The Man Behind The Badge by Nancy Marie

Word count 130,712

1st in The Man Behind The Badge Series.

I don’t own them * sigh * but I sure do enjoy having fun with them. Especially Johnny since Fox abandoned them years ago.

This is my very first Lancer fanfic story. I’ve never written anything before in my life like this, and apologize for my bad punctuation’s and grammar. This story has an R RATING due to language and tame sexual content, nothing drastic. I’ll leave that up to the mind of the reader. This is primarily a Johnny Madrid story even though Murdoch and Scott are in it later in the story.


Chapter 1

Madrid pushed his horse hard toward the Rio Grande river. He knew going to Sonora would be a mistake, especially since the Rurales wanted his hide hung on a wall. He just couldn’t stop himself from doing it though. Walking right in to the cantina knowing three Rurales were inside some would call suicide but Johnny Madrid lived carelessly and didn’t care. Having lived by the colt at his side since he was a mere ten years old and his mother was murdered by the man who owned the run down shack they lived in because she had not the money he wanted for rent having spent it on food for him.

Hunting that man down wasn’t hard. Johnny knew where he would be and knew he was the one who had done it. Walking in when the man was attempting to fuck another of his whores Johnny smiled.

“ This is for my mamma.” he had said with a smile right before he pulled the trigger.

Now looking back on that day and the ones that followed Johnny learned real fast that a man with a gun who knew how to use that gun got respect. Or so he thought it was respect, when in reality it was fear people had for a gunfighter. Oh sure the beatings stopped and he had food in his belly and clothes on his back. A good horse between his legs and plenty of ammunition for his colt but it didn’t take long for him to realize that those things really meant nothing if you obtained them from fear.

Hell bent on making a name for himself Johnny would size a man up who wore his gun low and call him out or do something to said man to get called out.

Piercing blue eyes became the last thing most men seen before feeling the slam of Madrid’s bullet enter them. Barely eighteen years old now Johnny had the reputation he wanted and got it fast. No man south of the border lived to tell the tale if they faced the business end of his gun. Practice got him what he wanted. Practice got him the higher fee when he hired out. Mexico becoming to hot for him he decided across the border he would make money hiring out to those willing to pay his fee to settle range wars and the likes.

Stopping at the river he turned and looked back at the Rurales dust about a mile back. When they got closer he drew his colt and fired rapidly, dropping the two in front, causing the others to scatter as he turned back and crossed the river.

Heading west Johnny rode into Douglas, Arizona just as the sun was setting. Being a mining town Douglas’ street had burros or mules tied outside establishments and very few horses. Those that there were he could tell did not belong to miners. He knew the Rurales wouldn’t cross the river. They would return to Sonora and face the wrath of their el Capitain for failure to catch him again.

Stopping his beautiful golden stallion outside a small cantina at the end of town Johnny’s stomach rebelled at the smell of food coming from inside. Having not eaten a couple days by not fault of his own. Those damn Rurales just didn’t seem to have a sense of humor for him killing them, he tied Barranca off outside and stepped in letting his eyes adjust to the dim lighting. Spotting a table in a corner at the back he headed to it. Three men watched him walk past and immediately rose and left. He knew he was recognized and couldn’t help but smile. Having not been called out in some time he couldn’t help but feel the urge to notch his reputation up.

Being a half breed or mestizo as the Mexican’s called him life wasn’t easy for him. His mother had married a gringo rich bastard after he got her pregnant only to throw them out when he was a baby. Some day he would venture to this rich bastard and kill him for all he and his mother had went through.

Gringo’s often crossed the border and soiled a beautiful Mexican girl. They didn’t dare be caught doing so on the American side, they had an image to uphold. Siring a halfbreed child out of wedlock would bring shame on a man of his fathers stature. * Father * hell the only way he was a father to him was by the blood that coursed through his veins. That Johnny Madrid could do nothing about. He would make sure that the man knew just who he was when the time came to kill him though.

Having ordered his food and sipping on a tequila Madrid noticed one of the three men who left abruptly came back in and stopped just inside the door looking at him. Sighing he knew why.

“ You want something boy?” he asked loud enough that all others heard and stopped their conversations and prepared to move if need be.

“ Yeah Madrid……….you outside right now…….me and my friends are gonna kill ya.” he said before turning and walking out.

Johnny sighed and stood up. So much for eating a meal tonight. Somehow eating after killing a man never settled right with him. Now fucking a woman did. Doing this help take the frustration away and had become a ritual for Madrid. Having been only thirteen his first time with a woman he learned real fast what sex was beyond what his mother did. He learned that having a woman under him was the next best thing to seeing a mans eyes right before he killed them. He doubted any women worth fucking were even in this town. At least any who were young enough but yet old enough to take what he would give them after killing three men.

Tossing some money on the table to pay for his drink and uneaten meal Johnny walked to the door and slowly stepped out onto the street. Looking down the street he found all three soon to be dead men standing in the middle of the street. Stepping out to the middle as one called his name.

Madrid…….come on out and play…….it’s time for you to die halfbreed.” the one in the middle yelled.

People on the street quickly got out of the way. Most killings just happened, and those were to the miners to steal what they had. To have a gunfighter of Madrid’s stature in their town and witness first hand what so many had heard come across the border about this deadly killer kept them watching and waiting to see who would be left standing.

“ You three in that big a hurry to die tonight?” Johnny said casually as he took stance about fifty feet away.

“ You’re the one who’s gonna die breed. Me and my brothers are gonna reap on the fact that we killed Johnny Madrid.”

“ Well if you think you can do it and I can’t talk you out of trying then by all means boy’s…let’s dance.” he said as he looked at them through ice cold emotionless blue eyes. He could hear whispers among some who didn’t know until now who he was. It always made him smile when he told his name. The fear it inflicted on some people’s face was in his book better than a fifty dollar whore. Standing there he couldn’t help but smile at how stupid theses brothers were. Standing barely beyond shoulder width apart made killing them so much easier for him.

“ Go ahead and make your play breed.” the oldest one said.

Johnny could tell who was the mouth of the three and the one most likely to draw first, and die first.

“ Nope…… invited me to this dance so I think I’ll just wait and let you be the host and start it……unless you’re chicken.” he responded.

“ What’s the matter breed I do believe the great Johnny Madrid is a little scared to draw. What’s the matter Madrid you scared to face me and my brothers cause you know we will kill you?”

“ You got a big mouth on you… I safe in assuming that you are the oldest?”

“ Yeah I’m the oldest……why?”

“ Well I always make it my policy to kill the oldest one first and since you clearly got the biggest mouth and no brains I’m gonna do it with one bullet right between your eyes.”

That did it. He got him riled just like he knew he would. When the mans eyes changed Johnny drew and fanned his colt so fast that not one of the three brothers even came close to clearing leather. The oldest fell dead from a bullet between his eyes and the other two got one in their heart.

“ Did you see that?………Madrid kilt all three and they never even came close ta getting their guns out.”

Johnny walked up to the three dead brothers and couldn’t help but wonder if they had parents still alive who should be notified of their fate.

 Deciding against it he turned and noticed a woman with a very low cut blue dress standing on the walkway outside a shop watching him intently. His eyes falling to her breast and how they rose and fell with every breath stirred his lower extremities. This woman wasn’t no whore but she was sending all the right signals to dance with him in a bed or hell the hay for that matter. Watching her a few more seconds he tipped his hat and walked to Barranca and headed to the livery to bed the animal down for the night. People cleared the way for him as he walked past. Some smiled, one spit at his feet and Johnny stopped and looked at him cold.

“ You do that again and I can see to it you’re resting with those three tonight mister.”

The man turned four shades of yellow Johnny swore before hurrying away.

Johnny continued his walk and caught a glimpse of the woman following him along the side. Smiling as he led Barranca into the barn.

“ Yo…..anyone here?” he asked.

“Si lo quieres dormir fuera de servicio por la comunidad de Madrid por la noche?            ( Yeah Madrid…… want to bed him down for the night Madrid?)

“ Si en una plaza lejos de los otros. Yo me ocupare su rumbo. No me gusta ninguno extranos. El heno y el grano, si lo tienes. ( Yes in a stall away from the others. I’ll take care of his tack. He don’t like strangers none. Hay and grain if you have it.)

“ Algo seguro solo lo puso en la final no. Heno fresco a la basura y los granos alli. Por cuanto tiempo?”

( Sure just put him on the end there. Fresh hay already in the bin and grains over there. How Long?)

“ No  por cierto, uno o dos dias para comenzar.” ( Not for sure, day or two to start.)

“ Bueno, es cuatro bits por dis, pero seein es como se acaba de hacer un favor a este pueblo que te cobran dos bits al dia.” ( Well it’s four bits a day but seeins how you just did this town a favor. I’ll charge you two bits a day.)

“ Favorecer? Que favor? ( Favor? What favor?) Madrid asked as he removed the saddle and started grooming his stallion down.

“ Ridin con nosotros de tres de los ladrones podridos que estan por ahi preyin de la buena gente y los mineros.” ( Ridin us of three of those rotten thieves that hang around preyin on the good folks and miners.)

Johnny paid the man and scooped out a double ration of grain for his buddy.

“ Listen I’m gonna bed down in here with him for the night.”

“ Sure but it’s not really safe but I don’t think anyone is gonna try anything against you. I’m late for dinner…close up and make yourself at home. I got a cot in the tack room but trust me the hay is softer.

“ Gracias.” Johnny said with a smile as he watched the man leave.

Just about midnight Johnny woke with a start. Something had his senses on full alert. Rubbing his eyes he glanced up at the stallion who had his ears forward and was looking toward the front of the barn. Taking out his gun Madrid heard the walk through door open and shut softly, then the sound of someone walking softly toward him. The town outside had quieted down some, but a piano could still be heard coming from the far end of town faintly. When the footsteps got to the stall next to his he stood up with the colt aimed right at the woman who was standing outside the store after the shooting.

“ You know ma’am it’s not real smart for you to be sneaking up on me like that. Not if you want to keep breathing.” Madrid stated as he lowered his gun.

The woman stepped up to within a foot of him now. “ I’m sorry.” she said as she dropped her shawl from around her shoulders.

“ I wouldn’t stand behind him if I were you. You’re liable to get kicked.” Johnny stated as he stepped out of the stall. He knew why this woman came here. Why else would a woman come to a barn in the middle of the night. Especially when said barn had Johnny Madrid staying in it. Feeling his lower extremities waking up to the thought of what was to come he moved into the shadows a little just in case the woman didn’t want a good romp in the hay with him. Hell women threw themselves at him, all wanting a romp and none left dissatisfied after. In fact some would beg for more when he would be ready to leave them. Having a reputation of being a three timer or more a night Johnny smiled slightly as the woman stepped up to him and put a hand on his chest.

“ You want to be alone Madrid?” she asked taking a deep breath causing her breast to rise and fall.

Johnny locked eyes on them and felt himself go hard right then from watching what he wanted. Licking his lips Madrid grabbed the woman and pulled her into his chest.

“ No.” he said before claiming her mouth hungrily, sliding his tongue inside and claiming the farthest reaches of her mouth.

“ Take off your dress.” he said  when he stopped kissing her. Tonight would be a good night for him.

“ Oh my…….you are quit a sight for a woman Madrid.” she responded as she pulled her dress over her head and lay back in the hay.

Johnny found himself waking to empty arms the next morning just as the sun started to rise. Sighing he got up and slid on his pants before the owner came and caught him.

Two hours later Madrid stepped out of the cantina from eating a hearty breakfast and heard commotion down the street. Looking he watched as a miner trying to lead his mule was being accosted  by three men on horseback who he could tell clearly were not ranch hands. Stepping down into the street he walked slowly toward the miner who had stopped.

“ You alright old timer?” Johnny asked as he rubbed the mules face.

“ I would be if these no good low life’s would leave me and Ruth here be young man.”

Johnny looked at the three men sitting there horses. “ Why don’t you boy’s move on and leave this man alone?” he asked.

“ And what you gonna do about it if we don’t boy?”

“ Andy don’t be a fool.”

“ I ain’t afraid of no kid Sal………in fact I think I’ll just comb you boy right here in front of the whole town for stickin your business in my affairs.”

“ Shut up Sal………this kid thinks he can stop me from my fun.”

“ Andy that kid happens to be Johnny Madrid you fool.”

“ I don’t give a damn who he is…….Nobody tells me what to do Sal…..Including Madrid.” Andy said before going for his gun.

Madrid drew and hit Andy in the chest knocking him off his horse backwards.

“ Whatever you do Gary don’t move.” Sal ordered his still breathing friend. “ I thought you were dead Madrid in Mexico?”

“ Nope……….you’re a little farther south than you usually run McCloud.”

“ Yeah well I go were the money is easy Madrid………..I didn’t know you were working Douglas.”

“ I”m not………yet. Let’s just say I’m scoping it out for future jobs.”

“ Yeah well……..good seein ya alive still Madrid…….let’s go Gary.” Sal said sharply as he turned his horse to leave.

Johnny grabbed the reins. “ Sal…………don’t come back here.” Madrid said coldly.

“Yeah.” Sal said before galloping off.

“ You know young man, I heard of you and I thought Madrid was older………Me and Ruth thank you….come on you lop eared worthless beast you.” the old timer said as he led his mule away.

Johnny felt them before he turned around and stepped back up to the cantina.

“ Madrid….can we talk to you?”

“ Talkin never hurt……..go ahead.”

“ Well……..we would like to offer you a job…… do hire your gun out right?”

“ Yeah I do but I would have to know what the job is and the pay.”

“Sheriff of Douglas……..hundred dollars a week and ten dollars for every arrest. The blacksmith would furnish your bullets and all meals for you would be free………drink to.”

“ Look gentlemen I appreciate the offer but I’m not interested in wearing a badge. Sorry.” Johnny said before heading to the livery to check on his friend. He couldn’t help but wonder were the woman could be he had with him last night. He never got her name and hadn’t seen her all morning around town.

Spending an hour grooming Barranca Johnny thought about the job offer. The people of this town he had seen in his short time here showed complete fear in their eyes to any outsiders or anyone who wasn’t a miner. The livery owner had told him earlier that two three miners a day get robbed and killed by lowlife deadbeats hanging around who found robbing a man for the little gold he brought into town was a whole lot easier than a dollar a day job.

Giving his friend some grain and a pat on the neck Johnny stepped out of the livery to a sight that shocked him. Two men were holding a little boy while a third stood in front of the child who couldn’t be no more than seven.

The man walked over to the boy. “ You need to learn some manners boy.” he said before slapping the kid hard.

Memories flooded back to Johnny of the beatings he received when the same age. Seeing the boy run off crying with a bloody nose Johnny had seen enough. Walking with a pace he sought out the men who approached him about a job.

Three hours later Johnny Madrid pinned a sheriff’s badge on his shirt and stepped out of the jail. The jail it’s self had four good solid cells in the back. A good stove for warmth and no back door. Madrid liked that. Whoever the carpenter was he knew how to build a jail. Each cell had a window of two feet by two feet up high enough that even standing on the cot below a man inside a cell couldn’t see out. The front had a solid built heavy oak door and quarter inch thick steel hinges. A two inch thick board could be put across to keep the door from being kicked in.  A cot was in the far corner of the room close enough to the stove for warmth. Bars covered the two front windows so if the glass got broke entrance still could not happen through them.

Johnny had seen enough to know what had to be done in this town to take the fear out of the local residents and allow the miners to come and go without being harassed.

Madrid had come to Douglas to relax but Douglas asked him to play instead. Never one to turn down a good challenge or a hundred dollars a week Madrid smiled inside and couldn’t help but wonder what the Rurales would say if they could see him now. Their most hated and wanted Mestizo wearing a badge just a few miles out of their reach. Oh he was sure word would get back to el Capitain about it but for now and as long as he stayed on the American side of the border Johnny Madrid really was the law and fully intended to enforce it.

                                                                        Chapter 2

Word got around real fast that Douglas had a sheriff now and that that sheriff was none other than Johnny Madrid. A lot of the trouble makers left, not wanting to face Madrid’s gun, but a few foolish ones did and were now buried six feet under. Johnny was noticing the towns people begin to relax some, not so much fear showed on their faces. Some still did, but not most. After three months on the job Madrid had a nice amount of cash in a bank account he opened. Hundred dollars a week and ten dollars for every arrest added up fast. With the town settling down more every day he himself started to settle down some as well.

The woman from his first night in town he had discovered was a married lady. Married to the town commissioner, the same man who approached him offering him his job. Not knowing the reasons behind the unfaithfulness to her husband he couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the man. He seemed nice enough but Madrid had learned a long time ago to * never * trust a man fully because he could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Breaking off contact with the woman after a few more encounters made her upset but she understood also. He had asked her why but she wouldn’t tell him so he left it at that.

Women in the town weren’t the best for what he wanted. Most had been put through the ringer a few times and looked old for their age. Plenty offered but he declined politely, not wanting to hurt their feelings by telling them he really didn’t like or care for what was offered.

Sitting in the cantina eating his lunch he heard shot’s fired and hurried outside. A mule lay braying in pain down the street and it’s owner dead. Hurrying to the scene he quickly learned three men robbed the miner and headed out of town to the west. The livery owner was quick to tell him it was two of the men Madrid had run out that accosted the little boy a few months prior.

‘ McCloud ‘ he said to himself. McCloud knew he was the law in Douglas and being brazen enough to come back and kill and rob Madrid knew was the same as being called out. He knew McCloud would be waiting to ambush him if he gave pursuit. Waiting to put a bullet in him or maybe lead him out of town for some other reason. Seeing the bank manager Madrid walked over to him.

“ I need to talk to you.” he said. “ Someone put that mule down and get this body off the street.” he ordered.

“ Aren’t you going after them Madrid?” the manager asked.

“ No………How much gold you got in that bank now?”

“ About half a million dollars I’d say……..why?”

“ Who comes and picks it up?”

“ Wells Fargo. They take it to San Francisco, but with all the robberies they refuse to come anymore. They said it’s to dangerous and I have to get that gold there by another means.”

“ That killing I think is a decoy to get me out of town. I think McCloud has enough men that he’s gonna try and rob the bank.”

“ Oh my…….what are you going to do Madrid?” the manager asked wiping sweat from his brow.

“ Find some men I can trust as deputies and stop it.”

“ Stop it……People could get killed if they come into town to rob the bank.”

“ They won’t be coming to town to rob the bank…….I’m going to transport the gold by pack horses to Frisco.”

“ That’s crazy Madrid…..they could gun you down out there and take the gold.”

“ Look it’s either that way or let them come in here and try and take it…….the choice is yours.” Johnny said.

“ Alright…….you get some deputies together. I’ll need a day or two to get the gold ready for pack horses.”

“ Good…….I’ll ride out to the Carson spread and buy some horses from him…….He has good stock I noticed.”

“ Bret Carson is a good man…….He may know some men trusting enough to be deputized for this.”

“ Thanks…….keep this between us alright?”

“ Yeah……..yes of course.” he said before hurrying away.

Madrid headed to the livery to saddle Barranca for the ride out to Carson’ ranch.

A few hours later Madrid came back to his office with six hands from Carson’ ranch. The men didn’t really want to work cattle at a dollar a day in Apache country and so close to the border bandits. A lot of cattle have been stolen and drove into Mexico and a lot of good men killed over it. Men just trying to make a living and put some money in their pocket. Most cowboys furnished their own ammunition and horse to ride herd. All for a dollar a day six days a week through all kinds of weather. A cowboys life could be summed up pretty much like a gunfighters. Lonely. Cowboys had a better chance at making a good friend than gunfighters did but to both the only real good friend was that of a good horse.

Bret Carson took notice of the golden stallion Madrid rode in on and appreciated fine horse flesh as Johnny did. Walking over but keeping his distance from the stallion he offered Madrid five hundred dollars for the horse, which Madrid politely turned down. The man could appreciate that since a good horse like the one Madrid had didn’t come along easily.

Swearing the men in and explaining what they would be doing more now that they were in private. Being good at reading a man’s face Johnny studied every one of them when he told them half a million dollars in gold is what they would be protecting all the way to San Francisco.  Heading over to the bank  he introduced the deputies to the bank manager and left two deputies there to be spelled at midnight. Two deputies would remain in the bank at all times shifts changing every four hours at night, five during the day until the gold was packed and left Douglas.

Madrid chose instead of in the middle of the night like the manager wanted to load the gold in broad daylight with a show of heavily armed men as the pack horses were loaded. Eight horses carried the gold and another four carried ammo and supplies. Mules were better but slower and Madrid didn’t want this to be a slow trip. He needed horses that could run if needed if Apache’s attacked or McCloud and his men attacked.

The night before he was in the jail alone when a soft knock on the door came before it opened. It was the commissioner’s wife stepping into the room lit by a single lamp burning low in the far corner. Looking at the watch he had acquired Madrid noticed it was going on midnight and a woman should not be out alone at this hour of night. Standing up he stepped around his desk and sat on the edge as she closed the door and slid the bolt across locking it. Turning he knew by the look on her face why she was there and what she wanted. Needing a couple hours sleep Johnny figured he had two choices. One he could send her away or two, he could take her in the back and and give her what she wanted. Telling himself he was being foolish messing around with another mans wife, especially a man who appointed him his job of sheriff. Smiling he watched her eyes as she stepped up to him and put her arms around his neck and kissed him sliding her tongue inside. When she broke the kiss off he felt himself getting hard.

“ I heard you are leaving tomorrow so I wanted to give you a little going away present to remember me by while you are gone.” she said as she undid her dress and let it drop to the floor. Naked as the day she was born standing there in all her beauty just ripe for the taking.

Johnny sighed. “ Oh hell who needs sleep?” he said.

Early dawn Johnny slipped his pants on. “ You’re quit a woman Marlene.” he said as he retrieved his boots.

“ It doesn’t seem to bother you that I’m a married woman.” she stated as she stepped over and picked up her discarded dress.

“ It does but……I learned one thing a while back about women….If their husband was keeping them satisfied they wouldn’t be unfaithful.”

‘ You are an arrogant sonofabitch aren’t you?” she said with a laugh.

“ No…..You think you’re the first married woman I’ve been with?……I hate to disappoint you but you’re not and you won’t be the last………I aim to please….married or not.”

“ Oh that you do Madrid……That you do.”  Marlene said

Johnny stepped out into the early morning sun from his office. Stifling a yawn as he put on his hat as two of his deputies walked toward him.

“ Johnny… you look like you didn’t get any sleep at all last night.”  Toby Jenks said.

Johnny liked Toby. The oldest of the six, the man had a trusting way about him. He could tell that when push came to shove Toby would back him up. Standing about six feet in height and solid built with no fat at all Toby could be a force to be reckoned with if angered.

The other deputy was Toby’ little brother Billy. Though a youth at heart, Billy was willing to work and good with a gun. Though five years younger and not as big as his older brother the boy like Madrid grew up without parents. Raised by his brother along the trails working ranch to ranch, season to season. The kid handled a horse good and with a gentile hand. That alone Johnny took notice of and appreciated.

“ Billy why don’t you go wake up the livery man and start bringing the pack horses to the bank.” Johnny asked.

“ Sure Madrid……How many you want me to bring up?”

“ Two for starts…….and call me Johnny okay?”

“ Sure thing Mad….I mean Johnny.” Billy said before heading to the livery.

“You know he likes you Johnny…….we heard tells about Madrid around Tucson.”

Johnny started walking toward the bank. “ Yeah……..about how I’m a cold blooded killer and such?”

“ Some…we didn’t pay mind to those though……We both liked hearing how you would piss of them Rurales and be the underdog helping out the little man. I respect that and I respect you Johnny, you’re a good person.” Toby stated firmly.

“ I got my bad side like anyone else Toby but I never killed a man in cold blood and I never did the calling.”

“ Yeah you was hell bent on makin a name for yourself back then…….Still want that reputation?”

“ Back then Toby I was a youth who had to grow up fast……I didn’t have anyone to raise me up right as some would call it. I stole food when I had to to feed by belly.”

“ You got no old man or mother Johnny?”

“ My old man didn’t want a mestizo bastard kid around tarnishing his good name. My mother died when I was ten…..been on my own ever since.”

“ So he didn’t marry your mamma?”

“ Yeah he married her. Took her to his big estancia in California then after I came along he threw us both out.”

“ Why don’t you go see him?…….I mean now that you’re grown up.”

“ Have no need for him.”

“ You think he knows that his son is the infamous Johnny Madrid?”

Johnny stopped. “ Now that would be a real shocker wouldn’t it?…….Having a bastard kid still around and that kid is a gunfighter.”

“ Not just any gunfighter……the best and fastest in the south.”

“ I got a bullet with my name on it coming some day Toby……It don’t matter how fast you are there will always be someone faster come along and end it.” he stated as he started walking toward the bank again.

“ That why they call you out?”

“ Yeah……they want the reputation of killing me…..As long as I’m alive they can’t get the higher fee on a job.”

“ So they die trying to kill you, and all for money?”

“ Pretty much……….hey Malcolm.”

“ Johnny….Toby……..the manager says it’s all ready to be loaded on the horses. Sheriff you sure you want to do this in broad daylight?…………I mean wouldn’t it be better to do in the dark?”

“ Nope……..I want anyone even thinking about trying to steal this gold to know they will have to fight to do it………..Go wake up the gunsmith and bring them scatter guns……..Bob and JJ still inside?”

“ Yeah……..Jeff went in a few minutes ago.” Malcolm said before heading to the gunsmith.

Malcolm Withers barely eighteen years old could handle a horse and gun good. A quiet man about Madrid’ height always wanted to do the right thing and plan things out. Never showing his hand until pushed.

Jeff Adams came from back east somewhere. His folks died from the pox or something on their way out west, At well over six feet Jeff like Toby was solid built and even though young could hold his own. The kid carried a sawed off shotgun on his hip like a pistol. The scatter range alone on the gun would kill anyone within a thirty foot range. Madrid also knew that Jeff carried a knife on his back. He had seen the handle show once when Jeff was cleaning his horse’ feet at Carson’ ranch.

The last two deputies also were brothers. Bob and JJ Johnson from Texas. JJ the younger liked a scraggly look about him and was a dead shot with a rifle. His older brother Bob also was a dead shot with a rifle and pistol. Bob liked a clean look and bantered his little brother about his look every day.

Six men from different parts of the country brought together with one goal in mind, making  money.

Billy walked up with two pack horses and tied them off. “ Livery owner is saddling our mounts up Johnny. Said he would bring them down when finished with the other six pack horses.”

“ Yeah.” Johnny answered as he knocked on the bank door. “ Toby, Bob and JJ keep everyone away from this block……I want two men on each end of this building with scatter guns. No one is permitted in or near this bank while we do this.”

“ What if someone tries to or gets upset about it?”

“ Tell them they can be mad all they want…….unless they want shot they’ll wait to do their banking this afternoon.” Madrid said as he noticed the gunsmith and Malcolm walking toward them with scatter guns in both arms. “ Each man take a shotgun and do what I asked……..Malcolm go help out with the horses. Watch that stallion of mine. Barranca don’t like strangers much so watch him.” he said before stepping inside the bank.

Inside Madrid seen a very nervous and tired looking bank manager and two tellers standing next to a table with small bags filled with gold stacked five to a pile.

“ You got it all ready to go?” Johnny asked.

“ Yes it’s all here……..Madrid are you sure you can get this gold to San Francisco?”

“ Well I reckon we’ll both know the answer to that question in a month now won’t we.”

“ If this gold doesn’t make it there the bank will be broke.”

“ Look I ain’t never failed at a job I’ve done yet.” he said as he opened both front doors. “ Billy bring one of those pack horses in here to be loaded now.”

“ What……’re going to bring a horse into my bank. Why this is preposterous Madrid.”

“ Yeah well I ain’t having it loaded out on the street so I suggest you get this furniture moved so the horses can be in here until all the gold is loaded.” Johnny ordered as Billy brought the first horse in.

Mid day Douglas residents watched as seven men rode out of town with eleven pack horses. All carrying shotguns and all ready to kill if need be.

Marlene smiled as Madrid rode past. Last night was the best time she had had in a long time. Well every time with Madrid since he came to Douglas. Though young Madrid had made her feel like a woman again in all ways. When her husband walked up to her she paid him little mind.

“ I know about you and Madrid Marlene…….He’s finished when he gets back here……..and you.” he started grabbing her arm. “ You ever cheat on me again with that halfbreed and I will have him shot down in front of you……..Do you understand me whore?”

Marlene jerked her arm free and glared at her husband. “ You can try but let me tell you something……Madrid is more of a man in bed than you ever could be.” she stated firmly before walking away.

McCloud poured a cup of coffee as he heard a rider coming into camp. Smiling he walked over and helped the rider down.

“ You have a good time with Madrid last night?” he asked.

“ Yes I did……..He left about noon with the gold.” Marlene said before kissing McCloud.

“ Good……..well give him a day or two head start before we move out……You did good…….He doesn’t suspect anything does he?”

“ No I was real good……Madrid knows I’m married but he doesn’t know about us. I just want this over with so we can move on.”

“ It will be……two more months tops is all you will have to put up with that sorry ass you’re married to. After I have that gold you and me will be living the high life and Madrid will be a dead man…….I get the best of both worlds. The reputation of killing that halfbreed, half a million dollars in gold and the satisfaction of taking that commissioners wife away from him.” McCloud stated before kissing Marlene firmly. “ Get on back to town now and keep me posted on any developments I should know about.” he ordered.

Marlene got back on her horse and rode back. Madrid had been the best sex she had had, Better than with McCloud or her sorry husband. To bad he would be dead soon though.

                                                                        Chapter 3

Madrid and his deputies rode northwest at a pace that wouldn’t wear the horses down but yet make time until about an hour before dusk. Skirting around Tucson they made camp along the Santa Rosa river. This time of year in the desert water would be easily abundant for them.

“ It was to easy Johnny…….I don’t like it….We left Douglas with no trouble.” Toby stated as he got off his horse.

“ McCloud will let us have a day or two head start before him and his men try anything Toby.” he said as he got down and rubbed the stallions neck.

“ You figure she went to him?”

“ Yeah…..she rode out of town about thirty minutes after we did headed north. I figure McCloud and his men have their camp in Elfrida canyon.”

“ Marlene?………You mean the commissioners wife is working for McCloud Johnny?” Billy asked.

“ That’s not all she’s doing with McCloud little brother……right Johnny?”

Johnny smiled. “ Billy one thing you got to learn about women of her nature. They don’t go out in the middle of the night, especially alone and the wife of a commissioner isn’t going to cheat on her husband with someone like me and expect to not be found out……..Oh sure she played it up real good that first night coming to me in the barn but I guess McCloud forgot I seen him and her down in Mexico a couple years ago together.”

“ How many you want on guard tonight Madrid?” Bob asked.

“ Two. We’ll switch every two hours if that okay with you men so everyone gets some sleep?”

“ It’s fine with us Johnny  but you….you got no sleep last night so you take the last shift.” Toby ordered. He could see Madrid was more tired than the rest of them.

“ I’m alright…..I can pull my own weight.”

“ Not sayin ya can’t, but if trouble comes and we all know it will. Well we want that gun of yours good and ready.” he stated back. “ Billy you and JJ take the first watch, Adam you and me will take the second, Bob and Malcolm the third.”

“ Okay but which one of us takes with Johnny?” Billy asked.

“ Nobody……….Madrid likes to be alone…….don’t you?” Toby said.

Johnny looked at the man. How the hell had a man he had only known three days got to know how he worked? “ That’s right Billy……..Any of you any kind of cook?”

“ Better than that who’s good at making coffee?” Bob asked with a grin.

McCloud and his men left Elfrida canyon three days later headed  northwest. He figured they would get ahead of Madrid and wait for him to cross into California before trying anything. Less  chance of Cavalry or Indians. Let Madrid deal with the Apache if need be and who knows maybe they would do him a favor and kill Madrid. Not having a use for the gold they would dump it from the horses and take them. Having fifteen men with him he had plenty of horses to carry the gold. Madrid would most likely this time of year cross the Mojave desert so McCloud and his men headed there to wait.

Ten days travel found Johnny and the men at Alamo lake. It wasn’t a big lake, fed by two small rivers. The Santa Maria from the east and the Big Sandy from the north. Glad that they encountered no Apache’s he knew they could still be attacked by Comanche or even Paiute.

“ Go ahead and make camp…….I’m gonna ride our back trail and see if we’re being trailed.” he said swinging up on Barranca after checking his cinch.”

“ You want some company?” Toby asked.

“ No……You’re in charge until I get back….If I’m not back by dawn go ahead I’ll either catch up or be dead.” he said moving Barranca out.

“ Johnny.” Toby called as he stepped toward Madrid.

Johnny stopped Barranca and turned in the saddle. “ Yeah?”

“ You know of a place called Cheme Huevi just across the Colorado river?”

“ Yeah it’s old Indian ruins.”

“ We’ll wait half a day for you there.”

Johnny looked back at the men. “ Alright………half a day and no longer.”

McCloud and his men crossed the Colorado river into California ten miles north of Madrid and his men.

“ The travel will be easier from here on out. We can ride after dark because it’s pretty open just some small rolling hills until the Mojave.”

“ Where are we waiting for Madrid at in the Mojave McCloud?” one of his men asked.

“ A place called Dry lake….it’s an old run down abandoned stage station and the only water available in that area.”

“ Won’t he see our horses?”

“ No……look I spent a lot of time planning this out and Madrid becoming sheriff of Douglas may not have been a part of it but he is now and I’m not about to let half a million dollars in gold slip through my fingers.” he said with some anger in his voice. “ Any man who want’s out now can leave……If any of you think you can double cross me just remember who Madrid is.”

“ He don’t scare me none………He can be killed just like anyone else.”

“ You keep thinking that and I’ll make sure that that’s what they put on your tombstone when Madrid kills you……..All of you remember this……..Madrid is fast…….he’s the fastest in the south…why you think he’s still alive and at least thirty fools who thought they could take him are dead……..Don’t underestimate him for one second.”

The moon rose over the Buckskin mountains providing Madrid a better view of the land. Any riders would stand out against the horizon so keeping Barranca to the washes and gullies he rode to Rattlesnake wash and turned north two miles before coming to the spot he was now at. Barranca grazed below of the lush grass that sprang up after the last rains. The same grass mustangs, deer and bighorn sheep fed on. Snacking on the jerky he had with him to calm his hunger pangs some. A coyote yapped in the distance soon followed by another and another. Soon a whole pack were singing as the moon shined high above them.

Tired and sore from the hard ground Madrid was about to get up and leave when he spotted the movement in the distance. Watching he judged them to be about a mile out. It was clear that whoever it was didn’t care to keep from view as they rode atop the hills, their silhouette’s standing out against the horizon as the sun started to show the faintest signs of rising in the east.

“ Shit.” Madrid said as he crawled backwards out of sight and hurried to Barranca. Tightening his cinch he swung up in the saddle.

“ We got unwelcome’ company coming amigo.” he said as he moved the stallion back down the wash. Apache’ hardly ever came up in this area and Madrid wasn’t about to stay and ask them what they were doing. He could clearly see the war paint on their faces and on their horses as well. He was glad the sun was coming up to allow his stallion and him a better view of the ground they would now be covering at a fast pace.

Once Barranca came out of the wash Johnny gave him his head and headed west. The stallion covered ground fast sensing his masters urgency. Jumping a small wash with grace and infallible ease. Johnny laid down over the stallions neck when he looked back and seen the six Apaches coming after him.

Knowing his beloved stallion wouldn’t be able to run full out like he was for much longer Madrid slowed him down a little. Barranca protested and pulled against the bit to keep going. It seemed the horse knew something his rider didn’t and after slowing down a little he took off again at a full out run just as two Apaches came at them from the south.

Fuck…….go amigo go.” Madrid said as he took out his colt and fired dropping one of the Apache dead. The other stopped for a second then hooped and hollered and took off after him again.

Madrid looked back and seen the six were catching up to the one and still coming on hard. What he noticed they had he didn’t like. Two of them had rifles and they were taking aim at his back now. Reining Barranca to the right then left as he turned and fired.

Barranca seemed to sense what his master needed as he galloped and continued to swerve back and forth as Madrid fired his colt. Three shots left and no way he would be able to reload at this pace Madrid took out his long rifle. Looking ahead he seen a wash coming up that his horse would have to jump. He just prayed Barranca had enough left in him to make it over. Upon getting closer Johnny seen it was much wider than he thought. Pulling back on the reins hard he tried to stop his horse from what would be certain death. Barranca ignored him and jumped clearing the wash just barely. The edge gave way on the other side and his hind feet went out from under him. Neighing and struggling he got up finally and took off again.

The Apache’ couldn’t jump the wash and stopped their mounts yelling in anger. The two with rifles fired at their escaping quarry.

Johnny glanced down and seen the wash was about forty feet deep. It ran well in both directions and was about fifty feet he guessed across. When Barranca made it across and his feet went out from under him as the bank caved in he threw his weight forward to help his friend get traction. When the horse was able to get back on all fours and took off again, that’s when he felt the white hot pain in his right side and upper left thigh. Looking back he seen the Apache’ had stopped their pursuit of him. Barranca was starting to lather now as his body gleamed with sweat. Madrid knew that if he didn’t get him slowed down soon the stallion would run until his heart gave out. That he was certain of.

Ignoring the pain he felt but yet trying to stay in the saddle he headed northwest to where the pack train would be. After about an hour he topped a rise and looked behind him searching for any sign of the Apache’ still following him. Seeing nothing he moved Barranca at a much needed walk toward where he knew water would be. Reaching a bloody hand down he patted his beloved stallion on the neck.

“ I owe you big time Amigo……..I’m afraid I’m in a bad way buddy. Them damn Apache’ got a couple lucky shots in.” he told his friend. The bullet hole in his side he could feel the blood seeping from on his back but the front, the exit bled more. A bullet made a small hole on entry but a big hole on exit. If he didn’t get the bleeding slowed down he knew he would die before morning. Reaching the water hole he slipped from the saddle and grabbed a hold to keep from falling as he got his legs under him.

“ I know you want a drink amigo…..just give me a second buddy.”

Barranca smelled the blood and threw his head up and down before turning and nudging Johnny in the left shoulder. The stallions golden coat was now dingy from the dried sweat and foam that covered him a short time before. Standing perfectly still the stallion watched helplessly as Madrid collapsed at his side unconscious. Turning he nuzzled and licked at Johnny’ face knowing he needed to wake up. The call of water to great the stallion walked down to the waters edge and drank hungrily but cautiously. Getting his fill he went back to his owner and water ran from his mouth onto Madrid’ face causing the man to stir. If anyone had witnessed it they wouldn’t believe the bond and love both man and horse had for each other. A horse of Barranca’ stature rarely came along and when one did it was a true blessing to the man who was lucky enough to have such a horse.

Barranca came from a herd of mustangs in Mexico. Madrid had seen the stallion in Barranca Del Cobre canyon and caught him. The two had become inseparable and every day their bond and trust for one another grew.

Madrid felt water on his face and opened his eyes, looking up at a soft golden muzzle a couple inches above his face. Moaning aloud he rolled onto his left side and sat up. After a minute to let the queasy feeling pass. Reaching up he grabbed the stirrup and pulled himself up.

“ Thanks again amigo.” he said patting the stallions shoulder. Hanging on to the saddle Madrid reached into his saddle bags and pulled out a bottle of tequila and bandages. Something he had learned a long time ago to always have on him. He also took out a small leather pouch. Inside it had two different sized needles. Taking what he had over to a rock at the waters edge he sat down and couldn’t stop his stomach rebelling against him. He threw up all he had which wasn’t but a little jerky he ate the night before when he spotted the Apache’.

Shaking Madrid realized he had forgotten his canteen so he moved down to the waters edge and drank eagerly after washing the foul taste form being sick out. Taking up the tequila he took a long pull on it then poured some on the needle.

“Barranca come here boy.” he said. The stallion walked over to him and Johnny reached up and yanked a couple hairs from his tail.

“ Lo Siento amigo.” he said needing the hair as thread to sew up the from of the wound in his side and on his leg. His back would have to wait. He would keep it wrapped until he could get back to his deputies, if he made it back to them, alive. Taking up the needle he poured tequila on the wound on his leg before stitching it up.

“ Might as well do the easy one first huh buddy.” he stated with a slight laugh.

 Much pain and and three hours later Madrid got back on his horse and headed west again toward the Colorado river. He knew the men would be gone from the meeting place by the time he got there. Crossing the river he also knew could be trouble since he had a hole in his side and a furrow in his left thigh. The wound in his back had stopped bleeding as the bandage now clung to his skin and pulled with every move he made.

McCloud and his men reached the Dry lake abandoned weigh station late afternoon. Putting there horses in the barn out of sight after watering them, McCloud had two men stand watch as he and the others went inside.

“ Hey McCloud…how come you got it in so bad for Madrid?” a man named Carver asked.

“ Because he betrayed me……and nobody does that to me…….nobody.” he said flatly.

“ Betrayed you how?” he inquired.

“ He rode with me a few years back on this job down in Mexico…..It didn’t go down right and I got shot….The Rurales were hot on our trail. We split up and were to meet up in Sonora.”

“ Yeah so…….how’d Madrid betray you?”

“ Rurales were waiting for me there that’s how. I was told by them that Madrid sold me out and told them I would be coming there……They let him go and put me in jail.”

“ How long were you in?”

“ Five days…..they got drunk and the rest of my men I rode with got me out…….I swore on that day that if I ever got the chance again I would kill that halfbreed bastard and now I’m gonna finally get my chance.”

“ Can you take him in a face-off?………I mean you told us Madrid is the fastest in the south……how you gonna kill him if you can’t outdraw him?”

“ Ain’t nothing that says I have to face him……..I will kill Madrid and he won’t see it coming.”

“ So you’re gonna back shoot him?…… me that’s the cowards way.” Carver stated firmly.

McCloud stepped over to the man he had been addressing. “ You saying I’m a coward?”

Looking around at the other men then back at his boss. “ Yeah I am……Only a coward shoots a man like Madrid in the back for revenge………..or did it really happen that way?”

“ So now you’re questioning me and what happened?”

“ Look all I’m saying is…….I heard a lot of things about Madrid, and loyalty is one thing he has……I know a man who rode with him and he said Madrid would risk his neck to save a mans life that he rode with.”

“ And your point is?” McCloud asked coldly.

“ My point is that maybe he didn’t sell you out……those Rurales could have been sent there and to any other town to wait for either one of you………did you see Madrid at all while in Sonora?”

“I didn’t have to see that bastard……they told me he sold me out.”

“ And you believed them?……man McCloud you know the Rurales were looking for the both of you…….I’m sorry but I would have to have something better than the words of a Rurales to think a man betrayed me.”

“ You know Carver……when Madrid shows up you ask him and when you find out I’m telling the truth I’m gonna kill you for doubting my word and calling me a coward.”

Barranca  stopped at the bank of the Colorado river and nickered softly.

“ Okay boy…….take us across amigo.” Johnny said as he gave the stallion his head and took hold of the saddle horn after wrapping the reins around it loosely.

