresa lay her head down on his left leg. “ Miss your daddy don’t you?” he asked as he stroked her hair.
Teresa shook her head. “ But I’ve got you.”
“ Yes you have. You surely have.” Murdoch responded.
“ Did you ever think you would have both sons home again?” she asked.
“ To tell the truth, I had almost given up hope of ever finding Johnny, and didn’t know if Scott would come home or not.” he said.
“ I like having two big brothers now. Especially Johnny.” Teresa said.
“ Oh, why Johnny?” he asked.
“ Because ever since the morning after he signed the contract, he has given me a rose every morning.” she explained. “ Did you know that?”
“ Why no I didn’t. He does seem to enjoy being around you. I can’t imagine his childhood. Growing up with no friends. Hated because of his blue eyes.” Murdoch responded. “ I feel like I will never really know my son. Scott knows more bout him than I ever will.”
“ Give it time, Johnny will talk to you.” she said as she looked up at him.
“ There are so many questions I want to ask him about his mother.” he said.
“ Then why don’t the two of you go camping or something? Take a trip together, and ask him?” she suggested.
“ I’ve thought about doing that ever since he’s come home. When I explained to him in not so much detail about how me and his mother met, he said that wasn’t how he heard it. That makes me wonder just what all did Maria tell him?” he said.
“ You will never know the answer to that question if you don’t ask him.” she said.
“ You know, there is some man out there who is going to be very lucky to marry you.” Murdoch said.
“ If there is, I want him to be like Scott or Johnny. Kind, caring, and loving.” Teresa responded as she stood up. “ Don’t stay up too late.” she added before heading to her room.
Murdoch couldn’t help but wonder if his youngest would ever be lucky enough to find a woman to love, and be his wife. Someone to give him children. He knew with the life his youngest has had, he would make a good father. That he knew without a doubt. He just hoped his son would find that someone, someday to prove him right.
“ Thank you for a wonderful evening Johnny.” Beth said.
“ I imagine eating and staying in a fancy place like this has brought back some memories of back home.?” Johnny asked as he leaned against the wall.
“ Would it make me a bad person if I said it did?” Beth asked as she got her room key out.
“ No. I remember my first meal at Lancer, I watched Scott, and what he did. I had no idea what all those different forks were for.” Johnny said with a smile. “ I was used to using just one fork, if I was lucky enough to have one to use.”
“ And if you didn’t have one, you used your fingers?” she asked.
“ Or my knife.” he responded as he took the key from her and unlocked her door.
“ Would you mind checking my room for me?” she asked.
Johnny looked at her a few seconds. His gut was telling him to not go in her room, but he couldn’t refuse her request. Opening her door, he stepped inside, and glanced around before walking over to turn up the lamp by the bed. “ everything looks okay.” he said as he opened a door, and checked the spare bedroom.
“ Thank you.” she said as she walked over and opened the window to let in the night breeze.
“ Well, I’ll see you in the morning.” Johnny said as he started toward the door.
“ Johnny wait!” Beth said as she walked over to him. “ I have a bottle of brandy, if you would like a drink before you leave?”
“ You’re no proper lady from Boston.” he said.
“ What gave me away?” Beth asked
Johnny walked her backwards to the bed and shoved her down on it.” Your actions in Phoenix, and here now. I’m not what you want. I told you that.” Johnny said firmly.
“ You’re exactly the type of man I need, and want Johnny.” Beth said as she stood up. “ I don’t want a gentleman. I like men who are bad, and that’s what you are. Just the thought of making love with you excites me Johnny.”
Johnny shoved her back down on the bed. “ You must be crazy if you think I’m going to make love to you.” he said coldly before walking out.
Scott sat eating breakfast when he seen his brother come downstairs finally to join him. “How’d it go last night after I left? ” he asked as Johnny sat down.
“ We talked, I escorted her to her room, and she tried to seduce me again.” Johnny responded.
“ Glad you refused temptation.” Scott said.
“ She’s a liar. She may be from Boston, that I don’t know, but being wealthy, no. After talking to her last night, I’m thinking she’s like you said, an innocent girl who fell in love with a wealthy son, and his family don’t want them together. I told her I’m not what she wants, and she said I was exactly what she wanted. A bad boy. That she likes men who are bad.” Johnny explained.
“ I knew a girl once who was like that. It doesn’t make her a liar about who she is though.” Scott said.
“ Trust me, she is. What did you learn last night asking her those questions?”
“ That you are right. When she said she lived close to the college, and I said she lived on Boston Square. I knew that she was lying. Boston Square is a tavern I went to a few times with my sorority brothers. It’s the only one in town with that name, and there is no street in Boston with that name.” Scott responded.
“ Okay brother. Since you’re the older, wiser, smarter brother, how do we handle this?” Johnny asked.
“ First off brother, just because I went to college doesn’t make me smarter than you. Not by a long shot. There is no school anywhere that can teach what you know Johnny.” Scott said with pride.
Johnny ducked his head. “ So what do we do?”
“ Lets leave it alone,and talk to Murdoch about it when we get home. That is if she is still with us.” Scott suggested.
“ She will be. She wants me to take her to San Francisco.” Johnny said.
“ Right. Well I’m quite sure our illustrious father won’t let that happen.” Scott said. “ So I imagine she was pretty upset at you when you refused her advances again?”
“ That’s putting it mildly.” Johnny said as Beth walked over and joined them.
“ Good morning Scott.” she said as she gave Johnny a hard look.
“ Beth. I seen the sheriff earlier. He would like the three of us to stay in the hotel today.” Scott said.
“ So are we prisoners in this establishment until you kill those men?” Beth asked coldly.
Johnny stood up, and tossed his napkin on the table. “ Go to hell Beth…. I’ll see you later Scott.”
Scott thought of saying something,but decided not to. He decided he would let their father deal with this obnoxious woman who seems obsessed with his brother.
Johnny started to cross the street when a bullet tore thru his upper left arm, spinning him around. Dropping to the ground as he drew his colt, he looked down the street and seen two of the three robbers dismounting.
“ James Thomas, and Joe Hughes, you’re both under arrest. Drop your guns now.” Sheriff Anderson yelled. “ Give it up. There are two rifles pointed at you right now from the rooftops. You won’t get away.”
“ We’re here to kill Madrid, and any man who tries to stop us.” James responded.
Scott hurried out of the hotel, and seen his brother in the middle of the street, blood running down his left arm, dripping off his fingers.
“ I’m not going to allow no gunfight to happen in my town. Put down your guns now. You’re under arrest for robbery, and murder.” the sheriff ordered.
“ I ain’t swinging from no rope!” Joe said as he drew his gun and shot at Johnny, missing him by inches as a bullet slammed into his chest, knocking him backwards.
James looked at his friend laying in the street dead. Anger taking over.
“ You want to join him?” the sheriff asked.
“ Johnny Madrid, I’m calling you out. You gonna let a tin star fight your battles for you? Are you a coward now you half-breed sonofabitch?” James yelled as he holstered his pistol, and walked out into the street
Johnny stood up and ignored the burning pain in his upper left arm. He seen his brother come outside, and figured Beth was watching from either a window, or the entrance. Letting Madrid take over fully, he faced the man standing a hundred feet away. “ Leave it sheriff.” he said.
“ Not in my town Madrid. I don;t want no gun fighting.” Sheriff Anderson ordered. “ Walk away.”
Johnny ignored him. “ You’re a big man when shooting an unarmed old man and me. Except I ain’t unarmed this time.”
“ I don’t plan on letting you live this time Madrid.” James said. “ Where’s the woman?”
“ Don’t worry about her.” Johnny said as he watched James closely.
“ She nurse you back did she? I bet you thanked her real good for it when strong enough.” James said.
Beth watched in fascination as Johnny, though wounded, faced the man who intended on killing them. Her admiration, and wanting for Madrid growing more and more. Her need to make love with him growing that much stronger. With her very being, she vowed she would have him, and if she couldn’t, then no other woman ever would.
“ I see you lost the kid who rode with you. The law will catch up to him in time. That wife of yours who works at the Tucson station, the one telling you which runs had money, well she’s going to go to prison also.” Johnny said.
“ You sonofabitch!” James yelled as he went for his gun, but never cleared leather as Johnny’s bullet found it’s mark between his eyes.
Sheriff Anderson walked over to James and seen the small hole dead center between the eyes. Turning, he walked over to Johnny. “ I’d let doc take a look at that wound.” he said.
Scott came over to his brother. “ It’s over Johnny. Lets get your arm tended to so we can go home brother.”
Joe picked up the newspaper and read the headline. Shootout in Barstow, reading he learned his friends James Thomas, and Joe Hughes were gunned down by the sheriff and Johnny Madrid in a brazen mid-day gunfight. His name being mentioned as the third man wanted for robbing countless stagecoaches and the murder of at least two Butterfield stage-line employees. Knowing his time would be limited now, Joe went to his horse, mounted up, and headed to Mexico, not knowing he would never make it across the border before a posse caught up to him.
Peter stepped off the stage at Pacheco Pass stage station and looked around at the rolling hills covered in waist high golden grass. He’d been able to learn a lot about Johnny Madrid since Tucson. The one thing he did learn, and found most valuable was Madrid wasn’t his real name. It would seem Lancer was his real name, and he lived on the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley.
“ Hey kid. Weren’t you asking about Johnny Madrid back in Fresno?” another passenger asked.
“ Yes I was.” Peter responded as he walked over to the man.
“ Then this might interest you.” the man said as he handed Peter a newspaper. “ If your woman is with him, I’d forget about getting her back.” the man said before walking away.
Peter read the article, his anger growing. “ Excuse me, how far to the next stop?” he asked the stage driver.
“ San Jose, ten minute break to pick up and drop off mail, and then on to San Francisco.” the driver said. “ Better get inside and grab some food. We leave in forty five minutes.”
“ Thank you.” Peter said as he followed the man inside the station. “ This San Jose, do they sell horses there?”
“ I reckon you can find some at the livery for sale.” the driver said.
Stopping their horses on the ridge, Johnny smiled as he looked down at Lancer. “ Never thought I would ever see it again.” he said.
“ It does get to you doesn’t it?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah.” Johnny said as Beth rode up.
“ So this is Lancer?” Beth asked.
“ From here all the way to those mountains in the distance. One hundred thousand acres.” Scott told her.
“ Is that the house you live in down there?” she asked.
“ Lets go home.” Johnny said before heading down the hill.
“ Teresa! They’re home.” Murdoch said as a huge relief washed over him as he watched his youngest son ride down the hill, and under the Lancer arch.
Teresa came outside and smiled as she watched Johnny gallop toward her. “ I wonder who the other person is with them?” she said.
“ I don’t know. It looks like a woman.” Murdoch responded as Johnny rode into the yard and dismounted.
