Word Count 75,072
I don’t own them. I’m just taking them out for a nice long horseback ride. All original Lancer characters belong to their rightful owners, any others belong to me, and may not be used without my permission.
This story will have an R-Rating for mature content, and language. There will be warnings and end warnings for adult content.
Sam Jenkins – doctor
Chris Marvin – gunfighter
Jeff Miller – gunfighter
Vern Thomas – gunfighter
Pete Young – gunfighter
Curt Anderson – gunfighter
Will Anderson – gunfighter
Jim Porter – President of the California Cattle Growers Association
Ben Nelson – rancher
Carl Hackett – rancher
Driscoll – rancher
Santee – rancher
Clint – drover
Spud – drover
Murdoch Lancer stepped out of the ticket office in Tucson, with his oldest son Scott.
“ Those two bulls should improve our stock.” Scott asked as he handed their valises to the stage driver.
“ They better for what they cost us son.” Murdoch responded.
“ Hey Carl, I got a wire for ya from Maricopa Wells Station.” the telegraph clerk said as he hurried across the street to the stage.
“ Just read it to me.” Carl ordered.
“ It says you’re picking up a strong box there, and diverting off route to take it to Fort Grant. Says you will also pick up some guy named……..Johnny Madrid, who was hired by the stage line to guard the shipment.” the man said.
“ Johnny Madrid, well ain’t that just peachy. They’re making me go off route sixty damn miles to an army fort, and I have to have the deadliest damn gunfighter in the southwest ride with me.” Carl spat. “ Hey, you two. How far ya goin?”
“ Back to California, Morro Coyo.” Murdoch responded. “ Why?”
“ I have a detour I have to take from Maricopa Wells, up to Fort Grant. It’s a sixty mile detour. Now you two can stay at the station, or make the journey with me. It’s up to you.” Carl explained.
“ I see, and if we stayed at the station, how long until the next westbound stage?” Murdoch asked.
“ The next westbound stage won’t be for two days. Now if ya want, you can stay here in Tucson and catch it. Make up yer minds, cause I need to get going.” Carl responded.
“ We’ll go.” Murdoch said as he boarded the stage, followed by Scott.
“ Alright then. Jack, Jenny, get up there!” Carl yelled as he slapped the reins.
“ Something wrong son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I know it’s not polite to eaves drop on someone’s conversation sir, but I heard what the telegram man said.” Scott responded. “ He said the reason we are going to Fort Grant is to deliver a strong box. That at the station, we will pick up another passenger. Sir, that passenger is Johnny Madrid.”
“ Yes, it would seem he was hired to protect that strong box. So why is that bothering you?” Murdoch asked.
“ Why sir? Johnny Madrid is a cold-blooded killer. Surely you have heard of him? ” Scott said, and asked.
“ I have heard of him.” Murdoch responded. “ Son, you’ve only been out here six months. Now I don’t know about back in Boston, but out here, it would be best if you didn’t believe everything you hear about a man. That’s a lesson I learned a long time ago.”
“ Yes sir.” He said. “ You told me I have a younger brother down here somewhere. Do you ever think the Pinkerton’s will find him?”
“ I don’t know. Every day I pray Johnny is still alive, and that they find him.” Murdoch said softly.
“ What if they do, and he doesn’t want to come home?” Scott asked.
“ I’ve thought about that many times too son. I lay awake at night wondering what it was I did that would make her leave me in the middle of the night.” Murdoch said as the stage hit a hole, bouncing both him, and Scott around in their seats. “ I think he’s hit every hole on this road so far.”
“ Johnny is three years younger than me correct?” he asked.
“ Yes. You were born December nineteenth, eighteen fifty two, and your brother was born December twenty third, eighteen fifty five.”
“ And your birthday is December twenty eighth, eighteen twenty eight.” Scott said with a smile. “ What I was getting at is, Johnny is twenty three now, if he’s still alive. Do you not find it a little strange that he hasn’t contacted you at all?”
“ I do, but that could be because of whatever his mother told him when he was old enough. Johnny was only a year and a half old when his mother left me in the middle of the night. She left with some gambler she met in Morro Coyo. I awoke one morning and found her and Johnny gone. No note or anything.” Murdoch explained. “ I learned a few days later she was seen with this gambler headed south.”
“ Someone seen your wife and son with another man headed south, and they didn’t feel the need to tell you right away sir?” Scott asked.
“ It turns out, some people in the valley at that time did not approve of my getting married so soon after your mother passed.” he explained.
“ Why did you?” Scott asked.
“ I met Maria down in Matamoros, I was tracking a man, and went into the cantina to ask if he had been around. Now don’t get me wrong son, your mother was a beautiful woman, and I loved her dearly. When I seen Maria, it woke up a part of me that I thought had died when I lost your mother. We had a whirlwind courtship, and one day she………..we got married, I brought her back to Lancer where I thought she was happy.” Murdoch explained.
“ What was he like?” he asked.
“ Your brother was stubborn from the start son. When he started walking, there was no stopping him. He would be out the door and headed to the horses. Maria got angry with me when I would give him rides. She felt he was too young. I remember once I came back, and she was frantic, Johnny was missing. We searched everywhere in the house for him. Paul found him in a stall in the barn sound asleep with a litter of puppies we had. They were all curled up around him. I can’t explain the relief I felt when I seen him laying there sleeping.”
“ Sounds like he has your stubbornness.” Scott said.
“ I think that if your brother is still alive, he is like me, all pride, and cut from the same mold.” Murdoch responded.
Will, and Curt Anderson grew up in Kansas on a farm their father worked sunup to sundown six days a week. Their mother passed when they were barely teens from Scarlet Fever, and their father continued to raise them. That was until five years ago when the railroad decided they needed his land, and took it one night, killing their father, and burning the only home they knew to the ground. Using the army, the railroad claimed eminent domain, and rather than waiting on the law to decide, they took it into their own hands. Neither boy could prove the railroad was responsible, so after they buried their father, both boys headed west, and vowed revenge against the railroad. Learning everything they could about as they plotted how to hurt the men responsible for killing their father, and burning down their home. Blowing up numerous sections of track in areas hard to replace. Upping the anti the brothers, and Pete started stealing the payroll from the railroad. The last six months they had stolen over a hundred thousand dollars, only to donate the money to churches, and orphanages along the border. Now a bounty of twenty five thousand dollars was offered by one of the railroad founders, J.P. Morgan, for the capture of the men responsible. Some knew who the men were, but said nothing. Many hated the railroad for what it brought with it, and what it cost so many.
Pete Young, the Anderson brothers found in a back alley one night after he had been beaten and robbed. Once healed up, the three set out on a vengeance spree that has lasted five years. When asked about his past one night, Pete told the brothers he never knew his real father, his mother married a man who loved her, but beat him every chance he could until one day Pete had had enough, and left. A year younger than Curt, and full of hatred for any man who beats an animal, woman, or child.
“ Pete’s riding in pretty fast.” Curt said.
“ It’s something for him to be riding like that.” Will said as he stood up. “ You got a good reason to be riding in like that?”
“ Sure do.” Pete responded as he dismounted. “ The strong box will go on the stage at Maricopa Wells, just like ya figured.”
“ Okay, so why the hurry?” Will asked.
“ It won’t be just the driver guarding it. They hired a man.” Pete said.
“ Who?” Curt asked.
“ You ain’t gonna like it……….They hired Johnny Madrid, to make sure the strong box reaches Fort Grant.” Pete said.
“ Sonofabitch………now what do we do?” Curt demanded. “ There ain’t a man alive can take Madrid.”
“ We continue with our plans. There’s a hundred thousand dollars in that strong box. You think I’m going to let that slide past, think again.” Will said.
“ You knew Madrid was hired to guard it didn’t you?” Pete asked.
“ What if I did, don’t change nothing.” Will said.
“ Damn it Will, you know the three of us are no match against Madrid.” Curt spat.
“ Relax little brother. Who said it would be just the three of us? I have an insurance guarantee that Madrid will be no match for.” Will said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ You hired more men didn’t you?” Pete asked.
“ I did, but don’t go thinking they will be getting a part of the money. Once Madrid is taken care of, if any of them are still alive, we kill them.” he explained.
“ Who are they?” Pete asked.
“ Chris Marvin, Jeff Miller, and Vern Thomas.” he responded.
“ I’ve heard of Chris Marvin, he’s a gunfighter from Texas. Did five years in Yuma for robbery.” Pete said. “ Vern Thomas, I’ve never heard of, or Jeff Miller.”
“ Miller and Thomas are from Mexico. They’ve worked range wars along the border with Madrid. If he doesn’t want to give it up easy, maybe they can persuade him too.” Will said.
“ Big brother, is there going to be anyone else on that stage with him, except the driver?” Curt asked.
“ Nope. All passengers have to disembark at the Maricopa Wells station and wait for another stage. That’s the rules of the stage line. Well little brother, Pete, this time tomorrow night, we three will be very rich men.” Will said.
Johnny Madrid, grew up hard, and he grew up fast. He had too living in Mexico. His mother, Maria Consuela, a beautiful Mexican lady, wooed any man she could just to make money so they could eat. Moving from village to village, town to town, never spending more than a couple months in one place. That was until she met the man who became a father figure in his life when he was five. Adolfo Madrid took him under his wing, and taught him everything he could to survive. Johnny met the man one day in a small village when a bunch of other boys decided to beat him up. It wasn’t the first time he’d been beaten up just because he was a mestizo, or as the gringos liked to call him, a worthless half-breed. A Mexican mother, and a gringo father. A father, hell he never knew who his real father was. His mother refused to ever talk about the man, and forbid him asking her about him. Living in a small, yet warm three room adobe house with a tile based roof to sluice off the water in the rainy season. A water barrel placed at each corner of the house to catch the water.
Adolfo started teaching Johnny how to shoot when he was eight, and was impressed with the way he picked it up so fast. Every afternoon they would go to the wash at the back of their house and shoot cans and bottles, and every day Johnny got faster at drawing the colt. To thin to wear his gun belt, Adolfo had one made for the boy, much to the dislike of his mother, and gave it to him on his tenth birthday. One week later, Johnny came home from hunting to find two men coming out of the house. Staying out of sight, he waited until the men left before going inside, and finding Adolfo on the floor dead from a bullet to his heart. His mother lay on the bed in a pol of blood from her throat being cut. Her eyes still open, and blank. Running from the house out the back door to the wash, Johnny dropped to his knees, wrapped his arms around himself, and cried. He stayed that way until the padre from the church found him early the next morning, and took him to the mission were he was soon put in a wagon and taken to the orphanage ten miles away were he spent the next four years being beaten, starved, and abused by both the padre’s who ran the place, and the other children. When fourteen, he ran away for the last time and set out to keep the promise he made that terrible day in the wash behind the only home he had ever had. He had burned the image of the two men in his mind, so he could one day find them, and send them both straight to hell. Working at any job he could find to earn enough money for decent clothes, a horse, and another gun took just over a year. For three years he looked in every town he rode into for the two men he wanted to kill. Hiring out to settle water disputes, or range wars, his reputation as the fastest grew. Numerous times foolish men called him out, only to lay dead in the street moments later. Three times he’d been shot, two times ambushed on the trail. One thing Adolfo taught him when facing another man in the street, watch his eyes. Whenever someone is going to do something suddenly, his eyes will change, the pupils will get bigger. Learning that gave him the edge over anyone he faced.
At seventeen, he found the two men in Yuma sitting at a table in the back of the saloon playing poker. Walking up to the table, he stood there watching them, his anger growing as the images of Adolfo, and his mother came back to him.
“ You want something boy?” the man with the scar across his left eye asked.
“ Maybe he wants to go upstairs with you Randy.” the other one said.
“ Get your half-breed ass out of here before I turn you over my knee boy.” Randy ordered.
Johnny never moved, he just stood there, glaring at both men. “ Seven years ago you murdered my mother, and stepfather. I’m here to send you both to hell.” he said softly.
Three other men at the table stood up, and quickly moved away from the table. The other patrons became quiet as they all watched a skinny boy with a deadly colt on his hip face down two men he claimed murdered his mother and stepfather.
“ You got two choices, you can die right here, or you can come outside and face me. Either way, you are both dying.” Johnny said with so much coldness, it could send a shiver down anyone’s spine who heard.
“ Boy, you’re starting to piss me, and Drake off. Now I suggest you turn around and walk back out those doors before we send * you * to hell.” Randy said.
“ Stand up you bastards!” Johnny ordered. “ Stand up and die like a man!” he yelled. His patience now wearing thin.
“ Just who the hell do you think you are?” Drake demanded.
“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid.” he responded.
“ I’ve heard of Madrid, and you ain’t him kid.” Drake said.
“ Stand up and find out.” Johnny ordered.
Randy threw his cards on the table and stood up. “ You can’t take us both boy.” he spat as Drake also stood up.
Ten seconds later it was all over. Both men lay on the floor dead. Neither one clearing leather as Madrid’ bullet pierced their heart.
Johnny rode out of Yuma that night with satisfaction in his heart. He had finally fulfilled a promise he made seven years before. Now six years later, at twenty three, he found himself guarding the payroll for J.P. Morgan and the Transcontinental Railroad. Hired to stop the men responsible for stealing almost a quarter million dollars, none of which has ever been recovered. A bonus payment of twenty five thousand dollars would be collected if, and when he could either bring the men responsible in, or they were dead.
Sitting in the Maricopa Stage station, guarding a strongbox containing one hundred thousand dollars kept him on edge. It was sixty miles to Fort Grant, sixty miles of scrub country he knew like the back of his hand. Every waterhole, every wash, and even a couple caves just big enough a man could hide in if needed.
“ Stage will be here in about an hour Madrid. The wife made a real nice rabbit stew, and biscuits. You want some before it gets here?” the station master asked.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he stood up, and stretched his sore back. “ You got a name?”
“ Sure do. Names Seth Parker, wife’s name is Emma. How come the army didn’t come here and get that damn railroad money?” the old man asked as he walked over, and dished up a plate of stew, set a couple biscuits on the plate, and brought it back over to him.
“ Smells good. Tell your wife thank you.” Johnny said. “ Well Seth, I guess they have some Indian trouble up north, and can’t send a company here.”
“ You watch yourself. There’s been several shipments stolen. Those damn thieves seem to know when the army ain’t guarding the money, and steal it. Last time they killed the guard, driver, and three passengers, one a pregnant woman headed to the fort to see her husband. If ya ask me, any man who shoots a woman deserves to be sent straight to hell.” the man said.
“ When was this?” Johnny asked as he ate the stew.
“ Two months ago. When the stage never made it to the fort, they sent out a company to search for it along with volunteers. They found them in a wash about twenty miles from the fort. Some tried to say it were Apache that done it. Ain’t no Apache going to steal a strong box full of money. No sir, it were those men done it.” he responded.
“ What made them think Apache done it?” Johnny asked.
“ The horses had been shot. Damn good team too. Everybody knows Indians steal horses, but that lieutenant swore it were Apache that done it. He was full of anger for his wife and unborn child’s death. Some arrogant sonofabitch from West Point or somewhere who still has no idea how things work out west.” Seth said. “ Well, I better go get the horses ready for switching out. The misses is in the back cooking if you need anything.”
“ Thanks.” Johnny said.
“ Maricopa Wells station.” Carl yelled as he reined the team around, and stopped. Setting the brake, he climbed down. “ You got one hour while we switch out the team to stretch your legs and eat. Won’t be stopping again until we get to the fort.”
Murdoch and Scott stepped off the stage, looking around.
“ I thought there were no passengers on this run Carl?”
“ I told them what’s happening, and they said they were going. It could mean two extra guns if there’s trouble.” Carl responded.
“ The wife has hot rabbit stew and biscuits inside.” the station master said. “ Go one in and she’ll serve ya up. You can wash the dust off at the well pump there.”
“ Where’s Madrid?” Carl asked as he unhooked the lead horses.
“ Inside with that strong box. You seem a little pissed Carl.” Seth responded.
“ Taking me off route just so I can be stuck with the deadliest gunfighter along the border for sixty miles. No, I’m not pissed Seth. Damn railroad needs to ship their damn money on their train in a safe, and not by stage.” Carl responded.
Murdoch, and Scott stepped inside the station, letting their eyes adjust.
“ Com eon in and have a seat. I’ll get you two some food.” Emma said.
“ Thank you ma’am.” Murdoch said.
“ That must be him in the corner.” Scott said as they sat down.
“ Sure doesn’t look as dangerous as people say he is.” Murdoch responded.
Johnny leaned back in his chair, and smiled slightly. “ Oh I’m dangerous old man.” he said softly.
“ I’ll take it kindly if you not speak to my father like that………..boy.” Scott ordered.
Johnny stood up, and walked over to their table. “ You must be the two I just heard Carl say are tagging along. Let me tell you something, when that stage leaves here, it belongs to me. I’m the one in charge until we get to the fort. So you better keep that in mind. I call the tune for the next sixty miles.”
“ Madrid, Carl said you can ring the strongbox out now if you want.” Seth said as he walked in.
“ Thanks, but I’ll wait until we leave to take it out.” Johnny said.
“ Is there a problem here?” Seth asked.
“ Nope, just telling these two who is in charge when the stage leaves.” Madrid said before going back, and sitting down.
Murdoch couldn’t help but notice the piercing blue eyes Madrid has. It made him think of his own son.
“ Something wrong sir?” Scott asked.
“ What son…….No. I was just thinking about your brother, wondering what he looks like now.” he responded as he looked over at Madrid.
“ Just so you know Madrid, I ain’t happy about this.” Carl said. “ Damn railroad should ship their money on the train, not on my stage.”
“ Take it up with them, not me.” Johnny responded.
“ Clyde……Buck…..get up there!” Carl yelled as he slapped the reins, and started the stage moving.
“ He’s bold. I’ll give him that.” Murdoch said.
“ If you ask me sir, he’s reckless.” Scott said. “ Someone like him is going to get people killed.”
“ He was hired to do a job son. It’s different out west. Most of the people are good, decent folks. It’s no different than back in Boston. Your grandfather would be the same way.” Murdoch responded.
“ My grandfather would never have allowed him to disrespect another like you did.” he said.
“ Granted, the boy needs to learn to respect others, but something tells me, he hasn’t had a lot of proper upbringing like you have son.” Murdoch responded. “ You have to remember, out here, an education doesn’t seem that important to people. If he grew up in Mexico, there’s even less schools for a child to attend.”
“ He probably doesn’t even know how to read or write.” Scott suggested.
“ Just because someone doesn’t know how to read, write, or do arithmetic, doesn’t make them a bad person son. It just puts them at a slight disadvantage to someone who does. Take you for granted. You know how to do all that. Harlan seen to it you got a proper education. You know if the words on a poster means someone is running for office, or wanted by the law. I have a very good friend from Boston, named Ben Cameron, who is a school teacher. He had to get an injunction to make the children attend school. Most of the parents wanted their children to attend, there were a couple who caused him trouble, but in the end, Ben and his wife won.”
“ Out here a man is measured by different standards. Out of his element.” Scott said.
“ In many ways, yes son, he is.” Murdoch said. “ Madrid is a man without responsibilities, without fear.”
“ You get everything set?” Will asked.
“ Yep, that stage got no choice but to stop. We made sure there’s no way it can get around it.” Chris Marvin said.
“ How much money’s in that box?” Vern Thomas asked.
“ Enough to have a different whore every night for the rest f your life.” Jeff Miller said.
“ One hundred thousand dollars.” Curt said.
“ That’s what………….about sixteen thousand each.” Jeff said.
“ A little more than that, but yeah.” Will said.
“ Buy into a couple silver mines in Virginia City.” Curt added.
“ So how many guards will there be?” Chris asked.
“ Just one besides the driver.” Will said as he gave his brother, and Pete a look that clearly said to not say anything about who was guarding the strongbox.
“ You know, the thing that has me puzzled is, if there’s only the driver, and one guard, why do you three need us three to help you steal the money? A hundred thousand dollars goes farther split three ways, than it does split six. What are you not telling us about the guard?” Chris asked.
“ Just some guy they hired to guard the money.” Pete said.
“ Hired from where?” Jeff asked.
“ How the hell should we know. Look, if you three are starting to get cold feet about this say so now, and ride out.” Will responded.
“ We ain’t getting cold feet. We just like to know what we are up against when we stop that stage.” Chris said firmly. “ And one more thing, don’t even think of trying to double cross us, cause I got no problem with killing any one of you.”
“ That goes for me too. If we find out you’re not telling us the truth……..you’re dead.” Jeff added.
“ Let’s go meet the stage.” Curt said as he went to his horse.
“ Up ahead about five miles the road narrows.” Carl said. “ It’d be a perfect place for an ambush.”
“ How so?” Madrid asked.
“ This road is new. Put in by the army. There’s a big enough bank on each side, the stage wouldn’t be able to get around anything if they block it.” Carl explained.
“ You any good with that scatter gun?” Johnny asked.
“ I am, but I’m not being paid enough money to risk my life for the damn railroads money.” he said.
“ Carl is it?” Johnny asked. “ If it’s the same ones who hit the stage two months ago that Seth told me about. They’re not going to just politely ask for the money. There going to shoot first, and ask questions later.”
“ I see your point. I guess if I’m gonna die, I might as well die for a reason besides transporting passengers.” he said.
“ Stop the stage. I want to have a talk with those two.” Johnny ordered.
Carl pulled back on the reins, bringing the six horses to a stop. “ There’s two Winchester’s under the seat in a secret compartment along with ammo for them and the shotgun.”
“ Go ahead and bring it out.” Johnny said as he climbed down, and opened the door. “ Step on out you two.”
“ What’s the meaning of this?” Scott demanded.
“ Where you from Boy?” Johnny asked as Murdoch stepped off the stage.
“ California, a place called Morro Coyo. Me and my sons……son have a ranch near there.” Murdoch responded.
“ I asked him, not you old man. I don’t like repeating myself.” Johnny said firmly.
“ Don’t call me boy. If anyone here is a boy, it’s you.” Scott responded firmly. “ Just because you wear that gun, that don’t make you a man.”
“ Let me tell you something…………boy. I learned my lessons the hard way growing up. I didn’t have the luxury of a father to spoil me with anything I wanted. I get what I want with this colt, and I don’t mean stealing it either.” Johnny said as he stepped to within inches of Scott’s face.
“ Boston. My son grew up in Boston. He’s only been out west with me six months.” Murdoch cut in.
“ You better tell your greenhorn eastern dandy boy to watch what he says to people he don’t know. Out here his mouth can get him killed.”
“ Young man, maybe if you showed a little more respect toward people, they would do the same to you.” Murdoch said.
“ Well you see…….that’s the problem right there. You want my respect, you have to earn it. That don’t come on no hunch.” Johnny said. “ Now, the reason I had Carl stop here is I need to know if either one of you are any good with a rifle?”
“ I take it you’re expecting trouble ahead?” Murdoch asked.
“ I can handle a rifle. I was four years in the war.” Scott said.
“ Carl, give them those Winchester’s and ammo.” Johnny ordered. “ There’s a narrow section of road about four miles ahead. The bank is too steep on either side for the stage to get thru if they block the road. This route came to be from Fort Grant two years ago. I need to know if they hit this stage, can I count on you two, and two extra guns?”
Scott glared at Johnny a couple seconds before smiling, and nodding.
“ We’ll back you up.” Murdoch said as he took a rifle and box of ammo from Carl.
“ Good, you two will be my ace in the hole then. I don’t want either of you shooting until they stop us. I want them thinking it’s just me and Carl on this stage.” Johnny said. “ Let’s go.”
“ See any sign of them yet?” Chris asked.
“ No, nothing yet.” Vern said.
“ I don’t trust those three Chris.” Jeff said.
“ Neither do I. I have a feeling they have plans on keeping all that money for themselves once it’s done.” Chris responded.
“ What I can’t figure out is why they need us if it’s going to be just the driver and one guard.” Jeff said. “ It makes no sense.”
“ I’ve been thinking on that some. I think there’s something they’re not telling us.” he suggested.
“ Like maybe who the guard is?” he asked.
“ Who do you know would hire out to guard all that money, and not need anyone else with him?” Chris asked.
Jeff remained quiet for a few moments. “ It would have to be someone who is good enough with a gun.”
“ And who do we know fits that need?” he asked.
“ Only one comes to mind is Johnny Madrid.” Jeff said. “ Shit Chris, I like Madrid. He did us right that last range war we worked together on, remember?”
“ I remember. That rancher wasn’t going to hire us on until Madrid talked him into it.” Chris said.
“ What do we do if it’s him?” he asked.
“ Steal the money, and kill anyone who tries stopping us.”
“ What about Vern?” Jeff asked.
“ More money if it’s split two ways instead of three.” he said.
“ Dust in the distance.” Vern yelled.
Chris whistled to get the others attention.
“ I think those two are going to try something. They’ve been talking to each other, and looking around to make sure nobody else hears what they say.” Will said.
“ I want you to stay back. As soon as the stage stops, kill them.” Will said.
“ With pleasure.” Pete responded.
“ If this goes as planned, we’ll be riding out of here in thirty minutes a whole lot richer.” he said as he watched the dust cloud get closer.
Carl pulled back on the reins as hard as he could. “ I knew it………..I knew something would happen right here.” he said with anger as the teams slowed down.
“ Just play it cool. Do as I say, and we’ll get out of this alive.” Johnny ordered as he pulled his colt, cocked it, and laid it in his lap.
“ Don’t do anything stupid Madrid, and you’ll live. You know what we want, so throw it down.” Will yelled as he stayed out of sight. “ There’s six guns aimed at the two of you right now. Do you really want to die protecting someone else’ money?”
“ Give it to them Madrid. He’s right. It’s not worth dying over.” Carl said.
“ I suggest you do as he said, and throw down the strongbox Madrid.” Chris said as he, and Jeff walked up to the stage.
“ You two taken to stealing now?” Johnny asked.
“ Hard to pass up easy money.” Chris responded.
“ The only reason we don’t shoot you right now is because we owe ya, but we don’t owe him.” Jeff said as he aimed his rifle at Carl.
“ I’m not going to say it again.” Will yelled.
“ You know these two?” Carl asked.
“ We worked a range war together in Texas.” Johnny responded.
“ Vern, check inside. Make sure there’s nobody else.” Chris ordered.
Vern went to the left side door, and opened it and froze.
“ Anyone in there?” Chris asked.
Johnny knew what was happening, and slowly let his right hand drop to his colt. “ You’re not the three who have been committing the robberies. Ride out now, and I’ll let you live.”
“ You’ll let us live. Seems to me, we’re the ones with the guns on you Johnny boy.” Jeff said.
Will got tired of waiting, so he fired a shot, hitting the seat between Johnny, and Carl. “ I won’t miss next time.”
Reaching down slowly, Johnny brought the strongbox up onto his lap as he picked up his colt. Throwing the box to the ground, he stood up, aimed, and fired, hitting Jeff in the chest. Aiming at Chris, he fired as he jumped from the stage.
Vern panicked when the shooting started, reaching for his gun, he was knocked backwards into the bank from a rifle shot to his chest.
Pete went to Will. “ Let’s get out of here. Madrid has help inside the coach.”
“ He’s right brother. Let’s get out of here. He doesn’t know who we are.” Curt pleaded.
“ Sonofabitch. You’re a dead man Madrid.” Will spat.
Johnny lay under the stage, scanning all around him, waiting, and listening. Soon he heard the sound of three horses galloping away. Crawling out from under the stage as Murdoch, and Scott climbed out.
“ Madrid, this one is still alive.” Carl yelled as he knelt down next to Chris Marvin.
Johnny walked over, and knelt down. “ Who are they Chris?” he asked.
“ You never planned to let us live did you?” Chris asked.
“ You know the rules. Who are they Chris. Tell me, and I’ll see to it you don’t hang. Keep quiet, and you’ll be held responsible for the death of a pregnant woman two months ago. Is that what you want?” Johnny said, and asked.
“ I’ve never killed no woman………..It…..It was Will Anderson, and his little brother Curt, along with Pete Young. Will is the one who offered us part of the money if we helped. He never told us all he knew. Me and Jeff figured it was you guarding the money. You’re the only one with guts enough to do it alone.” Chris responded. “ Don’t know if it’s true, but they talked of heading to Virginia City, to buy into the silver mines there.”
Johnny stood up, and walked over to the still body of Jeff Miller.
“ Something wrong?” Scott asked.
“ Carl, back the horses up so we can go around this, and get to the fort. I have three men to start tracking.”
“ Johnny…………Do you know the three men?” Murdoch asked.
“ Just the one, Pete Young. He’s my step-brother.” Johnny said before walking away.
Johnny waked out of the post commanders office, and headed to the livery to purchase a horse. He seen Carl checking his team over good before heading out. Walking over to the man. “ You’re a good man Carl. I made sure to put in the report just how good a man you are.”
“ I’m sorry Madrid. I guess I got scared. I know I let ya down.” he said.
“ Let me tell ya something. You don’t live to be your age by being foolish. There’s no mention of anything but bravery from you in the report. You take care of yourself.” Johnny said as he extended his hand.
Carl shook Johnny’s hand. “ You’re going after them three, you be careful, and take care of yourself Madrid. I was wrong about you, and for that………I’m sorry.”
“ Madrid………..Just a moment.” Murdoch said as he and Scott walked over to him.
“ I’ll be ready to leave in a few minutes Lancer.” Carl said.
“ I’m going with you.” Scott said.
“ Oh no you’re not. I don’t have time to nurse made a greenhorn.” Johnny said.
“ I’m going, and you can’t stop me.” Scott said firmly. “ Look, I know we got off to a wrong start, and it was mainly my fault. I want to help you stop these men before they kill another innocent woman. Please, let me help you.”
“ This won’t be no Sunday school picnic we’re going on. There won’t be no comfortable bed to sleep on every night. We’ll be out in the elements.” Johnny said.
“ I was four years in the war. I know about the elements. I can ride, shoot, and I won’t slow you down.” Scott said.
“ How’d it make you feel shooting that man?” Johnny asked.
“ I won’t lie to you, I hated it, but he gave me no choice.” Scott said. “ Killing bothers me yes. It’s never easy taking another mans life. It makes me feel sick inside.”
“ Go get a horse, and meet me at the Commissary. I bought a pack-horse.” Johnny said.
“ Alright. Sir, I’ll see you at home when we are done. Tell Teresa I’ll expect a real good supper.” Scott said as he shook his fathers hand.
“ I will. She won’t be happy, but I’ll explain why to her. Be careful son.” Murdoch said before Scott headed to the livery to purchase a horse.
“ Why don’t you let me pay for your supplies?” Murdoch asked.
“ I got money old man. I don’t need yours.” Johnny responded.
“ I know you do, but since Scott is going with you, I can at least contribute some. Humor an old man.” Murdoch said as he took his wallet, and removed a thousand dollars. “ This will get you both plenty of good grub, and anything else you will need.” he said as he handed the money to him.
“ I’ll pay Boston back when I collect my reward.” Johnny said as he took the money.
“ You don’t have to pay me back John.” he said.
“ Yeah I do. I don’t like owing anything to anyone.” Johnny said firmly. “ Saves me trouble later on.”
“ We need to get going Mister Lancer.” Carl said.
“ John, I know you’re good at what you do, but please, be careful, both of you.” Murdoch said before climbing in the stagecoach, and closing the door. “ If you want a good, steady job when this is over, come back with Scott to Lancer.” he added before the stage lurched forward, and left the fort.
Johnny stood there watching the stage disappear out the gates. He had a weird feeling he couldn’t explain come over him. One he had never had before.
“ What the hell we gonna do now?” Pete asked with anger as he sat down next to the fire.
“ Yeah, that money was our stake in the silver mines in Virginia City Will.” Curt added.
“ We’re still going to go to Virginia City little brother, but first we’re going to pay a visit to a couple banks along the way.” Will explained.
“ Wait minute Will, stealing money from a stage is one thing. Riding into a town full of people, and the law to rob a bank, that’s like drinking turpentine, and pissing on a brush fire. It’s suicide.” Pete said.
“ There’s a bank in Barstow we can hit. The president of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad keeps a lot of money in there. As well as some wealthy cattlemen in the area.” Will said.
“ What about the law?” Curt asked.
“ One lone sheriff named, William Davies, and one deputy. We’ve handled more than that robbing a stage.” he said.
“ Yeah, but how we supposed to get the money from the safe? We ride in there and robe it during daylight, and we could be gunned down.” Curt asked, and said.
“ How much money you have on you?” Will asked.
“ I got about a thousand I recon.” Pete said.
“ Me and Curt have almost four thousand between us. What we are going to do is buy us some respectable looking clothes, and walk in that bank as investors needing a place to keep our money safe. That bank manager will assure us his bank is safe, and show us around. Then, once the money is in the bank, we hang around town a couple days, and then decide to remove our money. We’ll do it just before the bank closes, so there’s less chance of other customers. He’ll have to get our money from the safe………….”
“ And when he does, we robe him.” Curt cut in.
“ I don’t know Will. So far nobody knows what we look like. We’ve been real lucky with that.” Pete said.
“True. But with the sheriff, he won’t chase us far. We can be out of his county, and in Nevada before dark.” Will said.
“ How about this. Why don’t one of us ride in away from the other two, and when you’re in the bank doing that, the other comes in and robs it? That way they won’t know who we are.” Curt suggested.
“ Little brother, I like your way of thinking. You think you could do it Pete?” he said and asked.
“ Wait, why Pete? It was my idea.” Curt said.
“ Because I know you. We spend two days I that town, I don’t want the risk of you getting drunk, and saying something you shouldn’t.” Will responded.
“ What about Madrid?” Pete asked.
“ What about him? He delivered the money. He doesn’t know who we are since he killed Chris, and Jeff.” he said.
“ Yeah. I wonder who was in that stage. You said there wasn’t going to be any riders due to policy.” Curt said.
“ Had to be lawmen, or Pinkerton’s maybe. They could’ve hired out to help Madrid.” Pete suggested.
“ Maybe. Don’t matter now who they are. Not Madrid, Pinkerton’s, or the law know who we are.” Will said with a laugh.
“ Why do you recon they’re headed northwest?” Scott asked as he settled down in his bedroll.
“ Working on figuring that out myself.” Johnny responded.
“ You think they know they are being followed?” Scott asked.
“ I doubt it. Nobody has been left alive who’s seen them. They probably figure nobody was still alive to tell who they are, so that gives us an advantage.” Johnny responded.
“ You said you know the one, Pete Young, that he’s your step-brother?” he asked.
Johnny stood up and walked over to stir the fire, and put more wood on it for the night. “ His father was my step-father. He never liked me. I guess because his father spent so much time with me. He’s the one who taught me how to shoot.” he said softly. “ A couple weeks before they were murdered, Pete, whose real name is Pedro Madrid, ran away. Adolfo looked for him for some time, but never found him.”
“ They were murdered? Your mother, and step-father?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. I came back from hunting and seen the two who did it leaving. I went inside and found them both dead. It took me seven years, but I finally found them both in a saloon in Yuma.” Johnny said as he walked back over, and sat down on his bedroll. “ I sent them both to hell.”
“ How old were you?” he asked.
“ Seventeen when I killed them.” he said.
“ You were only ten when your mother was killed. Jesus Johnny. I can’t begin to imagine what that was like for you to walk in and find the two people you loved, and cared about murdered.” Scott said.
“ My mother didn’t love me, she tolerated me. What about your mother? Won’t she be unhappy you’re out here with a man like me?” he asked.
“ My mother died giving birth to me. I was raised by my grandfather in Boston. I have a younger brother out there somewhere, if he’s still alive.” Scott explained.
“ You mean you don’t know?” Johnny asked.
“ Murdoch’s been looking for him since he was taken by his mother in the middle of the night. He woke one morning and found them both gone. He was around two years old when it happened. From what Murdoch could learn, she was seen on a road with another man headed south. Turns out the other man was a gambler or something. He’s had the Pinkerton’s searching for him ever since.” Scott explained.
“ So if he was just a baby when taken, and he’s still alive, how’s he gonna know what he looks like now?” he asked.
“ He has the deepest blue eyes. His mother is a beautiful Mexican lady.” he said.
“ A half-breed Mexican with blue eyes. Not good if she took him to Mexico. Trust me, I know. I’ve put up with abuse damn near my whole life because some bastard gringo got my mother pregnant with me. I’ve been called a half-breed, and a mestizo because of him.” Johnny said.
“ Do you know anything about your father at all?” Scott asked.
Johnny laid down on his bedroll, and covered up. “ Nope. My mother never told me anything about him except that he got her pregnant with me, and didn’t want a bastard half-breed kid. We’ll get more supplies in Vulture City. Better get some sleep. I want to ride before dawn.”
“ What’s Vulture City?” Scott asked.
“ A mining town. It’s got a saloon, whore house, School, Stores, and other businesses.” Johnny said as he placed his colt next to his head, and closed his eyes.
Scott lay there unable to sleep as he thought about what he was just told. Something in the back of his mind kept telling him to ask more questions. Why, he couldn’t figure out, but the inkling was there.
“ Watch yourself in this town. There’s no law except Sam Colt.” Johnny said as they rode into Vulture City, and stopped at the mercantile. “ Let’s get what we need, and get out.”
“ Sounds good to me.” Scott said as he dismounted, and tied his horse, and the pack-horse up.
Johnny stepped up onto the boardwalk, and looked up the street at Rita’s Brothel. Half naked girls stood on the upper deck. “ Been to long.” he said softly.
“ They always so open?” Scott asked as he stepped up next to him, and looked at the women.
“ Their whores. They don’t advertise, they don’t eat.” Johnny said before walking inside. “ A whore who don’t make money gets run out by whoever is in charge of the place. Usually a woman. If a man owns it, then they get beaten, starved, and even raped by him.”
“ Raped, they’re whores, how can they be raped?” Scott asked.
“ Just because they bed a man for money don’t make them girls bad Boston. Any man who abuses a woman, regardless of her profession, or forces himself on her don’t deserve to live.” Johnny said firmly before heading inside.
Thirty minutes later Johnny was paying the bill while Scott packed the supplies they bought on the horse.
“Been a while since I seen you Madrid. How ya been?” the store owner asked.
“ Good. You?” Johnny asked.
“ I can’t complain,” the man said as he handed Johnny his change.
“ Well, I’ll see ya.” Johnny said before walking outside, and finding two men standing near the pack-horse. “ There a problem here Scott?”
“ Seems these two gentlemen want to relieve us of our supplies, and horses.” Scott said.
“ Well, today’s a good day for varmints to die.” Johnny said coldly as he stepped down next to Scott. “ Can I at least know your names before I kill you?”
“ Kill us, you hear that Alfred? This half-breed thinks he’s gonna kill us. Boy, I guess you didn’t see my brother has his gun drawn already. Now we’re taking your horses, and anything else we want.” Boone Marlowe said.
“ Yeah, so why don’t you tell us your name before I shoot you down half-breed.” Alfred ordered.
“ Tell you my name?” Johnny said as he stepped around to stand in front of Scott. “ Sure, it’s………..Madrid.”
“ Madrid, as in Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter?” Alfred asked.
“ Yeah, and I don’t take kindly to varmints pointing guns at my friends, or trying to steal my horses.” he said.
“ Hey, look, we were just having some fun with ya. We didn’t know it was you Madrid.” Alfred pleaded as he started backing away into the street.
“ You ain’t Madrid.” Boone said as he went for his gun.
Johnny drew, and fired, hitting Boone square in the chest.
“ You sonofabitch, you killed my brother!” Alfred yelled as he brought his gun up, and fired as a bullet knocked him clean out of his boots, to lay dead in the street.
“ Lets go.” Johnny ordered as he went to his horse, and mounted up.
Scott untied the pack-horse, mounted up, and rode out of town with Johnny.
Murdoch stepped off the stage in Morro Coyo, and wrapped his arms around his ward, Teresa. “ Oh I missed you.” he said as he gave her a hug.
“ I missed the two of you too. Where’s Scott?” she asked.
“ It’s a long story, let’s go home, and I’ll tell you over supper.” Murdoch responded.
Five hours later, Murdoch sat at the table in the grand room. He just finished telling Teresa why Scott didn’t come home with him.
“ I can’t believe Scott went with him. That you allowed him to go with that killer.” Teresa said.
“ He’s killed some, yes.” Murdoch said as he stood up, walked over to his desk, took out the letter, and opened it.
The person you asked our agency to check out, Johnny Madrid, is well known in Mexico. In fact Madrid is wanted by the Rurales down there. An agent I have stationed there had little trouble finding out about this man. What he learned follows.
Age eighteen or so.
Madrid is of mixed race. His mother was a Mexican and his father a rich American it is reported from California. Up until ten years ago Johnny Madrid had never been heard of. In finding I have learned that at the age of fourteen, he ran away from the orphanage, never to return. Hiring out to do any job he could to earn enough money to buy clothes, a horse, and gun, he started to build he reputation he now has. At seventeen Madrid walked into a saloon in Yuma, and found the two men who murdered his mother, and step-father. People say he had walked up to the table very calmly, and ordered the two men outside, this being after he told them who he was, and that he was going to kill them for the murder of his step-father Alfonso Madrid, and mother a Maria Consuela Madrid. Witnesses say, neither mans gun cleared leather before a bullet ripped thru their heart. Madrid disappeared after killing those two men, then surfaced again in Cordova were he is said to have killed three men for beating a prostitute at a bordello he was patronizing.
The Rurales want Madrid in prison or dead for what he has done to them in the past two years. This agent has learned that he has killed twenty six Federales, not in cold blood mind you. Madrid has never killed a man in cold blood. Granted killing Federal es is a crime in Mexico punishable by life in prison or death by firing squad. Basically the Rurales like to push the farmers around and take what little they have in peso’s or food. Madrid hired out to these farmers merely for a roof over his head and food in his belly.
I have numerous witness accounts of Madrid being called out on both sides of the border and every time this gunfighter would try and talk the caller out of it. In the end though Madrid would be the one walking away.
I have learned that his childhood was at first, an unsupervised one until his mother met Adolfo Madrid, and his son Pete. The boys ran the streets of the villages they lived in, until one day Pete took off, and disappeared. He would work in livery stables when he could for pesos. Before his mother and Adolfo started living together, he was beaten almost every day by other kids, I learned from a padre and bares the scars from such beatings. I learned that in the village of Candela some boys beat Madrid badly then one of the boys stabbed him just to see what color his blood was.
I can attest that on my own witnessing Johnny Madrid is the fastest gunfighter in the south. Any man who calls him out will die. I can also attest that Johnny Madrid was not born with said name. Before his mother died a padre told me she confessed to him, telling that the boys last name was in fact Lancer, and that his father had thrown him and his mother out of his estancia when he was barely two. It is believed that Madrid knows nothing of who his real father is. I cannot however substantiate this.
Madrid is now working for a man named J.P. Morgan, owner of the railroad in Arizona, guarding a shipment of money, and trying to catch the men responsible for many robberies, and damage to his railroad.