Barranca eased into the river and with the power of two horses he swam across blowing water from his nose as he kept his head above. The weight of his rider and saddle hindered him a little but for a horse of his size he took the challenge in stride. Climbing up the bank on the other side he stopped and coughed and blew water from his nose one last time.

Johnny hung on as his stallion swam across fighting the swift current. The coldness of the water shocked him more alert as it reached his skin. Soaked almost all the way through he patted Barranca’ neck when the stallion climbed up the bank and stopped.

“ Good boy……I’m gonna owe you at least a weeks rest and plenty of good green hay and grain amigo when this is over.”

Neighing and shaking his head up and down the horse started walking again.

Johnny smiled as he reached down and pulled his coat back to check the wound. Seeing no blood on the front seeping through the stitches he hoped the back also wasn’t bleeding. The river ran clear and washed away the blood from his pant leg and shirt. At least what he could see had been washed away.

“ Toby he’s not back yet……..We gonna wait or go on like Madrid said without him?” his little brother asked.

Toby looked at the men. “ It’s not my decision to make alone. Madrid put me in charge but you men have a say in this.”

“I say we wait for him. The horses could use the rest anyways. Bob Johnson stated.

“ Yeah.”  Jeff, Malcolm and JJ answered.

“ Okay….get a fire going I have a feeling Madrid ran into trouble and will be riding in here injured. “ Billy get the medical supplies off the pack horse and get it ready………..Malcolm climb up on that hill over there and keep an eye out.”

All the men were worried, especially Toby. He had grown fond of Madrid and knew his little brother had also. Not knowing if he would come in with an arrow or bullet in him, Toby hoped that whatever had slowed Madrid down wasn’t bad. They had thirteen days left to make San Francisco by the deadline and deliver the gold. Johnny had planned on sending a wire from Sacramento letting the bank manager in Douglas know where they were and that should happen two days out. Now though he couldn’t help but wonder if they would make it on time. McCloud and his men have made no show yet and he as well as the others knew McCloud would be up ahead somewhere waiting to ambush them and steal the gold.

Rider coming in.” Malcolm yelled an hour later.

How far out?” Toby asked as he stood up and tossed his coffee.

About half a mile……it’s Madrid and he don’t look good.” he answered as he started to come down from the hill. Running over to Toby and the others. “ His horse is walking real easy and it looks like he’s slumped over his neck.”

Toby went to his horse as did Bob and rode out to Madrid. Barranca stopped when the men approached.

“ Damn……he’s been shot.” Toby said as he noticed the blood on Johnny’s back.

Barranca started walking again into the camp and stopped. Toby and Bob got Madrid down and placed him on a bedroll next to the fire.

“ Billy take care of his horse……He looks like he’s had a rough go.” his older brother ordered as he helped Toby get Madrid’ shirt off to check the wound.

“ My God…..he stitched up his own wound.” Jeff stated.

“ It seems so…….Probably what saved him from bleeding to death.” Toby answered back.

“ Look at the scars on him…….what the hell?” Bob asked.

“ I heard Madrid had a really rough childhood. Being a halfbreed growing up along the border he probably got abused by both side.”

“ Both sides?” Jeff inquired.

“ Yeah, the Mexicans for being half gringo and the gringo’s for being half Mexican.”

“ Madrid said his old man was a rich gringo here in California.”

“ Yeah never said his name. Just that he lives in the San Joaquin valley somewhere.”

“ Toby the only man I know who lives in that valley and is rich is a man named Murdoch Lancer…….You think that’s who his pappy is?”

“ I don’t know…..all I know is whoever he is he threw Johnny and his mother out when he was two.”

Two days Madrid fought a slight fever and tossed and turned as bad memories plagued his mind of his childhood. Toby understood the Spanish he mumbled and would get angry hearing what was done to him by his mother and others as a child.

Opening his eyes Madrid moaned as he reached up and rubbed his face.

“ Easy boss…….don’t go moving around to fast…’ll tear them stitches out…………here drink some water.” Toby said as he held a cup of the cool liquid to Madrid’ parched lips.

“ Thanks……How long?”

“ Two day’s. Your horse brought you in……Looked like he had been rode to hell and back.”

“ Yeah pretty much.” he said as he tried to sit up. “ Saved my life.”

“ Was it McCloud and his men Johnny?” Billy asked.

“ No……….Apache’……..Barranca jumped a wash and they couldn’t follow…….had a couple long rifles is how I got shot.”

“ You stitched yourself up………Man that had to hurt.” Billy said in aw.

“ Some but you learn that you gotta do whatever it takes to survive out here Billy.”

“ I’ve been taking real good care of your horse for you Johnny. Real good care.”

“ Thanks Billy……..I appreciate that………..How many days we got left?”

“ Ten days tomorrow.” Toby answered.

“ K…….We’ll leave at dawn.”

“ You sure you’re ready to ride?”

“ Yeah…….I’m sure.”

“ What about McCloud?”

“ Didn’t see McCloud Billy……just the Apache’.” Johnny said.

“ Think I could get something to eat?”

“ Yeah sure Johnny.” Billy answered.

Two days later Madrid and the men rode to the outskirts of Dry lake. Looking around he could see tracks on the hard cracked sand made recently.

“ McCloud’ here.” he stated. “ Turn around and lets ride around here……Any shooting starts I want you to get those horses moving fast understand me?” Madrid ordered.

“Yeah.” Toby answered. “ Let’s go men.”

McCloud waited after being alerted to Madrid riding in. Smiling as he looked up the street from his vantage point. When Madrid didn’t come closer he knew something or someone had alerted the gunfighter to his presence. Cursing he stood up and took aim and fired at the group.

Don’t hit the horses.” he yelled as he continued to fire his rifle. “ Madrid’ mine.”

All hell broke lose as the way station  erupted in gunfire.

                                                                        Chapter 4

Malcolm felt a bullet slam into his back and fell from his horse. Rolling he yelled out as another bullet caught him in the chest killing him. The two horses he was leading and his horse stopped a few feet from him.

Johnny…..Malcolm’ down.” Toby yelled as a bullet caught him in the upper left arm.

Madrid turned lose the pack horses and went to Malcolm. He could see blood spread across the man’s chest and knew he was dead. Grabbing the rope of the pack horses he spurred Barranca hard to get away.

Bob,Toby and Jeff returned fire to give him some cover as Billy took the other pack horses and got away.

Jeff turned his horse just as a bullet entered his abdomen. Leaning forward in the saddle he grabbed the horn and rode off with the others.

Riding like the wind the remaining six rode at a full run hard toward the mountains to the west.

After a couple hours Johnny slowed Barranca down to an easy gallop. Toby rode up next to him and he could see the blood on his left arm.

“ We need to get that cleaned up and bandaged.” he said as he stopped Barranca.

Jeff couldn’t stay in the saddle any longer. Stopping his horse and swaying from side to side.

“ Johnny.” he called out before falling to the ground.

Johnny….Toby…..Jeff’ down.” Bob yelled as he jumped off his horse.

Madrid and Toby hurried to Jeff’ side. Madrid could tell the wound was bad. A man gut shot didn’t stand a chance of surviving and those who did didn’t really live a life after.

“ Help me Johnny…….I don’t want to die like this.” Jeff said between clenched teeth. “ I’m on fire inside.”

“ I can’t……….you’re gut shot Jeff.” Madrid answered with sadness.

“ Bob……Toby……don’t..don’t let me…….” Jeff never got to finish as his life drained from his body.

Madrid stood up and walked to Barranca and leaned against the saddle. After a minute he walked Barranca over and tied the lead rope of Jeff’ pack horses to his and swung up in the saddle.

“We can’t leave him here Johnny…..we gotta bury Jeff.” Billy said.

“ We stay and McCloud will catch up and we’ll all be dead.” He said looking at Toby. “ That need’s a doctor.”

“ It’ll keep…..McCloud will be coming after us…..I know he lost a couple men and we’re down by  two now.”

“ Was Malcolm dead?” Billy asked.

“ Yeah…he was Billy.” Madrid answered softly. “ Alright if you can ride okay we’ll head toward Barstow. There’s a doctor there who can treat that arm.”

“ You think it’s wise to ride into Barstow with all this gold Johnny?” Jeff asked.

“ No… of you is going to go in and bring the doctor to us……..There’s an old abandoned mine west of Barstow. Played out years ago…..It’s plenty big enough we can take the horses inside to the back in case McCloud shows up.”

“ I’ll go Johnny….for the doc.” Billy chimed in.

Johnny looked at him ready to answer when Bob spoke up. “ No Billy…….I don’t want you going into Barstow………..Look Johnny I could use a bath and a good meal and I know the others could also.”

“ No……..we’ll get all that in Stockton okay…….look if you got a problem with this……..any of you speak up now.”

“ No Johnny we ain’t got no problem……..It’s just……..”

“ What Bob?” Madrid asked looking around.

“A man ought to have a marker with some words on it…..He was our friend……Malcolm also.”

“ You go back there and McCloud will kill you for sure…..he may have left a man or two there just in case one of us did go back for him.” Toby said loudly. “ We all knew the risk involved when we took this job……..We finish it and then and only then do we think about comforts and taking care of our personal needs or wants…………Right Johnny?”

Madrid just gave a slight nod of his head before moving out. The look he had said more than words could have.

That night as the doctor finished bandaging Toby’ arm he was told about Madrid’ wound in his side. Standing up he walked over to the sheriff.

 “ Your deputy said you got shot in the back a few days back and would like me to take a look at it.”

“ I’m fine doc…..will his arm be alright?”

“ Yes……he shouldn’t use it for a week or so though.”

“ Well that ain’t gonna happen doc.” Madrid stated.

“ You mine telling me why I was dragged out here to treat your deputy?…….Why didn’t you come into Barstow?”

“ We can’t doc……..look I appreciate all you’ve done…..It’d be best if you didn’t tell anyone about us okay?”

“ Sheriff look what is going on?” the doctor demanded.

“ Doc it’s best that you don’t know and that we don’t come into your town.”

“ You’re the ones escorting the  half million dollars in gold to San Francisco.” the doc blurted out.

That got all of their attention. “ How do you know about that?” Johnny asked.

“ Madrid it’s been all over the papers………Gunfighter Johnny Madrid and six deputies left Douglas, Arizona escorting half a million dollars in gold to the bank in San Francisco. Bein’s it’s you doin it Madrid it’s sellin newspapers and the talk of the towns.”

“ Shit Johnny……who the fuck told that we were doing this?” Toby demanded.

“ I’ll give you one guess………look thanks for the info doc…….you make it back to town alright?”

“ Yeah I’ll be fine…… boys take care. You sure you don’t want me to check that wound?”

“ Yeah….I’m good doc………Thanks.”

Murdoch Lancer sat at his desk reading a telegram that was couriered  out to him. Hearing the front door open he found his son coming in.

“ It’s a sad day when Banks have to resort to hiring gunfighter’s to deliver their gold.” he said tossing the gram on his desk.

“ I’m sorry sir…..what did you say?” Scott Lancer said as he stepped down into the grand room.

Murdoch’ oldest boy raised at Lancer his whole life Scott was a good hand around the ranch. Twenty   five years old, educated and good looking. Blond hair and fare skinned like his mother Catherine.

Unfortunately though Catherine died giving birth to his oldest son. Scott never got the chance to meet her. His grandfather Harlan Garrett wanted nothing to do with his grandson. He blamed Scott and Murdoch for his only daughters death.

Lancer stretched over fifty miles in any direction. One hundred thousand acres, twenty thousand head of cattle and more wild horses than a man could break in a lifetime ran on Lancer land.

Murdoch Lancer came to the United states from Iverness, Scotland. A year off the boat and he and Catherine got married and headed west. He bought Lancer at a very good price and turned it into a very successful  cattle ranch.

A couple years after Catherine passed he met another beautiful woman, Maria Santiago while in Matamoros, Mexico. Their coming together was swift. His wanting and need of a beautiful woman, some would just call lust., and her need and wanting of a rich gringo. He had gotten her with child unwed and married her. He had loved his youngest boy Johnny with all he had. Scott being three years older than Johnny his roll as big brother became short lived. Maria in the middle of the night stole away from Lancer and took his blue eyed son Johnny with her when barely two years old. He searched frantically for them below the border,  but to no avail. Maria and a dark haired blue eyed little boy just disappeared.

Handing the telegram to his son the Lancer patriarch got up and walked over to the side board and poured himself a stiff drink.

“I’m afraid  I don’t understand sir….what does this Madrid person and the gold have to do with Lancer?” he asked walking over to his father.

“ Madrid will be coming thru Stockton most likely son………With that much gold and only six deputies with him there is bound to be trouble. Trouble the good people of this valley do not need.”

“ Don’t you find it a little odd sir that this is even in the papers……I mean when I was in the war we didn’t announce when we would be moving valuable supplies or currency.”

Murdoch looked at his son. “ That education of yours is paying off…….I was thinking the same thing….Seems to me that someone on the sending end wanted it known. From what I have heard about this gunfighter Madrid, he’s a killer……..How he ended up being the sheriff of Douglas and escorting that much gold is beyond me.”

“ Maybe it’s someone’s way of setting him up sir……..Maybe the gold is just a lure to kill this Johnny Madrid…….I heard he’s the fastest gunfighter in the south.”

“ Yes I heard the tales also son………A person like Madrid shouldn’t be alive…………Hiring out his gun to kill another person………..Does he have no morals, no conscious?”

“ Do you think my little brother ever seen this Madrid sir?”

“ I hope not son………..I hope your brother has never witness this……………murder anyone.”

“ They say he’s just a boy……..not even twenty………about Johnny’s age.”

“ Listen Scott I don’t want your brother talked about in the same sentence as that killer Johnny Madrid.

Them having the same first name is the only coincidence they share……..My Johnny, Maria would have brought up with proper educate……….She wouldn’t have allowed your brother to become a gunfighter and go around killing people for money.”

“ Maybe if this Madrid had had parents who cared about him he wouldn’t……..”

“ Enough……I don’t want to have any more of this discussion about that killer again……Now we have to attend a cattlemen’ meeting in Stockton next week. Unfortunately Madrid is scheduled to be in Stockton at that time.”

“ We have done nothing to him so why would you be concerned?”

“ His kind bring nothing but trouble…If not all that gold then he alone……Why don’t you go get cleaned up for dinner now son?” Murdoch said as he went back to his desk.

“ Yes sir.” Scott answered. Inside he couldn’t help but feel sorry for this Madrid. Maybe if he had had a brother or family who cared about him he wouldn’t have turned the way he had.

McCloud and his men got ready to leave after the wounded were took care of. Four men were dead and three wounded. Mounting up he looked down at the still body of Malcolm Withers ad spit on the deputy badge on the mans chest before moving out.

“ So what now?” Carver asked.

“ We go to Stockton and wait for Madrid to ride in there.”

“ Are you crazy McCloud……the laws in Stockton.”

Stopping his horse. “ You think I give a fuck about some two bit town sheriff?………….Madrid just killed four of my men and wounded three more….a couple of his deputies are wounded and one is dead back there……..He’s gonna need more men to guard that gold and Stockton is the best place to get that help.”

“ What about Barstow?…….Couldn’t he get help there?”

“ I know Madrid and he won’t go anywhere near Barstow………The law there knows him and his kind ain’t welcome….badge or no badge Madrid is still a gunfighter.”

“ I want out McCloud……..You’ve turned this into something personal…… don’t care if you get the gold or not…..* You * want Madrid.”

“ You want out?” McCloud asked with anger. “ Any of you others want to tuck tail and run?…….Go ahead that just means more gold for the rest of us.”

McCloud had twelve men left counting the three wounded. “ I mean it………if you want out now go…….If you stay and then try to leave me I will kill you so you better make up your minds right now.”

Carver looked around at the men before turning his horse east. The three wounded men did the same as did two others leaving McCloud with six men.

Sitting his horse pissed McCloud watched six of his thought to be loyal men ride away from sharing half a million dollars in gold.

“ Okay…….just means more for us…….Let’s go.” he said putting spur to his horse.

Madrid groomed Barranca as lightening popped off outside the mine. The rain had started about midnight and he wondered if the doctor made it back to Barstow before the storm hit. Talking softly to his stallion as he brushed the golden coat he heard footsteps behind him. Without even turning around to see who it was he spoke.

“ What you want Billy?”

“ How’d you know it was me?”

“ I just did.” he responded. He wasn’t about to tell this kid that every person walked differently, some heavy, some soft.

“ Can I talk to you about something?”

“ Go ahead.” he said as he moved around to the right side of his horse so he could also look at Billy.

“ Well…….I was wondering what happens when this is over?…….I mean when we get back to Douglas?”

“ I don’t know Billy….You talking about this job and the commissioner selling us out or something else?”

“ I know you’ll handle the commissioner Johnny…….It’s just that……well you’re gonna still have your job as sheriff but the rest of us…….me and Toby we’ll be looking for jobs again and I don’t want to punch cows for a livin.”

“ I see……so what do you want to do Billy?”

“ Well I was wondering if maybe me and my brother could stay on as your deputies?…..That is if we’re still alive.”

Johnny stopped brushing Barranca and walked back around to the kid standing there before him and smiled.

“ I guess I could use a good deputy or two……Douglas is growing and I bet when we get back we will have to do some exterminating for a bit.”

“ You mean it Johnny?”

“ I always mean what I say Billy…….you and Toby got good heads on ya……….you’re not fast to react to something and you think it out before you do……..You any good with that Colt?”

“ Some…….I mean I’m nothing compared to you Johnny but I can hold my own.”

“ Can I see it?”

“ Sure.” he responded as he took the colt out and handed it to Madrid.

Cocking it and spinning it on his finger Johnny checked the balance. It wasn’t bad but it could be better. “The sight on the end should be filed off for more edge in a draw. The trigger needed to be worked some so it was easier to pull and the hammer could be notched down a little.” he told Billy as he handed the gun back to him. “ You might think about a different holster also Billy…….one that’s cut down on the side some like mine is.”

“ But I’m not a gunfighter and don’t want to be one.”

“ You’ll still have to draw against rowdy miners or cowboys that come into town. I’m not saying get a gunfighter rig Billy…..This was custom made for me by a man in Cordova, Mexico…’s a one of a kind………The colt has been customized for me also.”

“ I thought it looked a little different than mine.”

“ It’s a lot different than yours Billy…….It’s got a real hair trigger on it and the barrel is shorter……..Listen you better get some rest because we ride out at dawn.”

“ What if it’s still storming?”

“ We still leave.”

“ Okay Johnny…….Thanks…I’ll see ya in the morning.”

“ Okay Billy.”

Just after sun-up the five rode out of the cave as the rain continued to come down hard. One plus to the foul weather would be their tracks. McCloud wouldn’t be able to track them and he would be slowed down as well. Washes that were usually dry ran with water coming down from the hills sweeping anything in it’s path away. None of the men spoke, each lost in their own thoughts about the day before. Both Jeff and Malcolm were good men and Madrid hated having to leave them without burial.

“ You did the right thing back there Johnny.” Toby stated after riding up next to him.

“ They deserved our respect and a burial Toby……..They lost their life because of me.”

“ That’s bullshit Johnny……..they hired on and knew the risk when they did just like the rest of us……Stop blaming yourself for their death……..Blame McCloud……he’s the one who killed them.”

“ Jeff died a terrible death.” Bob stated as lightening flashed and thunder roared.

“ I didn’t know he was hit.”

“ None of us did Johnny……even if we had Jeff still would have died from his wound and you know it…

How many men you kill in a fair fight that called you out?”

“ It’s not the same Toby.”

“ The hell it isn’t……Those men chose to die at your hand Johnny when they called you out…….Malcolm and Jeff may not have died from your gun but they died working for you and they knew it could happen when they pinned on that badge…..Death comes to us all……just some it comes to sooner.”

Three day’s later McCloud and his men rode into Stockton on tired horses. Putting them up at the livery the seven men headed to the Red Dog saloon just down the street. Their arrival didn’t go unnoticed. People on the street could tell the seven men were trouble for their town. Death would be riding into their usually peaceful town. Death with a badge, a badge pinned on the shirt of the deadliest gunfighter in the south, Johnny Madrid and with him half a million dollars in gold. That much gold or even a small amount could set a man pretty for some time if he was brave enough, or some would say foolish enough to go up against Madrid.

Word came in that Madrid had only four deputies now. That a band of outlaws had tried to steal the gold and failed. The local sheriff went to the CCGA asking for help protecting the town when Madrid rode in. Murdoch Lancer was quick to speak up about that request.

“ Why should we risk our lives protecting gold from a mining town in Arizona that has nothing to do with us?”

“ You’re grounded people mister Lancer…….It’s your civic duty to help protect the town and the people living there.” sheriff Mike Bolton stated.

Mike Bolton was as old as Murdoch and kept the town quiet. Oh sure he would have the usual rowdy drunken cowboys on Friday and Saturday nights. But the seven that rode into Stockton two days ago were clearly * not * cowboys looking for work on a cattle ranch.

“ Sir some of those people are our friends…..Think of what could happen if those seven men who rode into town decided to have their kind of fun?” Scott stated.

Murdoch glared at his son a minute. Deep down inside he knew he was right. Friends of his could get hurt. Women and children.

“ Alright sheriff… and my son will ride with you out to meet this Madrid….I’ll have five of my best guns ride with us.”

“ Thank you Murdoch……the people of Stockton thank you also.” the sheriff said before leaving.

Madrid and his four remaining deputies rode along as the sun now shined down on them drying their clothes out. The rain had stopped an hour before as the storm finally moved on. Nothing was worse than being soaked clean thru to the bone in his mind at the moment.

“ Johnny we got company coming and a lot of them.” Toby said pointing west.

“ Yeah I seen their dust a while back.”

“ That McCloud?”

“ Could be…….lets get these pack horses up in these rocks out of site…….Billy up high with a rifle…..Bob you and JJ also……..Take your scatter guns with you.” he ordered as he stopped Barranca and got down. Removing his rifle and scatter gun he swatted Barranca on the rump.

“ Where you want me Johnny?” Toby asked.

“ With me but out of site. Whoever the leader is keep that rifle on him.”

‘ You bet.” Toby responded as he stepped down from his horse and went to some rocks to Madrid’ left.

Murdoch, Scott and the sheriff rode out of Lancer at dawn with five hands Murdoch picked to go with them. When they seen the pack train up ahead when they topped a rise the sheriff stopped.

“ Listen to me men……I want no sudden moves or anything done when we ride up to them. These men have already been ambushed at least once for that gold.”

“ And Madrid is a hired killer……badge or not.” Murdoch added.

Moving out again the men rode about a mile and came to an abrupt halt when they rounded a corner. There facing them was a sawed off scatter gun and the man behind the gun, Johnny Madrid. Eyes as cold as an iceberg stared back at them. In an equally cold voice he spoke as he cocked both barrels.

“ You men got a reason to be riding as hard as you are?” he asked.

Finding his voice failing him the sheriff cleared his throat.

“ We came to help you get that gold to San Francisco Madrid.” he finally got out.

“ Well sheriff……me and my deputies have gotten it this far without help…..I reckon we can make it the rest of the way the same.”

“ Not through Stockton you don’t……….Not in my jurisdiction Madrid…….You’re a sheriff for Douglas Arizona……..You’re in California now so that badge you’re wearing means nothing here.”

“ You know sheriff……..I know you know who I am so unless you wanna dance I suggest you stop crowding me.”

“ I know who you are Madrid…..we all do.”

“ And just who might you be?”

“ Murdoch Lancer……….and this is my son Scott Lancer and these men work for me. We rode out here to help you in any way we can.”

Johnny’ insides flipped on him. His stomach wanted to empty right there. There in front of him was the man who turned his mother into a whore and kicked him out when he was only two. Looking at the blonde Lancer his hatred grew more…..Now he understood why he and his mother were thrown out…The gringo had a son who was not a mestizo. Swallowing the bile that rose in his throat he spoke in a tone that would turn any man to ice.

“ I don’t give a damn who you are old man…… and my men are responsible for this gold……..Jurisdiction don’t mean shit to me sheriff…… want to follow along that’s your choice……You get in my way and well……..”

“ Now see here boy……….we don’t need your kind in our town and that gold is bringing trouble Stockton don’t need.”

Johnny stepped closer to the big man. “ You call me boy again old man and I’ll be glad to show you just how wrong you are.”

“ Seven men rode into Stockton two days ago Madrid.” Scott said.

“One of them have a scar on his face?” Madrid asked as he glared at the man who’s blood ran thru his veins.

“ Yes…yes he did.”

“ McCloud…….Toby….Bob…JJ…Billy come on down.” he yelled before letting out a whistle. A minute later Barranca trotted up to him.

“ McCloud must have really pushed his horses to get there two day’s ahead of us Johnny.”

“ Yeah their horses were pretty tired looking when they rode in.” the sheriff answered.

Scott couldn’t help but notice the fine confirmation and golden color of the stallion.

“ That’s a fine looking animal. Is he for sale?”

Madrid looked at his half brother. “ He ain’t for sale for no amount of money not even to a spoiled rich kid like you.” he stated as he swung into the saddle and moved Barranca over next to  Scott. “ I caught him in Barranca Del Cobre canyon in Mexico he’s a mustang and a better horse than you’ll ever find so if you think I stole him guess again.”

“ I never thought that…….I just admire good horse flesh and for the record I am not a spoiled rich kid.”

“ Sure…..if you say so……..Let’s go men.” Johnny ordered.

“ So you’re Murdoch Lancer huh?……..The high and mighty cattle baron of the San Joaquin valley.” Toby said as he stopped his horse next to the patriarch. “ Johnny there has gotten this gold this far….McCloud killed two of our deputies so I suggest that when those two dance…….and they will……you and everyone else stay the hell out of their way.” Toby knew this was Madrid’ father, deep down inside he knew because he seen the slight change in Madrid’ face when the man told them who he was. To come face to face with the man responsible for creating you and then throwing you away had to be eating his friend up inside badly. And finding out he had a half brother also only added fuel to the already burning fire of hatred he knew Madrid had inside.

“ I am not afraid of him if that’s what you think?……….He’s nothing more than a boy and he needs to learn some manners on how to respect his elders.” Murdoch responded.

Toby couldn’t help it. This he had to say. “ Maybe if he had a father who cared about him instead of throwing him out when he was a baby he would……..but seein’s how he had a whore for a mother and no old man in his life when growing up he don’t have the manners that are to your liking……….and I suggest you remember what he said about calling him a * boy *. Madrid became a man a long time ago and as far as I’m concerned he’s more of a man than any of you ever could be.” he said before moving out.

Murdoch turned his horse and looked at his oldest. Something inside bothered him with the words he was just told. He couldn’t put a finger on it but for some unknown reason all of a sudden he had a feeling for Madrid that he couldn’t explain. Maybe it was the simple fact that Madrid had the same name as his missing youngest? Maybe it was because he too had a gringo father, Madrid’ blue eyes told him that. No Mexican had dark hair and blue eyes. Maybe it was that Madrid too had no father in his life for guidance when growing up. No one to set him on a different path than the one he chose.

Cole walked into the saloon and found McCloud sitting at a table in the back engaged in a game of poker. Walking over he stopped next to him. He waited until the hand was done before speaking.

“ Madrid is about an hour out…….the sheriff and seven men rode out there to meet him early this morning.” he reported.

McCloud looked up at the man. “ An hour out huh…….tell the men to not do anything…..Let him ride into town……….We will take that gold when I’m ready and any man who tries before hand will answer to me.”

“ Yes sir.” Cole answered before turning and leaving.

Madrid rode along in silence with Toby at his side. Hatred burned inside him like none he had ever felt before. He wondered what the gringo son would think if he knew he had a halfbreed brother?  Stopping Barranca about a half mile out of town he looked at Toby.

“ Where’s your livery at sheriff?” he asked.

“ This end of town.” he answered as he rode up next to Madrid.

“ Tell me about it and where McCloud and his men have been hanging out at.”

“ The livery is big….It has a big corral on each side of it. McCloud has been staying at the hotel at the other end of town. It has a saloon in it. I believe he’s the only one with a room there. His men have been staying in the bordello or around in the other saloon drinking and whoring.”

“ well sheriff there’s nothing wrong with a good whore………I want you to ride on in and go to your office………I know people know you rode out and if they see you riding in they will know I’m here and I want them off the street……..I don’t want any innocent people killed……..You…….Mur…….Lancer take your men and ride in after the sheriff and position them around town.” he ordered. “ Spoiled rich kid I hope you know how to use that long rifle of yours.” he said to Scott.

Scott rode up next to him. “ I’m as good with it as you are with that colt……..maybe better.” he stated.

“ I doubt that………but you’ll get a chance to prove it……that is if you got the guts to pull the trigger and kill a man?”

“ I’ll have you know I served with General Phil Sheridan in the war……I have no problem shooting a man.”

“ Shooting a man and killing him are two different things……You’re liable to end up dead if you don’t shoot to kill because McCloud and his men will be.”

“ Like I said I have no problem shooting a man.” he said with force.

“ My son can shoot……..He doesn’t go around killing people for a reputation or money.” Murdoch added.

Johnny glared at the man. “ You got a problem with me old man spill it out now or keep your mouth shut………You know nothing about me and I’m not going to listen to your bullshit.”

“ I know all about you Madrid and my son is nothing like you.”

It took every ounce of will power he had to not shoot the man down right there. Turning his stallion away from the man. “ Boy’s this is it I guess……The first rounds on me when this is over.”

“ Let’s do this for Malcolm and Jeff.” Billy said.

“ Johnny when you kill McCloud make him die a slow painful death like Jeff had to do but worse.” Bob asked.

“ He’ll die slow I promise you all that.”

Murdoch, Scott and the five hands rode into Stockton after the sheriff. Murdoch had his men position themselves outside the general store, bank gunsmith’s shop, undertaker’s and cantina at the far end of town. He and Scott stopped at the sheriff’ office and dismounted. Stepping up onto the boardwalk.

“ He’s not exactly what I pictured.” Scott said.

Murdoch looked at him. “ He a killer son……..nothing more and blood will be shed on the streets today because of him………..Men like Madrid bring nothing but death wherever they go.”

“ He’s doing a job sir.”

“ Yes……a job he was hired to do but just because Madrid is wearing a badge doesn’t change the fact that he is a killer……..someone who has no moral…………He only cares about himself and no one else. He kills for money and a man who will kill another man for money……..or a reputation to me doesn’t deserve to be alive.”

“ What about lawmen or bounty hunters…….They are paid and they kill. Isn’t what they do the same thing?”

“ A lawman is hired by the public son to protect them and the town they live in……..A bounty hunter is like Madrid but most bounty hunters bring their catch in alive and let the law handle them………Madrid doesn’t…….He hires his gun out to the highest bidder.”

“ It seems to me sir that you are awful quick t judge someone you only have hearsay to go on…….You taught me that unless you know the truth never believe what you hear……..Most of what we have heard about Madrid may not be true so I cannot judge him as a killer.”

“ Why not?”

“ I don’t know…….There is something about him I can’t explain……..Something that say’s he is different than other gunfighters……That he cares and isn’t a cold blooded killer like others, yourself included believe.”

“ Your feelings will be proved wrong today……By the time this is over you will see that I am right. That Madrid * is * nothing more than a killer son.”

People on the street watched as their sheriff rode back into town and went to his office. A few minutes later they watched as Murdoch Lancer and his son also rode up to the sheriff’ office and dismounted. They knew the time was near as they hurried to get off the street and avoid the bloodshed that would be coming. Some stayed and peered out windows of shops. Parents hustled  their children home, not wanting them to see the death that would be happening.

Some cowboys who liked Murdoch Lancer took up long rifles and waited on rooftops signaling to the man as he rode into town of their presence so they wouldn’t get shot.

Today the streets of Stockton would come alive in a way every law abiding citizen feared. Gunfire and death.

Madrid and his four remaining deputies rode to the livery and dismounted. Leading the pack horses inside out of harms way. The owner, a middle aged man walked in from the back corral and stopped.

“ Sheriff…….I kinda figured you would be bringing your horses in here……As you can see I got all the stalls empty and ready for you.”

“ Much obliged.” Johnny said as he led Barranca into a stall. “ You got someplace else you can go?”

“ No……..I live here…….I got a room in the back.”

“ Well I suggest you go in there and stay put till this is over.” he said as he loosened the cinch some.

“ Alright…….would you mind paying me in advance for the stalls and feed?”

Johnny walked up to the man. “ Not at all…..Will ten dollars cover it?”

“ Why yes it would……..but the bill won’t be that much mister Madrid.”

“ Well consider it rent for your barn then.” he said as he took out some notes and handed them to the man.

“ Thank you.” the man said as he took the notes then headed to his room in the back.

Madrid took out his rifle and scatter gun and walked to the front doors of the livery.

“ You see the men on the rooftops Johnny?” Billy asked.

“ Yeah………I counted six in all on the roofs…….them and the five Lancer positioned around.”

“ So we have McCloud outgunned fourteen to his seven.”

“ You four are the only ones I trust…..I don’t know none of them and I sure as hell am not going to trust mister high and mighty Lancer or that spoiled kid of his.” he said as he took out his colt and checked the rounds.

“ He’s your old man Johnny.”

Johnny snapped his head up. The look he gave Toby said more than any words ever could.

“ Me and you will be having a talk when this is over Johnny.”

“ Ain’t nothing to talk about.” he responded.

“ Is he really your father Johnny?” Bob asked.

Looking around at his deputies. “ Yeah I got his blood running through my veins……He threw me and my mother out when I was two……..I got no use for the man or that gringo son of his.”

“ Your brother you mean?”

“ It seems to me that they don’t know who you really are Johnny.” Toby said.

“ And I want to keep it that way……..He’s got nothing I want.” Johnny answered back with anger in his voice.

“ Let’s get this dance started.” he said stepping out and walking toward the saloon he knew Sal McCloud would be in.

McCloud……Sal McCloud….come on out and face me.” Madrid yelled. Usually he didn’t do the calling out but this time the man he called out deserved to die for Malcolm and Jeff. Them and all the others the man had killed.

Sal McCloud heard his name yelled and put down his cards. “ Gentlemen It would appear I will have to fold.” he said standing up. Downing his shot of rye he turned and walked to the bat winged doors and stepped out onto the boardwalk.

“ Why Madrid………It’s not like you to do the calling out.”

“ You’re under arrest for the murder of two deputy sheriffs McCloud…….Drop your gun now and you can maybe live.”

“ And if I don’t?”

“ I’ll kill you where you stand you murdering sonofabitch.” Johnny said with anger.

“ Well I do like those odds and well since I don’t feel like taking my gun off……..I think I’ll dance with you.” he said as he stepped down into the street and faced Madrid.

                                                                    Chapter 5

Toby Bob and JJ moved away from Madrid. Billy stayed on his right. He had heard but never seen Madrid face a man and draw. Today he would.

“ Move away from me Billy……..he has six men around.” Madrid said never taking his eyes from Sal.

Billy stepped over to the side of the street across from his brother and looked around.

“ You know killing you is going to be a pleasure Madrid…..I’ll get the gold but better than that I’ll get the reputation of killing the halfbreed gunfighter Johnny Madrid.” he said with confidence.

“ If you think you can go ahead and try.” Johnny said with coldness. Coldness as cold as his eyes.

Sal glanced to Madrid’ right at the one he called Billy. “ I hope you’re watching kid because your sheriff friend Madrid here is a dead man……You and the others will be also……..You’ll die just like those two deputies did…….I enjoyed putting a bullet in that ones gut because I knew he would die a slow death and I so hate a man with a badge.”

Billy took the bait like McCloud hoped he would. “ Shut up you murdering bastard.” Billy said with anger as he went for his gun.

Sal drew and shot at Billy when a bullet hit him in the left shoulder spinning him around. Another bullet tore into his back as he dropped to the ground.

Madrid knew what McCloud was doing to Billy but he could do nothing to stop it. When he seen McCloud’ pupils widen before he drew he knew it was time. Drawing his colt he hit Sal in the shoulder and then into his lower back. White pain shot through his upper left arm as he took aim at McCloud again. Shots could be heard all around him, both rifle and pistol.

Turning he moved toward Billy when a bullet caught him in the side and another in his leg dropping him in the street.

Johnny.” Toby yelled as he tossed his rifle to him.

Johnny grabbed the rifle and took aim on a man behind Bob and fired. Never really good with a rifle he missed and watched as Bob Johnson was shot twice in the back and dropped to the ground dead.

JJ ran toward his fallen brother shooting the man who killed him. A bullet slammed into his chest from across the street throwing him backwards into the hitch rail. Another bullet hit him again in the chest and JJ fell forward laying over his brother dead.

Murdoch and Scott both fired at McCloud’ men killing two of them. Looking down the street they both seen Madrid down as well as two of his deputies. Scott moved toward them watching for signs of a shooter.

Madrid dragged himself across the street to a water trough and started reloading his pistol. Glancing around the trough he seen  McCloud, the man was still alive and fully intended on killing him. Reaching for his colt Johnny felt another bullet hit him in his left shoulder knocking him back.

“ I told you I’d kill you Madrid.” Sal said as he stepped up to him and took aim. Smiling he went to pull the trigger when his head exploded and he fell dead into the water trough.

Johnny looked and seen Scott Lancer coming toward him after lowering his rifle. He killed McCloud.

“ Told you I can shoot.” he said as he knelt down next to him.

Johnny went to stand up but found he couldn’t. Looking down he could see blood running from his upper left leg. His side was on fire and his left shoulder didn’t feel to good either. Looking across the street he seen both Johnson brothers dead and wondered about Billy and Toby.

Murdoch came over with the sheriff of Stockton and stood glaring down at Madrid.

“ I think all McCloud’ men are dead.”

“ He need’s a doctor now sheriff.” Scott ordered as he took out a kerchief and tied it around Johnny’ leg to slow the bleeding some.

Murdoch knelt down next to Madrid and placed a hand on the wound in his side. “ Just lay still, we’ll get you help.”

Johnny looked at the man pain clearly showing on his face as sweat ran into his eyes. “ My men?”

“ I’m here Johnny.” Toby said as he came over and knelt down next to him.

Billy also came over holding his right arm. “ I’m sorry Johnny.” he said softly.

“ It’s okay Billy……I’ve had worse…..Bob and JJ?”

Toby walked over and checked the brothers. The look on his face told Madrid what he already knew but still needed to ask.

“ They’re gone Johnny.”

Murdoch couldn’t explain the feeling he had inside as he tried to slow the bleeding of the wound to Madrid’ side. The bullet had gone clean thru but the one in the shoulder hadn’t. When he had seen the gunfighter shot and laying in the street a feeling of worry came over him. A pain only a father got for his child. Why he didn’t know, what he did know is it was strong and this bothered him. Why would he have such a strong feeling as he was now for a gunfighter? Was it because Madrid looked so much like he pictured his youngest, if still alive, would look like? Could Johnny Madrid be his Johnny?

‘ No…’s preposterous… Johnny would never become a gunfighter……..he would never take another mans life for money.’ he said to himself as the doctor came up.

“ What do we have Murdoch?” he asked.

“ He’s got a wound in his leg, side and shoulder doc.”

“ Alright let me in there.”

The doctor knelt down and looked at the wound in his side then his shoulder. “ Okay let’s get him to my office…that bullet has to come out of his shoulder and leg.”

Toby and Murdoch carried Madrid to the doctors office. On the way blackness claimed his friend and he was glad.

Toby sent a wire to the bank of San Francisco telling them what had happened and that the gold was still secure. Murdoch Lancer, even though he didn’t care for the man, had the gold moved into the Cattlemen’ bank for security. Even though the livery owner guarded it with a shotgun the temptation would be to great for those tempted.

Murdoch had men stand guard outside the bank with shotguns as the gold was unloaded from the tired pack horses. Not many people, himself included had ever seen that much gold at one time.

 Sitting in the doctors office with his oldest again the feeling of worry for Madrid came over him. A courier came in with a wire and handed it to Toby Jenks. He could see relief come to the mans face after reading the note.

“ Little brother it seems the bank is sending a detachment of soldiers to come get that damn gold.”

“ What…….now after all we’ve been through getting it this far?”

“ Yeah I know little brother…..I know.”

“ We lost four good men guarding that gold and Johnny may die also.”

“ Madrid won’t die…….he’s to tough…..He’ll pull through.”

“ You two known Johnny long?” Murdoch found himself asking.

Toby looked at the man. “ Long enough to know he’s not the kind of man * you * think he is Lancer.”

“ Yeah what do you care?” Billy  demanded.

“ I was just asking……..he may have gave his life for that gold so I was just trying to know him a little.”

“ Well don’t you concern yourself none about Madrid…..He knows who his friends are.”

The doctor came out with a ragged tired look on his face. “ Murdoch, Scott I didn’t expect to find you two still here.”

“ Never mind them doc…..How’s Johnny?” Toby demanded.

“ You’re two of his deputies I see……..well he has a chance given he doesn’t get an infection and fever. I cleaned all the wounds and removed the bullet from his shoulder. I found no significant damage to any of the wounds. He has lost a considerable amount of blood and is weak from that.  I think with time and plenty of rest he’ll make a full recovery.”

“ Is he awake?” Billy asked.

“ No I gave him opium to kill the pain and keep him out while I operated……he will be out for some time I’m afraid.”

“ How long will he be down doc?” Toby  asked.

“ I’m afraid he won’t be able to be moved or be leaving for some time if that’s what you’re asking…….He tries to ride out and he could bleed to death.”

“ Look doc that’s Johnny Madrid you saved in there…..word gets out that he’s here……..”

“ Madrid………I can’t have that man staying here……I’m sorry but you will have to move him to the hotel down the street.”

“ You just said he couldn’t be moved.”

“ Yes that was before I knew who he was…….If I had known I would not have bothered to save his life…..I am not in the habit of saving killers……..”

“ That will be enough doctor……That is the sheriff of Douglas, Arizona you have in that room and he is fighting for his life because he was protecting a gold shipment we are taking to San Francisco…….Johnny is not a killer like you people believe.” Toby stated with anger. “ Billy go over to the hotel and secure a room for Johnny…….I don’t want him staying here with a man who claims to be a doctor, who is supposed to help those in need of his help but not if his name is Johnny Madrid.”

“ Sure Toby but what if the hotel don’t want him there?”

“ Buy the fucking place then…….I’m not going to allow this town to treat Johnny like this and I’ll kill any man who tries to hurt him.”

“ That won’t be necessary….. I will get you a room…….the whole floor if need be.” Scott stated looking at his father.

“ That’s right……..he can stay at the cattlemen’ hotel. It’s a little farther down the street.” Murdoch said.

Toby didn’t know how Johnny would feel about staying there but he needed his friend someplace safe until he could defend himself and that wouldn’t be happening for some time. “ Fine…………doc you will get him ready to be moved and if I feel you do something wrong well……….”

“ Son go send a wire to Sam and request him to come here to Stockton.”

“ Yes sir.”

“ Who’s Sam?”

“ He’s our doctor in Moro Coyo…..he’s not biased like this doctor is about who he treats.” Scott said before leaving.

Sam arrived and took over the care of Johnny as a fever persisted. What he found on Madrid’ body besides the wounds troubled him. Especially a birthmark on the right hip. He had seen a birthmark like that only once before years ago….Eighteen years ago in fact.