Teresa squealed with joy as she ran to Johnny and wrapped her arms around him. “ Oh Johnny, I missed you so much.”
Johnny wrapped his arms around Teresa and hugged her tightly. “ You have no idea how much I’ve missed you.”
Beth rode up with Scott, and tried to control her anger as she watched this girl in the arms of her man.
“ Scott, welcome home.” Teresa said as she went and gave him a hug.
“ It’s good to be home again.” Scott said. “ I hope you have something good for supper because we have been eating a bit on the poor side lately.”
“ Pot roast, potatoes, and biscuits. I even made an apple pie for desert.” Teresa said.
Johnny walked over to his father.” Murdoch.” he said as he extended his hand to shake.
Murdoch couldn’t stop his emotions. Taking his youngest’ hand, he pulled him into a hug. “ I never thought I would see you alive again,” he said with a quiver to his voice.
“ Feelings mutual.” Johnny said.
“ Who’s your friend?” Teresa asked.
“ Murdoch, Teresa, this is Beth Brooks.” Scott said. “ She was on the stage with Johnny.”
“ Teresa, why don’t you take the young lady inside. I’m sure she would like to freshen up, and perhaps rest before supper.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I’ll show you to your room and where you can freshen up.” Teresa said. “ I believe I have a dress or two that might fit you.”
“ Lets go inside.” Murdoch said.
“ You have a beautiful home Mister Lancer.” Beth said. “ I can’t believe it’s so big, and so many bedrooms. My goodness, I bet you can hardly wait until the boys fill them with grandchildren?”
“ Thank you. It is a big house, and I do wish for grandchildren from my boys some day in the future, but right now, I’m just glad they are both home safe and sound.” Murdoch responded.
“ Especially you Johnny.” Teresa said. “ Scott isn’t much of a sweet eater, and I love baking sweets for you.”
“ Food is always the way to a mans heart.” Scott said jokingly. “ Perhaps some day you will learn how to prepare a good beef burgundy, or clam chowder so I don;t feel so unloved?”
“ Oh Scott, you know I love you too. It’s just that, Johnny does little things for me that I missed while he was gone.” Teresa said.
“ Miss Brooks, Scott tells me you are from Boston.” Murdoch said. “ What brings you to California?”
“ I don’t know really. I guess I had read so much about the west, I wanted to see it.” Beth responded. “ I never imagined I would be in a stage hold-up though. It really is a wild place out here. I can’t believe your lack of law.”
“ It’s not so much the lack of law as it is the people who don’t respect it.” Murdoch responded.
“ You mean gunfighters, and ruffian like that?’ Beth asked.
Johnny threw his napkin on his plate and stood up. “ Excuse me.” he said before walking out.
“ Miss Brooks, since you are a guest in our home, might I suggest you keep your rude comments about gunfighters to yourself.” Scott suggested firmly.
“ I merely asked your father an honest question. It’s not my fault if Johnny takes offense to it.” Beth responded.
“ You have done nothing but dig your spurs into my brother about his past ever since I met you. I want it to stop.” Scott ordered as he stood up. “ Teresa, thank you for a wonderful dinner.” he said before leaving the table to go find his brother.
“ Miss Brooks, my son did what he had to do to stay alive in Mexico. I’m proud of him for the man he has become.” Murdoch said.
“ Have you seen him kill a man Mister Lancer, because I have seen Johnny gun down six men since the robbery.” Beth responded.
“ Where are you going?” Teresa asked.
“ I don’t really know yet. I thought about San Francisco. I hear it’s a lovely city to live in.” she said.
“ Me and Murdoch are going to San Francisco in a couple weeks. Maybe you could go with us?” Teresa asked.
“ I wouldn’t want to be a bother. Besides, I asked Johnny to take me there.” she said.
“ I’m afraid there won’t be time for Johnny or Scott to do that. Johnny needs to fix the roof of the house on the east side, remove a downed tree at the South Mesa line shack, and we have a cattle drive to get ready for.” Murdoch said.
“ It would be no bother. Besides it will be nice having another female in the house.” Teresa said.
Johnny walked into the barn, and was greeted with a whinny from Barranca. “ Hey boy. You miss me?” he asked as he stepped into the stall, and Barranca pressed his head into Johnny’s chest.
“ I never thought I would see you again amigo.” he said as he rubbed the stallions face. He couldn’t believe the nerve of Beth to say what she did in his own home.
“ He glad to see you?” Scott asked as he walked over to them.
“ Yeah, just as much as I am to see him.” Johnny said.
“ You shouldn’t let what Beth said upset you.” Scott suggested.
“ The sooner she is gone from here, the better off I will be Scott. I’ve had all I’m going to take from her..” Johnny said as he grabbed a brush and started grooming Barranca.
“ I figured we could talk to Murdoch about her tonight after she goes to bed.” Scott suggested.
“ You think that’s going to stop her from digging her spurs in me, think again brother.” Johnny responded.
“ That’s exactly what I said to her after you left the table. To stop digging her spurs into you. Besides it’s worth a shot.” Scott said.
“ From what you two are telling me, I would have to agree Scott.” Murdoch said. “ I’ll try and keep you out away from the house son.”
“ I sent a wire to grandfather asking him if he knew anything about the brooks family when we were in Phoenix.” Scott said.
“ I almost forgot son. There’s a letter for you from Harlan on my desk.” Murdoch said. “ It came the other day.”
Scott walked over to the desk, picked up the envelope, and opened it.
I did some inquiring about the young lady you asked about, and have to say I have never heard of the Brooks family of Boston. I have however, learned that there is an Elizabeth Brooks missing from the insane asylum. From what I could learn, she is a very troubled, troubled young lady. She was involved with a young man named Peter Chancellor until a few months ago she disappeared, and the law has been unable to locate her. She does not come from a wealthy family, but a poor one on the south side of Boston I’m afraid. The Chancellor family express their concern for the girl’s well-being. Their son it would seem was involved with this young lad, and had asked her to marry him. Much to the disliking of his family. They forbid them marrying, and the next day, she disappeared. They said their son left Boston in search of her, and would not return without her. I trust Murdoch will handle this matter in a safe, and timely manner. I look forward to seeing you again next spring my boy when I go to San Francisco.
“ It would seem she is a patient at the asylum in Boston.” Scott said as he walked over and handed the letter to his father to read.
“ The what?” Johnny asked.
“ Asylum. It’s where unstable people are sent so doctors can help them.” Scott explained. “ Some spend their whole life in one because they’re not safe to live in society.”
“ What the hell do we do Murdoch?” Johnny asked as he walked over and poured a shot of tequila.
“ First thing is I need you to calm down son.” Murdoch said.
“ Calm down. You read what Harlan said, and heard what we told you.” Johnny responded.
“ Yes, but getting upset won’t solve anything. I’ll ride into Stockton and talk to Gabe about her. I’ll see if he wants to lock her up until someone can come from Boston and get her.” Murdoch said. “ Now what about this Peter Chancellor, any chance of him showing up here?”
“ Good question. She told me he threatened her, and cheated on her with her supposedly best friend, but I’m thinking it was her who did the cheating.
“ Alright, I’ll go to Stockton right after breakfast. Johnny, I want you to go to the south mesa line shack. The roof needs repaired and a tree cut away that came down.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Wait a minute Murdoch, I’m not leaving Teresa here alone all day with her. I seen the looks she was giving Teresa at supper.” Johnny said.
“ Maria will be here, and I’ll talk to Teresa in the morning before the young lady wakes up.” Murdoch responded.
“ If I were you brother, I would sleep with your bedroom door locked.” Scott suggested.
Johnny came down the back stairs and found Scott, Teresa, Beth, and Maria in the kitchen. Walking over, he gave Maria a hug and kiss on the cheek.
“ Siéntate para que pueda alimentarte como es debido. Nunca comes bien cuando te vas.” Maria ordered with a playful swat. ( Go sit down so I can feed you proper. You never eat good when you are gone.)
“ Eso es porque nadie puede cocinar tan bien como tu mamacita.” Johnny said. ( That’s because nobody can cook as good as you mamacita.)
“ Ese, ella te observa de cerca. Ella no es una buena persona.” Maria said as she glanced at Beth watching them talk. ( That one, she watches you closely. She is not a good person.)
“ No, no lo está, pero se irá de aquí pronto.” Johnny said before going to the table and sitting down next to Teresa. ( No she’s not, but she will be leaving here soon.)
“ You look like you slept good brother.” Scott said.
“ I slept okay once I fell asleep.” Johnny said. “ Where’s Murdoch?” he asked so Beth wouldn’t suspect they knew anything.
“ He had to go to Stockton and meet with someone. H e left early this morning.” Scott responded before Teresa could say anything.
“ Good morning Teresa.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ Good morning. Do you want me to fix you some food to take with you?” Teresa asked.
“ No, I get hungry I’ll just eat some beef jerky.” Johnny responded.
“ I know you John Lancer. You will work all day and not stop to eat. Besides, beef jerky is not enough food for the hard work you will be doing cutting up a tree. I m fixing you some lunch to take with you, and I won’t take no for an answer.” Teresa responded as Maria set a platter full of eggs, bacon, and potatoes on the table.
An hour later Johnny walked out of the house with Scott. “ I wonder who that is?” Scott asked as they noticed a rider approaching.
“ I’d say that would be Peter Chancellor, given the clothes.” Johnny said as Beth and Teresa came outside.
“ Peter, what are you doing here?’ Beth asked.
Peter dismounted and walked over to her. “ I’m here to take you back to Boston with me so we can get married my love.”
“ I’m not marrying you Peter. I told you that.” Beth said.
“ Teresa, go back in the house, and take Beth with you.” Johnny ordered.
“ Come on Beth.” Teresa said as she turned to leave.
“ Beth isn’t going anywhere except with me.” Peter ordered as he grabbed her arm.
“ Let go of her arm now! Unless you want it broke.” Johnny ordered.
“ You must be Johnny Madrid? I know all about you, and how you forced my Beth to be with you.” Peter said.
“ Come on Beth. Johnny and Scott will handle this.” Teresa said.
Beth glared at Peter. “ He never forced me to go with him Peter. If it wasn’t for Johnny, I would have died in the desert. Go home. I’m not marrying you, ever.” Beth said before going inside with Teresa.
“ I vowed I would kill you Madrid for taking my girl.” Peter said.
“ Move away Scott.” Johnny ordered. “ Boy, I hope you know how to use that gun you’re wearing.”
“ He’s not worth it Johnny.” Scott said. “ Peter, do you remember me from College?” he asked.
“ I know nobody named Lancer from College.” Peter responded.
“ I went by Garrett. My grandfather owns Garrett Enterprises.” Scott explained.
“ Scott Garrett, I remember you now. He your kin?” Peter asked.
“ He’s my brother, and I’m not going to let him kill you. Go home Peter. Beth doesn’t want to marry you.” Scott responded.