“ Oh my god.” Murdoch said.
“ Murdoch, what’s wrong?” Teresa asked as she walked over to him.
“ Read this.” he said as he handed the letter to her.
“ There has to be some mistake. He can’t be your Johnny.” she said.
“ It’s no mistake Teresa. The eyes alone tell me that. There’s nobody else with eyes the shade of blue Johnny has.” Murdoch said.
Johnny stopped his horse as the sun started to go behind the Camel-back Mountains. “ We’ll camp here.” he said. He could feel the stickiness of the blood on his side, from where the bullet creased him. “ I need you to get a fire going, and heat some water for me.” he said as he dismounted, and leaned against his horse.
“ What’s wrong?” Scott asked as he dismounted and went to him.
“ Nothing some stitches won’t fix.” Johnny said.
“ You were shot?” Scott asked. “ Jesus Johnny, you should have said something sooner. Come over here ad sit down, so I can get a look at it.”
“ It’ll wait. Just do as I asked.” he ordered.
An hour later, Scott wiped the blood from the wound so he could see how deep it was. “ It’s going to need stitches to stop the bleeding.”
“ In my saddlebags you’ll find a tool for pulling the lead from a bullet. I need you to pour the gunpowder on the wound, and lite it.” Johnny said.
“ Cauterize it. Johnny, that’s going to hurt like hell.” Scott said.
“ I know. I’ve done it before.” Johnny said. “ Look, if you can’t do it, I will.”
“ No, I’ll do it for you.” Scott said as he got the saddlebags, and opened the one Johnny said the tool was in.
“ There’s a needle and thread in a small leather pouch also, so you can stitch it up after.” he said.
Scott pulled the tool out, and reached back in, pulling out what he thought was the pouch with needle and thread. Opening it, he was shocked to find a very familiar picture in a small silver frame of a beautiful Mexican woman. A sick feeling came over him as he glanced over at Johnny sitting on the ground.
“ You find it?” Johnny asked.
Reaching in he found the small pouch he wanted. “ Yeah.” he said as he walked back over to him.
“ Why do you have the picture of my mother?” Johnny asked.
“ Your mother? What was her name?” Scott demanded.
“ Maria Consuela, why?” Johnny responded. “ Give me the picture. It’s the only one I have of my mother.”
“ You were born December twenty third, eighteen fifty five. You’re twenty three. Three years younger than me.” Scott said as he handed the picture to Johnny.
“ What the hell are you getting at Boston?” Johnny demanded.
“ What I’m trying to say is…………Johnny, you’re my little brother. Remember what I told you the other night. Murdoch has the same picture on his desk, Maria Consuela Lancer.” Scott said.
Johnny stood up, swung and hit Scott as hard as he could, knocking him down. “ You knew, all this time you knew your old man was my old man!”
“ No, I didn’t. Not until I seen the picture Johnny. I swear to you, I didn’t know.” Scott said as he stood up. “ He has searched for you for over twenty one years, Johnny, I swear I am telling you the truth. If you want to hit me again, then go ahead if it will help you see I am not lying to you.”
Johnny stood there glaring at Scott a few seconds. He could see in his eyes, he was telling the truth. “ This can’t be happening……..It can’t be true!”
“ Look, when this is over, come back to Lancer with me, and you will see I am not lying about the picture Murdoch has of your mother.” Scott suggested.
“ Just…………go to hell Boston!” Johnny said before turning and walking over to the fire.
“ I’ve already been to hell brother.” Scott said as he walked over. “ Sit your ass down so I can take care of that wound.”
“ Leave it.”
“ You can either sit down on your own………….or…………”
“ Or what………….You think you have a right now to go telling me what to do?” Johnny spat. “ You don’t. I’m going to give you a little piece of advice. Don’t order me around, because I’ve never been very good at taking orders.”
Scott stepped over to him. “ Look, I’m sorry. I know how this has to be a shock to you. I know it is to me.”
“ You think I care.” Johnny said before turning to walk away.
Scott grabbed Johnny by his right arm, and spun him around, hitting him hard in the mouth. “ You selfish bastard……..You selfish bastard……….You don’t care about anyone but yourself. My father……….Our father has suffered for twenty one years not knowing if you were alive or dead, and so have I…………Now, like it or not, I am your older brother, so sit your ass down now, so I can stop that bleeding.”
Johnny stared at Scott a few seconds. “ You learn to be that damn bossy in the war?”
“ As I’m sure you know, if you don’t take command, something can happen.” Scott said as he ejected a round from his rifle. “ Look…..I know up until now it’s pretty much been you taking care of you Johnny. How about you let someone else share in doing that task?”
“ Murdoch, I didn’t know you and Scott were back.” Sam said.
“ I need to talk to you Sam.” Murdoch said.
“ Sounds serious. Sit down. Has something happened to Scott, or Teresa?” Sam asked.
“ No.” Murdoch said as he sat down, and removed the letter from his pocket. ‘ Read that.”
Sam put his glasses on, and took the letter.” Are they sure it’s him?” he asked when he finished reading the letter.
“ They are.” Murdoch responded, and then told him what happened.
“ Does Scott know this?” he asked as he handed the letter back to him.
“ No, and I have no way of letting him know.” Murdoch said. “ I don’t know what to do Sam. Teresa is afraid. It would seem she knows about Madrid from some dime store novels she’s seen, and I believe read.”
“ Did you let her read this?” Sam asked.
“ Yes, she read it last night. Sam, you know I have looked for that boy for twenty one long years. I prayed he would still be alive, and I could bring him home again…………Now though, I’m not so sure I want Johnny to come home.”
“ Why?” he asked.
“ Why, because of who he is……or who he became I should say. The people of this valley are not going to want Johnny Madrid living here.” Murdoch responded.
“ So let me see if I understand you correctly.” Sam said. “ You spend twenty one years searching for this boy, not knowing where he’s at, or if he’s even still alive. You learn he is, and that he’s not Johnny Lancer, but the infamous gunfighter Johnny Madrid, and instead of being happy for that, you’re concerned over what the people of the valley will think? What is wrong with you man. Bring that boy home where he belongs, and to hell with what others will think.”
“ I have a hundred and fifty men working for me. Some who have families Sam, I have to also think about their safety.” Murdoch responded.
“ Sounds to me like all I hear are excuses to not bring the boy home where he belongs. All anybody in this valley needs to know is he is your long lost son Johnny Lancer. It’s nobodies business he’s also Johnny Madrid. Who else knows about this?” Sam said, and asked.
“ Just you and Teresa.” he said.
“ Good, keep it that way.” Sam said.
Johnny woke up the next morning to the sound of a coyote yapping in the distance, and the smell of coffee, and bacon. Slowly sitting up, he rubbed his jaw, and wondered if he had a bruise as he flipped the blanket off him. A bandage wrapped around his chest reminded him of last nights events.
“ Morning, coffee is hot, and breakfast will be done shortly.” Scott said. “ How you feel?”
“ I’m fine. Nothing I haven’t felt before.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ I owe you one.”
“ Owe me one what?” Scott asked as he stood up.
Johnny walked over to him, and hit Scott as hard as he could in the jaw. “ That!”
Scott never seen the fist come up, and staggered a little when Johnny hit him. “ What the hell?”
“ I don’t like owing anyone. You ever hit me again, and I’ll kill you.” he said firmly before walking toward the horses.
“ Who’s Teresa?” Johnny asked four hours later as they rode along.
“ She’s Murdoch’s ward. Her father was the foreman for many years. Some men stole a prized stallion, Murdoch and Paul, her father tracked them to Morro Coyo where he was shot and killed, and Murdoch ended up with a bullet in the back. She’s like a sister to me.” Scott explained.
“ A sister huh. So she’s not blood kin?” he asked.
“ No, but Murdoch thinks of her as his own. Her mother left her when she was a baby. They raised her with the help of our cook Maria.” Scott said.
Johnny stopped his horse, and dismounted. “ She got a beau?”
“ No. Me and Murdoch feel the boys her age in the valley, are only interested in her because of Lancer.” Scott responded.
“ How old is she?” he asked as he looked at the tracks they’ve been following. “ Barstow.”
“ Nineteen. What about Barstow?” Scott asked as he dismounted, and removed his canteen to take a drink.
“ That’s where they’re headed. It’s the only town in this direction.” Johnny said.
Scott handed him his canteen. “ You think they have something planned to do once there?”
“ Thanks. Rob the bank. There’s a lot of money in that bank in Barstow, from both the cattlemen, and the railroad. I think that’s what they plan on doing since they were foiled on robbing the stage.” Johnny explained.
“ They have too much of a head start on us to stop them.” Scott said.
“ There’s a telegraph in Ehrenberg. I’ll send a wire to Sheriff Davies letting him know three men will be arriving with plans to rob the bank.” Johnny said as he handed the canteen back to Scott.
“ But will he believe you?” he asked.
“ I helped him out before. He’ll believe me.” Johnny said as he mounted up. “ Bill’s a good man.”
“ I think I will send a wire to Murdoch, letting him know we are okay, and headed to Barstow.” Scott said.
“ So this Teresa, she’s not blood kin to any of us?” Johnny asked.
“ As I said, she is Murdoch’s ward, but I guess you could say she’s like a little sister to me.” Scott said.
“ So if I was to say, take an interest in her, you think the old man would allow it?” he asked.
“ Johnny, she isn’t one of your saloon girls. If, and I use that word loosely, Murdoch allows it. You would have to court her the proper way.” Scott said.
“ I know she’s not a saloon girl.” Johnny said. “ You ever think that maybe I’m tired of not having a girl of my own. Tired of paying a woman to get laid?” Johnny asked. “ Oh sure I have other woman offer themselves to me, But I’m tired of not having just one gal I can say is mine.”
“ Are you willing to give up living by a gun? To stop living as Johnny Madrid, and start living as Johnny Lancer?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah I am.” Johnny said firmly. “ Why don’t you tell me about Lancer?”
Scott fastened his canteen, and mounted up. “ Lancer, I would have to say is the most beautiful-lest place on earth. It’s one hundred thousand acres. We currently have ten thousand head of cattle, oh and the finest Companero de Palomino’s in the San Joaquin. There are more mustangs than you could break in a lifetime running on Lancer land, and in the valley. We have a hundred and fifty vaquero’s, some with families working for us. The work is never ending between rounding up cattle, fixing fences, and clearing streams of brush in the dry season so they don’t flood when the rains come. There are several living quarters built for the hands and their families. We have five line-shacks on the property for hands who are out working and a storm comes in, so they have a place to shelter. Morro Coyo is the closest town to Lancer. Spanish Wells, and Green River are about the same distance away.”
“ Is Lancer the only ranch?” Johnny asked.
“ No. There are six other ranches that are around Lancer. The HCR is the Conway ranch. Mrs Conway is a dear old friend of our father. The Circle P ranch belongs to Charlie Poe. He doesn’t really do much ranching anymore. The Square D belongs to Driscoll. Met the man once at a cattleman’s meeting, and don’t really care for him. He’s too short tempered. The Rocking H ranch belongs to Hackett. Then there’s The Circle N that belongs to Nelson. At the last meeting he said he was selling out. The last one is the S.R. Ranch belongs to Santee. He’s about like Driscoll on temper. Most of the ranchers get along, and when there’s a drought, they come to Lancer for water. There’s a man and his son living up on Bone Mountain, but they don’t do ranching.” Scott said.
“ You seem to have all your neighbors memorized.” Johnny said.
“ It’s good to know who is who, especially when we all get together for spring round-up and driving to the rail-head.” Scott responded.
“ What’s the estancia like?” he asked.
“ Estancia……..oh you mean the main house. Forgive me please. I’m still learning Spanish.” Scott said. “ the house is huge. It has eight bedrooms upstairs, and another four downstairs. The grand room is huge with a big fireplace with the Lancer L brand in the wall above it. One wall in the dining room has shelves full of books from all over. Murdoch has a big desk he sits at to do the books and other business pertaining to the ranch. I mean, the room is lavishly furnished with nice furniture. The dining room table will seat eight…………”
“ Let m ask you something Boston. We both know why I didn’t grow up on this big fancy ranch, and I know you said your mother died giving birth to you, which I am sorry for, but one thing has been bothering me all this time………..”
“ Why I didn’t grow up at Lancer?” Scott cut in, and asked.
“ Yeah. I mean, you just told me the old man is raising Teresa. You said your grandfather raised you all the way back in Boston. That……did he decide he didn’t want to be burdened with raising you? Is that why you didn’t grow up at Lancer?” Johnny asked.
“ My grandfather was visiting when I was born. The ranch was under attack, so Murdoch sent her away. The wagon was on it’s way to Carterville, when I was born. It turns out, Murdoch didn’t know what happened until days later. When I was five, he had come to Boston to get me back, and grandfather it would seem, threatened him with legal actions if he tried taking me away. My grandfather is a very resourceful man, with a lot of money, and lawyers. So Murdoch left me in his care.” Scott explained.
“ So what made you decide to go home after all those years living the good life in Boston?” he asked.
“ Grandfather was away on business, and I was looking for something in the attic, when I stumbled on a box full of letters addressed to me. Twenty five years worth of letters from a man I never knew. I took the box to my room, and started reading them. When grandfather returned, I confronted him about them, and he told me he did what was right. That Murdoch was nothing more than a down the hills dreamer with nothing to offer me. That he raised me to be a proper gentleman, and that because of him doing that, I would now have a considerable wealth waiting for me when he passes away. I blew up, and told him he had no right keeping me away from my father. Letting me think for all those years that the man never wanted me, never loved me. I packed up my clothes, and took the afternoon train out of Boston. One week later, I stepped off the stage in Morro Coyo, and met Murdoch for the second time in my life.”
“ So then you and him are still getting to know each other?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. I’ve only been back six months. I think the hardest part, at first anyway was accepting the time difference, and getting up before the sun to start working at daylight. Murdoch likes to eat breakfast and supper at six every day except Sunday, when he takes Teresa to church. Work is sunup to sundown six days a week, with Sundays off.” Scott responded.
“ So what makes you think me and him will get along if I did decide to go back with you?”
“ You may not get along at first, but if you stick it out, I think you will find our father does care about you, and he does want you to come home Johnny.” Scott responded. “ You know, even though I was in the army, I still had a hard time taking orders from him. See, sometimes Murdoch likes to throw his weight around to remind others that he’s the one who calls the tune. I got in a pretty heated argument with him about two months after being there. It was over a foot bridge that almost always wipes out every spring with the snow melt-off. I suggested moving it up closer to the more solid ground where it comes out of the rocks. He didn’t like the fact that it would cost almost a thousand dollars to rebuild it there. So I went back thru his books and totaled the cost of repairing that same bridge the previous five years, and showed him the cost was over six thousand dollars in material alone in those five years. He seen it was better doing it my way, and had it moved.”
“ Are you a part owner, or just another hired hand?” Johnny asked.
“ I own a third of Lancer, and so will you when we get home. He has a contract drawn up that me and him have signed that is just waiting for your signature little brother.” Scott said.
“ Me, Johnny Madrid, a third own of a ranch. It will never happen Scott. I’m a gunfighter. I bring death wherever I go. He’s not going to want me living there. The minute someone finds out I’m there, and they come calling me out, he’s going to want me gone.” Johnny said. “ We’re fallen angels brought down to hell the good book says. Men beyond redemption.”
“ I don’t believe that for a second Johnny, and neither should you.” Scott said firmly. “ You became a gunfighter to stop the abuse you were receiving correct?”
“ Yeah, but……….” Johnny started to say.
“ But nothing. You’ve never murdered someone in cold blood have you?” he demanded.
“ No, but listen………..You don’t understand…….”
“ I understand very well Johnny. You did what you did to stop people from abusing you. You have never killed another in cold blood, therefore you are not beyond redemption. I’ve only known you a short time, and I can tell that you are a kind, and caring person. If you weren’t, we wouldn’t be following these men to stop them, and bring them to justice. You wouldn’t be planning on warning the sheriff of Barstow what you suspect their intentions are. You’re a good man, with a kind soul…………Period.” Scott cut in, and said firmly.
“ Yeah well, others don’t see it that way Boston. I’ve been spit on, run out of towns, told my kinds not wanted in their god fearing town. I’ve been hired by towns to help clean them up, only to be spit on, and run out after. I’ve been shot nine times, stabbed seven times, whipped by the Rurales, cut four times, and most of the wounds I’ve received, I’ve tended too.” Johnny explained. “ I even laid in a street shot in the back after celebrating my twenty first birthday in a whorehouse. The proprietor and a couple of her girls carried me back inside and tended to me. Course their way of making sure I was well enough to leave suited me just fine.”
“ Hell of a way to celebrate turning twenty one.” Scott said. “ Let me ask you this. Do you think people are despise-able toward you because of the ones who are bad gunfighters?”
“ Probably. All it really takes is one bad apple to ruin the whole bushel Adolfo used to say.” Johnny responded. “ Well be in Ehrenberg by sunset.”
“ How far to Barstow from there?” Scott asked.
“ About two hundred miles.” he said.
Sheriff Davies sat at his desk when the telegraph agent came bursting into his office.
“ I got an urgent wire for you sheriff. It’s from Johnny Madrid.” the man said.
“ Madrid.” he said as he stood up, took the paper, and read it. “ Jesus. Listen, I don’t want you saying anything to anyone about this. Do you understand?”
“ Sure sheriff, I won’t. But don’t you think the bank should be warned?” he asked.
“ Nope. I’m going to wait and see what they plan on doing.” the sheriff said.
“ I was just reading in the paper the other day about Madrid spoiling some men from stealing a hundred thousand dollars from a stage. You think it’s the same men coming here to rob the bank?” he asked.
“ Most likely. Why else would Madrid be trailing them. Go on back, and remember, not a word to anyone about this.” the sheriff ordered.
Will, and Curt Anderson stopped their horses outside the bank, and dismounted. “ You let me do the talking. I don’t want you slipping up, and saying something to alert them.” Will said as he untied his saddlebags, and threw them over his shoulder.
“ I won’t slip up big brother.” Curt said as he stepped up onto the boardwalk, and stood next to his brother. ‘ the sheriff is watching us from his office.”
“ Yeah, his office used to be down the street. Just play it cool.” Will ordered as he opened the door to the bank.
“ Good afternoon. An I help you gentlemen with something?” bank teller Carl Moore asked.
“ Afternoon. We would like to speak to the manager if possible about making a deposit.” Will said.
“ I’m the bank manager, Henry Williams. What can I do for you two gentlemen?” the man said.
“ Mister Williams, me and my brother are looking to purchase some cattle to ship back to Texas. We would to keep our money in your safe while we look at some stock around here.” Will said.
“ I see. Why don’t you come on back in my office where we can talk more privately?” Henry asked. “How much money are you wanting to leave in our bank sir?”
“ Five thousand dollars.” Will responded. “ I couldn’t help but notice your sheriff has his office right across the street. Has your bank been robbed before?”
“ Certainly not sir. We get large deposits from the railroad, and it makes it easier having the sheriff right across the street to keep an eye on the bank. So you gentlemen are in the market of buying some cattle to take back to Texas?” Henry asked.
“ Yes. Perhaps you could tell us the name of some ranches around here we could visit?” Will asked.
“ It’s mostly farmers around here. The only ranch you might be able to purchase cattle from would be the Carver Bowen Ranch, owned by Joel Carver and his wife Louisa. Real nice folks.” he said as he pulled out a deposit book, and began writing in it. “ Okay, I have your amount you are depositing with us entered. All we need to do now is take your money out and Carl will count it out, and then put it in the safe.”
“ Sounds good.” Will said as he stood up.
“ Perhaps you can recommend a good place to sleep while we are in town?” Curt asked.
“ Carl, would you count this out? There should be five thousand there. That depends on what you want to spend for a room. Almost all the saloons have rooms above them, the most comfortable, and pricey I might add would be the Casa Del Desierto Harvey Hotel. You can’t miss it, it’s the biggest building in Barstow. There’s a restaurant, barber, and a couple other small businesses located on the main floor.” the manager said.
“ I count five thousand exactly Mister Williams.” Carl said.
“ Very well. Go head and deposit it in the safe so the Anderson brothers can go find a room for the night.” Henry ordered. “ Oh, how long will you be needing to keep your money in the safe?”
“ Oh, I recon three, maybe four days at most.” Will responded as he walked to the door.
“ You recon that’s them sheriff?” Deputy Hall asked.
“ Those two are the Anderson brothers, Will and little brother Curt.” the sheriff said.
“ Madrid said there were three of them. I wonder where the third one is?” Jess asked.
“ Probably will ride in in the next day or so thinking we don’t know he’s with those two. Go ahead and keep an eye on them, but don’t let them know we know who they are, or what their plans are.” Sheriff Davies ordered.
“ You bet.” Jess said. “ We have any dodgers on them?”
“ No. I checked, and there’s nothing for our area on them. That don’t mean they’re not wanted elsewhere though. Madrid’s following them, so they’re wanted. I just don’t know what for.” the sheriff responded.
“ Guess we’ll find out when Madrid gets here, or they try something before he does.” the deputy said as he walked to the door, opened it, and headed outside to do his rounds.
“ We should be in Barstow mid-day tomorrow.” Johnny said.
“ You going to be alright with going up against your step-brother?” Scott asked.
“ If you mean can I kill him if he leaves no no choice, yeah I will Scott. He made his choice. It’s time he faces up to it. He’ll either be arrested, or buried. You can’t break the law, and not expect to be caught eventually for it.” Johnny responded.
“ Listen, I know you probably have your doubts about me, but I want you to know, you can count on me tomorrow.” Scott said.
“ If Pete makes the wrong call, I want you too stay out of it.” Johnny said firmly. “ I mean it Scott. If me and Pete face off, don’t try to interfere. You could get me killed.”
Murdoch sat at his desk and reread the telegram delivered to him Frank picked up while in town. The message was simple.
Tracking to Barstow. Stop.
“ Murdoch, would you like to have steaks tonight?” Teresa asked when she walked into the grand room.
“ What’s that sweetheart?” he asked.
“ Is something wrong?” she asked.
“ No. I got a wire from Scott. They’re headed to Barstow.” he said. ‘ What did you ask me?”
“ I was wondering if you would like to have steaks tonight?” she said.
“ We are supposed to go over to Agatha’s for super tonight.” he responded.
“I ‘m sorry, I completely forgot. Is Scott headed home?” she asked.
“ No, he said they’re tracking the men to Barstow.” he said.
“ I hope Scott will be home soon. I miss him so much.” she said. “ And I know you do too.”
“ Yes I do miss him.” he said.
“ Do you think they’re getting along?” she asked.
“ I’m sure they are sweetheart. You still have qualms about Johnny coming here?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes. I just can’t get over him being………..He’s a killer Murdoch. How safe is it going to be for me when he comes here?”
“ Teresa, I will not let anything happen to you. Now, I want you to stop fretting over this, and go get ready to go over to Aggie’s house for super. I’ll go have Walt hitch up the Barouche.”
Pete Young rode into Barstow, and stopped at the saloon two days after Will, and Curt rode into town. Walking into the saloon, he spotted Will playing poker at a corner table. Ordering a beer, he walked over and seen one empty chair. “ Mind if I join you fellas?”
“ No at all friend. We could use some fresh money.” a player said.
“ What’s the anti?” Pete asked.
“ Quarter to open.” Will said. “ This is just a pass the time friendly game friend.”
“ That’s the kind I like to play.” Pete said as he sat down.
Will noticed the sheriff walk in, and look around. “ Your lawman sure likes to keep an eye on everything.”
“ Sheriff Davies, he’s the best lawman Barstow has had.” a player said.
“ Yeah. Remember when him and Madrid cleaned out that rough bunch. Man was it ever nice to be able to walk the streets again.” the other player said.
“ Oh, you had some rough fellas in town?” Will asked as he dealt the cards. “ Jacks or better to open.”
“ I’ll say we did. There were six of them. They were so bad it wasn’t safe to be on the streets during the daytime. Two women were……it weren’t good what they did to her. A man was beaten near dead, and robbed.” the one player said.
“ Yeah, that’s when Johnny Madrid happened to ride into town. He had some balls for no bigger than he was. Why he walked right up to the two beating that man, and about minute later, they were both dead in the street. The next time we seen Madrid, he was wearing a deputies badge, and it took him and the sheriff till sundown the next day to get rid of them remaining four.”
“ I’ll open for two bits.” Pete said. “ How’d they do that?”
“ Madrid, ain’t ya ever heard of him? Hell he’s the fastest, and deadliest gunfighter around. Ain’t nobody can beat that half-breed. I’ll take three cards.” he said.
“ Thing about being a gunfighter, there’s always someone out there faster than you. It’s just a matter of time before a man like Madrid meets that person.” Pete said. “ Two cards.”
“ It must have cost the town a pretty penny for Madrid. I heard he ain’t a cheap gun to hire.” Will asked. “ Dealer takes two cards.”
“ I’ll raise it two bits. Madrid didn’t charge anything. Some said he did it for free because of what they did to the woman. Course I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’ll see your two bits, and raise ya another two.”
“ I’m out.” one of the men said as he tossed his cards on the pile. “ Johnny Madrid, I think gets a bad wrap because he’s a gunfighter. He’s a man like anyone else. The only difference is he has the guts to stand up to bad men.”
“ I sure as hell wouldn’t want on his bad side. I call. I heard tell whenever he’s called out, he tries to talk the fool out of it. He don’t like killing.” the player said.
“ Three ladies.” Pete said.
“ Beat me.” the player said,
“ Sorry friend, four jacks.” Will said with a smile. “ Madrid’s an awful expensive gun.”
“ I done told ya, he did it for nothing.” the man said.
“ Had a man ride in earlier Jess. He’s over at the saloon playing poker with the oldest Anderson.” the sheriff said as he opened his desk drawer, and pulled out some dodgers. “ I’ve seen him before.” he said as he went thru the wanted posters.
“ You talk to Henry at the bank?” Jess asked.
‘ Yeah, he said they deposited five thousand dollars the other day. Said they told him they’re looking to buy cattle to take back to their ranch in Texas. Said they planned on being in town three, maybe four days. Only they haven’t left town the two days they’ve been here. ” the sheriff said.
“ You know, if I was on a cattle buying trip, I wouldn’t be spending all my time in a saloon whoring and gambling like those two have been doing.” Jess said.
“ Where’s the youngest one, Curt now?” Davies asked.
“ At the Crystal Palace with that whore Rachel, he’s taken a liking to.” Jess responded as the door opened, and the owner of the Crystal Palace hurried inside.
“ Sheriff, you need to come arrest that kid.” he said.
“ What kid? Slow down and tell us what’s going on?” the sheriff said.
“ I don’t know his name. He started coming around a couple days ago. He’s taken a liking to Rachel, and is now he’s fighting with a man who wanted to be with her. Come stop them before they destroy my place.” he said.
“ This could be just what we need Jess.” the sheriff said as he grabbed a scatter gun, and they headed out the door.
“ Curt stop, you don’t own me…………..stop, you’ll get me fired.” Rachel pleaded as the sheriff came in. “ Sheriff stop him please.”
“ Alright, that’s enough!” the sheriff yelled right before he shot into the ceiling.
Curt staggered back against the bar, and glared at the sheriff, and deputy.
“ Alright, what’s this all about?” the sheriff asked.
“ All I wanted was some time with Rachel, sheriff. I paid my dollar, and we were headed upstairs when this sonofabitch goes crazy. Said Rachel was his woman, and he would beat any man who tried to be with her………..”
“ You’re damn right she’s my woman!” Curt spat.
“ You, keep your mouth shut. You’ll get your chance to talk.” Jess ordered as he pointed his rifle at him.
“ I told him Rachel don’t belong to nobody, and we started upstairs when the next thing I know he grabs me by the arm, spins me around, and hits me. I was just defending myself sheriff.” the man said.
“ What he said true?” the sheriff asked.
“ She’s my girl.” Curt responded. “ I warned him. A man has a right to defend his property sheriff.”
“ I am not your property Curt. I told you, this is my job. I belong to nobody.” Rachel said.
“Alright, lets go. You’re under arrest for assault, and destruction of private property.” the sheriff said.
“ Oh come now sheriff, my little brother meant no harm. I’ll pay for the damages.” Will said from the door.
“ Oh you’ll pay for the damages alright, but your little brother just earned himself thirty days in my jail. I don’t tolerate this kind of behavior in my town. Let’s go.” the sheriff said as he escorted Curt out of the saloon. “ You can see your brother tomorrow.”
“ Sonofabitch!” Will said as he glared at the other man, and started toward him.
“ That’s far enough mister!” Jess ordered. “ How much you recon the damages will cost?”
“ Three tables, damn near all my beer glasses are broken. That mirror alone cost me a thousand dollars to get it here all the way from St. Louis. I see six busted chairs, and four tables. Not to mention several bottles of whiskey, and two barrels of beer.” the owner said. “ I’d say close to fifteen hundred dollars Jess.”
“ You got that kind of money on you mister?” Jess asked.
“ Not on me, but I have it in the bank. I can pay the damages first thing Monday morning.” Will responded.
“ See that you do.” Jess said. “ Oh, don’t even think of leaving town before you pay for this mess.”
“ Tin star deputy………..You have my brother in jail. I’m not going anywhere until he’s out.” Will said before walking out.
Johnny stopped his horse at the back of the livery stable in Barstow, and dismounted. “ Stay here.” he ordered as he handed his reins to Scott.
“ Well as I live and breath, Johnny Madrid. You tryin’ ta surprise the sheriff, or is there another reason you’re sneakin’ around the back o’ my livery?”
Johnny came back to Scott a few minutes later. “ Go ahead and dismount. Grady will take care of our horses.” he said as he pulled his saddlebags and rifle off the saddle.
“ Where are we going?” Scott asked as he dismounted, and removed his rifle, and saddlebags as well.
“ Sheriff’s moved his office down across the street from the bank last year. We can go to the back door to get in, and nobody will see us.” Johnny said. “ Thanks again Grady.
“ Oh hey, I almost forgot. The sheriff has a prisoner. Some young kid named Curt or something. Him and his brother rode in here a couple days ago. Got him locked up for assaulting a man, and doin’ fifteen hundred dollars damage to the Crystal Palace.” Grady said as he took the reins, and started to lead the horses away. “ You watch yourself son.”
Ten minutes later Johnny stopped outside the back door to the jail, and slowly opened the door. He could hear the sheriff in the back with a prisoner.
“ You give me any trouble Anderson, and your brother will be paying more than for the damage you did to he Crystal Palace.” the sheriff said as he closed the door to the cells.
“ You’re getting forgetful in your old age Bill.” Johnny said softly.
“ It’s about damn time you showed up. I knew you wouldn’t come in the front, so I left that side door unlocked for ya.” the sheriff said. “ How the hell are ya kid?”
“ I’m good Bill.” Johnny said and ordered.
“ Come on in and tell me what the hell’s going on.” Bill said as he walked into the office. “ Look who showed up finally Jess.”
“ Hey Johnny. It’s good to see you again.” Jess said as the two shook hands. “ Who’s this?”
“ This sis Scott Lancer,……………..my brother.” Johnny said.
“ Your what?” Bill, and Jess asked at the same time.
“ You heard me. It’s a long story. I’ll explain later.” Johnny said. “ Have you had three men ride in in the last few days?”
“ Yeah. The Anderson brothers rode in the other day. Deposited five thousand dollars in the bank. Told the manager they’re buying cattle, and will be here a couple days. Then another one rode in mid-morning. Been playing poker all afternoon with the oldest Anderson.” Bill responded. “ In fact, I just locked the youngest one up for destroying the Crystal Palace saloon, and assaulting a man.”
“ You have Curt Anderson in your jail right now?” Johnny asked.
“ For the next thirty days I do. You gonna tell me what’s going on kid?”
“ The Anderson brothers and the third man who rode in, if it’s him, tried to rob the stage. I happened to be on it guarding a hundred thousand dollars when they tried with three other men, Chris Marvin, Jeff Miller, and Vern Thomas. Chris is the one who told us who was behind the robbery. They never showed themselves, so we would have never known who it was if he hadn’t lived long enough to tell us. The only reason they got a head start on me was because I had to deliver that money to Fort Grant.” Johnny explained.
“ Yeah, we read about that in the paper.” Jess said.
“ Does he know what you look like?” the sheriff asked.
“ Probably. I know his brother does.”
“ So does Pete Young.” Scott added.
“ Jess, you stay out front here with Scott, and make sure nobody tries to come in.”
“ You want to do a little divide and conquer?” Johnny asked.
“ That’s the plan. Give me a few minutes with him.” the sheriff said as he opened the door to the cells.
“ You got no call to arrest me sheriff.” Curt spat.
“ Destruction of private property, and assaulting another man is against the law in my town boy. Now, why don’t you stop playing stupid, and tell me why you and your brother are really here?” he asked.
“ We’re here to buy cattle.” Curt responded.
“ Boy, you must think I’m real dumb. You two have been here a couple days and not left this town once to go look at cattle. I suggest you start talking, it could mean the difference between a prison cell and a rope around your neck.” Sheriff Davies said.
“ I told ya already……….What I done ain’t bad enough to go to prison, or get hung.” Curt spat.
“ Murder of innocent people is. I know it was you, your brother, and Pete Young who killed that pregnant woman a couple months back when you robbed the stage. I also know it was the three of you who tried to rob the stage a couple days ago of a hundred thousand dollars. Start talking and I’ll let the circuit judge know you cooperated.”
“ You’re bluffin’ You got no proof it were us done it.” Curt spat right before the door opened and Johnny walked in. A sick feeling coming over him real fast as he sat down on the cot in his cell.
“ You really want to die for what your brother or Pete did?” Johnny asked with coldness. “The three of you are planning to rob the bank here aren’t you?” he asked.
“ You……….you followed us here………..How?” Curt asked.
“ Don’t matter. What are they planning, and how?” Sheriff Davies demanded.
“ We…..we deposited money in the bank. We were going to wait a few days, and just before closing go in the bank to take it out. Pete is supposed to come in while the safe is open and the three of us steal all the money we can from it.” Curt said as he stood up, and hurried over to the bars. “ I swear, I never killed that woman sheriff. Pete had his way with her, and then shot her.”
“ And you just stood by and did nothing to stop him?” Johnny asked.
“ I couldn’t have stopped him if I wanted too. Pete gets something in his mind he’s doing, there ain’t no stopping him Madrid. You’re his brother, you should know that.” Curt said.
“ Wait a minute, you said that man out there is your brother. He’s saying Pete Young is your brother too.” the sheriff said.
“ Step-brother Bill. His father married my mother in Mexico. Pete took off before they were killed. Scott is my brother also. I’ll explain it all to you when this is over.” Johnny said.
“ Fair enough. It’s your play. How you wanna do this?” the sheriff asked.
“ Where they at now?” Johnny asked as they walked back out to the front.
“ Probably back at the saloon playing poker still.” the sheriff said as he closed the door. ‘ I told him he could see his brother tomorrow.”
“ Why keep them apart?” Scott asked. “ With him locked up, do you really think they will try robbing the bank now?”
“ To be honest, no I don’t. How you want to do this Johnny?” the sheriff asked.
“ I’m going to walk over to the saloon, and arrest them both.” Johnny said.
“ Scott, go with Jess. There’s stairs to the upper level at the side. He’ll show you. The window at the end of the hall will be open. Jess, I want you to come in the back door and cover us.” the sheriff ordered.
“ I would prefer to stay with my brother.” Scott objected.
“ Do what you’re told Boston.” Johnny said firmly before walking out.
“ Did Murdoch tell you he found Johnny?” Teresa asked.
“ No he didn’t.” Agatha Conway responded.
“ He’s the notorious gunfighter Johnny Madrid.” Teresa said.
Murdoch sighed. “ Teresa, it’s not your place to be saying that, and I don’t want to hear you say anything like that again.” Murdoch ordered. “I was going to tell you Aggie. I’m afraid Teresa has misconceptions about Johnny.”
“ Is it true?” she asked.
“ Yes, it’s true.” Murdoch responded, and then proceeded to tell Aggie about everything that happened on the stage, and then handed her the letter he received from the Pinkerton when he got home.
“ Oh my. I can see why she is a little concerned, but this letter doesn’t sound like the Johnny Madrid me and so many others have heard about.” Aggie said as she handed the letter back to him. “ How do you feel about all this?’
“ I don’t know what to think about all this to be honest Aggie. I have searched for him for so long, I was beginning to think he was dead. Something inside me that day I met him for the very first time at the Maricopa station told me he was still alive.” he responded.
“ What was he like?” she asked.
“ Arrogant, rude, not afraid to stand up to me. He showed he was in charge.” Murdoch said “ In thinking back to something Scott said, I think it describes him well. All pride, and cut from the same mold. Not one inch of give.”
“ You sound almost like you are proud of him.” she said.
“ I guess a part of me is. I’ve read, and reread that letter, and I’ve come to realize Johnny did what he had to do to stay alive. I may not like the fact he’s Johnny Madrid, but at least my son is still alive, and I hope comes back with Scott, to his home.” Murdoch responded.
“ Are you prepared for what could happen if he does come home?” she asked.
“ If you mean am I willing to accept that men could come to the valley to try and kill him, yes I am. I lost twenty one years with my son Agatha. I will do whatever I can to have however many years I have left with him here, at Lancer, where he belongs.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ The other people of the valley, the ranchers won’t be happy when they learn who he is.” Teresa said.
“ Teresa, that will be enough young lady.” Murdoch ordered.
“ She’s right Murdoch. Some of the ranches won’t like it. Even some of the people you do business with may object, and refused to do business with you anymore. Have you thought about that?”
“ I have, and if anyone wants to refuse business to Lancer, I can always take my business elsewhere. I’m not going to lose my son again.” Murdoch said firmly.
Johnny stopped just inside the saloon doors, and scanned the room. Walking over to the corner table. “ Will Anderson, stand up real easy like, and keep your hands away from your gun.”
Three other men sitting at the table, stood up, and moved away. Everybody in the saloon waited, watched, and wondered if blood would be spilled tonight.
“ Johnny Madrid, you ain’t the law here boy. Go on back to Mexico.” Will said.
“ I am, so do as Madrid says, and stand up real slow like.” the sheriff said.
“ I ain’t broke no laws here sheriff. I’m paying for the damage my little brother did as soon as the bank opens Monday morning.” Will said.
“ Your little brother told us some pretty interesting stuff. How you, him, and Pete Young plan to rob the bank.” the sheriff said.
“ Where is Pete?” Johnny asked.
“ Since he’s not here with me, I couldn’t say.” he responded.
“ Stand up.” Johnny ordered. “ I’m placing you under arrest for robbery, attempted robbery, and Murder.”
Will threw his cards on the table, and stood up. “ You must think I’m a real dangerous man sheriff. What with your deputy over there, and I bet you got a man upstairs to with a rifle.”
“ Reach down with your left hand, and unbuckle that gun belt.” the sheriff ordered.
“ Sure sheriff.” Will said as he unbuckled his gun belt, and let it drop to the floor. “ Wouldn’t want to give this killer an excuse to gun me down.”
Johnny glanced up at Scott, standing on the top stair with his rifle aimed right at Anderson. Nodding as he turned to follow the sheriff out.
“ Johnny Madrid!” Pete yelled from down the street.
Johnny stopped, and looked down the street. “ Take him on over to the jail Bill.” he said as Jess, and Scott came out of the saloon.
“ Johnny.” Scott said as he stepped down into the street.
“ Go on to the jail. This is between me and him.” Johnny ordered.
The few people on the street moved away, knowing death would happen.
“ I should have killed you that day when we stopped the stage!” Pete yelled.
“ It doesn’t have to end like this Pete.” Johnny said as he walked out to the middle of the street, stopped, and faced his step-brother.
“ Yeah it does.” Pete said as he walked closer. “ Everything was fine until you came along. You and that whore of a mother you had.”
“ If you had really cared about your father, you would have seen he was happy. You broke his heart when you ran off like a coward in the middle of the night Pete. He searched for you for two months.” Johnny said.
“ He didn’t give a shit about me. It was always about you. It was you he was teaching everything too that he should have been teaching me. I hated you then, and I hate you now for what you cost me you half-breed bastard.” Pete said with anger. “ Tell me something Madrid, how’d you like finding them dead the way you did?”
Johnny wondered how Pete could know about Adolfo and his mothers death. Remembering that awful day, he only seen two riders leave.
“ I bet you’re wondering right now how I knew about their death. Well, I’ll tell ya. I told those two men there was a stash of money, real easy pickings, all they had to do to get it was help me kill them. Course I have to admit, I liked doing that whore mother of yours right before I put a bullet in her head. Watching her begging them to stop when they were raping her. The three of us gave it to her real good. Want to know the best part, I made my old man watch the whole thing. That’s right Johnny boy, I was there. I slipped out the back when you came in the front door. I watched how you cried over her dead body from the window. Watched as you went to the wash behind the house, and knelt down, sobbing. I should have put a bullet in your back then.” Pete said. “ I heard how you took his last name, and how you gunned those two down in Yuma seven years later. See, I’ve been following you ever since, and now it’s time to send you to hell with them.”
Scott, Bill, and Jess watched as two men faced off in the street. Anger coming over Scott as he listened to what everyone on the street was hearing. Standing there, rifle in hand, as he waited for the inevitable to happen.
A sick, angry feeling came over Johnny as he listened to what Pete said. Remembering his mothers eyes were still open when he found her. Closing his eyes, he shook his head slightly in disbelief. He didn’t want to believe any of it was true. Opening his eyes, he looked back at Pete just as the man went for his gun. Two shots rang out as one, with both bullets finding their marks.
Scott watched in horror as his brother spun around, and fell to the street. “ Johnny, no!” he yelled as he hurried to his brother’s side. Glancing down the street, he seen Pete Young laying on the ground, dead. A red stain on his chest. “ Johnny, talk to me brother.”
“ He got me brother. Not bad, but he got me.” Johnny said as Scott helped him roll over, and sit up. “ Is he dead?”
“ He’s dead brother. Let’s get you to the doc. Can you stand up?” Scott said, and asked.
“ I’ve had worse.” Johnny said as he stood up, and leaned against his brother. “ I can make it.” he said as he pushed away from him, and started walking toward the still figure in the street.
“ Johnny, I’m sorry.” Scott said softly.
Johnny stood there looking down at Pete, with both anger, and sorrow.
“ Johnny, lets get you to the docs.” the sheriff said. “ Jess, take care of the body.”
“ You know, the night you were shot was the first time you ever called me brother.” Scott said three weeks later as they rode northwest.
“ I never knew.” Johnny said. His wound all but healed up from were the bullet tore thru his right side.
“ You never knew what brother?” Scott asked.
“ Pete, I never knew………………. he was there that day.” Johnny said. “ I never knew he hated me so much………he would be the one responsible.”