“ Are you sure Sam?”

“ Murdoch I have never been more sure of anything in my life that I am right now…….I delivered that boy laying in that bed eighteen years ago….I will state my reputation on it.”

“ I don’t know Sam……..he looks like my Johnny but……”

“ But what?………Look hire a detective and have him find out anything he can on Madrid…….he comes from Mexico and that’s where Maria was from……..the scars on that boys body tells me he has not had an easy life growing up and I would be willing to bet it’s because he is a halfbreed.”

“ Alright…but I want this kept between you and me only……..Under no circumstances is Scott to know about this……..Teresa either.”

“ Okay…….what are you going to do when they tell you he is * your * Johnny?”

Running a hand thru his hair Murdoch sighed. “ I don’t know….to tell you the truth Sam that…..boy laying up there in that bed scares the hell out of me……when I seen him get shot the other day I had a feeling of worry come to me…Why I don’t know.”

“ Now you do…….Murdoch that is your Johnny up there…..I’m sure of it.”

A detachment of soldiers came and took the gold on to San Francisco. Toby acquired a receipt from the Captain upon completion of the loading of the gold. His brother Billy watched and he could see the anger on his face over the fact that * now * after four good men died transporting the gold the bank took action.

“ Thank you Captain.” he said solemnly.

“ How’s your sheriff doing?…….I was told he was badly injured.”

“ He’s still hanging in there Captain……..we lost four deputies to McCloud’ gang but Madrid is still alive.”

“ Madrid…….Johnny Madrid?” the captain asked with a shocked look on his face.

“ Yeah……..why?” Toby asked ready to defend his friend.

“I heard Madrid was the sheriff of Douglas from Fort Bowie…….I guess I just didn’t believe it.”

“Why’s that captain?”

“ Not because he’s a gunfighter mind you……..I heard he was killed in Mexico by the Rurales”

“ Well you should know captain that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.”

“ Yes…well I should get going……..Lieutenant let’s move out.” he said as he mounted his horse.

Toby stood and watched with his little brother as the gold left Stockton. Both men felt relief and sorrow knowing what had been lost in the past month.

“ Come on little brother….let’s go see about waking our boss up.”

 Yeah I think Johnny has slept long enough.” Billy said with a grin.

Voices, far away at first then closer and more clear drifted into his mind. Toby……and Billy both were talking to him. Asking…..No telling him to open his eyes. The ground… no wait the ground wasn’t this soft…..A bed, yeah that was it he was laying in a bed as soft as a good two dollar whore. Opening his eyes he was immediately met with pain in his left shoulder……pain and restriction. He couldn’t move  his left arm. Looking down he found it bound to his chest and a bandage wrapped around his abdomen as well. Closing his eyes from the pain as he sucked in air.

“ Easy Johnny… drink some water.” Toby said as he poured some in a glass and helped lift Madrid’ head so he could take a sip. “ Not to fast…….Billy go down and let the doc know he’s awake..He’s sitting in the lobby with Lancer.”

“ Sure brother.” Billy said as he headed to the door. “ Glad to see you awake Johnny.”

Madrid glanced at his youngest deputy as he relished the cool water wetting his parched throat.

“ How long I been out?’ he asked as he sank back into the pillows behind his head.

“ Three day’s.” Toby answered as he set the glass back on the little table next to the bed.

“ The gold?”

“ A detachment came and got it yesterday……I got a receipt for it from the captain.”

“ Good. Where’s my colt?” he asked as he looked around the room. Fancy lace curtains hung over the window and furniture fancier than he had ever seen was placed around the room. “ Where the hell am I?”

“ The cattlemen’ hotel.” Toby answered as he handed Johnny his gun. “Lancer had you brought here for your safe keeping…….It seems the doctor of this town wasn’t to thrilled when he learned who he saved and the hotel here didn’t want you staying at it so Lancer had you brought here……..even had a doctor Sam Jenkins come from Moro Coyo to take care of you.” Toby stated as the door opened and the doctor and Murdoch Lancer walked into the room with Billy.

Johnny looked at the two men then Lancer. “ Toby pay him whatever it cost for me being here.”

“ You don’t owe me a thing for what I did for you.”

“ Young man you might not be alive if it weren’t for him.” Sam interjected.

“ I don’t need his charity……..Pay him Toby and go down and pay the clerk for this room. Get a receipt for it.”

“ Sure Johnny.”

 “You are one cold hearted sonofabitch young man…… need to learn some manners and how to be grateful when someone does an act of kindness.” Murdoch shot back.

“ I don’t need a damn thing from you and if you ever call me a sonofabitch again I’ll kill you……..*My * mother was a whore because of………not a bitch.” Madrid said with anger as he glared at the man he hated more than anything.

“ Well you certainly do have a mouth and temper, that’s for sure.” Sam stated. “ You know young man, when someone does an act of kindness it is customary for the receiver to say thank you.”

“ What the fuck drugs did you give me?” he demanded, never taking his eyes of Lancer.

“ I didn’t give you anything……..the other doctor gave you opium so he could remove the bullet from your shoulder and stitch up the other two wounds.”

Opium, he hated drugs. They clogged his mind, made him unable to think clearly.  Indians used Peyote as a visionary drug. The little cactus could make a man see or dream things that would scare a priest. He’d did peyote once as a pain reliever. A whore had it in a small Mexican village he was hiding in with a bullet from the Rurales For three days he had ghostly haunting’ and visions from his past that to this day he hoped he would never have again.

“ I don’t need no pain med’s so don’t get no idea’s about giving me any.”

“ I believe I am the doctor and you are the patient. I will administer what I feel you need and when you need it…… that clear?”

“ I said I don’t want no drugs…… fucking deaf doc?”

“ No I am not.” Sam said as he checked Madrid’ shoulder wound.

“ So why ain’t your fucking rich spoiled * son * here old man?” Johnny asked with hatred.

“ You speak to me using that kind of language again and those bullet wounds will be the least of your worries boy.”

Johnny glared at the man as he reached under the blanket and pulled his colt out. “ In case you haven’t noticed old man……..I ain’t no boy…….I’ve been a man a lot longer than that fucking son of yours.”

Murdoch stepped toward Johnny. “ You pull a gun on me you ingrate……….”

“ Alright Murdoch I think you better leave and let me finish my exam.”

Both men glared at each other, neither one backing down. When Johnny cocked the colt Murdoch then spun and left the room slamming the door behind him.

Ten days later Johnny, Toby and Billy rode out of Stockton. The doctor strongly advised against him riding yet with the stitches just removed but his words fell on deaf ears. He did get a thank you for treating his patient along with a twenty dollar gold piece.

“ I pay my debts doc……I owe no one.” Madrid told him as he mounted his stallion. Glaring at the man who’s blood ran through his veins a few seconds then looking at his half brother he gave a smile as cold as ice.

“Thanks for what you did…… He ain’t the father you think he is.” he said before turning Barranca and leaving.

Scott glanced at his father and wondered * why *  Madrid had said that to him deep down inside. Also deep down inside he got a feeling of sorrow as he watched Madrid ride away. Sorrow for a man he didn’t know but saved the life of. Something about Madrid made him feel like he was watching his little brother ride out of his life. * His * Johnny would be the same age he figured as Madrid. Even though he was just nine he remembered his baby brother’s eyes more than anything. The shade of blue you find on a cold crisp clear winter’s day. A blue he remembered could make you feel as cold as ice when stared at just right. Usually Johnny would do that look when Maria wouldn’t let him have a cookie before dinner.

Smiling Scott remembered their last Christmas together. Johnny had barely turned a year two days before and even though he was a year old, his little brother knew how to work those blue eyes on anyone he could to get what he wanted.

“ Madrid’ eyes are the same color as yours brother.” Scott said aloud.

Murdoch heard what his son said as he walked up to him. “ Yes they are.”

“ I didn’t think anyone could have that shade of blue besides Johnny.”

Inside Murdoch wanted to tell his oldest but knew proof would be the best thing and even then he would keep it to himself.

“ Come on son let’s go home. Teresa and Maria will want to do a nice dinner for us.”

“ I miss him sir………Johnny. I can’t help but wonder if he’s still alive, how tall he is. I mean Johnny would be eighteen, the same age as Madrid. He could even look like Madrid…….the only difference is that Johnny my brother would never have become a gunfighter like Johnny Madrid did.” he said as stepped down to his horse and swung up in the saddle.

“ You know son……..Madrid was right about one thing.” the Lancer patriarch said as he mounted up.

“ What’s that sir?”

“ You are a spoiled rich kid.” he sounded back with a grin.

“ Well just think if we ever find my little brother then * you *   can have the pleasure of having * both * of your spoiled rich kids with you father.”

Murdoch wanted that more than anything. To be able to celebrate the holidays together all three of them. To be able to sit back and marvel at how his sons react to the gifts they receive. How could he ever do that with someone like Madrid if what Sam said is true. Having slipped away and sent a telegram to the Pinkerton Detectives asking for as much information as they could find on Johnny Madrid he rode along in silence wondering how long it would take for them to find out.

Madrid rode hard that first day leaving Stockton. He wanted to put as much distance between himself and Murdoch Lancer as possible and fast. He had come so close to telling the blonde dandy who he really was just so he could watch the look on his face. Especially when he realized he would have to share all that land with a half-breed brother, who just happened to be the fastest gunfighter in the southwest. Not having eight pack horses slowing them down Johnny, Toby and Billy rode into the Dry Lake station to say goodbye to a friend. A friend killed in the line of duty. Jeff ‘ body could not be found but the three men knew the area where he died and stopped. None of them spoke, each lost in his own thoughts and or memories of the man. Johnny did know Jeff but a short time, but in that time he got to be friends with the man. Getting down the three men stared at a fresh grave. Someone had come along after them and buried Malcolm and placed a marker with simple words carved in it. “ Deputy Sheriff ” Johnny stood looking at the grave as he fought the tears that wanted to fall. Turning he stopped.

“ We’ll camp here tonight……….I got something I need to do.” he said before limping off.

“ Johnny…” Billy called out.

“ Leave him be brother………..He has a lot to deal with right now……Let’s give him some space and take care of the horses.

Johnny found what he was searching for and going to the back of the barn he sat down and leaned back against the barn wall and took the knife out of his left boot. Looking up at the sky with tears in his eyes.

“ I’m sorry Malcolm…….I’m sorry we had to leave you like that…….I’m sorry you died without really getting to live.” he said before dropping his chin to his chest. A few minutes later Madrid wiped his eyes and taking knife in hand he set about carving a proper marker for his friend.

“ I’m worried Toby…….he’s been gone an awful long time and he’s not healed up yet.”

“ Madrid is fine Billy he’ll come in when he’s ready.”

Both brothers turned and looked at the door when it opened and Johnny stepped in with two rabbits in his left hand.

“ Billy why don’t you go out back and skin these out so we can have some meat tonight.”

“ Sure Johnny.” he responded as he took the rabbits from him and left.

Walking over to the table Johnny sat down. Putting his hands on the table he let out a sigh and laid his head down.

Toby stood up and went over and got him a cup of coffee. “ I didn’t hear any shots.” he said as he poured the coffee. Setting it down he placed a hand on Madrid’ left shoulder.

“ I snared them.” Johnny answered softly.

“ You want to talk about it Johnny I’m a good listener.” he could feel Madrid’ body trembling ever so lightly. He knew inside what was really bothering his friend. “ Wasn’t easy seeing a man you’ve hated most of your life close up like that was it?”

Johnny looked up at him thru sad eyes. He looked like he had aged ten years since walking in.

“ It shows huh?”

“ Yeah buddy it does.”

“ It took everything I had to not kill that bastard when he rode up to us. And again when we rode out.”

“ When he rode up to us and you rode off I laid in to him……..I said something I maybe shouldn’t have Johnny. The man pissed me off. Mister high and mighty Lancer looking down on you and he don’t know a damn thing about you….You know I would love to see the look  on his face if he found out who you really are………* that * would sure be something to see.”

Johnny stood up and removed his coat carefully. “You want to know what really bothers me Toby?”

Toby gave a slight nod as he sipped his coffee.

“ All this time I’ve had a brother…..When I was being beaten by my mothers visitors or boyfriends I used to wish I had a big brother who would protect me……There were these kids once who hated me because of my eyes…..They chased me one day and caught me…..I got beaten up pretty bad from them. Broke a couple ribs and my arm. That wasn’t enough though…..they wanted to know what color I bled so the biggest one took out a knife and stabbed me just to see if I bled red like them.” he said before walking over to the window.

“ I crawled to the shack we were staying at and my mother had a man with her. I went in because I was bleeding and he got pissed off about it. He left without paying her. She took it out on me by beating me. Told me I was no good…….a devil child……..that she should have thrown me in the river to drown after I was born.”

Toby sat in shocked silence as he listened to the words spoken to only him. Words that hurt him as much as it did the man saying them.

“ Why is it a man thinks he’s better than anyone else if he has more money in the bank? Or a big fancy home to live in?…….How can a man go and get a woman as beautiful as my mother was with child unwed and then take it out on that bastard child he created by throwing him and his mother out on the streets?”

Toby stood up and walked over to the window. “ Johnny part of what that bastard owns is yours…….Go to Lancer and take it from him.”

“ He would have me shot on sight Toby……..No I got unfinished business in Douglas.”

“ The commissioner and his wife?”

“ Yeah……..I just might fuck that bitch one last time before I really fuck her.”

“ Hey I could use a good fuck too.” Billy said as he walked in the back door with the two rabbits now skinned.

“ Sorry little brother but the woman we are talking about isn’t for you.”

“ The commissioners wife huh? Well hell Johnny give it to her good for all of us. I’m gonna get these rabbits cookin.”

Johnny looked at Toby and smiled. He really like these two brothers and wished he had what they did.

The next morning Toby and Billy noticed  the grave marker had been changed.

Malcolm Withers Deputy Sheriff

Born 1852

Died 1870

A good man and friend.

“ That was real nice of you to do Johnny for Malcolm.” Toby stated as they rode out.

Johnny looked at him but no words were spoken.

                                                                    Chapter 6

Two weeks after Murdoch Lancer asked the Pinkerton detectives to search the background of Johnny Madrid he got his answer. Sitting at his desk he read then re-read the report sent to him.

Mister Lancer

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.

Johnny Madrid

Age eighteen or so.

Dark Hair

Blue eyes.

Madrid is of mixed race. His mother was a Mexican and his father a rich American it is reported from California. Up until six years ago Johnny Madrid had never been heard of. In finding I have learned that at the age of twelve Madrid killed a man. Shot him several times in fact for the brutal murder of his mother a Maria Conswella Madrid. It would seem that in my asking in the town of Sonora a man believed to be a patron of the late Madrid raped then beat her to death in front of the child. Madrid disappeared after that killing for a year then surfaced again in Cordova were he is said to have started his reputation as a gunfighter by killing three men for beating a prostitute at a bordello he was patronizing. Yes you read right. Madrid frequently goes to a brothel, especially after he kills someone.

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 Federal es, 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 an unsupervised one. The boy ran the streets of the villages he and his mother lived in. He would work in livery stables when he could for pennies. He was beaten as a child 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 he heard tell 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.

Madrid is now working as the sheriff of Douglas, Arizona a small mining town were I learned that until he became sheriff of said town Miners and townsfolk alike were being robbed and murdered on the streets in broad daylight. He is paid one hundred dollars a week and ten dollars for every arrest he makes.

If you would like me to dig further into Madrid’ past please correspond back to me. I am staying at the Hotel Del Diego in Sonora.

Allen Martin

Pinkerton Agent.

Murdoch sat back in his chair stunned at what he read.

“ My god Maria Consuela Madrid………This can’t be happening to me….My son can’t be a gunfighter.”

“ Mister Lancer sir.”

“ Yes Hank what is it?”

“ Some cattle strayed thru a hole in the fence down in the south gully.”

“ How many?”

“ Can’t tell for sure but at least fifty got caught in the gully.”

“ Alright start pulling the men off there jobs.”

“ Yes sir.”

Teresa walked in with a tray of lemonade. “ I thought you could use something cold to drink.” she said setting the tray down.

“ Thank you dear but I have to go tend to something that has come up. Would you tell Scott I will see him in the morning?”

“ Okay…….is everything alright Murdoch?”

“ Yes dear…….I’ll be back.” he said as he headed to the door leaving the report laying out on his desk.

Scott Lancer walked into the house and removed his hat and hung it on the coat rack by the door.

“ Scott…’re back early……Murdoch isn’t here.” Teresa said.

“ Alright…….I just need to write down something right quick and then I’ll get cleaned up for dinner.” he said walking to his fathers desk. Seeing the report laying there and the name Madrid at the top he picked it up and started reading it.

“ What’s that?” Teresa asked.

“ Huh……oh just a report he wanted me to look over for him.”

“ Okay well dinner is about ready.”

“ Okay, thanks.” Scott said as he sat down in one of the two chairs his father had in front of his desk not knowing that what he was about to read would both shock and change his life forever.

“ Johnny…….that looks like it could be a bad one.” Toby said pointing at a storm headed toward them from the west. Thunder could be heard in the distance and lightening danced across the sky.

“ Yeah.” he said stopping Barranca. The stallion pranced around with the coolness of the storm approaching. “ There’s a town called Topock just across the river we can wait it out at.”

“ Sound’s good to me. I could use a cold beer, hot food and a good two dollar whore wouldn’t be so bad either.”

Johnny smiled. “ Yeah but what about junior here……you think he’s old enough for one?” he asked Toby as he grinned at Billy.

“ Junior…….I’ve had me women before…….I’m old enough and I ain’t got’  no complaints from the ones I been with.”

“ That’s cause they was too embarrassed to say somethin’ to ‘im Johnny.”

Both men broke out in a laugh as they started riding again.

“ Okay I’ll tell ya what…….I’ll bet you two I get the first one.”

“ I don’t know Billy……..the last time you bet me and Bob that you and JJ could get laid first in El Paso and look how that turned out.”

“ Oh come on brother… was me and JJ to know…… and Bob had us so drunk.”

“ I don’t think I want to take the bet little brother……..I think I’ll just go with the flow…..besides the women in Topock might not be worth the time.”

Johnny rode along listening to the brothers banter back and forth and deep down inside a part of him couldn’t help but wonder if he and…… There was no way spoiled rich kid would ever consider him a brother or joke with him the way his two friends were now.

“ Hey Johnny…….you still with us there buddy?” Toby asked as he noticed the far away look Madrid had.

“ What……yeah I’m sorry Toby.”

“ I think I know where you were just then compadre……..It could happen.”

“ What could happen?” Billy asked.

“ Never mind Billy……..Johnny knows what I’m talking about.”

“ Go ahead and tell him.” Madrid said.

“ You sure Johnny?”

“ Yeah….we’re friends and I got a feeling he’s gonna find out anyways.”

Toby stopped his horse and looked at his brother. “ Lancer is Johnny’ old man Billy…….he threw him and his mother out when he was two.”

“ Your old man…….wow Johnny that’s why you were the way you were to him…………Man that makes me want to go back there and………wait a minute you got a brother also.”

“ I got no family Billy……..don’t you get it?………I’m a bastard child……he got my mother with child and married her to keep his name in good grace and then threw us out……..That bastard didn’t want a halfbreed mestizo around……all he wanted was to use my mother when he was in Matamoros just like all the other gringo’s that cross the border.” he said with hatred in his voice.

“ You’re his son…… have a right to part of that big ranch he has Johnny………You should go back there and claim what is owed you.” Toby interjected.

“ Yeah Johnny…….I bet that would really piss your brother……what’s his name……..Scott off……..Hell I bet he would be to afraid to try and stop you.”

“ Why Billy?”

“ Because you’re… know……Johnny Madrid the fastest gunfighter in the southwest.”

“ Yeah and you know what Billy…….when I started out all I wanted to be was Johnny Madrid good at my trade……well I got it but not without a price.”

“ I don’t understand…….what price Johnny?”

“ He  can never really relax Billy……..everywhere he goes someone will come along thinking they’re faster than him and call him out.”

“ Why?”

“ For the reputation of killing me if they can.”

“ But don’t that mean that then someone would come along and do to them what they did to you?…….I mean not that anyone could.”

“ I made my bed a long time ago Billy…..I accepted death when I chose to use my gun……..I know someone will come along faster than me one day and kill me but until then…………”

Lightening flashed close to the three and all three horses became real nervous.

“ We better pick up the pace or we’re gonna get soaked.” Toby said as he calmed his horse.

Four hours later the three sat in a saloon enjoying a cold beer as rain poured down outside. The sky had cut loose just as they rode into Topock. Having settled their horses in the livery and gotten a hot bath and good meal the three friends sat and watched the late afternoon customers who were in the saloon.

Two men stood at the bar engaging in conversation neither wore a gun. Three others played poker in the back. There was one though that Madrid kept an eye on. He had walked in just after they had and took up a bottle of whiskey at a table across from them next to the window. He was about his age and wore his gun low on his hip like he did. Johnny could tell the gun was well cared for and had been used. He knew that before this night was over he would be called out and deep down inside he hated it.

When one of the girls walked over to his table Johnny watched as he said something to her that he could tell she didn’t like. The look on her face when she walked away told him so. Four girls were working the saloon. One had Billy’ attention for a bit. Johnny smiled at Toby when Billy and the girl went upstairs.

“ He trouble?” Toby asked after Billy left.

“ Could be.” Madrid answered as he sat back in his chair and let the badge he wore show. “ Good thing you didn’t take that bet with Billy……’d owe him a dollar.”

“ Yeah………you got your eye on anyone of them Johnny?”

Madrid glanced at the other women in the saloon then at Toby. “ Not what I usually go for but a pokes a poke right?”

Toby laughed softly as he finished off his beer. “ You want another?”

“ Yeah sure……….Thanks.” Johnny said as he looked at the kid again. He could see the surprise on the kids face when he seen the badge he was wearing. A laugh to his left caught his attention and he looked and what he saw made his groin come alive.

A girl about his age came from the back  dressed in a blue satin low cut dress. Her hair was as black as coal. She didn’t have a lot of goop on her face like the other girls did. Her body Madrid noticed was very well shaped. Hip’s that swayed teasingly as she walked. Breast that were big enough a man could suck on them all night and never tire from it. Her lips were small and really complimented her face when she smiled. Feeling himself start to stir a little just from looking at her he couldn’t help but wonder what she would be like in bed as he fucked her. He watched as she walked up to Toby and placed a hand on his back. When Toby gestured with his hand in his direction and she looked over at him and smiled, he knew he would get the answer to his question tonight. Tonight Madrid would get the best fuck he’d had in a long time with a girl that on the outside appeared to be a lamb but was really a wolf in sheep’s  clothing.

Toby walked back over to the table with the girl and three beers. Johnny stood up and pulled out the chair on his right for her to sit down in.

“ Ma’am.” he said as she sat down.

“ Thank you sheriff… names Sunshine.”

Johnny smiled a little as he glanced back to the kid then back at her. “ Your mamma sure named you right. You are that.”

“ Your friend her tells me your the sheriff of Douglas……..a bit out of your territory aren’t you?”

“ Some…….we had a job to do but are headed back………Stopped here because of the storm and I must say………seeing a beautiful woman like you sure makes me glad we did.”

Sunshine moved her chair closer to his and put a hand on his right thigh. “ Oh yeah…….and why’s that?”

“ Uh Johnny I think I’m gonna go upstairs now and……..well I’ll see ya later.” Toby said as he stood up and walked over to one of the women. A minute later he was headed up the stairs for his two dollar poke.

“ I think you know the answer to that ma’am.” he said leaning back in his chair just a little and moving his right leg so it touched her left as her hand moved up to his groin. “ How much you askin?”

“ That depends on how long you want me.”

“ All night.”

“ Really…… telling me you can go all night?……..Most men can maybe get it up twice if I work at it.”

Johnny leaned over to her and let his eyes fall to her breast. “ I’m not most guys.” he said as his right hand reached down and touched her between the legs.

“ All night’s gonna cost you sheriff.”

“ Anything go?”

“Two dollars a poke and if you want me to suck you off well that will cost you three.”

“ Yeah?……how do I know you’re worth that kind of money?”

“ I’d have to say we need to go to my room in the back and let you find out.”

Sunshine said before kissing him open mouthed right there.

Johnny slid his tongue in her mouth and moaned softly. A minute later he was following her to her room glancing at the kid still sitting by the window watching him.

Scott heard the front door open and looked up from the report he had read and re-read several times. Standing up as his father walked into the room.

Murdoch stopped when he seen what his son had in his hand. “ What are you doing with that?” he asked gruffly.  “ That report is no concern of yours.”

“ No concern of mine……..where the hell do you get off telling me that?…………How long have you known?”

“ I just received that today and as I said it is no concern of yours.” Murdoch said in a raised voice.

“ The fact that Johnny Madrid is my brother makes it my business sir.”

“ I refuse to believe that that gunfighter is my son.”

“ You asked the detectives to find out all they could on Madrid and they did and now you don’t want to accept the truth……Why is it so hard to accept?”

“ Because my son would never become a killer.”

“You read this……you read what was done to him growing up. How he was beaten……how he witnessed his own mother being murdered……..I don’t believe you……..What’s it going to take for you to accept this?”

“ I should never have listened to Sam.”

“ Sam? What does Sam have to do with this?”

“ He says he recognized a birthmark on Madrid that is the same as on your brother.”

“ Sam delivered Johnny and doctored him when he was sick……I remember that birthmark and how you used to tell him it looked like angel wings and that he was a blessing from above because of it.”

“ What is going on in here?” Teresa asked as she walked into the room.

“ Nothing that concerns you darling…….Is dinner about ready?”

“ Yes……….Me and Maria could here the both of you in the kitchen.” she said as Maria came into the room and set a plate of roast beef on the table.

“ Patron……pardon… what I hear true?…….My little Juanito……he is Johnny Madrid si?”

Murdoch walked over to her. “ I don’t know Maria……..He might be.”

“ Madrid……..would someone please tell me what is going on?” Teresa demanded.

“ It would seem that my father received a report from the detective agency about Johnny.”

“ Johnny?……..Which Johnny Scott?”

“ Teresa it seems that Johnny Madrid and Johnny Lancer are one in the same.”

“ Your brother is………but Madrid is a………..Murdoch?”

“ It will be alright honey.”

“ Is he coming here to Lancer?” she asked.

“ No.”

“ Yes.”

“ This is my home and I do not want that killer in it.”

“ This is also my home and Johnny is my brother…….your son and he has every right to be in this house.”

“ I call the tune here young man and I say he is not welcome here.”

“ Well then that settles it then doesn’t it?”

“ Settles what?”

“ You say you cal the tune…….fine…….Teresa would you mind putting together some provisions for me?” Scott asked as he headed to the stairs.

“ Where are you going?”  his father demanded.

“ I am going to go find my brother and when I do I intend to bring him home where he belongs…..and if when I do you still will not allow him here where he was born then I sir shall leave Lancer also.”

Teresa and Maria both went to the kitchen to fix Scott plenty of provisions to last him a few days. Each lost in thought of who an innocent small child Maria had once held and helped take care of could now be the infamous Johnny Madrid.

Toby and Billy sat drinking coffee downstairs with their women from the night past. Hearing someone coming down the stairs Toby glanced and smiled.

“ Well little brother look how finally decided to get their ass out of bed.”

“ Thought maybe we was gonna have to send out a search party for you Johnny.” Billy said with a grin.

“ Nope…..Just some things you don’t rush……….You two eat yet?”

“ Nope…..we waited for you.”

“ Well I’m hungry enough I could eat a good steak and some eggs.”

“ Well ladies…..It has been a pleasure I must say.” Toby said as he stood up.

Madrid…….Johnny Madrid….come on outside.”

Johnny knew who it was as he took a sip of Toby’ coffee.

“ You’re Johnny Madrid?” Sunshine asked from the stairs.

Johnny looked up at her and smiled. “ Yes ma’am I am…….would that have mattered last night?”

“ No…….not in the way you’re thinking.”

I’m waiting Madrid.”

“ That kid from last night?” Toby asked.

“ Yeah….Guess he got liquored up enough to call me out.” He said as he sat the cup down. “ Billy.”

“ I know Johnny.”

“ You know him Johnny?”

“ Nope.” he said as he headed to the door and stepped out.

People had stopped on the street. Why was it they always were eager to see another person killed? They always watched when two gunfighters came together to dance in the street.

Stepping down into the street he looked at the kid.

“ Don’t think you can hide behind that badge Madrid.”

“ You kill me and you’ll hang.”

“ I won’t hang for killing a no good bastard like you Madrid.”

“ Your got a name boy?”

“ I ain’t no boy and yeah I got a name…It’s Cutler…Andy Cutler….and after today everyone will know me as the man who killed the halfbreed.”

“ Look Andy why you in such an all fire hurry to die?”

“ I ain’t the one going to die Madrid……you are so why don’t you shut the fuck up and draw?…….or are you afraid of dying?”

“ Something you need to realize boy before * you * die. I accepted death a long time ago…I’m not afraid to die.”

“ I think you are………..You all see it……..Johnny Madrid is a coward……….He’s afraid to draw on me.”

Everybody knows Madrid don’t draw first boy.” a man yelled out.

“ Go on home Andy…..I don’t want to do this.” Madrid said hoping the kid would sober up just enough to realize the mistake he was about to make.“Go home and sleep it off.”

Madrid knew. He knew his words were falling on deaf ears. He could see the want in the kids eyes. Seen it in all the ones before him and probably would again. Oh sure he had a bullet with his name on it some day but not today. Not from this cocky vengeance filled kid. Wanting to kill someone for the reputation inside hurt Madrid more than any bullet ever could. Course he had been that way a few years back. Hell bent for leather making his reputation, only now he would give anything to not have it.

“ Can I ask you one question Andy before we do this?”

Andy stood there swaying a little from the liquor poised to draw. “ Go ahead.”

“ You’re gonna try and kill me for a reputation right………Well have you thought about after…….I mean if you do, and you won’t but if you did kill me have you thought about all those men who are going to come after you?…….All those men who will think they are faster than you are. All those men you will have to kill Andy just so you can stay alive another day. And all because * you * wanted a reputation.”

“ I kill you Madrid and ain’t nobody gonna even think about going up against me.”

“ That’s were you’re wrong kid.” a very familiar voice said from just behind Madrid on his right. “ You kill him and you better be ready to draw again because I’ll call you out.”

Johnny smiled inside. He knew that voice and knew the words spoken were true.

Toby and Billy looked. “ Isn’t that?” Billy asked his brother in a whisper.

“ Yeah it is.” he answered. 

“ If you want to die like Madrid will I got no problem killing you either old man.” Andy said.

“ Do you know who that is boy?” the same voice from before asked.

“ I don’t give a damn who he is. He’ll die just the same.”

Madrid seen it like all the ones before Andy. Drawing his colt he fanned the hammer back and watched as his bullet tore a path through Andy Cutlers chest as the kid was knocked backwards.

Andy had had enough talk. He was tired of the stalling. He was sure he had beat Madrid but he seen the smoke from Madrid’ gun and felt the bullet slam into his chest before he could even clear leather. Hitting the ground hard on his back he gasped for air as his life spread across his chest.

Madrid walked up to Andy with his colt still out and looked down at the kid who would breath now more in another minute.

“ You…you beat……me.”

“ I told you Andy.” Johnny said before turning and walking over to the man who had spoke a few minutes before.

“ They never listen do they?” the man asked.

“ No……..You’re a little out of your area ain’t ya?”

“ Well ya see Madrid…..I read in the paper about this cocky kid I knew guarding half a million dollars in Gold. Takin it to San Francisco with six deputies.” the man said as he reached out and moved Madrid’ coat to revel the badge on his chest. “ Never thought I’d see that on you.”

“ Yeah well….It’s a job……and the pays good. Buy you a beer?”

Toby and Billy walked over to the two men.

“ Toby…Billy Jenks I’d like you to meet Val Crawford.”

“ We know who you are mister Crawford….It’s a pleasure to meet you sir.” Billy said as he shook the Val’s hand.

“ These two of your deputies Johnny?”

“ Yeah….the only two left alive…..Taking that gold came with a price.”

“ Yeah people wouldn’t have known if that damn commissioner hadn’t shot off his mouth.”

“ Sounds to me like Johnny Madrid is gonna be getting a little vengeance justice…….the legal way mind you?”

Madrid laughed then glanced as Andy Cutlers body was carried past to the undertakers.

“ Yeah something like that…….We were about to go eat breakfast…..come on.”

“ Lead the way.” Val said as the four headed to the cafe down the street.

Scott Lancer headed toward Douglas, Arizona. Three days before his life had been changed both in a good way and bad. Good because he had learned that his little brother whom he had missed and longed for had been found finally. Bad because that little brother was none other than Johnny Madrid. Riding along he remembered the way Madrid had spoken to him. Calling him a spoiled rich kid and seeing the hatred in his eyes for their father. Hatred he now understood. Being just a baby when his mother had taken him away from his home and telling him lies about being not wanted and thrown out, he could understand the anger his little brother had toward them.

Having seen the scars on his body then reading what the Pinkerton’ report said, Scott felt anger inside. Nobody should have to go thru what his brother did. Nobody deserved to be beaten just because he was of mixed race.

Having his own mother die at his birth he never got the chance to know her or what it was like to have a mother until that day his father came home from a trip to Mexico with Johnny’ mother. Maria was a thing of beauty to look at and mothered him greatly. Then shortly after Johnny was born he remembered how she started to change. How she would stay in her room away from everyone. The valley had welcomed her at first, but he heard the talk when she started showing. Talk about his father getting her with child out of wedlock and how that child even though they were now married would still be a bastard and a halfbreed one at that.

Riding into Dry Lake station just as a storm began to brew to the west Scott noticed a grave. Getting down from his horse he walked over and read the words carved on the cross. He couldn’t help but smile knowing Johnny had been the one to do it. Taking his horse into the barn he knew the animal would need rest. He himself could use some. Being three weeks behind his brother he knew he would never catch up to him so undoing his saddle and putting it on the rail he threw some hay in the feed bin and grabbing his saddlebags he headed to the station for a nights rest and thoughts of what he would say to Johnny when he rode into Douglas. Would he be able to get him to come back to Lancer with him? Could he convince someone who hated their father so much because of lies told to him to come back to his home and claim his birthright?

Only time, persuasion and persistence would tell.

                                                                    Chapter 7

Madrid stood in the livery and watched as his friend Val Crawford saddled his horse. Johnny had met Val in Texas four years back when he was hell bent on making a name for himself.

“ You remember that first time we met Johnny?” Val asked as he led his horse out of the stall.

Smiling Madrid looked at him. “ Yeah, I was hell bent back then.”

“ You were barely big enough to wear that.” Val said pointing to Johnny’s colt. “ Hell I didn’t think you would live a year the way you were going, but look at ya now…..Who would have ever thought that Johnny Madrid would be wearing a badge…….You know I hear the Rurales aren’t to happy with you.”

“ Yeah I been raising some hell with them.”

“ Ya know Johnny….you doin what ya did with that gold is gonna be in the papers and people will know where Madrid is.”

“ Yeah I know……I been thinkin on that Val….I got somethin I gotta take care of in Douglas before they get a new sheriff.”

“ The one who let it out what you was doin?”

“ Yep…….that fat man commissioner is in for a surprise from me……so’s his wife.”

“ Don’t tell me you did his wife?……….Damn boy I told ya to stay away from married women, them’ the kind who will get ya killed for sure.”

“ I didn’t know she was married and I sure as hell didn’t know she was the commissioner’s wife Val.”

“ So what ya gonna do kid?”

Johnny laughed. Val was the only one he allowed to call him a kid or boy. “ You remember what we did in Abilene……..well I figure that that would be real good to do to her……….and him.”

“ Besides being married she did somethin to ya………Talk to me Johnny.”

“ Seems she was doin McCloud as well……..I figured as much when him and me met up in the street…I seen her watching and well Sal gave her a look that said more than most would notice when he rode out.”

“ You always were good at readin people Madrid……..that and your gun is what’s kept ya alive this long.”

“ So where ya heading Val?”

“ San Diego.” he said swinging up into his saddle. “ Wanna come along… like old times.”

“ Naw…….I got things to finish Val……You go on and have a good time.”

“ You know me Johnny.”

“ Yeah I do buddy. Keep your powder dry.”

“ Hey any time you need me Johnny.”

“ I know…….Take care of yourself Val.”

“ You do the same Madrid………I don’t want ta hear or read about you bein killed.”

Murdoch Lancer rode into Green River mid morning. He wished Moro Coyo had a telegraph wire but such was not the case.

“ Mister Lancer I was just going to send Jose out to your ranch.” the telegraph operator said coming out of his office as Murdoch dismounted. “ You got a wire marked urgent.”

“ Urgent?…….From Scott?” he asked taking the wire.

“ No…..them Pinkerton’.”

A feeling of dread washed over him as he looked down at the wire. Glad it wasn’t bad news about his oldest he thought as he stepped up onto the walkway. “ Thanks……I need to send a wire to Douglas.”

“ Sure come on in out of the heat……..Man can you believe all that that went on in Stockton with that Johnny Madrid and all that gold?……….I’m sure glad that killer didn’t come here…….Green River don’t need or want his kind around here….They say you were there…you and Scott and you helped protect that gold…….You’re lucky you got out of that alive.”

“Lucky?” Murdoch asked with a tone.

“ Why yes…….surely you’ve heard the rumors about that halfbreed killer and how he will kill someone just for looking at him.”

“ You shouldn’t believe everything you hear………Less men would be dead if people didn’t go around spreading rumors they know are not true.”

“ Well I know for a fact that Madrid is a cold blooded killer Murdoch……….His kind always are.”

Murdoch got angry as he heard this man talk about his youngest the way he was. “ I’m going to make a suggestion to you and I * suggest * that you take heed of it………If I ever hear you talking about Madrid like that again……….If I ever hear you call him a halfbreed cold blooded killer again you will find yourself in need of the dentist………Is that clear?”

“ Yes…….yes sir mister Lancer……….Why are you defending him so?”

“ It is none of your business why or what I do.”

“ You got them Pinkerton’ investigating Madrid……….You bring that killer to this valley again and I assure you he won’t be welcomed and run out………I know what them wires say.”

Murdoch grabbed the man by his shirt. “ What my wires say is my business only and if I hear any talk about Madrid around here or Moro Coyo I will come back here and * you * will be eating soup for some time.” he said with anger before pushing the man back turning and walking out.

“ Oh yeah……well send your wires from Stockton them mister high and mighty……..Green River don’t need nor want that killer here.”

Murdoch arrived back ay Lancer and handed off his horse.  Teresa his ward came out to greet him. She could tell he was in a somewhat foul mood.  Noticing the wire in his hand as he walked over and pulled her into a hug and kissed her forehead.

Teresa had become his ward after her father was killed by land pirates. Paul had been his foreman for twenty years and Teresa had been born on Lancer. His oldest son Scott treated her like a sister but he couldn’t help wondering about his youngest. If he came to live at Lancer Murdoch would have to make it clear that the girl was to be treated with respect and as a sister and nothing more. That he would make sure the boy understood right away. He would not tolerate her being treated as anything less.

“ Hello darling.”

“ Hi………is everything alright?”

“ Yes……yes everything is fine.” he answered as they walked into the house.

“ Dinner is about ready if you want to clean up.”

“ Alright…..I’ll go wash up.” he told her as he went to his desk and laid the wire down to read after.

Scott rode out of dry lake station four day’s  later. The storm finally moved out. Flowers now carpeted the desert floor in soft lavenders and yellows in places. A day or two from now nothing would remain of the beauty he rode thru. The giant saguaro cactus towered above him adorned with many bird holes. A red tailed hawk soared overhead looking for an unsuspecting desert rat. The mesquite also was in full bloom with it’s delicate small yellow flowers and tiny green leaves. The washes ran wild with water as it came down from the mountains above spilling out onto the valley floor below. As the sun rose higher in the sky a gentile breeze blew keeping the temperature cool but by early afternoon it would soar up and steal away the precious water so abundant now. A man could freeze to death at night or die from the heat of the day in the desert. It had no mercy for anyone who dare traipse  through this valley. Bleached out bones could be seen at times from those past unfortunate enough to not make it across the Mojave desert alive.

Thinking about the grave back at the station Scott knew that it was the work of his brother…..He knew it deep down inside that Johnny was the one who carved out that marker.

“ You’re a man of many talent’s I bet little brother.” he said aloud as his horse moved along.

Not knowing just how his gunfighter brother would perceive him when they met up again made him a might nervous. Did Johnny know they were brothers and that was why he talked to him the way he did? Calling him a spoiled rich kid ? Was the last thing Johnny said to him about his father because he knew? Just what kind of lies could a mother tell her own son to make him hate his father so much? Determining that no matter how long it would take Scott Lancer would return home with his little brother. Lancer was Johnny’s birthright and he deserved to have it.

Growing up never wanting for anything Scott couldn’t really imagine what it was like for his little brother. The report had said how he was beaten and abused as a child. How he would steal food to eat. How he had ran wild in those border towns just trying to stay alive. One little blue eyed kid alone,  persecuted everywhere he went. Never knowing what the love of a family really was. Never knowing or experiencing the happiness at holiday time. Never having a birthday. Eighteen years old and sixteen of those years alone.

Scott knew his brother was baptized a catholic in the church in Moro Coyo. He smiled as he remembered how Johnny had just stood there as the priest dribbled the holy water on his head and said the words of god. He himself and his father were Baptist but Maria was a catholic so she had her son christian’ one as well. One thing he did notice his brother had while caring for him in Stockton was the medallion he had given him after the christian’. Johnny still had it around his neck.

Wanting a decent bed and a hot bath Scott pressed his horse into an easy lope. He could make Topock by early evening if the weather held.

Murdoch sat at his desk looking at the wire he’d received earlier. Hesitant to open it he set it down and got up and walked over to the side board and poured a glass of brandy.

“ Murdoch do you need anything else tonight?” Teresa asked upon entering the room.

“ No… go on to bed darling……….I’ll see you in the morning.”

“ He’s alright……..Scott………I know he went after Johnny and I know he will bring him back here. Back to his home.”

“ Teresa… need to know that if Scott does bring him back here…….he won’t be anything like Scott.

Johnny has run wild his whole life….He doesn’t know discipline or manners…..I don’t want you around him….especially alone.”

“ Why?……..he wouldn’t hurt me.”

“ Let’s just say Johnny doesn’t know how to be a gentle man around young ladies.”

“ Murdoch I’m not a little girl any more…..I know the kind of ladies you are talking about he has kept the company of…….Johnny wouldn’t treat me like them.”

“ I will not give him the chance to do so with you……..and if he tries I will address that matter quickly.”

“ Do you think Scott could have Johnny back here in time for the holidays?”

“ I don’t know darling……..he said he would send word when he reached Douglas…….I can only assume he will do so in a few days.”

“ I hope so……it would be nice to have the whole family together again.” she said before kissing Murdoch’ cheek and heading to her room.

Murdoch went back to his desk and sat down. Raking up the wire he opened it and began to read what it said.