“ Yes she does. She’s just confused is all.” Peter said.
“ Was she confused when you twisted her arm so bad she couldn’t use it for a week? Or how about when you slept with her best friend? Was she confused then boy?” Johnny demanded.
“ She tell you that?” he asked. “ I have never hurt Beth. It was her who slept with my best friend. Not the other way around. We got in an argument about it. She hit me, and I grabbed her arm to stop her from striking me again.”
“ Are you willing to die for a woman like her? She’s tried to get me to go to bed with her several times. Do you really want a woman like that as your wife?” Johnny said.
Peter got angry hearing what Johnny said, and went to draw his gun, only to have his right hand shot before he could even touch the pistol.
Johnny kept his gun aimed at Peter as he walked over and removed the gun from the holster.
“ Walt, take this jackass to town and have Sam tend to his hand. Then see to it he gets on the stage east.” Scott ordered as Beth and Teresa came out of the house.
Johnny walked up to Beth. “ I’m tired of killing people because of you lady.” he said before turning, walking over to Barranca, swinging up in the saddle, and leaving.
Beth found out from a hand where the line shack was Johnny went to. After talking him into saddling a horse for her, she took off at a gallop and found Johnny an hour later, shirtless, cutting up a tree.
“ What the hell are you doing here?” Johnny demanded.
“ You left before I could thank you for making Peter leave, and for not killing him.” Beth said as she dismounted and tied the horse to the rail.
“ Go back to the house Beth. I have work to do, and I’m in no mood for you today.” Johnny ordered as he walked past her, and went into the line shack, slamming the door behind him.
“ I’m not leaving here until I have you Johnny.” Beth said as she stepped up onto the porch,opened the door, and stepped inside.
“ I said leave.” Johnny said.
Beth walked over to him. She could feel herself getting excited at seeing the muscles glisten with sweat on his chest. How his leather pants with the silver conchos fit his fit his slender hips low. The top just below his belly button. Licking her lips as she reached out and put her hands on his chest, working her fingers in the hair as she slowly ran her hands over his now hard nipples. “ Please Johnny.” she said barely above a whisper.
Johnny stood there glaring at Beth , his anger growing as she stepped closer to him, and started touching his chest. Grabbing her by the arms, he spun her around and shoved her to the cot as he started to remove his pants. “ You said you like bad boys, and have wanted me. Well I’m going to give you a bad boy.” Johnny said as he removed his pants.
Beth started removing her clothes as fast as she could. Finally she would have what she wanted for so long. Barely getting her pants off before she found herself pinned to the cot as Johnny claimed her body.
“ Oh my…….yes Johnny, that’s what I want. I knew I would have you. I knew it.” Beth panted as she clung to him as he pounded her body with his, claiming her. “ I knew you couldn’t refuse me. Not this time.” she said as their mouths came together.
Murdoch rode into the Lancer yard early afternoon, and was met by Teresa. She quickly explained what happened, and that Beth had rode out a couple hours ago to the line shack where Johnny was working.
“ Where’s Scott?” he asked as he remounted Chub.
“ He’s out with the work crew repairing the bridge.” she said. “ Are you going to Johnny?”
“ Yes I am. When Scott comes in, tell him where I’m at if we don’t come back by supper time.” Murdoch said before riding out.
Beth lay on Johnny’s right shoulder, as she played with the hair on his chest. “ You have any regrets about this?” she asked
Johnny rolled onto his side to face her. “ Would it matter if I did?” he asked.
“ No, not really.” she said as she pushed him back onto his back, and straddled him. “ Now it’s my turn to be aggressive to you.” she said before her mouth came down, and she started biting him gently on the neck, moving down to his chest as she felt him respond to her warmth.
Johnny sat up and wrapped his arms around the small of her back, feeling his body start to respond like it never had before every time she bit his chest.
“ I’ve never known a man who could make love this many times in a day.” Beth said.
“ You wanted bad. I’m giving you bad.” Johnny responded.
Murdoch rode up to the line shack and could see where his son had been cutting up the tree. Dismounting, he tied his horse next to Beth’s and stepped up onto the porch. Opening the door, he found his son sitting on the cot putting his boots on. Beth was standing at the end of the cot, her shirt buttoned halfway.
“ I will wait for the two of you to finish getting dressed. We will be riding back to the house, and having a discussion about what happened here today.” Murdoch said with anger, before turning and walking back out onto the porch.
Johnny glanced at Beth. “ Yes sir.” he said as he stood up, and grabbed his shirt. “ I’ll go saddle Barranca.” he said as he walked past his father.
“ He’s a grown man Mister Lancer.” Beth said. “ He shouldn’t have to answer for his actions here today. We both wanted this to happen. It just took him longer to realize it is all.” Beth said as she walked out onto the porch.
“I will not permit you to hurt my son. Is that understood?” Murdoch demanded.
“ The hurt I just gave him he seemed to not mind. In fact, I think he rather enjoyed what I did to him.” Beth responded. “ In fact, I could probably make you feels just as good as I did Johnny.”
“ Young lady, get on your horse right now.” Murdoch ordered as Johnny rode over to them.
“ I don’t want to hear another word son.” Murdoch ordered as he mounted Chub, and started for home.
“ Your father always such a hard ass?” Beth asked.
“ Do yourself a favor and shut up Beth.” Johnny ordered before kicking Barranca into a gallop to get away from her.
Scott, and Teresa walked out of the house when Johnny galloped into the yard and dismounted. He could tell his brother couldn’t refuse Beth’s advances this time. “ Johnny, I’m sorry. I know she took advantage of the situation, and played you.” he said.
“ Murdoch walked in when we were getting dressed Scott. He knows what happened.” Johnny said. “ Damn her.”
“ Hey, take it easy. Just keep your cool about this and listen to what Murdoch has to say. Don’t go getting angry.” Scott suggested as Murdoch and Beth rode up, and dismounted.
“Teresa, Scott, leave us.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Scott stays. He’s as much a part of this as I am Murdoch.” Johnny said.
“ I don’t believe your brother was at the line shack just now.” Murdoch said before walking past Johnny, and into the house.
Johnny, Scott, and Beth walked into the house, while Teresa went to her rose garden.
Johnny went over to the sideboard and poured a stiff shot of tequila.
“ As you know, I went to Stockton this morning and had a talk with Gabe. There is nothing he can do about Miss Brooks. He did however tell me I can escort her to the asylum in San Francisco, where they will hold her until someone from Boston comes to get her.”
“ Asylum, what the hell are you talking about? I’m not going to no asylum, and you cannot make me.” Beth blurted out.
“ Young lady, I will not permit that kind of language used in this house. You will keep a civil tongue in your unprepossessing mouth. I know all about how you have made unwelcome advances toward Johnny. I’m just sorry he couldn’t restrain himself any longer. The stage to Sacramento leaves at noon tomorrow from Morro Coyo. We will be on it to Sacramento, where we will catch the train to San Francisco. The asylum there is aware you are coming, and will meet us at the train station.”
“ I won’t go, and you have no right to make me.” Beth said.
“ Given that you are not twenty one, and that you are a fugitive from Boston, that gives me every right. Now, you have two choices young lady. First, you can stay the night here in the house, in your room, or I can lock you up in the jail we have here until morning. The choice is yours.” Murdoch explained.
Beth walked over to him.
“ Watch her Murdoch.” Johnny said as Beth brought her hand up to slap his father.
“ Scott, would you escort Beth to the cell? I think she needs some time alone to think about her actions.” Murdoch asked.
“ With pleasure sir.” Scott said as he grabbed her arm and escorted her out of the house.
Johnny stood there wondering what his father had in store for him now that Beth was gone.
Murdoch walked over and sat down at his desk. “ I’m a little disappointed in you John.” Murdoch said. “ But…… I can understand. A man can only refuse the temptations from a beautiful woman for so long. Your mother was very seductive to me, and I couldn’t refuse her after a while.” Murdoch said.
“ I was so angry, and when she showed up, I got angrier. I told her to leave before I went inside the shack, but she came in. Murdoch, she drives me crazy. I have never had a woman do that to me before. Not like that.” he said as he walked over to the desk.
“ So, I take it you have had a woman drive you crazy before?’ Murdoch asked.
“ Yes she does. I love her, but……….” Johnny responded.
“ Can I ask who this woman you speak of is son?” he asked.
“ I would rather not say. At least not right now.” Johnny said as Scott walked back in the house.
“ I posted a guard and told him under no circumstances is she to be let out.” Scott said.
“ Good. Thank you son.” Murdoch said.
“ Is everything alright?” Scott asked.
“ All things considered……….”
“ Me and your brother were talking about his mother, and how seductive she was to me.” Murdoch said. “ And that though I don’t condone his actions…….I do understand.”
Scott and Johnny looked at each other. Both a little shocked at what they heard their father just say.
“ Murdoch, I don’t think you should take her to San Francisco alone. I think one of us, or a hand should go with you.” Johnny suggested.
“ I may be getting old son, but I do believe I can escort one young lady to San Francisco.” Murdoch responded.
“ It’s just that I know how she can be. So does Scott. You can’t trust her for a second. She’s a……..what did you call it Scott?” Johnny explained.
“ Jekyll and Hyde.” Scott said.
“ I appreciate your concern son, but I’ll be alright.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and walked around his desk to face his youngest. “ How about me and you go camping next month before it gets too cold to sleep on the ground?”
“ You and me, camping? You sure you can handle sleeping on the old hard ground?” Johnny asked with a smile.
“ Yes, I think I can handle it. I think the two of us should get away and spend some quality time together.” he said.
“ Wait, we got a drive coming up to Fort Bowie.” Johnny said.
“ The hands have almost all the steers rounded up, and I think your brother can handle taking them.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I don’t see a problem with it. After what you’ve been thru brother, you deserve a little time off.” Scott said as Teresa walked into the room.
“ But what about Teresa. If Scott takes the herd, and we go camping, who will be here with her?” Johnny asked.
“ I’ll be fine Johnny. You and Murdoch go and have fun.” Teresa said.
“ Why don’t she come with us?” he suggested.
“ Not that I don’t want her to go, but son, I thought me and you could spend some time together?” Murdoch asked.
“ Johnny, you two go, and while you’re gone, I will get Pedro to help me deep clean the house. The rugs and drapes need a good cleaning, as does this room on dusting.” Teresa said.
“ Okay then.” Johnny said. “ I think I’ll go soak in a hot bath before supper.” he said before walking away. Disappointed that Teresa couldn’t go wit them.
“ I think you shocked him with how you handled the situation sir.” Scott said after his brother walked away.
“ I seen no reason to get angry with your brother over something that was not entirely his fault, even though he took part in it. How’s the work coming on the bridge?” Murdoch said and asked as he walked back around his desk, and sat down.
“ We have the holes dug, and four of the eight beams set” Scott said.