Scott stopped his horse. “ Johnny, please don’t blame yourself for what he did. You’re not responsible for another man’s actions. Like you said to me, he chose his destiny. I’m just sorry he forced you into killing him.”
Johnny crossed his wrist, and rested them on his saddle-horn. “ I think Bill was pretty shocked when I told him how we are brothers.” he said, changing the subject.
“ He did have a priceless look on his face. You having second thoughts about coming with me?” Scott said and asked.
“ Some I guess.” he responded. “ I’m tired Scott. I’m tired of being called out. I’m tired of being given no choice but to kill another man, and all because he wants to take what I thought was so damn important to have six years ago.”
“ I don’t blame you brother. Look at it this way. If you decide you don’t want to live on Lancer, you have twenty five thousand dollars now. You could buy a place close by, and have that horse ranch you were talking about in your sleep.” Scott said.
“ Horse ranch?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes, you kept mumbling about having one when you were with fever.” Scott explained.
“ An old past dream, and nothing more.” he said.
Murdoch sat at his desk, going over the books for the month, when he heard a buggy pull up. Standing up, he went to the veranda doors, and found Sam climbing down.
“ Sam, I wasn’t expecting you.” he said.
“ Murdoch, I thought I would stop by for a visit on my way back to town.” he said as the two walked back inside.
“ Can I get you something to drink?” Murdoch asked.
“ Some of that fine sherry you have would wash the dust away.” Sam said.
Murdoch walked over to the sideboard, and poured a drink, handing it to the man. “ What’s the real reason you stopped by Sam?”
“ Do I have to have a reason to stop and see a friend?” he asked.
“ No, of course not. It’s just that you usually do.” Murdoch said.
“ You know me all to well. Actually I stopped to show you this.” Sam said as he removed a newspaper from his coat pocket, and handed it to him.
Murdoch took the paper, walked over to his desk, and sat down to read it. “ My god, oh my god.” Murdoch said as he set the paper down, and leaned back in his chair.
“ Have you heard from them at all since that happened three weeks ago?” Sam asked.
“ Scott sent a wire the other day saying they were coming home, and nothing more.” he responded.
“ I felt you should know about this. I don’t know how, but people in the valley know Johnny Madrid is your son.” Sam said.
“ How? The only people who know are you, me, Teresa, and Aggie. The only reason she knows is Teresa told her when we were there for supper.” he said.
“ Teresa. Didn’t you say she wasn’t happy about Johnny?” he asked.
“ Yes, but she hasn’t………...Teresa, come in here!” Murdoch said, and yelled.
“ You wanted………Oh hi Sam. I didn’t know you were here.” Teresa said as she walked into the grand room.
“ Who did you tell?” Murdoch asked with anger.
“ What are you talking about? Who did I tell what?” she asked.
“ In town the other day with Cipriano. Who did you tell about Johnny, and who he is?” he demanded.
“ Murdoch, I didn’t tell anyone.” she said firmly.
“ Young lady………..what you did was a mean, vindictive thing.” Murdoch said.
“ I didn’t do it. Cipriano did. He was talking to Porter when I came out of the store.”
“ Teresa, how would you feel if Johnny was your blood brother, and someone had done what you did?” Sam asked.
“ Sam, I swear I didn’t do it. Cipriano did.” she said with a quiver to her voice.
“ I believe her Murdoch. I don’t think she did it.” Sam said as he climbed into his buggy.
“ I don;t know what to think now Sam. She said Cipriano was the one. Why would he do that.”
“ Maybe he didn’t realize he did. You know how conversations can change, how something can be said before you know it. I’ll see you.” Sam said before driving away.
“ Is this true?” Teresa asked with tears in her eyes, and a quiver to her voice.
“ Unfortunately it is.” Murdoch responded as he walked back inside.
“ He killed his own step-brother.” she said.
“ You read why Johnny killed him.” Murdoch snapped back. “ I have been pretty tolerant of your behavior of late young lady, but not anymore. If you don’t make my son, both my sons feel welcomed when they come home. If you treat Johnny bad, or say anything to hurt him. I will ship you off to a boarding school, where you will learn the proper way to treat another human being. A place that will teach you to not judge a book by it’s cover. Do I make myself clear?”
“ Yes sir.” Teresa responded before turning and heading to her room, tears flowing down her cheeks.
Scott stopped on top of the hill overlooking Lancer. ‘ There it is, Lancer as far as the eye can see. One hundred thousand acres.”
Johnny looked down at at the valley below. He could see numerous buildings, corrals and a huge house off to the left. Seeing it, he couldn’t understand why his mother would leave such a place of luxury to live a life of squalor in Mexico.
“ Lets go home.” Scott said as he started down the hill.
Johnny slowed his horse to a trot, then walk as they rode into the Lancer yard a few minutes later. All his instincts on high alert as several men came over to welcome Scott home.
“ Scott……….I expected the two of you yesterday. Welcome home son.” Murdoch said.
“ It’s good to be home sir.” Scott said as he dismounted.
“ John, good to see you decided to come home son. Climb on down and come inside.” Murdoch said.
Johnny climbed down, and handed his horse off to a hand. He noticed a dark haired girl standing by the front door, watching him closely.
“Are you going to just stand there, or are you going to come give me a hug?” Scott asked the girl.
Teresa went to Scott, and wrapped her arms around him. “ I’m so glad you made it home safe. I missed you terribly.” she said as she looked at Johnny.
“ Teresa, I would like you to finally meet my long lost little brother Johnny.” Scott said. “ Johnny, this is Teresa.”
“ Teresa, Scott told me all about you. Said you’re a real good cook.” Johnny said as he extended his hand.
Teresa ignored Johnny. “ Come on inside Scott. You have to be tired.”
“ Rudeness is not something you were taught Teresa.” Scott said.
“ Hello Johnny……..Welcome to Lancer.” she said.
“ Let’s go inside.” Murdoch said.
Johnny stayed behind, hesitant to go in.
“ You alright son?” Murdoch asked.
“ The girl Teresa, she doesn’t want me here.” Johnny said.
“ Of course she does. We all do son.” Murdoch asked.
“ Murdoch, you coming inside?” Teresa asked.
“ You go ahead. I’ll be in in a few minutes.” Johnny said.
“ Alright son. I know this is all new to you. Take your time.” Murdoch said before walking inside.
Johnny turned and started walking around the huge house. He’d seen an estancia this big once in Mexico, a very wealthy Don, with too much greed.
Johnny woke up, and stretched. Sitting up, he threw his legs over the side of the bed. Standing up, he walked over, and looked out the window. He couldn’t believe he was here. All the way from Modesto, he kept forcing himself to keep going, and not turn around, and run away. Something Johnny Madrid never did, but now he had a chance to live a different life. One that included an older brother, and a father he never knew. He was a bit surprised, even taken aback some at the rudeness he received from the girl Teresa. She was nothing like Scott had said. The whole time during supper, he could feel her hatred toward him, even seeing her on occasion giving him an angry look as she sat next to Scott, across the table from him.
“ Guess it shows you can’t woo all the women over Johnny.” he said aloud as someone knocked on his door. “ Yeah.”
Scott opened the door, and stepped into the room. “ Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes. Sleep well?”
“ I always sleep well.” Johnny said as he walked over to the window, and looked outside. So, what do you have planned for the day?”
“ I thought I would show you around the ranch, and introduce you to the hands.” Scott said.
“ Okay. Give me a few minutes, and I’ll be down.” Johnny said.
“ Alright, I’ll see you downstairs.” Scott said before leaving the room.
Johnny still couldn’t believe he had an older brother. “ Guess I better get dressed.”
“ Did you brother say he was coming down?” Murdoch asked.
“ He did.” Scott said.
“ He was told breakfast, and supper are served at six o’clock sharp.” Teresa said as Johnny walked into the room.
“ Sorry I’m late. That bed is awful comfortable. I haven’t slept that good in a long time. Smells delicious Teresa.” Johnny said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ It was when it was hot.” she said.
“ I don’t mind cold food. Better than some of the stuff I’ve ate before.” Johnny said.
Teresa stood up. “ I’m sure it is, but maybe the next time you could have the courtesy to be at the table to eat at six o’clock sharp?”
“ Young lady, I told you I wanted you to be nice to Johnny, and I meant it. It’s his first night home. I want you to apologize to him now.”
“She don’t have to Murdoch. I said I was sorry Teresa.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ Scott, I’ll meet you outside for that tour.”
“ I didn’t much care for your rudeness toward Johnny at supper last night either.” Scott said as he stood up. “ My brother is finally home, so I suggest you get used to that.” he added before leaving.
Johnny learned the layout of the ranch, and worked hard along side his brother, and hands. Saturday nights, he found he liked staying at the house, relaxing as he played a game of chess with Scott, or cards with his father. He asked Teresa to play checkers with him a couple times, but every time she would decline, and go back to sewing. Numerous times in the evening, he would ride to the top of the hill just to look down at what he was now calling home. If someone had told him six months ago that he would be a third owner in the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley, he would have laughed in their face. The day they went to town to sign the papers, his father had spoken up when it was his turn to sign. He had had the lawyer put Lancer instead of Madrid the name he had used for thirteen years. Standing there chewing on the stampede string to his hat as he watched his brother sign the new contract, he had made the decision to change his name back to the name he was born with, Johnny Lancer. When his father told the lawyer of the mistake, he spoke up, and said to let it stand. Life had presented him a way out, a way of becoming a son, and brother. No more having to hire out his gun hand just so he could eat. Johnny knew he would never be able to totally drop his guard, and go to town without the worry of being called out. Deep down inside he knew someone, some day would ruin what he had come to love. Someone would call him out, forcing him to once again kill another man, and all for a reputation he thought was so important to have all those years ago.
“ Murdoch, since tomorrow is Sunday, I was thinking maybe we could go on a picnic after church? ” Teresa suggested. “ I can fry up some chicken, and make some biscuits to take.”
“ That sounds fine sweetheart. I’m sure the boys would like that.” Murdoch said.
“ I figured it would give you a chance to have some fun with Scott. I mean, I know we spend time together in the evenings, but he’s usually tired, and you’re going over the books.” she said
“ You don’t have to sell me on the idea Teresa. I’m sure the boys would like that.” he said.
“ I doubt Johnny even knows what a picnic is.” she mumbled.
“ What was that?” he asked.
“ I said I doubt he even knows what a picnic is.” she repeated.
“ Teresa, I thought we had discussed this hatred you have toward John. Now I wasn’t going to say anything, but I have noticed on several occasions he has asked you to play checkers with him, and you have refused. I won’t have you being rude to him. He has went out of his way to try and be nice to you. I want it to stop. Do you understand me?” he ordered.
“ How can you be so forgiving to him?” she asked.
“ Because he’s my son, and he deserves a second chance at life. What he did, who he became, he did to stay alive, and for that I am grateful. Johnny has never crossed the line, or broke any laws., and he’s not wanted by the law. So you better start showing him some respect young lady, or I will send you away to a school that will teach you those manners you seem to have forgotten.” Murdoch responded.
“ Lancer is more my home than it is his. He wasn’t raised here, I was.” she snapped back.
“ That will be enough!” Murdoch yelled. “ It is not his fault he wasn’t raised here, and you know it. I will be contacting the school in San Francisco, and you will be going there in the fall.”
“ You can’t be serious. You’re going to send me away to some big city, away from my friends?” she asked as the tears started to fall.
“ Yes, you leave me no choice Teresa.” Murdoch said before walking outside.
Johnny was walking toward the house, when he seen Teresa sitting on the bench in the rose garden, reading a book. A movement under the bench caught his attention, pulling his colt from the holster, he cocked it, took a few steps toward her, and fired, hitting the ground just under where she was sitting.
“ Johnny, what the hell is wrong with you? Have you gone crazy?” she yelled as she jumped up.
Murdoch, hurried out the veranda doors, and around to the garden. “ What happened?”
“ Your son, tried to kill me is what happened Murdoch. I told you he’s dangerous.” she said before storming into the house.
Johnny walked over, and picked up the dead rattlesnake. It’s head blown clean off. “ I’m sorry Murdoch. I couldn’t warn her for fear of her moving, and being bitten.”
“ Oh my god. Thank you son.” Murdoch said. “ John, I’ve noticed how Teresa is treating you, and I have talked to her several times about it. She wasn’t brought up that way. Come the fall, she will be going to San Francisco to attend a ladies school. This is your home, and I will not have her making you feel uncomfortable, or unwanted in your own home.”
“ So you think sending her away from the only home she has ever know is the answer? Murdoch, give it time, we’ll work this out between us.” Johnny said.
“ My decision is made son. Why don’t you go ahead and get cleaned up before supper.” Murdoch suggested.
Johnny stepped down to his horse outside the bank, and tied his saddlebags on the back of his saddle when he heard the words he had come to hate.
“ Johnny Madrid!…………Where ya going Madrid?” a man asked from across the street.
Johnny froze. Not here, this couldn’t be happening here. This wasn’t what he wanted. Not now. He had so much at stake of losing now.
“ That will be enough Jackson. Ride on out of town now. There won’t be no gun play in my town.” the sheriff said.
“ I’ll see you again real soon Madrid.” Jackson said as he mounted up, and rode out of town.
“ Madrid, I don’t want to ever see you in my town again.” the sheriff ordered.
“ I haven’t broke no laws sheriff.” Johnny said.
“ Being a gunfighter is enough reason for me. Now ride on out, and stay out.” the sheriff ordered.
Johnny untied his horse, and mounted up. “ Used to be a man was innocent until proven guilty sheriff. I suggest you get real used to seeing me around here more. See, I go by another name, the one I was born with, Johnny Lancer, I don’t think my old man, Murdoch Lancer would be none to pleased his youngest son is being ordered to stay out of Spanish Wells. Think about that, and who got you that tin star sheriff.” Johnny said before riding out of town.
“ Well I do believe my luck is changing.” Jackson said as he pulled his rifle from the scabbard. “ The odds of you coming this way.” he said as he took aim at the lone rider passing below, and pulled the trigger. Standing up, he watched as his bullet slammed into the mans back, shoving him forward in the saddle as his horse bolted, and took off running.
Johnny crossed onto Lancer land at Cedar Canyon. Riding along at an easy pace, thinking about what he got Teresa, and how he would approach Murdoch about seeing her when he heard the shot a split second before he felt the bullet slam into his back, his horse bolting into a run as he lay over the animals neck praying he made it back to the house alive.
“ Murdoch, Scott, supper is ready.” Teresa said.
“ I wonder what’s keeping Johnny?” Murdoch asked.
“ He knows we eat supper at six o’clock sharp. I’m not waiting.” Teresa said as Walt burst in thru the veranda doors.
“ Mister Lancer, you better come out here!” Walt said.
“ What’s wrong?” he asked.
“ It’s Johnny, his horse just brought him in.” Walt responded.
Murdoch, and Scott hurried outside.
“ Send someone to get Sam.” Murdoch ordered.
“ I already did.” Walt said.
“ Lets get him inside, and up to his room.” Scott ordered.
“ Teresa, get some hot water and bandages.” Murdoch ordered.
“ First door on the left Sam.” Scott said. “ I’m getting more hot water, and bandages.”
Sam hurried up the stairs, and walked into the room. “ Let me in there Murdoch.” he said as he walked around the end of the bed, and set his bag down on the table. “ I want everyone out of the room but Teresa to help me.”
“ I’m staying Sam. Teresa won’t be helping you.”” Murdoch said.
Sam looked at Murdoch, then at Teresa right before she walked out.
“ I’m sending her away to school in the fall Sam. I can’t take how she is treating Johnny anymore.” Murdoch said.
“ Alright, how long ago was he shot?” Sam asked.
“ We don’t know. He rode into Spanish Wells this morning to go to the bank for me.” Murdoch said.
Jackson rode back into Spanish Wells the next morning with his rifle across his legs, resting against the pommel of his saddle. Spotting the person he sought out, he reined his horse to a stop, and picked up the rifle, chambering a round into it.
“ Hey sheriff, remember me!” Jackson yelled as he brought the rifle up, and fired, hitting the sheriff square in the chest. Riding up to the downed, dying man. “ I don’t much care for someone telling me to leave a town. Now to go finish killing Johnny Madrid.” He said before turning his horse, and riding out of town.
Rancher Jim Porter stood and watched as the man rode past him, and out of town.
“ I don’t know why Murdoch Lancer, wants that killer here.” Driscoll said. “ Imagine him introducing him as his long lost son Johnny Lancer, when the whole time he’s Johnny Madrid.”
“ Are you saying that Murdoch Lancer’s youngest son is the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Porter asked.
“ That’s exactly what I am saying Porter.” Driscoll responded. “ The ranchers in this valley don’t need someone like that here. He’ll bring nothing but trouble.”
‘ He already has.” Porter said as he looked at the dead sheriff being carried to the undertakers. “ Let the other ranchers know I’m having an emergency meeting at my place Saturday afternoon, and will address this matter.”
“ Lancer won’t like that.” Driscoll said.
“ Murdoch Lancer thinks he runs this valley because he has the biggest spread. I dealt with men like him in Wyoming. I won’t be pushed around anymore.” Porter said before walking away.
“ Sam, how is he?” Scott asked.
“ He’ll live, but he won’t be able to use his left arm for some time.” Sam said. “Whoever shot him, did it from above by the angle the bullet entered his back. It did damage to the muscle. I stitched it up, and have the arm bound up to keep him from moving it for a while.”
“ How long until you know if he can use the arm again?” Scott asked.
“ A couple weeks, to give the muscle time to start healing up. Now, I would like to ask you a question.” Sam responded.
“ The scars?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. I have never seen anyone with so many scars on their body.” the doctor said.
“ His life hasn’t been good Sam. You read the letter I received from the Pinkerton’s about him. The abuse he received is one reason he became a gunfighter.” Murdoch said.
“ The whip marks he said he got while in a Mexican prison. Said he would be whipped at least once a week.” Scott explained.
“ I counted nine old bullet wounds. One of which is is not that old, and four stab wounds. That boy has also been cut several times.” Sam explained. “ Given what has been done to him, it’s a wonder he even associates with other people.”
“ I was hoping that would change when he came home.” Murdoch said. “ How about some coffee?”
“ Coffee sounds good. It’s been a long night.” Sam said.
“ I believe I will go sit with my brother, so he’s not alone if he wakes up.” Scott said as he shot a look at Teresa.
“ I’ll come spell you in a few hours son.”” Murdoch said.
“ Gentlemen, I called this meeting to discuss trouble that has come to this valley. Murdoch Lancer as I’m sure you all know, has found his long lost youngest son Johnny. It’s what you don’t know that I feel I should tell you.” Porter said. “ This morning I was in Spanish Wells, and a man gunned down the sheriff there. Killed him. Driscoll, why don’t you tell him them why he murdered the sheriff.”
“ Yesterday, the man who killed the sheriff called another man out. The sheriff stopped the gunfight before it could happen, and ordered the man out of town. The man he called out was Murdoch Lancers pup. Only he isn’t known as Johnny Lancer, he’s known as Johnny Madrid.” Driscoll said.
“ Wait a minute, you’re saying the youngest son, whom I have met is not Johnny Lancer, but the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Rancher
Ben Nelson asked.
“ That is exactly what I am saying. Now do you see why I called this emergency meeting gentlemen. Madrid is a killer, and Murdoch Lancer has put every person that lives in this valley’s life at risk. This matter has to be dealt with, and dealt with now before more bloodshed happens.” Porter said.
“ A Lancer hand rode in last night to fetch Sam out to the ranch. I heard him say Madrid was shot.” Carl Hackett said.
“ That man was looking for Madrid. He must have ambushed him somewhere out of town. Said he didn’t like being run out of town is why he killed the sheriff.” Santee said.
“ Who’s with me on riding out to the Lancer ranch, and telling Murdoch Lancer, that killer has to go. That he’s not welcome in this valley?” Porter asked.
“ Look Jim, for whatever reasons you have had a burr under your saddle for Murdoch Lancer for a long time. We all know it. He’s a good man. I’m not riding out there and telling the man his son has to leave. I don’t care what name he uses. He’s done nothing to me. Count me out.” Carl said.
“ Porter, did it ever occur to you that maybe Murdoch didn’t tell us his son is Johnny Madrid because his son wants to maybe live a normal life. I’m with Carl on this. Count me out too.” Ben said.
“ So you two are going to do nothing? You both are members of the California Cattle Growers Association. You’re supposed to care about your fellow ranchers.” Porter said.
“ We do care Porter. That’s why we’re not going to do anything. Like Carl said, he’s done nothing to me, and it’s not my right to tell him his son can’t live here.” Ben said before walking out.
“ I have a small ranch. Murdoch Lancer helped me out when the bank wouldn’t. Count me out too.” Santee said.
“ We don’t need them. The two of us will ride out to Lancer.” Driscoll added.
“ Scott” Johnny said softly as he opened his eyes.
“ I’m here.” he said. “ I was beginning to think you weren’t going to wake up.”
“ How long have I been out?” he asked.
“ Let me get you some water.” he said. “ Four days. Drink this. Sam was going to put a tube down your throat if you didn’t wake up soon.”
Johnny welcomed the cool water on his dry throat. “ Thanks. How bad is it?” he asked just as his door opened, and Sam walked into the room.
“ He just woke up. I gave him some water.” Scott said as Sam walked around the bed.
“ Johnny.” Sam said as he set his bag on the table.
“ How bad is it doc?” he asked.
“ You won’t be able to move that arm for a few weeks. The bullet tore the muscle up pretty good. I stitched it up as best I could. It’s going to take time to heal. That’s why I have your arm bound up. I don’t want you moving it, and tearing the stitches.” Sam explained.
“ How long?” he asked.
“ A month at least. It’s going to be slow in healing, but if you do everything I say, it should heal up fine.”
“ Thanks. I got no plans of going anywhere.” Johnny said.
“ I think I will go fix you something to eat while Sam checks your wound.” Scott said.
“ Make it something that will be easy on his stomach for a day or two.” Sam instructed.
“ I was going to bring him some beef broth and a couple biscuits.” he said as he walked to the door.
“ That will be fine. Now young man, I want you to roll onto your right side, and I will help you sit up.”
“ How come I have to have my arm like this instead of in a sling?” Johnny asked an hour later as Sam washed his hands in the basin.
“ I told you, I don’t want you to risk tearing any stitches out. That muscle will take time to heal. A sling will allow you to move it, and I don’t want you doing that for some time.” Sam responded.
“ Okay, so when can I get out of bed then? Or am I restricted from walking too?” Johnny asked with sarcasm.
“ Young man, that attitude will not get you what you want with me.” Sam said. “ You lost a lot of blood, and will be weak. Give it a couple days, and I will allow you to get out of bed. But you are not to go downstairs until I say. You get dizzy from blood loss, and fall, you will damage that shoulder beyond repair. Do I make myself clear?”
“ Damn doc, you treat all your patients like this? If so, you need to improve your bedside manner.” Johnny said.
“ My bedside manner is just fine, as long as my patient does what he is told.” Sam said. “ Look, I seen the scars John, I know this isn’t the first time you have been shot. As your doctor, all I’m asking is a little cooperation from you.”
“ That boy is stubborn.” Sam said as he walked down the stairs. “ I have a feeling you will have a hard time keeping him in bed.”
“ We’ll make sure Johnny does what you tell him Sam.” Murdoch said
“ I’ll stop by again in a few days.” Sam said as he climbed in his buggy. “ Did you hear what happened in Spanish Wells?” he asked.
“ No, what happened?” Murdoch asked.
“ The sheriff was gunned down in cold blood.” Sam said. “ It happened the morning after Johnny was shot. They say the man who did it, called Johnny out, but the sheriff stopped it, and made the man leave town. He then proceeded to order Johnny out of town, and to never return. The witnesses said he rode out of town right after saying he was going to go finish killing Johnny Madrid.” Sam explained. “ I’ll see you Murdoch.”
“ Looks like we have visitors coming.” Scott said.
“ Looks like Porter, and Driscoll.” Murdoch said.
“ I wonder what brings them two here?” Scott asked.
“ Porter, what brings you out here?” Murdoch asked.
“ That killer you have living here.” Driscoll said.
“ Murdoch, you lied to us. We know who he is, and we don’t want him in the valley. All he will do is get more innocent people killed.” Porter said.
“ Now see here, Johnny has every right to live here.” Scott said with anger.
“ The sheriff of Spanish Wells was murdered because of him.” Driscoll spat.
“ I just learned about the sheriff being murdered. That isn’t my sons fault.” Murdoch responded.
“ The man came here looking for your son. If he hadn’t been here…………….”
“ Murdoch, as the president of the California Cattle Growers Association.” Porter cut in. “ It is my duty to inform you that the other ranchers in this valley don’t want him here.” Porter said.
“ My son is not going anywhere.” Murdoch said firmly. “ You have had it in for me for a lot of years. Remember this, all of you, Lancer takes care of their own. I will defend my son with everything I have. Nobody is going to run him off this land ever.”
“ I suggest you leave now, before I have you escorted off Lancer land.” Scott ordered.
“ Hear me Murdoch Lancer, Johnny Madrid will be run out of this valley.” Porter said before turning his horse, and riding off.
“ Damn that man, damn him.” Murdoch said with anger.
Jackson sat at a table in Green River, drinking a beer when a conversation caught his attention.
“ I tell ya that man Porter sure has it in for Murdoch Lancer. Especially now that Lancer lied to everyone about who his youngest son really is.” a man who had just walked into the saloon said. “ Let me have a cold beer.”
“ If you ask me, it’s nobody’s damn business. The boy has a right to live here just like anyone else. He’s broke no laws, and he’s not wanted by the law. Porter needs to just leave the boy alone.” another man said.
“ I kind of like the fact Johnny Madrid is living here. His name is known, and it will keep the ruffians away.” the bartender said.
“ Porter is pissed because Lancer introduced him as his son Lancer, not Madrid.” the first man said.
“ It don’t matter if he goes by Madrid, or Lancer, he’s done nothing to me, so I don’t care if he lives here.” the bartender said.
“ So that’s why I couldn’t find you. You’re going by a different name now.” Jackson said as he stood up, and started to the door. “ I can wait until the times right to come and finish killing you Madrid, and I will kill you.”
Johnny sat at the table in his room looking out the window watching the sun set. It’s been two months since he was shot in the back. His left arm was almost back to normal. He still couldn’t lift or carry anything heavy yet. Every evening before bed he did exercises Sam showed him to do to strengthen the arm back up. Murdoch, not wanting to take any chances, doubled the guards around the ranch, and had a man standing guard at the front, and rear entrances to the house.
Scott had received a wire telling him his grandfather had suffered a heart attack a month ago, and was requested to return to Boston. He made him promise to come back as soon as he could, and Scott made him promise to not leave Lancer while he was gone. Murdoch had to go to Sacramento, and would be back on Monday, and for the first time since his mother and stepfather died, he felt alone. Teresa avoided him, and ate her meals in her room or the kitchen. Yesterday he had tried to talk to her, but all it got him was a hard slap across the face, and words spat at him he never thought he would hear her say. It was those words that had kept him awake almost all night last night. Today he had made it a point to stay away from her totally, but that was about to change when he walked into the kitchen to fix him something to eat. Maria wasn’t feeling good, so he sent her home in the afternoon. He was sitting at the kitchen table eating a roast beef sandwich when Teresa came into the kitchen, stopped, and turned around to leave.
“ Teresa wait!” Johnny said as he moved the skillet of ham to the side so it wouldn’t burn.
“ I have nothing to say to you, so leave me alone.” she said before storming off to her bedroom upstairs.
Johnny had had enough of her rude, hateful behavior toward him. Going upstairs, he knocked on the door. “ Teresa, we need to talk.”
“ Go away. I said I have nothing to say to you.” she said.
Johnny opened her door, and stepped into the room.
“ Get out of my room!” she yelled.
“ Not until I have my say.” Johnny said as he walked over and grabbed her by the arms. “ You had some pretty hateful things to say to me yesterday, and I’ve been awake all night thinking about what you said.”
“ Let go of me now, you bastard!” she spat as she struggled to get free.“ You go to hell! You ruined everything coming here. We were a family until Scott brought you home. His grandfather didn’t have a heart attack. He lied so he could get away from you. Murdoch hates you too, and wishes he had never made you a third owner of Lancer. I’ve heard them talking about how they could get you to leave. I’ve heard Murdoch say all you will ever be is a killer, a worthless bastard child he wished had died years ago.” Teresa spat with hatred.
Johnny shoved her back onto her bed. “ You’re nothing but a spoiled, hateful little brat. Sending you away will be the best thing my father does. You only care about yourself, and to hell with anyone else.”
“ I care about Murdoch, and Scott. It’s you I hate!” she yelled as she got up off the bed. “ You’re nothing but a bastard chil……….”
Johnny lashed out and slapped Teresa hard across the face. He’d had enough of her hateful words. “ If you cared about Murdoch, and Scott like you say, you wouldn’t hurt them like you are.” he said before turning and walking out of her room. He’d never hit a woman before, and despised any man who did. Heading back downstairs, he went to the sideboard, grabbed the bottle of tequila, and went back up to his room. Slamming the door shut as tears flowed down his cheeks, and his body shook in anger.
Jackson opened the back door as lightening flashed real close, allowing him to see inside the kitchen. Stepping inside, he closed the door, and made his way out of the kitchen, and down the hall. A lamp burning low on the table showed him to his right were stairs, and to his left, a big open room with a fire burning in the fireplace. Turning he headed up the stairs. Opening the first door, he looked inside and smiled. Stepping into the room, he cocked his pistol.
“ Time to wake up Madrid.” Jackson said as he fired a shot, hitting the pillow next to Johnny’s head.
Johnny jerked awake, and froze when he seen Jackson standing at the foot of his bed. “ How did you get in here?” he demanded.
“ Get up, we’re taking a little walk.” Jackson said as he threw Johnny’s pants to him.
Johnny got out of bed, and slipped his pants on. “ You won’t get away with this.”
“ Oh I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it. Especially since your guards all went to the bunkhouse to stay out of the storm. Move to the door now, and don’t try anything.” he ordered.
Johnny walked to the door, and stopped. “ My father and brother will hunt you down for this.” Johnny said.
Jackson jabbed Johnny in the back with the pistol barrel. “ Move. They won’t know who did it now will they? Especially since they’re not here.”he said as thy reached the top of the stairs.
Johnny spun around, and grabbed for the gun, causing it to go off, and both of them to lose their balance, and fall down the stairs.
“ Johnny!” Teresa yelled as she went to the top of the stairs. Looking down she seen Jackson getting up, and pulling a knife out just as Johnny stood up, and lunged for him. Hurrying into Johnny’s room, she opened the top drawer of his dresser and pulled out the pistol she knew he kept in there at the back. Hurrying back out to the stairs, she couldn’t see either man, but heard them fighting in the grand room. Going downstairs, she seen blood on the wall, and floor at the bottom of the stairs. Looking into the grand room, she found the man on top of Johnny, trying to plunge the knife into his chest.
“ Get away from him now!” Teresa yelled as she aimed the pistol at Jackson, and fired a warning shot that shattered a vase near them.
Jackson dropped the knife, and stood up. “ You don’t have the guts to pull that trigger.”
Johnny rolled away from Jackson, and stood up. He seen Teresa had his killing pistol, and knew it had a hair trigger on it. “ I wouldn’t bet on that.” he said.
“ I would.” Jackson said as he started walking toward her.
“ You break into my home, you lose.” Teresa said as she pulled the trigger, hitting Jackson square in the chest.
Johnny stood there looking at Teresa, with the pistol still aimed at where Jackson had been standing. Walking over to her, he carefully took his colt from her hand. “ Thanks.” Johnny said.
“ I just had to kill a man because of you! The sheriff in Spanish Wells was murdered because of you. I told Murdoch you should leave here, but would he listen………..no. Maybe now he will when he comes home. I should have let him kill you.” Teresa spat before heading to her room, and slamming the door shut.
Johnny let out a sigh, and headed to the hall closet to get what he needed to stitch the cut up on his side. He knew now, without a doubt, Teresa would never accept him.
Johnny came downstairs slow, and easy the next morning. He seen the body had already been taken away. Opening the front door, he walked outside. Seeing Cipriano talking to Frank, he called the man over to him.
“ I already have men out checking for damage.” Cipriano said. “ Miss Teresa told me what happened, and I have had the body taken away.”
“ I don’t give a damn about damage from the storm.” Johnny said with anger. “ I want to know why there were no guards at the front or back door last night during the storm?”
“ I told them it was alright to go inside. That nobody would try anything in a storm. There was no need for them to stay.” Frank said.
“ You stupid sonofabitch!” Johnny said with anger. “ You didn’t have the authority to tell those men to go home. Cipriano, I want this worthless piece of shit off Lancer land now. Do you understand me?”
“ You can’t fire me.” Frank said. “ You’re not a Lancer.”
Johnny swung and hit Frank hard in the mouth, knocking him down. “ I can, and I just did. Get the hell off my land………….now!” he ordered.
Frank got up, and spit blood at Johnny’s feet. “ You half-breed bastard! I hope someone does come and kill you! ” he spat before heading to the bunkhouse to get his stuff, followed by Cipriano.
“ Cipriano…………….. You make sure you tell every man working here that I am a Lancer, and when I give an order, it will be followed. Any man who doesn’t like it can come to the house and draw his wages.” Johnny ordered.
Murdoch walked into the house, and was met by Teresa. “ I told you he was a danger to everyone on this ranch.” she spat.
“ What are you talking about? What happened.?” Murdoch demanded.
“ I had to kill a man because of him.” she responded. “ And he came in my room and attacked me.”
“ Who came in your room, and attacked you?” Murdoch asked.
“ That half-breed bastard son of yours, that’s who.” she responded.
“ Teresa, that’s enough!” Johnny said firmly from behind her.
“ You know, I hated the thought of you sending me away because of him. But after what’s happened, I’m glad I’m leaving Lancer.” Teresa spat before heading down the hall to her room. “ You are nothing but a half-breed bastard Johnny Madrid, and I wish I had let him kill you.” she add before slamming her door shut.
“ I don’t know what has come over that girl.” Murdoch said as he walked over to the sideboard, and poured a drink. “ Tell me what happened son.”
Johnny walked over and sat down on the couch. “ I fired Frank. It’s because of him Jackson was able to gain access into the house. He told the guards to leave, that nobody would be trying anything in the storm. He challenged my authority , I hit him, and ordered him off Lancer land. I also ordered Cipriano to tell any man working for us to collect their pay if they have a problem with taking orders from me.”
“ That’s fine son. The men need to accept you being here.” Murdoch responded. “ Are you alright?”
“ He got me with a knife, but I stitched it up.” he said.
“ You stitched it up. You mean Teresa didn’t even help you when you were injured?” Murdoch asked as he walked over, and sat down next to his son.
“ She said some pretty hateful things to me Friday afternoon when I tried to talk to her. Some things I’m used to hearing men say to me, but to hear it come from her mouth. She slapped me, turned to walk away, and………. I was awake most of the night thinking about those words Murdoch. I avoided her all day Saturday, but that evening didn’t go any better. I was in the kitchen eating, when she came in, and laid into me again. I’d had enough of her treatment Murdoch, I exploded on her.” he said. “ She……….. Teresa said she’s heard you and Scott talking about how you made a mistake making me a third owner. That you wished I had never come back here. That you want me dead. Is what she said true? Do you want me to leave?”
“ No son it’s not, and I most certainly do not want you to leave.” Murdoch said firmly. “ I searched for you for so many years Johnny, It would break my heart to lose you again. Lancer is your birthright. Sometimes at night, I lay in bed and think about the first time I met you at the Maricopa station. At the time, I found myself wondering if my son grew up, and looked like you.”
“ Guess you got your answer huh?” Johnny said with a slight laugh.
“ You know, your brother never said how he figured out you where his brother. Would you mind telling me?” Murdoch asked.
“ He didn’t tell you?” Johnny asked as he stood up, and walked over to poor a shot of tequila.
“ No he hasn’t son. Your brother hasn’t said anything about what happened.” he responded.
“ I was shot, Nothing bad really, but it needed cauterized. He was getting what he would need out of my saddlebags when he found the picture of my mother. I guess it’s the same one you have. He started asking me questions, and the rest you know.” Johnny said.
Murdoch stood up, and walked over to his desk. Opening the bottom drawer, he took out the file he kept in there with all the letters from the Pinkerton’s. “ There is twenty one years worth of reports here from the Pinkerton’s I hired to look for you son. Every time I got one, I was afraid to open it. Afraid that when I did, it would tell me you were found, but dead. When they didn’t, it gave me hope again that you would be found, and that I would get my little blue-eyed son back.”
“ That’s a lot of years, and money.” Johnny said as he walked over and looked at the file. “ I hate it you know.”
“ Hate what son?”
“ A lot of things really I guess, but what I hate the most is what my mother did to you. All those years I never knew anything except I had a gringo father who didn’t want me. Only to learn it was all a lie.”
“ What was he like, Adolfo?”
“ You actually, now that I know you a little. He was strict, but fare. He taught me a lot in the short time he was………”
“ I’m sorry son, I didn’t mean to get you looking back on sad times.”
“ No, it’s alright. Was my mother pregnant with me before you married her?”
“ Yes she was son, but it had no bearing on me marrying her whatsoever. I loved your mother very much. What we had was what you would call a whirlwind courtship.”
“ What about Porter?” Johnny asked.
“ Jim Porter has had a burr under his saddle for me, and Lancer ever since he came here from Wyoming. I will say this, and I want you to hear me son. I will fight to the death for you. This is your home, and I’ll be damned if that man thinks he can try and run you off your home. I don’t need the Cattle Growers Association that bad. Lancer got along just fine before it was formed.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ What do you think he will try?” he asked.
“ To be honest son, I don’t know.” Murdoch said. “ Porter killed once during the Johnson County War in Wyoming.”
“ Yeah, the money offered was good, but I turned it down. I didn’t really care to hire my gun out to run off or shoot a bunch of woolly sheep, and their owners.” Johnny said.
“ You get those cows moved alright?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, there’s enough good grass and water to last them the rest of the summer up there.” Johnny said as he sat down in the chair, and propped his feet up on the corner of the desk.
Murdoch sat back in his chair. “ I got a wire from Scott. It seems he will be home Monday.” Murdoch responded.
“ Yeah, it’s about time he comes back home.” he said.
“ Why don’t you go get cleaned up, and after supper me and you can finish that game of chess we started last night.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Yeah, I do smell like the south end of a cow.” Johnny said. “ Oh hey, I seen a band of wild horses out by black mesa. The stallion is a beautiful palomino. You feel up to doing some riding tomorrow, and help me catch him?”
“ Maybe you should think about attending church, and changing your ways. Instead of going out and chasing stupid wild horses.” she said as she gave Johnny an evil look.
“ Actually Murdoch, I think I’ll just turn in after I take a bath.” Johnny said before turning to head to the stairs.
“ There was no call for you to be rude like that.” Murdoch said. “ You know why Johnny doesn’t attend church.”
Teresa stood up. “ Maybe you should have thought things thru better before you slept with his whore mother. Especially so soon after Scott’s poor mother dies giving birth to him in the back of a wagon.”
Johnny stopped, spun around, and walked over to Teresa, grabbing her arms. “ You little bitch………..You can call me a bastard, half-breed killer, or even a mestizo, but if you ever……..ever call my mother a whore again, I will teach you some respect. My mother was not a whore.”
“ Let go of me…………Murdoch make him let go. He’s hurting my arms.” she pleaded.
Johnny shoved Teresa down into the chair she had been sitting in. “ The next two weeks won’t go by fast enough for me Murdoch.” he said before heading upstairs.
Scott rode out to where Murdoch said Johnny would be working. He was shocked when Murdoch told him what had happened. What Teresa had said to him, and how Johnny had all but became quiet, not wanting to eat his meals at the table if Teresa was there. How even Maria didn’t want her in the kitchen helping prepare the meals anymore because of the hatred words she would say about his brother.
“ Hey brother, want some help?” Scott asked as he dismounted.
“ Yeah, bought time you came back Boston.” Johnny said.
Johnny stopped digging the fence post hole, and walked over to get a drink of water. Pouring some on his head. “ She said something to me that I didn’t tell Murdoch.”
Scott walked over to his brother. Whatever it was, he had a feeling it had to do with the two of them.
“ Did your grandfather really have a heart attack? Or did you just need to get away from me, and use that as an excuse?” Johnny asked.
“ I can’t believe you would even ask me that Johnny. He passed away in his sleep the night after I arrived back. I had to take care of all his affairs, and make sure the staff would be alright.” Scott said.
“ I’m sorry Scott, but given everything that’s happened around here lately, I had to ask.”
“ It was bound to happen. He worked seven days a week most times. Even when I was growing up, I can remember countless meals I ate alone, or with the staff because he was at work until late at night.” Scott responded. “ Murdoch told me what happened, and the terrible things Teresa said to you. I hope you don’t believe any of it as truth?”
“ Just one thing she said.” Johnny said as he walked back over, and picked up the shovel. “ No matter how you coat it, I was conceived out of wedlock, so I will always be a bastard child.”
Scott walked over, grabbed Johnny’s arm, and spun him around. “ That’s not true, and you know it. Murdoch loved your mother Johnny. When my grandfather died, I was cleaning out his office, and I found a box full of letters from Murdoch, that he kept from me. I started reading those letters at night before I went to sleep. He wrote telling me about your mother, and how he loved her, how happy she made him feel. He told me he was the happiest man on earth when he learned she was with child. So don’t you dare stand there and say you are nothing more than a bastard child, because you are not. You were conceived out of love, not lust Johnny. There’s a huge difference between the two.”
“ Your grandfather kept letters from you that Murdoch wrote you?” he asked.
“ Yes. I brought them home with me, and would be glad to let you read them. I want no secrets between us brother. I don’t ever want you thinking I don’t care about you. That I don’t love you, because I do, and I would give my life for you.” Scott vented.
“ You know, if you start digging holes, we might be able to get this done early enough we can take dip in the pond,” Johnny said with a smile. “ It might cool you down some too.”
Jim Porter rode into Stockton, and dismounted at the saloon. Walking inside, he spotted the two men he came to see sitting at a table.
“ Bring me my usually Elmer, and a round for these two.” he said as he walked over and sat down.
“ You must be Porter?’ Clint asked.
“ I am. I would like a word with you two if I may?” he asked as Elmer brought them their drinks.
“ What about?” Spud asked.
“ You used to ride with a man named Johnny Madrid didn’t you?” Porter asked.
“ He was our ramrod. Why?” Clint asked.
“ I want to hire you to do a job for me.” Porter responded.
“ What kind of job, and how much money we talking about?” Clint asked.
“ A thousand dollars, if you kill Johnny Madrid.” he said.
Clint looked at Spud, leaned forward, putting his arms on the table. “ I guess you ain’t heard, Johnny Madrid was killed by Rurales down in Mexico.”