Mister Lancer

It has been brought to my attention that Johnny Madrid is a wanted man. It would seem that the town of Douglas, Arizona were he is said sheriff has issued an arrest warrant for Madrid. I inquired into this finding and found that the commissioner of said town is the one issuing the complaint warranting the arrest. It seems the commissioners wife one Marlene Cooper was raped by Madrid the night before he left Douglas. The commissioner filed a report of said rape five days ago upon learning Madrid and two of his deputies would be returning to Douglas. I have learned that these charges are false mister Lancer. Marlene Cooper did have several discrete encounters with Madrid, the first the night of his arrival in Douglas and the last the night before. It would seem that at midnight of said night she paid Madrid a visit at his jail and stayed until the early hours of dawn. Her husband had learned of there meetings so in a shall I say retaliation against Madrid he sent out word to the towns between Douglas and San Francisco about the gold shipment being brought. Granted anyone could have sent this wire out but when I questioned the telegrapher in Douglas he was more than happy to tell me who had sent that wire.

I have also learned that Marlene Cooper was involved with Sal McCloud and had been for some time. Upon investigation I learned that these two had been together in Mexico, It seems that McCloud and his men were the ones robbing the Wells Fargo stage just for the sole purpose of having all that gold build up in the Douglas bank. What McCloud didn’t figure on though was Madrid riding into Douglas and being made sheriff of that town. With a plan in play Marlene Cooper, then Marlene McCloud left Mexico and went to Douglas to put her husbands plans into action.

I have learned that Johnny Madrid is nothing like the people chose to believe. This young man has no regard to his own safety, he cares more for those around him and upon questioning the people of Douglas he is a very welcomed sight to their town. Crime dropped and people started walking the streets again unafraid.

Before Madrid arrived in Douglas miners were killed every day when they brought their gold to town. The day Madrid became sheriff was the last time a miner lost his life. Even though Madrid is absent from Douglas, word abounds of who the sheriff is so there for no one is willing to face up to a man like Madrid other than the ones who call him out trying to kill him for the mere satisfaction and reputation of being the one to do so.

Johnny Madrid is a rarity amongst gunfighters. Never has one been heard of doing what Madrid does. Nor has there ever been one to not kill in cold blood like Madrid.

If you wish me to dig further into Madrid I will be staying here in Douglas to address the rape charge matter upon his return.

J. Daggett Pinkerton.

Murdoch sat back in his chair and rubbed his face. One word stood out in the report more than all the other. * Rape * how could he have someone charged with such a demeaning crime in his home with Teresa. She was barely seventeen and innocent. He never allowed her to go to town unsupervised and only with Scott or a hand he knew he could trust. Church socials were the only events she attended besides the few parties he himself held at Lancer or a good friend like Aggie held at her ranch.

Rape……how could a man or in this case a boy barely eighteen succumb to such a demeaning act? Women reached maturity at eighteen but boy’s not until twenty one. The other report had said Johnny became sexually active at a young age. To young in fact. How could a woman or in this case a whore take a boy of thirteen into their bed. Frequented whore houses after he killed someone……..why……why would a person go to a whore after taking another man’s life? How could his blood be the same blood running through such a person?

What had happened to turn his son into such a person? He had never abused Maria….Never talked ill of or to her. All he had ever done was love the woman who gave him his second son. A son he was thrilled to have and love like his oldest until that fateful day he awoke to find both mother and son gone.

Rereading the report Murdoch decided that he would wait and not pass judgment. He would wait until mister Daggett contacted him after Madrid returned to Douglas and the charges at hand were settled. He was after all a man in his own right’s willing to let the past be the past and like himself in the past, his son deserved a second chance at redemption.  Then out of the blue a passage from the bible hit him.

‘ Fallen angels brought down to hell…..Men beyond redemption.’ both report’s stated that Johnny was *not * like other gunfighters. Has his son met redemption? Or has he decided to turn away from a second chance? No * that * he refused to believe. If Johnny had done that then * why * would he risk taking the gold to San Francisco like he had knowing he would be wanted for rape? Refusing to believe his son, even though he was known as the fastest, deadliest gunfighter in the southwest would or could do such an evil act Murdoch put the report away in his desk and retired to his room for the night.

“ Hey Johnny can I ask you something about that stud of yours?” Billy asked as they rode along.

Having left Topock after four days of rest, well some rest and plenty of whoring the three men were well sated.

“ Sure Billy what’s on your mind?”

“ Well I was wondering where you got him from and why the name Barranca?”

Johnny stopped his horse and looked at Billy as he patted the stallions golden coat.

“ He was a mustang Billy……running wild as the wind in Mexico……I caught him in a canyon called Barranca Del Cobre….I never really broke him….we just have a good partnership together…….He’s still wild.”

“ Why him?……..I mean if there were other mustangs why chose him?”

“ Because he shone like gold with the sun on his back. I never seen a horse look like him before so I figured why not…..He was the only one I ever seen this color so I decided I was going to have him.”

“ You ever think about starting up a horse ranch Johnny?……..You are real good with horses. In fact I don’t think I have ever encountered anyone who can handle a horse like you do…….I’ve watched you and how Barranca there responds to your touch. It’s a rarity and I bet you could make money from it.”

“ A horse whisperer is what he is Billy.” Toby stated.

“ A what?” Johnny asked.

“ A horse whisperer…..someone who can get inside the mind of a horse and know what that horse is thinking. Someone who knows how to handle a troubled horse with a gentile touch.”

“ How do you know that Toby?” Billy asked with a puzzled look.

“ I seen it once before………This mare had a bad accident and was terrified of everything after….The owner was going to have her put down because he couldn’t breed her or ride her anymore. She would freak out. This man rode into his ranch one day needing work and the mare was giving the owner trouble. One week later he was riding that mare again…….The guy used the same technique Johnny does.”

“ I just don’t believe in being cruel to an animal is all Billy………..I ain’t no horse whisperer.” Madrid stated as he had Barranca start moving again.

“ You are whether you want to believe it or not Johnny.” Toby stated as they rode into Tonopah, Arizona.

“ You two think you can stay out of trouble if we stay in this town tonight?” Johnny asked with a grin.

“ Us……Trouble. You got us mixed up with someone else Johnny. We don’t cause trouble.”

“ And we don’t run from it either do we Toby?”

“ No we don’t little brother.”

“ Glad to hear it……..We can make Douglas in two days if we stay the night here.”

“ Sounds good to me Johnny.”

“ Me to.”

The three men rode up to the livery and dismounted when a voice could be heard from behind them.

“ Get back on your horse and ride out Madrid…….You’re not welcomed in our town.”

Turning Johnny found himself facing the sheriff of Tonopah. “ My kind huh……….And just what is my kind sheriff?”

“ The gunfighter kind…….I don’t care if you are a sheriff for Douglas……….I don’t want you in my town.”

“ Come on Johnny……..let’s go…….I don’t want to spend the night in a town that’s full of bigots.” Toby said with anger as he glared at the Tonopah sheriff.

“ We ain’t bigot’s here…We just don’t want scum like him in our town.”

Johnny was angry, tired and hungry. Any other time he would try and reason with the sheriff here but tonight he just wasn’t in the mood. Getting back on Barranca he rode up to the sheriff and looked down.

“ I got  me a real good memory sheriff…….I’ll remember the welcome you gave me and my deputies here…….You can count on it.” he said before spurring Barranca away.

“ Men like you don’t deserve to wear a badge sheriff.” Toby said before he and Billy took off after Madrid.

Johnny slowed Barranca down a mile out of Tonopah. His whole life he had put up with people like that sheriff. Stopping Barranca he turned the stallion around.

“ I’m not doing it……..I’m not going to let that so called law back there tell me I have no right to be in that town. I’m going back.”

“ We’re right behind you Johnny……Men like that shouldn’t even wear a badge.

“ I don’t want you two doing anything if it starts to turn ugly understand me?”

“ Yeah we understand Johnny but you need to understand something…….You are our friend and a man of law just like that asshole back there is……I for one am not going to stand by and let my friend be treated like that.” Toby said with effect.

“ That goes for me too Johnny.” Billy stated.

Johnny smiled at his two friends. “ Okay.” he answered before moving Barranca out headed back to Tonopah.

It was now dark when the three rode up to the livery and got down. The owner came out and Madrid could see the fear on the man’s face.

“ How much for all three all night with hay and grain?” Johnny asked.

“ Please Madrid…..sir please we don’t want no trouble here………Please ride out.”

Johnny could tell by the man’s voice and look on his face it wasn’t really him he was afraid of.

“ Why should I?……..I wear a badge and me and my deputies have done nothing wrong.”

“ Please……..leave before he see’s you.”

“ Before who see’s us?……..your sheriff?……..I’m not letting him run me off old timer so take our horses inside and bed them down for the night.”

“ You’re bringing trouble on yourselves you don’t want.”

“ We’ve done nothing wrong.” Toby stated.

“ It’s not you two…….It’s him….and not because you’re a gunfighter.”

Johnny was confused at first at that statement then it all started to make sense to him. “ Because I’m a Mex ain’t it?” he said. He had heard of towns were Mexican’s were not welcomed or run out of.

“ Wait a minute…..Are you saying that your sheriff ran us off…..not because he’s Johnny Madrid but because he’s a Mexican….well part Mexican?”

“ Yes…….We didn’t elect him……he killed our real sheriff four months ago in a shootout…….Now him and his so called deputies run the town…….People are to afraid to do anything about it. A good friend of mine tried and was gunned down right in front of his wife and children when he came out of church. He just stood there and shot him down. My friend didn’t even have a gun on.

“ How many men he got?” Johnny asked as he pulled his colt and checked the rounds then went and pulled his rifle from the scabbard.

Toby and Billy did the same.

“ He’s got four.”

“ Old timer I want you to tell me everything you know about this man……What he does at night. Where he goes and his deputies also………Can you do that for me?”

“ You’re going to help us Madrid?”

“ Does that shock you?”

“ Yes sir it does……I mean.”

“ Look I’m not a gunfighter any more okay……..I’m not going to ride away from this town knowing of the wrong that is being done to the people here.”

Smiling the old timer led the way to the stalls at the back. As Johnny, Toby and Billy took care of their horses he told them how the deputies pay a visit to the shops every night to collect protection money from them. Those who refuse to pay get beaten up, their shops trashed or burned out.

Madrid got angrier as he listened to what was being done to the people of Tonopah. Coming out of Barranca’ stall he had heard enough.

“ So he’s in the saloon right now and his deputies will be making their collection rounds in a few minutes?”

“ Yeah……they start at the other end of town and work both sides down to me then take the money they collect to the sheriff who always sits at the back of the saloon with the other two deputies so he can watch who comes and goes.”

“ Toby take one side……Billy the other……let them collect from a couple but if it looks like they are going to get rough step in.”

“You bet Johnny…….come on little brother lets stop these scum bags.”

“ Where will you be Johnny?” Billy asked.

“ Where you think?………Try not to be seen okay.”

“ We will.”

Madrid made his way to the saloon without being seen. He watched as Toby and Billy also made it close to the two deputies. One on each side of the street knocking on shop doors. He could hear them call out protection collection time and it made him madder yet. Stepping around the corner and up onto the walkway in front of the saloon. Stopping and seeing Toby watching him he gave a signal that he knew Toby would understand. He and Billy were to take out the deputies and unless shooting started in the saloon they were to hold the two scum bags until Madrid came to them. If shooting started Madrid knew they would come and back him up. They would render the deputies unconscious.

Stepping up to the bat winged doors he peared inside and sure enough the sheriff and two deputies were sitting at the back drinking beers. The deputies had their backs to the door but the sheriff could see him when he walked into the saloon.

“ What the hell you think you’re doing back in my town Madrid?……………I told you you weren’t welcomed here so take your sorry ass and ride out now before me and my deputies kill you.”

“ You’re the one who’s leaving town…..You and those outlaw scum you have extorting money from the good citizens of this town………..get up real slow like the three of you……My two deputies who are real I might add already have your other two men so do the right thing and stand up and drop your guns.”

“ I don’t think so boy……..I’m not letting some fucking halfbreed Mexican bastard tell me what to do.”

one of the deputies said as he stood, spun and fired.

                                                                  Chapter 8

Toby looked at his brother as they escorted the two deputies toward the saloon when they heard the shot.

“ You got them Billy?” Toby asked.

“ Yeah…….go.”

Toby took off running but being cautious as he approached the saloon doors.

“ Johnny…’s me…… all right?” he asked as more shots were fired from inside. “ Madrid.”

Johnny drew and fired hitting the one deputy in the chest sending him crashing into the table dead. The other one stood and fired also as he dove toward the bar. His bullet hitting the wall next to Madrid’ face sending small pieces of wood flying. The saloon girls screamed as they scrambled for cover behind the bar.

Madrid dove to his left and fired as a bullet caught his left side just under his arm. White hot pain burned as he fired again at the deputy now behind a turned over table. The sheriff who also was behind the table he had been sitting at now flipped on it’s side was the one who hit him.

Movement at the door caught his attention and turning ready to fire Madrid seen Toby come in low and go to the right. Holding up two fingers he let him know how many were still alive.

“ Give it up Madrid……..I know I hit you.” the bad sheriff said right before he fired again.

Toby glanced at Madrid and it was then he seen the blood on his left side.  “ How bad?” he asked but Johnny waved it off as he fired at the deputy behind the bar now with at least two saloon girls.

“ Drop your guns and the two of you can live.” Johnny said. He was answered with bullets hitting around him.

Neither the deputy or sheriff fired in Toby’ direction so Johnny figured they didn’t see him come in. Motioning to Toby as he reloaded his colt to move around closer to the sheriff.

Toby knew what Madrid was going to do. He knew one was behind the bar but the sheriff they had to take out now. They couldn’t risk hitting innocent people still inside if they shot at the deputy. When Madrid moved and fired Toby seen his chance as the sheriff raised up just enough. Firing he hit the man in the right shoulder slamming him back into the wall causing his gun to drop to the floor and lay at his feet. Moving closer still Toby fired again hitting the sheriff again as the man reached for his gun. No more would he move, the bullet entered the left side of his chest killing him dead.

Your boss is dead……..come on out and you can live.” Toby yelled.

Go to hell.” the deputy yelled back.

A woman screamed and struggling could be heard from behind the bar. “ Shut up bitch and stand up.”

Johnny stood up and leaned against the wall peering around the corner with his colt ready. Glancing at Toby who also stood up and had his gun aimed as well.

The deputy stood up with his left arm around a saloon girls throat and his pistol at her head.

“ I’m walking out of here and you two aren’t stopping me.”

“ I don’t think so.” Madrid said coldly as he stepped out into the open and raised his colt. The gun stayed level, aimed at the deputy, “ Let her go……….let her go now and I won’t kill you.”

Toby glanced and seen blood soaking the left side of his friend under his arm. Looking back at the deputy and frightened girl he moved back to his left toward the door.

“ You’re not stopping me from leaving here you fucking halfbreed.”

Johnny pulled the hammer back as he stepped closer. “ I’m only going to tell you one last time……..Let the girl go now and I won’t kill you.”

“ You won’t shoot…….you could hit her………I don’t know who you think you are Mex but I am leaving.”

“ Tell him who you are Johnny.” Toby said.

Looking at the deputy through cold as ice aqua blue eyes Johnny let a smile curve the corners of his mouth up just a little. He loved this part. He loved seeing the look on a man’s face that was looking at the wrong end of his colt.

“ Madrid……Johnny Madrid……….now drop the gun and let her go.”

“ Madrid.” the now scared deputy said. “ Fuck you.” he said as he shoved the pistol into the girls face more.

Johnny seen his chance and fired. His bullet entered the deputies right eye and came out the back of his skull. The frightened girl screamed as she was pulled backwards with the now dead deputy.

Another shot rang out and Madrid looked and seen Toby had fired toward the stairs. A man with a rifle tumbled down the stairs dead. A badge could be seen on his chest as crimson red spread across it.

Toby moved to Johnny’s side. “ You got a doctor in this town?” he asked the bartender who was helping the girl up away from the dead deputy.

“ Yeah….a good one too……..Slim go fetch the doc for mister Madrid.”

“ A man anything but slim came out from behind the bar and headed out the door.

“ Come over here and sit down Johnny……..Billy bring those two in here.”

Billy came in with the two deputies he and his brother collected. “ Get over there and don’t move.” he ordered. “ How bad you hit Johnny?”

“ It’s just a graze……..Bullet didn’t go in me.” Madrid answered. “ You two take them over to the jail.” he ordered as he walked over to the girl still sobbing. “ Ma’am are you alright?”

Looking up at her savior she nodded her head as she tried to get her emotions under control. “ Thank….Thank you Mister Madrid…..You saved my life.”

“ I’m sorry I had to do that ma’am…….I couldn’t let him leave with you.”

“ I…I understand……I need to go get cleaned up now if it’s alright?”

“ Sure…….why don’t you go with her?” he asked another of the girls.

“ It’s Rose.”

“ Ma’am?”

“ As opposed to  ma’am……….my name is Rose.” she said with a slight smile and quiver in her voice.

“ Johnny you need to sit down.” Toby said.

“ I’m alright……had worse……Let’s get these two over to the jail.” he said as he headed toward the door.

“ Move you two.” Toby and Billy followed him out.

The doctor was coming toward them as they walked out of the saloon. Who is injured?’ he asked.

“Madrid is doc…….a bullet grazed him.” Toby responded.

“ Madrid…….Johnny Madrid?”

“ Yeah that a problem?” Johnny asked harshly.

“ No… no problem at all……..This town is beholding to you for what you did tonight.”

“ Well you can follow us over to the jail doc and take a look after we get these two locked up.”

“ Alright.”

Johnny sat on the desk as the doctor cleaned his wound out and bandaged it up. “ It’s not deep enough for stitches but you’ll need to keep it clean. If the pain’s to much I can give you some Laudanum.”

“ Thanks anyways doc but I’ve had worse.” he answered as he slipped a shirt on that Billy had gotten out of his saddlebags.

“ Yes I seen that….one of those wounds isn’t very old……..Maybe you should think about another line of work?”

Johnny just looked at the man a second then at Toby. “ See if they got a telegraph in this town and go wire the marshal in Tuscon……Tell him what we got and what he want’s us to do.”

“ We got one….I’ll show you. Pat lives in the back so all you gotta do is bang on the door and wake him up.”

“ No he don’t……..I’m right here Sheriff…….I’ll send a wire for you.” a tall skinny man replied.

“ Go with him Toby…….Billy go check on that saloon girl and start getting statements from the people in the saloon…..Find out how many will swear out complaints against these two and the four dead ones.”

“ Sure Johnny.”

“ When you’re done doing that get the shop owners as well…….The more statements we have the better to put these two behind bars for life…..Doc do you know if either of them two shot your real sheriff or killed anyone?”

The doctor walked over and looked in the back. “ No they didn’t kill the sheriff but they did plenty of other stuff just as bad in my book.”

“ You swear out a complaint against them doc telling what you seen?”

“ You bet I will……..they ran rough shod over the good people of Tonopah long enough.”

Johnny found a pad and pencil in the desk drawer and pulled them out. Handing them to the doctor so he could write out his statement.

Dan Marvin read the small newspaper printed out in Ft. Sumner sitting by the fire of his cozy ranch home. Not a big ranch, but big enough for the amount of cattle he had. The  Broken T ranch was about  five thousand acres with good grazing and water. It was the water part of it that made him take notice of a certain article on the inside of the first page. “ Johnny Madrid gunfighter succeeds in the delivery of half a million dollars in gold from Douglas, Arizona to San Francisco, California.” Reading the article he decided that that was the man he needed to help him. He had heard of Madrid before and how he would hire his gun out and help people who needed it for the right price. He needed the best and Madrid was the best.  Being not a rich man but wealthy all the same Dan Marvin decided he would send a letter to Douglas and ask if Madrid would come to New Mexico and help put an end to the poisoning of his water since the Army wouldn’t get involved, saying it was a matter for the two ranchers to settle or the Department of the Interior. Having written several letters to said place mister Marvin decided to take matters into his own hands when his main water hole was poisoned and he lost over a hundred of his cattle and some horses to it. Other animals also died from the poisoning and it angered him deeply that someone would do such a thing.

When he confronted his neighbor about it the man denied, as he suspected he would, any wrong doing on his part. Saying he would never  do such a thing. In a way Dan Marvin believed him, but if it wasn’t him then who? Who would want to do such a thing. Cory Rydell set up his ranch about the same time he had. They had always gotten along until a few months ago when strange things started happening on Marvin’ ranch. Having not joined the cattlemen’ association when founded a couple years ago found Dan Marvin not welcomed in some businesses even though he always paid his bill.

Tomorrow he would send the letter and hope he still had livestock or a home left if Madrid did come.

The marshal arrived in Tonopah four days after Madrid had the wire sent. Taking all statements and the two prisoners  away in the prison wagon Madrid, Toby and Billy stood watching as the two headed to Yuma prison.

“ Well Johnny how about a cold beer?’ Toby asked.

“ Yeah and maybe a hot woman.” Billy added.

Johnny and Toby both smiled as the three headed to the saloon for a night of cold beer and hot women.

Four days  later Madrid, Toby and Billy rode into Douglas. The sun was just starting to rise as they rode into town.  After taking care of their horses and walking out of the livery into the morning sun.

“ What now Johnny?” Billy asked.

“ Well I don’t know about you two but I could use a cup of coffee and a hot breakfast.”  he answered as they headed toward the cafe.

“ Hey Johnny don’t look now but Marlene is watching you.” Toby said.

“ Yeah I know. She seen us ride in.”

“ You think she figured out McCloud’ dead?” Billy asked.

“ Probably.”

“ Madrid.” a voice behind them said.

Johnny stopped and his hand was at his colt as he turned.

“ Easy I don’t want no trouble…….I need to talk to you.”

“ Who are you mister?” Billy demanded.

“ My name is J. Daggett……I’m a Pinkerton Detective.” he answered as he handed Johnny a card.

Johnny took the card and read it before handing it to Toby. “ What about?”

“ Look I would prefer to not discuss this on the street. Could you come to my room at the hotel so we can talk in private?”

“ We’re on our way to get some breakfast at the cafe…..We can talk there.”

“ Alright.” J answered as they headed to the cafe.

Scott Lancer rode into Tonopah mid afternoon. His horse needed a lose shoe fixed so dropping him at the livery he headed to the saloon for a cold beer. Standing at the bar he listened as the bar talked about a sheriff and his two deputies getting rid of some bad  men a week past. When he heard the name Madrid hi couldn’t help but smile. It seemed his little brother, the gunfighter was making another name for himself as he rode back to Douglas.

“ Excuse me.”

“ Yes sir.” the bartender answered as he walked over. “ You want another beer?”

“ No…..I couldn’t help but hear what you were saying…..Are you sure it was Johnny Madrid?”

The bartender looked at Scott intently “ Yeah I’m sure…….there’s no mistaking Madrid…Rose there wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for him.”

Scott glanced at the young lady standing at the poker table then back at the bartender. “ And he stayed here until the marshal showed up?”

“ Sure did……I’ll tell ya something mister……?”

“ Lancer…Scott Lancer.”

“ Mister Lancer people can say what they want about Johnny Madrid being a cold blooded killer or just a hired gun all they want……..The people of Tonopah know who the real Johnny Madrid is and he is welcome in this town anytime.” the man stated before walking away to take care of his customers.

“ So I’m a week behind you little brother.” Scott said before polishing off his beer and heading to the door. Thirty minutes later Scott Lancer rode out of Tonopah headed to Douglas with a sense of pride inside. Pride for what he had heard his little brother do for the people of Tonopah.

Madrid sat and listened to what the Pinkerton agent told him. He couldn’t help but wonder why the man whose blood ran thru his veins would hire a Pinkerton agent to investigate him?

“ Why the hell is Lancer having you check Johnny out?’ Toby demanded.

“ I don’t know the why…….I just do what I am hired to do.”

“ So you going to arrest me for rape Pink man?” Johnny asked.

“ No I’m not……….Look Madrid commissioner Campbell  and his wife Marlene are the ones who did wrong not you.”

“ Yeah…’s a pretty good charge Craig Campbell is facing…….Should be worth say ten years if not more……..Right Johnny?” Billy asked.

Madrid glanced at him then at the door. “ Why don’t we ask him.” he said standing up and walking toward the door.

Commissioner Craig Campbell walked into the cafe and stopped when he seen Madrid heading toward him.

“ Why Sheriff…it’s good to have you back……..You did a good job delivering that gold so our fine town wouldn’t go broke.” he stated as sweat beaded on his forehead.

Johnny knew the man was nervous. He could see it in his eyes as he walked up.

“ Commissioner I wonder how many years I could get you locked up for?”

“ What……..locked up…what for?” he demanded.

“ Oh how about reckless endangerment of a lawman…..that charge would be against you for me and my six deputies even though only two made it back. I know it was you who leaked out about the gold being transferred. I also know it’s against the law to file a false report against someone.”

“ I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“ Oh sure you do……..You see that man standing over there with my two deputies?…..Well he’s a Pinkerton Detective and he found out you sent a wire telling how I was transporting the gold………it seems the telegrapher don’t care for you much….He was more than glad to talk to him and I bet he would talk to me also and give a sworn statement to what you did.”

“ Go ahead Madrid and it will be the biggest mistake you make.”

“ Toby…….take the commissioner here over to the jail and book him on endangerment of peace officer’s …and threatening a lawman.”

“ You bet Johnny……Come on Billy lets get this scum behind bars were he belongs.”

“ Oh……I know about your wife but I wonder something……..How can she be your wife when she is already married to Sal McCloud?………….It’s gonna be a real pleasure for me to arrest her and tell her she’s a widow now…… two were never married commissioner.” Madrid said with a smile. “ Get him out of here.”

People in the cafe watched and listened to what was happening. Whispers could be heard as the commissioner was escorted  to the jail.

“ How you going to handle the wife?” J asked.

“ Oh I got something in mind…….So what now?… gonna send a wire telling old man Lancer what happened here?”

“ What is he to you Johnny?…….The man seems awful intent on knowing everything there is to know about you and your past.”

“ The truth?……….I got that bastards blood running thru my veins.” he said before walking out.

That night Madrid had Toby and Billy stay at the hotel for the night. He knew he would have a visitor late and was going to enjoy what was going to take place. A smile came to his face thinking about after when he would tell her he knows it all about her never really being legally married to Craig because she is married to McCloud and how her and McCloud had planned on stealing the gold all along. Even though he had no charges he could put against Marlene he would make sure she knew Sal was now dead and it would be of better interest for her to leave Douglas and never return. Sitting at his desk with his feet propped up on the desk he looked when he heard the door open.

“ Sheriff Madrid……I got a wire here for ya……..It came a week ago.”

Lowering his feet Johnny stood up and took the wire from the man. “ Thanks……..and thanks for what you did earlier.”

“ What I did earlier?”

“ Yeah……the commissioner.”

“ Oh yeah, sorry. Craig Campbell is no good. The towns gonna elect a new commissioner next week.”

“ That ain’t all the town will be getting new.”

“ What ya mean?”

“ I’m going to quit as sheriff…….my two deputies are real good and I figure Toby Jenks would make a real good sheriff here.”

“ You don’t have to tell me Madrid…….After all you have done for us you can make whoever you want sheriff.” he stated before walking out.

Madrid sat down and opened the letter.

Sheriff of Douglas, Arizona

My name is Dan Marvin and I own a small five thousand acre ranch the Broken T outside Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. I would like to hire you mister Madrid….Someone is trying to run me off my spread by poisoning my water and killing my stock.

I have contacted the department of interior and the local law and they will do nothing to help me. I read how you transported the gold and even before that I have heard of how you hire out and help those who can afford you. I’m not a wealthy man but I can pay you. I need help, I need the best and you mister Madrid are the best.

If you chose to come stop in at the Hotel  Sumner a room will be waiting for you. My spread is due west of town five miles.

Dan Marvin

Broken T Ranch.

Madrid sat back in his chair and reread the letter. Ft. Sumner, New Mexico was a bit out of his range but if the money was right hell he’d go to Wyoming. Toby would become the sheriff of Douglas next week so  why not take the job. Money wasn’t an issue for him and this time of year there would be no snow but it could get really hot. Ft. Sumner just happened to put him in route to ride thru San Miguel and stop at the mission there and see an old friend. That was if the Padre were still there. Hearing soft footsteps stop outside his door he took out his pistol and held it in his lap as the door opened.

“ You going to shoot me?” Marlene asked as she stepped into the jail and closed the door.

Johnny stood up and walked around his desk. The last time the two of them were together was the night before he left and he took her on his desk and cot in the back. Feeling himself start to stir in his groin he sat back on the edge of the desk as Marlene walked up to him. Still holding his colt as she came between his legs and kissed him. Kissing her back as his body responded to her touches he set his pistol down on the desk and pulled her into him more as he pressed his groin into her mound and moaned in her mouth. He hadn’t planned on doing this but why not lead her into thinking she was going to get it.

“ Oh I missed you Madrid.” Marlene said as she rubbed his cock.

“ Suck me off.” Johnny said as he reached down and undid his pants. Might as well get some extra satisfaction before he ruined the night for her.

Marlene got down on her knees after he got his pants down enough and took his shaft in her mouth. Swirling her tongue around and sucking in him as he stood up from the desk and took a hold of her head and shoved his shaft down her throat. After a minute he felt his climax start and threw his head back as his seed spilled out.

“ Oh yeah suck me dry whore.” Johnny said as he thrust into her mouth as he looked down and watched his cock  release.

Marlene sucked him dry and slowly kissed her way back up to his mouth and claimed it. After a minute of tongues tangled and hands roaming she pulled her dress up thinking she would get fucked.

“ Take me Johnny.” she pleaded.

Madrid pushed her back and pulled his pants up and stepped away from her to the door to the back.

Marlene followed him still thinking she would be having him more.

“ I got someone in the back here you might be interested in seeing.” he said as he opened the door.

Marlene stepped in and seen Craig in a cell.

“ I know he’s your husband…..well supposed to be but you see Marlene I know you and McCloud were already married……I know it all and he’s under arrest for plotting to have me and my deputies killed and you……..well you I know were in it with McCloud…….of by the way he’s dead…..I know you went to him when I left………..I seen the two of you together in Mexico some time back and there is a Pinkerton in town who knows all about you and Sal.”

Marlene looked  at Madrid and slapped him hard.

Johnny grabbed her hand and jerked her up to him. “ I’ve never mistreated a lady before but there is always a first time………All you are is a three timing whore who isn’t even worth a dollar to fuck.”

“ You bastard.”

“ Yeah I am………’m the bastard you fucked my first night in town and I’m the bastard who’s dick you just had down your throat out there.”

“ What do you want?”

“ I want you to get your sorry ass out of Douglas and never come back. That Pinkerton man well he might want to arrest you but since this is my town I suggest you leave……”

Marlene glared at him a minute before turning and leaving his office.

One week later Johnny Madrid was riding northeast headed to Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. Toby became the new sheriff of Douglas and his younger brother Billy his deputy. Marlene disappeared and it was later learned she returned to Mexico. Craig Campbell got decommissioned and awaited sentencing. Toby would wire him if he needed to come back for a trial.

Only one thing bothered him and he couldn’t shake it. Why was Murdoch Lancer checking him out?

That was something he would have to someday find out but not now. Now he had a job to do and spurred his golden stallion into a lope toward that job.

                                                                         Chapter 9

Madrid sat back against his saddle and watched the sun set three days later along the Rio Grande river. Tomorrow he would stop and see an old friend in San Miguel.

“ You know we did pretty good bein’ sheriff in that town  boy.” he said to his stallion who had walked over and plucked his hat from his head. Shaking it up and down with the hat dangling from his teeth.

“ You gonna give that back boy or am I gonna have to get up and take it from you?”

Barranca dropped the hat and blew his nose as he lowered his head down to Johnny’s chest and worked his lips around on his shirt.

“ What’s up with you tonight amigo?……You’re a little on the ornery side……..I know what you need… need a sassy little filly to breed don’t ya?”

Shaking his head up and down again Barranca nuzzled Madrid’s face.

Johnny reached up and scratched that special spot his friend enjoyed behind the left ear. “ You know buddy………I been thinkin’ and I can’t understand why that bastard would be checking me out…….I mean why spend the money on that detective checking on my past huh?…….Unless he’s afraid I might come and take what’s rightfully mine. I bet that would set real good with that spoiled rich kid who’s supposed to be my brother………..Come on move and I get up and brush ya.” he said as he pushed  his stallions face away. Taking the brush from his saddlebags Johnny started brushing the beautiful golden coat. Barranca shined like gold in the summer. His coat was a dark gold color with a solid whit mane and tail. Johnny loved brushing his friend almost as much as a good whore.

“ Maybe we should ride back to Lancer after this job and take what’s mine…….I mean they say he’s the richest rancher in the San Joaquin valley…….I wonder how people would feel if his bastard son came back?”

Barranca stood twitching his ears forward and back as he listened to Johnny and the coyotes who were now starting to yap in the not to far distance.

“ You know buddy all I ever wanted when growing up was a big brother who could protect me whenever I was being abused…… it seems I’ve had one all along and didn’t even know it. I was born at Lancer so my mother knew about me having an older brother but she never once said anything to me about him…….All she would tell me was we were thrown out because he didn’t want no halfbreed kid around……….If she didn’t tell me I had a brother then maybe all that other stuff she did tell me was a lie too?”

Knowing he wouldn’t be able to sleep much tonight, not with a lot of unanswered what if’s and why’s running thru his head. Tonight sleep would be very little.

Scott Lancer rode into Douglas and stopped at the sheriff’s office. Getting down he stretched his back and looked around. Douglas he could tell was a definite booming town. But like most mining towns, eventually the mine would play out and the town would become abandoned like so many others. Stepping up onto the walkway he reached for the door handle to open it when it was opened from the inside and Toby Jenks came out almost running right into him.

“ Lancer……..what are you doing here?”

Scott noticed the badge on Toby’ shirt now said sheriff instead of deputy. “ I’m looking for Johnny….Is he here?”

“ No he’s not.”

“ When will he be back?”

“ He won’t…….now if you’ll excuse me I got rounds to make.”

“ Wait a minute Toby……..Johnny’s my brother now I have a right to know where he is………..If he’s in trouble I’d like to help him.”

“ Help him?………hell boy why don’t you go on back to that rich daddy a your’ cause Madrid don’t need  to be hurt by that man anymore.” Toby said before walking away.

Scott stood there wondering why his brother wasn’t the sheriff of Douglas any longer. He couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to make Johnny leave? Did something happen? Could his brother be dead and Toby just didn’t want to tell him? No he could feel it inside, his brother was still alive. Seeing the telegraph office he untied his horse and walked over.

Sending a wire to his father letting him know he would be going to Ft. Sumner and that Johnny was no longer the sheriff of Douglas. Walking out to his horse after he spotted the deputy headed to the livery. Taking his horse he walked down to there hoping that maybe he could get some kind of information on his brother.

Billy came out of the livery and stopped. “ Why it’s Scott Lancer isn’t it?” he asked holding out his hand.

Scott took the proffered hand and shook it. “ Yes it is.”

“ What you doing in Douglas?”

“ I’m looking for Johnny. Can you tell me where he is Billy?”

“ He isn’t the sheriff here any longer Scott.”

“ Yeah I know…….Listen Billy I need to find him….Please…It’s important.”

“ Johnny headed to Ft. Sumner Scott.”

“ Ft. Sumner?……Why?”

“ A rancher there sent him a letter………Johnny went there to hire his gun out.”

“ Hire his gun out?”

“ Yeah…….Seems  this rancher needs Madrid’ gun for something.”

“ You know this ranchers name?”

“ Yeah I think it is Dan Marvin……..Hey listen I know it’s none of my business but why’d your father kick Johnny out when he was just a baby?”

“ You’re right…….it is none of your business.” Scott said as he mounted up. “ But just for the record our father didn’t kick him out……..Johnny’s mother left with him in the middle of the night…….Murdoch has been searching for him ever since……..We only learned after you all left Stockton that Johnny Madrid is really Johnny Lancer.”

Billy.” Toby said sternly  as he walked up. “ I want you out of town now Lancer…….You’re not welcome here.”

“ Look I appreciate your loyalty to my brother Toby……I assure you I have no intentions of hurting him..Nor does our father.” Scott said.

“ Yeah well you remember this Lancer…….If you or that high and mighty father of yours do…You’ll answer to me……..Understand?”

“ Yeah.” Scott said with a slight laugh before turning his horse and heading out of town.

“ He said Johnny’s old man didn’t throw him out Toby………Said Johnny’s mother took him away when he was a baby and they’ve been searchin for him ever since.” Billy said.

“ And you believe that?”

“ Yeah I do…..Scott said it wasn’t till after we left Stockton that they learned who Johnny really is.”

“ Maybe that’s true and maybe it ain’t…..I do know that Johnny has had enough hurt in his life and I’ll kill Scott Lancer if he hurts him anymore………..His old man too……..Come on let’s go get some supper.”

Madrid rode into San Miguel as the sun began to set. Stopping Barranca outside the old mission on the outskirts of town he got down and looked around. Not many people were on the street. The town it’s self consisted of a few adobe buildings with buffalo grass and mud roofs. A small cantina sat almost in the middle of the street with a mercantile store on one side and a vacant building on the other, it’s door long since gone from the now rusty hinges. The smell of food started his stomach to protest since he skipped lunch with wanting to reach the mission before dark.

A pair of vaquero’s came out of the cantina and looked him over intently. One of the vaquero’s wore his gun tied low on his hip and Madrid watched as the man slipped the thong from the trigger, all the while never taking his eyes off Johnny. His compadre smiled showing brown, nasty rotting teeth before he spit the wad of tobacco he had out and let the juice run down his chin.

 Madrid smiled back as he removed his saddle bags and rifle from the scabbard. More than willing to play their game he raised the rifle up to rest on his left shoulder after slinging the saddle bags over before turning and walking into the mission. He knew inside that before he left this little town, one or two men would lay dead in the street.

Stopping just inside Johnny glanced around. Four pews were all that he seen in the dimly lit room. A cross hung on the wall in front of him of Jesus. Candles burned in small red glasses on a wooden plank setting on some straw bales. Removing his hat and setting the rifle and saddle bags down on the front pew as faint footsteps could be heard behind him. Turning around he looked at a man with silver hair and a brown robe with a cotton rope tied around the middle walk toward him.

“No me enganan mis ojos? No veo a  un nino, una vez alterado ahora un hombre adulto de pie delante de mi?” ( Do my eyes deceive me? Do I see a once disturbed child now a grown man standing before me?)

“ Si padre soy yo.” ( Yes padre it is me.) “ He oido que ahora esteban aqui, en San Miguel.” ( I heard you were now here in San Miguel)

“ Mira a todos crecido…..He oido rumores de que mi Juanito es un pistolero famoso no?” ( Look at you all grown up…I hear rumors that my little Juanito is a famous gunfighter yes?)

“Si supongo que  se podria decir que el padre.” ( Yeah I guess you could say that padre)

“ Pareces preocupado a mi hijo….no hay tristeza que escuchar en tu voz….. Dile a un padre de edad lo que te preocupa.” ( You sound troubled my son…There is sadness I hear in your voice…Tell an old padre what troubles you)

“ Se trata de mi madre y mi ninez.” ( it’s about my mother and my childhood)

“ Vaya por delante mi hijo.” ( go ahead my son)

“ Alguna vez te habla de mi padre o decirle que renia un hermano?” (did she ever talk to you about my father or tell you I had a brother?)

“Por que me hace estas preguntas a mi hijo?” ( why do you ask me these questions my son?) “ Que ha pasado?” ( what has happened?)

Johnny sighed and wiped his face with his hand more from frustration than sweat. After a minute of silence he told the padre what he had happened in Stockton and what the Pinkerton had told him. After he finished he just sat there looking at the man who as a child was the only real protector he had.

“ Su madre nunca me hablo de que tenia un hermano….Ella hablaba muy poco de su padre y cuando lo hizo hablo de odio hacia el hombre.” (your mother never spoke to me that you had a brother…She spoke very little of your father and when she did she spoke of hatred for the man) the padre said as he sat down in the pew behind Johnny.

“ Pero una noche, cuando estaba enfermo con fiebre hablo de como ella habria qierido que ella nunca

le habia ganado lejos de su padre.” ( but one night when you were sick with fever she spoke of how she had wished she had never stole you away from your father)

“ Crees que lo que ella dijo era verdad?” ( do you think what she said was true?)

“Yo podria hacer que ella no hablara mas, cuando usted era mejor.” ( I think she spoke the truth that night because she thought you would die. I could get her to speak no more when you were better.)

“ Asi que su padre estadounidense busca de su pasado? Tal vez deberia ir a el y buscar la verdad a ti mismo.” (So your American father seeks your past? Maybe you should go to him and seek the truth yourself?)

“ Usted pasar le noche?” ( you stay the night?)

Madrid only nods his head.

“ Usted tiene un buen corazon a mi hijo… pierdas eso.” ( you have a good heart my son……Do not lose that.)  the padre said as he stood up and patted Madrid’ hand.

“ I must close up.” he said as he started to hum a song.

Johnny looked at him as a bell went off in his head. “ Cual es esa cancion que se tararea padre?” ( what is that song you are humming padre?)

“ Es una vieja… se llama arrullo espanol.” ( It is an old one my son….It is called Spanish Lullaby.)

“ Alguna vez cantar que a mi cuando esttaba enfermo?”

“ No, pero he oido a tu madre que te cante.” ( no but I did hear your mother sing it to you.)

“ Mi madre?…Estas seguro?” ( my mother… are you sure?)

“Si me puse detras de ella en la puerta mientras ella cantaba la cancion mientras se limpiaba su cuerpo hacia abajo para enfriar la fiebre.” ( yes I stood behind her at the door while she sang the song as she wiped your body down to cool the fever.)

The padre walked back over and sat down. “ Usted no tiene recuerdos de su padre, verdad?” ( you have no memories of your father do you?)

“ No se que hacer. Toda mi vida crei lo que me dijo acerca de el.” ( I don’t know what to do. My whole life I believed what she told me about him.)

“Vaya a su padre de Johnny….Ir a el y escuchar lo que el os diga. Luego, decida a quien tu quieras creer.” ( Go to your father Johnny…Go to him and listen to what he tells you. Then decide who you want to believe.)

“ El sabe  quien soy. El no va a querer a Johnny Madrid, como su hijo.” ( He knows who I am. He won’t want Johnny Madrid as his son.)

“Como sabes esto si no te vas a tu padre y darle una oportunidad?” ( How do you know this if you do not go to your father and give him a chance?)

“Porque yo se que el va a ser como todos los demas. El me  ve solo como Johnny Madrid, un pistolero y asesino.” ( Because I know he’ll be like all the others. He’ll see me only as Johnny Madrid a gunfighter and killer.”) he said with sadness.

“Creo que eres demasiado duro consigo mismo.” (I think you are to hard on yourself.)

Johnny stood up.“Si usted esruviera en su lugar habria que quieres como to hijo?”( If it were you would you want me as your son?)

“Si….si lo haria porqu veo que realmente eres mi hijo y hasta que usted tambien puede ver que, despues, solo tendra preguntas y ninguna respuesta.” (Yes I would because I see who you really are my son and until you can see that then you will only have questions and no answers.)