Beth was furious. How did they find out she escaped from that awful place in Boston? “ You’re mine Johnny, and if I can’t have you, then nobody can.” she vowed as she sat down on the cot, closed her eyes and remembered how Johnny made love to her. The aggression he released upon her, each time becoming more aggressive than the last. How he responded to her when she started biting his chest to cause pain, at the right moment. “ You will see me again Johnny. Your old man will not get me to San Francisco. I will be back, and when I do, you will either be mine, or dead.” she said softly so the guard wouldn’t hear her.
“Johnny, come on down. I brought you some cold lemonade.” Teresa said.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he started down the ladder. “ Scott back yet?”
“No, he hasn’t come in yet.” she said as she handed him a glass.
Johnny welcomed the coolness of the lemonade to his dry throat.
“ I wonder how Murdoch is doing?” Teresa asked.
“ I expect they’re on the train by now.” Johnny said. ‘ Well, I better get back up there.” he said as he handed her the glass.
Teresa took the glass, and almost dropped it when his fingers touched hers.
“ You okay?” he asked.
Teresa looked up into the bluest eyes she had ever seen, unable to respond, or move.
Johnny smiled slightly as he looked into her brown eyes as he placed his right hand under her chin, Slowly he lowered his lips to hers, he could feel them quiver, before he pulled away.
Teresa stood there, her legs shaking, unable to move as she wondered what just happened.
Gently he ran his hand over her cheek, his thumb caressing her chin.
“ Could you ever think of me as more than a brother?” he asked softly.
“ Johnny……Johnny you up there still?” Scott yelled.
“ Yeah.” he responded. “ You have lousy timing brother.” he said softly.
Scott went up the stairs, and stopped to let Teresa pass.
“ How’s it coming?” Scott asked.
Johnny cleared his throat. “ Good. I should be done in the next day or two. How about the bridge?”
“Ran into some trouble setting the last two supports. Going to take time, but we should be able to get them set tomorrow, and then start adding the cross-beams.” Scott responded.
“ Don’t you also have to do surveying up by Black mesa?” Johnny asked.
“ I do. Unless you want to do it?” Scott asked.
“ No thanks. I’ll stick with fixing the roof.” Johnny responded as he wondered what Teresa’s answer would have been had his brother not showed up when he did.
“ I’m sorry Mister Lancer, but a rock slide took out the track fifty miles west of here. It will be at least a week before it’s open again.” the station master said.
“ Thank you.” Murdoch said. “ Lets go to the livery. I’ll see what they have for horses, and we can ride to San Francisco. It’s only eighty five miles.”
Beth smiled. Eighty five miles would give her plenty of time to escape and make it back to her Johnny. She just had to wait for the right time to execute her plan.
Two hours later, Murdoch had two horses and supplies for the unexpected journey. He sent a wire to the boys telling them he would be gone longer than expected due to the rock slide, and would wire when they reached San Francisco.
Teresa removed biscuits from the oven as Scott and Johnny came downstairs. “ Good morning.”
“ Morning.” Scott said. Smells wonderful.
“ Morning. Where’s Maria?” Johnny asked.
“ She’s visiting her new granddaughter for a couple days.” Teresa responded.
Johnny smiled inside knowing he would be alone with Teresa, and hopefully get an answer to his question.
“ You think I can trust you two children to behave while I’m gone?” Scott asked with a smile.
“ Why wouldn’t you?” Johnny asked.
“ Haven’t you ever heard the saying, when the cats away, the mice will play brother?” Scott asked.
“ No.” he said as he sat down.
“ Scott Lancer, in case you haven’t noticed, I am not a little girl anymore. I’m almost eighteen.” Teresa said as she set a platter of flapjacks on the table, and sat down to join them.
“ I know that. I was making a joke Teresa. You have grown into a beautiful young lady who will make some man very happy some day.” Scott said.
“ Yeah, someone like Tommy Barker.” Johnny said with a laugh.
“ Johnny Lancer, Tommy Barker is an immature boy. I want a man who will love me as much as I love them.” Teresa said as she looked right into his eyes. “ Someone who will work all day, and come home in the evening to me and the children I give him. Someone who could teach our children as they grow up. Someone like you.” she said softly.
“ Like me huh. I wouldn’t want any of my kids like me. At least not the Madrid part.” Johnny said with a smile.
Scott looked between them. He had the distinct feeling Teresa was having feelings for his brother. “ I hope you find that man Teresa. You deserve to have all that, and more.”
“ So what age do you think Murdoch will allow you to marry?” Johnny asked.
“She’s legal age at twenty one, so she has three years she could meet, and court someone.” Scott said.
“ What is courting really?” Johnny asked.
“ Courting is where you ask permission from the father, but in this case it would be Murdoch, to date Teresa. You would take her to church socials, and other events, sometimes chaperoned. You would do a little making out, like kissing and such, but always be respectful of the girl, and never dishonor her. Or at least not get caught dishonoring her.” Scott explained.
“ Dishonor her how?” Johnny asked.
Scott cleared his throat and looked at Teresa, then Johnny. “ By taking her to bed. The old fashioned way is they should wait until their wedding night for that.”
“ And if they didn’t wait?” Teresa asked. Catching both brothers off guard with her question.
“ To be honest Teresa. He could get you with child, and then decide he doesn’t want to marry you. Leaving you to raise a child alone.”Scott responded. “ They could have you give the baby up for adoption. But Murdoch would never allow that to happen.”
“ Being a single mother isn’t easy. My mother struggled with it.” Johnny said. “ Course Mexico is a lot poorer than here.”
Scott leaned back in his chair. “ I’m want to ask the two of you an honest question. Your answer I assure you will stay between the three of us. Will you answer it?”
Johnny and Teresa both said yes.
“ Do the two of you have feelings for each other. Feelings that are not like Brother and sister?” Scott asked.
Johnny just stared at Teresa, praying he would hear the answer he so wanted to hear yesterday. “ Would that be a bad thing if I said I did?”
“ Not at all Johnny.” Scott responded. “ Teresa, do you feel the same way about Johnny?”
“ I love him Scott. I’ve loved him for a very long time.” she said.
“ Okay then, I just have one request. Keep it as discrete as possible when Murdoch gets back.” Scott said as he stood up. “ Work is waiting. Oh, I wouldn’t go doing anything the hands might see and tell Murdoch about.”
“ Will you be back for lunch Scott?” Teresa asked.
“ No. As my brother so graciously reminded me yesterday. I need to get the surveying done up at Black Mesa. So I’ll ride up there this afternoon and do that. I’ll see you two at supper tonight.” he said before walking out.
“ Well, I better get to that roof.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to Teresa. “ See you at Lunch?”
“ Absolutely.” Teresa said.
Johnny leaned down and kissed her lightly on the lips. He wanted to do more, but knew he better get the roof done, or as much done as possible today. He just hoped he could keep his mind on work, and not on the beautiful lady standing mere inches from him.
Scott smiled as he walked outside to join the work crew, and head out to finish setting the last two support beams.
“ Hey Scott!” Ben yelled as he rode into the yard. “ I got a wire for you and Johnny from Murdoch.”
“ Thanks.” Scott said as he took the wire from him.
“ It came in late yesterday. I would have brought it out,but that darn boy of mine went and broke his arm, so I couldn’t leave.” Ben said.
“ Will Andy be alright?” Scott asked as Johnny and Teresa came out, and joined them.
“ Yeah. Doc said it was a clean break. He should be able to ride again in a month or so. Well, I better get back. I’ll see ya.” Ben said as he turned his horse and rode off.
“ What’s up?’ Johnny asked.
“ Wire from Murdoch. Seems there’s been a rock slide and the train can’t get thru for a week. He says he got a couple horses and they are riding to San Francisco.” Scott said.
“ That’s what, a hundred miles roughly?” Johnny said.
“ Yeah. I’m sure they will be alright. He’s been on the trail before.” Scott said. “ I’ll see you tonight.”
Johnny pushed himself hard to get the roof done. Mostly out of anger over Beth, and the fact that his father had to take her to San Francisco by horse instead of the train. But a part of him was also glad, because it would allow him more time alone during the day when possible with Teresa.
What happened between him and Beth at the line shack , his aggression and roughness toward her when he took her, he would never do to Teresa. When he made her his on their wedding night, if they could wait that long, it would be slow, and as painless as possible for her. He could tell Beth had been with other men the first time he entered her, and what she begged him to do. What did surprise him was how he felt when she started biting him the last time. How it drove his body to respond,and explode like he had never done before. Something he thought he would have to try with Teresa, maybe after they were married. He couldn’t help but wonder how the old man would react when they told him how they felt about each other. Would he allow them to be together, or would he forbid it? That question ran through his mind all morning. He was glad Scott knew, and wouldn’t say anything.
Teresa set two plates with roast beef sandwiches on the table, and went to pour lemonade when she heard Johnny come in the front door. All morning she thought about what was said between the three of them. She knew Scott would keep his word and not say anything to Murdoch about them. Now she looked forward to them building a relationship together, and the day when Johnny would take her to bed, and make her his, and his alone. There was so much she didn’t know, but knew he would teach her. Just the thought of him seeing her naked for the first time made her stomach do a flip, and wondered if that was a normal feeling a girl had anticipating their first time. There was nobody she wanted more to love her in that way than Johnny, for she knew deep down in her heart it would be real. Scott said three years she would most likely have to wait to marry him. Three years that seemed like a lifetime to her, but it would be three years their relationship could grow stronger. Standing at the counter, she started thinking about him bare chested yesterday, sweat glistening on his muscles.She’d seen him bare chested before when working, but now seeing him half naked gave her all new feelings. Being what they would call naive frustrated her, but she knew Johnny would teach her how he wanted her to please him, and what he could do to please her. She also found herself wondering if maybe Scott wasn’t a little hurt that it wasn’t him she hadn’t fallen in love with instead.
“ You remember what you said that morning you burst into Scott’s room without knocking?” Johnny asked as he walked into the kitchen.
Teresa turned around a smiled. “ I said to just treat me like a sister.”
“ Yes you did. So when did that change?” he asked as he walked over to her.
“ I think my feelings toward you started to change when Melissa was here.” she responded.
Johnny walked up to her, and placed his right hand under her chin. “ I think for me it was that morning when you burst into Scott’s room.” he said before he brought his lips down to hers and kissed her lightly. He could feel them trembling as he ran his tongue over her bottom lip before pulling away. “ I will never hurt you Teresa. I will do everything in my power to respect you. I can’t guarantee my hands behave, but I will never hurt you.”
“ How do you think Murdoch will take it when we tell him?” she asked as they walked over to the table, and sat down.
“ One of two ways I expect.” Johnny said.
“ And if he forbids us being together, what do we do then?” she asked.