“ What if I told you, you heard wrong. That he’s alive, and living just outside Morro Coyo on a ranch called Lancer?” he asked.
“ Mister, if, and I say if, Johnny Madrid was still alive, every gun hawk along the border would be gunning for him.” Clint said.
“ Oh he’s alive alright. Been living it up at that big ranch for almost a year now. Only he changed his name to Johnny Lancer.” he said.
“ Why you want him dead?” Spud asked.
“ Because he’s not good business for the valley. His father, Murdoch Lancer has the biggest spread around, and he lied to his neighbors when he introduced him. He’s already got the sheriff in Spanish Wells murdered. So will you take they job?”
“ Mister Porter, Johnny happens to be a good friend of ours…………..but for say, a thousand dollars each, we’ll kill him.” Clint said.
“ Wait a minute Clint, now, we rode with Johnny. If this man wants him dead so bad, then how come he don’t do it himself?” Spud asked.
“ That’s a good question. You care to answer it?” Clint said.
“ Because I can’t get close to him like you two can. He’s not going to expect anything from you.” Porter responded. “ To show you I’m a man of my word, I’ll give you half now, and the other half when Johnny Madrid is dead.” Porter said as he took out his wallet, and pulled out one thousand dollars.
Clint looked at the money laying on the table. More money than he had ever had in a long time. “ Done.” he said as he picked up the money.
Porter stood up. “ Oh, I don’t want either of you mentioning my name around Morro Coyo, Spanish Wells, or Green River. Is that understood?”
“ You don’t need to worry.” Clint said as he gave Spud his half of the money. The next time you hear from us will be to collect the rest of our money.”
“ I see what Johnny likes about that stallion son. He’s a beauty.” Murdoch said.
“ Yes he is. You should have been here when Johnny broke him to ride. I actually thought the horse would put up more of a fight.” Scott said.
“ They are meant to be together.” Cipriano said. “ That is why the stallion gave up so easy. He knew he could not win.”
Johnny rode the stallion around the pen at a lope several times before stopping in the middle, dismounting, and walking over to his father, and Scott standing at the fence.
“ He sure is somethin’.” Johnny said. “ Look at him. He’s just standing there watching me.”
“ You going to name him?” Murdoch asked.
“ Barranca, it means Ravine in Spanish.” Johnny responded. “ Watch this” he said before he whistled, and the stallion whinnied, then trotted over to him.
“ Why Barranca son?”
“ Because he was in a ravine the first time I seen him, and he seen me when you were gone.” Johnny explained. “ Want to ride him Boston?”
“ Love too.” Scott said as he climbed over the fence, got on the stallion, galloped him around, and then jumping the corral fence, galloping over to a wagon, jumping it, and then jumping the fence back into the corral. “ You’re right, he is a good horse.”
“ Not bad riding Boston. What unit did you say you were in?” Johnny asked.
“ The Cavalry unit. I was with General Phil Sheridan.” Scott responded.
“Well, I want you to go over the books with me tonight John. As a third owner you need to start learning the books son.” Murdoch said.
“ Oh come on Murdoch. You know I’m no good with that kind of stuff.” Johnny responded.
“ I can do it sir. I’ve been gone, and don’t mind.” Scott said.
“ Your brother has been here almost a year, he needs to learn the booking end of running a ranch.” Murdoch said as the dinner bell started ringing.
“ I wonder who that could be at this hour of the night?” Murdoch said as he stood up, and walked to the door to answer it. “ Can I help you?”
“ Uh yeah, we’re looking for a friend of ours, we were told he was living here.” Clint said.
Johnny stood up, and walked around the desk toward the front door. Staying out of sight, but listening.
“ It’s late. Just who is it you men are looking for?” Murdoch asked.
“ He used to be our ramrod………….”
“ Clint?” Johnny said as he walked over to the door. “ Spud, what the hell are you two doing here?”
“ You know these men son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Sure do. They’re alright. Come on in fellas.” Johnny said. “ You two are a long way from Texas, and the last two people I expected to see in California.”
“ We heard you were here, so we thought we would come and pay you a visit. I guess we didn’t think about showing up so late.” Clint said. “ Wow, would you look at this place Spud. You done alright for yourself kid.”
“ Murdoch, Scott, this is Clint and Spud, I used to ramrod them.” Johnny said. “ This is my father Murdoch , and my brother Scott.”
“ Your brother. Kid, you never said you had a brother.” Clint said.
“ I didn’t know. Look that’s a long story for later. How long you fellas here for?” Johnny asked.
“ You know us Johnny, we drift around looking for work wherever we can find it.” Clint responded.
“ You wouldn’t be needing any extra help would ya Johnny?” Spud asked.
“ I’m afraid not boys, we have a full crew.” Murdoch said.
“ Murdoch, we can use them on the north line-shack rebuilding the corrals. It will take a week for me to do all that alone. With Clint, and Spud helping, I can get it done in a couple days.” Johnny said.
Scott stood with his arms crossed listening to the conversation. Something didn’t set right with him about these two men.
“ John, can I see you outside for a minute?” Murdoch said as he walked to the veranda doors.
“ Sure Murdoch. Scott, would you get them a drink?” Johnny said and asked as he headed outside.
“ What would you gentlemen like Tequila, or Whiskey?” Scott asked.
“ Whiskey. We never could get a likin’ for that stuff Johnny likes ta drink.” Clint said as he walked over and looked at the map on the wall. “ Is this all Lancer?” he asked.
“ Yes it is.” Scott said as he poured their drinks.
“ How many acres is this place?” Spud asked.
“ One hundred thousand acres.” Scott said as he walked over, and handed them their drinks.
“ Thanks. So how much of this does the kid own?” Clint asked.
“ A third.” Scott said
“ What’s up Murdoch?” Johnny asked.
“ Would you mind telling me why you just challenged my authority in there young man?” he asked. “ I told them we have a full crew, yet you put me on the spot. Now do I need to remind you who calls the tune when it comes to running this ranch son?”
“ No Murdoch, you don’t. I was just thinking we could use more hands………..”
“ I don’t know those men, and you yourself seem pretty surprised to see them here.” Murdoch cut in.
“ What are you getting at?” Johnny asked.
“ How well do you know them son. I mean really know them?” he asked.
“ I see, because they’re from my past, that’s why you won’t hire them is that it?” Johnny asked with anger.
“ No son, that’s not why. I don’t have a problem with friends from your past showing up here. What I have a problem with is those two coming here this late at night, and all the way from Texas. Don’t you find that a little strange son?”
“ I guess I can see your point Murdoch. I’ll tell them we can’t use them.” Johnny said as they turned to walk back inside.
“ Man, I never seen such fine things in all my life. Just look at this place Clint. They got carpet on the floors, fancy furniture, and look at all those books over there.” Spud said. “ Why that table is as long as a bar.”
“ Yeah, fancy things don’t make you any different than anyone else though.” Clint said.
“ Almost seems a shame to do it.” Spud said as Johnny walked back into the house.
“ Clint…..Spud, I’m sorry fellas, but we can’t use you.” Johnny said when he walked back inside.
Clint set his glass down, and walked over to him. “ A minute ago you said you could.”
“ I was mistaken. Look, I’m sorry, but like Murdoch said, we have a full crew.” Johnny said.
“ Well I guess we were mistaken Spud. I thought we come to see our old ramrod, guess he don’t care about his old friends now that he’s mister high and mighty rich rancher.” Clint said.
“ That’s not true and you know it Clint.” Johnny responded.
“ He says you’re a third owner, but it appears to me you’re nothing but a hired hand. Let’s go Spud.” Clint said before heading out the veranda doors to his horse.
Johnny turned and followed him out. “ Clint, my old man calls the tune. It was part of the agreement when I signed the contract.”
“ You know, it’s a funny thing. The Johnny Madrid I knew wouldn’t let some old man tell him what to do.” Clint said before riding away.
“ Don’t let what Clint says bother you none. You know how he gets.” Spud said as he mounted up. “ I’m real happy for you Johnny. Enjoy it while you can.” he said before riding away.
Johnny was standing there listening to the sound of their horses hoof-beats fade when Scott walked outside. “ You got something to say brother?”
“ I know they’re your friends Johnny, but something isn’t right about them showing up here.” Scott said
“ Well go on.” Johnny said.
“ While you were outside with Murdoch, the one fella, Spud said something that bothers me. He said it almost seems a shame to do it.” Scott said.
“ To do what?” Johnny asked.
“ I don’t know. You came back inside then.” Scott responded.
Johnny turned to face him. “ Enjoy it while I can. That’s what Spud just said to me before riding away. What do you think it means?”
“ I think those two are going to use their friendship with you, to get close to you, and try and kill you.” Scott responded.
“ I think you might be right Boston. Those two never leave Texas. I think someone brought them here.” Johnny said.
“ Porter?” Murdoch said from the veranda. “ Come inside son, so we can talk, please.”
Johnny walked back inside. “ I don’t much feel like talking anymore about this tonight Murdoch. I’m going to bed.” he said before heading upstairs.
Scott turned to his father when he heard Johnny’s bedroom door close. “ What are we going to do?”
“ There’s not much we can do son. You know Johnny won’t stay confined to the house. If that’s why they came here, we’ll just have to make sure he’s not left alone. I think I will have you go do the repairs at the line-shack instead of him.” Murdoch said.
“He won’t go for that. He’ll know why you are having me do it instead.” Scott said. “ I think I’ll go talk to him.” he said as he started toward the stairs.
“ Leave him be tonight. Your brother has some serious thinking to do. Let him come to us when he’s ready.” Murdoch said.
“ So what do we do now Clint?” Spud asked as they rode to town.
“ We’re going to do what Porter hired us to do.” Clint said. “ You heard what Johnny said. He’s going to be working on that north line-shack all alone.”
“ You sure about this Clint? I mean, Johnny is our friend.” Spud asked.
“ You heard how his old man pushed him around. He’s nothing more than a hired hand. He ain’t got no say in what happens on that ranch. We’ll be doing him a favor.” he said.
“ Yeah, but how we gonna do it?” he asked.
“ He said it will take him a week to do all those repairs alone. We’ll take a ride out there in a couple days, and visit our old ramrod.” Clint said.
“ Your brother awake yet?” Murdoch asked when Scott came into the kitchen.
“ I thought he was down here already. His room is empty.” Scott responded.
“ Señor Johnny,se fue hace una hora.( Señor Johnny, he left an hour ago.) Maria said. “ Le ofrecí prepararle algo de desayuno, pero me dijo que no.” ( I offered to fix him some breakfast, but he said no.)
“ ¿Dijo a dónde iba María?” ( Did he say where he was going Maria?) Murdoch asked.
“ Si. Para empezar a trabajar en el line-shack.” (Yes, to start working on the line-shack.) she said.
“ You want me to ride out there?” Scott asked as Teresa walked into the kitchen.
“ No son.”Murdoch said. “ Teresa, I received a wire from the school yesterday. They are sending someone to chaperon you to San Francisco., to the school. She will be arriving the end of the week.”
“ Good, the sooner I get away from here, the safer I will be.” she responded snidely.
“ I never thought I would see the day that you could be so spiteful young lady.” Murdoch said. “ I will pay your tuition at the school until you graduate, after that, you are on your own. I do not want you coming back here unless you can conduct yourself in a proper lady like manner toward Johnny.”
“ Oh don’t worry Murdoch, I have no intention of coming back here as long as that killer is here.” she spat.
“ Her attitude makes me glad she is not related to me by blood.” Scott said.
“ You just wait, trouble has already showed up with those two men last night coming here. You know it, otherwise you would have hired them.” she said.
“ For your information young lady, I already have a full crew working for me. Those men being from Johnny’s past had nothing to do with it.” Murdoch responded firmly.
Johnny unhitched the team, and settled them in the lean-to after removing the harnesses. Brushing them down good as they ate the grass hay he had put in the feed box. “ Sorry boys, I didn’t know there wasn’t any grain left here.” Johnny said. “ I’ll check on you again before I turn in. Right now, I need to get that wagon unloaded.”
Four hours later Johnny sat on the steps drinking a cup of coffee as the sun started to set. All his supplies for the next week, and the post were unloaded . Exhausted, he found himself thinking about everything that had happened in the last year, and couldn’t help but wonder if his coming to Lancer was a mistake. His being there had cost a man his life, and Murdoch to send Teresa away. Was it a mistake? Did he have a right to live a life as Johnny Lancer? All last night he thought about those two questions.
He also couldn’t help but wonder what the real reason was Clint, and Spud rode all the way from Texas. What Scott told him Spud said in the house, and what he said before riding away, had him really thinking about why they were really there. Did Porter bring them there? Could the man know more about him than he thought? Did he have a Pinkerton agent checking into his past? It wouldn’t be hard to find out anything about Johnny Madrid. All a person had to do was ask in any town along the Mexican border, and they would hear about him.
“ How’s the easiest way to get to Johnny Madrid to kill him?” he asked aloud. “ You hit the nail on the head last night big brother. I know your game Clint. I never thought you would turn on me, but I guess the money was too much to refuse.”
Standing up, Johnny went back inside the cabin, figuring since it had been over twenty four hours since he ate supper, he had better eat something. Tomorrow would be a back breaking day of digging out old, broken fence post, and setting new ones.
Murdoch sat at his desk thinking about what Scott had told him the one man said while he was outside talking to Johnny, and what he said to Johnny before riding away. The only person he could think of who would bring those men here from Texas, was Jim Porter. The man made it no secret he hated his son, and didn’t want him here. While in Sacramento, attending a dinner with his longtime friend, William Irwin, the governor, he learned that Porter was well known in Sacramento as a trouble maker, and possible murderer involved in the Johnson County War in Wyoming. Several ranchers, though never proved who were all involved, set out, and massacred several homesteaders, believed to have rustled cattle, and cut fences.
“ Murdoch.” Teresa said as she walked into the room. “ Are you alright?”
Murdoch looked up at her. “ I’m fine. I was just thinking about something.”
“ About since he came home?” she asked.
“ Teresa, I really don’t want to fight with you young lady. Most of what has happened in the last year has been your doing………not Johnny’s.” he said.
“ Are you ever sorry you agreed to raise me after my father died?” she asked.
“ I have never had any regrets about raising you Teresa. Your father was my best friend. The only thing I regret is your behavior toward my son this past year. It’s inexcusable. You were not raised to act like that, and you sure as hell were not raised to speak to Johnny the way you have. He hasn’t told me everything you said to him, but I know that whatever it was you said that night, it has been eating away at him ever since.” Murdoch said. “ You had no right telling John that I made a mistake giving him a third of this ranch. He has every right to his share of Lancer…………”
“ And what about me? I grew up here, he didn’t. I have cooked and cleaned for you almost my whole life. What do I get for it, nothing but sent off to a boarding school in San Francisco.” She spat.
“ He is my flesh and blood Teresa.” he said.
“ Your flesh and blood…….All he is, and all he will ever be is your bastard child created out of wedlock because you slept with his whore mother.”.” Teresa spat before turning and going to her room.
Johnny dropped the ax, and walked over to his canteen hanging on a post, and took a swig before pouring some on his head. The last three days he busted his back removing the bad post, and setting the new ones. Now all he had to do was put up the rails. Before coming to Lancer, he liked the solitude of just him, and his horse most of the time out on the trails, but now he found he hated it. Funny how a year can change a man he thought, especially a gunfighter. Almost every day he thought about Teresa, and what could have been between them. Something he had thought about on the way to Lancer, and even told Scott. He never knew a woman, well almost woman could be filled with so much hatred.
Then there was Jim Porter, President of the California Cattle Growers Association. A man who feels any rancher not with him, is against him. Johnny knew little about the man beyond him coming from Wyoming, and after the Johnson county war. The Wyoming Stock Growers Association had offered him a lot of money to eradicate farmers off the range, something he refused to do. Could Porter remember him, and that be one of, if not the real reason the man hated him? He hated having questions he knew he would never get answers too.
Teresa opened the veranda door, and headed to the barn as the sun showed it’s first hints of light. Saddling her horse, she fastened her saddlebags full of food, and money she had been saving on the back, and slid the rifle into the scabbard. Leading the horse out of the barn, she kept walking until she was far enough away, she wouldn’t be heard. The last few nights she had been thinking about how her life was going to change at weeks end. How everything she loved would be taken away from her, and all because of him. Teresa figured that if she got rid of the problem, she wouldn’t lose everything.
“ You won’t even know it’s me who does it.” she said as she galloped off, heading to the north line-shack.
“ Has Teresa come down this morning?” Murdoch asked.
“ No, I have not seen her this morning.” Maria responded.
Murdoch headed upstairs, and knocked on Teresa’s door. Getting no reply, he opened the door, and found the room empty.
“ Is something wrong?” Scott asked.
“ Have you seen Teresa this morning?” he asked.
“ No, I just woke up. She’s not in her room?”
“ No, and Maria hasn’t seen her either.” Murdoch said as they headed downstairs.
“ I’ll go check outside. Maybe she’s with the new litter of pups in the barn.” Scott said.
Murdoch walked into the grand room, and noticed Teresa’s rifle was missing from the rack. Opening the drawer, he found a box of shells were also missing.
“ Her horse, and tack are gone.” Scott said as he walked back into the house.
“ So is her rifle. Go back upstairs and see if any of her clothes are missing.” Murdoch ordered.
Scott came back downstairs a few minutes later. “ It appears a couple of her dresses, jeans, and shirts are gone along with her saddlebags.”
“ Damn that girl.” Murdoch said. “ Go saddle our horses son, and tell Cipriano we will need him to track her.”
“ Yes sir.” Scott said as he headed to the door, then stopped abruptly. “ You don’t think she would go after Johnny do you?”
“ I don’t know son.” he said.
Teresa dismounted at the line-shack, and removed her rifle. Seeing Johnny at the corral, she walked closer as she brought the rifle up, and took aim. “ Go to hell.” she said before pulling the trigger.
Johnny looked up just in time to see Teresa standing near the line-shack with a rifle in her hands. “ Teresa.” he said just before he heard the rifle, and everything went black.
Teresa put the rifle back in the scabbard, mounted up, and took off at a fast gallop, headed southeast toward Arizona.
Murdoch, Scott, and Cipriano rode up to the line-shack and dismounted.
“ Patrón look.” Cipriano said as he pointed toward the corral.
“ Oh no.” Murdoch said as they took off at a run to the lone figure laying on the ground. “ Oh god, Johnny.”
Scott reached his brother first, and turned him over. A deep furrow seeped blood just above his right ear. “ He’s alive. Looks like the bullet grazed him just above his right ear.”
“ Cipriano, you ride to town and get Sam. We’ll get Johnny back to the house.” Murdoch ordered.
Sam came downstairs, and walked into the grand room. “ He’ll be alright. I don’t think he has a concussion, but he will have a headache for a few days.” he said.
“ He’ll be alright though Sam?” Scott asked. “ The wound was bleeding pretty good.”
“ He should. Head wounds tend to bleed more than other wounds due to all the blood vessels in the head supplying blood to the brain.” Sam explained. “ Do you know who shot him?”
“ We think Teresa. Her rifle is missing, and she left sometime in the night.” Murdoch said.
“ Some of her clothes are missing, so she has no intention of coming back.” Scott added.
“ For the love of god why?” Sam asked.
“ To be honest, I never thought she hated Johnny so bad that she would try and kill him.” Murdoch said as someone knocked on the door.
Scott walked over, and opened the door to find a very well dressed older woman standing there. “ Can I help you?”
“ I am looking for Mister Lancer, A Murdoch Lancer to be exact.” the woman said.
“ Who is it Scott?” Murdoch asked.
“ Won’t you come in.” Scott said.
“ You are Mister Lancer I presume?” the woman asked.
“ I am. Who might you be?” he responded.
“ I am Catherine Beecher from the Covenant of the Sacred Heart Catholic School in San Francisco.” she said. “ I wrote telling I would be arriving today.”
“ Yes ma’am. I’m sorry. My son has been shot, and I completely forgot. Please forgive me.” Murdoch responded. “ This is my oldest son Scott, and Sam Jenkins, our doctor. Won’t you come in and have a seat? Can I offer you something cool to drink?”
“ Thank you, but I’m afraid if we are to catch the train back to San Francisco, we must be leaving soon.” she said.
“ I’m afraid I have some bad news. Sometime in the night, Teresa took off. We don’t know where she is at.” Murdoch explained.
“ I see. So I have made a long trip for nothing.” the woman said. “ Your letter said the young lady was troubled. It would appear she is troubled more than you thought. If you find her, and still wish for her to attend my school, might I suggest you escort her there yourself.”
“ She won’t be attending your school ma’am. Let me compensate you for your trouble.” Murdoch said.
“ That won’t be necessary, but if you wish to make a donation, that would be fine.” she said.
Murdoch walked over to his desk, took out his check book, and wrote a check to the school. “ Again, I really am sorry you made the long trip for nothing ma’am.” he said as he handed her the check.
“ You said your son was shot. Will he live?” she asked.
“ Yes ma’am, he will.” he responded.
“ Good, well I shall depart this fine home you have, and I wish the best for your troubled young lady.” she said as she headed to the door.
“ What do you want to do about Teresa?” Scott asked after seeing the woman to her buggy.
“ Wait. Maybe Johnny seen who shot him. We don’t know she did it. It could have been one of those two that came here the other night.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Something tells me it was her.” Scott said. “ I’m going to go sit with my brother now.”
“ Keep him in bed a day or two, and watch him for dizziness. I don’t want him coming down those stairs without someone next to him, just in case he does get dizzy.” Sam instructed. “ You know, given all that has happened to that boy in the year he’s been here, I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves.”
“ That’s my greatest fear Sam. I can’t bear to lose Johnny again.” Murdoch responded.
“ I just heard some interesting news.” Clint said.
“ What’s that?” Spud asked.
“ Someone took a shot at Madrid, but didn’t kill him. Bullet creased his head good though.” Clint said.
“ I can’t do it Clint. I won’t do it. Johnny is our friend, and you know friends like him don’t just come along.” Spud said. “ If you want to try, go ahead. Me, I’m going back to Texas.”
“ You’re gonna throw away a thousand dollars, just like that?” Clint asked as Spud stood up.
“ Seems to me I would be throwing away a hell of a lot more than a thousand dollars if I went thru with it.” Spud said before heading to the door.
Clint sat there, and watched his friend walk out of the saloon. He knew he was right, Johnny was a good friend, and they should be happy he was able to get out of the game, and live a normal life. Standing up, he went to look for Spud to tell him he would be going back to Texas with him, but that they needed to stop by Lancer, and tell them what was going on.”
Teresa sat watching the flames dance in the fire as tears rolled down her cheeks. For the second time she had pulled the trigger, killing a man. Except this time, she wanted to pull the trigger, or did she? Why had she hated him so much? Did she feel threatened by him being there? Could it all be because she felt Murdoch would never love her again like he did before Johnny came home? Had she become jealous of Johnny, and it was that jealousy that fuel her hate for him. She loved Murdoch, and being his ward. When Scott came home, she was happy to have a big brother type she could talk too. She loved listening to him tell of things back in Boston. Things she knew she would never see, or experience, especially now. She had enough money, she could buy a train ticket, and go anywhere she wanted, but where was the question. She had always wanted to see New Orleans.
“ Murdoch?” Johnny said softly.
“ I’m right here son.” the Lancer patriarch said.
“ My head hurts.” he said as he reached up and rubbed his face.
“ Do you remember what happened son?” Murdoch asked as he poured some water.
Johnny closed his eyes. “ I was at the line-shack putting up rails for the corral. How did I get here?”
“ Here, sit up, and drink this.” Murdoch said.
Johnny sat up, and took the glass of water. The coolness felt good on his dry throat. “ Thanks. What happened?”
Murdoch took the glass, and set it on the table next to the bed.” You were shot. Sam said you’ll be alright. That you’ll have a headache for a few days, but he didn’t think you had a concussion. Son, did you see who shot you?”
Scott opened the door and walked in. “ I thought I heard voices. How do you feel?”
“ My head hurts, other than that, I’m okay.” Johnny said as he sat up more, and scooted back against his headboard. “ I…..I was getting a drink of water when I suddenly got the feeling I wasn’t alone. I looked up, and………….next thing I remember is waking up here.”
“ You seen who shot you, didn’t you son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Can I get something to eat?” Johnny asked. He * had * seen who shot him, he just didn’t know how to tell them who it was.
“ You can, but I would like you to answer my question son. Who shot you?” Murdoch responded.
“ If he seen who shot him, think we should let Johnny tell us when he’s ready Murdoch.” Scott suggested.
“ Alright son. I have a pretty good idea who it was, and will be having a wanted poster done up. They will not get away with this.” Murdoch said firmly as he stood up.
“ What if they think it was us who shot Johnny, or that strict old man of his don’t let us see Johnny?” Spud asked as they rode under the Lancer arch.
“ We’ll just have to convince him.” Clint responded as they rode up to the house, and dismounted.
“ What do you want?” Scott asked from behind them.
“ We need to speak to Johnny, and his old man.” Clint said.
“ It’s important.” Spud added.
“ Look, I know you don’t like us, or trust us, but I give you my word, we mean no harm to Johnny.” Clint said as Murdoch walked out of the house.
“ Mister Lancer, we came here to tell you and Johnny something we figure you have a right to know. If you don’t want to listen to what we have to say, that’s fine. Me and Spud are going back to Texas when we leave here.” Clint said.
“ Son, go see if your brother is awake, and wants to see them.” Murdoch ordered. “ Come inside.”
Clint, and Spud followed Murdoch into the house. “ Thank you.”
“ I have a pretty good idea why you fellas were here the other night, and so does Johnny.” Murdoch said.
“ Mister Lancer, we know someone shot Johnny. We heard it in town. You have my word it weren’t us who done it.” Spud said as Scott came back downstairs.
“ He’s awake, and said he will listen to what you have to say.” Scott said.
“ I want you both to remove your guns. I’m not letting you anywhere near my son with those guns.” Murdoch ordered.
Clint, and Spud removed their guns, and followed them upstairs. Walking into the room, they found Johnny sitting up in bed, his deadly colt pistol laying in his lap.
“ You won’t be needing that Johnny. You have my word.” Clint said.
“ Yeah, well I can’t take any chances. I’m really tired of getting shot.” Johnny said. “ What is it you wanted to tell me Clint?”
“ Well, how about you set that gun aside first?” Clint asked.
Johnny handed his colt to Scott to hang onto. “ Better?”
“ Thanks. Listen, I want you to know that what I’m going to tell you is the gods honest truth Johnny, Mister Lancer.” Clint said.
“ Get it said Clint.” Johnny ordered.
“ We were hired by a man to kill you.” he said. ‘ This man offered us a thousand dollars each to kill you. He said you wouldn’t suspect anything, and we could get close enough to you, to do it because we were friends.”
“ Who?” Murdoch demanded.
“ A man named Porter. He said we weren’t to even think of double crossing him, but Spud there said something last night that got me to thinking. When he said he wasn’t doing it. That losing a thousand dollars wouldn’t be as bad as what we would lose if we did do it. Now, when we left here the other night, we knew you would be working at that line-shack, so we had planned on doing it there, but……….I don’t know……..I guess I couldn’t do it. Then I heard someone else had shot you, it angered me. You have a good life now. A life you deserve with a brother, and father who care about you. You’re a third owner of this big fancy ranch, and……………I couldn’t hurt your family like that. I’m sorry Johnny.” Clint said.
Johnny watched Clint as he talked, and could tell the man was telling the truth. “ I know you Clint, how much did Porter pay you up front to kill me?”
“ Half.” Spud said. “ You’ve always been good to us Johnny. You been the best ramrod we ever had. I’m sorry what happened cost us our friendship.”
“ It took you men great courage to come here and tell us what you did. For that I’m grateful. If my son wants to forgive you, that’s up to him, but me, I don’t ever want to see you on Lancer property again.” Murdoch said. “ Do I make myself clear?” he asked.
“ Yes sir, and we don’t fault you none.” Clint said. “ If you’re ever down around Laredo, maybe we can have a drink for the old days. Let’s go Spud.”
Johnny turned and looked out the window. He couldn’t look at them, his father, or Scott right now. “ I’d like to be alone now.”
“ Alright son.” Murdoch said.
“ Murdoch, what are you going to do?” Johnny asked.
“ He belongs in jail Johnny. What the man did is a crime. He hired someone to commit a murder.” Murdoch responded.
“ There’s not a judge or jury around will convict him because of who I am. I’m a gunfighter, and in their eyes, I would deserve to die.” Johnny responded.
“ No you’re not. I don’t ever want to hear you say that again. You are my son, and you have a right to live. Jim Porter has had it in for me for a long time. I am not going to stand by and let him try and kill you. Do you understand young man?” Murdoch said with anger before walking out.
“ I think you made him mad little brother.” Scott said.
“ I don’t really care Scott. I’m tired, I want to be alone right now.” Johnny said.
“ Alright, but I’m always here if you want to talk.” Scott said as he headed to the door. “ That includes about the person I know you seen that shot you.” he added before walking out, and closing the door.
Teresa rode into Fresno, a week after leaving the only home she had ever known, and stopped at the livery.
“ Yes sir, what can I…………..Oh…….I’m sorry young lady. I thought……….never mind. What can I do for you?” the man asked.
“ I would like to stable my horse for a day or two.” Teresa said as she removed her saddlebags, and rifle.
“ Alright. That will be six bits for two days. A dollar if you want him to have grain, otherwise he’ll just get hay.” the man said.
“ Go ahead and give him some grain, we’ve come a long way this past week. Can you tell me which hotel in town is good to stay at, but not too expensive?”
“ Well young lady, I would expect you would want a hot bath, and decent meals. The safest, and reasonably priced one would be the Collins hotel just down the street there. It’s far enough away from the saloons, so you’ll be able to get a good nights sleep.” the man said as he led her horse into a stall. “ You have far to go?”
“ Excuse me?” Teresa asked.
“ You have much farther you’re riding?” he asked.
“ To be honest, I’m not sure. My parents died last month, and I lost everything I had. So I saddled up, and been heading east for the past week.” she said.
“ Well, I mean no disrespect, but a young lady shouldn’t be out on the trail alone. You might want to get yourself a pistol for protection besides that there rifle.” he suggested.
“ I assure you, I am very good with this here rifle. I don’t need a pistol, but I appreciate the suggestion.” Teresa said.
“ Mister Collins, he’s a real nice, good, decent man. His wife passed last year from some ailment, he’ll take real good care of you young lady.”
“ Thank you again for your kindness.” Teresa sad before heading to the hotel.
Murdoch rode into Stockton, and stopped at the Cattle Growers Association hotel. Dismounting, he walked inside, knowing Porter would be here. Spotting the man sitting at a table, drinking with Driscoll, he walked over.
“ Lancer, this is for members only.” Driscoll said.
Murdoch ignored Driscoll, and glared at Jim Porter.“ Porter, I know what you tried to have done, and it won’t happen.”
“ I have no idea what you are talking about Lancer.” Porter responded.
Murdoch grabbed the man, and yanked him out of his chair. “ You sonofabitch, did you really think you would get away with hiring two men to kill my son?”
Driscoll stood up, and tried to get Murdoch to let go, but found himself knocked hard to the floor by a fist.
“ Let go of me now.” he ordered.
“ Alright, that’s enough.” the sheriff ordered as he walked over to the men. “ Lancer, let him go.”
“ If you ever come near my son again, or try and have him killed……….”
“ Sheriff, I want this man arrested for assaulting me.” Porter ordered.
“ It’s you who’s under arrest Porter.” the sheriff said as he took Porter into custody.
“ Arrest for what? I’ve done nothing wrong sheriff.” Porter said.
“ I have a warrant for your arrest for the murder of Gene Crowder, a witness to the murder of Ella Watson, and her husband Jim Averell, two ranchers outside Cheyenne, Wyoming. Sheriff Frank Hadsell is sending a couple deputies here to extradite you back to Cheyenne, to stand trial for those murders. He’s been looking for you for a coupe years now.”
“ Ella Watson and her husband were stealing cattle. All we did was save the good people of Cheyenne the trouble of a trial.” Porter spat.
“ Hanging a man and woman, especially an innocent man and woman is against the law Porter. You can’t take the law into your own hands.” the sheriff said as he took Porter to jail.
Murdoch turned and glared at Driscoll. “ I will tell you the same as I told him, anything happens to my son, I’m coming after you Driscoll.” he said before walking out, mounting up, and heading back home.
Johnny walked into the grand room, and found his brother sitting at the desk doing the books.
“ Why did Murdoch go to Stockton?” Johnny asked.
“ He said he had something he needed to take care of, and would be back tomorrow afternoon.” Scott responded.
“ I bet it has to do with Porter.” Johnny said. “ I rode out to the line-shack today, and seen the corral was finished.”
“ Murdoch had one of the hands go finish it.” Scott responded as he sat back in the chair. “ So how long you going to keep it from me little brother?” he asked.
“ Keep what from you Scott?” Johnny asked as he walked over to the desk.
Scott stood up, and walked around the desk. “ You know perfectly well what I am talking about Johnny. I know you seen the person who shot you. Who was it?”
“ Let it go Scott. It’s over, and done.” Johnny said before turning to walk away.
Scott reached out and grabbed Johnny’s right arm, and spun him around. “ It was Teresa wasn’t it?” he asked. “ That’s why you won’t say anything.”
Johnny jerked his arm free. “ I said let it go Scott. I’m going to go get cleaned up for supper.”
Scott stood there watching his brother head upstairs. He knew he was right. He knew in his gut, Teresa was the one who shot him. What he couldn’t figure out though, was why Johnny was protecting her? She had come so close to killing him. Walking over to the sideboard, he poured a shot of whiskey, and downed it before going back to working on the monthly expenses.
Johnny picked up his saddlebags, and headed down the back stairs to the kitchen. Last night, he lay in bed thinking about Teresa, and what she had done. He’d thought about it every day, and night since waking up back at the house after being shot, and every time, he came to the same conclusion. Heading into the kitchen, he grabbed some leftovers from last night to get him thru the morning. Walking into the grand room, he set his saddlebags on the table, and walked over to the gun rack, and removed his rifle, and a box of shells for both it, and his pistol. The grandfather clock chimed two o’clock as he headed to the veranda doors, and walked outside. He knew Barranca wouldn’t be happy with being saddled so early, but he needed a horse without the Lancer brand, and he needed a horse he knew could travel long distances in a day.
“ Sorry amigo. I know it’s early, but I got some unfinished business I need to take care of, and you’re the best horse on this ranch.” Johnny said as he saddled the stallion. Having rode out to the line-shack yesterday afternoon, he knew which way Teresa went after shooting him. The girl knew how to make a camp, and such from camping with Murdoch for a weekend. Now she would have to sleep out on the cold hard ground, and deal with the elements. Something he knew she wouldn’t like doing after a couple days with no bath available. It’s been just over a week since she left, and Johnny knew she would stay away from places she knew Murdoch would look for her, only he didn’t look for her. Was that because he wasn’t sure she was the one who shot him? Or was his father glad she was gone. He was sending her away to San Francisco to a boarding school, and told her he would pay for her schooling until she reached twenty one. After that, she would be on her own. Modesto was the closest big town to the east, but his gut told him Teresa had headed southeast instead. Last night as he lay in bed, he remembered something Teresa said once at supper when Scott was talking about being in the south. She had said she wanted to see new Orleans, that she dreamed of seeing the city in the gulf.
Johnny led Barranca out of the barn, and walked him away from the house, until he was far enough away, he mounted up, and headed southeast toward Fresno. He knew that would be the first place Teresa would stop to bath, and rest up.
Scott opened the door to Johnny’s room. “ Time to get up brother.” he said as he walked in, and found the room empty. A letter lay on the bed addressed to him. Walking around the bed, he picked the letter up, and read it aloud.
I’m sorry to do this, but I have to. You were right last night. It was Teresa who shot me, and I know where she is going. I don’t know how long I will be gone, but I promise you, I will be back. Lancer is my home. Please don’t try and find me, because you won’t. I’ll send a wire now and again to let you know I am still alive. Please understand this is something I have to do, and if for some reason I don’t make it back, I want you to know I am proud to have you as a brother. Tell the old man I’m proud to be his son, and I’m sorry I never got the chance to grow up at Lancer. You were right that day we stopped on the hill, and I seen it for the first time. It is the most beautiful place in the whole wide world. Take care of the old man Scott.
Your brother forever, Johnny Lancer.
Scott got angry as he walked over to the window and looked outside. Murdoch wouldn’t be back until afternoon, and with not knowing what time in the night Johnny left, and being the only one to run the ranch until he returned, Scott headed downstairs to eat breakfast, and start the day.
Murdoch walked into the house, and found his oldest son sitting at his desk lost in thought. “ Son.”
“ Murdoch, I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you come in.” Scott said as he stood up. “ Welcome home. How did it go?”
“ Good. Porter it would seem had a warrant for his arrest for murder in Cheyenne. He’s in jail, and will be extradited back to stand trial.” Murdoch said. “ Where’s your brother?”
“ Gone.” Scott said.
“ Gone……..Gone where?” Murdoch asked.
“ He left a letter.” Scott responded as he picked up the letter he had left on the desk, and handed it to him.
“ Oh my god.” Murdoch said.
“ I’ve been trying to think of where she would be headed, but so far I have come up with nothing.” Scott said. “ I wanted to go after him, but with you away, and not knowing what time he left.”
“ I understand son. I knew he knew who it was. I was hoping he would tell you.” Murdoch said.
“ I confronted him the night before. He told me to let it go. That it’s over, and done with. I should have known he was planning something. I got so angry with him last night, I………if I …………”
“ Son, don’t blame yourself for this. If anyone is to blame, it’s me. I should have pushed him to tell me.” Murdoch cut in, and said.
“ At least he said he would come back when it’s all over.” Scott said.
“ If he finds her, I wonder what he will do?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’ve thought about that too, and can come up with no answer sir.” Scott said.
Johnny rode into Fresno a week after leaving Lancer. A storm having slowed him down to where he had to hole up at a weigh station for two days. He didn’t think it would ever stop raining. All the creeks, and streams he came upon were running with water. Several washes he crossed he could see the remains of where the water had run down them mere hours before. Riding to Modesto first, he had a drawing done up of Teresa to show around when asking about her. He figured that would be better than describing her. He was actually impressed with the accuracy of the drawing the man did.
“ Hello!” he called out as thunder sounded in the distance, and lightening flashed.
“ Yeah, what can I………well I’ll be damned.” the man said.
“ You already are.” Johnny responded. “ How the hell are ya Zeb?”
“ I’m good kid. Damn, I heard you got yourself killed down in Mexico a few years back. Then I see in the paper how you caught the men responsible for robbing the stages. That was a year or so ago though. Where ya been?” Zeb asked.
“ It’s a long story. Thanks to the weather I’m gonna hold up here for the night.” Johnny said.
“ Sure thing. Mighty fine looking horse flesh. Mustang?” Zeb said.
“ Yeah. Caught him, and broke him myself. He’s still learning, but damn smart.” Johnny said as he pulled his saddlebags and rifle. “ You wouldn’t happen to have had a young woman stop by here would you, say a week or so back?”
“ As a matter of fact I did. Right pretty little thing too.” Zeb said as he led Barranca into a stall.
Johnny pulled the sketch out and showed him. “ Is this her?”
“ Sure is. Why you looking for her Johnny?” he asked as he removed the saddle.
“ She’s not a s nice as you think Zeb.” Johnny said. “ She’s wanted for attempted murder.”
“ That little lady…………..Holy smokes. I suggested to her she should get a pistol, and she said she does just fine with that there rifle she had. So who she try and kill?”
“ Me………….She still in town?” he asked.
“ No, she traded the horse she rode in on for a younger one. Rode out four days ago headed southeast.” Zeb said. “ She spent two days at the Collins hotel.”
“ Thanks buddy. Oh, see to it he gets a double ration of oats, he’s earned it.” Johnny said before walking away. He couldn’t help but wonder what his father would think if he knew he was known and liked in Fresno. He’d never conducted Lancer business in the town. Zeb only knew him as Johnny Madrid.
For two months Johnny checked every town, and showed the picture he had around of Teresa, and nobody remembered seeing her. Now in Texas he decided to send a wire to let Scott know he was still looking, and alright. He hated being so close to the border, but knew she would be going this way. Somehow, somewhere along the way he missed her, or got ahead of her, if she was still alive. Sending the telegram, he rode out of El Paso at a gallop, wanting to put as much distance between him and the town as fast as possible.
Scott walked into the house, and found his father looking out the big bay window. “ I got a wire from Johnny finally. He says he’s in Texas, and is still looking for Teresa.”
“ At least we know he’s still alive.” Murdoch said as he walked over to his desk. “ Do you remember that time during supper, you were talking about being in Louisiana?”
“ Vaguely.” Scott said.
“ Remember how Teresa kept asking you about New Orleans, and what it was like. What the women were like and such?” Murdoch asked.
“ You think that’s were she’s headed, New Orleans?” he asked.
“ I do son. There’s been something else on my mind a lot lately.” Murdoch said.
“ What Johnny plans on doing when he catches her. To tell you the truth, I’ve been wondering that very same thing.” Scott said.
“ If he wants her punished for trying to kill him. He would have to bring her all the way back here, and I don’t think that will happen.” Murdoch said. “ I think your brother went after her for another reason.”
“ What other reason could he have? He’s putting himself in jeopardy being back down along the border.” Scott asked.
“ I don’t know son. I just don’t know.” Murdoch said as he sat down.
Johnny rode into Uvalde, Texas just after dark, and dismounted at the back of Mission Candelaria. Walking in the back door, Johnny could see the lone figure of a man to his left.
“ Hello Father.” he said.
Father Francisco looked toward the voice. “ Why do you not come in the front door my son?”
Johnny stepped into the light more. “ Because the less people know I’m here, the better.”
“ Johnny, it has been a long time my friend.” Father Francisco said. “I read about you in the paper last year. It did me good to know you were still alive.”
“ Yeah it has father. How are you?” Johnny asked.
“ I am good. I sense you are troubled.” Father Francisco said.
Johnny walked over and sat down in a pew. “ I’m tracking a young girl. She took off from a place called Morro Coyo. The day she left, she tried to commit murder.”
“ I see, and the person she tried to kill, or the family, they have hired you to find her, and bring her back?” he asked.
“ No.” Johnny said as he removed his hat, and started playing with it in his hands. “ Father, the person she tried to kill was me. Teresa is my fathers ward.”
“ I am a bit confused. Perhaps you should start from the beginning.” Father Francisco said.
Johnny sighed as he leaned back, set his hat on the bench next to him, and proceeded to tell Father Francisco everything that has happened in the past year.
“ So you found out your mother lied to you about your father, and didn’t tell you you had a brother?” Father Francisco asked.
“ Yeah. I just wish I knew why.” Johnny said softly.
“ How did you feel when you learned this?” he asked.