“Si me voy con el como puedo hacerle entender que podia ser llamado y asesinado en cualquier momento?” ( If I go to him how do I make him understand I could be called out and killed any time?)

Dile…dile que si te quedas podria ser un costo.” (Tell Him….Tell him that if you stay it could be at a cost.) the padre stated.

“Usted esta cansado…Ven a comer y luego dormir. Cuando se despierte. Sera un nuevo dia y usted estara mas claro en lo que tu corazon te esta diciendo.” ( You are tired…Come and eat then sleep. When you wake it will be a new day and you will be more clear on what your heart is telling you.)

The two friends talked casually as they ate supper. Johnny retired to a cot in the back and sleep claimed him immediately after he took care of Barranca. Dreams plagued his mind this night. Dreams of a small dark haired boy laying in the arms of a man as he sang or talked to him softly. He couldn’t see the man’s face and the next morning with the dream seeming like it was yesterday Johnny could only assume it was his father who was in the dream.

After saying good bye to his friend Johnny stepped out into the early morning sun and was about to mount his horse when he heard it.

“ Hey halfbreed.” the one with the gun tied down he seen when he rode into town yesterday yelled.

The padre stepped out of the mission.

“ Go back inside Padre…..por favor.” ( please )

“ Yeah padre you stay and you can maybe read words over Madrid’ carcass after I kill him.”

“I don’t know you mister…..All I want to do is ride out……I’m not looking for no trouble.”

“ You should have never rode into our little town you halfbreed bastardo.”

“ Senors’ por favor…….do not do this I beg of you.”

“ Madrid is the one who will be begging padre so callate.” ( shut up )

“ Stay there padre and don’t say anything or move.” Johnny ordered as he stepped away from his horse so the sun was on his left.

The padre knew he was about to witness death at the hands of Madrid. Powerless to stop it he stepped back against the door frame and clutched his crucifix in his hands as he silently said a prayer for the two men before him.

“ Johnny do not do this por favor.” ( please)

“ It’s too late padre so just stay there out of the way.” Johnny ordered

No…..I will not allow this!” the padre yelled as he hurried down and stood between the two men.

“ Oh look Madrid has himself a protector………Hey Madrid you gonna hide behind that padre or face me like a man?”

“ Damn it padre..” Johnny snapped. “ Get the hell out of here now.” he ordered as he tried to shove the padre out of the way. Movement caught his attention and drawing his colt he fired as he pushed the padre to the ground. Another shot rang out and kicked up dust at his face. That shot came from behind him so turning he fired two shots where he assumed the shot came from. Turning back to the one he was facing he struggled to keep the padre safe.

“ Damn it stay down.” he ordered as he fired again at the vaquero still alive hiding behind a barrel of water outside the cantina.

“ Johnny behind you.” the padre yelled.

Madrid twisted around and fired hitting the second vaquero in the chest dropping him dead. Turning back  and having only one bullet left Madrid took aim and waited. He knew the vaquero would raise up again to shoot him and his patience paid off a few seconds later. Firing he hit the man between the eyes felling him back dead onto the cantina walkway.

Getting up fast, pulling the padre up with him he shoved him toward the mission door and inside.

“ I am sorry…….I thought I could stop this.”

“ You damn near got me killed……I told you to stay down…………You think those bastards would have listened to you…………This isn’t a game padre…..You can’t stop all the bad.”

“ Are you hurt?”

“ No…….you?”

“ No………Those two are not from around here……..They rode into town a few days ago and took what they wanted.”

Johnny reloaded his colt and looked out on the street. Barranca though upset at the time of the shooting, stood waiting patiently looking at him.

“ So tell me you still think my old man would want me as a son?”

“ I think you should give him the benefit of the doubt…………..Judge others the way you would want them to judge you.”

“ Well hell padre I’ve been being judged my whole life……….Why you think that is huh?” Johnny asked as he stepped out to his horse.

“ I do not know why that is…….May be because you are too hard on yourself.”

Johnny looked at the old man. “ No padre that ain’t it at all……It’s because of who my parents are……You see I got it from both sides growing up in those border towns. The gringos would beat me because I was half Mex and the Mexicans………well they didn’t much care for a kid who had blue eyes.

You say I’m too hard on myself……..if I hadn’t been all these years I’d have been dead a long time ago.”

“ I understand why you chose to live by your gun back then Juanito, but I think a part of you has forgotten who you really are. I think every day you punish yourself for something that was not of your doing.”

Madrid looked as some men carried off the two dead vaquero’s. Laying his head against the saddle he let out a sigh. “ All I ever wanted was a father who would love me like those I would see with theirs.”

The old man stepped down and put a hand on Juanito’s back. “ Go to him Johnny…….At least give him a chance si?”

Swinging up into the saddle Johnny reached out his right hand. “ You’re a foolish old man.” he said with a slight smile.

“ Yes but at least I am at peace with myself………Go with God my son.” he said as he took Madrid’ hand in his.

“ Adios.” Johnny said before turning Barranca and riding out of town.

Murdoch thanked the courier before heading in the house to read the wire from his son. Sitting at his desk he opened the envelope as the sun shined on his back through the window.

Johnny no longer sheriff of Douglas. Stop.

Headed to Ft. Sumner, NM for job. Stop.

Am following, will wire from there.


Leaning back in his chair he couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief that his oldest was alright. The wire he had received a few days past from the Pinkerton had told him how the charges were dropped against his youngest and how the commissioner and his wife had tried to set him up. ‘ A job ‘ he could only assume meant his youngest was going to Ft Sumner to hire out his gun.

“ Murdoch is that a wire from Scott?” Teresa asked as she walked into the room.

Looking up at his ward he smiled. “ Yes.” he answered as he put the wire back in the envelope and slipped it into the bottom right desk drawer with the others.

“ Is he coming home?”

“ No.” he responded as he stood up. “ I’m afraid he will be gone longer than expected darling.”

“ Has he caught up with Johnny?”

“ No darling he has not yet…..It seems he is headed to Ft Sumner, New Mexico……He’ll send me a wire from there.”

“ Ft Sumner, New Mexico why?”

“ Because it would seem that Johnny is headed there for a job.”

“ But I thought he was the sheriff of Douglas…….Is he after a convict or something?”

“  No darling he isn’t……..Look I don’t want you worrying about this alright……Scott will be back when he can……with or without Johnny.”

“I hope he can convince him to come home.”

“ Don’t get your hopes up darling…….Johnny has been running wild most of his life……I don’t want you to get your expectations up to much…..The boy has had no adult in his life to bring him up right….He has no manners.”

“ We don’t know that……He could have had a stepfather and surely Maria taught him.”

Not wanting to tell his young ward to much about his youngest son’s soiled past Murdoch put his hands on her shoulders. “ Teresa…….Johnny has been on his own since he was about ten.” he told her as he shivered inside remembering the scars he had seen on his son’s body in Stockton. Anger started to boil deep down inside. How could a person abuse a child for whatever reasons he would never understand.

“ It will take time but we can teach Johnny………You’ll see.”

“ Yes well I hope you’re right darling………..Now……..have you given any thought to your birthday coming up?”

“ Like what?”

“ Like would you like to have a party?…….You’ll be turning eighteen and I can’t seem to recall you saying anything about what you would like as a gift.”

“ Eighteen……….why is it when a girl turns eighteen she is considered grown up but a man isn’t until he is twenty one?”

Murdoch wasn’t prepared for this question. It took him aback a little. “ Because a young man has a lot more maturing to do than a young lady……..Why do you ask?”

“ I was just wondering why you said Scott was a grown man because he went to war? He wasn’t twenty one yet.”

“ Yes well there are somethings a young man does that makes him a man before his age darling.”

“ So Johnny growing up alone in Mexico……does that make him a man?”

Murdoch remembered what he read in the Pinkerton report of how his son at the age of fourteen if not younger had been in brothels with women in a way a boy that age should not have been. Moro Coyo had such a place and he thanked god his oldest did not visit such a place.

“ Teresa……..Johnny has had to do things in his past to stay alive………Things that a child should not have to do………..His childhood has been rough…It’s not easy for a child alone growing up in those border towns.”

“ You mean he’s been abused?”

“ Yes……Listen I need to ride out and see how the men are coming with the hay……I’ll be back in time for supper.”

“ Alright.” she responded as her guardian kissed her forehead.

Madrid rode into Ft. Sumner three days later. Walking Barranca down main street he glanced around and could see the town wasn’t really all that big. A saloon, Merchant’s store, bank, a couple of hotels with cafe’s and a cantina. Stopping Barranca outside the hotel Sumner he could feel eyes watching him. Hell they always did when Madrid rode into town. Sure people knew who he was, they always did.  Word always got out when a gunfighter was hired and by who. He had been at this too long to know otherwise. Getting down and tying his stallion off he walked around and removed his rifle and saddlebags and stepped up onto the walkway. Glancing around before walking inside he could see three riders who had stopped their horses just down the street watching him. All three he could see wore their guns in the way he was used to. No ropes on their saddles told him all he needed to know. The three were probably men he would have to face if he took the job.  Walking into the lobby he found it had a small bar set off to the left and an eating room on the right. Seeing no one at the register he rang the bell.

“ Yes sir…….May I help you?”

“ Yeah I believe you’re holding a room for me.”

“ And your name sir?” the middle aged clerk asked as he looked Madrid up and down with a scowl on his face.

“ Madrid….Johnny Madrid.”

“ Uhm….yes sir mister Madrid I’ve been expecting you…….If you would just sign the register for me….. Mister Marvin had me hold our very best room for you. I think you will find it to your liking.”

“ I’m sure I will…….Do you know if Dan Marvin is in town?”

“ No sir……he doesn’t come in to town except on Saturday’s………Your room is at the top of the stairs…. number one.” the clerk said as he laid the key on the counter.

“ Thanks……..could I get a bath drawn while I stable my horse?”

“ Yes sir……….mister Marvin said to give you anything you wanted……..I’ll have your bath ready for you when you get back…….Would you like me to have your saddlebags taken to your room?”

“ No I’ll do it.” he answered as he picked up the key and headed to the stairs.

Walking into his room he found it consisted of a nice big bed with iron head and foot boards. A round table with two chairs sat in the corner. Another smaller square table was just to the left of the windows with a pitcher of water and wash basin. Tossing his saddlebags and rifle on the bed he walked over and looked out the window. He could see the three riders horses tied outside the saloon across the street that watched him come in. Smiling he turned and headed to the door.

After stabling Barranca and making sure his friend got a good double ration of grain and grooming Madrid headed back to his room to wash off a weeks trail. Walking into his room he found a tub had been placed and filled with hot water. Steam rose from the tub as he closed his door and undid his gun belt. And placed it on a chair he moved next to the tub. Shucking his clothes he eased down into the hot water and sighed with relief as he set back and let the warmth soak into his bones.

An hour later Madrid walked downstairs and was stopped by the clerk.

“ Mister Madrid I have a message for you.” the clerk said as he held out a note.

Johnny took the note and read it.

Saloon across the street Madrid. Will be waiting.

Folding the note up and placing it in his pocket. “ Thanks……What did the man look like who delivered this?”

“ It was Mister Marvin’ foreman Josh Turner……..He’s about thirty, nice fellow. Worked for mister Marvin for about ten years I believe……..People know why you’re here Madrid and well………I personally like Dan Marvin…….He’s one of the few people here about’ who won’t go on credit and always pays his bills.”

“ So then you know what is being done to him and why I’m here?” Madrid asked.

“ Yes sir……There are three men whom I believe are doing it to him.”

“ Yeah and who would they be?”

“ Camp Foley and his son Frank and nephew Corey. He’s  got about ten men riding with him, and I don’t mind telling you that some of his men aren’t too keen about facing you.”

Madrid couldn’t help but smile. He loved it when men backed down or left instead of facing him and his colt.“ Foley huh?……..This nephew of his he wear a rig like mine?”

“ Yeah he does and he was real quick to let it be known around town he knew how to use it…….He gunned down one of Marvin’ hands just to send a message to the man. They are usually in the saloon at night gambling and whoring.” the clerk said with a distasteful sound in his voice.

“ Thanks.” Madrid said as he headed to the door.

Scott Lancer figured he was about a days ride from Ft. Sumner as he made camp for the night. Sitting by the fire later he thought about what he would say to his little brother to convince him to come back to Lancer with him. Remembering the anger he heard in Johnny’s voice upon meeting and what he had said to him before riding out of Stockton Scott knew that the two could possibly get into a fight. Hoping that would not be the case as he tossed his coffee and hunkered down in his bedroll and looked up at the stars as sleep claimed his tired body.

                                                        Chapter 10

Madrid walked to the saloon doors and stopped. Glancing around inside he counted nine men including the bartender. Three were sitting at a table to the right of the bat winged doors drinking beer. The same three who watched him ride into town. Four others were engaged in a game of poker in the far right in front of the window. He could see that these four wore no gun. To his left sat a man sipping on a beer watching him. Stepping inside the saloon the three looked him up and down as he walked over to the bar and ordered a tequila. He knew the man sitting alone was the foreman who left the note for him.

Turning around he took his tequila and sipped on it as he looked at the three. The youngest one dressed in a white shirt and black vest wore a gun that clearly spoke who he was.  Corey Foley the nephew of Camp Foley had a reputation Madrid had heard spoke of. It wasn’t the type of reputation Madrid himself would want. Some men like himself wanted and got their reputation by being good at their trade. There’s a fine line between a gunfighter and a killer.

Madrid never called someone out and tried not to kill. Some, well all who had been foolish enough thinking they could kill him found their answer facing the wrong end of his colt. A slim few had and lived to tell it. Almost nineteen years old, Madrid * was * old in his profession. A gunfighter rarely lived to see twenty and those who did usually found some other kind of work to stay alive or got crippled in a shootout. Guessing Corey about seventeen he knew the kid was eager like he had to build * his * reputation.

A gunfighter usually built his reputation by the amount of men he killed. Madrid got his by being the fastest. When a man made the mistake of calling him out he faced the cold blue eyes Madrid had and usually his eyes were the last thing they seen as a bullet would tear a path thru their chest. Never one to gut shoot a man himself, he had heard of those who had been and survived only to live a life of pure hell. Shooting a man in the gut to him was as bad as shooting a man in the back. If a man strapped on a gun with the intention of using that gun to kill another man then in his book, kill that man the right way. Only a coward would shoot a man in the back. He himself had been shot in the back just three years before. A man clearly drunk knew who he was and called him out. Madrid made the mistake of * not * killing that man because he was drunk and got ambushed a few days later. When the man walked up to him thinking he was dead Johnny, who had laid still until the man got close enough rolled over and shot that man between the eyes.

Josh Turner watched how Madrid checked everyone out before he entered the saloon. Noticing how the Foley’ also checked him out he knew Madrid and Corey would face off sooner or later.

“ Bartender……..two beers.” he called out as he motioned Madrid to come over.

Johnny looked back over at the Foley’ before walking to the table and sitting down with his back to the wall.

“ Madrid…….I’m Josh Turner…..the foreman for Dan Marvin.” he said as he extended his hand.

Johnny took the preferred hand as the bartender set their beers down.

“ I….I don’t want no trouble in my saloon Madrid……..please.”

Johnny looked at the bartender then the Foley’ as he picked up his beer and took a sip. Setting it down he spoke softly.

“ If there is it won’t be me starting it.”

The bartender walked back to the bar mumbling something as he looked over at the Foley’.

“ Tell me about your boss.” Johnny asked the foreman.

“So that’s the great Johnny Madrid huh?………He don’t look like nothin’ but a halfbreed to me.” Corey stated.

“ Yeah well let me tell you something boy…….Madrid may not look like much but he’s the fastest in the southwest……..He killed his first man at age ten and has been wearing that colt ever since so just don’t you go startin’ no trouble with him yet.”

“ I can take him easy uncle.”

Frank Foley laughed. “ I don’t think so cousin…….Do you even know how many men Madrid has killed?”

“ No and I don’t care.”

“ You better boy…….Now you listen and you listen good…..You can kill Madrid……*when* I say you can. You got that?” Camp Foley said firmly. “ We do this my way and until we know for sure he’s here for Dan Marvin……….you don’t touch him.”

“ Sure uncle I can wait.” Corey said as he glared at Madrid.

Madrid saddled Barranca the next morning to ride out to Dan Marvin’ ranch. Walking his horse out of the livery and swinging up into the saddle he headed out to check Dan Marvin’ spread out some before meeting with the man that afternoon.  Josh had told him a lot yesterday about the man wanting to hire him. About how the trouble started when the Foley’ showed up. Josh talked highly of his boss and told how the man was a good decent more than fare man to work for. How he was headed in the wrong direction when Marvin took him in and gave him a job. Johnny liked that in a man, especially one he was fixing to hire his gun out too. Plenty of times in his past he had come across men who didn’t believe in second chances.

Riding along he found himself wondering if the mighty Murdoch Lancer would give him a  chance

as his son. Would he be able to accept Johnny Madrid? Could he? Johnny knew he was living on borrowed time hiring his gun out. All he owned was the clothes on his back and the stallion he rode. A good horse came along just once if a man was lucky and that day in Mexico when he had first seen the golden stallion running with his mares in Barranca Del Cobre, Mexico his life, well what life he had began to change. Letting his mind go back to that day he caught and rode  the stallion Madrid smiled. A trick he had learned from a  vaquero as a child worked. Following the stallion for days on end eventually got the stallion to try and take the mare he rode into his band. After a week Madrid threw a rope and from that day on the stallion and him had been friends. Never really broke, both free as the wind to go where they wanted the gunfighter and the golden stallion became one wondering from town to town, job to job. Several times Barranca had saved his life doing what no other horse would do for the man who rode him.

Stopping along a creek and getting down he let his friend drink as he looked around. The terrain it’s self was pretty open. Mountains could be seen on the horizon to the west. Mesquite grew sporadically in clumps, Beaver tailed cactus, Cholla and Yucca grew all over the ground so thick in places only a desert rat or snake could get thru them.  A few cattle grazed here and there wearing the Broken T brand, some with calves at their side. A bull clearly not of Texas breeding walked with power toward the cows. Watching the bull Madrid had never seen such an animal. Neck thick with muscles that rippled when he walked. A hump of muscle rose above his shoulders like no Bull he had ever seen. Smoked Grey and white and standing at least six feet at the shoulders Madrid decided to move on giving the bull a wide birth.

Just over an hour later Madrid reined Barranca to a walk as he approached the gate to the Broken T.

Looking around as he rode into the yard Madrid spotted Josh and another man coming out of the main house. The house wasn’t but a single level home spread out consisting of rough cut cedar and adobe. A big chimney was set in the middle of the home with a smaller one on the back right. A couple of hands came out of the bunk house and watched him ride by intently. He could feel their eyes on him as he reined Barranca in.

“ You must be Madrid?” the man with Josh asked.

“ Yeah I am……You mister Marvin?” Johnny asked as he got down.

“ Yes I am……Uh you’re not what I was expecting.”

“ And just what were you expecting?”

“ Well…..I thought you’d be older………I mean no disrespect mind you……..It’s just that when I read about what you did with that gold well.”

“ I get that a lot mister Marvin so don’t worry about it….I assure you I am Johnny Madrid…………Josh.”

“ Johnny…… take that way I suggested?”

“ Yeah I did.”

“ Well come on in and get out of the heat……….Josh see to his horse.”

“ That’s alright…….Barranca don’t like strangers none.” he stated as he tied his stallion off and stepped up onto the porch. Removing his hat and wiping the sweat away from his brow.

Camp, Frank and Corey Foley galloped into Dan Marvin’ yard and stopped in front of the house.

“ Dan Marvin.”  Camp yelled.

Mister Marvin stepped out onto his porch with a rifle in his hands.  “ You’re not welcome on my land Foley……….Leave now.” he ordered.

“ I’ll leave when I’m good and ready……….I came out here……..”

Madrid stepped out of the house. “ I believe he ordered you * off * his land…….Now the way I see it you can turn those horses around and ride out…….alive, or laying across their back.”

It was Frank who made the mistake and drew on Madrid. A bullet slammed into his chest knocking him backwards off his horse before he even cleared leather.

Camp and his nephew Corey immediately got off their horses and went to Frank’ side. Blood spread across his chest as he breathed no more.

“ You just signed your death warrant you sonofabitch……..You’re a dead man….. If it’s the last thing I do I’ll kill you” Camp fumed as his hand dropped to his gun.

Madrid answered by pulling the hammer back on his colt. “ Others have tried……..anytime you want to go ahead I got no problem killing scum like you.”

“ You so much as show your face in town and you’re dead Madrid.” Corey stammered.

“ Take your son and get off my land Foley……..Now.” Dan Marvin ordered.

After a few minutes Camp and his nephew rode away from the ranch with the dead body of Frank secured over his horses saddle.

Madrid stood and watched until the two could no longer be seen.

“ Why don’t you stay the night here? You can bunk with the hands or I have a spare bedroom in the back of the house off the kitchen.”

“ Thanks but no thanks…….This isn’t over yet.” Johnny said as he stepped over to Barranca and swung up in the saddle.

“ So you’re going to go back into town tonight then?” Josh asked as he walked over to him. “ I heard what he said and trust me Johnny he means it. He will try and kill you.”

“ I’ve never been one to back down or run from a fight………I’ll see ya.” he said as he turned Barranca and rode away.

Scott  rode into Ft Sumner late afternoon. After settling his horse and finding out his brother had rode out to Dan Marvin’ spread that morning he went to the hotel and procured a room. After a bath and clean clothes he went to the saloon hoping he would find Madrid there, if not then wait for him.

Camp Foley carried his son into the undertaker’ for burial. After giving the man instructions and paying for it he and Corey walked to the saloon and sat in a corner with a bottle of Rye.

“ I’m going to kill that halfbreed sonofabitch uncle……..Madrid is a dead man.” Corey said aloud.

“ You simmer down boy right now. Madrid will die for killing Frank……I promise you that.” he said firmly before downing a shot. “ I don’t need you going off half cocked and getting yourself killed as well.”

“ The only one going to die uncle is Madrid…….I make that promise to Frank and you right here and now.”

Scott listened intently after moving down to the end of the bar so he could hear the two men better after hearing his brothers name. When the bartender came down to him he asked who the two men were.

“ Them two are Camp and Corey Foley……Been causing trouble for mister Marvin last few weeks. Don’t know where the son is though.”

“ Corey not his son?” Scott asked.

“ No he’s his nephew……sounds like they may have tangled with Madrid today……….i thought they were going to have it out in here yesterday when Madrid walked in and met with Marvin’ foreman Josh.”

“ Yeah sounds like it…….Let me have another beer.”

“ Sure thing……..I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before.” the bartender said as he filled Scott’ mug up.

“ No…I’m just passing thru,”

“Passing thru huh?……..Where you from?”

“ Moro Coyo, California.”

“ You’re a fair piece from home……..What brings you to Ft. Sumner?”

“ My brother.” Scott answered as a chair sliding across the floor drew his attention to the Foley’ leaving.

Johnny rode into town and seen the Foley’ come out of the saloon and cross the street to their horses. Reining Barranca in he got down in front of the saloon and stepped up onto the walk.

Corey seen Madrid ride in and his anger for the gunfighter boiled over.

“ Don’t do it Corey.” Camp said as he grabbed his nephews arm.

Corey jerked his arm free. “ The hell I won’t.” he said as he stepped down into the street. “ Madrid.” he yelled.

Johnny stopped at the bat winged doors to the saloon and turned around.

I told you I’d kill you if you came into town……You killed my cousin you sonofabitch.”

Madrid stepped down into the street. “ Yeah I heard you but you know I never was very good at taking orders.” he said casually as he glanced across at Camp Foley. “ You better get a leash on him old man unless you want to bury him with your son?”

“ Corey’ his own man………It’s you who will be bein’ buried Madrid.” Camp said back.

“ A man huh?…..You think just because you killed men that makes you a man boy?” Madrid asked Corey knowing he would get the kid riled.

“ I’ve killed more men than you Madrid so yeah I am.” Corey snapped back.

“ It ain’t how many men you killed boy that makes you a man………What makes you a man is that colt you’re wearing and knowing how and when to use it……….Anybody can pull a trigger, you just gotta know if when you do it’s the right choice.”

“ Shut up Madrid and draw.” Corey ordered with anger.

“ Nope……..I don’t recon I will……..You called me out so if you want to dance then……..well it’s your choice when you die.”

Scott Lancer and everyone else in the bar heard Madrid’ name yelled and walked to the bat winged doors. Stepping out onto the walk he watched and listened as his little brother faced down the man who called him out. The bartender standing next to him spoke.

“ Looks like Corey Foley is about to meet the fate of others who faced that killers gun.”

Scott looked at him. “ Don’t you got law in this town to stop this?”

“ Yeah…….We got one but he’s out chasing Billy the kid who  killed sheriff Brady during the Tunstile, McSweeney war a few months back…………John Chisum the big shot rancher in these parts appointed Pat Garrett the new sheriff and he’s out chasing the kid.”

Scott had heard of Billy the kid and Pat Garrett both. Billy wasn’t much older than his little brother standing before him now about to kill another.

Madrid watched fully now knowing Corey wasn’t going to back down. He never let it be said he didn’t try to talk another out of facing him and dying even though plenty called him a cold blooded killer. Never had he gunned down another man unfairly or unarmed. Sure he killed for money but it was a job, a job the law wouldn’t or couldn’t do.

Standing there watching for the tall tell sign that always told him when the other man was going to draw a split second before.

A small dust devil swirled down the street and time seemed to stand still as death waited thirty seconds more. People on the street watched thru eager eyes to see which would be left standing. Women with children and men alike stood watching with hunger for blood shed. There was something about when two men faced off that always made people stop and watched. Plenty of times, hell most of the time when Madrid was called out after people would call him a murderer. Once a woman spat in his face after he killed a boy about his age. It didn’t matter that he had tried to talk the kid out of it, or that that kid was drunk. The outcome was always the same. Johnny Madrid good at his trade had been branded a killer the day he strapped on his colt and killed the man who killed his mother.

Corey Foley got tired of waiting and went for his gun. He cleared leather but never got the chance to fire as he watched the blue smoke from Madrid’ gun and felt the slam of the bullet tear it’s path into his chest. Dropping to his knees dead as blood spread over his heart.

Madrid seen the sign he was watching for and drew his colt, fanning the hammer back once sending a bullet ripping through Corey Foley’ heart. Knowing the kid was dead before he hit the ground he turned toward Camp Foley as he cocked the colt.

“ I told you old man………Now you can bury them both.” he said with anger in his voice.

“ You bastard…….I swear * I will * kill you for this Madrid……If it’s the last thing I do.” Camp vented as he went to his dead nephew.

Johnny turned back toward the saloon and stopped short when he seen Scott Lancer standing there. Glancing around as he stepped up wondering if the old man was also there and why?

“ Well well if it’s not the spoiled rich kid…………You’re a long way from home Lancer.” Madrid said with snideness before walking past and into the saloon. Right now a good whore was all he wanted. Walking up to the girl he seen the day before when he came in she eagerly took him upstairs.

Scott started to speak but couldn’t find the words as his little brother smarted off as he walked past.  He’d heard how Madrid was fast but what he just witnessed shocked him. How could someone barely eighteen be that fast and accurate?  Stepping into the saloon he watched as his brother headed upstairs with a whore. The reports he had read said Madrid always took a whore after he killed a  man when called out. Ordering a beer he knew Madrid wouldn’t be leaving tonight. Tomorrow he would address the rudeness his little brother had toward him. Tomorrow he would gladly teach Johnny Madrid manners in how to address his peers.

Madrid stayed with the whore several hours before paying her for her service and heading to his hotel room close to midnight. Rich kid wasn’t in the saloon when he came downstairs.

“ Why the hell was he here?” he wondered as he closed his door and started to strip his clothes off. The clerk shot him a cold look as he walked past and up the stairs. Something he became accustomed to getting after killing another.

After a few hours sleep Madrid grabbed his saddlebags and headed to the livery. Saddling Barranca he paid the owner before walking his stallion out as the sun rose to another day. Swinging up in the saddle he looked and seen rich kid walk out of the hotel and head toward him. Turning Barranca he galloped out of town headed to the Broken T ranch.

Scott Lancer seen his brother come out of the livery and headed toward him. Figuring he would be headed to Dan Marvin’ ranch he got directions from the livery owner as he saddled his horse and lead him out of the barn. Mounting up he took out after his brother.

Madrid knew he was being followed. Stopping his horse in a thicket of mesquite he waited. Looking around the hair on the back of his neck stood up and all his senses were on alert as he heard the sound of an approaching horse. Seeing who it was he moved Barranca out in the path of the rider.

Scott reined his horse to an abrupt stop when his little brother appeared before him.

“ You trying to get yourself killed rich kid…..Following me is a good way to do it.”

Scott got down from his horse. He’d had enough of the rudeness. “ Would you care to say that to my face and * not * walk away from me * boy *?”

Johnny got down. “ I don’t know why you’re hear and I don’t care……..Go home spoiled rich kid.”

Scott swung hitting Madrid in the mouth hard knocking him on his butt. “ I am not a spoiled rich kid…..I am your brother and I will not allow you to talk to me like that.”

Madrid got up and dove at Scott. “ Don’t you call me brother just because we share that old man’s blood.” he said with anger as he hit Scott in the gut. “ You mean nothing to me.”

Scott came back swinging and hitting Johnny in the mouth splitting his lip. “ I am your brother like it or not.” he said as he stood ready for Madrid to attack again. “ We can do this all day or you can listen to what I have to say Johnny.”

“ You go to hell.” Johnny stammered back as he wiped at the blood running down his chin.

Scott relaxed a little but stayed alert for another attack. “ You going to listen to me?”

Johnny stepped up to him. “ You got nothing to say I want to hear.” he responded as he turned to go to his horse  right before he was slammed into his brother and darkness claimed him.

Camp Foley watched Madrid and the other man fight. Taking aim with his rifle he fired and watched as Madrid fell into the other man. Standing up from the small rock mound he had waited behind knowing Madrid would ride by.

Scott grabbed his brother and eased him to the ground. A small trickle of blood ran down the right side of his face from a furrow about an inch long. Looking he seen the man who shot him stand up. Pulling his gun he fired several shots and watched as the man fell dead. Turning his attention back to his brother he hurried to his horse and took some bandages from the saddlebags glad Teresa had insisted on him taking them. Knowing the Broken T ranch would be closer than town he got his brother on his horse and grabbed the reins of Barranca and headed there.

                                                          Chapter 11

Josh Turner led his horse out of the barn and noticed a rider coming in leading a horse. Recognizing the horse being led he hurried to the rider.

Mister Marvin.” he yelled.

Dan Marvin hurried out of his house and stopped briefly until he seen why his foreman had called him. Hurrying to the men.

“ It’s Johnny sir.” Josh stated as they helped get him down. “ What happened?”

“ He’s been shot.” Scott responded as he got down.

“ Let’s get him in the house.” Dan ordered. “ Josh get the doctor out here.”

“ Yes sir.” Josh answered as he hurried to his horse and took off.

Scott laid his brother down on the bed and sat down next to him wiping the sweat away from his brow.

“ How’d this happen?” Dan asked as he poured water in the basin.

“ He was ambushed by a man I believe named Camp Foley.” Scott answered.

“ Uh huh……..and just who are you?”

“ Johnny’s brother Scott Lancer.”

“ His last name is Madrid not Lancer.”

“ Look it’s a long story but I assure you his last name is Lancer not Madrid.”

“ Yeah well let me tell you something mister, I don’t know if what you are saying is true or not, and until Johnny wakes up and tells me otherwise don’t even think of leaving here.” Dan said firmly.

“ I don’t plan on leaving my brothers side and I assure you I did not shoot him.”

A couple hours later Dan, Scott and Josh sat at the kitchen table waiting on the doctor to come out.

“ You said that you’re Madrid’ brother……..If that’s so then how come he goes by Madrid and not Lancer?”

Scott looked at the two men. “ Johnny was born at Lancer.”

“ Lancer… in Murdoch Lancer who has that big ranch out in the San Joaquin valley?”

“ Yes…you know him?”

“ Just from what John Chisum has said.”

“ Well Johnny was as I said born at Lancer, when he was two his mother took him away from there in the middle of the night.”

“ You two don’t look like brothers.” Josh noted.

“ We had different mothers. Our father searched for Johnny all these years but it wasn’t until after we met him in Stockton that we learned that Johnny Madrid and Johnny Lancer are one in the same.”

“ Stockton?………..I read about how he delivered that gold from Douglas, Arizona…….I remember reading about how Murdoch Lancer also helped when men tried to steal it in Stockton.” Dan added. “ But like I told you before, until johnny can tell me otherwise I don’t trust or believe you.”

“ I understand.” Scott said as the doctor came out.

“ How is he doc?” he asked.

“ Lucky……..damn lucky. He has a slight concussion and a furrow in his skull you can lay a finger in.”

“ What are you not saying doc?”

“A wound like that can damage the optic nerve.”

“ What’s that mean?” Scott asked.

“ It means he could be blind……..I won’t know until he wakes up of course but you should know there is a chance.”

Scott stood up and ran a hand thru his hair. “ Can I see him?”

“ I don’t see why not……..Talk to him maybe that will help him wake up…..I’ll stop by in a day or two Dan and check on him…….If you should need me before then you know where I am.”

“ Thank you doctor.” Scott said before heading to the room his brother lay in.

“ I don’t know why mister Marvin but I think he is telling the truth about being Madrid’ brother.” Josh said after the doctor left.

“ Yeah so do I.” Dan answered. “ I don’t want anyone knowing he’s here………I asked doc to not say anything.”

“ Word in town is Madrid killed Corey yesterday. Doc said Corey called him out. Said he never seen the likes before. Madrid was so fast that Corey didn’t stand a chance.”

“ Corey was fast but Madrid.”

“ Madrid is the fastest in the southwest sir………You think he’ll be blind?”

“ I hope not…….A man in his line of work is a dead man if he is.”

Scott stayed with his brother all night. Talking to him about Lancer and how their father had never stopped searching for him. In the early hours of dawn a moan was heard bringing a smile to his face.

“ Come on brother…wake up.” Scott demanded softly.

A sledge hammer was in his head. Someone was pounding a sledge hammer behind his eyes. Hearing a voice coming from his right he turned his head. ‘ Brother’ who would be calling him brother he wondered then it came back to him. Spoiled rich kid, fighting and then blackness. Opening his eyes and blinking several times he looked at the man sitting next to him.

“ Welcome back brother.”

Reaching up and touching his head. “ You ain’t my brother………Go home rich kid.” he said with a raspy voice.

Scott poured some water in a glass. “ Here drink this…….and like it or not Johnny I am your brother.” Scott said as he lifted Johnny’s head so he could drink. Thankful his little brother wasn’t blind like the doctor feared.

“ What the fuck do you want from me?” Madrid demanded as he laid his head back.

“ What I want.” Scott started as he set the glass back on the table. “ Is to bring my little brother home where he belongs.”

“ What makes you think I want to go there?” Johnny asked. “ You know who I am…..He don’t want me as a  son……He proved that when he threw me and my mother out when I was a baby.”

“He did not throw you out Johnny……….Your mother took you from Lancer in the middle of the night….Our father has searched for you ever since and it wasn’t until after Stockton that we learned who you were.”

“ So he sent you after me is that it?”

“ No……I came after you because I want my little brother back.”

“ You do but he don’t………That fucking bastard don’t want me.”

“ You have a colorful way with words and you need to learn some manners boy.”

“ I don’t need to learn manners……and don’t call me * boy * or we can finish what we started out there.”

“ I would be more than glad to kick your skinny ass and teach you some manners * boy * if that’s what you want…………Look Johnny just hear me out and think about what I say……Can you do that for me?”

Johnny sighed. “ Yeah whatever……….I’m not going to tell you again about calling me a boy…….I’ve been a man a hell of a lot longer than you’ve been shaving.”

Scott couldn’t stop the smile and laugh that escaped him.“ Come back to Lancer with me…….Give it one year and you will see he does want you back home…. Lancer * is * your home. It’s one hundred thousand acres strong, twenty thousand head of cattle give or take a few. The finest Capanero De Palomino’s in the San Joaquin……..Why that stallion of yours would be right at home with them.” Scott said with a smile.

“A year huh?”

“ Yes and if at the end of that year you don’t want to stay and be a third owner of Lancer then I will pay you for your troubles and you can leave.”

“ Troubles?…….You do realize that if I do go back with you that Johnny Madrid brings trouble?”

“ I am perfectly aware of what Johnny Madrid could bring…….Johnny Lancer won’t.”

“ Well now you see that’s were you’re wrong right there…….Madrid and Lancer are the same person…..I can assure you that the first time I get called out, he won’t want me as his son.”

“ Can you honestly tell me that you like hiring out your gun?……..That you enjoy killing men for money?” he asked with harshness in his voice.

Madrid glared at him. “ Let’s get something straight right now * brother *…….I did what I had to do to survive……..I’m not ashamed of that……I know a bullet has my name on it……..I’ve accepted that………I’ve never called but one man out and that was the bastard who murdered my mother by beating her to death right in front of me…… he stabbed me when I tried to stop him. The only reason I survived was because he thought I was dead……I’ve had things done to me that would make you sick. I’ve been beaten more than you are old. You don’t know a fucking thing about me and what I’ve been thru in my life…………Yeah I hire my gun out…….I’ve fought my whole life to survive and I’ve done it since I was ten without him so don’t you fucking talk to me like that because you got no right to.”

Scott stood up. “ As the older brother I do and I assure you that if you use that kind of language in the presence of Teresa you and I * will * take a walk and I * will * teach you proper language.”

“ Who the fuck is Teresa?…….Your wife?”

“ She is our father’s ward…..Her father was his foreman until he was killed when some land pirates tried to take Lancer a year ago.”

“ Land pirates huh?………….Who?”

“ A man named  Pardee.”

Madrid snapped his head toward him.“ Day,  Day Pardee?”

“ You know him?”

“Oh yeah I know him….he’s a gunfighter….and a pretty good one.”

“ Was maybe until I killed him……….So do we have a deal?”

“ You know I am going to so love proving your sorry ass wrong…….Yeah I’ll ride back with you.”

“ Good……..I’ll go fix you something to eat.” Scott said as he stepped to the door.

“Where am I?”

“ Broken T ranch……..Mister Marvin seems to not believe that * we * are brothers.”

“ I bet he thought you were the one who shot me huh?”

“ Yes.”

“ Who was it?”

“ Camp Foley.”

“ You kill him?”

“ Yes I did…………..Lancer takes care of it’s own and * nobody * hurts my little brother.” Scott responded before walking out of the room. He would send a wire to their father letting him know he was bringing his brother home.

Johnny lay there with a headache worse than when he first woke up. Knowing a man of his nature would not be welcomed outside the ranch boundaries he smiled and wondered just how his father would handle his neighbors and friends unhappiness toward his halfbreed son. A son who happened to be Johnny Madrid. Maybe that alone would be worth going back there for. Just to see his father’ face when someone told him he wasn’t welcome in the valley. Rich kid didn’t really seem like all that bad a person. Manners? Hell considering how he raised himself after his mother died, he had manners. The whores never complained. He never abused a woman, was always nice even to those who spat or looked down on him on the streets.

Quick tempered and always ready for a fight Madrid had a feeling that what he would encounter ahead in the next year  would be more of a challenge than anything he’d faced so far.

Murdoch sat at his desk with worry on his face. A courier brought news he had hoped for from his oldest son but what he read had him worried. The wire read simple enough,

We are coming home, Stop.


We the wire said. How was he going to be able to handle having a son who was a gunfighter live with him. Would he be able to trust this wild child around his eighteen year old ward Teresa after reading what he had about Madrid and women. Would any of them be able to tame him down and teach him manners? A lot of questions ran thru his head now and only one remained at the top. Could he be making a horrible mistake bringing Madrid here to Lancer? Would his friends and neighbors be able to accept him for who he is? So many questions he was sure would get answered with time.

“ Murdoch… that from Scott?” his ward Teresa asked.

“ What darling?”

“ The wire….is it from Scott?……..Is he coming home?”

“ Yes…..yes they are coming.”

“ They?……..Johnny is coming home with him?………..Oh Murdoch that is such great news……We have to have a party and let people meet Johnny and welcome him home.”

“ Yes, well lets hold off on having a party right away sweetheart……Johnny might not want to stay here.”

“ Why wouldn’t he?…………Lancer is his home……..He’ll stay…you’ll see.”

Inside a part of him * didn’t * want his youngest to stay, but a greater part did. Standing he walked over and kissed the top of Teresa’ head. “ I need to take care of some business outside…….Why don’t you go tell Maria and I’ll be back in time for supper.”

“ Alright. She is going to be so happy Johnny is coming home.”

One week later two brothers, strangers to each other in all aspects rode west in silence. Each one lost in thought of the other really. That night camped along the Rio Grande river Madrid brushed his stallion down good, glancing at his brother as he prepared their meal.

“ I think I’m in for a good challenge amigo, agreeing to go back with him.” he said to his friend as he scratched behind the horses ear.

“ Never known someone to spoil a horse the way you do him.” Scott said as he walked over with a cup of coffee and offered it to him. “ Where did you get him?”

Johnny took the cup of coffee and took a sip. “ I didn’t steal him if that’s what you want to know?”

Scott sighed. This was going to be a long year. “ I never said or thought you did………I just asked where you got him was all.”

“ I caught him…….He’s a mustang.” Johnny replied.

“ Caught him where?” Scott asked as he walked around looking at the fine animal.

“ Barranca Del Cobre canyon in Mexico……He’s still wild but me and him got an understanding for each other. I don’t abuse him and he lets me ride him.”

“ I see………..You’re having second thoughts about going back with me aren’t you?”

Johnny glanced at him then walked over and spread his bed roll out and laid down on it looking up at the stars. “ All my life I wanted a father who would love me. A father or brother.” he said looking at Scott. “ Who would protect me.”

Scott walked over and sat down on his bed roll. “ That colt you wear kind of became that father or brother for you didn’t it?…….The protector.”

“ Yeah I guess you could say that……Look rich kid I did the best I could growing up along those border towns being a mestizo and all…….I never had the luxury of a roof over my head and three meals a day like you. Hell I was lucky to get something to eat at all sometimes………….I guess what I’m trying to say is I may not have your fancy upbringing and the manners you claim I need. But I know how to survive.”

“ Johnny……..manners are easy to acquire  if the person is willing……..The main thing you will need to remember is your colorful way with words.”

“ Yeah and what words is that?”

“ I believe you know what words I mean Johnny……..They are not proper to use in the presence of women and I know our father will not allow them used in his presence either.”

“ Whores like it.” he responded.

“ Yes well…… will find no soiled doves at Lancer.”

“ Soiled doves?”

“ It’s another way of speaking of women in saloons.”

“ They got a whore house in Moro Coyo?”

“No but I believe there is one in Spanish Wells and Green River……..Aren’t you a little young to be going to such a place?”

“ No……..I’ve been fucking whores since I was fourteen.”

Scott raised an eyebrow. “ Fourteen is way to young for a boy to be doing that sort of thing.”