“ We’ll have to be discrete about it I guess. I want you to be my wife. We have three years for our relationship to grow. It will have its challenges, mostly on my part, but if Murdoch can see we are serious about each other, and want to be married.” Johnny suggested.
“ But what if we are alone at some point, and neither one of us can stop. What if we don’t wait until we are married?” she asked.
“ That could be trouble, especially if I get you with child before we are married. Murdoch would be furious with me.” Johnny said.
“ But it wouldn’t all be your fault if we did.” she said.
“ Since I’m older it would.” he said.
“ Okay, go ahead and finish setting that last upright beam. Then start on the cross supports. Walt, you come with me and help me get the surveying done. That report has to go out next week.” Scott ordered as he went to his horse, and mounted up.
All morning he found himself thinking about the conversation at breakfast with Johnny, and Teresa. He gave his word he wouldn’t say anything to Murdoch about what was said in the kitchen. He just hope their father would understand. He could see Teresa was serious when she answered his question about how she felt about his brother. There was only four years difference in their age. A difference that really made no difference to him. As long as both were in love, that to him was all that should matter. If their father approved this relationship, they would have two years to strengthen it. Being the best man at his little brothers wedding was something he never thought he would ever get to do when living back in Boston. A part of him was still angry with his grandfather for never telling him he had a brother.
“ You alright Scott?” Walt asked as they rode toward Black Mesa.
“ Why do you ask?” Scott asked.
“ All morning you seem like you have something heavy weighing on your mind. Is everything alright between you and Johnny?” Walt responded.
“ Truth be told Walt, I think me and my brother grew even closer this morning over breakfast.” Scott said.
“ That’s good. You know, me and the boys were really worried you wouldn’t find Johnny still alive.” Walt said. “ If you ever tell anyone I said this………I almost cried when I seen Johnny riding down the hill, and under the Lancer arch.”
“ Well Walt, I did cry when I found him, so don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.” Scott responded. “ Let me ask you something just between us okay?”
“ Sure Scott.” he said.
“ Do you think………….If you were a father, and your daughter fell in love with someone with a, shall I say, shady past, would you allow them to be together?” Scott asked. He liked Walt a lot. Even thought of him as another brother. The man has worked for his father for ten years. Longer than most of the other hands.
Walt stopped his horse. “ I guess it would depend on just what kind of shady past he had. Anyone can change if they want too. Johnny taught me that. If he respected her, and could provide for her, I guess it would be alright.” he responded. “ We’re talking about Johnny, and Miss Teresa aren’t we? Look, I seen how they look at each other. How every morning before Johnny starts work, he goes to the rose garden and picks a rose to give to her.”
“ Do you think it’s wrong?” Scott asked.
“ Nope, not those two. Sure Johnny was a gunfighter in his past, but that was so he could survive. He’s come home now, and is the respectable son of a wealthy rancher, and a third owner in the biggest ranch in the valley. A lot of people in town like Johnny, Scott. When he was missing, people in town would ask me, Frank, Pedro, or other hands if there was any word from you about him. Several women told me they would pray for his safe return.” Walt responded.
“ I had no idea.” Scott said as they started riding again.
“ To tell the truth, I don;t think Johnny knows how much he is liked either. All the hands enjoy working with him. Hell, that boy has a gift with horses. I think your father would be a fool to not let him and Miss Teresa be together.”
“ We’ll bed down here for the night and get an early start in the morning.” Murdoch said as he dismounted. “ Go sit on that log over there while I tend to the horses and get a fire started for supper.”
“ I could gather some firewood and start the fire for you Mister Lancer. Johnny taught me how to do it. He even taught me how to make a small fire with less smoke.” Beth said.
“ Alright, there’s plenty of wood on the ground around that log.” Murdoch said as he untied his saddlebags.
Beth walked over, and started gathering wood for the fire. She knew she would have to execute her plan of escape tonight, if she had any hopes of being with Johnny ever again.” Tell me about Teresa.” she asked as she started building the fire.
“ She’s my ward.” Murdoch said as he carried her saddle over next to the fire. “ Her mother died when she was three. Her father was my best friend, and foreman at Lancer. He was killed in some trouble the valley had a few years ago. She’s like a daughter to me.”
“ I envy her. Having two brothers like Scott, and Johnny to protect her.” she said.
“ The boys are very protective of her. Especially Johnny. I think he’s more protective because of his childhood.” Murdoch said as he started preparing their supper. “ Let me ask you something. How did you end up in that asylum back in Boston?”
“ My mother didn’t want me anymore. She said my father ran off and married another woman in New York, so one day we went for a walk, and she took me inside this big building and left me there, never to return. Then one day I met Peter Chancellor. He was there doing a paper on crazy people for college he said. We talked, and he started coming around more. He would sign me out, and we would see the city from a carriage. I got to go to parties with him, meet his friends, and then one night he took me home to meet his parents. I could tell right away they didn’t like me. I heard his mother say I was bad breeding. Not good enough for her son to marry. So that night he made love to me in the buggy before he took me back. I left, and got on the train to St. Louis, and then the stage west from there.”
“ Why is it you took great pleasure in degrading my son for what he had to do in the past to stay alive?” he asked.
“ In St. Louis, I bought one of those dime store novels. It was all about Johnny Madrid. Right before I boarded the stage in Tucson, the lady there warned me about him.” she said as she fixed her bedroll. “ I think the hardest part I have is believing he could kill someone so easy, and not have any remorse about doing it.”
“ Johnny doesn’t take killing lightly. He never wants to take another mans life. They give him no choice.” Murdoch said as he stirred the beans.
“ Your son sure is good in bed. He most definitely knows how to pleasure a woman.” Beth said.
“ I would appreciate it if you didn’t talk like that. It’s no way for a young lady to talk.” Murdoch suggested.
“ The men I’ve took to bed seemed to like me talking like that. It would seem you men like to hear how well your performance was in bed.” Beth said as she seen her chance and picked up a piece of firewood. “ One thing I do know Mister Lancer, I can’t wait to have your son make love to me again.” she said before hitting Murdoch over the head.
“ Morning.” Johnny said as Scott walked into the kitchen.
“ Morning. Where’s Teresa?” Scott asked.
“ In her room still sleeping I expect.” Johnny said.
“ That’s not like her.” Scott said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ No, she’ll be right back.” Johnny said with a smile.” She went to get some eggs for breakfast.”
“ It would seem I am not the only one who knows about you two brother. Walt has seen you in the mornings before you go to work giving Teresa a rose.” Scott said as Teresa came in the back door.
“ Who else knows?” Johnny asked.
“ Knows what?’ Teresa asked as she set the basket of eggs on the counter.
“ Walt knows about us I guess.” Johnny responded.
“ Oh no. How?” she asked.
“ He has seen Johnny give you a rose every morning, but don’t worry, he won’t say anything to Murdoch. Fact is, he likes the idea of you two being together.” Scott said.
“ So what do you want me doing today brother?” Johnny asked.
“ Well the bridge will be finished by noon, and I got the surveying report done last night that I need to take to town, and mail this afternoon. For you, the barn hinges, and pump handle need fixed. Two wagons need the axles greased.”
“ Okay, okay, I get it. I’ll do as much of them as I can today.” Johnny said.
“ Thanks brother. I knew you wouldn’t mind.” Scott said.
Beth watched from a distance as Johnny worked on the barn door hinge. She could see the sweat glistening off his skin. Knowing she needed to put her plan into action before the hands started coming back, she worked her way down to the side of the house.
“ I thought you could use something cold to drink.” Teresa said as she set the tray down on a barrel b y the barn door.
“ Thanks. I’m just about done.” Johnny said. “ Smells like you’ve been baking cookies.”
“ Yes I have.” she said as she poured a glass of lemonade, and handed it to him, “ You get everything done today?”
“ That hinge was the last of it.” Johnny responded.
“ The last of it huh?” she asked.
Johnny finished the glass of lemonade, and set it down on the tray. “ all that’s left is to fix the well pump handle.” he said as he stepped over to her, placed his right hand under her chin as he lowered his lips to hers.
Teresa welcomed the feel of Johnny’s lips touching hers. Surprised, and moaning as he slipped his tongue in her mouth.
Johnny knew just how far he could take Teresa, to drive her to wanting more. Breaking off the kiss, he looked into her brown eyes. “ I can hardly wait until our wedding night, and I make you mine.” he said as he slowed his breathing down.
Beth became furious as she watched from the shadows.“ You’re dead.” she said with anger as she watched them start kissing again.
“ Scott, got a telegram here for you from Murdoch.” Ben said as he walked over, and handed it to him.
“ Thanks. How’s Andy doing with the broken arm?” Scott asked.
“ Not much. His mother is babying him. Well, I’ll see ya.” Ben said.
Scott opened the wire.
Escaped. Stop. Lancer. Stop
“ Oh my god.” Scott said as he hurried to his horse. He could only prey he got home in time.
Beth stepped into the kitchen.“ He’s mine.” she said.
Teresa turned around and found Beth standing there.“ Beth, what are you doing?” she asked.
“ I’m here to take Johnny with me. He loves me. He’s my man, not yours.” she said as she walked into the kitchen more.
“ What are you talking about Beth? Johnny doesn’t love you.” Teresa said.
“ Oh but he does. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have made love to me at the line shack like he did.” Beth said.
“ Beth, he doesn’t want to be with you.” Teresa responded.
“ Yes he does. He wants me. I’m going to give him many children, and we are going to live a happy life together, and nobody is ever going to keep us apart.” she said. “ I seen the two of you in the barn kissing. You think you can take him from me, but you can’t.” she said as she brought the pistol up, cocked it, and pulled the trigger.
“ Beth no!” Teresa yelled as she seen the flash from the barrel, and felt the white hot pain as the bullet tore thru her flesh.
Beth stood there and watched as Teresa fell to the floor. “ Now it’s just me and you Johnny.” she said as she turned and stepped back into the hallway to wait for Johnny to come into the kitchen.
Johnny came in the back door and found Teresa laying on the kitchen floor. Blood seeping from a wound in her left side.
“ TERESA!” he yelled as he dropped to her side
“ Hello Johnny.” Beth said as she stepped from the shadows.
“ Beth, what the hell are you doing here?” Johnny demanded as he grabbed the towel from the counter and pressed it to Teresa’s wound.
“ I came back so we can be together my love. You’re mine Johnny.” she said.
“ You’re crazy.” Johnny spat as he put pressure to Teresa’s wound.
“ You’re coming with me. Stand up.” Beth ordered.
“ Like hell I am.” Johnny said.
“ You can either come with me, or I put another bullet in her. The choice is yours.” she ordered.
Johnny looked down at Teresa. “ You’ll hang for this.”
“ By the time anyone finds her, we will be long gone.” Beth said as she slowly walked around the table. “ Move.”