“ I was angry at first, but then I got to know Scott, and about Murdoch. It changed me inside. When I went home, and seen Lancer for the very first time, I knew then that I didn’t want it anymore. I didn’t want to be Johnny Madrid anymore.” he explained. “ I wanted to be his son, and a brother.”
“ Tell me about this fine estancia you are now a third owner of?” Father Francisco asked.
“ Lancer, it’s one hundred thousand acres, with ten thousand head of cattle. It’s back breaking work, but I like doing it.” Johnny said.
“ With you saying that, let me ask you this. How do you think they feel with you gone looking for this young lady? Where they agreeable that you do this?” he asked.
“ I don’t know. I left in the middle of the night. Murdoch was away on business, and Scott was asleep. I left a letter on my bed for him to find the next morning.” Johnny said.
“ So you took the cowards way of telling them by sneaking away in the night. Have you thought about what you will do when you find this young lady?” he asked.
Johnny stood up. “ I’m not a coward Father. I knew they wouldn’t let me go. They don’t understand the Madrid part of me. She tried to murder me. Am I supposed to just forget that, and let her get away with it?”
“ You did not answer my question. What do you intend to do when you catch her?” he asked again.
Johnny walked over to the alter to stand with his back to Father Francisco. “ To be honest father, I haven’t thought about it.”
Father Francisco stood up, and walked over to stand next to Johnny. “ How long has it been since you opened your soul to God John?”
“ Too long I guess.” he said.
“ Take as long as you want. I will be in the back if you wish to talk to me again after. He will not steer you wrong.” Father Francisco said before walking away.
Johnny lit a candle before he knelt at the alter, bowed his head, and stayed that way for almost an hour. Standing up, he partially had his answer. Heading out the back door, unable to speak to Father Francisco right now for fear his voice would fail him, he mounted up, and headed toward San Antonio.
Teresa walked into the lobby of the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, Texas.
“ Can I help you young lady?” the woman asked.
“ I’d like a room for the night please. The livery man said this was the best hotel in town.” Teresa responded.
“ Why thank you. Me and my husband take pride in our establishment. I take it you will be wanting a hot bath, and I’m sure privacy?” she asked. “ I say that because we have a bath house the men can share, but our more expensive rooms have their own private baths in them.”
“ How much will one of those rooms cost me?” Teresa asked.
“ Three dollars a night. You can also get your meals delivered to your room if you don’t wish to dine in our restaurant.” the lady said.
“ That will be fine. This reminds me of a hotel I stayed in once in San Francisco, just as beautiful.” Teresa sad as she signed the register, and paid for the room.
( THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS ATTEMPTED SEXUAL ASSAULT, AND STRONG SEXUAL CONTENT )
Johnny stopped at the livery in San Antonio. Tired, and fed up with the weather, he dismounted, and walked into the barn.
“Howdy, what can I do for ya?” the man asked.
“ Some information to start.” Johnny said as he unfolded the picture, and showed him. “ You seen this girl?” he asked the man.
“ My eyes ain’t as good as they used to be. Let me see that.” The man said as he looked at the picture.
Johnny watched the mans facial expression. He could tell he’d seen her.
“ Nope, ain’t seen that pretty little brunette.” he said as he handed the picture back to Johnny.
“ I never said she was a brunette.” Johnny said.
“ I don’t want no trouble Madrid.” the man said.
“ You know who I am…….that’s good because you’re gonna have a whole lot of trouble if you don’t start talking.” Johnny said.
“ She was here. Came in around dark last night, and boarded her horse for the night. She rode out about three hours ago.” he said.
“ Which way was she headed?” he asked.
“ South. What she do to have someone like you after her?”
Johnny mounted up. “ Attempted murder.” he said before riding off, headed east.
“ Murdoch, how you been?” Sam asked.
“ Sam, I think you know the answer to that.” Murdoch said.
“ He’ll come back. Johnny found something he loves, and wants. He’ll come back to you.” Sam said.
“ I don’t know Sam. I think I know where Teresa is going, and if I’m right, it put’s Johnny right where he doesn’t want to be. Down along the border.”
“ The Mexican border? Good god, where is she going?” Sam asked.
“ New Orleans. Scott was talking about it when he was there while in the army. She kept asking him questions about there.” he responded.
“ You mean to tell me that that young lady thinks she can ride all that way alone. Murdoch, doesn’t she realize the danger she’s putting herself in if she goes into those towns?” Sam asked.
“I can only hope she does. I learned from the bank that she had an account. Since she’s my ward, Jim had to tell me. She took out over two thousand dollars.” Murdoch said.
“ Two………oh my god………That girl is being so foolish. As if trying to kill Johnny wasn’t foolish enough.” Sam said.
“ Something else is bothering me Sam.” Murdoch said. “ What Johnny intends on doing when he finds Teresa.”
“ Do you think he will bring her all the way back here?” Sam asked as he went to a cupboard and took out a small bottle. Pouring two small glasses, he handed one to his longtime friend. “ Purely for medicinal purposes.”
“ Johnny is a good, decent young man. He’ll do the right thing when the time comes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t home by Christmas.” Sam said.
“ It won’t be much of a Christmas if he’s not home Sam. It will be our first together as a family.” Murdoch responded.
( WARNING ATTEMPTED SEXUAL ASSAULT )
“ Where you goin sweet thing?” Jasper asked.
“ I don’t think she wants to have some fun with us.” Alva said as he grabbed her reins, and yanked them from her hands.
Jasper got down, and walked over to Teresa. Reaching up, he yanked her off her horse. “ Oh you’re a fighter. I like women who fight back.”
“ Let go of me!” Teresa yelled. “ Help…………Somebody help me!”
“ Go ahead and scream little lady. Ain’t nobody gonna hear ya.” Alva said as he got off his horse, and grabbed Teresa’s shirt, ripping it off her. “ Would you look at them there breast Jasper.”
Jasper grabbed a handful of hair and claimed Teresa’s mouth for a few seconds before he yelled. “ You little bitch, you bit me!” he said with anger as he shoved her to the ground, undid his pants, and got on top of her.
Teresa screamed in fear as Jasper tried to take her. “ Stop……………..You’re hurting me! Get off me you bastard!” she demanded as she scratched and kicked.
Johnny reined Barranca to a stop on top of a ridge, and looked down to see three riders in the valley below. He could tell one of them was Teresa, and watched as one of the riders yanked her off her horse, and tore her shirt off, grabbed her hair, and kissed her before shoving her to the ground. “ Damn it.” he said allowed. He knew the two men were raping her.
“ Come hold her arms down for me Alva.” Jasper ordered as he rose up, and slapped Teresa hard across the face. “ Bitch, I’ll teach you!” he said right before a rifle sounded, and he fell forward on Teresa, dead.
( END WARNING )
Alva pulled his pistol, and looked around for the person responsible for killing his friend. “ Show yourself you bastard!” he yelled as he grabbed Teresa by her hair as she stood up. “ Come on out and show yourself!” he said as he wrapped his arm around her throat, and held his pistol to her head.
Teresa tried getting away from Alva, but he only tightened his arm around her throat. Not knowing who had shot the one called Jasper, she knew she needed to get away from Alva. Reaching up, she gouged and scratched at the filthy mans eyes, then bit down as hard as she could on his arm, making him scream out in pain, and let go of her.
“ You little………..” he started to say before his head exploded from a bullet tearing thru his forehead. Blood splattering on Teresa as he dropped to his knees, and fell forward dead.
Teresa stood there in fear a few seconds before she scrambled to grab the gun Alva had dropped, only to stop when a rifle shot shattered the grip.
“ Move away from the gun now, and stand up!” Johnny ordered.
“ Who are you?” Teresa demanded as she moved back from the pistol.
Johnny stood up, and walked down to her. “ Your worst nightmare bitch.”
“ I killed you!” Teresa said. “ You’re dead.”
Johnny walked over to her. “ Do I look dead to you?” he asked with coldness. “ Put your damn shirt on.” he ordered.
Teresa grabbed her shirt and put it on, most of the buttons were gone from it being torn off her. “ So what, now you going to rape me?” she spat.
“ You should be so lucky.” Johnny said as he rummaged thru the two men’s saddlebags before removing the saddles, and bridles, setting the horses free. “ You’re lucky I don’t kill women.”
“ I’m not going back, and you can’t make me.” she spat.
Johnny walked over to her. “ Unless you want more of what those two tried, I suggest you do what I say. Those two were Comancheros, and most likely their friends heard my shots.” he said before whistling loudly. “ You’re lucky you’ve made it this far.” he said as Barranca trotted down to him. Removing his rope, he walked over and tied it to the chestnut.
“ I don’t need you, and I’m not going anywhere with you.” she said.
“ You got two choices on how you can ride Teresa, and trust me, I have no problem strapping your ass across that saddle. Now mount up, and keep your mouth shut.” he ordered as he led the chestnut over to her. “ You try anything, and you won’t like what I do.” he added as he swung up in the saddle.
Four hours later, Johnny pushed them northwest, away from the border, and staying away from towns. His anger toward Teresa was worse now that he caught her. He’d never felt spiteful to a woman before, never hated a woman before like he did right now. Was it because she tried to kill him, or was there some other reason? When Scott described her, he thought that maybe after he had been there a little while, he would see if maybe, just maybe he could have something with her, but that didn’t happen. From the moment he rode up, she hated him. He had tried so many times to get her to like him, but every time, she ignored him. Even when he saved her life from the rattlesnake she was hateful to him, accusing him of trying to kill her.
“ I need to stop.” Teresa said as the sun set behind the Sierra del Carmen mountains.
Johnny stopped Barranca. There’s a cave I’m headed to. I don’t feel like being out in that storm that’s coming at us.” he said. “ It’s going to be a hard ride uphill.” he added.
“ Why are we going up over them instead of around them?” she asked.
“ Because I need sleep. Now shut up, and hold on.” Johnny snapped back.
Four hours later Johnny had a small fire going inside the cave he knew of with a small stream that went underground at the back, but had a pool allowing him to have water.
“ Make yourself useful and cook something while I take care of the horses.” Johnny ordered as lightening flashed outside, and the rain came down hard.
“ Let me guess, you’ve spent time here as Madrid?” she asked with a nasty tone.
“ You should be grateful I knew of this place, and we’re not out in that storm.” he responded as he removed her saddle.
“ How did you know where I was going?” she asked as she opened a can of beans.
“ You talked about wanting to see New Orleans too much that night Scott talked about being there. Regardless of what you think of me Teresa, I’m not stupid. I know how to survive out here. Something you clearly can’t do.” he responded as he removed his saddle, and set it over close to the fire.
“ I know how to survive. I made it this far didn’t I?” she snapped back.
“ How many nights you sleep out, and how how many nights you stay in a town?” he asked.
“ Unlike you, I like to stay clean, so yes I stayed in towns. Especially when it was storming.” she said. “ Even Murdoch, and Scott would do that.”
“ They would know how to build a shelter to stay dry. This ain’t no picnic on Lancer you’re on little girl. Out here you have Comancheros, Apache, Comanche, flash floods in washes, snakes, and other shit that can kill you.” Johnny snapped back. “ You’re nothing but a spoiled little bitch used to getting whatever she wanted from Murdoch. That’s why you hate me so much. You’re not the apple of his eye anymore.”
“ I had no problem with Scott, It’s you. You’re the one who ruined everything. I lost everything because of you.” Teresa said as she threw the hot pan of beans at him, and ran toward the cave entrance.
“ You little bitch!” Johnny said as he ran after her, grabbing her just outside the cave in the pouring rain, and yanking her back inside.
“ Let go of me!” Teresa yelled as she lashed out and slapped him.
Johnny jerked her back into the cave out of the rain toward the fire. Jerking her around as he went to pick up the rope to tie her up.
Teresa lunged again, knocking him down as she lashed out, slapping him. “ I hate you!” she spat as she tried to hit him again.
Johnny grabbed Teresa around the waist and pushed her down. “ That’s the last time you hit me.” he said as he reached for the rope to tie her up.
“ I swear I will kill you next time.” she spat as she tried to get away, hitting him in the chest, and back as he tried to grab her hands.
Johnny straddled her waist and slapped her hard across the face. “ You almost killed me, you’ve hit, and scratched me. Made me come after you. I’ve had it with you.” he said with anger as he tied the rope around her wrist. Standing up, he yanked her up, and over to her saddle. “Sit down.”
Teresa lashed out and scratched Johnny on the left side of his face. “ Go to hell bastard.” she spat.
Johnny slapped her across the face again before shoving her down onto her saddle blanket. Tying the rope to the saddle so short, she couldn’t move her arms. Standing up, he went over to his saddlebags, and removed a pair of shackles. “ Even if you get the rope loose, you still won’t be able to get away wearing these leg irons.” he said as he knelt down in front of her, and pulled off her boots.
“ I swear I will kill you for this!” she spat as she kicked at him.
Johnny stood up, and moved around to sit on her legs so she couldn’t move. After fastening the shackles to her legs, he took the chain and locked it to her saddle-horn. “ I doubt you can carry that saddle very far. I can tell you from experience, walking in shackles takes practice.” he said as he undid the rope from her wrist. “ Unless you want to sleep with your hands tied behind your back, I suggest you behave, because my patience with you is gone.”
Teresa glared at him . “ You can’t do this to me. I’m a woman. You can’t treat me like this.” she spat.
“ I can, and I am. You sure as hell ain’t no woman.” Johnny said as he walked over and fixed his sleeping bag. Removing his gun belt, he laid down. “ Have a nice sleep.” he said as he closed his eyes.
“ I don’t like it sir. We haven’t heard anything from Johnny in two months.” Scott said.
“ I know son. There’s nothing we can do but wait.” Murdoch responded. “ I’m thinking he’s caught Teresa, and he’s staying away from towns with her to avoid trouble.”
“ So you think he is bringing her back here?” he asked.
“ I do. But not to go to jail. I think he has personal reasons for bringing her back, and if I’m right, all we can do is wait.” Murdoch said. “ Tomorrow I want those cows that are due to start calving next month moved to the south pasture. The grass is greener there.”
“ Alright. Do you still want the bulls put out?” Scott asked.
“ No, not yet son. It’s still to early.” he said.
Johnny stayed away from towns, he didn’t want any trouble. Teresa gave him so much trouble the first four days, he had to gag her, and tie her hands behind her back. Now two weeks later they rode across New Mexico headed northwest.
“ I need a bath.” Teresa said.
“ We’ll get a bath tonight in the Rio Grande river.” Johnny said.
“ Are you going to leave me shackled again?” she asked.
“ Not while you take a bath.” he said as they crossed a stream. “ Where we’re stopping at, there’s only one way in with rock walls all around, and a nice deep pool of clear water.”
“ Hello Sam.” Scott said.
“ Scott, I seen you come into town, and thought I would ask if you have heard anything from Johnny?” Sam asked.
“ No, nothing. It’s been almost three months. I know Murdoch is worried, even though he won’t admit it.” Scott responded. “ Johnny being back down along the border isn’t good Sam.”
“ Perhaps he’s found Teresa, and they are on their way back.” Sam suggested.
“ Murdoch said the same thing. I don’t think Teresa will come back willingly Sam. If he’s caught her, he’s going to have a time getting her back here.” Scott said. “ He may have to use the ankle shackles he took with him.”
“ Ankle shackles?” he asked.
“ Yeah, I didn’t say anything to Murdoch about a pair missing from the guard house.” Scott explained. “ Why don’t you come out and have supper with us Sunday?”
“ I’d like that. Give your father my regards.” Sam said before walking away.
( WARNING STRONG ADULT SEXUAL CONTENT )
Teresa sat wrapped in a blanket next to the fire as her clothes lay over a branch to dry. Sitting there she found she couldn’t take her eyes off what she could see of Johnny’s upper body. For some reason she couldn’t explain, she found herself seeing him differently. Seeing how well muscled he was, how his tanned skin glistened in the afternoon sun. She found herself wondering what he was like below the waist. What it would feel like having him make love to her. Having him touch forbidden places no man has touched yet. At almost twenty one, she had never been with a man, let alone kissed the way she heard two people kiss in private. Standing up, she walked down to the waters edge, spread the blanket out, stepped in the water, and walked over to Johnny.
“ What are you doing?” Johnny asked.
“ I think you know Johnny.” she responded as she reached out and put her hands on his chest.
“ You need to go back to the fire Teresa.” he pleaded.
Every part of Johnny told him to stop what she was starting, but he couldn’t. When her hands started going down his chest, over his muscles, his body started responding, and his breathing started to get faster. “ Teresa, you need to stop this now, and go back to the shore before something happens we will both regret.”
Teresa ignored Johnny as she let her hands roam over his tanned, well muscled body. “ I’ve never been with a man.” she said as her left hand went down in the water and touched him. “ You want me Johnny, I know you do.”
( WARNING, SEXUAL CONTENT )
Johnny reached down, and started to pull her hand away, but couldn’t. Instead he put his hands on each side of her butt, and picked her up. “ You conniving little bitch. I do want you. I’ve wanted you for a long time.” he said as he walked her toward the shore, and placed her on the blanket. His body screamed for what was about to happen as he stood over her a few seconds before dropping to his knees in front of her. Spreading her legs apart as he positioned himself between, and took his right hand, he reached down, and guided his hardness to her entrance. “ I’m going to let you feel what it’s like to become a woman.” he said as he shoved his hardness into her all the way and stopped.
Teresa reached up, and pulled his face down to hers. Their mouths coming together with hunger as he pushed the tip inside and stopped. Wrapping her legs tightly around his waist as her muscles protested the intrusion. Every emotion she was feeling right now was screaming for more. Wanting him to take her, to make her a woman.
Johnny drew back letting the tip touch her, driving her crazy as she dug her fingernails into his back, and moaned. With a single hard thrust, he entered her all the way with no gentleness again, just hunger as he drew back, and started pounding into her. Each thrust became harder and faster as he rose up above her. Driven by both a sexual hunger, and anger, Johnny moaned as he felt her muscles tightening around him, and knew she would be having her first climax soon. Pounding into her harder, and faster as they both climaxed together.
Rolling off her a few minutes later, he stood up, and walked over to put his pants on. He hated what had just happened. What he did to her. Sure she wanted him to make love to her, but not like that, not like animals. It was her first time with a man, he should have went slow, and been gentle with her.
Sitting at the fire a couple hours later, Johnny watched Teresa sleeping just feet away. Thinking back to what happened earlier, his anger toward her grew even more. Never had he been so rough with a woman. Especially when it was her first time with a man. He knew he had hurt her, but at the time, didn’t care. He knew her first time should have been gentle, and slow, not hard and fast like he did. No words were spoken between them when it was over. They both ate supper in silence. He caught her looking at him a couple times, and swore he could see anger in her eyes. Why he didn’t stop her when she started it in the water, is what bothered him the most. She was innocent, in that way, and he knew what would happen. He knew she was playing with fire. He knew she was starting something she didn’t really understand would have an outcome that could never be changed. He knew he would take something from her she could never get back. Standing up, he walked over to look down at her wrapped in her blanket with nothing on underneath. Removing his pants, he dropped down next to her, removed the blanket, and positioned himself between her legs again as she started to stir. Lowering his mouth to her right breast, he started sucking on it as his right hand went between her legs and started massaging her, This time he would take her with gentleness if she didn’t try and stop him. He got his answer when she moaned and arched her back as he slid three fingers inside her, and started working them. Placing his thumb on her spot, he brought her to climax within minutes. Positioning himself over her, he placed his tip at her entrance and slowly entered her, pulling out, and repeating until he was all the way inside her again as her muscles spasm around him. Claiming her mouth with hunger as he went faster. Moaning into her mouth as he rolled over, pulling her on top of him. Thrusting up into her as he reached down and started playing with her spot.
Teresa opened her eyes and grabbed Johnny’s head as he suckled on her breast. Moaning as a fire started in her lower body. A fire she couldn’t stop. When he touched her, she moaned loudly and arched into his hand as she felt her body ready to explode again. Feeling him enter her again, only slower than before, her fire, and hunger grew, begging for more. When he rolled over, pulling her on top of him. She felt him go deeper inside her. Leaning down, she started kissing, and sucking on his neck as he thrust up into her. Soon both had a rhythm that couldn’t be stopped, Leaning forward, she claimed Johnny’s mouth until he rolled her off of him onto her stomach, raised her up, and took her again from behind. Making her totally helpless to do anything but reach back and try to hang on. Grabbing his right hand, and guiding it down between her legs as he grabbed a bunch of her hair, and pulled her head back, turning her head to claim her mouth as he climaxed again harder than before.
( END WARNING )
Johnny swung up in the saddle and started out of the canyon, Teresa following behind. Neither one spoke as they ate breakfast. One lost in what happened last night, and yesterday. The other lost in both anger, and confusion. Three times he claimed her body, and all three times he enjoyed claiming her, making her his. He even thought that if things had been different, maybe they could have had something beyond what happened. Something special that two people share together. All three times he lost control and was rougher than he had intended to be. Hell the last time he didn’t think it was possible for him to climax as hard as he did, but he did, and he liked it. He liked being the one in total control, having her at his begging mercy unable to stop him. He liked being rough with her.
“ We need supplies, and I need to send a telegram.” Johnny said a couple hours later.
“ You’ve been avoiding towns because of me. Am I riding in with you?” Teresa asked.
“ No. I know of an abandoned miners shack I’m leaving you at.” Johnny said.
“ How do you know I won’t take off while you’re gone?” she asked.
“ Because you will be shackled, and I’m taking your horse.” he responded. “ You take off, I’ll be able to find you real easy.”
“ So you still don’t trust me, even after fucking me like you did?” she spat.
Johnny stopped Barranca. “ Yeah, I fucked you. I did what you wanted me to do. You enjoyed it, so don’t go bitching about what we did.” he ordered. “ And I don’t ever want to hear you talk like that again.”
“ I didn’t ask you to wake me up and do it again. That was all your doing, not mine!” she spat.
“ Yeah that was my doing, but you sure as hell didn’t tell me to stop.” Johnny said back as they reached the shack. ‘ Get down, and go inside.” he ordered.
Following Teresa inside, he shoved her to the stove, and chained her to it. “ I’ll be back in an hour.”
“ And what if you get killed?” she demanded.
“ Then I guess you’ll have a slow death.” he responded before walking out of the shack, and closing the door.
“ Johnny Madrid, where ya goin half-breed?” a man yelled from across the street.
Johnny sighed, and dropped his shoulders. All he wanted to do was leave town now that he had supplies, and sent a wire to Scott. He didn’t want this.
“ I’m calling you out Madrid!” the man yelled as he stepped down into the street.
Johnny turned and stepped out away from Barranca into the street. “ I don’t know you mister. I don’t want this. Walk away, and you’ll live.” he said.
“ Nope, I finish what I start.” the man said as he went for his gun.
Johnny drew his colt, and fired a split second before the other man. He felt the bullet crease his side, but ignored it. Holstering his colt, he went to Barranca, mounted up, and rode out of Socorro at a gallop.
Barranca stopped outside the shack, and stood completely still. He could smell the copper smell of blood, and wanted to bolt from it, but knew his master needed him.
“ Good boy.” Johnny said as he slowly dismounted, patting the stallions neck. “ Your a good fella my amigo.”
Walking inside the shack, he went over and unlocked the chain, and removed the shackles. “ Go mount up.” he ordered.
Teresa went outside to her chestnut, and mounted up. She watched as Johnny got in the saddle Barranca. She could tell something was wrong.
Johnny cursed the weather. All afternoon he could tell the temperature was dropping. “ There’s a snowstorm coming.”
“ What is this place?” Teresa asked.
“ It’s an abandoned weigh station. The roof is still good on the barn and house.” Johnny said as the wind started to pick up. “ Go inside and start a fire. I’ll take care of the horses.”
Teresa dismounted, and headed inside. The wind was howling as the snow started falling. Finding some wood by the stove, she started a fire and then looked around. All the windows still had the glass in them, so the snow and wind would stay out. Hearing the door open, she turned to see Johnny come inside with both sets of saddlebags, and their rifles.
Johnny set the saddlebags down, and looked at Teresa. “ When this storm passes, you’re free to go.” he said before darkness claimed him, and he fell to the floor. His right side soaked in blood.
Teresa stood there a few seconds glaring at Johnny laying on the floor. “ I should let you die.” she said as she went to his side. “ If there wasn’t a storm outside, I would.” she said as she struggled to get him over to the bed, and on it so she could see how bad the wound was. Relieved to see it was just a graze deep enough to need stitches.
In Socorro. Stop. Coming home. Stop.
“ Is that from Johnny?” Scott asked as he walked into the grand room.
“ It is. He’s in Socorro, and coming home.” Murdoch said.
“ Socorro, where is that?” Scott asked.
“ New Mexico, up in the mountains. This time of year he could run into a bad snowstorm.” Murdoch said.
“ At least we know he’s still alive.” Scott said. “Maybe now you will get a good nights rest.”
“ That will only happen when your brother walks thru that front door son.” Murdoch said.
Johnny opened his eyes, and tried to focus on where he was.
“ Three days. You had a bad fever for two of them. It finally broke early this morning. It was just a graze, but I had to put a couple stitches in it.” she explained. “ You should have told me you had been shot.”
“ How bad is the storm?” he asked as he sat up.
“ I can’t tell if it’s snowing still, or the wind just blowing it around.”
“ How’s the horses?” Johnny asked as he swung his legs over the side of the bed, and stood up.
“ They’re alright.” Teresa said. “ Where are you going?”
“ Out the back door.” Johnny said as he walked to the door, and opened it.
“ I am so sick of snow.” Teresa said. “ When is it going to stop?”
“ It’ll stop. You just have cabin fever.” Johnny said.
“ We’ve been here six days now. Did you have snow down in Mexico?” Teresa asked.
“ In the higher mountains we did sometimes. Mostly it was rain.” He responded.
“ I know you probably won’t believe me, and I don’t blame you. I just want you too know I’m sorry Johnny. I’m sorry for everything. Shooting you, all the hurtful, nasty things I’ve said to you.” Teresa said. “ When you were fighting the fever, I realized how wrong I was to hate you. I should have been happy Murdoch had you back. You were right when you said I was a spoiled, jealous person, because I was.”
“ We get out of here, I’m taking you to a train, and putting you on it for New Orleans, or wherever you want to go?” Johnny said.
Teresa looked at him. “ You mean it?”
“ I say what I mean Teresa. I’m tired of being angry at you. That anger drove me to take something from you that you can never get back. I have never…….never been rough to a woman like I was with you. I raped you……..I raped you out of anger, and because of that, I hate myself.”
Teresa walked over to him. “ You didn’t do anything wrong Johnny. You didn’t rape me. I’m the one who started it remember?”
“ I still shouldn’t have done it.” he said before turning to walk away from her.
Teresa reached out and stopped him. “ Johnny, I wanted it. I wanted you to make love to me.
( WARNING STRONG SEXUAL CONTENT)
Johnny turned and faced her, looking into her brown eyes as he lowered his mouth to hers. “ You drive me crazy.” he said before kissing her, moaning as he slid his tongue inside as he ran his hands down over her breast, and on down between her legs. He could feel himself starting to respond as he undid her pants, and ran his hand down inside, touching her, wanting her. Deepening the kiss with more hunger as he pushed her pants down more, and slid two fingers into her, driving her crazy. Walking her over to the bed, he started removing his clothes.
Teresa stepped out of her pants, and watched as Johnny removed his clothes. Seeing his hardness made her feel more anxious to have him take her again.
Johnny stepped over to her, and picked her up. “ I’ll be fine.” he said as he walked her back against the wall, reached down, and guided his hardness into her as he held her against the wall. “ God you drive me crazy.” he said before claiming her mouth with hunger as he started moving harder and faster.
Teresa wrapped her legs around Johnny as tight as she could as he moved in and out of her, deeper, and faster with every thrust. “ Oh Johnny.” she cried out as her body exploded in spasms, her legs quivering, her stomach muscles tightening as waves of pleasure came over her.
Not ready yet, Johnny walked Teresa over to the bed and left her just long enough to let her lay down. Moving between her legs, he picked up her legs, and placed them on his shoulders as he once again entered her. Making himself go slow every time he moved in and out of her, wanting it to last, wanting her to climax again when he did. A much older woman taught him how to prolong himself, and drive the woman he was with absolutely crazy moving the way he was. Having her legs on his shoulders allowed his hardness to rub her spot in a different way. To touch that place inside that not all men could reach. Rubbing his hands over her chest, squeezing, and pinching her nipples drove her crazy. He could see it in her eyes as she looked at him. Reaching behind her head, Johnny pulled her up, and claimed her mouth. Knowing it would make her feel him inside her in a totally different way now.
Teresa couldn’t believe the totally new feelings she was experiencing from the way Johnny was making love to her. She could feel him inside her, touching something that every time he did, made her feel like she would explode at any second. When he pulled her up to kiss him, that feeling got stronger with every move he made. “ Oh my god………what are you doing to me?” she asked as she threw her head back, and dug her fingers into his shoulders.
Johnny knew Teresa was almost there. Letting her lay down, he pushed her left leg off his shoulder, but kept her right one up as he started moving harder, and faster. “ Let it happen, release with me Teresa he said as his own was just seconds away.
Teresa pressed her head back and screamed in pure pleasure as her body exploded, and shook like never before. She could feel him jerking as he held her tightly as he released. Reaching, and grabbing at his back, wrapping her legs tightly around him trying to keep them together as both their bodies trembled.
Johnny was soaked in sweat, but he didn’t move. He stayed deep inside her. “ I’m not done yet.” he said before claiming her mouth with hunger as he once again started moving. Only one other time he had been able to stay hard and release a second time when with a woman. He knew it would happen again. Raising up on his elbows as he slid in and out of her at a steady pace for several minutes before he exploded for a second time, causing him to grunt, and moan as he stayed deep inside her again.
Rolling off her a few minutes later, totally exhausted, he tried slowing his breathing down as his body still trembled. Rolling onto his side, he placed his head on her shoulder, and closed his eyes as he held her close, staying like that well into the early morning hours when he woke to find Teresa on top of him, guiding him into her. This time he just laid there letting her be in total control. Forcing himself to not roll her over onto her back, and take control.
“ Good morning.” Teresa said with a smile as she started moving.
“ Good morning.” Johnny said as he rose up, and kissed her.
“ The storm is gone.” she said.
“ Not yet it isn’t.” Johnny said as they started making love with just as much hunger, and wanting as last night.
( END WARNING )
Three hours later Johnny had the horses saddled, and ready to go. “ I’m going to take you up to Albuquerque, to catch the train. Have you thought about where you want to go?” he asked as they mounted up.
“ Where it doesn’t snow.” she said. “ How far is Albuquerque?” she asked.
“ About seventy miles.” Johnny said. “ Just let your horse pick it’s way thru this snow. Some of the drifts are pretty deep, we’ll try and go around as many as we can.”
“ Johnny, you said it’s seventy miles. We won’t freeze to death will we?” she asked.
“ Nope. We’ll be alright.” he responded.
It took the horses four grueling days to make it to Albuquerque. Johnny built a quick shelter every night out of the Pinon and Juniper trees. The desert willow provided ample bedding for them to sleep on, though sleep was something neither got much of as they continued to make love every night well into the early hours of dawn.
Stopping at the livery, Johnny settled Barranca in a stall as Teresa took care of the chestnut. “ You going to sell him?”
“ I want you to take him Johnny. I know you have Barranca, but……I know he won’t be mistreated if he’s with you. He’s a real good horse, and only five years old.” Teresa said.
“ Him and Barranca have become buddies.” Johnny said as the livery owner walked into the barn.
“ Do my eyes deceive me, or do I see what was once a boy, now a man standing before me?” he asked.
“ Haven’t you kicked the bucket yet old man?” Johnny asked with a smile as the two shook hands. “ How the heck are you Carl?”
“ Still kicking as you can see. I’d heard you got yourself kilt down in Mexico a couple years back. I’m sure glad to see that was wrong. You staying long?” he asked.
“ A day or two. How much for the two horses?” Johnny asked.
“ After what you did for me, nothing. You go and get yourself hitched boy?”
“ No, this is Teresa O’Brian. Teresa, this is Carl, one of my few good friends.” Johnny said.
“ Young lady, you’d be smart to catch this young fella. He’d be a good man to have as a husband, and father.” Carl said.
“ We just spent eleven days in that storm that just came thru. Four of it trying to get here from that old abandoned weigh station seventy miles south.” Johnny said. “ Can you give them extra grain?”
“ Sure can. I’ll take good care of them.” Carl responded.
Two days later, Johnny soaked in a huge cast iron bathtub in his room, a bottle of tequila sat on the small table next to the tub. Closing his eyes, he found himself thinking back to all that had happened between him, and Teresa before she left for New Orleans. It was what Carl said in the livery when they arrived in Albuquerque that bothered him the most. A father, what if Teresa was now carrying his child. The chances were good given the many times they had made love. Several times he had started to ask her what she would do if she were, but every time he either couldn’t find the words, or he ended up making love to her again. Last night he said goodbye to Teresa with a kiss before she boarded the train and left. After being with her for so long, having her company, he now felt alone. Tomorrow he would leave, and go home. He knew Murdoch, and Scott would have many questions for him. The main one being why he decided to let her go. He promised her he would take good care of the chestnut, and probably give him to Scott, since he was such a tall, high strung horse. Teresa had promised she would write to him in care of Sam, so there would be no questions asked. Johnny knew the doctor wouldn’t say anything to Murdoch, or Scott. He made sure she had enough money to help her get settled, and even buy a couple of nice dresses Scott told her the southern women wore in new Orleans. Dresses he knew she would look good wearing.
“ This was supposed to be our first holiday together as a family.” Murdoch said.
“ He still might make it home sir.” Scott said. “ Christmas is still a month away.”
“ I’m sorry son. I know this hasn’t been easy on you either. I don’t want you to think I’m not grateful to have you home too.” Murdoch said.
“ I know you are sir.” Scott said.
“I have something you need to read. I’ll be right back.”
Scott walked over and poured them both a brandy. “ Come home soon brother.” he said softly as his father came back downstairs.
“ I made an entry in this on every one of your birthdays until you came back home to me.” Murdoch said as he handed the book to Scott. “ I did one for Johnny also.”
Scott handed him his brandy, took the book, and walked over to the couch to sit down. Opening the book, he read the inscription his father made inside.
Scott Garrett Lancer born December 19th, 1850
Today was supposed to be the second happiest day of my life, the first being the day I married your mother Catherine. Instead today is a day of sorrow for me. I lost my dear Catherine during childbirth in Carterville Your grandfather took you from me, and fled back to Boston.
December 19th, 1851
Your first birthday, and I sit here in this big empty house wondering if you are walking yet.
December 19th, 1852
Another birthday I missed. Happy second birthday son.
December 19th, 1853
I sit here and wonder if you are driving your grandfather crazy running around. Happy third birthday son.
I am so lonely in this big house son. I wish you were here with me. Happy fourth birthday Scott.
December 19th, 1855
Today I went to see your grandfather about you, and he let me see you, though briefly, it is the first time since you were born I actually got to see you. You greeted me so politely. Your blonde hair, and beautiful grayish blue eyes. It was the best day I had had in a long time.
“ I remember that day you came to Boston. It was my fifth birthday, and grandfather introduced you to me.” Scott said.
“ Your grandfather told me he would destroy me if I tried to get you back. That he would have you sent away, and I would never see you again.” Murdoch said.
Scott stood up, and ran his left hand thru his hair. “ Did he hate you so much because you married my mother, or was it something else?”
“ Harlan thought I would work for him, when I told him I had no desire to, that me and your mother were coming out here, he became angry.” Murdoch responded.
“ Why didn’t you try again later? You could have come back to Boston when I was older.” Scott said.
“ I told you why son. You of all people know how ruthless your grandfather could be. He had lawyers, and more money than I ever could have to fight him for you.” he said.
“ Yet you had money to pay the Pinkerton’s. Tell me Murdoch, how much money did you spend searching for Johnny?” Scott demanded.
“ Son, I didn’t mean for this to upset you. As for how much I spent searching for your brother, it’s all right over there in the ledger. Every penny I paid.” Murdoch responded.
“ I’m sorry sir. I don’t know why I said that. I guess I’m still bothered by the fact that for all those years, the man I loved, and trusted, lied to me about you.” Scott said.
“ You don’t have to apologize son. I want no secrets between us.” Murdoch said.
Johnny stopped in Bishop. He was tired, cold, and soaked from the rain he’d been riding in the last three days. Christmas was a month away, and he wanted to make it home in time to spend it with his family. Before his mother was murdered, he never got to celebrate Christmas, but he had seen other families doing it. As he got older, it just didn’t seem to matter to him. Up until a year ago, he never thought he would live as long as he had, but was glad he had. He loved having a big brother, a father who did want him, and Lancer. After taking care of Barranca, he got a room for the night, and a much needed hot bath. Laying in bed, sipping on tequila, Johnny found himself thinking about Teresa. Wondering what she was doing, if she found a place to stay, but mostly, if she was carrying his child. A part of him felt his roughness, and wanting was because of him wanting to be a father. She drove him crazy, every time they made love, it started out slow, and gentle, but would soon progress into rough sex. He had always been the one in control when with a whore, but with Teresa, that control changed, and he found he liked it. Liked how she dug her fingers into his back or shoulders as her body exploded. He liked how she touched him, how her skin felt when he touched her.
Johnny knew that if Murdoch found out what happened between them, he would be angry. He couldn’t explain it, what happened between them, and felt they should never know. Standing up, he removed his clothes, placed is colt under the pillow, and crawled under the covers to sleep just as soon as he took care of a little inconvenience that came up as he thought about Teresa.
Johnny opened the front door, and stepped inside. He knew his father would be in the kitchen having coffee.
“ I thought this was a working ranch?” Johnny asked as he walked into the kitchen.
“ Johnny.” Murdoch said softly as he stood up, and hurried over to his son, puling him into a hug. “ Welcome home son. Sit down, you look tired.”
Johnny walked over and gave Maria a hug, and kiss on the cheek. “ Extrañaba tucocina mamacita.” ( I missed your cooking mamacita.)
“ No has comido bien. Pondré un poco de carne en esos huesos tuyos.” ( You have not been eating well. I will put some meat on those bones of yours.)
Johnny smiled, and gave her another kiss on the cheek before he went and sat down. “ It’s good to be home.” he said as he poured a cup of coffee. “ I am sick of snow, wind, and rain.”
“ I’m just very thankful you came back home to us son.” Murdoch said.
“ Scott still sleeping?” Johnny asked right before he was grabbed from behind in a bear hug, and picked up from his chair.
“ I was beginning to wonder if you ever were coming back.” Scott said.
“ I made you a promise that I would, and I always keep my promises. Boston.” he said.
“ Me and you are going to have a little discussion about you leaving in the middle of the night like you did.” Scott said firmly. “ It was wrong to do.”
“ Maybe so………Look, I’m tired. I’m going upstairs and going to bed. That is if the big brother lecture on proper etiquette are over.” Johnny said before heading up the back stairs.
“ Your brother just got home, and you bust on him about leaving in the middle of the night. I had thought you would give him some time before anything was said.” Murdoch said.
“ Excuse me.” Scott said as he headed back upstairs.
Johnny closed the door to his bedroom, and locked the door. Walking over to look out the window. He knew Scott had every right to be mad at him for leaving like he did. He just didn’t expect his brother to show it so soon upon arriving home. Turning around, he looked at his bed, and started thinking about what it could have been like to have Teresa naked beneath him as he made love to her. He just couldn’t get her off his mind. Every night he dreamed of their time together, her lips on his, tasting her, feeling her, lusting for her again as he sat down, and removed his boots.
Scott stopped outside Johnny’s room, and knocked on the door. “ Johnny, can I come in?”
“ Not now Scott, I’m undressed, and really tired.” Johnny responded. “ We’ll talk later brother.”
“ Alright. I’ll be out clearing the creek at Needle Rock if you want to come out.” Scott said before heading back downstairs to eat breakfast.
Johnny pulled back the covers, and climbed in bed. Sighing as his body sank into the mattress. Closing his eyes, he let the memories come back.
“ You have a good rest son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah. Slept good. It’s good to be home.” Johnny said as he walked into the grand room. “ Anything happen while I was gone?”
“ Just the normal everyday ranch stuff.” Murdoch responded. “ How was the weather coming home son?”
“ Rained so much at times I thought I was gonna have to build one of those boats Scott told me that man………..Noah built to save all the animals.”
“ An Ark.” Murdoch said with a smile.
“ A what……..oh yeah, an Ark.” Johnny said as he drummed his fingers along the edge of the desk.
Murdoch could tell his son had something on his mind. Something he desperately wanted to talk to him about. Something he suspected had to do with Teresa. He had his suspicions of what might have happened between them, and if true, a small part of him felt anger for it. He knew his youngest didn’t like talking about his past.
“ Something bothering you son?” he asked.
“ Aren’t you curious as to why Teresa didn’t come back with me?” he asked.
“I am, but I figured that if you wanted me to know why she didn’t, you would tell me when you were ready.” Murdoch responded as he stood up, and walked over to the sideboard to pour two drinks. “ Let’s go sit over by the fire son.” he suggested as he handed Johnny his drink.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he took the drink, and walked over to sit down in one of the two chairs near the big fireplace. “ What happened with Porter?”
“ I confronted Porter in Spanish Wells, and the sheriff arrested him for murder and attempted murder.” Murdoch said as he sat down. “ It would seem he murdered a husband and wife, hung them in fact during the Johnson County war. He also took part in murdering a key witness to that hanging, and tried to kill another.”
“ Jesus.” Johnny said softly.
“ It seems Porter and several other ranchers rode out and accused Ella Watson and her husband Jim Averell of stealing cattle. Even though they were innocent, Porter and these other ranchers hanged both of them.” Murdoch explained. “ Cheyenne sent two deputies to extradite Porter back to Wyoming to stand trial fro what he did.”
“ Porter, and these other ranchers hung a woman, Guess it goes to show just how ruthless the man really was.” Johnny said. “ I guess Scott’s pretty upset with me for leaving like I did?”
“ We both are son, but yes, your brother is upset.” Murdoch said.
“ I knew your wouldn’t let me go. It was something I had to do alone.” Johnny said. “ I guess you want to know why Teresa didn’t come back with me?”
“ I do, but I figured you would tell me when you were ready.”
“ The weather slowed me down, but I finally found her south of San Antonio. Two Comancheros stopped her.” Johnny said.
“ She made it alone that far?” his father asked.
“ Yeah. She stayed in hotels at night mostly. When I caught up to her, they were both in the process of raping her. Her face turned white as a sheet when she seen who it was that saved her.” Johnny explained. “ I had to shackle her when we reached a cave I knew about to take shelter in during a storm.”
“ Was she with you when you sent that wire from Socorro?” he asked.