“ Maybe for you……..Me I like a good fuck and some of them whores well they know how to please a man real good spreading their legs or sucking my dick.”

“ I’m sure they are.”

“ What’s he like?” Johnny asked barely above a whisper.

“ What’s who like?”

“ Our father?…………Who’ you think I meant?”

“ Well I wasn’t sure……..He’s a good man……..He expects a good days work from his hands and is fare to work for. He likes you to be punctual. Breakfast at six and dinner then same.”

“ Six…… the morning?”

“ Yes………You’ll find work starts early on a ranch Johnny.”

“ Not for me it don’t. I don’t get out of bed before sunrise.”

“ You will at Lancer……..There is a lot of fence that needs repaired or strung and washes cleaned out before the rains come.  Cattle need rounded up and moved from pasture to pasture, Calves need branded. Surely you know what kind of work happens on a ranch?”

“ Yeah I know from hiring my gun out.” Johnny said as he hunkered down in his bed roll and covered up.

Scott couldn’t help but notice how his little brother put his colt just under his saddle, within easy reach.

“ You know Johnny…….If you want I can stand watch so you can sleep.” he stated.

“ Nope…….Don’t know ya or trust ya……….I’m a real light sleeper so I wouldn’t go moving around to much……You might get shot.”

Scott reached over and poured himself another cup of coffee. Inside he couldn’t help but wonder how many nights his brother went without sleep because of who he was? How many times had he been out here under the stars afraid that if he did sleep someone would come along and kill him?

“ You can trust me little brother……..I promise you that.” he said softly as he looked up at the stars.

Three weeks later the brothers crossed the border into California. Scott found his brother didn’t really talk much except at night in his sleep. Hearing the words he would say and the sobs as he pleaded with whoever it was haunting him to not beat him, angered him deeply. He had seen the scars on his brothers body in Stockton that day but the scars he knew were inside were the ones his little brother it seemed couldn’t get to heal up.

“ We should reach Lancer in two days.” Scott stated. “ Unless you want to push it?” he added.

“ Two day’s huh?……….I could use a hot bath and someone better looking than you for company for a night.”

“ I take it you are talking about a woman?”

“ You’re not as dumb ass you look rich kid…….Yeah I’m talking about a woman……..It’s been a while  and well some things are more important than that bastard.” Johnny said firmly as he rode on.

Scott had heard enough bashing and name calling of their father. Getting down off his horse. “ Get down off that horse boy.” he called.

Madrid stopped Barranca and turned him facing his brother. “ I told you to not call me boy again…..I guess you got a short memory huh?” he said swing his leg over Barranca’ neck and dropping to the ground.

“ I have taken all the name calling and bad talk from you I can stand. From now on * you * will speak in a proper meaning about our father, He is not a bastard and you better get your priorities straight boy.” Scott fumed as he stood ready.

Johnny walked over to within arms reach. “ And if I don’t?” he asked.

“ You don’t and….” Scott swung hitting his brother in the mouth knocking him back on his ass. “ That is what you will receive every time……….Do I make myself clear Boy?”

 Johnny wiped at the blood on his chin and got up. He knew how to fight dirty. Stayed alive as a kid because of it. Knowing his brother would expect him to strike back he walked over to him all casual like. “ You know there’s something I learned real fast when growing up……Wanna know what that is rich kid?”

Scott relaxed his stance like Madrid hoped he would. “ What?” he responded right before he was hit twice so fast in the face and then gut knocking him back a few steps.

“ To fight dirty you sonofabitch……You or anyone else ever touches me again and I’ll kill you…….Understand?”

“ I don’t think so Brother.”  Scott said as he dove into Johnny’s midsection and they both went backwards hitting the ground. Johnny being smaller in size and weight maneuvered out from under his bigger brother and got up.

Scott got up off the ground and wiped at the blood now running down his face and chin. Moving in closer and having longer arms he swung and hit Johnny hard in the jaw snapping his head back, then two more times in the stomach dropping him to his knees gasping for air.

“ Let’s get something straight right here, right now little brother. If you ever threaten to kill me or harm our father I will beat you to within an inch of your life……..You think you’re so damn tough because you wear that gun…….Well you’re not…….I’m not the enemy Johnny…….I’m your brother and I have prayed for you to come back home for the past sixteen years….There were nights I couldn’t sleep because I feared you were dead…….Nights wondering if you would ever come home to us. Nights of seeing our father stare at the picture of you as a baby on his desk knowing he too was wondering the same thing…….I seen your scars and I know you had a rough childhood and was abused but you know what?…………So was mine. Oh sure I may not have been physically abused like you but mentally I was because ever  day I had to live not knowing and that is worse than any of the abuse you  have received.” Scott vented with anger before walking to his horse. “ You want to go find a woman fine……You want to chicken out and not come back……fine…….Do what you want because I don’t care right now.”

Madrid got his breathing under control somewhat and stood up. “ I gave you my word that I would give it a year and I will…….But hear me when I say this * brother *……..if he lays a hand on me I’m gone and the deals off.” Johnny said firmly as he swung up into the saddle and rode off.

Scott watched his brother ride away and couldn’t help but feel sorry for him in a sense. In another sense though he wondered if Johnny coming home would be the best choice for all involved. Would their father accept him as his son, especially if Johnny did get called out. He tried to find out some of what his brother knew so he could prepare him for the first meeting. The first dinner he knew would be something for the records. His brother had in his eyes no manners when it came to eating. He just dived in like there wouldn’t be another meal for days. That he expected was due to having gone without food as a child. Teresa and Maria always fixed plenty of food so maybe his little brother wouldn’t be the way he had observed on this trip.

Scott stopped his horse on the ridge overlooking Lancer and looked at his brother.

“ There it is….as far as the eye can see. The most beautiful place in the whole wide world… Lancer.” he said.

Johnny reined Barranca in and looked down into the valley. He could see the main house from there and the big barn. Cattle grazed lazily in a pasture near the house. A huge white arch could be seen where the road they were on ended up crossing under leading all the way to the big white adobe house.

Riding down the hill Madrid’ gut tightened and all his senses went on alert. This time though it wasn’t like when he felt danger or when someone called him out. No this time it was because he was going to come face to face again with the man he grew up hating and wanting so badly to kill because of the lies he was told by his mother. Lies that just fueled the anger he had inside even more. Crossing under the arch he noticed the circle L in the middle. He assumed it stood for Lancer since his brothers horse’ brand carried the same mark.

Scott stopped his horse. “ I should warn you that our father does not wish any man gallop his horse into the yard beyond that arch. That is unless it is an emergency.”

“ Is that so?” Johnny asked sarcastically.

Scott didn’t bother to respond to him hearing the tone in his voice. Trotting his horse into the yard he was met by a hand who took the reins and waited till he got down before leading the horse away.

“ Scott..son I didn’t know when you would be arriving……Your last wire didn’t say.” Murdoch stated as he shook his son’ hand.

“ Scott………Oh it’s so good to have you home……I missed you.” Teresa said as she ran up to him and wrapped her arms tightly around his waist.

“ Well if this is the kind of greeting I’ll get maybe I should leave more often?”

“ Don’t you dare.” Teresa said as she noticed the rider who had stopped just back from them but remained on his horse.

“ You going to sit on that animal all day brother?” Scott asked as he hugged Teresa.

Johnny glared at Murdoch who glared right back, neither one moving or saying a word.

Teresa walked over to him. “ I’m Teresa and you must be Johnny?” she asked, trying to break the silence between father and son. Putting her hand on his left leg. “ Come on inside……I have some cold lemonade made and if you two are hungry I can find something to hold you over till dinner.”

Johnny dropped the reins and got down barely taking his eyes off his father. Teresa wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly.

“ Welcome home Johnny.” she said before kissing his cheek and then turning to head to the house.

“ Welcome to Lancer boy….Frankly I didn’t think Scott could get you to come back here………What did you do son bribe him?”

“ Twice now he had heard it. Not once but twice the old man had called Scott son, but not him, him he called * boy * and it burned him.

“ Uh no I didn’t bribe him sir…….Johnny agreed to come back with me but right now is not the time to get into that…….I would like a hot bath and I’m sure my little brother here would also.”

“ Yes I imagine you would son……..How about you boy you want a hot bath and maybe rest up some before dinner?”

“ Let’s get something straight right here right now old man………Don’t call me boy again…..I ain’t no boy and haven’t been one for a long time.”

“ Uh okay Murdoch why don’t I show Johnny to his room and then the bath house?” Scott chimed in.

“ I ain’t going nowhere until I take care of my horse.” Madrid said firmly as he grabbed his reins and started to turn away.

“ One of the hands can take care of your horse……..Go with your brother so you can get cleaned up.” Murdoch said.

“ Nobody takes care of my horse but me.” Johnny said over his shoulder.

“ You see…….do you see what I mean Teresa…….That boy has had no discipline and if he stays here he will damn well learn to do what he is told.” Murdoch vented before heading to the house.

That evening Madrid stood looking out the window in his room at the mountains. Standing there with just his pants on he couldn’t help but wonder if this was a mistake. Already the old man had showed him he wasn’t wanted there when they arrived. Plain as day he had said * son * to Scott, but not to him. To the old man he was just a boy. Called him that several times. Walking over to his bed and sitting down he began to put his socks on when his bedroom door opened. Expecting to find his brother standing there he was taken back a little to find it was the girl.

“ Dinner will be ready in ten minutes Johnny.” she said as she walked in.

“ Yeah well I’ll be down when I’m ready.”

Teresa stood looking at the man before her. Watching how his muscles rippled in his arms and shoulders when he moved. She also noticed the scars on his back and when he stood up to put on his shirt she couldn’t help but stare at his toned chest and how the hair came up from below his waist in a line and spread out across his upper torso to his neck line. In her eyes he was perfect, scars or no scars, the body she was looking at before her of the man before her she knew was the one.

Madrid knew the girl was checking him out as he put his socks and boots on. When he stood up to do his shirt he smiled slightly when he noticed where her eyes were fixed. Most of the women he bedded admired his upper torso until they seen below his waistline.

“ So tell me something Teresa……how old are you?”

Breaking her stare ay his chest she looked him in the eyes. Eyes the color of blue that could melt a girls heart or turn a man to ice.

“ A gentleman never ask a lady her age.”

“ Yeah well I guess I ain’t a gentleman then……..So how old are you?”

“ I’m eighteen now….I just had a birthday last week.”

Johnny stepped over to her as he tucked his shirt in. “ Eighteen huh?……..I bet you got  all the boys around here chasing you.”

“ I have gentlemen callers.”

“ Well one thing I learned growing up is how to read people and you know what I read in you?”

Teresa shook her head slightly.

“ I see a girl who want’s to be a woman standing before me…..A girl who should know better than to come into a mans room without knocking and I’d be willing to bet you knock before going into Scott’ room.” he said as he stepped closer. “ So tell me Teresa……….You like what you see?…….I’d be glad to let you see more any time you want.”

“ I……”


Madrid snapped his head toward the door and found his father standing there.

“ Go on downstairs young lady and help Maria finish dinner.”

Teresa glanced at Johnny and gave a quick smile before leaving the room.

“ I’m going to say this one time and one time only………..You will treat Teresa like a sister and nothing more………Do I make myself clear boy?”

“ I told you don’t call me boy old man…….She came into my room without knocking.”

“ She’s a good girl and I will not have the likes of you hurting her……Is that clear?”

“ The likes of me…………..Just what the fuck do you mean by that old man?……….The likes of me.”

“ You know damn well what I mean………Teresa is not one of those whores you like so much……stay away from her.”

“ You know I never was very good at taking orders……..You want me to stay away from her fine…….how about you keep her away from me because I’ll be more than glad to make her a woman.” Madrid said before walking out of the room.

Johnny went out and checked his stallion. The barn was roomy and the stall clean. Plenty of straw was on the floor. A bucket of fresh cold water hung next to the hay bin. Glancing around he spotted a grain barrel and scooped a generous portion out for his friend.

Murdoch, Scott and Teresa sat at the dinner table waiting. The place across from Teresa empty.

“ The food’s getting cold………let’s eat.” Murdoch said.

“ Shouldn’t we wait for Johnny?………..He was almost ready when………”

Murdoch shot her a look. “ He knew what time it was when he left that room………….I do not want to find you in his room like that again young lady………..I want you to stay away from him……and I want you to keep your bedroom door locked at night.”

“ Now wait a minute sir……..Aren’t you over reacting just a little?………Johnny wouldn’t hurt Teresa.”

“ I call the tune around here and I do not trust that boy. I will not have him hurting her.”

“ He only just got here today……..why are you being so cold about him?”

“ You know the answer to that brother.” Johnny said as he walked in and sat down without removing his gun. “ Because in his eyes he only sees a killer…..someone he won’t trust with her.”

“ You were told dinner is at six sharp…’re late……and I will not have you wearing that gun at the dinner table.”

“ Maybe not but I ain’t taking it off.” Johnny said back as he started to dish up some potatoes.

“ If you can’t be on time to eat then you don’t need to eat with us…..I will not have you wearing that gun at my table and I will not have you deliberately showing up late.”

Johnny glared at the man a few seconds before shoving his plate away from him and standing up. “ Fine by me old man.” he said before turning and leaving. The front door slammed a second later.

“ Is this how it’s going to be sir?” Scott asked.

“ I will not have that boy being disrespectful to me or anyone else in this house.”

“ You have been cold and spiteful to him ever since we arrived……..You don’t want him here do you?”

“ Yes I want him here damn it………..But I want him to show respect for me, do what he’s told and be on time for meals……….Is that to much to ask?”

“ No it’s not but you need to remember Johnny has been living on his own, by his own rules most of his life………You can’t expect him to jump right in and settle down here right away……..Give him time sir.”

“ How much did you offer him to come here?”

“ What?”

“ How much money did you offer him?”

“ I didn’t offer him anything……..I asked him to come back with me and give it one year……..if at the end of that year he felt he didn’t want to stay here then I would pay him for his time and he could leave.”

“ So you did offer him money.”

“ No sir I did not…….You are clearly not hearing what I said.”

“ I heard you and……”

“Stop it….both of you………Murdoch you have searched for Johnny all these years wanting him home and now that he is here you want to run him off……..Give him time like Scott said….We can teach him.”

Johnny walked around looking the place over. The rose garden in the back was quiet so sitting on the bench there he watched the sun set over the mountains. It wasn’t the first time he went to bed hungry and it wouldn’t be the last.

Sitting there to well after dark thinking about what his mother had told him about the old man and what his Padre friend had said had his emotions mixed up inside like he never had before. Standing up he decided to go in the door off the garden, not knowing where it opened to. Stepping in he found himself in the kitchen. Teresa was sitting alone at the table with her head down on her crossed arms. Stepping over he touched her left shoulder lightly causing her to jump with fright.

“ I didn’t mean to scare you……..Lo Siento.”

“ It’s alright…..I didn’t hear you come in.” she responded as she got up. “ I saved you some supper in the oven…Sit down and I’ll get it for you.”

“ Thanks but I don’t want you getting into trouble because of me.”

“ Don’t be silly Johnny……..You have to eat. Scott said you two hadn’t ate since this morning.”

“ So where is he?”

“ Murdoch?……..Him and Scott are going over the books. There’s a drive coming up in two months so I think they are going over the numbers on how many cattle to take or something.” Teresa said as she set the plate of food down in front of him and walked over to the cold box and took out a pitcher of milk. Pouring him a glass she put the pitcher back and went to turn around and found herself face to face with him. His face inches from hers.

“ Listen Teresa about earlier……in my room…..You shouldn’t be in there with me alone like that…’s not proper for a young lady.”

“ And what about now?…..Am I not alone with you in the kitchen?”

“ Yes but it’s not the same as a bedroom and I’m not half naked.”

“ Sometimes Murdoch treats me like I’m a little kid…..I’m not……I’ve help Sam treat men who have been shot and they didn’t have a shirt on.”

“ Yeah but that’s different. They weren’t a gunfighter.”

“ Johnny I can take care of myself.”

“ I don’t doubt that one bit………But don’t you know gunfighters and pretty girls don’t mix?”

“ You don’t look so dangerous to me.”

“ I am.” he said as he put his right hand under her chin and brought his lips to hers. “ Trust me I am.” he said after kissing her gently on the lips.

Teresa thought her legs would fail her when Johnny kissed her. Butterflies swarmed in her belly and a tingling sensation ran through her body as her breath caught. Standing there breathless looking into the most beautiful-est blue eyes she had ever seen.

Johnny knew the effect he would have on Teresa when he kissed her gently on the lips.  Bringing his mouth down to hers again he slid his tongue into her mouth and moaned as he tasted her. Knowing she had never been kissed like this before he brought her into his chest more as he deepened the kiss as his hands ran up and down her back. Knowing they could be caught at any second he broke the kiss off and looked her in the eyes.

“ A girl your age is confused about what she wants from a man Teresa……Trust me I’ve been with my share of innocent girls who weren’t a girl any more by the time we were done……It’s not all wine and roses what you think you want……Make the right choice and stand by it when you do.” he told her before kissing her on the forehead before walking away.

Teresa stood there a second then sat down as her legs got weak. Never could she have imagined her first kiss being like that. Now she knew without a doubt she wanted Johnny Madrid to be her first.

Madrid walked into the grand room and looked around. Along the wall on his left were shelves of books. In front of the shelves was the table, long and elegant with ten chairs around it. One at each end. The backs high and no arms. Looking on around as he stepped down into the room he could see the circle L above the fireplace and a map of Lancer to the right of it. Two big french doors opened to the yard on his right and a big picture window sat directly behind the desk His father and brother were both at. Seeing a sideboard open he walked over and looked at the liquor there.

“ The brandy is quit smooth brother.”

“ I’m sure it is……..I’m a Tequila man myself.”

“ You’ll find none of that rock gut here……..You’re not old enough to be drinking anyways.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ Yeah……..says who……you?” Madrid responded back. “ I’ve been drinking a long time old man………..hell I’ve been doing a lot of things that probably don’t sit well with you for a long time.” Johnny responded as he poured a shot of rye and downed it. Pouring another he walked over and looked at the map on the wall.

“ So this all our land old man?” he asked as he took a sip of the Rye.

“ Johnny…… some respect for our father and kindly stop calling him old man.”

Johnny looked at Scott then Murdoch. “ Maybe I will when he realizes I ain’t no boy and stops treating me like a kid.”

“ You’re eighteen years old and you have a long way to go before you are grown up.” Murdoch responded.

“ Let’s get something straight right now…..I haven’t been a boy since I watched my mother murdered in front of me……I stopped being a kid the day I strapped on this colt and killed that bastard that murdered her and left me for dead…….I’m not Johnny Lancer I’m Johnny Madrid and the sooner you accept that then maybe we can get along……..I don’t take orders, never was good at it and I’m not going to start now for you or anyone else………You got a problem with me and who I am then well I guess we won’t get along.”

Murdoch stared at him a minute. His blood boiling. How could this be his son? How could someone be so disrespectful toward him in his own home?

“ It’s quit obvious you have had no upbringing in manners young man…..If you had you would not speak to me in that manner……I am your father and * you * will show me the respect I deserve.”

“ Respect goes two ways Murdoch……If you want me to be Johnny Lancer, your son, then you better start accepting me as Johnny Madrid.” he responded back. “ Did you tell him what it would mean me being here?…..What could happen?” he asked Scott.

“ Uh no I haven’t gotten the chance to yet.”

“ Well let me spare you……..I’m a gunfighter……good at my trade…..I’m the fastest west of the Rockies and at any time some idiot will come along and call me out. Now I don’t ask for it but when they do I don’t back down…..If you got a problem with that then maybe I should just ride on out of here come morning?”

“ Johnny you gave me your word you would give it one year.” Scott said.

“ Yeah I know but I can’t do that if he’s not willing to accept the responsibilities that will come with me being here……..Hell I bet his neighbors don’t even want me here.”

“ Yes they do Johnny.” Teresa added as she walked into the room. “ We can have a party next month and let everyone meet you.” she added as she stepped over next to him. “ Can’t we Murdoch?….Our friends and neighbors will be glad you’ve come home and like to meet you.”

Johnny didn’t respond to her. He just glared at his father. “ How about it old man?”

“ Yes….I suppose they could meet him……We always do have a big get together before roundup every year……….Uh Scott…son I think we have gone over these books enough tonight…….I’m going to call it a night…….Breakfast is at six Johnny. Work starts early on a ranch.” he said before walking out of the room and heading upstairs.

“ Well little brother I gotta say you have really done a smash up job your first night here…………I think I too will turn in……I’ll see you in the morning brother. Try not to stay up to late.”

Johnny turned and watched his brother head upstairs. When he was gone he walked to the french doors and stepped out into the evening breeze. He could hear Teresa follow him out and stop just behind him.

“ I have a wonderful rose garden out back……Perhaps you would like to see it?…….It’s quit pretty under the full moon.”

“ Already seen it but if you want we can take a walk maybe.” he suggested.

“ Sure……….I’d like that.” she said as the two started to walk toward the back of the house away from all.

Sitting in the cool grass along the small stream that ran thru the pasture Teresa could tell Johnny was deep in thought. Not once since they were alone had he tried anything with her.

“ You got something on your mind Johnny……..I’m a good listener if you want to talk.”

Johnny looked at her then lay back in the grass. “ When me and Scott got back today……I didn’t expect him to welcome me with open arms…..Hell I know he don’t really want me here but…….”

“ But what?” she asked as she scooted around to face him and crossed her legs.

“ I guess it’s the way he greeted Scott…….He called him son.”

“ Yeah….and?”

“ And he just called me boy…….he hasn’t once since I came here called me his son…….He doesn’t want me here Teresa.”

“ You’re a stranger to him Johnny…..The two of you are alike whether you see that or not. It will take time is all…….he’ll come around, you’ll see.”

Johnny sat up. “ I doubt it.” he said before claiming her mouth hungrily as he pulled her onto his chest and ran his hands down her back and pulled her shirt up out of her jeans.

Teresa sat up and undid the buttons on her shirt and let it fall open. Running her hands up and down his strong muscular arms. “ Oh Johnny.” she said as he claimed her mouth again.

Madrid rolled her onto her back and lay on top of her pressing his groin into her as he forced her legs apart. “ This shouldn’t be happening between us Teresa.” he panted as he ran a hand down between her legs.

Teresa moaned and brought her hips up as he touched her where no man had before. “ I know I want you Johnny……From the first time I read about you and how you are with women I knew I wanted you…….Do to me what you do to them……Please.” she pleaded.

Knowing it was wrong and could probably get him killed if they were caught Madrid went ahead and pulled her pants down and brought Teresa to her first climax that night with his mouth. As she climaxed he brought himself satisfaction with his own hand as his tongue probed her inner folds. As the moon shined down on the two figures laying in the grass along the creek exploring each others bodies a figure watched from the tree’s behind them.

Madrid wanted to enter her badly but chose not to. Instead he made love to her without dishonoring her womanhood. At least in his mind he wasn’t. What he did to her tonight under the moon would guarantee he would be taking her fully the next time they came together. He always left a woman wanting more and even though Teresa wasn’t a woman yet, he knew she would want more from him. He would just have to play it safe and take her when the time was right.

                                                                Chapter 12

Johnny worked hard with Scott for the next month repairing fence line, branding calves and rounding up strays. Moving herds to another pasture. The work was hard and his muscles felt every bit of it. Muscles he didn’t know he had hurt when he would soak in a hot bath at night.

Him and his father still didn’t get along well. He did his best to be on time for the meals even though getting out of bed before the sun was even up he found to be the hardest, especially after a day of stringing wire. Even Barranca let his displeasure be known about the hard work and long hours. Johnny picked out another good horse, a mare about four years old to ride allowing his stallion rest.

On this day the old man had him clearing brush from a creek way up in the hills before the fall rains came. Figuring the job to last a day or more he packed provisions for three days. Barranca grazed in the shade near bye as he pulled brush and undergrowth from the stream bed. A few downed trees he would need his horse to pull out for him but that couldn’t happen until some of the brush was cleared away.

Climbing out of the creek bed to his canteen laying in the shade he shucked his shirt since the late morning sun was already beating down on him and he was soaked with sweat. Hearing a horse approaching he grabbed his pistol and moved behind some brush. When the rider appeared he stepped out and smiled. For three weeks he had managed to  avoid her except at dinner time when he would be so tired he could barely keep his eyes open to eat.

“ What are you doing way up here alone Teresa?” he asked as he helped her down.

“ Well Murdoch and Scott went to Sacramento and won’t be back until tomorrow so I thought I would ride up here and spend the night under the stars with you…..Unless you want me to ride back?”

“ Maria know where you are or any of the hands so they don’t worry about you and send out a search party?”

“ Yes Maria knows……She sent you some tamales she made you and I made you some cookies.”

“ Oh yeah……you trying to bribe me?”

“ Maybe I am and maybe I’m not……I’ll never tell.” she answered as she started to lead her horse over to the shade tree Barranca was at.

“ That’s so?” Johnny asked as he grabbed her arm and spun her around. “ Why’d you really come up here little girl?”

“ I’m not a little girl Johnny.” she said as she jerked her arm free.

“ Yeah……prove it.” he said firmly.

Teresa did just that by unbuttoning her blouse and undoing her belt and pants. Watching Madrid watch her she got a feeling inside she didn’t like from the look in his eyes. Removing her blouse she went to sliding her jeans down to her boots.

“ Does this tell you what I want?” she asked firmly.

“ Yeah but are you sure it’s what you really want because once I take you there’s no going back….What I’m going to take from you you should save for your wedding day Teresa.”

“ I don’t want to wait till I’m married. I want you Johnny and I rode up here so you could have me.”

Madrid stepped to her and claimed her mouth hungrily. His breathing became fast as he ran his hands over her body. Moving his mouth down he claimed first her left then right breast, sucking, biting and pulling on the nipple as he started to undo his concho belt and pants. Once they were undone he slid them down to his ankles and kicked off his boots. Grabbing his bed roll he spread it out.

“ Lay down.” he asked Teresa.

Teresa watched him take his pants off and her eyes became mesmerized at the sight of his engorged  manhood standing out stiff once his pants were down. Laying down on her back she reached her arms up behind her head and spread her legs offering herself to him completely.

Johnny looked at the body offered before him before he dropped to his knees between her legs and leaned forward reclaiming her breast. Sucking on them with hunger as he let his right hand run down and touch her between her legs. Parting her folds he pinched and pulled,  knowing he was getting her ready. Being the size he was he knew it would be painful for her when he made that first thrust into her. There would be no way of avoiding it.

Teresa writhed and moaned beneath him as her body felt feelings inside she never felt before. Reaching down she found herself stroking his hardness as she felt the feeling of before start to build in her stomach.

“ Oh Johnny.” she said as her hand reached down to press his hand into her more as she arched her hips upward.

Johnny felt her muscles tighten and rose up. “ Are you sure you want this?”

“ Yes.” she responded as she wrapped her legs tightly around him. And claimed his mouth, delving her tongue deep inside.

Teresa felt him withdraw then thrust hard and felt a sharp pain inside as he plunged into her deep. Her muscles screamed in protest at the stretching they were now getting. Spasms of pain started inside her and cramps as Johnny lay there not moving. Tears ran down her face. Had she made a mistake? Was it supposed to hurt like this? So many questions began to fill her head she started to panic a little.

Madrid started moving in and out of her slowly as he rose up on his hands and looked down into her eyes. He could see the pain in her face and that tears escaped her eyes. Slowly he began to move faster in and out of her tight portal moving so he touched that one spot he knew would drive her crazy every time he slid back in. Claiming her right breast he sucked and gently pulled on the nipple with his teeth as he felt her muscles get looser around his shaft. Stopping he rolled onto his back and pulled her on top of him.

“Raise up a little.” he asked her as he held his shaft so he could slide back into her.

Teresa brought her hips up and helped guide him back into her. Lowering herself down slowly as she bent down and claimed his mouth delving her tongue between his teeth and swirling it around as the fire and passion built inside her more.

Sweat glistened on Madrid’ chest and arms as he fought to stave off his climax, not wanting there first coupling to end yet. Sitting up he claimed her mouth with hunger as he brought her legs around his sides and started thrusting up as he pressed her down onto him more.

Sweat ran into his eyes. Down his chest and back making his tanned skin and well toned muscles glisten in the mid-day sun.

Totally exhausted Madrid rolled onto his back and pulled Teresa up onto his chest some and kissed her forehead.

“ Are you alright?” he asked her as he moved her hair from covering her face.

“ Um huh…..I’m just fine………you?”

“ I’m great……I know it hurt you and I’m sorry.”

“ It’s alright….It didn’t last long.” she told him.

“ You know the more you do it the less it will hurt.” he told her with a smile.

“ Oh yeah?…….Well I guess you’ll just have to make love to me again then won’t you?” she asked as she got on top of his chest and claimed his mouth.

“ So much for getting the wash cleared out today.” he responded as he began to make love to her again.

A couple hours later Madrid was back clearing the wash as Teresa sat watching him while cooking dinner. A fresh pot of coffee brewed as the tamales Maria prepared heated in the coals. Today turned out to be the best day Johnny had had since coming to Lancer. He knew that if his old man found out about them that he would be in for it. The risk he felt was more than worth it he told himself as he secured the rope around a stump so Barranca could pull it up the bank out of the wash for him. His stallion waited patiently grazing on grass swishing his tail at flies.

That night as the two sat eating dinner as the fire burned down to embers. Johnny watched Teresa as he sat there. Had he made a mistake making love to this girl. She wasn’t a saloon girl and clearly * not * a whore.  Should he have showed more restraint and turned her advances away? Did he take her innocence just to defy what his father told him? A lot of questions ran his mind right now but one thing stood  out above all those questions. The relationship between him and his father. Deciding he would tell him what happened without telling Teresa he felt was the right thing to do. The party would be happening in three days and not wanting there to be  anger between them any more than necessary he decided to tell his father after.

Teresa stood up and went to her saddlebags and took out a package wrapped in brown paper.

“ I made you some cookies today……I figured maybe you would like some as desert now that dinner is over.”

Johnny looked at her and smiled. Cookies were something he remembered having once at a Christmas mass his mother attended.

“ You’re all the sweetness I need.” he told her as she sat down next to him and unwrapped the cookies.

“ I am huh?” she asked with a smile as she handed him one.

“ Yes ma’am.” he told her as he took the cookie.

That night Johnny made love to Teresa again well into the night and again as the sun rose over the mountains. Riding down out of the hills now toward Lancer the two talked casually. Teresa told him about the holidays and how every year his father had bought a present with his name on it for the past sixteen years. Upon hearing this Madrid became quiet for the rest of the ride home.

That night at supper Johnny sat listening to his father and brother tell about their trip to Sacramento. He tried his best to not look at Teresa so much to alert his father that something was going on between the two.

“ So tell me Johnny did you get that wash cleared out?” Murdoch asked as he took a sip of wine.

“ Yes sir.” he answered back bringing a surprised look to his father. “ Me and Barranca got a workout up there but we got all the brush and the few stumps and logs cleared out. It should flow good when the rains start.”

Teresa smiled at him behind her glass of water as she took a sip.

“ Good…….Maria said you took a long ride yesterday darling……….alone.”

Both Teresa and Johnny looked at him. “ I……yes I did……..I camped out over night up in the hills.”

“ Would you mind telling me why on earth you would do such a foolish thing?………You know how I feel about you riding alone on this ranch.”

“ I’m not a little kid any more Murdoch…….I know how to camp out under the stars……..alone.” she added glancing at Johnny.

“ And just where did you camp out?” he asked.

“ I camped out near the Lorelei mine.”

“ I see…..If you camped out there and you were clearing the wash out farther east how is it that the two of you rode in together?”

“ I rode to where Johnny was working to check on him and met him on the trail coming down so we rode back together.” Teresa stated.

“ I see……So then when you were seen riding in that direction yesterday and Maria telling me you took tamales she fixed for Johnny to him then I suppose they are lying to me?”

Johnny decided to speak up. “ Look Murdoch she……….”

“ I am not talking to you young man……….*you * and I will address this matter in private……..I want an answer young lady and I want the truth.”

“ Alright.” Teresa said with anger. “ I did ride up and spent the night with Johnny……Yes we made love and yes I wanted him to……I rode to him……..He did nothing wrong here I did.” she stated firmly as tears came to her eyes. “ I’m sorry Johnny……I never wanted you to get in trouble for this……..It’s all my fault.”

“ No it’s not Teresa……..He should have brought you back and you were warned about staying away from her were you not?”

“ Yeah you warned me and I have been until yesterday…….I was up there where you said to work and she came to me okay…….DON’T dictate to me what I should have done because you have no right telling me that considering YOU bedded my mother unwed and I’m the result of that.”

“ Don’t you dare speak to me like that boy…….I did the right thing and married your mother.”

“ Yeah only because she was pregnant and you didn’t want your good Lancer name soiled with a bastard child running around.”

Murdoch stood up so fast his chair fell backwards. “ BOY you are real close to me busting your ass.”

Johnny stood up. “ If you think you can go ahead and try.”

“ Alright I think you both need to calm down. This is getting out of hand……Sir you need to calm down and address this matter better.”

“Don’t tell me how to handle this…….this irresponsible boy.”

“ Why is it you can call Scott your son but not me?” Johnny demanded. “ Answer me that old man.”

“ Maybe I would if you acted more like my son and not that……..”

“ Let me tell you something…….I have busted my ass from sunup to sundown for the past month doing everything I’m told and some I’m not trying to please you. Hoping that just maybe you would start to see me as your son and not a gunfighter but I guess that will never happen.” Madrid said with anger. “ I was going to tell you about me and Teresa after that party this weekend……I had planned on trying to talk to you about what happened between us but I can see that that will never happen.” he added as he threw his napkin down and went to leave the room.

“ Don’t you walk away from here…..We are not done discussing this matter.”

“ No…..we are done because I tried to talk to you and you don’t want to hear what I have to say.” he stated as he turned and started toward the stairs.

“ Damn you boy.” Murdoch bellowed as he went after him. “ I said don’t you leave….You better start learning to listen and do what you are told when you are told.” Murdoch said with anger as he grabbed Johnny’s arm and spun him around.

“ Get your hands off me you bastard.” Madrid ordered as he tried to jerk his arm free.

Murdoch hit Johnny hard in the mouth knocking him backwards onto the stairs splitting his lip. “ You don’t talk to me like that……ever.”

Johnny drew  his colt and pointed it at his fathers face. “ I made my brother a promise and I keep my word……..But you you ever touch me again and I’ll kill you you sonofabitch.”

Murdoch let go of Johnny’s arm and took a step back. He couldn’t believe he had just hit his son. Looking down at his hands as they shook. “ Johnny……..son I……..”

Johnny ignored him, turned and went upstairs. His door slammed a few seconds later.

Murdoch turned to his oldest. “ I didn’t mean…..I never wanted to hurt him.”

“ Maybe not sir, but you just managed to possibly destroy any if not all hope of you and Johnny getting along……..he tried to talk to you and you have no one to blame but yourself for this.”

“ You think I wanted to do that?……..You heard how he was talking to me…….I won’t stand for that from him and not from you.”

“ What I heard sir was * you * letting your temper get out of control when Johnny was reaching out to you to talk.” Scott answered back. “ If you will excuse me I think I will go check on my brother.: he said before heading up stairs.

The next three days Madrid got up and left the house before his father rose. The night his father struck him Scott and him had talked well into the late hours and at Scott suggesting Johnny would meet him close to the ranch to find out what the days chore would be.

Scott couldn’t help but be proud of his brother for keeping his word with him. He knew his little brother was hurting inside still and probably would for some time to come, if not forever. Having never been struck by their father beyond a swift butt paddling as a child, he couldn’t imagine what his brother was feeling really.

Every morning Scott would bring Johnny some biscuits and bacon and every night his little brother cleaned up after work and went to his room, refusing to eat or be near his father. The day of the party Johnny and Scott were riding the fence line in the south pasture when a shot rang out, the bullet hitting a post Madrid was standing next to. Both men dropped to the ground, weapons drawn looking to the tree line. Both heard the sound of a horse galloping away. Standing and brushing the dirt off.

“ You alright?’ Scott asked.

“ Just fucking great.” he answered as he swung up in the saddle. “ I have a father who hates me…….someone takes a shot at me and tonight I have to stand around and meet our neighbors…………..Oh yeah I’m just great brother.” he said before galloping off toward the direction the shot came from.

Searching the ground he found the shooters tracks where he stood next to a tree and a spent cartridge shell. Looking he could see that whoever it was had a clear shot and was either a bad shot or missed on purpose giving him a warning. Looking at the horses tracks he noticed the right hind foot shoe had a bar across it. Only one person Madrid knew rode a horse with a bar across the right hind foot. Walking to Barranca and swinging up in the saddle it was all he could do to not throw up. The man who shot at him he had swore he would kill if he ever seen him again. Now it seemed that that man was letting him know he was still alive and knew where he was.

“ You look like you seen a ghost Johnny…….You okay?”

“ Yeah…….Let’s get out of here.” he said as he turned Barranca and headed to the ranch.

Scott looked around and noticed the track as well. He had a feeling his little brother knew who it was that shot at him. He also knew Johnny wouldn’t tell him who it was.

That evening the party was in full swing with all the ranchers of the valley. Half a steer cooked over a pit. Music played and people danced. Johnny managed to stay clear of his father and others. Standing in the barn grooming Barranca he heard footsteps and turned finding Teresa walking toward him.

“ You’ve been avoiding me.” she said as she walked up. “ Johnny I’m sorry about the other night…….I never wanted you to get hurt.”

“ Not your fault.” he said as he walked around Barranca and started brushing the other side having his back to her.

“ Do you hate me?”

“ Nope………..I don’t hate anyone.” he answered.

Teresa stepped up behind him and placed a hand on his right shoulder. “Something is wrong, I can hear it in your voice.”

“ Nope……I just wanted to make sure Barranca was settled for the night.”

“ Then why won’t you look at me?”

Johnny stopped brushing Barranca and turned around facing her. Looking into her eyes he could see the worry. “ Look Teresa…….” he started as she stepped closer and put her hands on his shoulders her fingers playing with his hair.

“ I missed you……….Make love to me Johnny………….Please.”

Johnny pulled her into his chest and claimed her mouth. The past three days and nights his body craved her as he lay in his bed. Craved the feel of her soft skin, her lips on his. Delving his tongue into her mouth as he guided her into the darkness of the barn were two people deep in the shadows became one.

“ You’re an addiction Teresa.” Madrid said with a smile as he fastened his gun belt around his slender hips.

“ And you are quit the lover.” she responded as she fixed her dress.

“ You purposely didn’t wear anything under that dress tonight for me huh?”

“ Maybe………A girls gotta do whatever she has to do to get her man.”

“ Listen you better get on back to the party before my old man comes looking for you and see’s us together.”

“ Alright……..will you dance with me later?”

“ I’m not much on dancing but if it’s a slow one maybe.”

“ Okay.” she said with a smile as she left the barn.

Murdoch found his oldest talking to a young lady. “ Excuse me miss but I need to speak with my son a moment.”

Scott stepped away from the young lady after giving her apologies.

“ Whats up?” Scott asked as he watched the young lady start to dance with someone else.

“ Where’s your brother?”

“ Johnny?”

“ Do you have another brother I don’t know about?……….YES Johnny.”

“ I haven’t seen him for some time.?”

“ Find him……..Now.” Murdoch said with firmness. “ People want to meet him and he can damn well be here.”

“ Yes sir.” Scott said before walking away.

Johnny gave Teresa a little time to rejoin the party. As he stepped out of Barranca’ stall a voice drew him to look toward the door.

“ Hey halfbreed.” a male voice said right before a pistol being cocked was heard.

Madrid found three men about Scott’ age walking into the barn. One of them had a pistol cocked and aimed right at him. Locking Barranca’ gate Johnny stepped away from his stallion.

“ So you’re supposed to be the mighty Johnny Madrid huh…….Real bad ass with that colt from what we hear………….Go figure…….Scott has himself a halfbreed brother. You know he don’t like you……..He told us so……..Said he wished you would take a bullet so him and the old man could get on with their lives like before you came back and ruined it.” the boldest red haired boy about Johnny’s  height said.

“ Yeah…..hell Scott hardly comes into town since you showed up……We don’t need no gunfighter halfbreed in the valley so why don’t you just ride on out Madrid?”

He could handle being outgunned but out manned and caught off guard like this Madrid sized up the odds. So far the red headed boy was the one doing most of the talking so he figured he would be the main one to take out if need be.

“ Unless you plan on shooting me in the back I’m walking out of here.”

“ Maybe you didn’t hear me right……….I said we want you out of this valley…..tonight and since you seem to not want to leave willingly maybe we can use a little persuasion to help you leave.” red said before he swung and hit Johnny in the mouth.

Madrid swung and caught Red in the side of the face hard knocking him backwards. Swinging again he hit Seth in the gut knocking the wind from him before he felt a blow to his head that brought him to his knees. Toby hit him with the butt of his pistol dazing him just enough so he and Seth could get a hold of his arms.

“ You’re gonna pay for that breed.” Red said as he swung hitting Johnny hard in the gut knocking the wind from him, then several times in his face. Blood flowed from the cut caused by the pistol as Red hit Madrid over and over.

Johnny knew he was in trouble, three on one, having one chance left to stop the beating he lashed out with his right foot and caught Red in his groin dropping him retching his guts out. Still struggling he managed to get his left arm free when Seth loosened his hold just enough when Red went down. Swinging he glanced a blow off Seth’ head. A blow to his kidneys dropped Madrid to the floor. Rolling on his side he felt several kicks to his back and ribs.

Red managed to get to his feet and staggered over to where Johnny lay curled up on his right side. Glaring down at him as he spit blood out he raised his right boot brought it down hard breaking ribs. Red smiled when he heard Madrid gasp in pain.

Pain washed over his body as Madrid tried to take the blows that never seemed to stop coming. Feeling Red’ boot come down and his ribs break Johnny gasped in pain as he rolled onto his stomach trying to protect his ribs.

“ Look boys……the half-breed ain’t so tough after all.” Red said before kicking Johnny again in his left side.

“Hey Red he’s had enough man…….You’re going to kill him.” Seth said.

“ Yeah Red he’s had enough.”Toby added.

Red grabbed a bunch of Johnny’s hair and pulled his head back. “ You get the message now half-breed don’t you?” he spat before slamming his head into the floor.

The three turned to leave the barn walking to close to Barranca’ stall allowing the stallion to lashed out with his teeth biting Red on his left shoulder hard.

Red screamed out from the pain as the stallions teeth caught his shoulder enough to pinch the flesh.

“ Sonofabitch.” Red yelled as he grabbed his shoulder.

Johnny tried to get up holding his left arm tight against his chest as nausea came over him and he fought to keep from throwing up. Managing to make it to Barranca’ stall he held on to the side as he wiped blood from his left eye. Letting go he started to walk around the stall when blackness claimed him and he fell to the floor unconscious.

Scott had no luck finding his little brother in the house so walking to the barn he seen Red, Toby and Seth coming out of the barn laughing. Hearing a horse that sounded like it was in distress Scott hurried to the barn and found Barranca very upset in his stall.