Johnny knew he didn’t stand a chance if he left with Beth. He also knew Teresa needed a doctor. Walking down the hallway toward the front door he tried to reason with her. “ You let me get help for Teresa, and I’ll leave with you. We’ll go to Mexico, or wherever you want. Just don’t let her die Beth, please.”
“ You think I care about her?” she asked.
“ I’m not going with you unless you let me get her some help.” Johnny said as he stopped at the front door.
“ Then I guess it’s goodbye. If I can’t have you, nobody can.” Beth said coldly as she cocked the pistol, and aimed it at Johnny, and pulled the trigger.
Johnny felt the bullet slam into him as he fell back, and slid down the wall.
“ I would have been such a good wife to you.” she said as she brought the pistol up, and pulled the hammer back.
Johnny glared at her as she pulled the trigger again and hit him in his left shoulder just before a bullet slammed into her, knocking her into the small table by the door.
“ You!” Beth said as she started to bring the pistol up to fire,but was hit again. “ He’s mi…………” she said before falling to the floor dead.
Teresa dropped the rifle, and staggered to Johnny. Blood seeping from a deep graze in her left side. “ Johnny, hold on.” she pleaded as she placed a hand on the wound in his right side.
Scott galloped into the yard and dismounted, and drew his pistol. “ Johnny!” he yelled as he went to the veranda doors, and went inside. Looking around, he seen Teresa kneeling over his brother at the base of the stairs. “ Teresa.” Scott said as he went to them.
“ Johnny.” Teresa mumbled. “ Beth……..help Johnny.”
Scott looked and seen blood seeping from a wound in his right side, and left shoulder. Standing up, Scott hurried outside. “ Walt, Frank, Cipriano, I need help in here!” he yelled before going back inside. It was then he seen Teresa had also been shot.
Walt, Frank, and Cipriano hurried into the house. “ What the……….I’ll send someone to get Sam.” Frank said.
“ Teresa has been shot too. Send someone to McCall’s Crossing to bring Maria back here.”
Sam climbed down from his buggy as Scott came out of the house. “ How bad are they hurt?” he asked as he grabbed his bag.
“ It looks like the bullet grazed Teresa on her left side Sam.” Scott responded. “ I’ve cleaned the wound out, and wrapped it up.”
“ Where is she?” Sam asked.
“ In her room. Johnny is upstairs in his.” Scott said. “ He was shot twice Sam. Lower right side, and left shoulder. The bullet went clean thru his shoulder, but the other one is still in him.” he explained.
“ Let’s take care of Teresa’s wound first.” Sam asked as he walked into her room. “ Has someone gone to bring Maria back here?”
“ Walt is with Johnny.” Scott responded.
“ Walt, where the devil is Murdoch?” Sam demanded.
“ On his way back. It’s a long story Sam.” Scott said.
Murdoch rode into the yard, and was met by Frank, who told him what he knew. Hurrying inside, he went to Teresa’s room and found Maria sitting with her, tears in her eyes.
“ Esa mujer malvada regresó aquí y le disparó a mi Johnny y Teresa.” ( That wicked woman came back here, and shot my Johnny and Teresa.) Maria said.
“ When?” Murdoch asked.
“ Hace dos dias.”.” ( Two days ago.) Maria responded.
“ I”m sorry Maria. I never should have trusted her. Johnny warned me not too.” Murdoch responded
“ No es tu culpa. A veces, los malvados pueden engañarnos haciéndonos creer lo que el diablo desea que creamos.” ( It is not your fault Senor. Sometimes the wicked can deceive us into believing what the devil wishes us to believe.) Maria said as she stood up. “ Voy a preparar la cena. Señor Scott, tendrá que mantener sus fuerzas para ayudarlos.” ( I go fix supper. Senor Scott , and you will need to keep your strength up to help them.)
Murdoch sat down and felt Teresa’s forehead. A slight fever was normal.
“ Murdoch.” Scott said as he walked into the room.
“ How’s Johnny?” Murdoch asked.
“ Sam’s changing his bandages. He was shot twice. He lost a lot of blood, and has a fever.” Scott responded as he walked over and placed a hand on his fathers shoulder. “ Let’s go in the other room. There’s something you need to know.”
Murdoch stood up and walked to the door.
Scott sighed as he turned and followed his father out to the grand room.
“ I want to know what the hell happened.” Murdoch said before walking out.
“ I was in town when I got your wire. I rode back here and found Teresa kneeling over Johnny at the bottom of the stairs. Beth……..was laying by the front door dead. She had been shot twice………by Teresa.”
“ Teresa?” Murdoch asked.
“ Johnny was unarmed, and there was a pistol laying near Beth. I found another pistol laying on the table.” Scott explained. “ How did she get away from you?” he asked.
“ It doesn’t matter right now.” Murdoch said.
“ What?” Scott said with anger. “ It doesn’t matter? You knew she was dangerous. Me and Johnny told you how she was, yet you let her get away from you. That woman damn near killed Teresa, and might have killed Johnny. What the hell happened?”
“ I said it doesn’t matter right now Scott.” Murdoch snapped back. The veins in his forehead showing.
“ You two need to keep your voices down.” Sam ordered.“ Scott, I want you to go get some rest. You will be no good to your brother if you don’t.”
Scott glared at his father a few seconds before turning and heading outside, the door slamming behind him.
“ Let’s go get some coffee.” Sam suggested.
Murdoch walked into the kitchen, followed by Sam, and sat down at the table. Maria poured them both a cup of coffee, then went back to preparing food.
“ Tell me Sam, how bad is it?” Murdoch asked.
Sam took a sip of his coffee. “ The bullet in his shoulder tore muscle. He won’t be able to use that arm for several weeks. The one in his side was deep, but missed all vital organs. He has lost a considerable amount of blood. I inserted a tube in his nose down to his stomach so we can get fluids in him to replenish the blood he’s lost.”
“ He’s had that before, and didn’t really like it being done to him.” Murdoch said.
“ I had no choice. Nobody knows how long he was at the bottom of the stairs before Scott found them. He has got to have water to replenish the blood loss.” Sam explained.
“ And Teresa?” he asked.
“ Teresa is one very lucky young lady. The bullet left a furrow on her left side. I cleaned it out, and she should be fine, but will need plenty of rest before I allow her out of bed.” Sam instructed.
“ Thank God.” Murdoch said.
(This chapter does contain mild sex at the end.)
Teresa opened her eyes and blinked several times as she tried to focus, and remembered what happened. “ Johnny!” she cried out as she tried to sit up, but was stopped by hands gently pushing on her shoulders.
“ Take it easy sweetheart.” Murdoch said.
“ Murdoch?” she asked. “ Johnny, you have to help him.”
“ Scott is with Johnny. You need to lay still. Let me get you some water.” he said as he poured some water from the pitcher next to the bed.
“ Johnny’s still alive?’ she asked before sipping the water.
“ Yes. Sam removed the bullet, but he’s going to need plenty of rest, and won’t be doing anything for a while. He was also shot in the left shoulder, so he can’t use that arm Sam said for some time.” Murdoch explained.
“ Does he know I’m still alive?” she asked.
“ He hasn’t woke up yet.” Murdoch said as he set the glass on the table. “ Did he know you had been shot?”
“ She shot me first, and waited for Johnny to come in from taking a bath.” Teresa said. “ She was going to kill him. I had to shoot her Murdoch. She said Johnny was hers, and that she would kill anyone who tried to keep them apart. That she was going to take him away so they could live together. When I told her Johnny didn’t love her, she got so angry, she pointed the pistol at me, and pulled the trigger.”
“ She was a very disturbed young lady.” Murdoch said.
“ Johnny, for whatever reason had left his pistol hanging on the chair in the kitchen. I guess she never seen it. She forced him to leave me. I could hear them talking. I heard Johnny tell her he wouldn’t go with her, and that’s when she shot him the first time. Then she stepped closer to him, and aimed the gun at him again, and fired right before I shot her. She tried to shoot again, so I shot her again, killing her.” Teresa explained.
Murdoch sat there with tears in his eyes as he listened to Teresa explain what happened. “ I’m sorry you were put in that position sweetheart. I’m so grateful you weren’t killed.”
“ That makes two of us.” Scott said from the door.
“ Is Johnny alright?” she asked.
“ He’s still unconscious. Walt came to sit with him a spell. I thought I would come see if you had decided to open your eyes yet.” Scott said as he walked over and sat down on the side of the bed.
“ I have never been so afraid in my life Scott. I thought for sure she had killed Johnny.” Teresa said.
“ She never should have been able to come back here.” Scott said.
“ That will be enough young man.” Murdoch ordered.
“ She has a right to know.” Scott responded.
“ And she will, they both will. But now is not the time. Do I make myself clear?” Murdoch demanded.
“ You call the tune on this ranch, and what is done on this ranch. You have no say on this Murdoch.” Scott snapped back.
“ What is he talking about Murdoch?” Teresa asked.
“ Either you tell her, or I will.” Scott said.
“ I made a mistake sweetheart. One I have to live with for the rest of my life. One that almost cost me you and Johnny. We were making camp for the night, and talking. She was asking me questions, and I was asking her, when all the sudden she said………….” Murdoch explained.
“ She said what?” Teresa asked.
“ She said some very inappropriate things about her and Johnny, and then said that if she couldn’t have him, nobody could right before she hit me on the back of the head. When I came too the next morning, she was long gone with both horses. I started walking back toward Sacramento when I was found by a man and his wife who helped me. I sent that wire to you as soon as I got in town before I got on the stage back to Morro Coyo.”
“ It’s alright Murdoch. I’m going to be alright, and so will Johnny.” she said. “ At least now I know first hand how it feels.”
“ And I am quit sure you will be a far better patient than Johnny is.” Scott said.
Teresa looked at Scott, and wondered if he had said anything to Murdoch about her and Johnny.
“ Well, I’m going to go sit with Johnny for a spell. You get some rest young lady.” Murdoch said as he walked to the door.
Scott stood up, and bent over to give her a kiss on the forehead. “ No I didn’t say anything to him.” he whispered. “ I will see you later.”
Scott sat in the chair next to Johnny;s bed, reading a book when he heard a moan. Looking over he seen his brothers eyes were open.
“ Welcome back brother.” Scott said as he set his book down.
“Teresa.” Johnny mouthed
“ She’s fine brother. She’s doing better than you.” Scott said. “ Just take it easy okay. I’ll go get Sam, he’s downstairs with Murdoch. I’ll be right back brother.” Scott said as he went to the door, and hurried downstairs.
Johnny tried to move his left arm, and found it was bound to his chest. Reaching up with his right arm, he felt something inserted in his nose. ‘ Damn you Sam.’ he thought as he started to pull the tube out.
“ Stop!” Sam ordered as he walked into the room. “ I will remove that tube young man.”
Johnny looked at his father standing just inside the door as Sam prepared to remove the annoying tube.
“ Try not to fight it John.” Sam said as he started pulling it out.