“ Yeah. Shortly after that we had a bad snowstorm hit. Had to hold up for six days in an abandoned weigh station I knew about. I had just bought a bunch of supplies for us. I knew the roof was good on the shack and barn.” he responded.
“ Six days hold up in a shack with Teresa had to have you on edge?” his father asked.
“ Nothing I could do about it.” he said.
“ We talked, and I…………we got a lot said, and resolved. We…………Murdoch I…………” Johnny stood up, and walked over to the fireplace.
Turning back around, he knew what he was about to say would anger his father, but he had to tell him. “Murdoch, me and Teresa, we……….I took her to bed.”
Murdoch closed his eyes, dropped his head slightly, and sighed. He knew he had to keep his temper under control. He knew getting angry with his son would do no good. Standing up, he walked over to the veranda door, opened it, and walked outside.
“ Guess I just got my answer on how you feel about me now old man.” Johnny said softly as he headed upstairs.
Murdoch sat in a chair on the veranda porch deep in thought of what his son just told him moments before that happened between him and Teresa. He had his suspicions, but hearing his son tell him it did happen, shocked him. At almost twenty four years of age, why couldn’t his son prevent it from happening? Standing up, he went inside to find the grand room empty. His suspicions told him his son wasn’t telling him all of what happened. Something was bothering him deeply. Something that happened between them before the weigh station. Heading to the kitchen, he grabbed the pot of coffee, two cups, and headed upstairs to talk to his son.
Johnny lay on his bed thinking about the look on his fathers face before he walked out, and the silent treatment he got when he told him what happened. If he responded like that by walking out, how would he respond when he told his father he practically raped Teresa. That even though she came to him, wanting it, what would his father say to how he let his anger take control, and viciously took her?
“ Son, can I come in?” Murdoch asked from the door.
Johnny sat up, and threw his legs over the side of the bed as his father walked into the room. “ I never intended for it to happen between us Murdoch.”
“ I brought a pot of coffee with me, because I feel you have a lot on your chest you’re carrying son. You have my word I will not lose my temper, that I will listen to you.” Murdoch said as he set the cups down,and poured coffee.
“ I need to say this, and I know you won’t like hearing it, but please let me finish before you blow up?” Johnny asked.
“ I told you I wouldn’t lose my temper son.” Murdoch said.
“ You might after what I tell you I did………………We stopped at this place I knew about where we could wash………I was in the water, Teresa was sitting next to the fire wrapped in a blanket while her clothes dried on a tree branch. Next thing I know, she walked out in the water to me totally naked………..I told her to go back to the fire, but she wouldn’t. She started touching me, and I couldn’t stop her. I took her to the shore………..and………..Murdoch, I have never been as rough with a woman as I was with Teresa. All my anger at her just came pouring out of me, and I took that anger out on her.” He said as he stood up. “ Pa, I raped her. I was brutal with her I was so angry for everything that has happened. All the filthy things she said to me, shooting me, throwing a pan of hot beans on me, scratching and biting me. It didn’t happen just that one time either. I was that way to her every night until I put her in a train in Albuquerque.” he said with a quiver to his voice. “ At the weigh station, I told her I was letting her go when the storm passed. That I was taking her to a train, putting her on it to anywhere she wanted to go……………That I was tired of hating her, being angry at her. That because of that anger, I took something from her she can never get back. Something I had no right taking. That I was no better than those two Comancheros I killed because they were trying to rape her.”
Murdoch sat there listening to his son tell him what he knew had to be very difficult for him to say. A sick feeling came over him as he listened to how his son took her. How he said he raped her.
“ Teresa walked over to me, told me I didn’t rape her, and once again we made love just as rough several times until the storm passed finally, and we could ride out. It took us four days to make it to Albuquerque due to the snow being so deep. I put her on the train for New Orleans the morning after we arrived.” Johnny explained. “ After she left, I got to thinking about her, and pretty much have done nothing but think about her ever since. I don’t know what to do. I mean, when Scott told me about her when we were coming here, I thought maybe I could win her over, and with your permission, court her, and maybe make her my wife. I guess we both know that didn’t happen. She hated me from the moment she seen me.”
“ Let me ask you this son. Do you know why she hated you so much? Did she ever tell you?” Murdoch asked.
“ She felt threatened. I told her she was a spoiled bitch, who was used to getting her way, and no longer the center of attention since me and Scott came home. She told me she had to problem with Scott being here, just me. Then she told me a few days later I was partly right. That she hated me mostly because she felt threatened by me being here. That she didn’t want to lose you. She figured nobody would know it was her who shot me.” he explained. “ That night she had to kill that man in the house angered her more, and she decided I needed to die. When Clint and Spud came here, she seen her chance, and thought you, Scott, and everyone else would think it was one of them who shot me, not her.”
Johnny remained quiet for a few minutes, letting it sink in what he just told his father before he told him his real concern.
“ Murdoch……….there’s a really good chance I got Teresa with child.” he said with a sigh. All the cards were laid out now. There would be no dealers choice with this hand. The bets had already been made, and it was time to call.
Murdoch sighed before taking a sip of his coffee. He knew that how he responded to all that Johnny had told him could mean the difference in if his son stayed, or left Lancer forever in shame.
“ When I met your mother, we had a very short, whirlwind courtship. You were conceived out of wedlock, but I have no regrets about that son. It’s important to me that you know that. It changed nothing on how I felt about your mother. Granted I didn’t do what you said you did to Teresa………….Let me ask you this, how do you feel about her now?” Murdoch said, and asked in a calm concerned voice.
Johnny sat down in the other chair, and let out a sigh. “ I can’t stop thinking about her, about what happened between us. I didn’t want her to go, but I also knew I couldn’t force her to come back here with me.”
“ Have you thought about what you will do if you learn she is with child son?” he asked.
“ No, not really until I came home.” he said.
“ Johnny, I’m disappointed in you for your actions. They were very immature of you, but more than that, I am proud of you for telling me. I know it wasn’t easy for you to do. We can now do one of two things about this son.” his father said. “ We can hire a Pinkerton to find her, and find out if she would like to come back here. Or we can wait and see if she writes and tells you she is with child.”
“ She said she would write to me, but the letters would go to Sam. I didn’t know how you would feel, so we decided to do it that way.” Johnny said.
“ There is another possibility son. Teresa might decide to not tell you if she is. She may not write to you at all. Have you thought about that at all?” Murdoch suggested.
“ No, I guess I haven’t. I guess I’ll get my answer in the next year or so if she does or not.” Johnny responded as Scott opened his bedroom door, and walked in.
“ Son, could you give us a moment please?” Murdoch asked as he stood up.
Scott looked at his brother, and could tell he had walked in on something pretty serious. “ My mistake.” he said before turning, walking out, and closing the door hard.
Johnny let out a big sigh. “ I really screwed up with him I guess?”
“ Not like you think son. Your brother is hurt that you left like you did, but I think what’s bothering him more is something I gave him last week. His mood hasn’t been all that pleasant since then.” Murdoch explained.
“ Murdoch……….are we going to be okay?” he asked as he stood up.
Murdoch reached out, and pulled his son into a hug. “ We’ll be fine son.” he said as he hugged him.
Johnny welcomed the long overdue hug his father was giving him. Turning his head, he rested it on his shoulder as he finally let a lot of worry leave his body. “ I promise I will never leave you pa.” he said softly.
“ That’s good to know son, because I would hunt you down, and drag you back here.” Murdoch said. “ Take some time, then come downstairs for supper.” he said as he let go, and stepped back. “ You know, You’re like your old man, all pride, and cut from the same mold. Not one ounce of give between us.”
Teresa walked out of the doctors office in total shock. Tears welled up in her eyes as she started walking toward Forest Park. Sitting down on a bench, she let the tears fall. She had suspected it , but hoped it wasn’t true. It had been three months since she was with Johnny. Living in a boarding house, working long hours in a sweat shop was not the life she envisioned having when she decided to stay in St. Louis instead of going on to New Orleans.
“ Are you alright dear?” an elegantly dressed woman asked.
“ What…Nothing ma’am. I’m alright.” Teresa said.
“ Nonsense. If you were alright, you wouldn’t be sitting in the park crying. Why don’t you come with me to my home and we can talk?” the woman asked. “ I won’t take no for an answer.”
Teresa smiled at the kindly older woman, her hair streaked with silver. Her dress a beautiful blue satin with elegant white lace trim.
“ Am I going to have to have my driver carry you to my carriage?” she asked.
“ No ma’am.” Teresa said as she stood up.
“ My name is Mrs Rose Duchesne, and you are?”
“ Teresa O’Brian.”
“ Where is your husband?” Rose asked as they walked to her carriage.
“ I don’t have a husband Ma’am.” Teresa said as she climbed in the carriage.
“ Charles, take us on home please.” Rose ordered.
“ Yes ma’am, but what about the ladies?” Charles asked.
“ I expect they can manage without me. This young lady is more important.” Rose said.
Two hours later, Teresa wiped her tears after telling Rose everything that had happened at Lancer, and her decision to stay in St. Louis, instead of going on to New Orleans.
“ This young man, the one who got you in this condition, does he know you are with child?” Rose asked.
“ No. I just learned today. I promised him I would keep in touch, but he doesn’t know I’m not in New Orleans.” she said.
“ If you wrote and told him, what would he do?” Rose asked.
“ To be honest Mrs Rose, I don’t know.” Teresa responded.
“ Well, I think you need a proper place to stay, and a good doctor to take care of you. Working in a sweat shop is no life for a pregnant young lady. I want you to stay here with me. I have more than enough room, and it would be nice to have someone to talk to.” Rose suggested. “ It’s just me, my driver Charles, and my cook Hannah.”
“ I can’t do that Mrs Rose.” she said.
“ Nonsense. Now I won’t take no for an answer Teresa. I’m a lonely old widow with more money than I know what to do with. Let me help you and that baby, please?”
“ I don’t know what to say.” Teresa said with tears in her eyes.
“ You don’t have to say anything except that you will accept my offer.” Rose said.
“ Yes ma’am.” she said.
“ Good, now tomorrow you will write to this young man.. He has a responsibility to you and that baby.” Rose said. “ Follow me, and I will show you around this big ole house, and introduce you to Hannah.”
Johnny avoided Scott as much as possible for a month. Christmas had come and gone, and both brothers remained civil, but spoke very little to each other. Johnny could tell every time his brother looked at him, he was angry with him about something. What he didn’t know, and really didn’t care. Being Saturday, he figured he would ride into town and spend some time with a whore. He hadn’t been with a woman since Albuquerque when he took Teresa one last time before she left. Hearing a horse approaching, Johnny looked and sighed. The one person he didn’t want to talk to. Dropping the hammer in the bucket of nails, he walked over to Barranca, and removed his canteen to take a drink.
“ Just how long you going to avoid talking to me………..brother?” Scott demanded as he dismounted, and walked over to him.
“ I’m not avoiding you. I’m just not ready to talk to you yet.” Johnny said as he put his canteen back on the saddle, and started walking back down to where he was stringing fence.
Scott grabbed his arm, spun him around, and hit Johnny as hard as he could in the mouth.
Johnny hit the ground, and rolled. Getting back up, he went at his brother, hitting him in the mid-section hard. “ What the hell is wrong with you?”
“ He cared more about finding you, than he did trying to get me back.” Scott spat right before he hit Johnny hard in the jaw, followed by a blow to his ribs. “ He should have fought for me!”
“ What the hell are you talking about!” Johnny demanded.
“ Our father! He spent a fortune looking for you, but not one dime trying to get me back from my grandfather!” Scott spat right before hitting Johnny in the mouth again. “ That’s what I’m talking about!”
“ That’s not my fault! I wasn’t here remember?” Johnny snapped back as he wiped the blood from his mouth. “ You want me to leave just say so Scott, and I’ll leave Lancer, and you won’t ever see me again.”
Scott stood there clenching his hands. “ You think your the only one who’s whole life was a lie, well you’re not. My father refused to fight for me, and my grandfather lied to me.”
“ And because of that you think you have the right to attack me for something that wasn’t my fault? Jesus Scott, it was neither one of us’ fault. We were both lied too.” Johnny said. “ Why the hell didn’t you contact Murdoch when you were older instead of finding out after that old man died, that he lied to you?”
Scott grabbed Johnny by his shirt, and slammed him up against a fence post. “ You know nothing about me!” he said with anger before letting him go, turning to walk to his horse.
Johnny grabbed his right arm, spun him around, and hit his brother as hard as he could in the mouth, knocking him down. “ You go to hell!” he said.
Scott got up, and lunged at Johnny, hitting him hard in the back as the two went to the ground. “ I’ve already been to hell more times than you ever will…………….brother.”
“ Get the fuck off me!” Johnny yelled.
“ Not until you tell me why you did it. Why did you leave in the middle of the night?” Scott said as he kept his hands on Johnny’s shoulders, pinning him to the ground. “ Why did you take off to go after Teresa, and then let her go?”
Johnny reached down, and pulled his colt, bringing it up to Scott’s head, and cocking it. “ I’m not going to say it again.” Johnny said in a very cold voice.
Scott got off his brother, and stood up. “ You think that damn gun is the answer to everything. Well let me tell you something……It’s not.”
Johnny stood up, and felt a sharp pain in his ribs as he breathed. Standing up, he glared at his brother before walking over to Barranca, grabbing his canteen, and pouring water on his kerchief to clean the blood from his mouth.
“ You going to answer me?” Scott asked.
Johnny walked over to the big oak tree, and sat down. Leaning back against it, and closing his eyes. He couldn’t believe his brother was blaming him for what their father did. “ At first I thought this was all a dream that I would wake up from, a d find I was still in Mexico, or hell.” he said softly. “ I’m a fool to think I could ever be a part owner of this ranch. All I am, all I will ever be is a worthless two bit gunfighter.”
Scott stood there looking at his beaten down brother. He seen something in his eyes, he had never really seen before, tears. He had hurt his brother so bad with his assault, he was crying. Swallowing a lump that came to his throat, he walked over, and sat down next to his brother. Placing an arm around his shoulders, Scott pulled him into a hug as tears fell down his own cheeks. “ I got you brother.” Scott said as he made no attempt to hide the fact he too was crying. He could feel his brother tense up at first, but then he relaxed, and welcomed the hold as his body started to shake.
Johnny let go, and let the tears fall. All the stress, and worry he’d endured over the past year just seemed to flow from him. “ I’m sorry I left like I did Scott.” he said a few minutes later as they sat side by side, their backs against the huge oak tree trunk.
“ Why did you let her go Johnny?” Scott asked softly.
Johnny let out a big sigh, and proceeded to tell his brother everything that happened between him and Teresa. When he was finished, he stood up, and walked over to the fence post his brother had slammed him up against earlier.
Scott sat there in shock at what his brother just told him. He had wanted, and hoped Johnny, and Teresa would get together and be married, but when they got home, Teresa made it clear that would never happen, and now he learns his brother out of anger, took her, and then continued to sexually assault her for almost a month, Johnny had said he had tried to stop it from happening at first, but couldn’t. Having had that happen to himself a couple times in college, and after, Scott knew the effects a woman can have on a man. How easy it is to get lost in the passion, the heat of the moment. His psychology professor told him once in class at Harvard that in certain moments, the brain is not aware of what the body is doing. That without knowing, it was possible for a person to do something, or act upon something, only to not be aware of their said actions at the rime, or thereafter. Could that be what happened to his brother? Could all the anger Johnny had built up inside him from everything Teresa had said, and done to him come boiling over at that moment, making him angrier, and unaware of what he was doing? Only a psychologist could answer that question.
“ There’s one thing you didn’t mention, or possibly are not aware of that could come of what happened between you and Teresa.” Scott said as he stood up, and walked over to his brother.
“ What will I do if she’s carrying my child? To tell the truth Scott, I’ve been thinking about that possibility happening ever since she left me in Albuquerque. If she is, I don’t know if she would tell me, and I don’t know what I would do.” Johnny responded.
“ You have an obligation to that child brother, but I can respect what you are saying also. Unless she tells you, you have no way of knowing.” Scott said. “ Can I ask what Murdoch has said about this?”
“ He said basically to give it a year, and see if she writes and tells me.” he said. “ He also suggested hiring a Pinkerton agent to look for her in New Orleans.”
“ Are you sure that’s where she’s at still?” Scott asked.
“ That’s where I bought the train ticket too. Where she said she wanted to go.” he said.
“ Tell you what. Let’s go talk to Murdoch, and see about riding into Spanish Wells, and talking to Mister Randall about this tomorrow?” Scott suggested.
“ I see from looking at the two of you, and watching you ride in, you got your differences settled between you/” Murdoch asked.
“ Mostly.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny told me what happened Murdoch. I suggested to him that we ride into Spanish Wells tomorrow and talk to Mister Randall about what his rights and obligations are if Teresa is since she left him.” Scott said.
“ I can tell you what Randall will say son. You have no obligation unless you choose too. I’m not saying we can’t ride in and talk to him. I’m just telling you what I know to be fact.” Murdoch said.
“ Why didn’t you spend money trying to get Scott back?” Johnny asked suddenly.
“ I have already discussed that matter with your brother. He knows why.” his father said.
“ You spent twenty one years, and thousands of dollars looking for me in Mexico, yet you never spent a dime trying to fight Harlan for your own son. I find that a little odd Murdoch.” Johnny said, keeping his voice calm.
“ Johnny, it’s alright. It doesn’t matter anymore. There will always be one piece of the puzzle missing. Let it go…………please.” Scott said.
“ Alright Scott, I’ll let it go, but I won’t forget.” Johnny said before walking away.
“ I want you to know, it was me who started it sir. I got tired of him avoiding me like he’s been doing, and rode out to where he was working, and started a fight with him.” Scott said.
“ Did he tell you everything son?” Murdoch asked. Avoiding what Scott said.
“ He did. My college professor told me once, sometimes a person acts out in anger, and is unaware of what he or she is doing until after.” he explained.
“ Do you condone what your brother did?” Murdoch asked.
“ No sir, I don’t, and I think Teresa is the one at fault here, not Johnny. I’ve seen how he is with a woman, now I don’t know about once alone with her, but I do know he has respect for a woman. He’s never showed any aggression, and I think if he had, there would be talk.” Scott responded.
“ Hannah, do you know where Rose went?” Teresa asked.
“ Yes ma’am. She went to see her attorney. Said she would be back this afternoon sometime, and for you to relax.” Hannah said.
“ Have you worked for her long?” she asked.
“ Thirty years. Her and her husband bought my freedom from a man in Alabama.” Hannah responded. “ I just made some cookies. Sit down and have some lemonade and cookies with me.”
Teresa sat down. “ Thank you. These are very good. So you’re a slave?” she asked.
“ No Miss Teresa. I was free to go, but she offered me a stable, safe life. She’s been nothing but kind to me ever since. I work for her because she’s so kind. Slaves don’t have the freedom you white folks have. We live in filthy, rundown shacks. Our clothes are nothing shy of rags. We work long hours in the fields with the sugar cane, cotton, or tobacco. If a slave got out of line, he or she was whipped.” Hannah said. “ My master, he raped my mother, and two of my sisters. He would come to our shack sometimes three, four times a week, and have his way with whoever he wanted that night.”
“ That’s terrible. Why did he do it?” she asked.
“ Because his misses wouldn’t let him touch her anymore when she found out. The only reason she stayed married to him was cause of the money. She liked the rich life, and my old master was a very wealthy man. See, in Alabama, the more slaves you can own, the richer person you be. You know, I didn’t know how to read or write, but Mrs rose took the time, and she taught me. Every night I read a different book before I goes to bed. In my spare time, and on Sundays, I practice my letters.” Hannah explained.
“ Johnny, he………I don’t know if he raped me or not.” she said.
“ You mean you don’t know? Child, you either wanted him to………or you didn’t.” Hannah explained.
“ I…….I wanted him to. He didn’t want to, but I wouldn’t stop what I was doing. We stopped to clean up at this place he knew of. I was wrapped in a towel by the fire while my clothes dried. I was watching him bath. The next thing I know, I’m in the water walking toward him. He was rough with me, and it hurt, but I didn’t want or try to make him stop. Every time he took me Hannah, I wanted him that much more.” Teresa said.
“ Girl, it sounds to me like you are in love with this Johnny. Did you tell him how you felt?” she asked.
“ No. He made me feel so alive when we……..I don’t know what to do.” Teresa said.
“ Do what Mrs Rose tells me to do. Go with what your heart says child. It will never lead you wrong.” Hannah said.
“ She said his name is Johnny Lancer?” Attorney Pierre Laclede asked.
“ Yes. I have a feeling she is not telling me everything about this man. She only said Lancer once, maybe twice, so I am not for sure that that is his last name.” Rose said. “ He might be a hand who works for someone named Lancer.”
“ I’m sure my man will find out all he can about this man for you.” Pierre said.
“ You understand, I do not wish the young lady to know I am doing this.” Rose said as she stood up.
“ Yes ma’am. I understand. I’ll let you know as soon as I here from my man in Sacramento.” he said.
“ Very well. Let your man know I will make it well worth his troubles to do this.” Rose said as she walked to the door.
“ I’m sure my man will have no trouble locating him, and finding out all he can about the man.” Pierre said as he walked with rose out to her carriage. “ Are you sure about taking this young lady with you?”
“ I am. She’s a good girl in a bad situation. I suspect she loves this man, and did not want to leave him. My trip to San Francisco should be a nice surprise to her.” Rose said.
“ Have you thought about the possibility she won’t want to go with you?” he asked.
“I have, but if my suspicions are right, I expect she will go with me. I will give her the chance to see this man, and if she chooses not too it will be her decision.” Rose said as she climbed in the carriage.
“ When are you planning on telling her?” he asked as Charles closed the carriage door.
“ I will tell her next month that I have to take a trip to Sacramento, and would like her to go with me. Which is why I need your man to understand the urgency in this.” Rose said.
“ I’ll make sure he knows. I’ll send the wire immediately.” Pierre said. “ Your late husband Henry would be proud of you Rose. You have always had a big heart full of kindness.”
“ I have always believed that a little kindness can go a long ways. Let’s go Charles.” she said.
“ Why don’t you see if you can get your brother to go to town tonight?” Murdoch asked.
“ I doubt he will want to. He’s been pretty quiet since the lawyer told him what you already knew.” Scott said.
“ I see the disappointment in his eyes every day there’s no word from her.” Murdoch said as he sat down at his desk. “ It’s been five months now.”
“ Have you asked the Pinkerton’s to find her?” Scott asked.
“ I did, and I’ve heard nothing from them yet.” Murdoch said as Johnny walked into the house.
“ I’m going to town to take care of some business. I’ll see you in the morning.” Johnny said before turning to walk out.
“ Johnny wait.” Scott said. “ I was going to ask you if you wanted to go get a cold beer?”
“ Maybe some other time Scott. I’ll see ya.” he said as he swung up in the saddle, and rode off.
“ Looks like it’s the two of us tonight.” Scott said. “Care to play some cards after supper?”
“ That’s fine son. We can discuss the drive coming up.” Murdoch responded.
Johnny walked into the saloon in Spanish Wells with one thing on his mind for the night. Seeing the girl he wanted, he bought a bottle of tequila, walked over to her, smiled, and followed her upstairs to her room. Totally unaware of the man across the street watching his every move with anger in his eyes.
“ You haven’t been around for a long time Johnny. I was beginning to think you started going to Green River for a poke.” the girl said as she sat down on the bed to start undressing. ‘ So how long you staying tonight?”
Johnny made sure the door was locked before he walked over and got undressed. “ All night.” he said as he shoved her down on the bed, and positioned himself over her.
“ Damn Johnny, you got some anger issues tonight you need to work out?” she asked as she wrapped her legs around him tightly. “ Have at it. Just know it’ll cost you extra to be rough with me.”
“ Shut up.” Johnny said before shoving it in her.
Dawn the next morning, Johnny led Barranca out of the livery, and mounted up, headed back home. Last night at a considerable expense, he let go of a lot of pent up anger four times, the last being an hour before leaving. Missing Teresa, and what they had together bothered him terribly. The not knowing if she was alright, and with child, his child bothered him the most. Seeing families together made him always wonder if he would ever get a chance to find a good woman to love, who would love him, and give him children. Could Teresa be that woman? Could he have a chance with her again. The last few weeks he’s felt like leaving, and going to New Orleans to find Teresa, and bring her back. The only thing that kept him from doing it, was the promise he made his father that he wouldn’t leave.
“ Pierre, I did not expect to see you so soon.” Rose said. “ Come in.”
“ Thank you. Is there some place we can speak in private?” Pierre asked.
“ Yes, we can go in Henry’s study and talk. Charles, please see that we are not disturbed.” Rose said as they headed to the study.
“ I received information on the young man.” Pierre said as Rose closed the door.
“ I figured you had.” Rose said.
“ Yes ma’am. It seems his last name at birth is Lancer. His mother took him away from the ranch to Mexico when he was two. She was murdered when he was ten, along with his stepfather. He has had a very rough life, receiving a lot of abuse it would seem due to his heritage.” Pierre said.
“ And what might his heritage be?” she asked.
“ His mother was a Mexican, and his father an American. I’m afraid they have a name for his kind………if you pardon me ma’am, he is known as a Mestizo, or half-breed.” Pierre said.
“ I see. You said his birth name is Lancer. Did he go by another name in Mexico?” Rose asked.
“ Yes ma’am he did. He is known mostly as a famous, deadly gunfighter named Johnny Madrid. He is wanted dead by many men, and many men have tried to kill him.” Pierre explained. “ He is also a third owner of a huge ranch outside Morro Coyo, called Lancer. This ranch my man says is the biggest ranch in all of the San Joaquin valley, all one hundred thousand acres of it. His father, Murdoch Lancer is a very important man, and friends with the governor and several other very important people in California.”
Rose walked over and opened the door. “ Charles, please have Teresa come in here.”
“ Ma’am, are you going to ask her about this man?” Pierre asked.
“ Yes, and I am going to ask her to go with me to Sacramento also.” Rose said. “ She is carrying this mans child. I believe he has a right to know.”
“ You wanted to see me Rose?” Teresa asked as she walked into the study.
“ Teresa, this is Pierre, my attorney. He came here today to tell me some very important information I requested.” Rose said. “ That information I requested is about your baby’s father. I had my suspicions you were not telling me the whole story about him. Though you did not lie tome, you were not totally truthful. You did not tell me he is a gunfighter, and a wanted man in Mexico.”
“ But Johnny is no longer a gunfighter Rose. He gave it up when he came back home to Lancer. That’s why I didn’t tell you. He’s a good person, and I love him very much.” Teresa responded. “ I made a terrible mistake about him. I misjudged him horribly when he came home. Instead of being happy for Murdoch finally having his youngest son back, I was angry, jealous, and I felt threatened by him being there.” Teresa explained with tears in her eyes.
“ I am taking a trip to Sacramento in two weeks. Would you like to go with me. I believe your Johnny is not far from there.” Rose said.
“ You mean it?” Teresa asked.
“ I do. I will have Charles make all the travel arrangements so we can travel in comfort. Now I think we should be having a talk about how you are going to tell this young man he is going to be a father, and all his options.” Rose responded.
“ His options? I don’t understand. He’s my baby’s father.” she said.
“ Teresa,………..may I call you Teresa?” Pierre asked.
“ Teresa, It may be somewhat different out west, but here, and in the south, the law holds a man accountable for his actions toward a young lady. See, you are a resident now of St. Louis, you learned of your condition here, therefore you are obliged by the laws of here which states, any act of aggression, or violence shown, or acted out upon a woman against her will that harms the woman, shall be held accountable for said actions in a court of law. Punishment determined by extent of harm done to woman. What I am saying Teresa, is, Johnny could be extradited back here, charged, and sentence to prison for his actions toward you.” Pierre explained.
“ No…………I don’t want Johnny arrested. I was the one who started it. It was me who wanted him to make love to me. Please Mrs Rose, please don’t do this.” Teresa pleaded.
“ Calm down child. We have no intention of doing that. We are merely stating the laws here. Teresa, What do you think Johnny will say, or do when I tell him you are carrying his child?” Rose said, and asked.
“ You tell him?” Teresa asked.
“ Yes, I want to be sure of this young man before the two of you see each other.”
“ She’s being a protective mother figure to you Teresa.” Pierre cut in. “ Trust me, she has only your best interest at heart.”
“ I know Johnny will be happy, both to see me, and learn he will be a father. I know this in my heart. It’s Murdoch I’m not so sure about.” Teresa said.
“ Well, I guess we shall get our answers in three weeks.” Rose said.
Johnny stood looking down at what he had come to love, and call home, Lancer. Every Sunday evening he would ride to the top of the hill, just to watch the sun set over the valley, thinking about Teresa, his brother, father and everything he had come to have, and love. Tomorrow he would start breaking horses. He had acquired a contract with the army for four hundred horses at fifty dollars each. Two men representing the army had come to Lancer last week, and spent three days looking at the mustangs running free in the valley. After telling Johnny what they wanted, and negotiating a deal, Lancer would have an extra twenty thousand dollars in the bank by the end of next year, but only if he delivered them to Fort Whipple, near Prescott, Arizona, by fall next year. Hearing a horse come up behind him, he knew without looking, it was his father.
“ Hey Murdoch.” he said softly.
“ Son. How did you know it was me?” Murdoch asked as he rode up next to him.
“ Just did.” he said.
“ You alright?” his father asked.
“ Yeah, just thinking about things.” Johnny said.
“ I’m proud of you son. I don’t think I’ve told you that, but I am.” Murdoch said as he put his right hand on Johnny’s left shoulder.
“ Thanks. I didn’t think you would do it you know.” he said.
“ What, sell horses to the army?” he asked.
“ Yeah. It will be good for Lancer, and bring in more money to buy new stock.” Johnny responded.
“ As long as you remember this is a cattle ranch son, I don’t have a problem with you doing it.” he said.
“ I figure to hire twenty extra men to help deliver them.” Johnny said. “ That way it doesn’t take away men from doing the other work.”
“ Sounds like you have it all worked out.” his father said.
“ Yeah, that part I do.” Johnny said as he started thinking about Teresa again.
“ I have a pretty good idea what you come up here and think about every evening son, and I’m sorry she hasn’t wrote to you.” Murdoch said.
“ It wasn’t meant to be I guess.” he said. “ I’ve already put out the word I’m looking for bronc busters, and horse wranglers.”
“ You think you will be able to break, and deliver one hundred head of horses in the fall next year son?” he asked.
“ I do. I figure we break ten a day, we should be ready to drive them to Fort Whipple by mid summer.” Johnny said.
“ Sounds good. The sunsets are beautiful from up here.” Murdoch said.
“ The most beautiful place on earth. A place I never thought I would call home.” Johnny said before turning Barranca, and heading down to the house.
Murdoch stood up, and headed out the veranda doors at the sound of a buggy pulling up. Thinking it would be Sam, he was surprised to find a colored man and an older woman.
“ Can I help you?” he asked as the driver got down, and helped the woman exit the carriage.
“ I am looking for Murdoch Lancer?” Rose said.
“ I’m Murdoch Lancer. What can I do for you ma’am?” he asked.
“ My name is Rose Duchesne, and this is my driver Charles. I was wondering if I might have a conversation with you about your son Johnny?” Rose asked.
“ Yes ma’am. Please, won’t the two of you come inside?” Murdoch asked.
“ It is rather dusty here. Stay with the carriage Charles.” Rose said as they walked inside.
“ Can I get you something cold to drink, lemonade perhaps?”
“ Thank you.” Rose said as she looked around at all the fine furnishings in the grand room. “ I must say, I am surprised to find such an elaborate home such as yours in the west.”
“ Can I ask where you are from Mrs Duchesne?” Murdoch asked as he handed them a glass of lemonade.
“ St. Louis. But I was born in Birmingham, Alabama. And you?” Rose responded, and asked.
“ I came here from Inverness, Scotland thirty years ago.” Murdoch responded. “ Please, come sit down, and tell me what it is you want with my son.”
Rose walked over, and sat down on the couch. “ You have a lovely home Mister Lancer. I assure you, I am here with a purpose sir. I am here on behalf of someone I have grown very fond of. Someone who a couple months ago came into my life in a god fearing way, lost, scared, and alone.”
Murdoch suddenly got a feeling inside. A feeling he he knew who the young lady was. Clearing his throat, he stood up. “ I’m going to presume the young lady in question is named Teresa O’Brian?”
“ Yes it is. You sound upset. Am I to presume you do not wish to hear about this young lady?” Rose asked.
“ No………I just………….You said you come from St. Louis. Did you come across Teresa in New Orleans?” Murdoch asked.
“ No, I found her crying while sitting in Forest Park in St. Louis. I took her home, and have been enjoying her company these past few months. I am a window, and Teresa has brought a purpose back into my life. One my late husband Henry would be proud of.” Rose responded.
“ Ma’am, I’m a busy man. Could you please get straight to he reason for your visit?” Murdoch requested.
“ Alright. I will. Teresa is almost five months with child. That child is your sons. I have come here to meet this young man, and learn what his intentions are with her.” Rose explained.
Murdoch walked over, and poured a shot of whiskey, and downed it.
Rose stood up, and walked over to stand near him. “ Your son is a grown man, Teresa says of around twenty four. I assure you Mister Lancer, what I am about to say, is not what we wish to happen. Your son did what he did to Teresa in a wrong way. Now she has explained everything to me that happened between them. Since Teresa is a resident of St. Louis, our laws are clear. Your son could be taken back there, and sentenced to prison for his wronging of her. Our laws are clear on the mistreatment of women. That is why I have come here. To prevent this from happening. To give him the chance to make right, what he did was wrong.”
Murdoch turned and faced Rose. “ My son has waited every day since coming home for Teresa to write to him. His heart has hurt every day, longing for her ma’am. I assure you, Johnny has done a lot of thinking about Teresa, and we have discussed what he should do if she ever returned here.”
“ And what would that be Mister Lancer?” Rose asked.
“ Is Teresa here?” he asked.
“ She came with me yes, but I did not allow her to come with me to this meeting.” Rose said. “ Like I stated earlier, I want to know this young mans intentions with her?”
“ I assure you, his intentions will be of the right.” Murdoch said. “ If you will excuse me, I will go get him.”
Murdoch walked down to the corrals. “ Scott. Where’s your brother?”
“ He coming in with another herd.” Scott said.
Murdoch stood watching his son lead the stallion thru to the smaller back corral, and around before removing the rope.
“ Johnny!” he called out. “ I need a word with you.”
“ Yeah….In a minute.” Johnny said as he rode out of the gate.
“ Pete, start cutting out the mares. The army won’t buy them.” Johnny ordered.
“ You got it.” Pete said.
Johnny rode out of the other gate, and galloped Barranca around to his father. “ I have work to do. Can’t it wait until tonight?”
“ No it can’t son.” Murdoch said. “ Climb on down, and come to the house. There’s someone you need to meet.”
Johnny watched as his father walked away. The tome in his voice told him whatever it was, it was serious. “ Scott………”
“ I don’t know little brother.” Scott said as he took Barranca.
Johnny walked into the house covered in dust. “ You know I have a contract to fill Murdoch. What is so damn important it can’t wait until tonight?” he demanded.
“ Watch your mouth young man. We have guest.” Murdoch ordered.
“ My apologies ma’am.” Johnny said as he walked into the room more.
Rose smiled a little. “ That is quit alright Johnny. I have traveled a long distance to see you.”
“ See me ma’am? Do I know you?” He asked.
“ Son, why don’t you go get cleaned up. Make yourself more presentable for our guest.” Murdoch suggested.
“ He’s alright. No, you don’t know me. I came her to learn a little about you.” Rose stated.
“ Maybe you could stop talking in riddles ma’am, and tell me what it is you want. I have work to do.” Johnny said.
“ John. That is no way to speak to the lady.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Then she needs to stop talking…………”
“ She’s here about Teresa!” Murdoch yelled.
“ Tere……….Who are you?” Johnny demanded. “ Where is she? Is she alright?”
“ She said you have a temper.” Rose said.
“ I asked you, is she alright?” Johnny asked again.
“ She is fine. I did not allow her to come with me, until I know it will be safe for her to see you.” Rose said.
“ Teresa is here?” he asked.
“ She came with me yes. She is at the hotel in town. If I find you will not hurt her. I will allow you to see her.” Rose responded.
“ You will………Lady, you have no right to keep me from seeing her.” Johnny snapped back.
“ I have more right saying what she does than you young man. Do not cross me, and make a mistake you will regret for the rest of your life.” Rose said firmly.
“ Mrs Duchesne, my son has a right to see Teresa. She is carrying his baby.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ Teresa’s………….She’s.” Johnny sat down.
“ Mrs Duchesne, I suggest you bring Teresa here tomorrow. I know many powerful people, and I am prepared to fight this…………game you seem to be playing with my son.”
“ Johnny.” came a voice from behind him.
Johnny turned around, and looked at the woman he thought he would never see again standing in the foyer with Scott. “ Teresa.” he said softly.
“ I asked you to………”
“ I know what you asked me, and I have heard a lot of what you said to Johnny. You have no right talking to him like you are, or keeping us apart.” Teresa said.
“ Young lady, you are not in a position………..”
“ I think I am. I am not a resident of St Louis. I was born and raised in California, right here on Lancer. Therefore you cannot have Johnny sent back to St. Louis to go to prison for what we willingly did together. I don’t know how he feels about me………….but I love him, and I am staying here, and having his baby.” Teresa said firmly.
“ Prison……………for what?” Johnny asked.
“ I’ll explain it to you later.” Teresa said. “ We have a lot to talk about.”
“Mrs Duchesne, I’m usually a respectable man toward women, but you, I am afraid I have to ask you to leave my house.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ That is your right sir, and I will leave your home.” Rose responded. “ Johnny Madrid, I hope you are as grown up as others think you too be.”
“ I go by Lancer now ma’am, and I grew up a long time ago.” Johnny said.
“ I only want the best for you, and the baby Teresa.” Rose said as she walked to the door. “ It’s not my intention to keep you two apart. I was merely seeing if he would be good enough for you and the baby.”
“ Rose, I’ve grown quit fond of you. You are a kind, and generous person, and I cannot thank you enough for what you have done for me. I know I will be alright. There isn’t a person in this house, or on this ranch that would ever hurt me.” Teresa said.
“ John Lancer, I wish you the best.” Rose said before leaving.
“ Where’s Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Cleaning up.” Murdoch responded. “ I imagine you have questions?”
“ Yes sir, I do, but I feel they are questions that will go unanswered.” Scott responded.
“ Do you think I was wrong in asking her to leave son?” he asked.
“ No sir. I……….I’m worried about Johnny. He’s been quiet all afternoon, and quit frankly sir, it has me a bit concerned.” Scott said.
“ It’s going to take him time I think to adjust to what has happened today.” Murdoch said. “ All we can do is give him time.”
“ And Teresa?”
“ I don’t know son. It’s up to your brother. I want him to do what’s right, but I will not force the issue.” Murdoch responded.
“ And if they want to share the same bed sir. Are you going to force that issue?” Scott asked.
“ I……….I don’t approve of such actions under my roof by you or your brother…………”
“ Do you think you can keep them apart? If you do, then you are sorely mistaken sir. What’s done is done. She’s carrying his child, and in about four months, you will be a grandfather.” Scott cut in, and said.
Teresa opened Johnny’s door, and stepped inside. Walking around the bed, she removed her nightgown, and smiled as she reached down, and gently touched his face. “ Johnny.”
Johnny opened his eyes, and looked into a pair of brown eyes mere inches from his face. “ Teresa.” he said softly.
Teresa brought her lips down to his. “ I have missed you so much.”
Johnny reached out with his left hand, and touched her face. “ You don’t have any clothes on.”
“ I know.” she said before their mouths came together.
Johnny pulled Teresa into bed as he deepened the kiss. Rolling her across him to lay at his side. “ I have dreamed of this night ever since I came back.” he said as his right hand ran down over her breast to stop on her stomach. “ I can’t believe you’re carrying my child.”
“ Our child Johnny.” Teresa responded.
“ So what do we do now?” he asked.
“ I think you know what we do tonight Johnny. Tomorrow is………..”
“ Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of our lives together Teresa.” he said.
“ Johnny, are you happy here?” Teresa asked.
“ I am now.” he said before kissing her forehead. “ I have everything I’ve ever wanted right here in bed with me.”
Teresa rose up to look into his eyes. “ I need to know about us, and our baby’s future.”
“ I don’t ever want to lose you again.” Johnny said. “ I just acquired a contract with the army for four hundred head of horses, to be delivered in the fall next year at Fort Whipple. This contract will make Lancer twenty thousand dollars. It’s just the start of what’s to come.”
“ You still haven’t answered my question.” she said.
“ Marry me Teresa, be my wife?” Johnny asked.
“ Marry you? I want to Johnny, but I need to know you want to marry me for me, and not because I’m carrying your child.” she said.
“ Both, but mainly you, Teresa………I know what I did months ago was wrong, but I have no regrets, except one.” Johnny said.
“ One regret?” she asked. “ And what would that be?”
“ That I let you get on that train, and leave me.” he said.
“ Then don’t ever let me do it again.” she said before kissing him.
“ Never.” Johnny said as he started to make love to her.
“ Morning.” Scott said as he walked into the kitchen. “ Johnny up yet?”
“ Morning son. He hasn’t come downstairs yet.” Murdoch said.
“ You think he’ll get it done?” Scott asked as he sat down.
“ If I know him, he will.” Murdoch said as Teresa came downstairs. “ Good morning.”
“ Good morning. I fixed Johnny some breakfast before the sun was up. He said he had a long day ahead, and wanted an early start.” Teresa said.
“ How are you feeling?” Murdoch asked.
“ Your grandchild is moving around a lot this morning.” Teresa responded as she sat down. “ Can I ask you both something?”
“ Ask away.” Scott said.
“ It’s about me and Johnny. Mostly me. I want to know how you both feel about what’s happened between us. I need to know if my living in this house again after all I’ve done, and caused is making you uncomfortable being around me?” she asked.
“ Teresa, you and Johnny sorted your differences out a long time ago. Granted I was very angry when I learned it was you who shot him. And no he didn’t tell us it was you. I had my suspicions. You were my daughter, and now you are my daughter-in-law. As long as my son is happy being married to you, and you don’t try and hurt him, I’m fine with you being here.” Murdoch said.
“ That goes for me too Teresa. That’s my nephew or niece You’re carrying. I’ve seen a big change in Johnny these last three months since you came back here. It makes me happy to see Johnny happy.” Scott said.
“ So it’s alright to stay here after the baby is born?” she asked.
“ Most certainly young lady. I want to be able to spoil my grandchild.” Murdoch said. “ Now let me ask you something. Will you be alright with Johnny leaving to deliver the horses to Fort Whipple?”
“ It will be hard, but we’ve discussed it, and I think I will be alright. I’ll have the two of you, so I won’t be alone.” she said.