“ Hey easy boy…….Johnny hasn’t come and seen you yet is that it?” he asked as he approached the stallion’ stall.

Barranca stretched his neck over the far side trying to get to his master but couldn’t. Snorting and neighing the stallion paced in circles.

Scott stepped around to see what it was that had the stallion so upset. What he found shocked him.

Laying on the floor in front of him was his brother. His face covered in blood and he wasn’t moving.

“ Johnny……..dear god what happened?” Scott asked as he hurried to his side.

Johnny moaned  and opened his eyes. “ Scott?” he said barely above a whisper as pain washed over him.

“ Yeah Johnny it’s me….just lay still alright………I’m going to go get Sam and Murdoch.”

“ No don’t………..Just help me to the house Scott please…….I don’t want people to see me.”

“ Johnny you could have broken bones.”

“ I do……I felt at least  two ribs break……..Help me stand up…….We can go in thru the back and nobody will see us.”

“ Alright.” Scott said as he helped him stand up.

A little while later Scott got his brother settled in bed and unbuttoned his shirt. The bruises already starting to develop dark on his ribs and back.

“ Johnny I’m going to go get Sam.”

“ No.” Johnny said flatly but his words fell on deaf ears as his older brother was already out the door and headed down the stairs.

Murdoch stood talking to Sam near the french doors when he noticed his oldest come out of the house. The look on his face told Murdoch something was wrong.

“ Did you find your brother?” he asked.

“ Yes sir I did……Sam I need you to come with me please.”

“ Where is he?” Murdoch demanded.

“ He’s in his room where I left him……….I found him in the barn…….Someone beat him up pretty bad and he needs you Sam now.”

Both Sam and Murdoch hurried with Scott to the house and up the stairs. Upon opening the door they stopped fast. Johnny was standing there with his colt cocked and aimed at them.

“ Johnny.” Scott said. “ It’s just us.”

As he started lowering his colt  blackness claimed him Scott hurried to his side and caught him before he fell. Together he and Murdoch got him back in bed and began undressing him so Sam could see the full extent of his injuries.

“ My god…….Who did this to him?” Murdoch demanded.

Scott looked at him as he straightened up. “ I have an idea sir.”

“ Both of you out of here now……..Send Teresa in to help me.” Sam ordered.

“No…….not Teresa.” Murdoch snapped.

“ Sam needs her help Murdoch……regardless of what you like neither of us can change what has happened between Johnny and her.” Scott told him as he started to the door.

“ You know who did this to him don’t you?”

“ As I said I have an idea who it was.”

“ Who?”

“ Red and his two cronies Seth and Toby.”

Murdoch ran a hand over his face and shook his head. “ Red Jackson……Bill Jackson’ son?”

“ Yes sir……..I seen the three of them coming from the barn  before Barranca started up alerting me that something was wrong.

Both Lancer’ headed down the stairs and outside. Scott found Teresa and told her quickly what happened and that Sam needed her assistance upstairs. Seeing Red Scott walked to him noticing his father talking to red’ father.

“ Hey Scott.” Red said with a smile. “ You……..”

Scott grabbed Red and shoved him up against the wall. “ Why…….tell me why you did it? I know it was the three of you who beat him………WHY?”

“ Because he’s nothing but a half-breed………..You don’t need him…….Nobody wants him here.” Red said as he tried to get free.

“ He’s my brother and Lancer is his home………..So help me if Johnny dies.”

“Scott.” Murdoch yelled as he and Bill Jackson hurried over.

“ Scott we know you don’t really want him here…….We heard you that day in town talking and how you said you wished he would take a bullet and die so you and your father could go on with your lives……..Running him out of the valley is for the better……..None of us want that killer here.”

“ My son is not a killer.” Murdoch said with anger. “ Bill……..I suggest that you take your boy and get off my land now.” he ordered.

People gathered around listening to what was said.

Hear me now.” Murdoch yelled. “Any man who doesn’t want my son in this valley will have me to deal with.” he yelled before turning and heading back inside.

Scott swung as hard as he could and hit Red hard in the face.

“ That’s for Johnny.” he said before turning and following his father inside.

Teresa had tears in her eyes as she helped Sam clean up Johnny’s face cuts and bind his ribs.

“ I gather that you and Johnny have become close young lady?” Sam asked as he started putting his things away.

“ Yes………I love him Sam.” she responded as she sat down on the bed  and wiped sweat from Johnny’s brow.

“ Teresa……someone like Johnny isn’t the kind of person you want to get involved with……..I know it’s not my place to tell you but are you willing to risk a relationship with him knowing he could be gunned down at any time because of who he is?”

“ I know that Sam…….I don’t care that he’s Johnny Madrid…….All I care about is that I love him and I will cherish the time I have with him no matter how short.”

“ He’s wild Teresa…….you won’t be able to tame him…….The boy is wild and he will not let you tie him down…..You’re both young.”

“ Too young Sam.” Murdoch said as he walked into the room.

“ I am not a child and you cannot tell me who I can be in love with Murdoch.”

“ This relationship between the two of you will end now or I will end it……..Is that clear?”

“ Murdoch now is not the time nor the place to discuss this.” Scott said. “ How is he Sam?”

“ He has a couple broken ribs and a concussion. I stitched up the cut on his forehead. He’s going to be hurting when he wakes up. I wrapped his ribs up. I don’t mind telling you Murdoch, this boy received  one hell of a beating. He has bruises already showing on his back. His kidneys received a couple blows. I’ll stay the night to keep an eye on him. Scott I suggest you talk to him and try and wake him up. Make sure he knows what happened and where he is.”

“ So he’ll be alright?” Scott asked.

“ The sooner we can get him awake the better his chances. A blow to the head no matter how small can cause problems. Memory loss, blindness……I noticed he has a recent scar on his left temple….Do either of you know about it?”

“ He was shot Sam.” Scott said.

“ Well that’s not good at all….Did he receive a concussion from it?”

“ The doctor in Ft Sumner never said……He said Johnny had a chance of being blind from the wound but luckily he wasn’t when he woke up.”

“ What’s wrong Sam?” Murdoch asked.

“ Two blows to a persons head like that in such a short time can cause cerebrum damage. It can effect his movement and conscious process. The sooner we get him to wake up the less chances of that happening.”

“ And if it does Sam?” Murdoch asked as he went around and sat down next to his youngest son.

“ I don’t mind telling you from what I have seen on this boys body he has over come a lot in his short life.”

Murdoch reached down and moved the hair from his son’s pale face. “ Abuse he should never have received Sam.”

“ Abuse nobody should receive……..If you don’t mind I think I will go get a cup of coffee and leave you two alone with him.” Sam said as he headed to the door. “ Teresa why don’t you join me….These two need some time alone with Johnny.”

Teresa looked down at Madrid then at Murdoch. “ I’ll bring you both up a pot of coffee.” she said as she followed Sam out.

The guest left the party at Murdoch’ request. The matter of Red, Seth and Toby beating his son was not over and would be dealt with accordingly.

Scott watched his father as he wiped the sweat from his forehead with a cool cloth. Maybe this was a wake up call for him, he didn’t know. What he did know and could see was his father was deeply worried.

“ Sir….perhaps I should leave you and Johnny alone?” he suggested.

“ How could I treat him like I have since you brought him back to Lancer?”

“ I don’t have that answer, only you do……..I suggest you do some serious thinking sir about Johnny…..

Teresa as well. Neither of us can change what has happened between them just like you cannot change what Johnny did in his past to stay alive, who he became.”

“ I know that son……..I just pray I get that chance.” he answered with a quiver to his voice.

Scott quietly stepped from the room leaving his father alone with his little brother.

                                                                Chapter 13

Murdoch sat wiping the sweat from his son’s brow remembering back when he was barely able to walk. Smiling as he wrung the cloth out and folded it and placed it on Johnny’s forehead.

“ I haven’t been much of a father to you since you came home have I son?” he stated as he sat back in the chair. “ If anything I have done you so wrong treating you the way I have been……I know your past isn’t all your fault…You did what you had to do to survive. If you hadn’t you wouldn’t be here with me now…….I searched for you for sixteen years so you can imagine the shock when I found out who you were…….At least I hope you can son………..Please wake up John so I can see those blue eyes of yours.”

Murdoch pleaded.

Johnny heard voices, no a voice but who’s? The more the voice talked the more he realized who it was. His father. His father was actually talking to him and his voice sounded sad. Deciding to lay there and listen he restrained from opening his eyes and bit his tongue to quash the pain he felt.

Murdoch picked up his son’s right hand and turned it over. A very faint small scar could be seen just below the thumb. Rubbing his thumb across it he looked up at his son’s face.

“ I remember when you got this….You had just started to walk and fell out in the barn and cut it on something, I forget what. Boy you didn’t say a word. Blood was running from it and all you did was hold your hand up and say papa owe. I guess you’re still real good at taking pain son……..Pain you shouldn’t have to be taking…….I promise you that I will handle those boys for what they did to you……I will not let you be hurt any longer.”

*Son * he had heard it several times. The tone was right when his father said it. Not able to  suppress the pain any longer in his lower back Johnny moaned and opened his eyes.

“ I’ve been taking care of my own troubles for a long time old man.” he said through clenched teeth.

“ I know that…….and I’m not going to let you do that any longer….Lancer takes care of it’s own son.” Murdoch told him as he leaned forward still holding Johnny’s hand.

“ I’m not a Lancer.”

“ Yes you are……..It’s Lancer blood that flows thru your veins…….My blood and you * are * a Lancer.”

“ You don’t get it do you?…..Johnny Lancer died that day my mother took me away from here…………Johnny Madrid replaced him. You hear me?……..Johnny Madrid the gunfighter.”

“ I know who you are and I was wrong before in the way I treated you. You may go by Madrid now but you * can * be Johnny Lancer again if you would let him come back.”

“ And if I can’t?”

“ Then I guess Johnny Madrid is my son……..He is anyway’ since you are * both * one in the same……..Look you can call yourself Madrid….I don’t care but whether Madrid or Lancer you are my son.”

“ If being your son means being treated the way I have………No thanks.”

“ Johnny……Please forgive me for that………Can we start over……..I know I’ve done nothing to earn your respect but If you’d let me I would like to start trying.”

“ Can you really accept me for who I am?……….Men are going to call me out and I will either kill them or they will kill me……..I accepted that when I put on my gun……Can you?”

“ Yes.” Murdoch answered with firmness. “ Listen Johnny the other night I was wrong to hit you and I’m sorry.”

“ No you weren’t……..I asked for it..i was being a smart mouth and……..”

“ I had no right to hit you. You tried to talk to me and I let my anger take over and ignored that.”

“ You and me are a lot alike you know……….my mamma would tell me I would never be any good because I was to much like my gringo father.”

Hearing his son say those words broke his heart. “ We are alike son, we’re both stubborn and set in our ways…….I never mistreated your mother Johnny…I loved her.”

“ I know that now……but my whole life has been a lie about you……I can’t just forget it like it never happened……..I need time.”

“ A year maybe?”

“ Yeah…..I guess.”

Hearing the door open both men looked to find Scott standing there with a tray of food.

“ I thought I heard more than one voice.” he said as he walked in. “ How you feeling brother?”

Johnny looked hard at him. “ I didn’t die from a bullet if that’s what you’re wondering?” Johnny said with hate.

Murdoch glanced between his son’s. Something was wrong between them, that was clear. “ Why don’t I let you two visit a while son…….We can talk more later.”

“ I got nothing I want to talk about with him……..I’m tired.”

“ Alright son……Sam want’s you woke up every two hours because of your head injury.”

 “Well I’ll just set this next to the bed if you want to eat.” Scott said setting the tray down. “ Have I done something wrong brother?”

“ Why don’t you ask Red?” Johnny answered back before turning his back on his brother the best he could.

Scott sighed and walked out of the room ignoring his father’s questioning look as he walked past.

The next day Murdoch sat at his desk going over the books and trying to decide how man y cattle to take to market when a knock on the door drew his attention. Getting up he went to answer it but Scott coming down the stairs got it. Bill Johnson stepped in.

“ Is your father here Scott?” The man asked.

Scott glanced at his father. “ Yes he is.”

“ What are you doing here Bill?”

“ Murdoch I want to talk to you about your son…….Johnny.”

“ What about him?”

“ The reason Red and his friends got in a fight with him.” the man stated looking at Scott.

“ The reason your son and two of his friends beat my son damn near dead………I don’t give a damn about the why…….There is no excuse for it Bill.”

“ Even when your other son Scott here wished his brother dead…….Told around that he wished it could go back to being just the two of you………that he was scared to be in his own home if that killer came here.”

Murdoch glared at Scott. He had known Bill Johnson since before Scott was born. He never knew the man to lie to him not once.

“ No matter what Scott said the fact still remains that * your * son assaulted my boy in the barn last night and damn near killed him.”

“ Is he going to be alright?”

“ He will with time yes…….Bill you and me have known each other a long time. I cannot however ignore what happened to Johnny.”

“ So you’re going to have my boy arrested?”

“ YES.”

“ Well then you better have Madrid arrested to. Red, Seth and Toby said they went to the barn to talk to him. To try and get to know him, ask him to town for a beer and he assaulted Red and Seth and Toby tried to stop him.”

“ That’s a lie……..Johnny wouldn’t just up and assault Red without a good reason and need I remind you that it was three on one out there?”

“ I would think real hard about this Murdoch…….I don’t want my son going to jail and I know you don’t want Madrid behind bars either.”

“ Get the hell out of here Bill. If Johnny decides to press charges against your son and the other two I will back him all the way…….Lancer takes care of it’s own.”

“ Nobody wants that killer in this valley……He’s not a Lancer.” Bill said before leaving.

Murdoch turned and looked at Scott standing there. “ I think you have some explaining to do son.”

Teresa sat on the edge of the bed as Johnny finished his lunch. “ I made you an apple pie for desert tonight Johnny.”

Johnny looked at her and smiled. “ Thanks.”

“ Are you in pain? Do you need Sam?”

“ No……I just have a lot on my mind.”

Teresa leaned over and kissed him. “ I’m sorry Johnny…..maybe I can make you feel better?” she said running her hand down under the blanket to his groin.

“ Teresa don’t.” Johnny ordered as he grabbed her hand. “ Stop okay……That’s not proper for you and you shouldn’t even be in here.”

“ Well I brought you your lunch………I don’t mind taking care of my man.”

“ No Teresa……leave okay………I’m not your man………I belong to no one alright…….It was wrong what happened between us and it won’t happen again……I don’t love you and I never will…not the way you want.”

Tears welled up in her eyes. She knew Johnny was being serious. “ So that’s it then isn’t it?…….You just used me……Led me on.”

“ I didn’t lead you on….You came after me remember? I’m not the one who rode to that canyon and took her clothes off begging me to take her.”

Teresa slapped Johnny hard and went to stand up.

Johnny grabbed her left arm. “ Don’t you ever hit me again.” he ordered between clenched teeth as pain ran thru his face from the slap.

“ Let go of me Johnny now or I’ll scream.”

“ Go ahead…….I’m sure the old man would love to hear what you were trying to do to me in his house.”

Teresa struck out again and hit Johnny in his ribs causing him to let her wrist go and moved back out of his reach. “ Those books were right about you……..You are a bastard Johnny…….You use women to get what you want and don’t care if you hurt them or not.”

Johnny gasped from the pain in his chest. Breathing hard trying to block the pain out. “ I have never abused a woman or did anything to her she didn’t want me to do……You……….you wanted me to make you a woman so I did……….I don’t care what you read about me Teresa………Get out.”

Teresa stood there realizing what she had done. “ Johnny…..I’m sorry.” she said as she stepped toward him.

Get out.” he yelled as he held his left side.

Teresa headed to the door. “ Johnny…….”

Get out now.” he ordered again.

Teresa opened the door and left slamming it behind her.

Johnny lay there getting the pain under control when his door opened again.

I said get out Teresa.” he said without looking.

“ I am not Teresa.” Murdoch responded as he entered the room. “ I heard raised voices and came to see if you were alright son.” Murdoch said as he stepped around the bed. He could see the redness on his sons face and tell he was in pain.

“ What happened John?”

“ Nothing.”

“ Don’t tell me nothing happened young man…..That red mark on tour face says otherwise.”

“ She slapped me alright.” he responded not wanting to tell him Teresa also hit him in the ribs. “ I told her to leave and that it was over between us………..That it should never have happened and she got pissed off okay?”

Murdoch sat down on the edge of the bed. “ Son I know you have been making your own decisions but…….”

“ But what old man?”

Murdoch hated the way his son called him old man. Making a mental note to address this issue later.

“ Have you…….either of you thought about what you will do if you got Teresa with child?”

Johnny looked at him. “ I ain’t ever got a woman pregnant yet old man.”

Murdoch sighed. “ I’m asking if you have son……..Teresa is not a whore in some bar or bordello.”

“ Yeah I know that…….Look if I have I’ll deal with it then…….I know what we did was wrong okay…..She wants me to be her man and I can’t…..Because of my past I can’t take the risk of falling in love with someone………I can’t afford to care. I do and it could get me killed.”

“ What about me and your brother?………Don’t you care about us?”

Johnny looked at him a second then down at the blanket not answering him.

Murdoch knew Johnny wouldn’t answer him. He suspected the feeling his son was experiencing were new to him and would let it go for now.

“ Listen son…..Bill Johnson was just here…he’s the father to Red, one of the boys who beat you up.”

“ Yeah why’d he come here?”

“ Johnny are you going to press charges against Red, Seth and Toby?”

“ Why you asking?”

“ Because son……..Bill says that you started the fight by assaulting Red first and that the other two boys just tried to stop you…….That they just went to the barn to talk to you.”

“ Oh they talked alright………Let me guess you’re taking their word over mine?”

“ No I’m not son…….I don’t believe you would start a fight when it’s three to one……..I’m asking you what happened.”

Johnny looked at him a long minute before sighing and telling him what happened, including what Red said his brother was supposed to have said.

Murdoch listened to his son and couldn’t believe it when he heard what his oldest son had said. Standing up he walked over to the window and looked out at the mountains.

“ It’s their word against yours son……Bill said that if you pressed charges against Red that they would against you and that because of……….”

Because of my past and that I’m Johnny Madrid I would be the one arrested and sent to prison right?” Madrid snapped.

“ Yes.” Murdoch responded walking back over to him. “ Son I don’t know why your brother said what he did……..I asked him after Bill left and he wouldn’t tell me.”

“ That’s something he’s gonna have to explain to me old man not you.”

“ John could you please not call me an old man.”

“ Can’t call you my father or Pa so………”

“ Well then could you call me Murdoch then?”

“ Maybe……..don’t know.”

“ Alright……Listen get some rest son…….I’ll check on you later…….Maria will bring your meals up to you from now on until Sam says you can come down stairs.”

“ Thanks old man.” Johnny said with a smile.

Murdoch sighed but knew his son was joshing  him saying it this time as he walked to the door.

Sam closed his bag up and removed his glasses. “ Alright Johnny I want you to sit up for me.” Sam asked.

Johnny sat up holding his left arm against his ribs still as he moved.

Sam pressed against his left ribs and checked the bruises on his lower back. Pressing against his kidneys noting that the bruises were yellow now but still there.

Johnny sucked in his breath as Sam pressed against his ribs. His kidneys and lower back stopped hurting like it did when he would move around. That is until Sam pressed against them.

Sam noticed how Johnny sucked in his breath while pressing on his ribs and kidneys. Standing up straight he looked at his patient.

“ They still hurt don’t they?”

“ Yeah with you pressing on them they do. I don’t have no pain in my lower back no more Sam.”

“ How is he?” Murdoch asked.

“ The bruising is almost gone. His ribs are healing up nicely.”

“ Yeah so when can I get out of this bed doc?”

“ I think we can allow you to get out of bed now……I want you taking it easy and absolutely no riding or lifting young man.”

“ Got a cattle drive in a week Sam……I gotta ride.”

“ No…….you will not be going on no drive Johnny….Those ribs are not healed up enough for you to be on a horse ten, twelve hours a day.”

“ Oh come on Sam……..I’ve had worse than this and rode.”

“ I don’t doubt that for a minute but a bullet wound is different John……You could send one of those ribs into your lung or heart and it would kill you if Barranca stumbled or you got hit hard on that side…..I’m sorry but the answer is no.”

“ Great….just fucking great……..What the fuck am I supposed to do then if I can’t go on the drive?”

“ John………..language please.” Murdoch asked.

“ You will be staying here doing nothing but resting those ribs like you have been doing. I mean it John.”

“ Join us for supper Sam?” Murdoch asked.

“ Thank you but no…..I need to check on Red Johnson…….It would seem that he was bitten by a horse the night you were beaten John and didn’t say anything until he got a fever……Been real sick from it.”

“ Yeah Barranca don’t cotton to someone hurting me…….He’s lucky he’s still alive.” Johnny said sarcastically.

“ You have time before supper to take a hot bath son I’ll have your brother help you.” Murdoch said as he walked Sam out.

“ Hey Sam.” Johnny called.

Sam stopped and turned looking at his patient. “ Yes John.”

“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he got out of bed.

“ You’re welcome……..I’ll check on you periodically while Murdoch and Scott are gone.”

“ Don’t need to make no special trip out here on my count doc.”

“ I know I don’t but I will.” he responded before walking out.

Johnny sat in the tub of hot water letting it soak in to his bones relishing the relaxing feeling it gave him. Laying back he closed his eyes and relaxed further, that is until the door opened. Looking he found Scott standing there.

“ Murdoch asked me to check on you brother since you’ve been in here over an hour.”

Johnny hadn’t realized he had been in the water that long. “ I’m fine…..* brother *.” he said sarcastically.

“ Look Johnny about what Red told you…….I’m not going to lie to you………I did say that, but it was before I knew you.”

“ You still don’t know me…….But hey don’t sweat it maybe while you’re gone on the drive I’ll get killed and you can have the old man to yourself again.” he said with sarcasm.

“ That’s not what I want and you know it…….Damn it brother.”

“ Don’t call me your brother…….You know I keep my word when I give it…….I told you I would stay here a year and you know what……..I ain’t staying here because of you now……..I’m staying here because I want to give him a chance to be my father…….Now if you don’t mind I would like to get dressed so leave.”

Scott stood there a second before turning and walking out. He knew the damage done between them would be difficult to repair but vowing to himself he wold do whatever it takes to fix it he headed back to the house.

Dinner went quietly that night. Murdoch knew his son’s were not speaking and why. Teresa also ate in silence but every once in a while he would see her glare at his youngest across the table as he ate. Not liking the silence he decided to speak up.

“ Teresa Johnny is not healed up enough to accompany us on the drive…..He will be staying here at Lancer……I expect you to treat him right while I am gone young lady……..and John I ask the same of you…….I want no quarreling between the two of you…….Maria will be keeping an eye on you both…… that understood?”

“ Yes sir.” Teresa responded.

“ Fine by me.” Johnny answered glancing at Teresa and noting the hateful look in her eyes toward him.

One week later Johnny watched as  his father and brother mounted up to leave on the drive.

“ We should be back in a week son.” Murdoch said. “ Would you like me to bring you anything back from Sacramento?”

“ Nope……don’t need anything Murdoch.”

“ Well……we’ll see you.” he said as he mounted his horse.

“ Try to stay out of trouble little brother.” Scott said.

Johnny ignored him and turned and walked into the house.

Scott sighed and looked at his father. “ I deserve him hating me.”

“ Son I hope that the two of you can get this repaired between you…….I  want us to be a family.”

“ So do I sir…so do I.”

A lone rider watched the two Lancer’ ride out with two pack horses. “ So you’re staying behind huh…..This is going to be easier than I thought Madrid…..Killing you is going to be so much fun and I just might have some fun with that sweet looking little gal you fucked also…….Let her know what having a real man is like.” the man said as he went to his horse, mounted up and rode to town. He could wait two day’s before starting his plan of revenge against the man who caused him three years in a Mexican prison. Two day’s and he would start his payback to the man he vowed to kill every day in that Mexican hell hole. Every day when the guards beat him or he worked in the scorching sun busting rocks. Learning that Madrid had a rich old man and that he had gone home to that man set his plans back just a little. Now though in two days those plans would become reality.

                                                                        Chapter 14


                                               ( WARNING WARNING WARNING )

This chapter contains a violent rape and abuse. If this is not to your liking then do not read this chapter. If you do I want no grumbling at me because YOU the reader have been warned.

Johnny hated being restricted to around the house. Maria kept a watchful eye on his every move. Rain moved into the valley so now he was stuck in the house with nothing to do. Teresa sat sewing by the fire. She hadn’t spoken to him once since Murdoch left. Taking out the checker game he set it on the table in front of the couch.

“ You wanna play a game or two?” he asked her.

Teresa looked at him then went back to sewing. “ No thank you.” she replied.

“ So is that how it’s going to be between us?……..You going to not speak to me ever again?”

“ Nothing says I have to…….Murdoch asked me to be nice to you so I figure if I don’t speak to you I won’t say something wrong.”

Johnny went to respond when Maria came in with a tray with coffee and two pieces of chocolate cake on it.

“ ye he traido un desierto. Se esta haciendo tarde, ire a la cama pronto. Ustedes dos tambien deberia hacerlo.” ( I have brought you some desert. It is getting late. I shall be going to bed soon, you two should also.)

“ Gracia’s mamacita. Esta a solo diez y no estoy cansado.” ( Thank you mamacita. It’s only ten o’clock and I’m not tired yet.)

“ Se bueno, como tu papa pregunta, Si?” ( You be good like your papa ask, yes?)

“ Si vamos a ser bueno. Usted seguir adelante y volver a casa.” ( Yes we will be good. You go on and go home.)

Johnny kissed Maria on the cheek and walked her into the kitchen. “ She won’t speak to me so you don’t need to worry about us mamacita……I’ll be alright. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“ Alright Juanito…..I will leave you now.” Maria said before heading out the kitchen door to her living quarters across the way.

Johnny walked back into the living room and poured a cup of coffee and offered it to Teresa. She refused to take it from him so he sat it down on the small table next to her. Walking back over he poured himself a cup of coffee and ate his piece of cake in silence.

An hour later looking out the window behind his father desk he noticed the rain was coming down harder. “ Looks like we could have some flooding and cleanup tomorrow.” he said turning and looking at her. Getting no response he went to the side board and poured himself a stiff shot of rye and downed it.

“ Better not let Murdoch know you’re drinking his whiskey.” she stated never looking up at him.

Johnny glared at her. “ Anything in this fucking house is mine also since I’m a Lancer so I don’t give a fuck what he likes……You either for that matter .” he said as he poured another and downed it before slamming the glass down and going up to his room. At least up there he would have a reason for the silence as he sat and watched the storm.

Teresa watched him storm away pissed and decided to put her sewing away and go to bed also.

Johnny woke with a start about midnight. The wind howled outside fiercely as the rain pelted his window. Having fallen asleep with his clothes on he shucked them and just climbed into bed when his door opened. Reaching for his colt he stood there as naked as the day he was born when Teresa walked in wearing her robe.

“ I couldn’t sleep…..The storm is getting worse outside.” she said as she looked at him.

Johnny stood there with the colt in his hand. “ That’s a good way to get yourself shot Teresa……Next time knock.” he said flatly as he put the colt back in his holster. “ So what do you want?”

Walking around to the side of the bed he was on and sat down. “ I thought maybe we could talk.”

“ Yeah…….I tried talking to you downstairs and you ignored me……Now all the sudden because there’s a storm outside you want to talk………….Go away.”

Teresa stood up and dropped her robe to the floor and stood there before him just as naked. “ No.” she answered.

Downstairs the front door opened and a figure stepped in out of the rain. Standing there looking around he seen the grand room was empty as the fire burned down low. Setting his saddlebags down in the grand room he started for the stairs.  Hearing noises from upstairs he quietly walked up them  and stopped at the top. Seeing a light coming from under the second door on his left he walked up to it and listened. What he heard brought a smile to his face as he  took the door knob in his hand and turned it.

Opening the door quietly he stepped in and found the man he vowed to kill in bed with a woman. Standing there unnoticed he watched for a few seconds before cocking his pistol.

“ Well ain’t this sweet?” he said.

Hearing a voice, Johnny moved off Teresa fast reaching for his pistol.

I wouldn’t.” the man said as he stepped closer.

Teresa grabbed the covers and pulled them up around her neck. “ Who are you?……….What do you want?” she demanded.

Johnny glared at the man standing in his room with a gun aimed at him.

“ I swore I would make you pay for what you did to me Madrid…….and now’s the time for that payback.” he said walking over and picking up Johnny’s pants and throwing them at him. “ Put those on.” he ordered. “ You little lady can get dressed also.”

Not wanting to risk injury to Teresa Johnny did as he was told. Slipping his pants on he stood next to his bed.

“ Imagine the surprise I got when I learned that you came home to the gringo father you said you hated and wanted to kill.” he said as he threw a piece of rope at Teresa. “ Tie his hands behind his back and do it real good little lady because if I don’t think it’s tight enough there will be hell to pay.”

“ Let her go Nash………it’s me you want….She has nothing to do with this.” Johnny said as Teresa tied his hands behind his back tightly.

“ I know that but she can watch me kill you……..and I am going to kill you slowly and very painfully.” he stated as he stepped up and hit Johnny hard in the gut dropping him to his knees. Grabbing his hair he jerked his head back. “ I heard an interesting thing in town Madrid…….I heard you got yourself a couple broken ribs you’re nursing.” he said hitting Johnny in the chest. “ That feel good traitor?……Huh?” he asked with pure rage as he slugged Johnny again.

Stop  it.” Teresa yelled.

“ Oh this is just the beginning of what I’m going to do to your lover here girlie.” he said as he jerked Johnny up by his arms to stand. “ Downstairs now…..and don’t try anything stupid because I’m real good with this gun.”

Johnny took the blows the best he could. White hot pain ran thru his chest and side as he was hit. His arms screamed in protest when he was jerked up by them. “ Do whatever he says Teresa.” he managed as he was shoved to the door.

Scott sat by the fire staring at the  flames. Until his father touched him on the shoulder he was lost in thought.

“ You alright son?” he asked.

“ Yes sir…..I was just thinking about something.”

“ Your brother?”

Scott nodded. “ I said those things which were wrong I know but that was before we learned he was our Johnny……I……”

“ Have you tried to explain this to him?”

“ Yes the other night when he was in the tub after Sam let him out of bed……..He didn’t want to listen to me.”

“ Give him time son……..All of this is still new to him…….You know he told me he didn’t know if he would be able to care about us because of his past. Because he said that the moment he starts to care that person gets killed and he doesn’t want that any more.”

“ He told you that?”

Murdoch nodded. “ I know I treated him wrong and I told him that that day he woke up…….We are going to try again, a fresh start on becoming a family……But he did tell me that he may not take the Lancer name. Did you know this?”

Scott shook his head as he reached for the pot of coffee. “ How do you feel about that sir?…….I mean he is your son.”

“ I told him that and he told me that Johnny Lancer died when he was taken away and only Johnny Madrid is alive.”

“ And what did you say to that?”

“ I told him that he can bring Johnny Lancer back to life if he chooses to but that no matter who he is he will always be my son.”

Scott raised a brow.“ I hated leaving him there alone.”

“ So did I son but you heard Sam..We couldn’t take the risk.”

“ I know it’s just that I have a bad feeling that something is wrong.” Scott stated then preceded to tell his father about Johnny being shot at.

Murdoch listened and felt anger inside. “ Why the devil didn’t you tell me this before?”

“ It slipped my mind sir what with the party that night and then Johnny being beaten.”

“Any idea who it was?”

I think Johnny knows who it was sir. The person’s horse had a bar across the right hind shoe. Stands out real good. From were he shot he could have hit and killed Johnny. I think it was a warning shot knowing Johnny would find the tracks.”

“ Bait…and we left him there alone.”

“ What do you want to do?……..If we ride back there and everything is alright he will think we don’t trust him.”

“ We will be in Sacramento day after tomorrow…..I’ll send a wire to the ranch asking if all is well.”

“ Won’t he be suspicious sir?”

“ Not if I ask him if Teresa want’s anything brought back it won’t be.”

“ Very good sir…….I think I’ll get some shut eye now. I have early morning watch.”

“ Alright son…..and don’t worry I’m sure Johnny is alright.” Murdoch stated as he began to have concerns himself.

Nash shoved Johnny hard into the grand room, Teresa grabbed his arm to stop him from falling. “ Do whatever he says Teresa okay?” he said softly.

Teresa nodded as she helped Johnny over to the couch to sit down. She knew he was hurting from the way his breathing was labored.

“ Not there……….come on over here Madrid and sit down in this chair………You girlie take this rope and tie him to that chair real good.” Nash ordered as he tossed the rope to her.

Teresa did as she was told trying not to hurt Johnny any more than he already was.

“ Good now come over here and sit down on this couch.”

Teresa glanced at Johnny. “ Go ahead.” he said.

“ What is she to you Madrid?……..Your wife……No…..I know she’s your girlfriend right honey?……You’re Madrid’ woman?”

“ No she’s not.”Johnny snapped.

“ Is that right girlie?”

Teresa looked at Johnny then shook her head.

“ So who are you then?” Nash demanded to know.

“ She’s the daughter of one of the hands.” Johnny said before Teresa could answer.

Nash walked over and busted Johnny hard in the face. Blood started to flow from his nose.

“ I wasn’t talking to you Madrid so I suggest you shut up until I am.” he said hitting Johnny again in the mouth splitting his bottom lip.

Johnny tasted the blood from his lip and spit it on Nash’ shirt. He knew what would happen but he had to take the mans mind away from Teresa if at all possible.

Nash looked at the blood on his shirt then back at Madrid. Smiling he walked closer and slugged him again in the face knocking the chair backwards.

Johnny landed on his right side, something he was grateful for but now laying there he couldn’t see Nash and what the man was doing. He didn’t hear Teresa either and that worried him deeply. Nash favored a knife over a gun. The man loved carving on his victims, scaring them for life as a remembrance of what happens when they crossed him. Madrid had seen the man do it on two occasions when they rode together. Trying to move around only caused pain to his ribs. He knew a few more blows and they would be broke again.

Hearing a chain he knew where Nash was at now, the gun cabinet. A minute later he got his answer when Nash walked back with a scatter gun. Setting it down Johnny watched as he dragged a chair over and set the gun across the arms and secured it with rope. Cocking both barrels he the tied some rope to the trigger and the came over to Johnny and tied it around his neck after sitting him back up.

“ Now just in case you get a notion to try and get free you’ll blow your head clean off in trying.” Nash said as he stepped around in front of Madrid and smiled. Missing rotted teeth, what few there were is what Madrid seen. “ Like what you see……i had all my teeth when I went into that hell hole prison thanks to you, but not when I came out.”

“ Maybe you shouldn’t have bit down.” Johnny said back.

Nash grabbed a hand full of hair and slug Johnny in the mouth again before turning his attention back to Teresa.

‘ Now little lady me and you can get to know each other.” Nash said as he grabbed Teresa and yanked her to him and smashed his mouth to hers.

Teresa was horrified and struggled against his hold only to receive a vicious slap that knocked her to the floor in front of Johnny.

Nash smiled as he got down and straddled the girl and hit her a couple more times to make her stop fighting him.

“ You get to watch Madrid…….I’m going to let her know what it’s like to be with a real man.” Nash said as he ripped the robe off Teresa and brutally attacked her breast. Biting hard until they bleed. Raising up he undid his pants and worked them down.

Teresa let out a blood curdling scream as Nash thrust into her and beat her as he raped her.

Johnny never felt so powerless before. Looking at the shotgun staring at him. “ I swear I’ll kill you Nash you bastard.” he vented as he tried to get his hands free.

Ash stood up and pulled his pants up. Looking down at Teresa he kicked her violently and laughed.

Teresa rolled onto her side facing Johnny, her only hope and closed her eyes. Blood ran from her breast where Nash had bit her and her bottom lip also.

Johnny continued to fight the rope biding his hands when Nash came over and removed the rope from his neck and un cocked the scatter gun.

“ Now your fun begins.” Nash said as he took out his knife and with a quick move sliced Johnny’s upper left arm deep. Bringing the knife to Johnny’s chest he placed the blade against his skin and pushed the tip in and slowly cut across his ribs. Smiling as the blood ran down Madrid’ chest.

“ I’m going to cut you for every beating I got in that hell hole you  sonofabitch.”

Johnny pushed the pain aside as the blade cut into him. He knew Nash wanted him to scream and he wasn’t about to give him that satisfaction. “ I’m sure you deserved every one.” he said as sweat ran down his face.

Nash cut the rope holding Johnny to the chair and yanked him up. “ Fuck you.” Nash said before hitting Johnny and then slicing out with the knife again cutting his lower right arm as Madrid fell backwards. Stepping over he grabbed him and again yanked him up and pulled him over to Teresa.

“ I’m gonna fuck her again and again until I kill her and you can watch.” he stated as he began beating Johnny, hitting him in the face and chest until he went down and didn’t move.

Lightening snapped outside and thunder roared startling Madrid awake. Opening his eyes pain came back as he tried to move but found he was still bound. Looking around laying on the floor he seen Teresa still laying there unconscious. Nash couldn’t be seen. Not knowing where he was or how long he had been out johnny struggled and found his right hand slip out of the rope just enough that he could get it free. Raising his head up he couldn’t see Nash anywhere so bringing his hands around and rubbing the circulation back into them he took a chance and stood up. Dizziness washed over him and he had to grab the chair to keep from falling over. Rain pelted the big windows hard. Looking at the clock he knew Maria would be coming in to start breakfast in two hours. Going to Teresa and kneeling by her he checked and found her still alive. The scatter gun was still on the table where Nash laid it after removing the rope from it.

Nash walked back into the room and smiled when he see Madrid had gotten loose. Taking out his pistol and cocking it. “ Time to die Madrid.” he said as he fired.

Johnny dove away from Teresa behind the couch. The scatter gun was about five feet from him.

“ Come on out and die Madrid……..You know I fucked her again. Oh she tried to stop me but a swift kick to her ribs stopped that……..She’s a feisty one that gal is.” Nash said as he cocked his gun again.

Johnny knew the risk of taking a bullet, but he needed that scatter gun. Hunching down he waited a second then sprung up and took three steps grabbing the shotgun as he dove behind his father’ desk. He heard Nash fire and felt  the bullet hit him in the right side. Ignoring the pain he waited knowing he would have to get Nash closer.

Nash fired and smiled when he seen his bullet hit Madrid as he dove behind the desk. “ Do you really think you can kill me with that scatter gun Johnny?”

Johnny took a quick swipe at the sweat running down into his eyes and keeping his butt on the floor he turned and peaked around the corner. Nash was about thirty feet from him near the french doors. Standing up he brought the scatter gun up and fired at the same time Nash did. Both men dropped to the floor. A bullet tore it’s path thru Madrid’ right shoulder. He could hear Nash cussing because he too was hit.

“ I’m going to kill you Madrid.” he said as he stood up and kicked a chair out of the way. “ You ain’t got no more shells.”

Johnny knew his father kept shells in his desk drawer. Opening it quietly he took two out and reloaded the gun. Standing up. “ Guess again.” he said before firing both barrels into Nash killing him outright.

“ That’s for Teresa.” Johnny said as he dropped the gun and went to her side. “ Teresa…..come on honey wake up.” he pleaded as he checked her injuries. He’d seen a woman once who had been raped down in Mexico and how she had seemed to lose her mind one day and took a gun to it, ending her pain.

“ Teresa come on wake up.” looking around he knew she needed help. The storm raged violently outside, the rain coming down even harder. Ignoring his own injuries Johnny scooped Teresa up and took her to the couch and laid her down, Grabbing the throw blanket off the back he covered her up and headed to the front door to get help from one of the workers when the room started to spin and dizziness washed over him. Grabbing the chair at the end of the table his legs went weak and blackness claimed him.

Maria looked around the yard at the downed tree branches and shingles off the roofs. A big branch lay against the back of the house, just to the left of the back door. Seeing no smoke from the chimney she knew Teresa wasn’t up yet as she stepped into the kitchen. The wreckage she found inside surprised her more than outside. Dishes lay on the floor broken. Sacks of corn meal and flour lay cut open, there contents spewed on the floor.

“ Oh Juanito what have you done…….The patron will not be pleased when I tell him how you destroyed my kitchen.” she said as she carefully stepped into the kitchen. Anger forced her to head upstairs to Johnny’s room. Finding it empty she went down the main stairs and stopped dead in her tracks at the bottom of the stairs. Laying on the floor in a pool of blood was her Juanito.

 Hurrying to his side and kneeling she found Johnny still alive. Standing she quickly went out the front door and screamed for help.

A couple hands up and cleaning up the debris in the yard heard her and ran to her side.

“ Juanito…..blood.” she stammered out.

The hands went inside and found Johnny laying on the floor. Rolling him over they seen the wounds on his chest. Picking him up they carried him up to his room. Maria hurried back to the kitchen to retrieve the medical basket and hurried up the back stairs to his room.

“ Send someone for Sam…….Get him out here now.”  Carl said as he applied pressure to the bullet wound in Johnny’s side.

Johnny moaned from the pressure and opened his eyes. “ Teresa.” he mumbled.

“ Shh Juanito the doctor is on his way.” Maria told him as she started to clean his wounds.

“ Help Teresa.” he said before blackness claimed him again.

“ Teresa is not in her room……..Go see if you can find her.” Maria ordered the hand who stayed with her.

Teresa had been found still unconscious on the couch and taken to her room. Nash’ body also found was removed from the house.

When Sam arrived three hours later he wasn’t expecting to find what he did walking into Johnny’s room. Shock came over him as he stood looking down at the injuries on the boys body. Maria told him quickly about Teresa also.

Finding Johnny still alive, barely Sam went to work doing everything he could to save Madrid. Four hours later Sam wiped the sweat from his face after tying off the last stitch to the deep cut across Johnny’s chest. The bullet in his side went clean thru, the bullet in his shoulder could not be removed. Sam feared that if he tried Johnny would die for sure due to the blood he had already lost. Leaving him in Maria’ care Sam went and did what he could for Teresa. He sent a hand for the widow Hargessy to come out. It was clear what had been done to Teresa and the widow would be able to help the girl more than he could beyond treating her injuries.


Murdoch and Scott rode into the yard and could see the remains of destruction from the storm. Seeing Sam’ buggy there the two Lancer’ looked at each other before getting down. A hand came and took their horses.

“ Why is Sam here?” Murdoch asked the hand.

“ Johnny.” is all he said as he led the horses away.

“ If that boy disobeyed Sam’ orders and rode I will tan his hide.” Murdoch stated as they headed inside and up the stairs. Walking in Johnny’ room they both stopped dead in their tracks.

Sam walked over to them. “ I’m glad you’re both here.”

“ What in heavens name happened to him Sam?” Murdoch asked seeing his youngest laying there his chest covered in bandages.

“ Let’s go get some coffee and I’ll tell you what I know.”

“ Tell us now Sam.”

Sam glanced at Johnny then told them what he knew. When he finished he could see both men got a sick look on their face.

“ Will he live?” Scott asked remembering the last thing his brother had said to him before he left.