Johnny coughed and gagged as the tube came back up his throat, and finally out. Taking several deep breaths and coughing.
“ Here, drink some water.” Sam said as he poured a glass.
After a few minutes of swallowing and coughing, Johnny finally leaned back against the pillows.
“ How do you feel son?” Murdoch asked.
“ How………how do you think I feel old man.” Johnny said softly. “ What the hell happened? I told you not to trust her.”
“ Calm down son…….I’ll…….”
“ Calm down. Don’t stand there and tell me to calm down. That bitch damn near killed me and Teresa. I told you not to trust her Murdoch, and what did you tell me and Scott when I asked you to take one of us or a hand with you? You said you could handle it.” Johnny said with anger before going into a coughing fit.
“ Murdoch, perhaps you should come back when Johnny has calmed down.” Scott suggested.
“ I made a horrible mistake son. One I have to live with the rest of my life. I hope some day you can forgive me for it.” Murdoch said before turning and walking out of the room.
“ Johnny, you were a bit harsh on him weren’t you?” Scott asked.
“ Maybe I was, but damn it Scott…..”
“ Enough.” Sam ordered. “ Johnny, this past week has been very hard on Murdoch. He’s been getting very little sleep worrying about you and Teresa. He made a mistake like he said,one he has to live with the rest of his life. If I had known you were going to be such a pompous jackass, and lay into your father like you just did, I would have left that tube in you so you couldn’t talk. In all my years I have never heard such………….I suggest you do some serious thinking young man before you talk to Murdoch again. You don;t like it when he gets on you, well how the hell do you think he feels right now having his son blast him like you just did?” Sam said with anger. “ Scott, see to it this fool gets some broth to eat. I have other patients who need me.”
“ Sam wait. I’m sorry.” Johnny said.
“ I’m not the one you need to be saying that too. I’ll stop by in a day or two and check on you. Scott knows what to do.” Sam said before walking out.
“ I’ll be right back Johnny.” Scott said as he hurried after Sam, stopping him at the top of the stairs. “Sam, I don;t condone what Johnny just did, but there is more to what happened than you know.”
“ Maybe later one of you would like to fill me in. In the mean time, keep him in bed for at least another week.” Sam said before heading downstairs.
Peter sat at the table in his room in San Francisco, reading the newspaper, when a small article caught his attention about a woman being killed at a ranch in Morro Coyo. Reading the few lines, his anger grew when he read the woman’s name. Standing up, he walked over to the window, and looked out on the street at the passing wagons, and people going about their every day chores.
“ I will avenge your death Elizabeth. I don’t care how long it takes me to practice, I will kill Johnny Madrid for taking you away from me.” he vowed. “ I will not rest until I gun him down.”
Teresa opened the door to Johnny’s room, stepped inside, and closed the door part way. Walking around the bed, she looked at the man she loved more than anything.
“ You smell like lavender.” Johnny said softly without opening his eyes.
“ I knew you liked it, so I put a little on.” Teresa said as she sat down on the side of the bed.
“ The old man know you’re up here with me?” he asked.
“ No, he just went down to the corrals with Scott to look at something.” she said.
“ Oh yeah.” Johnny said as he tried to sit up more.
“ Let me help you.” Teresa said as she grabbed pillows and readjusted them behind his back. “ There, is that better?”
“ Yeah, thanks.” he said softly. “ Teresa, I………..I’m sorry.”
“ Sorry for what?” she asked.
“ You being shot. If I hadn’t brought Beth here, it never would have happened.” he responded. “ I knew she was disturbed, yet I brought her here to Lancer, and because of that, I put your life in jeopardy. Can you ever forgive me?”
Teresa leaned closer to him. “ I can if you kiss me.” she said softly.
Johnny brought his right arm up around her neck, and gently pulled her to him. “ I love you.” he said before kissing her.
“ When do you want to tell Murdoch about us?” Teresa asked as she lay her head on his chest.
“ I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about that a lot these last few days,and I keep coming to the same conclusion.” he responded.
“ What’s that?” she asked as she checked the bandages
“ That I’m not as tough as I thought I was. I say that, because the thought of him telling me we can’t be together scares me to death Teresa. I don’t want to lose you. You are everything and more that I want in a wife. You know who I am, and accept that, but I need to ask you something,and I want you to think about your answer. Can you really accept all of me knowing I could be shot down at any time by someone faster than me? Are you willing to risk that to be with me?” Johnny asked.
“ Johnny, I don’t need to think about my answer. I cherish every minute of every day I have with you. I want to be your wife. I want to have your children. I want to love you, all of you forever.” Teresa said. “ If Murdoch can’t accept our love for one another, then we can leave Lancer to be together, because as long as I have you, I have everything.”
“ Johnny, what happened that day with Beth, when you rode back with Murdoch and her?” Teresa asked.
“ Honestly,I let her seduce me. I was angry about Peter, and how manipulative she can be, and I gave in to her sexual advances. I made love to her, but it meant nothing to me Teresa. She meant nothing to me. Like I said, I was angry, she showed up, and I released all my anger on her.”
“ It seems to me, she was angry at you too. Putting these bite marks on your chest.” Teresa said as she ran a finger over the marks.
“ I……I’ll explain that when I can take you to bed finally.” Johnny responded.
“ I’m already in bed with you my love.” Teresa said as she brought her face up, and looked into his blue eyes.
“ These next three years are going to be long.” Johnny said before kissing her again. Neither one aware of the man standing outside the bedroom door listening to what was said.
Johnny sat in the rose garden mid-morning leaned back against the stone column with his legs stretched out across the bench. “ You’re not very good at sneaking up on someone old man.” he said softly.
“ I was just checking to see if you needed anything son.” Murdoch said.
Johnny sighed and sat up straight, swinging his legs over the side so his father could sit down. Sam allowed him out of bed three days ago. Sitting in the rose garden where it was quiet, gave him ample time to think about the future he wanted with Teresa.
“ No, I’m good. Just sitting here thinking.” Johnny said.
“ Can I join you?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah. We need to talk old man. Or rather I need to talk to you.” Johnny said.
“ Son, could you please not call me that?” Murdoch requested with a smile.
“ That day in my room, I said some pretty harsh words to you. I never should have spoke to you like that.” Johnny said.
“ You were upset,and angry son. It’s alright.” Murdoch responded.
“ No it’s not. I was angry and upset,but not at you, at me. It’s my fault Teresa was shot, and me damn near killed. I brought her here. I knew long before what kind of woman she was, yet I brought her to Lancer, and though out of anger, I let her seduce me. I put everyone I care about and love in jeopardy. I should have been saying those things to me, not you.” Johnny explained.
“ Son, you’re only human. I could have made the same mistake. Hell I did. You warned me not to trust her, yet I did that night, and it almost cost me two people I love very much.” Murdoch said.
“ So how did she do it?” Johnny asked.
“ I was preparing our supper and talking to her. She started making derogatory remarks about you. Said she couldn’t wait to have you again in bed, right before she hit me over the head with a piece of firewood.” Murdoch explained. “ I came too the next morning, and found her gone with both horses. I knew she was coming back here. I started back toward Sacramento and a couple picked me up. I sent a wire telling you right before I boarded the stage to Morro Coyo.”
“ She must have hit you pretty hard to knock you out for that long Murdoch. You’re pretty hard headed. At least when it comes to the ranch.” Johnny said with a slight laugh.
“ Let me ask you something son. How long are you going to keep sneaking around, before you ask me?” Murdoch asked.
“ Ask you what?” Johnny said as he stood up, and walked over to a rose bush.
“ About you and Teresa son. How long have the two of you cared for each other?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’ve loved her for a long time. I can’t keep it inside any more.” Johnny said. “ I love her, and want to spend the rest of my life with her.”
“ I have to make a confession son. I heard the two of you talking the other day in your room. I didn’t intend to eaves drop, and knew it was wrong, but doing so answered my question about what Teresa said when she had a fever. She said she loved you, and they way she said it, as a father, I knew she loved you more than as a brother.” Murdoch confessed.
“ Are you made at us?” Johnny asked.
“ No. I have always wanted the best for Teresa after her father died. I’ve always wanted her to find someone who would love her, and not hurt her. I know she has that with you.” Murdoch responded. ‘ You do realize, Teresa is almost eighteen, and I can’t permit the two of you to get married until she’s twenty one.”
“ Yeah, Scott said that’s the legal age for her to wed.” Johnny said.
“ I do expect the two of you, especially you, to conduct yourselves in a proper manner. Escort her to dances and such, and refrain from dishonoring her before your wedding night son.” Murdoch requested.
“ Scott said that also.” Johnny said. “ I will never hurt her Murdoch.”
“ I know you won’t son. You do realize this will mean you can no longer visit the ladies in town?” he asked.
“ I have no intention of being with the ladies in town any longer. I want to be with Teresa, for the rest of my life.” Johnny said.
“ I’ll expect grandchildren running around this place.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and walked over to him. “ I know you will treat Teresa right, and be a good father.”
“ How did it go today boys?” Murdoch asked.
“ Good. We had a few minor setbacks, but in all, it went good.” Scott said. “ We have just about finished with the round-up.”
“ I swear, those damn cows have got to be the dumbest critters on earth.” Johnny said.
“ That may be true little brother, but they taste so good.” Scott said with a laugh.
“ What happened son?’ Murdoch asked.
“ A cow is what happened.” Scott said as he tried to control his laughing. “ Johnny got one out of a mud hole, she turned right around not ten minutes later, and went right back in that same mud hole.” Scott said.
“ I’m glad I can give you a good laugh brother.” Johnny said with a playful slap to Scott’s stomach. A cow is nothing but trouble tied up in a leather bag.” Johnny added.
“ You mean to tell me it’s taken you almost five years to finally figure that out son?” Murdoch asked with a laugh.
“ No. I’m glad tomorrow is Sunday though.” Johnny responded. “ Where’s Teresa?” he asked.
“ She’s in the kitchen with Maria getting supper ready.” Murdoch responded.
“ Excuse me, I think I will go say hello to my soon to be wife before I take a hot bath.” Johnny said as he started toward the kitchen.
“ I think the closer it gets to the wedding, the more nervous my little brother is getting.” Scott said.
“ I think you may be right son. I know with the wedding being one week away, I am.” Murdoch responded.
“ I must say, I’m surprised you only made them wait two years instead of three.” Scott said as he went to the sideboard, and poured two drinks.
“ I have watched your brother very closely these last two years with Teresa, and can honestly say from what I have observed, he has kept their relationship respectful.” Murdoch said. ‘ He did tell me that day in the rose garden when I asked him about the two of them, that you gave them a good talk about courting, what to do, and not do with a proper young lady.”
“ I figured it was the least I could do for him since he was used to saloon women.” Scott responded.