“ Would you like to meet your granddaughter?” Johnny asked as he walked into the grand room.
“ Boy would I.” Murdoch said.
“ Meet Mary Elizabeth Lancer.” he said as he handed the baby to Murdoch.
“ She’s beautiful. Look at all that hair she has.” Scott said. “ She’s so small.”
“ Sam thinks that’s why she was born so fast.” Johnny said.
“ How’s Teresa doing?” Murdoch asked.
“ Tired, but fine.” Johnny responded.” I can’t believe I’m a father.”
“ I felt the same way when you were born son. I never got the chance with you Scott. I hope you don’t hold that against me?”
“I’ve already had that discussion with you, and it’s in the past sir. It was out of your control.” Scott said.
“ Mrs Rose, are you alright?” Hannah asked.
“ I was just thinking about Teresa. I expect she’s had the baby by now.” Rose said. “ Charles, I want you to go to Pierre’s office, and give him a message for me. Tell him I said to go ahead and do it. He will know what I mean.”
“ Yes ma’am.” Charles said.
“ Do what Mrs Rose?’ Hannah asked.
“ Something I should have had done sooner.” Rose responded. “I think I will have some tea in the garden. The flowers are quiet lovely.”
“ They look good son. I think Colonel Crook will be very happy with them.” Murdoch said.
“ A years hard work right there.” Johnny said. “ Every one of them meets the army’s specs on what they buy.”
“ You have all the hands you will need to drive them?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah. They all seem good with horses,” Johnny responded.
“ How many pack horses you taking?” Murdoch asked.
“ Ten, some will be carrying tents so we don’t sleep out in the rain, the rest will have food and such.” Johnny responded.
“ Why don’t you take another man to lead the pack horses?” Murdoch suggested.
“ I have enough men.” he said.
“ Son, I want you to take your brother with you.” Murdoch said firmly. “ I’ve thought on it, and talked to Scott about it. You’ll need the help.”
“ Only if you’re sure Murdoch.” Johnny responded.
“ I’m sure son.” he said.
“ Hey Johnny, you going to town with us tonight to have a couple drinks?” Carl asked.
“ Afraid not Carl. I have other plans tonight.” Johnny responded.
“ Yeah, he’s gonna spend his time with that sweet little wife and daughter of his.” Ben said.
“ You boys have a good time tonight. You can sleep it off tomorrow, but come Monday morning, I want you up, and ready to leave with this herd.” Johnny said.
“ We will be Johnny. You have our word on that.” Carl said.
“ You have all your supplies son?” Murdoch asked.
“Yeah, plenty of coffee, beans, hardtack, bacon, beef, biscuits, flour, lard, and dried fruit Teresa said we need to take. Though I don’t know why.” Johnny responded.
“ Dried fruit can be made into a stew, or pieced on like jerky while you’re riding.” Teresa said. “ Like hard candy, only soft.”
“ You sure about going along brother?” Johnny asked.
“ I’m looking forward to our little adventure brother. Seven hundred miles with four hundred horses. It should be quite the adventure.” Scott responded.
“ You taking extra mounts son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, each man will have three horses.” Johnny said.
“ Good planning son.” his father said.
“ You sure about this Joe?” Henry McGee asked.
“ Man said he left to take a herd of four hundred horses to Fort Whipple in Arizona. He’ll have to cross Walker pass. We’ll catch them there, and hire on.” Joe McGee responded.
“ And if he don’t hire us on. What we do then?” Henry asked.
“ He’ll hire us. Taking that many horses almost a thousand miles, he’ll need the help.” Joe said.
Johnny Stopped Barranca and pulled his canteen as Scott rode up to him.
“ Something wrong?” Scott asked.
“ Walker Pass is up ahead. Be dark in about two hours so I don’t want to cross it till morning.” Johnny said. “ There’s a good stream, and forage for the horses a couple miles ahead. We’ll make camp there for the night.”
“ Sounds good.” Scott said.
“ What’s this Walker pass like Johnny?” Carl asked four hours later as they ate supper.
“ Steep. You can get a wagon over it, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A rancher named Samuel Bishop, drove cattle from the San Joaquin valley to a booming mining town called Aurora. They started Bishop and to get the cattle to the miners, they made the pass. Drove six hundred head of cattle, and fifty head of horses over it back in sixty one.” Johnny responded.
“ That’s a lot of cattle.” Seth said.
“ He has a big spread on the other side called the San Francis ranch. It’ll take us most of the day to get up and over it. I don’t want the horses pushed hard, and risk any horses, or man hurt.” Johnny said.
“ You know, we could use a couple more men to help. We cross into Nevada, we could find trouble from Indians. Paiute, and Shoshone. A couple more men with rifles will help assure we make it.” Ben suggested.
“ Shoshone won’t bother us. It’s the Paiute we have to be on the alert for. They’d like nothing more than to steal those horses.” Johnny said.
“ How you figure? Ain’t all Indians thieves, and savages?” Seth asked.
“ The white man is more of a thief than the Indians.” Johnny responded.
“ How we gonna cross that big river into Arizona, Johnny?” Pepe asked.
“ Swim them across. The river will be down this late in the summer.” Johnny said.
“ Hello the camp!” a man yelled.
Johnny, and Scott stood up.
“ Seen your fire. Can we get down?” the man asked.
“ Climb on down.” Johnny said. “ What can I do for you fellas?”
“ Thanks. I’m Joe McGee, and this is my brother Henry. We’re looking for work.” Joe said.
“ I’m Johnny Lancer, and this is my brother Scott. That’s Carl, Ben, Pepe, Seth, and Jose, my wranglers.”
“ Where you fellas coming from?” Scott asked.
“ Up north.” Joe said. “ Did some prospecting up in Montana, a place called Bannock. Did alright, but it played out, so we been working our way south.”
“ We heard about all that gold they were getting, and decided to try our luck at it three years ago. So we left Texas, like many other fools.” Henry added.
“ Texas is a big state. What part you boys come from?” Johnny asked.
“ San Antonio.” Joe said.
“ When’s the last time you boys ate?” Seth asked.
“ Yesterday morning. Got lucky and shot us a rabbit. Scrawny, and didn’t taste all that good, but it was food.” Henry responded.
“ Carl, fix them a plate of food.” Johnny ordered. “ You ever wrangle horses?”
“ Broke some once for a small ranch up in Wyoming. Hard work for a dollar a day.” Joe said.
“ Scott, I need a word with you in private. You two go ahead and eat some hot food.” Johnny said before walking off toward the picket line.
“ Excuse me.” Scott said before following his brother. “ Something wrong Johnny?”
“ Those two. I’ve heard of the McGee brothers Scott. They’re from Texas alright, only it’s El Paso, not San Antonio.” Johnny explained.
“ You think they’re here for you?” Scott asked as he looked at the two eating, and talking to the men.
“ I don’t know.” Johnny responded. “ Said they panned for gold in Bannock, and then decided to ride south. Montana is northeast of here, if they were headed south, why come all the way over into California?”
“ I see your point. What do you want to do?” Scott asked.
“ What’s the one thing you learned in that war you were in Boston?” he asked.
“ Keep your enemies close.” Scott responded.
“ Exactly.” Johnny said. “ I’ll put them on pack-horse, remount duty until I know how they work.”
“ You’re the boss, but know this little brother, you have a wife, and beautiful daughter at home waiting for you to come back. I fully intend on you making it back to them, alive.” Scott said as they walked back over to the fire.
“ Okay, here’s the deal, I have four hundred horses to deliver to Fort Whipple. The job pays two hundred dollars when done.” Johnny said.
“ Two hundred dollars, why that’s just over six months wages.” Henry said.
“ Job pays upon delivery. We have Walker pass to go over tomorrow. It will take us the better part of the day to cross it. There’s a lake and forage at the top we can rest the horses at before we start down the other side. I want no man pushing his mount. Let your horse pick his climbing pace. You have an animal start acting up, or refusing to climb, stop. An injured horse won’t be no good to the army, or me.” Johnny said firmly. “ You’ll take the pack-horses up first. They won’t give you any trouble. Their older, good sound horses.”
“ Yes sir Mister Lancer. We can lead the packs.” Henry said.
“ Go ahead and picket your horses, and get your bedrolls.” Johnny said before walking off into the darkness.
Teresa carried Mary into the grand room and placed her in the bassinet. “ It’s been a week. How far you think they have gone?” she asked.
“ Oh I expect their close to, if not over Walker pass, and in Nevada by now.” Murdoch said. “ You miss him?”
“ I miss both of them.” Teresa said. “ Murdoch, I’m sorry for the way I hurt you. For all the evil things I said. I wish I could take them all back. Especially what I said to Johnny.”
“ Young lady, I think you and Johnny are at the start of what can be a good marriage. With trying on both parts, the two of you will make it work.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and walked over to look at his grandchild sleeping. “ I don’t think he ever thought he would be a father.”
“ Neither do I. He’s so careful with her. Sometimes I think he’s afraid to hold her.” Teresa said.
“ You know, I packed away his things after Maria left. It’s all in a big chest in the attic. I’ll have it brought down, and you can go thru it, and see if there is anything you would like to have for the baby.” Murdoch said.
“ I’d like that. Does Johnny know you have that stuff still?” she asked.
“ No, I don’t believe he does.” he said.
“ Then maybe we should wait and do it when he’s back.” she suggested.
“ Alright. In the mean time, how about we go to town tomorrow and do some shopping for my granddaughter?” he asked.
“ Only if you want too.” she said.
“ Storm coming up. We better make camp so we can secure the horses good.” Scott suggested.
“ Yeah, I was hoping it would miss us. Joe, Henry, start gathering wood. I want ten men staying with this herd at all times during this storm. I don’t want them spooking if at all possible.”
“ Damn, I hate lightening.” Henry said.
“ Stay in the trees and you’ll be alright. I want every remount horse secured good and tight. I don’t want them getting free when that storm hits.” Johnny responded.
“ Unless lightening hits a tree.” Joe said.
Johnny looked at Joe, then at Henry. He could see the fear in the mans eyes. “ Henry, go ahead and get some wood so we can get a fire going. Joe, I want a word with you in private……….now.” he ordered before walking into the trees more.
Joe looked at his brother, and then glanced at the other men before following Johnny into the trees more.
“ What’s eating Johnny?” Carl asked.
“ You wanted to talk to me?” Joe asked.
“ Where the hell do you get off talking like that to your brother?” Johnny demanded.
“ What………….Henry has always been afraid of storms. The least little bit of rain, and he starts freaking out. I’m not going to sugarcoat what could happen for no man, especially my brother.” Joe snapped back.
Johnny walked up to Joe. “ Not as long as you’re working for me you won’t. I’ve seen many men like you bullying others, mocking them. He’s your little brother, start acting like a big brother to him.”
Johnny, and Scott watched the men drive the herd of horses into the Colorado river, and start them across.
“ Those are right fine looking horses you fellas have.” a man said. “ Any of them for sale?”
Johnny glanced at Scott before riding down the hill in front of the man.
Johnny stopped, turned his horse, and faced the man. “ Mister, my business is none of your business. Ride on.”
“ Not very friendly of you mister.” the man said. “ I’ll give you twenty five dollars a head.”
“ These horses are already sold Charlie Babbitt.” Johnny said.
“ Selling to the army, you must be taking these to Fort Whipple?” Charlie asked.
“ You must be hard of hearing, these horses are already sold.” Scott said. “ Do yourself a favor, and forget about it.”
“ Forget it Charlie, my brother is a little stubborn sometimes Madrid. He don’t know when to back off, or keep his mouth shut.” Billy said.
“ Your father, George, he still alive?” Johnny asked.
“ He is.” Billy said. “ After you finish at the fort, stop by. I know he would like to see you again.”
“ So you’re him, you’re Johnny Madrid?” Carl asked.
Johnny glared at him across the fire.
“ You are a Patrona in Mexico.” Pepe said. “ I have heard the stories of you, and how you help the villages against the Rurales.”
‘ I ain’t no saint kid. I’m just a man who tried to help the little folks, and nothing more.” Johnny said. “ I want no less than ten men on duty from now on.”
“ You thinking those Babbitt brothers might try something?” Scott asked.
“ I don’t know. Charlie, he can be a trouble maker sometimes. The other one you met, Billy, he’s the youngest brother of the four.” Johnny said. “ They have the C.O. Bar ranch over by Flagstaff. These guy have seven hundred thousand acres. It stretches from east of Flagstaff over to the New Mexico border, up to Colorado, and over to Utah.”
“ Seven Hun………..What they need that much land for I wonder?” Jose asked.
“ They have one hundred thousand head of cattle, and are making a name in breeding good sound horses. They’ve split it into three sections with living quarters on the other two almost as good as the main house.” Johnny explained.
“ So if they have all that land, why they want to go and try and steal your horses?” Henry asked.
“ Because they probably figure Johnny is cutting in on their business.” Joe said. “ Think about it. They have a huge ranch right here, and the army is buying horses from Johnny way out in Arizona. He’s stepping on their toes.”
“ Pierre, has the matter been taken care of?” Rose asked.
“ Yes ma’am. It’s done. I have the bank draft right here.” Pierre said. “ I have to say, I didn’t expect you to do this.”
“ I’ve gave it considerable thought. Teresa reminds me of my own daughter, had she lived.” Rose said with sadness in her voice.
“ Victoria would be about her age.” Pierre said. “ Can I ask, why her ma’am?”
“ I can’t really say. It just seems the right thing to do.” she said.
“ And if she refuses it. What then?” he asked.
“ I’ve given that some thought as well. I am hoping the letter will be enough persuasion for Teresa to accept my offer.” Rose said. “ You should have seen her that day Pierre. She stood up to me, and defended her love for Johnny. With her doing that, all I could think about on the train coming back was how I could continue to help her, and this is what I decided to do. I’m a very wealthy woman thanks to my Henry being so smart in business.”
“ Yes ma’am, that he was.” Pierre said.
“ I would like you to deliver it to her. Can you do that?” Rose asked.
“ Yes ma’am, but can I ask, wouldn’t it be better if you also were there?” Pierre asked.
“ I would like to see the baby, so yes, I will go with you. We shall leave on the train tomorrow morning.” she said.
“ You sure it was Madrid?” George Babbitt asked.
“ I’m sure pa. It was him. He has about twenty or so men with him. The only place they could be going with a herd of horse that size is Fort Whipple.” Charlie responded.
“ How many horses you say he has?” his father asked.
“ At least four hundred head. No brands on them, but the horses his men where riding all had a Circle L brand on them.” Charlie said.
“ That many horses with no brands on them tells me he’s rounded up mustangs to sell to the army.” George said.
“ You think that’s why the army turned you down last year pa?” he asked.
“ I doubt it. They probably put out something in the paper about wanting to purchase horses. They have strict guidelines on what they buy. How’d these horses look?”
“ Real good. All geldings, bay colored, I’d say roughly four or five years old.” Charlie responded.
“ Geldings don’t do us any good boy. We breed quality horses, and you can’t breed geldings.” George said.
“ I know that pa. I was thinking if we could get them horses, we could sell them up in Colorado to the ranchers up there. They could fetch us a nice amount of money.” Charlie responded.
“ Boy, I’ve built this ranch up to be the biggest, and best ranch in Arizona. I’ll be damned if I’m going to risk losing everything I have just because you think you have a right to horses that are not yours.” George responded.
“ They’re mustangs pa. Nobody owns a mustang, you told me that a mustang is nothing but that until it has a brand on it.” Charlie said.
“ I want you going up to the north section tomorrow, and I want you staying there for a month. Do you understand me?” George ordered.
“ The north section, why?” Charlie demanded.
“ Because I said so, that’s why. I run this ranch, and you will do as I say as long as you live here. Now get the hell out of here.” his father ordered.
Charlie stormed up to his room, and slammed the door shut. “ If you think I’m going to let four hundred horses slip thru my fingers old man, you’re wrong. I know of several men who would just love to help me get those horses, and drive them to Colorado.”
“ How far we got to go?” Seth asked.
“ We should reach the fort day after tomorrow.” Johnny responded.
“ I got me a bad feeling Johnny. I’ve had it since we crossed the river.” Jose said.
“ Kid thinks that man, Charlie Babbitt is going to try and steal the horses.” Carl said.
“ He ain’t tried anything yet. He won’t now.” Ben said.
“ You go underestimating Charlie Babbitt and you’ll wind up dead.” Johnny said. “ Mark my word, he’ll try and take this herd, or part of it.”
“ Why don’t we move the herd at night Johnny?” Scott asked. “ It’s a full moon out, and would get us there that much quicker.”
“ And risk the horses breaking a leg.” Carl said.
“ We can stay on the road. There won’t be any wagon traffic, and if there is, we move the herd easy like, there won’t be a problem.” Seth suggested.
Johnny stood up, walked over to the fire, and poured a cup of coffee. Looking up at the moon shining brightly. “ Break camp. I want us moving out in one hour.” he ordered.
“ Wait a minute. You’re not seriously going to do this are you Johnny. The men have been up all day, and now you want us to ride all night. It’s suicide.” Carl said as he stood up.
“ I gave an order, I expect it to be followed.” Johnny said as he walked over to him. “ We’ve come a long way together with these horses, you want to quite now, I won’t hold it against you…………any of you. I’ll pay every man an extra hundred dollars to get this herd to the fort.”
“ Johnny, can I have a word with you in private?” Scott asked.
“ Begging your pardon, Colonel sir.” Lieutenant Niles said.
“ What is it Lieutenant?”
“ There is a man here to see you. He says it’s about the horses sir.” Lieutenant Niles said.
“ Show the man in.” the colonel ordered.
“ Yes sir.” Niles said before turning, and opening the door. “ The colonel will see you now.”
“ Colonel sir, my name is Pepe. I come with Johnny Lancer, we bring you your horses.”
“ I had about given up on Lancer making it. How far out is the herd?” the colonel asked.
“ A days ride. He is resting them at a place called Granite Dells. There is grass, and………”
“ I know the place young man.” the colonel cut in. “ You go back, and tell Lancer, we will be ready for the horses.”
“ But Colonel, that is why I come here. There is a man, a bad man named Charlie Babbitt, he is going to try and steal the horses.” Pepe said.
“ The horses are not my concern until they are delivered young man. The army does not get involved in rustling. That is a matter for the local law to handle. Now once he has the herd within Prescott town limits, then I can do something.” the colonel explained.
“ Yes sir. I will ride back, and tell señor Johnny you will do nothing to stop this man from stealing what he has worked almost a year to bring you.” Pepe said before turning, and walking out.
“ Lieutenant, have my horse saddled, and tell Captain Irwin to have his men ready to leave in ten minutes.” the colonel ordered.
“ Yes sir, right away.” Niles responded.
“ Hey pa……….Charlie got some men and went to steal them horses.” Billy said as he hurried into the house.
“ Damn that boy. When I catch up with him, I’m going to beat his ass bloody.” George Babbitt said with anger. “ Get some men together.”
“ Already did pa. They’re waiting outside with Dave.” Billy said.
“ Good. Where’s your other brother, Ed at?” he asked as he headed toward the front door.
“Up at the north section fixing fence.” Billy said.
“ You men, I don’t want my son killed unless he leaves no choice.” George said as he mounted his horse.
Johnny sat on a rock watching the moon reflection dance on the water. He couldn’t help but think about Teresa, his beautiful daughter, and what they were doing.
“ Brought you some food.” Scott said.
“ Thanks. You think I’m wrong holding up here with the herd?” Johnny asked.
“ No, the rocks give plenty of cover, and where we have the herd, they can’t bolt.” Scott said. “ You thinking about home?”
“ I never thought I would say this, but I miss home, Murdoch, my wife, and beautiful daughter.” Johnny responded.
“ I think I’m still getting used to the fact that I am an uncle.” Scott said.
“ Johnny.” Carl said as he came over to them. “ There’s a rider moving real quiet like in the trees.”
“ Just one rider?” he asked.
“ Yeah. I didn’t………………”
“ Johnny Madrid!”
“ Sonofabitch.” Johnny said as he started walking toward the voice. “ Show yourself you rotten bastard!” he yelled.
A lone figure walked out of the trees, leading his horse. “ Tell yur men to kindly point them there rifles at something else kid.”
“ What the hell you doing here Val?” Johnny asked as the two men shook hands.
“ Heard me a story, and so I thought I would see if there was any truth to it.” Val said.
“ You know you shouldn’t believe everything you hear old man.” Johnny said.
“ Old man huh, I’ll be happy to remind ya who saved who’s ass in Chihuahua.” Val said. “ Damn young, ungrateful kid.”
“ Val, this is Scott Lancer, my brother.” Johnny said.
“ Your brother………Damn kid, I don’t see ya for three years, and ya go and find a brother.” Val said. ‘ Next thing ya’ll be getting hitched and have a kid.”
“ As a matter of fact I do have a wife, and daughter at home waiting for me.” Johnny said.
“ You got any damn coffee?” Val asked gruffly.
“ You gonna tell me what this story is you heard?” Johnny asked as they walked over to the fire, and he poured Val a cup of coffee.
“ You hungry Mister Crawford?” Scott asked.
“ I ain’t ate since yesterday, but don’t go puttin yurself out for me.” Val said. “ I heard an hombre was taking a big herd of horses from California to someplace east. Funny thing though. That hombre they say was doin it I knew, so I had ta come see for myself if it was true.”
“ Four hundred head of mustangs Val. Took me and the men a year to round up, and break. These are going to Fort Whipple.” Johnny said.
“ You know you got company?” he asked.
“ How many?” Carl asked.
“ Five men. I got close enough to hear they plan on stealing as many as they can.” Val said. “ They plan on hitting you at first light. They’re camped about a mile back in the trees.”
“ Charlie Babbitt. Ran into him when we crossed the river.” Johnny said.
“ Babbitt……….didn’t you do a job for his old man a few years back?” Val asked.
“ Yeah, his father is a good man, as is the other three sons. Charlie likes to cause trouble, and take what ain’t his. He wants these horses so he can run them up into Colorado and sell them.” Johnny explained.
“ So you knows they gonna try then why the hell ya sittin here?” Val asked.
“ Because the army is coming here. I sent a man to the fort. They know of the trouble.” Johnny said. “ Where we have the horses, they can’t get them out without going thru all of us.”
“ Unless me and you do like we did down in Sonora that time to the Rurales. You remember that kid?” Val asked.
“ I remember. I also remember I took two bullets doing that.” Johnny responded.
“ There were a whole lot more of them Rurales kid. This is just five men. Besides, we got one thing in our favor kid that I ain’t told ya about yet.” Val said as he pulled the left side of his coat back, and revealed a badge.
“ You’re a lawman now?” Johnny asked.
“ Territorial sheriff of Yavapai county. Duly elected last year. But my contract is up at the end of the month.” Val said. “ So you mind them there manners kid on who you be callin an old man.”
Johnny smiled slightly, laughed. “ Scott, stay with the horses. See that the army gets them.” Johnny ordered.
“ Wait a minute, you’re going out there. Johnny, you don’t know he doesn’t have more than five men with him.” Scott said.
“ Scott, If you think I’m going to sit back and let him try and take a years worth of back breaking work from me, you thought wrong brother.” Johnny said. “ I trust Val with my life, like I do you. I want him with me on this. Let’s go Val.”
“ Why we waiting until first light to steal them horses Charlie? He won’t have as many men guarding them at night.” Curtis asked.
“ Because they’ll be busy packing up and getting ready to move.” Charlie said.
“ There’s only five of us. How we supposed to get them horses?” Alva asked.
“ We’ll get them………..and I’m gonna kill Johnny Madrid when we do.” Charlie responded.
“ You boys stand up real slow like, and toss them guns away now!” Johnny yelled from the shadows.
“What the……….” Tim said as he stood up fast and dropped his hand to his gun, pulling it, but stopped when a bullet creased his right arm.
“ Charlie Babbitt, don’t be stupid. I could have killed him. Now you and your men use your left hand, and toss them guns away!” Johnny ordered.
“ Do as he says boys.” Charlie ordered as he removed his gun, and tossed it away. “ We ain’t done nothing wrong Madrid. You got no call doing this to us.”
Johnny walked out of the shadows. “ Tryin to steal another mans stock can get you hung.”
“ You got no proof we was gonna do that.” Charlie snapped back.
Johnny walked over to Charlie and hit him hard in the mouth, knocking him down. “ You stupid sonofabitch. I got all the proof I need.”
“ What proof, it’s your word against the five of us.” Alva said.
“ You care to make a wager on that?” Johnny asked.
Charlie got up, and spit blood at Johnny’s feet. “ Go to hell half-breed!”
“ Val!” Johnny yelled.
Val walked out of the trees, his badge shining in the moonlight. “ Charlie Babbitt, I knew you would screw up eventually. I told you the last time you were in my county, I’d catch ya screwing up.”
“ You best remember who my old man is Crawford!” Charlie spat.
“ He knows who your father is boy.” George Babbitt said as he rode into the light, and dismounted.
“ Pa, tell this half-breed I ain’t guilty. I ain’t done nothing wrong.” Charlie said.
“ I told you ta leave it be. I told ya to leave them there horses alone, but did you listen……….no. You have always been the weak one, except when you’re out stealing, gambling, and whoring. I ain’t getting ya out of this one. It’s about time you start paying up for what ya do.” George said. “ You take him Sheriff Crawford, take him, and make him pay.”
“ Wait a minute pa, he’s your son, and my brother. He’ll hang.” Billy said.
“ He won’t hang, not unless I press charges.” Johnny said. “ Tell me something Charlie, you ever see a man hung? Val, why don’t you tell him what happens when they spring the trap door, and his body drops.”
“ If’n he’s lucky, his neck will snap. If not he’ll strangle to death slowly. His feet kickin around, pisses and shittin himself as his tongue starts to swell up, and helps cut off his air.” Val responded. “ Course you could be lucky and have your head taken clean off. I seen that happen a time or two in my days.”
“ That what you want happening to you Charlie?” Johnny asked. “ See, the way I see it, your answer is what’s gonna either swing you, or free you.”
“ I………I don’t want to hang. Please Madrid.” Charlie begged.
“ If’n he let’s you go, I want you to take your sorry ass out of Arizona, I don’t ever want to see you again.” George Babbitt said firmly. “ You are no longer a part of this family. I told you I work damn hard to build up what I have. I won’t lose it for an ungrateful like you.”
“ Get on your horse, and ride out………..now!” Johnny ordered.
“ I won’t forget this Madrid. I’ll see you again.” Charlie spat before going to his horse, mounting up, and riding out.
“ Madrid, it’s good to see you again. I’m sorry for all the trouble that boy caused you.” George said as he walked over to him.
“ Mister Babbitt, Billy.” Johnny said. “ Thank you.”
“ There was only one shot. I’m sure Johnny is alright.” Carl said.
“ I hope you’re right Carl.” Scott said.
“ Army’s comin Scott.” Ben said.
Scott said a silent prayer that his brother was alright as a company of soldiers rode up. “ Colonel, Captain.”
“ I’m Colonel Crook, and this is Lieutenant Irwin. I understand you have some horses for the army?” the colonel asked as he dismounted.
“ Sir, I’m Scott Lancer. The horses belong to my brother, Johnny. He’s not here right now.” Scott said. “ We brought you…………”
“ Four hundred head of mustangs, broke to ride.” Johnny said as him and Val rode up with George Babbitt. “ Every one of them sound, and meeting army regulations.”
“ I can attest to what he says Colonel Crook. You know I know good horseflesh.” George said.
“ Drive them to the fort. We have the corrals built to hold them.” Captain Irwin ordered.
“ You heard the man, get mounted. We have horses to deliver!” Johnny ordered.
Murdoch walked out of the barn at the sound of a buggy approaching. A scowl coming to his face when he seen who it was. Walking over to the buggy as it stopped.
“ Mrs Duchesne. Why you come back here?” Murdoch demanded.
“ Mister Lancer, I assure you, I am here peacefully.” Rose said. “ May I get down?”
“ Of course.” Murdoch said as he extended his hand to help her down.
“ This is Pierre Laclede, my dear, closest friend, and attorney. May we go inside? I have something very important I need to speak to you, and Teresa about.” Rose said.
“ If you are here to try and……….”
“ Mister Lancer, why don’t we go inside where it’s more private?” Pierre suggested.
“ Murdoch, would you like…………………Rose……….What are you doing here?” Teresa asked.
“ Hello Teresa. My you look lovely.” Rose said.
“ Let’s all go inside.” Murdoch said.
“ Is Johnny available?” Rose asked as they walked into the grand room.
“ I’m afraid Johnny is away on business.” Murdoch said.
“ Well, I am sorry to hear that.” Rose said. “ I am afraid our parting the last time has troubled me dearly. We never really got a chance to know each other while you were in St Louis, or should I say, the chance for you to know more about me. What I am going to tell you is not easy for me to say, but you need to know why I took you into my home. I need to tell you something about me that is painful to speak of. You see, me and Henry had two children, a daughter named Victoria, and a son, Josh. We lost Josh in the war just days before it ended, he was nineteen, Victoria would be about your age. She passed two years after Josh. I watched my Henry slowly die day by day after we buried her. The last five years have been…….. I am a lonely widow with a lot of money, and no one to leave any of it with. I wish to do that with you. I have all my affairs in order, and have asked Pierre to handle all the legalities.”
“ Rose, I’m not understanding what you are saying.” Teresa said.
“ Teresa, please let me do this for you?” Rose asked. “ The only people in my life who mean anything to me are Hannah, Charles, Pierre, and you.”
“ Teresa, what’s going on?” Murdoch asked.
Teresa looked at Murdoch, then at Rose. “ Your daughter, Victoria, how old was she when she died?” she asked, ignoring Murdoch’s question.
“ Seventeen. She was coming home when…………..Losing her two years after losing Josh slowly killed Henry. I watched every day as he tried to remain strong, but I could see the hurt, and anguish in his eyes. Please allow me to do this.” Rose responded.
“ Would you excuse me for a moment please.” Teresa said before leaving the room.
“ I’m sorry if I upset her. It was not my intentions.” Rose said.
“ What are your intentions Mrs. Duchesne?” Murdoch asked.
“ Call me Rose please. Like I said, I’m a lonely, wealthy widow with no family. I would like to leave something for Teresa, and the baby.” Rose said.
“ Would either of you like a brandy, or some lemonade?” Murdoch asked.
“ Lemonade would be nice.” Rose said. “ My last visit, you had every right to be upset with me. I gave you reason to be suspicious of me. I assure you, I have no intention of hurting them. It’s quite warm here compared to the weather in St Louis.”
“ Yes. I have a feeling we will have more rain than snow this year.” Murdoch said as he poured them a glass, and handed it to them.
“ Rose, I would like you to meet Mary Elizabeth Lancer.” Teresa said as she walked into the room.
Rose stood up, and walked over to her. “ You had a little girl. Oh my, look at that hair.” she said with a smile. “ May I?”
“ Of course.” Teresa said as she handed her the baby. “ How long can you stay?”
Rose couldn’t stop the tears from welling up in her eyes as she held the baby close. “ You are so beautiful. Just like your mother.”
“ Are you alright?” Teresa asked.
“ I’m sorry. I guess I’m just happy to get to see her.” Rose said.
“ Why don’t you stay with us for a while? We have plenty of room, and we can catch up.” Teresa suggested.
“ There you go Mister Lancer, twenty thousand dollars. I must say, you surprised me because I didn’t think you would be able to do it.” Lieutenant Niles said. “ I’m glad you proved me wrong.”
“ Been a pleasure doing business with you Lieutenant.” Johnny said as the door opened.
“ Ah good, you’re still here.” Belcher said.
“ Mister Belcher, something I can do for you?” Johnny asked.
“ Fort Bowie and Fort Yuma will both need just as many horses. Can you deliver that many over a two year period?” Belcher asked.
“ Mister Belcher, it took me a year with ten hands to round-up, and break the four hundred I just brought you. There is no way I can do eight hundred horses in two year. We barely were able to do the four hundred.”
“ What if I could arrange a special train to haul them to the forts, could you do it then?” Belcher asked.
“ Eight hundred horses in two years, broke. I’m sorry sir, but there is no way We can do six hundred head, broke and delivered.” Johnny said as Scott, and Val walked over to him.
“ Alright, how about three hundred horses delivered to each fort in two years. I figure it would take a week on the train, and you won’t have to have as many hands, or be out in the weather.” Belcher said.
“ At what price?” Johnny asked.
“ Twenty five thousand, but only if you deliver three hundred head to each fort. I have a contract written up already if you would like to look it over, and give me your answer tomorrow.” Belcher said. “ I can change the amount of horses to six hundred head, and the price if you agree.”
“ Alright, I’ll talk it over with my men, and have an answer for you in the morning.” Johnny said. “ Right now all I want is a hot bath, a hot meal, and a soft bed.”
“ I’ll second that brother.” Scott said. “ The men are waiting.”
“ Yeah, Colonel, Lieutenant, thank you for your help. Mister Belcher, I’ll have an answer for you in the morning.”
“ Good morning.” Teresa said as she walked into the kitchen carrying Mary. “ I didn’t expect to find you up already.”
“ It must be the time difference.” Rose responded as she took Mary from her. “ I’ve been having a conversation with your cook, Maria. She is very protective of you, and Johnny.”
“ Maria has been with Murdoch a long time. She helped deliver Johnny.” Teresa said.
“ Can I ask where Johnny is?” she asked.
“ Hopefully in Prescott. He took four hundred horses to Fort Whipple to sell to the army.” Teresa responded.
“ Oh my, that’s a lot of horses.” Rose said.
“ Last year he acquired a contract with the army. Two men came here and, and looked at the mustangs we have on Lancer. He work hard all last year rounding them up, and breaking them.” Teresa explained.
“ He rounded up, and broke four hundred horses in a year?” Rose asked.
“ Heavens no. He hired twenty extra men to help do that, and deliver them for the army.” she said.
“ John has a special way with horses.” Murdoch said as he walked into the kitchen.
“ You must to be very proud of him, of both your sons?” Rose asked. “ Did Scott grow up here?”
“ No, he was raised back in Boston by his grandfather.” Murdoch said. “ His mother died giving birth to him.”
“ Oh my. I am truly sorry to hear that.” Rose said. “ I couldn’t help but notice a rose garden outside my window. The fragrance is so lovely.”
“Scott’s mother started that garden shortly after we came here. The place was run down, and dried up. I remember her saying she was going to have color among all the dried up grass. She babied those roses. Many times I would find her out there watering them during the hottest part of the summer. I built that bench for her our second year here so she would have a place to sit and enjoy her flowers.”
“ I like to go out there to sit and read a book when Mary is taking her afternoon nap.” Teresa said.
“ This is a very large, beautiful place you have Mister Lancer.” Rose said.
“ After breakfast I’ll ride into town and see if there’s a wire from Johnny.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I hope there is. It’s been a month since he sent one.” Teresa said.
“ With that many horses, it’s not easy to go into a town. They had four pack horses, and I expect Johnny would be cautious on what town they went in to get more supplies.” Murdoch responded.
“ You boys did real good. I told you I would pay you an extra hundred dollars if we got that herd here. There’s three hundred dollars in each envelope. I just need you all to sign the book showing you got paid.” Johnny said. “ I want to talk to all of you about that. I was made an offer of four hundred more horses over the next two years. They wanted eight hundred, but I told them there is no way me and my men can roundup, and break eight hundred horses in two years. Seems they want them bad, so bad in fact, they’re going to arrange a train to haul them to Fort Yuma, and Fort Bowie. T I told him we could deliver six hundred head, three hundred to each fort. I know it’s going to be long hard days, and I’m willing to pay you boys two dollars a day for six days work.” Johnny explained.
“ Two years to round-up, and break six hundred horses, and then haul them by train all the way down there. Johnny, that ain’t gonna take twenty men to do.”
“ To do the hard work rounding up, and breaking them it will. I’ll let you boys decide which ten of you go with me. And I want you all to know, I won’t hold it against any of you if you want out.” Johnny explained.
“ So we still have a job?” Carl asked.
“ Yes you do, for as long as you want to work for me.” he responded.
“ So you’re willing to pay us two dollars a day to break them?” Carl asked.
“ Yes I am. Think it over. We’ll leave Prescott in three days. You boys deserve some time off. You earned it.” Johnny responded.
“ What’s your plans Val?” he asked.
“ I thought I would ride along with you since I’m out of a job. Maybe help round up them horses.” Val responded.
“ I can see why you like coming out here.” Rose said. “ It is a lovely morning. All this quiet takes some getting used to.”
“ That’s one thing I love about here. Sometimes I’ll walk up the hill to that tree, that’s where my father is buried. The sunsets are so beautiful from up there. Johnny likes to ride to the top in the evenings to watch the sunset.” Teresa said.
“ Teresa, are you happy here?” Rose asked.
“ Lancer is the most beautiful place in the whole wide world.” she said.
“ What about the house? Have you and Johnny thought about having your own house, so you have a bit more privacy?” she asked.
“ I would like that, but Johnny is happy here. It’s the only real home he’s ever had. Besides, I don’t think Murdoch would like us leaving. He’s so happy with Mary. He never got a chance with Scott, and got very little time with Johnny before his mother stole him away in the middle of the night.” Teresa responded. “ When I sat with him when he was shot in the back, he was so incoherent. He kept asking for her, for Maria. My father told me how hurt Murdoch was when Scott’ mother died, but what Maria did to him, that hurt him more than anything. To wake in the morning and find your wife and son gone.”
“ Did she leave alone?” Rose asked.
“ No, she ran off with a gambler. Murdoch didn’t know she was unhappy here, or that she was being unfaithful to him.” she said.
Rose sat down next to Teresa. “ You know I had Johnny investigated. Does it concern you that Johnny could be unfaithful to you when he’s away?”
“ It does, but all I can do is hope he remains faithful to me, as I will to him. I know those women in the saloons can be pretty persuasive to get a man in their bed. I mean, that’s what they do, how they make their living.” she responded.
“ You did not really answer my question.”
“ As long as Johnny comes home to me and Mary, that’s all I really care about.” Teresa said.
“ You know he likes those saloon women, perhaps you should talk to him about this.” Rose suggested.
“ I’ve thought about doing just that. He comes home, he’ll have been gone almost four months.” she said. “ That’s a long time to go without a woman for someone like him. I know he loves me, but he’s been unsupervised, wild, and free since he was ten. I know he has a temper, and………….”
“ And he used that temper on you when he raped you.” Rose finished. “ I seen the look in his eyes when he seen you standing there that day. I seen that same look in my Henry’s eyes the first time I seen him. I asked because I wanted to know for sure how you feel about Johnny. Any woman can get married, and have children. What makes a marriage work is trust between the husband and wife. Without that trust, your marriage is nothing more than a consummation between two people. Do you understand what I am saying?”
“ Yes I do. I love Johnny , and I know he loves me. I……..did you have doubts about Henry’s love for you at first?” Teresa asked.
“ No, I didn’t have too. I kept him happy, and he never once gave me reason to suspect him of being unfaithful to me.” Rose said as Murdoch entered the garden.
“ Teresa!” Murdoch said. “ There was a wire from Johnny. He made it to Prescott.”
Teresa stood up. “ Does he say when he will be returning?” she asked.
“ I’m afraid not sweetheart. I imagine they will rest up a day or two before they start back.” Murdoch responded. “ Is everything alright?”
“ Everything is fine. Me and Rose we having a talk about loyalty, and what makes a marriage work.” Teresa said.
“ I expect you are having loyalty doubts about Johnny?” Murdoch asked. “ Scott’s mother, she had her doubts at first about my loyalty toward her. I expect most women do, but one thing I learned while married to Catherine, a good woman will trust her husband no matter what. Johnny is young, as are you, the love you have for one another is strong Teresa. He’ll remain loyal to you because if he doesn’t, he’ll answer to me.”
“ The men ready to go?” Johnny asked.
“ Only Jose, Pepe, Seth, Ben, Carl, and the McGee brothers are outside. The rest of them Carl said rode out early this morning headed back yesterday I guess.” Scott responded.
“ Lets go home.” Johnny said as he grabbed his rifle, and walked out of the room.
“ You gonna leave without so much as a goodbye kid?” Val asked.
“ I knew you’d have your sorry ass here when I came out.” Johnny said.
“ Well I figured I would ride along with an ungrateful pup like you and see what this new life you got all the sudden is like.” Val said.
“ What about your job as territorial sheriff?” Johnny asked.
“ I quite. Decided I’d like a change of scenery, and see what was to my likin in California.” Val said. “ I see you lost most of your hands. I expect you’ll be needing more to keep that contract agreement you made with the army?”
“ I’ll keep the contract.” Johnny snapped back. “ Joe, those pack-horses ready?”
“ All ready to go Johnny.” Joe said.
“ Then let’s go home.” Johnny said as he went to Barranca.
“ Johnny Madrid…………I’m calling you out!” Charlie Babbitt yelled.
“ Sweet Jesus.” Val said.
“ Johnny, you don’t have to do this. He’s no match for you.” Scott said.
“ Stay out of it Scott.” Val ordered. “ You go interfering, and you’ll get him kilt for sure.”
Johnny sighed, turned around, and walked out into the street. “ You in a hurry to die Charlie?” he asked.
“ Shut up! I’m not leaving here until you’re dead.” Charlie snapped back as he stepped out into the street to face Madrid.
“ Pa, you better come out here.” Billy said.
“ Charlie, don’t do this. You can’t beat him, he’ll kill you!” Billy yelled.
“ Oh my god.” George said softly as he watched his son face off with Madrid.
“ Better listen to your brother. I don’t want to kill you Charlie. This is pointless. Walk away.” Johnny said.
“ You go to hell!” Charlie spat as he drew and fired just as a bullet sliced into his upper right leg, dropping him to the ground.
“ Drop the gun now Charlie, it’s over.” Johnny ordered.
Charlie stood up, and cocked his pistol again. “ I’m going to kill you.” he said as he brought the gun up to fire.
“ Damn it Charlie!” Johnny said as he fired again, hitting Charlie square in the chest.
George Babbitt walked down the street, and stopped at the still body of his son. “ Damn fool kid.”
“ I didn’t want this Mister Babbitt. I didn’t want to kill him.” Johnny said.
“ I know you didn’t son.” George said as he walked over to him, and placed a hand on his right shoulder. “ Don’t blame yourself for this. My boy went bad years ago. It seems Billy’s the only one with any real horse smarts. My other two boys, Dave, and Ed, they do alright, but don’t have the smarts Billy has for horses.”
“ Johnny, let’s go home.” Scott said.
“ Agatha, It’s good to see you.” Murdoch said. “ To what do I owe this visit?”
“ Murdoch, I thought I would come see your granddaughter.” Aggie said as she dismounted.
“ Teresa is inside, and I believe my granddaughter is awake.” Murdoch said. “ Can you stay for supper?”
“ I would love too.” Aggie said as they walked into the grand room.
“ Mrs. Conway, what a lovely surprise.” Teresa said as she stood up, and walked over to her.
“ Hello Teresa. I thought I would come and see how you and the baby are doing.” Agatha said. “ I’m sorry, I didn’t know you had company.”
“ Mrs. Conway, this is Rose Duchesne, a very good dear friend, and savior from St. Louis.” Teresa explained. “ Rose, this is Mrs. Conway, she has a ranch next to Lancer.”
Rose stood up, and walked over to the. “ Mrs. Conway, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“ And this is Mary Elizabeth Lancer.” Teresa said as she took the baby from Rose, and handed her to Aggie.
“ Oh my goodness, look at all that hair.” Aggie said as she took the baby in her arms. “ She’s beautiful Teresa. Have you heard from Johnny at all?”
“ Just that he made it to Prescott.” Murdoch said. “ I expect they’re on their way home now.”
“ I hope he’s home in time for Mary’s first birthday.” Teresa said.
“ Agatha will be joining us for supper.” Murdoch said.
“ Did you tell them when we would be home?” Scott asked.
“ No, I wanted to surprise Teresa.” Johnny said as he watched two men come in the saloon. “ Val.”
“ I see ’em kid. What the hell they doing this far from the border?” Val responded.
“ You know those two?” Scott asked.
“ We do. The taller one put a bullet in Johnny’s back.” Val said.
“ Why?” he asked.
“ Ollie, and Curtis Hill. Me and the kid were headed to Chihuahua when the older brother Curtis, decided to put a bullet in Johnny’s back..” Val responded. “ Took him almost a month to heal up from that damn bullet.”
“ Shut up Val.” Johnny snapped.
“ Damn boy, he’s yur brother.” Val said.
“ You talk to damn much. Shut the hell up.” Johnny snapped back.
“ Damn stubborn kid.” Val said. “ I’ll never understand why you want to keep your past so secretive.”
“ Because it’s my past.
“ You see who just walked out?” Ollie Hill asked.
“ I did. I also see who is sitting at the table over there.” Curtis Hill responded.
“ Val Crawford, sonofabitch.” Ollie said as he slammed his beer down on the bar.
‘ Let it go brother. Crawford is an easy target. It’s Madrid we want.” Curtis said.
“ I can’t believe that sonofabitch is still alive. We put a bullet in his back.” Ollie said. “ Why don’t we use Crawford to get him?”
“ Now you’re thinking brother.” Curtis said.
“ Excuse me, did I hear you say you want to kill the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” a man asked.
“ What’s it to you?” Ollie asked.
“ I know Madrid from Mexico. That swine killed my cousin. I swore I would get revenge for his death.” the man said.
“ Revenge huh, and just who the hell are you?” Curtis demanded.
“ General Joaquin Rea.”
“ You still got a burr under your saddle kid?” Val asked.
“ You ever going to learn to keep your mouth shut?” Johnny asked back.
“ Probably not. I meant no harm last night kid. I didn’t think you would mind your brother knowing.” Val said. “ So how far to this ranch of yours?”
Scott and Johnny stopped their horses on top of the hill. “ From here, as far as the eyes can see, Lancer.” Johnny said.
“ Damn kid, you’ve done alright for yourself.” Val said as he looked at the valley below.
“ Let’s go home.” Johnny said as he spurred Barranca into a gallop down the hill.
“ Hey, look at that sign.” Ollie said.
“ Lancer.” Curtis said. “ Right nice of that hotel clerk to tell us that blonde ones name.”
“ You think Madrid, and Crawford are working for him?” Ollie asked.
“ Don’t matter. We nab Crawford like we planned, and Madrid will come to us.” Curtis responded. “ What was the name of that town?”
“ Morro Coyo.” Ollie said. “ This road will take us there.”
“ Where we gonna do it? I mean, we take Crawford, where we take him?” Ollie said.
“ Why not do it right in town. Let everyone see Madrid die.” Curtis said. “ Looks like rain coming. Lets get to town before it hits.”
“ I must say, that beef burgundy was very good.” Murdoch said. “ I think Scott, and Johnny will like it.”
“ I have a feeling Johnny, whenever he comes home, is going to want stuffed peppers.” Teresa said.
“ Got that right beautiful lady.” Johnny said from the foyer.
“ Johnny.” Teresa said as she stood up, and ran to his open arms. “ Oh I missed you so much.”
Johnny wrapped his arms around her, picked her up, and spun her around. “ I missed you too.” he said before kissing her.
“ Welcome home boys.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and walked over to them.
“ It’s good to be home finally sir.” Scott said. “ Do I get one of those hugs?”
“ Of course you do Scott. Welcome home.” Teresa said as she gave him a hug.
“ Where’s Mary?” Johnny asked.
“ Over there in the cradle sleeping.” Teresa said.
Johnny walked over to the cradle, and looked down at his beautiful sleeping daughter. Reaching down, he carefully picked her up, and walked over to Val. “ This is my wife Teresa, father Murdoch, and my daughter Mary Elizabeth Lancer. This is an old friend of mine, Val Crawford.”
“ Mister Crawford, welcome.” Murdoch asked.
“ Val was a lawman for Yavapai county. He helped me save the herd from being rustled.” Johnny said as he sat down with Mary in his arms.
“ So you were a lawman. Can I ask for how many years?” Murdoch asked.
“ Off and on for the last ten years in different places. Mostly Arizona, worked in San Angelo, Texas three years before I met Johnny. I’ve done guarding of stagecoaches hauling money. Worked range wars with Johnny. Drifted from town to town, takin whatever work I could find.” Val explained.
“ The reason I’m asking is we need a lawman in Spanish Wells…………”
“ Murdoch, you mind not drilling Val, we just got home.” Johnny cut in.
“ Of course. I’m sorry.” Murdoch said. “ Will you be staying with us?”
“ Yeah he is.” Johnny said. “ I asked him to stay a while.”
“ That’s fine son. Would you care for a drink Mister Crawford?” Murdoch asked.
“Whiskey, and it’s Val. I ain’t old enough ta be called mister.” Val said. “ Regardless of what some might think.”
“ How did you and Johnny meet?” Teresa asked.
Val looked at Johnny. “ Can I tell ’em, or is that a secret too?”
Murdoch looked at his youngest son, and got a feeling of animosity between the two men. He wonder a lot about his sons past. Things not in the Pinkerton reports.
“ I’m going to go clean up.” Johnny said as he stood up, walked over, put Mary back in the cradle, and headed upstairs.
“ I stumbled upon Johnny near death down in Sonora. He’d been shot three times, and was near dead. I dug the remaining two bullets out of him, and played nursemaid for two weeks before he was strong enough to ride.” Val explained.
“ Remaining two bullets. You said Johnny was shot three times.” Teresa said.
“ He was. Seems he dug the bullet out of his side himself. Stitched it up too.” Val responded.
“ You mean Johnny removed a bullet in his side, and stitched it up himself?” Teresa asked.
“ Yes ma’am he did. I don’t know what all that kid has told ya about his past Mister Lancer, but I will tell ya, you won’t find a tougher man anywhere. Johnny has had things done to him while in a Mexican prison that would make you sick.” Val responded.
“ I have Pinkerton reports on him. I’ve searched for my son ever since his mother took him from me when he was barely two years old. They tell me of some of the abuse he’s suffered.” Murdoch said.
“ If you will excuse me. It’s getting late.” Teresa said as she picked Mary up. “ Thank you Scott, for bringing my husband home safely.”
Scott stood up, and gave Mary a soft kiss on the forehead. “ Both me and Johnny know what it’s like to not have a father growing up. I wasn’t about to let that happen to my niece.”
“ Mister Crawford, there’s a room already made up across from Scott’s room that you can sleep in.” she said.
“ Thank you ma’am. I expect I won’t be seeing Johnny again till morning.” Val said.
Teresa walked into the bedroom with Mary, and placed her in the cradle at the end of the bed as Johnny walked into the room, and closed the door, locking it.
“ How did it go with the army? Were they pleased with the horses?” Teresa asked.
“ It went good. I put seventeen thousand dollars in the bank. I have another order from the army.” Johnny responded as he walked over and sat down on the bed next to her.
“ When?” she asked.
“ Six hundred horses in two years. Three hundred each delivered to Fort Bowie, and Fort Yuma.” he responded as he lay back on the bed. “ They wanted eight hundred head in two years, but I told them there is no way it could be done. Rounding them up would happen, but not breaking and delivering them on time.”
“ For how much money?” Teresa asked.
“ Twenty five thousand. Only difference is this time they will be taken by train, so I won’t be gone as long.” he said.
Teresa walked over to the dresser, and took out the papers.“ You don’t have to do the horses Johnny. You don’t have to be away from us almost half a year ever again.” she said as she handed him the papers.
“ What’s this?” Johnny asked as he sat up in bed.
“ Rose came for a visit. She just left Saturday. I learned a lot about her while she was here. She’s a really sweet person.” Teresa said.
“ What is this?” Johnny demanded.
“ It’s a future for us and our children Johnny. That’s why I said you don’t have to leave us anymore.” Teresa said. “ I’ve been doing a lot of thinking while you were gone. Thinking about what I want for us, for me.”
“And what is that?” he asked as he scooted over next to them.
“ I don’t want Mary, or any of our other children I give you growing up without a father. You of all people know what that is like.” she said.
“ So this woman gives you two hundred thousand dollars, and yet she wants nothing in return. I don’t buy it.” Johnny said.
“ Why are you angry about this?” she asked.
“ You’re my wife. I come home and learn you accept this money from this woman without talking to me about it. I thought we………..don’t think I’m going to let you take my daughter away from me now that you have all that money.” Johnny said with anger as he stood up.
“ Johnny, stop it. I have no intention of taking Mary away from you. I would never do what your mother did to Murdoch.” Teresa said with tears running down her cheeks. “ I love you. I don’t ever want to lose you.”
“ Horses are what I want to do Teresa, you know that. We talked about this before I accepted the contract. Am I supposed to just give up half of what I have dreamed of having my whole life?” he asked.
“ No. Jesus Johnny, why are you being so angry at me. I didn’t ask Rose to do this. I want a good life for us. I want you to be able to live the life you deserve, to be happy. To not have to worry about being called out, and killed.” Teresa said.
Johnny walked over to her. “ I’m not angry at you……….I’m sorry. It’s just that after what she said when she was here the last time. Are you sure she has no motive for doing this for you?”
“ She said she wanted to make sure we will be okay, and that the children will have a good future. Rose means no harm. She’s a very lonely widow who has nobody. She lost her son in the war, Her daughter was tragically killed. Losing both children killed her husband a few years ago.” Teresa said.
“ I’m your husband. It’s my responsibility to provide for you and our children.” Johnny said. “ You said you want things for us, and you. What do you want Teresa? Because it seems to me I’m not making you happy.”
“ You make me happy Johnny. I want our own house., and our own lives.” she said.
“ Our own house. So you don’t want to live here at Lancer?” he asked.
“ I don’t mean leave Lancer. We could build our own home on Lancer Johnny. A home for us as a family.” she said.
“ We are a family. You want me to take our daughter away from Murdoch? He didn’t get a chance to be a father to me or Scott. I’m not about to deprive him of his grandchildren.” Johnny responded with anger.
“ He can still see them. Why is I okay for you to want your precious horse business, and I can’t want a home that would be just ours?” she demanded.
“ Make me a promise right here, right now?” he asked.
“ Promise me we never have a fight like this ever again. That any decisions about our future we make together?” he asked. “ that you don’t keep from me how you feel, or what you want?”
Teresa moved closer to him. “ I promise as long as you do the same.”
( WARNING, ADULT CONTENT)
“ I’ve dreamed of this night for so long.” he said as he walked over to her.
“ So have I my love.” she said as she wrapped her arms around him.
“ Take your clothes off. I want you in the worst way.” Johnny said.
Teresa smiled as she removed her clothes. “ I’ve had dreams of this night. Dreams that have increased lately.” she said as she stepped out of her dress, and walked over to her husband.
Johnny sat up, and reached out for her hand, pulling her down next to him. “ I haven’t been with anyone else Teresa. It’s important that you know that.”
“ I never doubted your love, or loyalty to me Johnny.” Teresa said before their mouths came together.
Johnny moaned as his body started to respond as he deepened the kiss. Running his right hand over her body, and down between her legs, he slid two fingers inside her, and began massaging the spot he knew would drive her over the edge. Claiming her mouth again with hunger as his hand worked faster. His hardness throbbing, and becoming painful as he pressed against her left leg.
Teresa moaned aloud as her body responded, and her muscles tightened around his fingers. “ Oh Johnny, I’m going to explode.” she panted as her body started to spasm, and quiver.
Grabbing Teresa, he pulled her on top of him, reaching down, he guided his hardness into her just before her body exploded. Thrusting upwards harder, and faster every time until he finally exploded.
Twenty minutes later, Johnny lay on his left side, his body curled around hers. “ I want our next child to be a boy.”
“ Then I suggest we keep doing what we just did to make a son.” she said as she raised her right leg, and brought it up over his. Reaching down, she took him in her hand and started getting him hard again by rubbing his tip against her wetness.
Johnny reached down, and covered her hand with his, and guided himself into her again. Pulling her back tightly against him as he started to move.
( Final Chapter )
“ Morning son.” Murdoch said.
“ Good morning.” Scott said as he sat down. “ Johnny been down yet?”
“ Not yet. I expect we won’t see him or Teresa much today.” Murdoch responded.
“ It sounded like they were having an argument when I walked by their room last night.” Scott said.
“ I expect I know what that would be about. How did the trip go?” Murdoch said, and asked.
“ It went good. Real good. Do you know a horse rancher named George Babbitt?” Scott asked.
“ No, I can’t say I do.” Murdoch said. “ Why do you ask?”
“ Johnny worked for the man. It was one of his sons who tried to steal the herd after we crossed the river into Arizona. Johnny let him go, but ended up killing him a week later when he called Johnny out. He tried everything he could to not do it. He even wounded him.” Scott said.
“ Was your brother hurt?” Murdoch asked.
“ Not physically. He knew the family, and killed the boy in front of his father.” Scott responded.
“Damn.” Murdoch said as Val came into the kitchen.
“ Morning Scott, Mister Lancer.” Val said.
“ Good morning. Sleep well?” Scott asked.
“ Never slept on a bed that big or soft.” Val said. “ You were talking last night about needin some law around here.”
“ We do. Spanish Wells is growing, and we’ve been unable to find someone to wear a badge, and stop the trouble.” Murdoch responded.
“ What you not telling me Mister Lancer?” Val asked.
“ You would have to be approved by the Cattleman’s association at the next meeting.” Murdoch said. “ Would I be correct in assuming you are a gunfighter Mister Crawford?”
“ You would. Is that a problem?” Val asked.
“ Not as long as you’re not wanted by the law.” Murdoch said. “ The job, if approved will pay you forty dollars a month and fifty cents for every arrest.”
“ Is there a jail in that town?” Val asked.
“ Yes, I had it built last year.” he said.
“ I see. I’ll tell you what Mister Lancer, I’ll take me a ride to this Spanish Wells, and have a look around. I’ll give you an answer then.” Val said.
“ Hey, that whore I was with last night told me something interesting.” Ollie said.
“ Yeah, and what’s that?” Curtis asked.
“ Madrid ain’t working for Lancer. He is a Lancer. Got himself a wife and kid too.” he said.
“ And how do you know that what this whore said is true?” Curtis asked.
“ Madrid used to be a regular customer for her every Saturday night. She got pissed when she learned he got married.” he said.
“ So Madrid is a Lancer, and has a wife, and kid. We may not have to use Crawford to get to Madrid.” Curtis said.
“ Wait a minute brother, I may be a lot of things, and done some bad things, but I ain’t hurting no woman, or baby.” Ollie said.
“ I didn’t say we would hurt them. I was just thinking that if we nabbed them, it would guarantee us Madrid would come. It would give us a better advantage.” he said.
“ She ain’t gonna be going anywhere alone so we can nab her. I say we stick with grabbing Crawford.” Ollie said.
“ We’ll see.” his brother said.
“ Something on your mind son?” Murdoch asked.
“ How long was she here?” Johnny asked.
“ I’m assuming you mean Mrs. Duchesne. She was her a couple weeks.” he said.
“ You know what she did?” he asked.
“ I do. She explained to us why. I don’t think she meant any harm in doing it son. She appeared to be legit, and very concerned for Teresa, and the future of your children.” he said.
“ Teresa isn’t happy here. She wants her own house.” Johnny said.
“ I know. We talked about it after Mrs. Duchesne left.” Murdoch said.
“ She tell you she’s not happy with me selling horses to the army?” he asked.
“ No, I knew she missed you, and worried, but she never said anything to me about not wanting you to do it.” Murdoch responded. “ Why didn’t she say something before you accepted the contract or left?”
“ I don’t know. I asked her that very question.” Johnny said. “I have another contract I accepted. I have two years to round-up, and break six hundred more horses, and deliver three hundred each to Fort Yuma, and Fort Bowie. Only difference is they are gonna have a special train to take them down. They wanted eight hundred head, but I told them there is no way I could round-up, break, and deliver eight hundred head of horses to those forts in two years time. I’m delivering three hundred head to each fort for twenty five thousand. Teresa said she’s not happy with me being gone four months. I told her about the train, and that I would be gone four weeks, but it didn’t matter.”
“ Son, sometimes we have to make changes in our lives, especially when we have a family to consider. I’m not saying you can’t sell horses to the army. I know that’s something you want to do. You’re very good with a horse. All I’m saying is think about what Teresa said, and wants. See if you can compromise what you do.” his father suggested.
“ And what do I do about her not wanting to live here anymore?” he asked.
“ I’m sorry son. I think Teresa has insecure feelings. She’s still young. Scott’s mother had the same feelings when we came here, and I bought Lancer. She was afraid we would fail.”
“ Was my mother the same way?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes, worse in fact. Being pregnant as you know changes a woman, It’s not easy on their body to carry, and give birth to a child. I can understand Teresa wanting her own place. Just try and see it from her side son. Don’t make the same mistake I did with your mother when I didn’t see how unhappy she was here.” Murdoch said.
“ Did she tell you about not wanting to live here after that woman left?” he asked.
“ Yes she did son. I don’t know if Mrs. Duchesne put that idea in her head or not though. They spent a lot of time talking out in the rose garden while the baby napped.” Murdoch said.
“ You said we sometimes have to make changes in our lives, especially when we have family to consider. I grew up without my father. Yeah I had Adolfo, but he wasn’t my real father. I’m not about to move from this house, and deprive you from seeing your grandchildren. Making you have to come to wherever we lived to see them.” Johnny said firmly.
Murdoch stood up, and walked over to his son, placing his right hand on Johnny’s left shoulder. “ I want you to know I will stand by you on any decision you make John. Just make sure you make the right one.”
“ I told her I would never allow her to take my children from me. She said she would never leave me. I feel like I would be leaving you if I did what she wants. I feel safe here. You know how long it’s been since I felt I didn’t have to wear my damn gun all the time? Too damn long. Yeah I wore it a few months after I came here, but I started feeling more comfortable, and stopped wearing it. Hell the day she tried to kill me, I felt comfortable working without wearing it.” Johnny said with anger.
“ Where’s Teresa now?” his father asked.
“ She’s upstairs sleeping. I didn’t let her get a lot of sleep last night.” he said as he walked over and poured a shot of whiskey. “ Where’s Val?”
“ He rode to Spanish Wells to look around. I talked to him about becoming sheriff. He said he would let me know.” he responded.
“ Don’t the cattlemen have to approve it?” Johnny asked.
“ They do. Son, I know you don’t like to talk about your past, and what I do know is what’s in those Pinkerton reports I have. Would it bother you if I asked you to tell me about Val? I’d like to know what kind of man he is.”
“ Val is a good man for the job Murdoch. He may not dress well, and might be a bit of a slob, but he does his job. He plays no favors, and is fair.” Johnny said. “ I know he told you how we met last night. After I was healed up, Val talked me in to going with him and working range wars together. We did that for a long time, and then he took a job as a sheriff for a couple months to clean up a town in Texas. I left, and went to Sonora. That’s the last time I seen him until he showed up at our camp in Arizona.”
“ And at that time he was the sheriff of Yavapai county?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah. He said his contract was up with them the end of the month, so he decided to come back with us, and maybe help round up horses.” Johnny said.
Val walked into the saloon in Spanish Wells, and ordered a cold beer. Too late to ride back to Lancer, he decided to stay the night. He liked the looks of the town, and talked to some of the residents, asking how they would feel if the town had a sheriff. Most of the business owners wanted law and order in Spanish Wells. The Mayor, a burly man named Sutter told him the California Cattle Growers Association had the final say on who was elected to be the sheriff. Standing up, Val left the saloon and headed to the hotel.
“ Hello Crawford.” Curtis said as he stepped out of the darkness of an alley, and cocked his pistol.
“ What the hell you two want?’ Val demanded.
“ You, you’re gonna be bait for a bigger catch.” Curtis said.
“ Bait, what the hell ya talking about?” Val demanded as Ollie removed his pistol.
“ Bait to bring Madrid to us.” he said. “ Now we’re gonna take a little walk over to the jail.”
“ You boys are making a big mistake doing this.” Val said as they walked across the street to the jail.
“ Inside.” Curtis ordered as he opened the jailhouse door. “ See if there’s a set of keys in the drawer to the cells.”
Ollie went over and found keys in the top drawer. “ This went easier than I thought it would brother.”
“ Inside Crawford. You better hope for your sake that Madrid comes.” Curtis said.
“ Oh Johnny will come, and when he does, he’ll make sure you two are dead.” Val said as he walked into the cell.
“ When he comes, you can watch him die.” Curtis said as he locked the cell door. “ Ollie, ride on out to Lancer, and tell Madrid.”
“ Wait a minute, you said nothing about me going out there. It’s one in the morning.” Ollie said.
“ It will be sunup by the time you ride out there.” Curtis responded.
“ Madrid will kill me once I tell him we have Crawford.” Ollie said.
“ Tell him that if he don’t come back with you, I’ll kill Crawford. Now get going.” Curtis ordered.
“ I’m going to bed.” Johnny said as he stood up.
“ When were you going to start rounding up horses again son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I figured I’d go after that big herd out by Black Mesa on Sunday.” Johnny said.
“ Sunday, Johnny, I was hoping we could spend the day together..” Teresa cut in.
“ I have twenty two months to round up, sort, and break six hundred head of horses Teresa.” Johnny responded. “ I signed a contract with the army to deliver those horses, and that’s what I am going to do. You said nothing before I started this, or before I left about not wanting me to do this.”
“ You never asked me Johnny. Not once did you talk to me about doing this. You talked to Murdoch, and Scott. You made the decision on your own.” Teresa said.
“ You knew what I was doing. It wasn’t kept from you, unlike you accepting that money without talking to me about it.” Johnny responded. “ Do you have any idea how that makes me feel Teresa? To have a woman who clearly doesn’t like me come here, and give my wife that much money?”
“ So because of what Rose did for us, you’re going to punish me by doing this?” she asked.
Johnny stood there staring at his wife. He couldn’t believe how she was being toward him. “ Is that what you think of me?” he asked.
‘ I don’t know what to think of you anymore Johnny.” Teresa said.
“ Think what you like. I’m tired, and going to bed. I suggest you do some serious thinking about what you really want Teresa, because I’m not going to allow your behavior toward me to continue. I am who I am, and you either accept who I am, or……………I’ll see you in the morning Murdoch, Scott.”
“ Johnny, wake up!” he heard his brother say from the other side of their bedroom door as he pounded on it.
Johnny hurried to his bedroom door, and jerked it open. “ What’s wrong?”
“ Get dressed and come downstairs.” Scott ordered.
Johnny knew it was something serious, he seen the look in his brothers eyes. Walking back over to his side of the bed, he quickly got dressed, and hurried downstairs.
“ What’s going on.” he asked as he walked into the grand room, and found Ollie Hall standing there. “ You sonofabitch!” he said as he lashed out, and hit Ollie hard in the mouth.
“ Johnny don’t.” Scott pleaded.
“ Son, let him go.” Murdoch ordered.
“ What the hell is he doing here?” Johnny demanded.
“ I’m here for you Madrid. See, we got unfinished business to take care of.” Ollie said.
“ What unfinished business? You and your fucking brother shot me in the back.” Johnny spat.
“ We have your friend Crawford locked up in the jail in Spanish Wells. If you don’t come back with me, he dies.”
Johnny lashed out and hit Ollie again in the mouth. “ You bastard. I’ll kill you!” Johnny said as Murdoch, and Scott grabbed him, to pull him off.
“ If I don’t make it back in a certain amount of time……….with you, Curtis will kill him.” Ollie spat.
“ I’ll hunt you down. As I live and breath, you kill my son, I won’t rest until you and your brother are dead.” Murdoch said with anger. “ get the hell out of my house……….now!”
“ Sure, I’ll wait for ya outside. Just remember, what I said. You don’t come back with me, Crawford dies.” Ollie said before walking outside.
“ Johnny, I’m not going to let you go alone son.” Murdoch said.
“ I know.” Johnny said before walking outside.
“ You best not get any ideas about following us.” Ollie ordered.
Johnny took the reins to Barranca, and swung up in the saddle. “ Scott……….take care of my family.”
Scott and Murdoch stood there watching Johnny ride away with Ollie Hill.
“ Let’s go son.” Murdoch said as they headed to the barn to saddle their horses.
Teresa stood at the window, and watched Johnny ride away. She had stood at the top of the stairs and heard what was said.
“ Time to go Crawford. Madrid don’t ride down that street in thirty minutes, you die.” Curtis said as he unlocked the cell.
Val stood up, and walked out of the cell. “ You can ride out now, and live to see the sun set. You don’t, and Johnny will shoot you and your brother down like the dogs you are.”
“ Oh I don’t think so. See, me and my brother have a little surprise for Madrid.” Curtis said as he shoved Val out into the office. “ I believe you two know each other.”
Val looked at a man sitting at the desk. “ Do I know you?”
“ No, but Madrid does. I have waited many years to get my chance at revenge.” Rea said. “ Revenge I swore I would not rest until I carried out against that half-breed mestizo for killing my cousin.”
“ It seems Rea seen you and Madrid that night in Barstow, and overheard me and my brother talking. He’s got a deeper hate for that bastard than we do.” Curtis said.
“ Oh, don’t think you will be able to warn him. You will be shackled to the bars on the window outside, and gagged.” Rea said as he walked over to Val, with the shackles in his hand.
“ Outside Crawford.” Curtis ordered.
Val walked outside and stopped. Holding out his hands so Curtis could put the shackles on him.
“Don’t want you missing all the fun.” Curtis said as he tied a kerchief around Val’s mouth.
“ Shackle him to the bars on the window, up high so he can’t remove the gag.” Rea ordered as he walked out with a rifle in his hand. “ You make sure he’s in the middle of the street.” Rea ordered before taking his rifle, and heading across the street to the hotel.
Johnny, and Ollie rode into Spanish Wells, stopping just down the street from the jail. He could see Val shackled and gagged to the hitching post in front of the jail.
“ Get down!” Ollie ordered as he dismounted.
Johnny dismounted, and tied Barranca to the rail. Stepping out into the middle of the street as Curtis walked out to face him. Ollie walks down to join his brother.
“ I’m here, let Val go!” Johnny ordered.
“ You’re in no position to be giving us orders half-breed.” Curtis yelled back. “ Crawford stays where he’s at. I want him to watch you get gunned down.”
“ Let him go! It’s me you want! It’s me you got!” Johnny yelled. “ Let him go now!”
Val tried desperately to warn his friend of the third person on the roof of the hotel across the street. Rubbing the side of his face on his left arm, trying to get the gag to loosen to know avail.
Johnny couldn’t help but wonder why if Val was shackled, why was he also gagged. Taking a risk, he scanned the rooftops, and windows the best he could.
“ You won’t be so lucky this time Madrid.!” Ollie said.
Johnny caught movement on the roof of the hotel, spinning, he drew, and fired three shots as a bullet tore into his right side, spinning him around. Aiming his colt, he fired, hitting Curtis in the head as a bullet slammed into his back, knocking him to the ground. Aiming again, Johnny fired as Ollie dove behind the water trough, hitting the man in the leg. Knowing the shooter was still on the roof, Johnny tried to moved over behind some wooden crates as another bullet tore a path along his ribs. Looking at his right side as a bullet splintered wood just above his head. He knew the shooter wasn’t Ollie Hill. It was whoever the third man was on the roof. Reloading his colt as another bullet tore into the crate next to him, spraying him with splinters.
“ Johnny!” Scott yelled as he dismounted, rifle in hand.
“ Scott, there’s a shooter on the hotel roof!” Johnny yelled. “ Ollie is behind the water trough on the other side.”
“ Scott, go around behind the buildings on this side, and see if you can get the one behind the water trough. I’ll go around and make my way into the hotel from the back. “ Johnny, stay where your at!”
Johnny knew he was in trouble, his left arm rendered useless, the copper smell strong as blood ran down his back, and soaked his right side. Looking down the street, he could see the top of Ollie Hill’s back as he coward behind the water trough. Aiming, he fired, his bullet hitting the man in the back causing him to rise up enough that Johnny was able to put another bullet in his chest, causing him to fall into the water trough dead.
“ Come on out from hiding, and face me mestizo!” Rea yelled as he stepped out into the street.
Johnny looked, and couldn’t believe who he was seeing walking out into the street. General Joaquin Rea, known as the butcher of Sonora.
Scott went between the jail, and hardware store, aiming his rifle at the man standing in the street. He could see his father come out of the hotel across the street, pistol in hand.
“ Tell your two gringo friends to stay out of this!” Rea ordered. “ Or are you now a coward too afraid to face me?”
Johnny pushed himself up with his right arm, and walked out into the street. His left arm hanging limp at his side, his right side on fire.
“ Murdoch,…… Scott,…… stay out of this!” he ordered.
Murdoch could see his sons right side soaked in blood, and his left arm hung limp as blood dripped off the fingers. “ Johnny, don’t do this!” he yelled as he stepped down into the street.
“ Shut up old man!” Johnny ordered. “ General Rea, you butchered a lot of innocent people…….. Men…….women…….and children. Innocent peasants just trying to make a living!”
“ The Yaqui had no rights to Mexico. They had to be eradicated. Mexico belongs to the Mexicans, not Indians, not gringos, and not to half-breeds like you!” Rea yelled.
Johnny could feel himself getting weaker as blood continued to seep from his wounds. Knowing he wouldn’t be able to stay on his feet much longer, he drew, fanned his colt, and hit Rea between the eyes. Standing there, he watched the man drop to his knees, and fall forward dead.
Murdoch ran to his sons side. “ Sam!” he yelled as Johnny fell to the ground.
Scott removed the gag from Val, and unlocked the shackles before hurrying to his brothers side.
“ Val?” Johnny said softly.
“ I’m right here buddy.” Val said. “ I’m sorry I couldn’t warn you about the third shooter kid.”
“ It’s okay.” Johnny said as he struggled to stay conscious.
“ Let’s get him to my office.” Sam said as he hurried over to them.
“ I don’t feel to good Sam.”
“ I need to stop that bleeding.” Sam ordered.
“ Scott, go get Teresa.” Murdoch ordered as he picked his son up, and started toward Sam’s office.
Teresa hurried into Sam’s office. “ Johnny?”
“ He’s alive.” Murdoch said. “ Sam hasn’t come out yet.”
“ How bad was he shot?’ she asked.
“ He was shot in his right side, and in the back of his left shoulder.” Val said. “ He couldn’t move his left arm.”
“ Val.” Murdoch said.
“ I’m not gonna sugarcoat it for her Mister Lancer. She has a right to hear the truth.” Val snapped back. “ There was another man here to kill Johnny. A Mexican General named Joaquin Rea. He’s known as the butcher in Sonora, for the way he murdered innocent Yaqui Indians, and peasants. Some of his men attacked a small village Johnny was in. He killed the leader of the attack, who turned out to be General Rea’s cousin.” he explained.
“ How the devil did that man know Johnny was here?” Murdoch demanded.
“ He was in the saloon in Barstow. We seen the Hill brothers there, but never seen Rea. Curtis said he overheard them talking about Johnny, and came here with them to kill him. I was shackled, and gagged, I had no way of warning Johnny about the man being on the hotel roof. The damn fool kid shouldn’t have come to town. He has a wife and baby girl to consider now.” Val said with a quiver to his voice.
“ Val, Johnny came here because you’re his friend. You of all people know he would do anything to help a friend.” Teresa said. “ Even if it might cost him his life.”
“ Don’t help if he dies.” Val said as Sam came out of the back room.
“ He won’t die.” Sam said.
“ How bad is it Sam?” Teresa asked.
“ He was shot three times. The bullet in his side I was able to remove. Another bullet entered from the front and came out his back. Given the angle of the entry, and exit, that bullet came from someone on a roof. The third bullet creased his ribs on the right side, leaving a deep furrow I cleaned out, and stitched up.”
“ When can he go home Sam, so I can take care of him?” Teresa asked.
“ Not until he’s stronger. I don’t want him riding in the back of a wagon, bouncing around. I’ll keep him here for a few days, and then he can be moved over to the hotel.” Sam said.
“ Murdoch, you want us to approve the hiring of this Val Crawford as the new sheriff of Spanish Wells?” Charlie Poe asked.
“ Yes, I think he would be good for the job. He’s worked as a lawman before in Texas, and Arizona.” Murdoch responded. “ This is a file on Crawford. I had the Pinkerton’s check on him. He has never broke the law, and is a good man. The right man for this job.”
“ Murdoch, isn’t it because of this man Crawford, your son Johnny almost lost his life?” Dan Marvin asked.
“ No. What happened in Spanish Wells was not Val Crawford’s fault, or doing. Three men came here to Spanish Wells to kill my son. Two brothers, Ollie, and Curtis Hill. The third man a General Joaquin Rea, was known as a butcher in Mexico, for what he did to the Yaqui Indians, and innocent peasants. My son was in a village in Sonora when that mans cousin came in, and started killing men, women, and children. Johnny killed the man, and several of his soldiers.” Murdoch responded.
“ So because of your son, killers came to Spanish Wells, and endangered the lives of all the good citizens of my town.” Mayor Sutter said. “ He himself is a gunfighter, and you want a gunfighter to be hired as the sheriff.”
“ My son is not a gunfighter any longer Mayor Sutter. Johnny came home to be my son, and live his life as Johnny Lancer. He has a contract with the army to provide horses for the forts, a wife, and daughter.” Murdoch responded. “ He deserves a chance to live that life, and I will do everything I can to see he does.”
“ Mayor Sutter, we are not here to persecute Johnny for his past. I’m sure there are things in your past you wouldn’t want others to know you did.” Charlie Poe said.
“I see no problem with hiring Crawford as the new sheriff of Spanish Wells.” Toby Jenks said.
“ Alright, Mayor Sutter, you can swear Crawford in as the new sheriff.” Dan Marvin said.
“ How is Johnny doing?” Charlie asked.
“ He’s getting better. It will take time, but Sam said he will make a full recovery.” Murdoch responded.
“ John, how you feeling?” Sam asked a week later when he walked into the hotel room.
“ I can feel my fingers now, and move them a little.”
“ That’s good. Just give it time, and you will be rounding up, and breaking horses for the army again soon.” Sam said.
“ Yeah..” Johnny said. “ Guess I should be glad it’s not my right arm. She don’t want me selling horses to the army.” he said.
“ By she I’m assuming you mean Teresa?” he asked.
“ Yeah. I have two more contracts to fill in two years. Six hundred horses, broke to ride, but when I told her, she got upset, said she don’t want me doing it. Said she don’t want me away from her four months at a time. I told her I wouldn’t be gone four months this time. The horses will be delivered by a special train. I’d be gone two weeks tops.” he explained.
“ Well, you have time. I’m sure she will come around.” Sam said. “ Murdoch seems to be very proud of you. So tell me, how did it feel when you were paid twenty thousand dollars?”
“ It felt good. It meant the closing of a years hard work.” Johnny responded. “ How long till I can get out of this bed, and go downstairs doc?”
“ As long as you have someone with you going down the stairs, I think it will be alright.” Sam said. “ I imagine they would enjoy you joining them for supper.”
Johnny sat on the hill overlooking Lancer. Eight big corrals held seventy five horses each, all broke to ride. Every man worked hard for the last twenty three months rounding up, gelding, and breaking every one of them. After being shot, it took him three months before he could ride, another two months before he could help break the horses. Carl stepped up, and took over the job while he healed up. Something Johnny greatly appreciated the man doing. Hearing a horse approach, he smile, knowing who it was.
“ They look real good Carl.” Johnny said.
“ Thanks.” Carl said. “ When will the train be in Stockton?”
“ In two weeks. I figure it will take us a day to drive the herd to the livestock yard to be loaded. We can get about thirty head per car, so I wired Agent Belcher, telling him we need twenty one cars so we have one for our horses.“ Listen Carl, I want to talk to you about something. Scott told me how you stepped up, and took over while I was getting better. I want to offer you a job as foreman. I’ll pay you two dollars a day.” Johnny said.
“ I appreciate the offer Johnny, really I do, but, I don’t do this job because I want to get rich. I work for you because you’re a damn good man to work for. If you want me to be your foreman, I’ll accept that, but I don’t want no more than what the other men make.” Carl responded. “ I wouldn’t feel right making more than them.”
“ I can appreciate that. You’ll always have a job here, and a place to live. You’re a good man Carl, and I’m glad to have you as a friend.” Johnny said.
“ Listen Johnny, after we delivered that herd, I came back because you’re a good person to work for, and well, I’m sorry, but I can’t accept your wife’s offer.”
“ What are you talking about?” Johnny asked.
“ I don’t mean to cause problems between you and your wife, her offer was real nice and all but, I like working for you. You’re my boss.” Carl said.
“ Wait a minute, Carl, did Teresa ask you and the boys to stop?” Johnny asked.
“ No sir. She talked to me the day after you come home. She offered me a right nice sum of money to make sure you stay safe.” he said. “ I been thinking on it ever since. Pondering if I should say anything to you or not.”
“ Thanks Carl. I appreciate you telling me. You’re a good man, and friend.” Johnny said “ Guess I better head on down, and get cleaned up before supper.”
“ Are you taking the train back?” Teresa asked.
“ Yeah. I should be back in three weeks tops.” Johnny said as he put his boots on, and stood up.
Teresa walked over to him. “ You come back to us, safely. I don’t want to be raising our children without their father.”
Johnny wrapped his arms around her waist, and pulled her to him. “ You take real good care of our son, and daughter.”
“ Mister Lancer, I asked you to have dinner with me before you leave in the morning because I have a serious business proposition for you.” Belcher said. “ One that I am quiet sure you will like.”
“ Look, Mister Belcher,…………”
“ Here me out first. There are currently five forts in Arizona that you would need to deliver horses too. The Apache Indians are stealing, or shooting our stock daily. What you would do is deliver these horses to the five forts I’m comprised a list of.” Belcher said.
“ For how much?” Johnny asked.
“ The contract states that it is for ten years, at said price of fifty dollars a head upon delivery. The only difference is they will now accept mares, but no mares with a foal at her side, or pregnant. No stallions will be allowed as you already know.” Belcher said. “ They still have to meet the same standard as the others.”
“ And the price. How come they’re only paying fifty a head?” Johnny asked. “ Do they not realize the work involved in rounding up, breaking, and driving them to the forts?”
“ You won’t be driving them the whole way. The train will take them as close to the forts as possible, and you will drive them from the rail yard to the forts. The cut in price to you is to cover the cost of the train and cars.” Belcher responded.
“ Okay. I can deal with that, and so can my men.” Johnny said.
“ Good. I just need your signature, and it’s good.” Belcher said.
“ You have any regrets about me wanting to go into the horse business?” Johnny asked as he sat on the hill looking down at the valley below with his father, and brother.
“ I did at first, but you kept your end of the deal, and did your chores also.” Murdoch responded. “ If it wasn’t for you, and Teresa, Lancer would have failed two years ago from that blizzard.”
“ A lot of ranchers lost everything in Wyoming, and Montana from that storm, and last winters. Those barns full of hay and feed is what saved our stock from starving.” Scott said.
“ I never thought I would still be alive.” Johnny said. “ I have everything I’ve ever wanted now. A wife, two beautiful daughters, and a son. I never thought I would have all those years ago when I went after Teresa.”
“ And now, looking back?” Scott asked.
“ Looking back, it was the hunter and the hunted.” Johnny responded.
Guidelines of a Union Army Horse in the 1870s
The principal item of equipment for a cavalryman was the horse and one of the reasons both North and South initially hesitated in forming mounted units was because of financial considerations; each cavalry regiment cost $300,000 for initial organization with annual upkeep expenses tallying over $100,000. Both cavalries originally required recruits or local communities to provide horses, a policy that lasted briefly in the North, while the South maintained it throughout the war even though Richmond leaders recognized its serious drawbacks. While Confederate troopers bore the monetary cost of keeping themselves mounted, Union cavalrymen rode quartermaster-issued animals obtained through public contracts (although officers had to reimburse the cost of their mounts to the government). While open to fraud early in the war, once tightened regulations and stringent inspections were enforced, the contract system yielded an estimated 650,000 horses for Union armies during the war exclusive of an additional 75,000 confiscated in Confederate territory.
Union army guidelines for cavalry horse selection mandated animals be at least 15 hands high, weighing minimally 950 pounds, aged between 4 and 10 years old, and be well-broken to bridle and saddle. Animals were to be dark colors and free from defects such as shallow breathing, deformed hooves, spavin or ring-bone. Geldings were preferred for cavalry horses with the purchase of mares strictly prohibited outside absolute military emergency and stallions’ volatility and aggressiveness made them generally unsuitable for service. In the Confederacy, limited horse numbers did not permit such selectivity in trying to keep their armies horsed.
Cavalry horse prices varied throughout the war; in 1861 the maximum government price for cavalry horses was $119. However, relentless military demand caused prices to continually increase and by 1865 prices hovered near $190 per head. In the Confederacy horse prices rapidly spiraled upward due to animal scarcity and inflation costing over $3,000 by war’s end. The daily feed ration for Union cavalry horses was ten pounds of hay and fourteen pounds of grain which were ample and fulfilled the animals’ nutritional needs if of good quality, however, the vagaries of the army supply system did not always insure prescribed forage amounts were delivered where most needed.
On both sides volunteer officers often proved notably lax in promoting strict animal welfare, a shortcoming exacerbated by the absence of a trained and organized veterinary corps which allowed serious maladies like strangles, grease heel, farcy, and glanders to spread among army stock. The U.S. Congress finally created the rank of veterinary sergeant in March 1863, but the meager pay and rank held no inducement for qualified candidates to join the army. Repeated calls to establish a professional military veterinary service failed, and widespread waste, suffering, and destruction among army horses resulted; not until 1916 was an official U.S. army veterinary corps founded.
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