Peter sat at a table in the Green River saloon drinking a cold beer, and listening to the random talk at the bar. His mind drifted to Beth, and the life he had planned for them back in Boston. Even though his parents never approved of her, marrying her was something he wanted more than anything. She made him feel so alive when they made love. What she did to excite him more, and drive him crazy, he would never feel again. None of the whores he’d slept with in the last two years could get it right on what he wanted them to do. Some called him a freak, and felt the sting of his slap, or the brutal way he would take them. One thing he learned about the women in the saloons out west, a man was in charge, and could rape the woman, or do things to them, and nobody cared.
“ Walt, Frank, how’s everything going out there?” Stan, the bartender asked.
“ Getting crazy, so we thought we would come in and have a cold beer.” Walt said.
“ So he’s really going to do it. Johnny’s really going to marry Teresa, tomorrow?” Stan asked as he gave them their beers.
“ Looks that way.” Frank said.
“ I think it’s great that Murdoch Lancer is allowing them to marry. Johnny deserves to be happy. God knows he’s had a rough life until he came home.” Walt said.
“ Hey, that woman who tried to kill Johnny, how did he ever meet up with a crazy dame like that?” Stan asked.
“ On the stage he was on. They were witnesses to the murder of the driver and guard. When they found out Johnny was still alive, they hunted them down.” Walt said. “ That all ended in Barstow.”
“ Yeah, I know that, but why, if that woman was crazy, why would Johnny ever bring her to Lancer is what I can’t figure out.” Frank said.
“ You know how Johnny is. The lady said she was going to San Francisco, and him being the gentleman that he is, was going to escort her there. I guess she was running away from some rich ex fiance she claimed was abusive, and crazy, when the whole time it was her who was the crazy one.” Walt said.
“ So what time is the wedding?” Stan asked.
“ Two o’clock tomorrow. “ Frank responded.
“ I think tomorrow, Johnny is going to find out just how many people like that boy.” Walt said.
“ Yeah, he’s sure come a long way from being the gunfighter Johnny Madrid.” Stan said.
“ He’ll always be Madrid. It’s just that coming home has given him the chance to live a normal life as Murdoch Lancer’s youngest son.”Walt said.
“ Well, I know a lot of girls in the valley who are not happy. Hell I heard my girls talking about how they’re gonna miss him on a Saturday night.” Stan said.
“ That’s because Johnny was all man in a bed. That girl, Teresa, I doubt she will be able to satisfy him. He’ll be back looking for a real woman, especially when she’s with child, cause no woman wants a man poking her when she has a belly.” one of the girls said.
Peter had heard enough. Angry, he stood up and walked out of the saloon. A colt forty five hung low on his hip. He knew Walt wouldn’t recognize him with long hair, and an unshaven face. Untying his horse, Peter mounted up, and headed to Morro Coyo.
“ So tomorrow you’re getting married. That will be the perfect time to kill you Madrid. You took my happiness away from me, so I shall take the happiness away from your bride to be. She can watch you die.” he said as he rode out of town.
“ Morning.” Scott said as he walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table.
“ Morning son.” Murdoch said. “ Is your brother awake?”
“ I didn’t check. I assumed he would be up already since today’s his big day.” Scott said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ Good morning Scott.” Teresa said.
“ Good morning my soon to be sister-in-law. What do you have planned for me to do this morning?” Scott asked.
“ I would like you to keep Johnny away from the house until the wedding.” she requested.
“ Okay, just where, and what are we supposed to do until then?” he asked.
“ I’m sure the two of you will figure something out to do for eight hours.” she said.
“ Three.” Murdoch cut in.
“ Murdoch, I need you here.” she said.
“ Teresa, Aggie and others will be showing up to help you and Maria with preparations, and the food. You don;t need the three of us under foot.” Murdoch said.
“ I just want everything to be perfect.” she said.
“ And it will be gorgeous, ans long as you’re there at two o’clock, nothing can go wrong.” Johnny said as he came into the kitchen, and gave her a hug, and kiss. “ Lets go do some fishing.”
“ I do believe that is the best offer I have had in a long time Johnny.” Scott said.
“ I’ve got our horses saddled out front. You gorgeous, I will see at two.” Johnny said before giving her another kiss.
“ Isn’t she a beautiful bride?” Sam asked.
“ Yes she is. It’s hard to believe she’s all grown up now Sam. It seems like just yesterday she was a little girl.” Murdoch responded.
“ I never thought I would see this day happen.” Scott said as he joined them, and watched his little brother dance with his new bride.
“ Giving Teresa away, was the greatest honor I’ve had in a long time.” Murdoch said.
“ Being my little brothers best man was also.” Scott added.
“ Any chance of Johnny getting to be your best man any time in the near future Scott?” Sam asked.
“ In the near future, I’m afraid not Sam.” Scott responded.
“ Looks like it’s up to Johnny and Teresa to give you grandchildren.” Sam said.
“ Johnny Madrid! You took everything from me killer.” Peter yelled as he walked toward Madrid laying on the ground
“ Oh my god!” Sam said.
Scott hurried into the house and grabbed a rifle.
Murdoch walked over to stand next to Johnny, and Teresa. “ I don’t know who you are mister, but this isn’t happening.”
“ Peter Chancellor.” Johnny said softly. “ Teresa, go inside, please.”
“ You killed Beth.” Peter said. “ The rest of you stay clear. This is between me and Madrid.”
Scott came back out, and chambered a round in the rifle as he stood in front of his brother. “ Peter, I’m not going to let you do this. Beth was a very disturb young lady.”
“ He’s telling you the truth. She came here and tried to kill my son because he didn’t love her.” Murdoch pleaded.
Teresa came back outside with Johnny’s gun, and handed it to him.
“ Scott, move away.” Johnny said as he strapped on his colt.
Scott stood his ground. “ Not today brother.” he said.
“ I could have killed you before Peter. I will kill you this time if you don;t turn around, and leave. Beth isn’t worth dying for. She told you she didn’t love you when you were here before. Go back to Boston.” he pleaded.
“ Lies. Beth loved me. She was to afraid to leave you. I could see it in her eyes.” Peter snapped back.
“ Peter, do you want to die in front of all these people?” Sam asked. “ You can’t beat this boy. I have seen him take down many who tried. Walk away son, please.”
“ I’m not leaving here until Johnny Madrid is dead!” Peter yelled. “ He killed my fiance, and I’m here to revenge her death.”
“ There’s no stopping this.” Sam said to Murdoch.
Johnny stood watching Peter closely. He could tell the gun had been used a lot from the wear on the holster. “ You been practicing with that?”
“ For two years I’ve been practicing every day, from sunup to sundown. I’m going to kill you Madrid.” Peter said.
“ Shooting cans and bottles. Well let me tell you something boy, cans and bottles don’t shoot back.” Johnny said as he drew, and fired, shattering the handle of Peter’s colt.
Peter looked down at his now useless colt. “ You bastard.” he yelled. “ You did that because you knew I could beat you.”
“ No Peter, Johnny did that because he doesn’t want to kill you.” Scott said.
“ Dying ain’t much of a living boy.” Johnny said as he walked toward Peter. “ The pain you felt when I shot you in the hand, that’s nothing to what you would have felt if I shot you somewhere else, Like say, in your gut.” he said as he pressed his colt into Peters stomach. “ Some men live a few weeks who have been gut shot, but the agony from the burning pain usually makes them take their own life. Or maybe I could put a bullet in your head, right here, it won’t kill you right away, you could live months, or even years unable to function any longer. Having to have someone in a hospital take care of you, feed you, help you go to the bathroom, wash and dress you. You stupid sonofabitch, you think strapping that colt on and practicing shoot something that don;t shoot back makes you able to kill me, think again. But if you really want to try, then draw that gun you got in your waist there. Just tell me how you want to live the rest of your life before you do, and I’ll put the bullet there, or maybe right between your stupid fucking eyes.”
Peter stood there glaring at Johnny, his breathing hard and labored as he started to shake. Looking around at the people who were staring at him. His hand inching up to his waist.
“ Peter, would Beth want you to do this? Would she really want you to die like Johnny just described?” Murdoch asked. “ I knew a man who was gut shot. It’s no way to die son. Walk away. Go back to Boston, and get on with your life. You’re young, you have a lot ahead of you. Don’t throw it all away on a woman who really didn’t love you.”
Johnny could tell he wasn’t getting thru to Peter. “ Let’s Dance.” Johnny said as he turned around to walk away, forcing the kid to end this game once and for all. Spinning back around, Johnny fired one shot, hitting Peter straight in the heart. Turning, Johnny looked at his family a few seconds before heading inside the house.
Teresa started to go after him,but was stopped by Murdoch. “ Let him be for a little while sweetheart.”
“ I most certainly will not. He’s my husband, and he needs me.” she said firmly before going inside to find Johnny.
“ He knew didn’t he?” Sam asked.
“ Yes. I don’t know how, but he knew there was no talking Peter out of it.” Murdoch responded.
“ I don’t think we will be seeing them until tomorrow.” Scott said.
Teresa found Johnny upstairs sitting on the bed, with his back to the door. “ Johnny.” she said softly as she came into the room. “ Are you alright?”
“ Close the door, and lock it please.” he said as he stood up and started removing his clothes.
Teresa did before walking around the bed, stopping in front of her husband. “ Are you alright?” she asked again.
“ I’m fine. I gave him every chance to walk away.” Johnny said as he sat down and pulled his boots off. “ You were so gorgeous standing there as we got married. All I could think about was having you in this bed. Making you mine forever.” he said as he walked over and started to pull her dress up over her head. Once he had the dress off her, he gently turned her around and guided her back onto the bed.
“ I can’t believe we are finally married.” Teresa said as Johnny lay down next to her, and started touching her in places he dreamed of touching for the last two years. Consummating their marriage was all he cared about now. Nothing else mattered as he entered her, and drove her to her first climax as he spilled his seed deep inside her.
Johnny walked downstairs holding his brand new son. “ Murdoch, would you like to hold your grandson, Paul William Lancer?” he asked.
“ Boy would I.” Murdoch said with pride as he took the small bundle from Johnny.
“ How’s Teresa?” Scott asked.
“ She’s good. Tired, but Sam said she will be fine with a few days rest. Aggie said she was going to stay the night to help her.” Johnny said.
“ This calls for a toast.” Scott said as he went to the sideboard and poured three drinks, handing one to his brother, and father.
“ He has your curly hair.” Murdoch said as he looked at the newest Lancer.
“ To Paul William Lancer. Welcome to the family little man.” Scott said with a smile.“ Congratulations brother. You not only have a beautiful wife, but now you have a beautiful son too.”
“ Yeah, who would have ever thought when you came home to Lancer, you would be married five years later.” Murdoch said.
Johnny took his son, and held him close. “ The Gunfighter and the Lady.” he said as he kissed his son on the top of the head.
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