“ If it was anyone else they would be dead. He’s hanging on but he’s lost a lot of blood…..He was shot twice and has some deep long cut’s from a knife on his chest and upper left arm………The bullet in his right side went clean thru….the one in his right shoulder I don’t dare try and remove yet…He’d never survive the surgery….I inserted a tube thru his nose down to his stomach so we can get fluids into him.” Sam said with sadness in his voice.

“When did this happen?” Murdoch asked as he stepped closer and looked down at Johnny.

“ Maria found him two days ago laying in the grand room. Teresa was on the couch covered with a blanket unconscious.”

“ Teresa?” Scott said as a question.

Sam told them about her and the man found dead in the grand room from a shotgun blast.

Scott cursed under his breath. “ Will Teresa be alright Sam?’ he asked.

“ She hasn’t said a word Scott. She just lays there and stares at nothing. She was……….she was raped violently and beaten mercilessly in the process……..The widow Hargessy has been helping Maria with her…I don’t know what else I can do for her……Or Johnny.”

Scott turned and left the room, he couldn’t stand seeing his brother laying there so pale and at deaths door. The thought of never getting to tell his brother * why * he had said what he did or even  *goodbye * angered him deeply. Who was this man who invaded their home and hurt his little brother? Why did he hurt Teresa?

Murdoch watched his oldest step out of the room and new Scott was hurting and angered as he was also. Stepping out to him he placed a hand on his shoulder.

“ He’ll make it son……..I know he will.”

Scott turned and looked at him, tears threatened to fall. “ Why?”

“ I don’t know…..only your brother can answer that.”

Sam walked out into the hall. “ There is something the two of you need to consider.”

“ What’s that Sam?” Murdoch asked.

“ If Johnny does pull thru this, His mental state.”

“ His mental state……….What about it Sam?” Scott asked.

“ Johnny was tied up and forced to watch Teresa violated……not being able to stop it from happening to her.”

“ How do you know this Sam.” Murdoch demanded.

“ From what the hands found downstairs Johnny was tied in a chair….There are a couple of places where blood is on  the floor, Where the chair was, a couple feet in front of it, behind your desk and over by the table.”

“ You think Johnny will be affected by this badly Sam?”

“ Yes I do…….I know he doesn’t like to talk about his past or personal things Murdoch but it’s vital that when he is strong enough the two of you get him to tell you what happened…….If he doesn’t it could and most likely will hit him suddenly and well dare I say it could be bad for him, you or anyone near him when it happens.”

“ I need some air.” Scott said before walking away.

“ Will he be alright Murdoch?” Sam asked about Scott as he watched him head downstairs.

“ Him and Johnny had an argument before we left…….Johnny won’t talk to him….let him explain about something he said and it’s eating him up inside…..On the drive he worried that he would lose his brother again.”

“ Well why don’t you go sit with Johnny……I need some rest after I check on Teresa.”

“ Sure Sam.” Murdoch answered as he stepped back into the room and took up the chair next to his sons bed.

Murdoch sat talking to Teresa, holding her hand hoping to get some kind of recognition from the girl.

.”Johnny still lay fighting for his life as the fever ravaged his body. Six days now it’s been and neither seemed responsive.

“ Teresa darling please wake up….Come back to us. Please say something, anything.” Murdoch pleaded.

“ Johnny.” she said barely a whisper. “ Johnny….where are you?”

“Teresa  it’s alright…….Johnny’s in his room………Sam is with him.”

“ I want Johnny.”

“ He can’t come here……He’s…….”

“ I want Johnny.” Teresa said louder as she bolted upright in bed. “ I want Johnny now.”

Murdoch grabbed her arm and tried to calm  her down but it only made her worse. “Scott……Sam get in here now.” he yelled as he tried to not hurt her.

“ What happened?” Sam asked as he hurried into the room.

“ She want’s Johnny………Scott help me hold her down so Sam can give her something to calm her down.” Murdoch ordered.

Noooo………I want Johnny…….get off me you bastard.” Teresa yelled.

Teresa……stop it it’s Scott.

“ Scott?” she responded more calmly.

“ Yes…….Teresa Johnny can’t come to you…….He’s been hurt.”

“ I want to see him please Scott…..Take me to him.”

Scott looked at Sam then his father. Bending over he scooped Teresa up in his arms and carried her to his brother’ room.

“ Do you think this is a good idea son?………Your brothers condition and all?”

“ They went thru this hell together….Teresa deserves to be able to  be with him……She can lay next to him and maybe her talking to Johnny will help bring him around .”

“ It might Murdoch……hearing her voice and knowing she’s still alive might give him more reason to fight to stay alive.”  Sam added.

Scott put Teresa down in the chair next to his brothers bed. Placing a hand on her right shoulder.

“ Talk to him Teresa….Let him hear your voice.” he said softly.

Teresa looked at Johnny and placed a hand on his forehead. “ Johnny……..please don’t die………It wasn’t your fault.” she said. “ It wasn’t his fault.” she said looking up at Murdoch standing just inside the door.

“ What wasn’t his fault darling?” he asked.

“ Nash…..If we hadn’t been making love he wouldn’t have been able to surprise Johnny…….I treated him bad since you left….ignoring him………..He asked me to leave his room but I wouldn’t…….I’m sorry Johnny.” she said between sobs as she started to shake.

Murdoch moved to her and pulled her up into his chest. “ It’s not your fault Teresa……This man would have got to Johnny sooner or later.” he told her as she sobbed into his chest.

“ That’s right Teresa………The man already shot at Johnny the day of the party.” Scott added.

“ Teresa……..did Nash say why he wanted to kill Johnny?” Murdoch asked.

“ He…….he said he was going to make Johnny suffer and die slowly because of him being in a Mexican prison……..Said Johnny put him there.”

Murdoch looked at Scott. Knowing nothing really except what the Pinkerton reports stated, Murdoch wondered just * what * it was this man did that made his youngest turn him in? Turn against his own kind? That is if Nash was a gunfighter also. Mexico was a harsh country for anyone along the border. Had his son rode with this man at that time? So many questions ran thru his mind, questions he hoped his youngest would answer someday soon.

Cool, that’s what he was feeling. A cool cloth on his face then his neck, then it was gone. Hurt why did he hurt so much? His chest hurt. Ribs that was it, he had broken ribs, but wait they were almost healed weren’t they? Sam….Sam said he couldn’t go on the drive yet……Teresa…….Teresa was beneath him in his bed, her legs wrapped around him tightly as he made love to her. A voice, he heard a mans voice in his room. What man? Then it came back to him.

“ Teresa.” Johnny mumbled. 

“ Shh it’s alright son……….You’re safe.” Murdoch said as he put a hand on Johnny’s right arm.

“ Teresa…….help her.”

“ Teresa is safe now also son…….Just take it easy.”

Johnny opened his eyes and looked at his father. “ Murdoch?”

“ Yes son I’m here.” he said. “ Teresa is sleeping in her room.”

“ Nash?”

“ He’s dead son……You killed him.”

Johnny arched his back as pain griped his chest.

“ I’ll get Sam.” Murdoch said as he stood and started to the door. Scott walked in. “ Get Sam, your brothers awake.” he ordered.

For three days Johnny was in and out of it. Three days he would mumble about Teresa or his mother. Hearing some of what he would say made Murdoch angry at how  Maria had treated the boy. The scars his youngest bore told the tale no child’s body should tell.

Sam removed the tube much to Johnny’s liking on the fourth day after he woke up. Giving strict orders johnny was not to move around very much. The bullet in his shoulder had been removed just two days before. Stitched still remained in the deep knife wound across his chest and upper left arm.

Sitting up in bed flexing the fingers of his right hand hoping he didn’t lose the speed  of his draw. Teresa had not been permitted into his room now that he was awake. He had asked to see her but his father would not allow it. Hearing his door open he looked and found his brother standing there.

“ You almost got your wish for me dead.” he said harshly.

Scott had come up with the hopes of the two of them talking. Hearing the cruel words his brother said he slammed the door shut and glared at him.

“What’s the matter Scott? You sorry I didn’t die?………No let me guess you came up here to blame me for Teresa and what happened to her right?”

“ You know if you weren’t laying in that bed injured I would beat the shit out of you brother.”

“ Yeah well don’t do me no favors……..Go ahead and try if you think you can?”

“ Damn you Johnny………you’re going to listen to me whether you like it or not………yeah I said those things…….I’m not going to lie to you…..I said them before I knew you were my brother……After you left Stockton I didn’t know Murdoch had the Pinkerton’ investigating you……I said those things because I was pissed at the way you treated me when I put my life on the line for you and that gold…….The moment I found out you * were * my little brother I took off after you to bring you home.”

“ Likely story.” was all Johnny said as he picked at the blanket.

“ I don’t give a damn if you believe me or not brother……..I have never lied to you and I am not lying to you now.”

“ So you found out your little brother is a gunfighter and took off after me………….tell me something Scott……..You still think I should stay here after what’s happened with Teresa and all?……….I told you trouble would find me because of my past……….You still want me as a brother?”

“ Yes I do Johnny…….Murdoch want’s you to stay also.”

“ Oh yeah that why he hasn’t been around me much now that he knows I’m going to live?”

“ *Our * father spent ever waking minute at your side brother since we came home………he has a ranch to run in case you have forgotten.”

“ I ain’t forgotten nothing……..Why don’t you just leave me alone?”

“ Fine……..that’s what you want fine.” Scott said as he turned and walked out slamming the door behind him.

Johnny had had enough of laying in bed. Flipping the covers off him he slowly swung his legs over the edge of the bed and sat there. Standing up his legs wobbled some. His right arm in a sling and his ribs wrapped getting his balance took some doing but he managed finally to walk to his dresser and get a pair of pants, shirt and socks out. Walking back to his bed he sat down and knew putting them on would be a challenge with only one arm. Twenty minutes later he had his pants pulled on but not fastened. Removing his arm from the sling he carefully used it to accomplish the task. Putting the injured arm in the sleeve first with some pain he managed the shirt next. Such a simple every day task exhausted him but he managed. Sweat ran down his face as he pulled his socks on. His boots he decided were out of the question. Standing again he walked to the door and opened it. Looking down the hall he seen no one so he stepped out and walked to the top of the stairs.

“ Give him some time son………Your brother will come around……he’s been thru a lot.”

“ I know sir……It’s just that he doesn’t seem to want to listen to me…….he also thinks you haven’t been around him and will want him to leave.”

Murdoch went to the side board and poured a drink. “ Want him to leave?……..That’s the last thing I want that boy to do.”

“ Maybe he feels that way because of what him and Teresa were doing when this Nash character.”

“ I will be having a discussion with your brother about bedding Teresa in this house when he is stronger.”

“ What’s wrong with now old man?” Johnny asked as he stepped down into the grand room. Memories of that night came back to him. Closing his eyes he willed them away, for now.

“ Just what the devil do you think you are doing out of bed?” Murdoch demanded.

Johnny walked  slowly to the couch and sat down. “ Got tired of being confined to that room.” he said as he sat down.

“ Sam did not give you the okay to get out of bed.”

“ Johnny you’re not well enough…..What if you had fallen coming down the stairs?”

“ I know what I can and can’t do so don’t worry about it……..Been thru a lot worse and I didn’t have no doctor telling me then I couldn’t move around.”

“You have some explaining to do about your behavior in this house while I was away young man……Taking Teresa in your bed in my house I will not stand for.”

“ Is that right?……..Well let me tell you something old man……..It was my room she came to that night, my bed I fucked her in not yours and this is also my house too is it not?”

“ Yes but there are certain things I will not stand for under my roof……….Taking Teresa into your bed is one of them. You have not reached your majority yet young man and I will not stand for that kind of behavior under my roof….Is that clear?”

Johnny didn’t answer him.

“ I want to know why this man was so bent on killing you?”

“ And what makes you think you have a right to know that?”

“ He comes into my……..our home and………You owe me an explanation son after what was done to Teresa.”

“ Don’t talk to me about what was done to Teresa……You weren’t here……..You have no idea what was done to her.”

“ Johnny calm down…….we know you were made to watch what he did to her………Getting upset now isn’t going to help…….Murdoch just asked a simple question……One I might add you do owe us an answer too.”

“ I don’t owe you a thing brother.” Johnny said as he stood up.

“ Just where do you think you are going?”

“ Into the kitchen……..I’m sick of broth so I’m going to see if Maria will cook me a piece of meat.”

“ Maria took some time off. If you want something to eat then you will have to wait until dinner in two hours.” Murdoch told him firmly.

“ Fine.” Johnny said as he headed to the door. “ I’ll just go check on Barranca then.”

Scott watched his brother leave the house. “ Aren’t you going to stop him?……..he shouldn’t be out of bed yet.”

“ I know that…….I don’t want to fight with him so no I am not.” he answered as he walked to his desk and started going over the books.

                                                               Chapter 15

A week pasted and Johnny’s attitude got worse. He hardly spoke to his father and Scott stayed away from him as much as possible. Both Lancer’ were fit to be tied.

“ I’ am wits end Sam……..I just don’t know what to do with him.” Murdoch said as he handed a glass of cherry to his long time friend.

“ Have Johnny and Teresa been together since this happened and talked?”

“ No………I think Teresa is staying away from Johnny because of his attitude……..Why?” Scott stated.

“ Listen to me both of you……..I strongly believe that with what you have told me about Johnny’s attitude getting worse………How he is being disobedient……..I think Johnny is…….”

“ Is what Sam?” Murdoch asked with concern.

“ A stick of dynamite with a slow burning fuse.” Sam answered.

“ Dynamite?” Scott asked.

“ Yes dynamite…….Scott Johnny was forced to watch Teresa raped and beaten……He was powerless to stop that from happening…….I strongly believe that your brother is going to explode and when he does.”

“ Sam are you saying that Johnny could become violent because of this?” Murdoch asked as he glanced out the window and watched Johnny groom Barranca in the afternoon sun.

“ When he does Murdoch someone could get hurt or even killed. I have read cases were a victim has done this and I also read were they have done something else.”

“ Done what Sam?”

“ Killed themselves Murdoch………Listen no matter how bad you want answers * don’t * push him. Let Johnny talk about this when he is ready…….Let him and Teresa be together…….The two of them need to be alone where this all started.”

“ I will not allow Teresa to be alone with Johnny in his room again Sam……….I forbid it.”

“ Even if it means getting your son back?” Scott asked.

Murdoch turned around and stared hard at his oldest. “ Yes…………he took her to his bed.”

“ I’m not saying what they did was right Murdoch……..It wasn’t……..I’m saying we need to let them be alone together and get this to surface before it splits this family more than it already has.”

“ Teresa is going to be going back east in the fall to attend school.”

“ And when did you decide this sir?”

“ That doesn’t matter……What does matter is I will not have those two unwed and carrying on like they have been………Johnny is almost nineteen and that boy doesn’t have the faintest idea about responsibilities.”

“ And you do?” a voice said from the door.

Murdoch turned to face his youngest who had come in without their knowledge. “ Yes.”

“ Then tell me something………How responsible were you being when you took my mother to bed?” Johnny asked in a cold harsh voice.

“ We were both adults…….Not a kid.” Murdoch answered.

“ Well in case you forgot old man……..I ain’t no kid and Teresa came to me every time…….I did what I could to try and * not * fuck her.”

“ Don’t you use that kind of language in this house.”

“ Or what…………you gonna turn me over your knee?…………I don’t think so………..Why don’t you all just leave me the fuck alone.” Johnny ordered before heading up stairs and slamming his door.

“ You see what I mean Sam…………The boy is……..He has no respect for the others in this house.”

“ I’ll talk to him while I’m examining his wounds…….I’ll see if I can’t get him to talk to me.”

“ Good luck doing that Sam.” Murdoch gruff-ed.

Sam didn’t bother knocking, he just opened the door and walked in.

“ What you fucking forget how to knock Sam?” Johnny asked harshly.

“ No I have not and don’t you dare use that language with me young man.

“ I’ll use whatever * language * I fucking want to use………You don’t like it…..There’s the door.” Johnny said motioning with his arm as he walked over to his dresser nearer Sam.

Most people considered Sam Jenkins a good man who never lost his temper and would care for a patient like they were his own. This time however some could say was the breaking point, everybody they say has one and Sam had just found his.  Tossing his bag in the bed he went over to his patient, spun him around so fast Johnny wasn’t expecting it and slapped him hard across the face.

“ You better get one thing straight right here right now Johnny…….I will not allow you to speak to me like that again…….You do and you will find yourself in need of another doctor to treat you.” Sam vented.

“ And another thing……..Who the hell told you you could get out of bed?……My orders were strict……..You want to kill yourself go ahead but don’t waste my time…..I have patients who actually do do what I tell them.”

“ I don’t need you or anyone else telling me what I can and cannot do Sam……I’ve been taking care of myself most of my life.” Madrid stated as he pulled a clean shirt out of his dresser drawer. “ And if you ever.” he started as he stepped over to Sam. “ If you ever hit me again you’ll find yourself in need of a doctor.” he stated as he put the shirt on and headed to the door.

Sam wasn’t a big man but when push came to shove he could stand his ground and the man wasn’t about to back down from Johnny.

“ Just where do you think you are going?”

“ Out.” Johnny responded.

“ No you’re not……..I need to check those wounds so I suggest you get you butt over on that bed…….now.” Sam said in a voice to be reckoned with.

Johnny glared at the man a minute. He knew inside that Sam was only doing what as a doctor came natural. Walking over to his bed he sat down.

Sam walked over and opened his bag. “ You know young man……..I know you haven’t had a good life so far…..The scars on your body tell me that Johnny…..Take off your shirt…..You got a good thing here now…nobody blames you for what happened to Teresa and you. That man doing what he did to her was not your fault.”

“ Yes it was Sam.”

Sam sat down next to him. “ Listen to me, you know there are bad men in this world Johnny……You have a good heart but you can’t stop all the bad from happening.”

“ Sam I……..I couldn’t stop him……Teresa she……”

Sam could see the pain in Johnny’s face as he struggled to tell him. He could also see that his patient was not getting any sleep. Listening a person can learn a lot about another person if they take the time.

“ Tied up you felt helpless, powerless to stop him right?”

Johnny nodded. “ I’m sorry for the way I talked to you earlier Sam…….You’re a good man and…..”

“ I know John…….Listen I’m a good listener beyond being a doctor……..If you want to talk to me you can……I’d like you to consider me a friend.”

Johnny smiled. “ Ain’t got many of those…….alive that is.”

“ Well I’m alive and I’m always available John……….Have you and Teresa even talked about this?”

“ No……..I want to but.”

“ But you blame yourself right?”

“ She was with me here that night……We were fu……we were making love when Nash came in. I didn’t hear him because of the storm and…..”

“ Ask yourself this John….If you and Teresa hadn’t been…….and you had been asleep with that storm would you have heard him come in?”

Johnny looked at Sam a minute then down at his hands. “ No I guess not. Don’t reckon the old man will ever trust me again.”

“ I wouldn’t say that…….Murdoch cares about you. He searched long and hard for you……The two of you getting along is going to take time you just have to be patient and give it that time.”

“ How can I when he won’t let my past go Sam?………How am I supposed to try and be the son he wants me to be when * he * can’t let it go?”

“ You have a lot of tour mother in you John…….But you have more of your fathers stubborn side…….Whens the last time you slept all night?”

Johnny looked at him and sighed. “ I can’t sleep Sam…Every time I close my eyes I see Nash raping Teresa.”

“ I’m going to leave some sleeping powder for you Johnny….I want you to mix it in some water tonight and drink it all…….You’re not helping your recovery by going without sleep.”

“ Don’t like drugs Sam.”

“ For me….please?” Johnny asked as Sam headed to the door and opened it.

“Sam’ been up there a long time.” Scott said with concern. “ You think he’s alright?”

Murdoch glanced at him. “ We haven’t heard a shot or your brother come downstairs so I think they are alright son.”

“ You do realize that you are going to have to let Johnny and Teresa be together and work this out sir……Sending Teresa away is not the answer.”

“ I spoke my piece and my decision is final…..Teresa leaves in the fall.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ You don’t give an inch do you?………..All pride and Johnny’s cut from the same mold.”

“ What do you expect me to do?…..Allow him to continue taking an innocent young girl into his bed?” he demanded.

“ No damn it….that is not what I am saying…….I am saying that you need to let the two of them be together….alone to work this out………Look Johnny has only been here a short time but in that time I have learned that he cares about people…….You and I both know that for him to have been tied up and forced to watch Teresa being…….It’s tearing him up inside.”

“ I know that……All he has to do is talk to us.”

“ It’s not * us * he needs to talk to…….He needs to hear from Teresa that * she * doesn’t blame him for that……….Have you even noticed how she looks at him during meals?”

“ She should blame him……It’s his past that brought this violence into this home.”

“ His past……….and so then I guess you can blame me also for Teresa and this violence because I brought Johnny back into this home.”

“ None of this is your fault…….You’re not the one who……….”

“ No…….I’m not…….I didn’t have to use a gun to stay alive… stop the abuse.”

Enough……I will not have any more talk about this.”

“ That’s your answer to everything isn’t it?………Anything that goes wrong since Johnny came back here is real easy for you to blame on him……..I’m sorry I asked him to promise me a year with the way you’re being.” Scott said before turning and walking out the french doors.

Teresa listened from the hall to the kitchen as Scott and Murdoch argued about Johnny and what happened. Hearing Murdoch blame Johnny fully for what happened made her heart break. Maybe the man had been from his past, but blaming him for what was done to her she felt was just wrong. Hearing Scott storm out she walked into the room.

“ It wasn’t his fault I was raped.” she told Murdoch.

Murdoch looked at her. “ Yes it is……….His past………”

“ His past is just that Murdoch……..You searched all these years for Johnny and now you are driving him away from this ranch..Is that what you want?………..You want him to ride away from here and go back to Mexico where he will be killed?”

“ I will not banter with you about Johnny Teresa……What happened between you two is his fault. He brought violence into this house. Violence that got you hurt.”

“ So if it had been someone from Scott’ past, say an enemy from the war it would have been alright?”

“ Young lady I think you had better stop right there……You have no right speaking to me like this and I will not have it.”

“ Let me tell you something Murdoch…..I know you want to send me away…..I heard you tell Scott….I can’t stop that but what * you * can’t stop is me and Johnny from being together until then.” she stated firmly before turning and heading outside.

Murdoch stood there watching a once innocent girl walk away. Inside he knew his youngest would have done anything he could to not bring harm to a family member. So why did he blame him for this? Would he have felt different if it * had * been Scott’ past and not Johnny’s? How could he call himself a father or expect his youngest to accept him as a father when he couldn’t let the past go? Couldn’t forget what he had read in those Pinkerton reports about what his son had done in Mexico to stay alive?

Going to his desk he opened the drawer that contained the reports he had on Johnny Madrid and headed upstairs. At the top of the stairs he seen his sons door open and what he heard Johnny say made him stop dead in his tracks.

“ Will it make the dreams go away?”

“ No John it won’t…..I’m sorry but the dreams will go away with time as I’m sure you know.”

“ Yeah….how do I get Teresa’ screams out of my head because every time I close my eyes I see her eyes pleading with me for help and hear her screams.”

“ Listen to me…….Try talking to your father or brother about this son…..It’s eating you up inside Johnny and I know what it will do to you if you don’t.”

“ Can’t talk to the old man…..All he see’s and cares about is my dishonoring Teresa and demanding to know why Nash came here.”

“ Remember what I said and try…..for me.” Sam said as he stepped out and closed the door. Turning he stopped when he seen Murdoch standing there. Walking up to him.

“ How much of that did you hear?”

“ Enough.” he responded.

“ He needs you my friend……That boy in there is hurting so bad he is begging for you as a father to help him…….I left some sleeping powder for him to take….He hasn’t slept much and his body is exhausted. He’s going to get sick if he doesn’t get some sleep………..I’ll stop back by in a couple days…… Just once forget about his past and try and salvage a future with that boy of yours because he needs you right now more than you or he realizes.”

“ Thanks Sam.” Murdoch said as he walked to the door and knocked. Glancing back at his friend heading downstairs.

“ Yeah.” he heard from the other side as he opened the door.

“ You forget something Sam?” Johnny asked as he turned around and found his father standing there.  “What do you want?” he asked sharply.

“ I didn’t come up here to fight with you…….I came up here to talk to you John and show you something.” Murdoch said as he closed the door.

“ Show me what?……..The door?”

“ No son…….I don’t want you leaving here…….Lancer is your home for however long you want to stay here.” Murdoch said with sincerity.

“As long as I want huh? Not as long as you want me though right?”

“ NO…….I want you to stay here……you’re my son. Look I want you to read this and then tell me what you think….How you think I should feel or have felt after reading them.” he said handing the Pinkerton papers to Johnny. “ I’ll leave you alone and be downstairs if and when you want to talk to me son.”

Johnny took the preferred papers and watched his father leave the room. Looking down at them he noticed his name Johnny Madrid/ Johnny Lancer as the heading. Walking over to the chair next to his window he sat down and opened the file.

Murdoch, Scott and Teresa sat eating a quiet supper. Johnny did not come down and both Teresa and Scott wondered why silently. As supper wound down Johnny stepped into the room with the file in hand.

“ Do they know what’s in this?” he asked tossing the file on the table in front of Scott.

“ No…..your brother knows some but not all of it.”

“ And her?” he asked pointing to Teresa.

“ Absolutely not…..What’s in there is not for a young lady to read son.”

“ I disagree.” Johnny said as he picked the file back up and handed it to Teresa. “ Read it girl……Then tell me you still want to be involved with me……… it Teresa and tell me you don’t have a right to blame me for what happened in this house.” Johnny demanded before turning to walk away.

“ Johnny.” Murdoch yelled. “ Son I wanted me and you to talk in private about what is in that file.”

“ Yeah well I think they have a right to know who I really am old man.” he responded looking at his brother. “ Read it Scott then you tell me if you still want me for a brother………If you still want me as a  third owner of Lancer.” he said before walking outside.

The three of them just sat there stunned by what just happened. Murdoch threw down his napkin and stood up. Scott grabbed his arm when he went to retrieve the file.

“ No sir…….I believe my brother want’s me and Teresa to read this.” he said picking up the file as he stood up. “ Teresa shall we go someplace more private?” he asked.

Teresa stood up and walked with Scott up to his room where they wouldn’t be bothered.

Murdoch watched them go then went to the french doors and could see his youngest standing next to the corral fence looking up at the evening sky.

Stepping out into the cool night air he walked down and stood next to Johnny. No words were spoken between the two for a long while. Both lost in thoughts of their own. Finally Johnny broke the silence when a shooting star went across the sky.

“ She told me that whenever you see one of those shooting stars that if you make a wish on it it will come true.”

“ Have any?” Murdoch asked quietly.

“ Not in the past really.”

“ And now son?”

Johnny swallowed the lump in his throat. Hearing his father after so many years without call him son finally choked him up. Clearing his throat but with a quiver in his voice he answered.

“ I’d like it too………….Look I’m……….* sigh * Sam thinks I’m messed up inside…….I guess I am because of what happened to Teresa……You have no idea what it was like for me to have to sit in that chair tied up and not be able to help her Murdoch.”

“ I think I do son.”

“ No you don’t…If you did then you wouldn’t have treated me like you have since it happened…..I know it’s my fault…..My past that brought violence into * your * home……I’d give anything for it to not have happened but it did…….I want Teresa to know who I really am.”

“ So what is in that report are you telling me it’s true?”

“ Most of it……I did things that isn’t in there that would make you want to shoot me yourself if you knew……I was young and hell bent for making a reputation and didn’t care how I did it.” he answered as he turned around and sat down with his back to the fence. “ Nash found me when I was nursing a bullet wound in my side….he saved my life………..One day when I was strong enough I rode with him and he raided this farmer….Before I realized what was happening he killed the farmer and was attempting to rape the woman. I drew down on him and stopped him from raping her and we were going to face off but the  Rurales showed up. We both mounted up but his horse was killed and I didn’t stop.

Murdoch sat down next to his son and listened intently.

“ He was caught and I learned sentenced to life in prison in Chihuahua……..Guess he broke out because as I rode off the last thing I heard him say was he would kill me for betraying him.” Johnny said before becoming quiet.

Murdoch looked at his son and could see him trembling slightly. Taking a chance he reached out and put an arm around his sons shoulders.

Johnny tried to keep his emotions in check but his body failed him. Trembling as he looked down at his hands. Making fist to try and stop it.

Feeling his father reach out and put an arm around his was the last straw. Turning he let go as he buried his face in his fathers shoulder.

No words were spoken for the longest time. Just a father comforting his hurting son under the stars. Giving comfort and support that was long over due. Tears escaped his own eyes as he held his son tight, not wanting this special moment to end. Holding on to it for as long as he could.

Scott and Teresa read the file that night then retired to bed. Both having questions to ask. Both hoping that what they just read wasn’t true.

Scott felt there was no way his little brother could do some of the things the report stated. No way.

Teresa felt shame…..She knew from the dime store novels that Johnny Madrid was a gunfighter but reading the actual truth about him saddened her. How could she have allowed herself to be take by him?….How could she have been so foolish to sleep with him? Maybe going back east away from Lancer was the best thing. She did need to talk to him still but now after reading what she did…Talking to him about what happened just didn’t seem that important any longer. Tomorrow she would approach Murdoch and see about leaving sooner than in the fall.

That night Murdoch slept good. His son had bared his soul to him some and told him about his past. The two had retired to the grand room were Murdoch could see it still bothered Johnny to be in the room. Tonight became the start of a father son relationship built on communication and most of all  respect between the two. Trust would be something they both would have to earn, but tonight’s happenings  had taken a big step in that direction.

Johnny lay awake until the early hours of morning. He could see the first hints of the sun in the eastern sky as he retired to his bed. Mixing some sleeping powder he fought to drink it all down. Wiping his mouth and setting the glass down he climbed in bed for what he hoped would be sleep. Sleep without the recurring nightmare that kept plaguing him every time he closed his eyes. Remembering back to the feel of his fathers strong arms wrapped protectively around him he closed his eyes and fell into a peaceful deep sleep.

                                                          Chapter 16

Teresa packed to leave three weeks later. Scott made arrangements with his Grandfather for her to stay with him while attending School. Murdoch was none to pleased with this but knew the girl would come to no harm staying with Harlan Garrett despite how he felt about the man.

The night before she left Teresa looked  hard at Johnny across the table from her. Sam had cleared him for light work around the house but no riding or working cattle yet. The two hadn’t spoke since that night he gave her the Pinkerton report. She gave him even harsher looks at meal time and refused to speak to him at all. That is until tonight, their final meal together as a family.

“ So tell me Johnny……..Did you enjoy……..No wait……..Do you enjoy killing men?”

Teresa.” Murdoch bellowed. “ You are out of line young lady speaking to John that way.”

“ It’s a simple question……Tell me something Johnny………Do you sleep good at night knowing all the lives you’ve ended?………..Or how about this….How about all the innocent girls you took to bed…Huh?”

That’s enough.” Murdoch yelled as he threw his napkin down. “ Johnny did what he had to do to survive……You have never been to Mexico and I will not stand for you sitting there judging him for doing what he had to do to stay alive…….Is that understood?”

“ She has a right to speak her piece sir.” Scott spoke up as he looked at his brother.

Johnny stood up. “ You want to find fault in me for doing what I did to stay alive fine……..But I suggest that you take a look in the mirror some time quierda because you ain’t no saint yourself.” Johnny snapped back. “ And you……….How many men did you kill while in the war huh?……..You want to pass judgment on me and condemn me for staying alive and not allowing people to beat me any more. To put a stop to going days on end without food and rags on my back that couldn’t stop a summer breeze………None of you know me or anything about me really…….Oh I know you spent time in Libby prison……..Big fucking deal Scott……..”

“ John……Language son please?” Murdoch asked nicely.

“ Lo siento old man……..I lived in a prison damn near my whole life……I’ve eaten things to stay alive that would turn your guts.” he said with a raised voice as he stood up. “ You two sit there and have the nerve to judge me for what I’ve done in my past when you both should take a good long hard look at your own past………Excuse me Murdoch but I’m not hungry any more.” he said before leaving the table and going upstairs.

Murdoch watched his son walk away. Sadness in his heart. He himself had judge his son wrongly for his past and wanted no more to do it.

“ I will have a buggy ready to leave here at six sharp…….I suggest you be ready to leave at that time.” he said firmly before getting up and walking outside.

Teresa looked at Scott. “ Maybe you should come to Boston with me……It seems that your father wants that killer to stay here. It won’t be safe for you here any more. Not as long as he’s here.”

Scott stood up. “ That happens to be my brother you are talking about Teresa……The same man you went to bed with……Need I remind you that it was Johnny’s room you were in that night?”

“ No you don’t have to remind me…….I know perfectly well who’s room I was in……..I also know that if he was any kind of a man he would have turned me away.”

“ And if you were any kind of a lady you wouldn’t have offered yourself to him in the first place.” Scott answered back before leaving the room.

Teresa headed for the front door but stopped when Johnny came down the stairs. Glaring at him as she stepped up into the foyer.

“ You’ll get them both killed as sure as day if you stay here…….You bring death with you no matter where you go……..* You * will never be a Lancer.” she said harshly.

Johnny stepped up to her. “ I hate to disappoint you Teresa but I * was * born Lancer so therefore I am…You’re not and if Johnny Madrid is so bad then why’d you want me to fuck you huh?………I’ll tell you why….Because you’re tired of being a good girl…..Tired of always having to act proper and be escorted everywhere………..You…….”

 Teresa slapped Johnny hard on the face. “ Damn you……..Everything was fine until you came back here……I thought you would be different. I told Murdoch that we could change you  but you’re nothing but a killer……..I heard the talk in town how the other ranchers don’t want you here…….He’s losing business because of you.”

Johnny could feel his anger starting to get the better of him. Deciding not to take the bait Johnny walked past her and outside.

Three months had past since Teresa left Lancer. Maria cooked the holiday meals. Murdoch hired another woman to help out during the holiday time. Him and Scott got the decorations out and surprised Johnny when he came back from stocking the north line shack for the winter.

“ Hey Murdoch that creek up by the line shack will be bad for crossing this spring…….Maybe…..” he was saying when he entered the foyer and removed his coat. Stepping down into the grand room he was aw struck at what he found.

“ Merry Christmas son.” Murdoch said with a grin as he walked over and handed his son a glass of wine.

“ Murdoch I……”

“ What son?”

“ Nothing…….It’s not important.” Johnny said as he took a sip of the wine.

Murdoch had a feeling his son had not celebrated Christmas as a child. Maria and him were both Catholic but how many did his youngest actually get to celebrate.“ You were saying about the creek son.”

“ Huh……..oh yeah I think we should build a bridge over it. Make it easier to access during the run off.” Johnny told him as he walked over and looked at the tree and all the ribbons and small decorations on it.

“ It would be a waste of time and money Johnny.” Scott added. “ That creek floods bad in the spring. It would just wash a bridge out.”

“ Not if you built it up above the crossing.”

“ Built it where son?”

“ In them boulders half a mile up. It would take very little wood to do it since the rocks are there and could be the main supports.”

“ Why don’t we all three plan on taking a ride up after the holidays and checking it out?……It doesn’t hurt to look does it Scott?”

“ No sir……A bridge would be better even for moving the cattle. It would save a days travel getting them to the higher ground or even bringing them down. Easier on the calves also.”

“Good then it’s settled.” Murdoch stated. “ Maria has cooked a big meal for us so why don’t you go get cleaned up and warmed up before dinner? We can all ride in and attend midnight mass later.”

The new year came in wet and cold. Snow fell heavy in the mountains and even Lancer got blanketed in the white stuff in the valley. The temperature plummeted below zero and Johnny couldn’t remember ever being so cold before. As Barranca  tread through the powdered stuff Johnny held on tight to the new born calf he had come upon, it’s mother being killed by a mountain lion. He knew the calf may not survive but it at least deserved a chance. Riding into the yard a couple hands came and took the calf from him.

“ Take him in the house by the fire and get me some milk from one of the dairy cows.” Johnny said between chattering teeth as he got down from Barranca.

“ I’ll take care of him for you Johnny…Go inside and warm up……Your father and Scott went to town.”

“ Thanks Carlos.” he said heading to the house and a shot of Tequila to warm his insides up.

The calf was laying on it’s side shivering when he walked over to it.

“ Nino….your father will not be pleased to have a cow in his house.” Maria said as she came in with a pot of coffee.

“ His mother was killed by a cat mamacita…..I couldn’t leave it out there to die.” Johnny said as he put the calf in his lap and started rubbing it down.

Carlos hurried in with a bottle of milk. “ I gave Barranca an extra ration of oats and will go finish rubbing him down Johnny.”

“ Thanks Carlos.”

“ I will fix a special herbal tea that will help the calf breath easy and stave off a cold.” Maria said as she patted the tiny red and white calf’s face.

Murdoch and Scott walked into the house and shucked their coats. Heading to the fire to warm up they both stopped dead in their tracks at what the seen. Laying on the rug in front of the fire place was Johnny with a very tiny calf curled up next to him, both asleep.

“ Uh sir…..”

“ I see it Scott.”

“ Should we wake him up?”

Looking at the clock. “ Yes it’s almost supper time and I would like to know why a cow is in my living room.”

“ Calf sir and a small one from the looks of it………You think maybe that cat got it’s mother?”

“ Possibly…..John….wake up son.”

Johnny opened his eyes and blinked a couple times.

“ Johnny.”

Turning onto his back. “ Oh hey Murdoch….you made it back huh.” he said yawning.

“ Yes we made it back…..would you mind telling me why that calf is in the house and * not * the barn son?”

“ It was half froze when we got home. Cat killed it’s mother……I couldn’t just leave it there Murdoch.”

“ I understand that son but one of the hands can take care of it out in the barn.”

“ I’ll take it out there for you Johnny.” Scott said.

“ No……I’ll do it.” Johnny snapped.

He and Scott still didn’t talk much. It wasn’t for lack of trying on Johnny’s part to forgive his brother for what he said. It was because now it seemed that Scott had a problem with him as his brother after reading the report. Standing up Johnny put on his coat he had laid near the fire to dry out. Picking the calf up he headed to the door.

“ I don’t think he and I will ever get along sir.”

“ Have you talked to him about the report and what you read?”

“ No sir.”

“ I think maybe the two of you should go out alone and get this settled between you.”

“ I would like that…He’s been here eight months and the last four we have hardly been brothers.”

Spring came and the snow in the high country began melting off.  The cat claimed three more cows before Scott came upon it at it’s last kill and shot it. A big male, the biggest he had seen in the valley.

Inventory had been taken on the supplies needed to build the bridge and Murdoch and Johnny went into Moro Coyo  to pick up what would be needed. The sky was blue and the air crisp. Flowers were in bloom and the birds sang as father and son entered town. Stopping the team outside the mercantile both men got down.

“ Son why don’t you go ahead and get started with the loading while I go take care of some business at the bank?” Murdoch suggested.

“ Yeah…sure…..How about I buy you a beer when we’re done?.”

“ I’d like that……I’ll meet you at the saloon.” Murdoch said as he patted his son on the back before walking away.

Johnny went inside and seen a man stocking canned goods. A woman, probably his wife was helping some ladies with fabric.

“ What do you want?” the owner asked in a not so friendly manner.

Johnny knew people wouldn’t like him being in the valley. His kind was never welcomed unless they were needed then they were prompted to leave discretely after. Keeping his cool he answered the man.

“ I’m here to pick up the lumber ordered for Lancer. I also have a list of things our cook needs.” he said taking out the list and laying it on the counter.

The man walked over and snatched the list up. “ I’ll fill this for * you * this time. But you tell Lancer that he better send someone else next time………i don’t want you in my store……Understand me boy?”

Johnny leaned over the counter and grabbed the man by his shirt. “ Mister…….I am Murdoch Lancer’ son and I’ll come in this store and buy supplies any time I wish…….Now unless you want to lose business.” Johnny said with firmness.

“ Don’t come in here and threaten me Killer…….we don’t want you in our valley. I don’t care if you are Murdoch Lancer’ * son * as you say.” the man said back as sweat rolled down his face.

“ Mister I’m going to take the team around back and start loading it up…….You better think real hard about how you address me from now on.” Johnny said as he let go of the mans shirt. Glancing at the women he tipped his hat to them and walked out.

“ You’re lucky we don’t have a sheriff in this town yet because I would have you arrested for assaulting me.”

Johnny stopped and turned around at the door. “ If I assault you mister, you’ll know it because your wife there would be going for the doc.”

An hour later Johnny walked into the Red Dog saloon and glanced around. Spotting his father at the bar he walked over.

“ Son…..bring a couple cold beers over Jim.” Murdoch ordered. “ You get all the supplies loaded?”

“ Yeah.” Johnny answered choosing not to tell him about the strife he encountered with the store owner.

Jim brought over only one cold beer and sat it down in front of Murdoch.

“ I said two cold beers Jim.”

“ I heard you Murdoch……..I don’t serve his kind in my saloon…….if he wants something to drink he can go outside and get it from the horse trough.”

“ Now wait a minute…… got no call to talk to my son like that.”

“ This is my saloon and I can talk to him any damn way I choose………….You don’t like it then don’t come in here with him again.”

“ Forget it Murdoch……….let’s go.” Johnny said placing a hand on his fathers arm.

Walking outside the two men stopped. “ I’m sorry son………he had no call to talk to you like that.”

Johnny ignored his father as he watched a man intently walking toward them.

Murdoch followed his sons stare. “ You know that man son?” he asked.

“ Yeah.”

“ Well well well if it isn’t Johnny Madrid………..I’m sure glad to find you * still * alive boy.”

“ Yeah I just bet you are Dakota.”

“ You know mister you might want to think about getting yourself someone else for whatever you hired Madrid here for.”

Murdoch went to speak but Johnny stepped in front of him. “ Why’s that?’ he asked with Madrid in full play now.

Murdoch could sense his son didn’t want the man to know who he was. Fighting back the urge to be a father and speak up he let his son handle the man.

“ Oh I think you know why.” Dakota said before walking past and into the saloon.

Johnny stepped down and started toward the wagon after he watched Dakota disappear inside.

“ Who is that man son?” Murdoch asked as he climbed up into the wagon.

Johnny released the brake and slapped the reins getting the horses moving.

“ Someone I should have killed two years ago.”  was all he said.

“ You the reason he has one arm son?”

The look Johnny gave his father gave him his answer. The two rode back to Lancer quiet. Murdoch would glance at his son once in a while and could tell trouble was brewing. Trouble would come with the one armed man, he could feel it.

That night Johnny was quiet at supper. His father and Scott talked about the start of building the bridge and the cows ready to calve. Murdoch told Scott about the saloon incident and it was then Johnny spoke up.

“ He ain’t the only one…….The store owner don’t want me coming in there any more either.”

Scott took a sip of his wine. “ I thought I fought in the war to end prejudice?”

“ Not if you’re a halfbreed Scott……..My kind will never be accepted…..You see I get it from both sides….Always have.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ I’m not very hungry……I think I’ll turn in early tonight. I want to get an early start on that bridge tomorrow.”

“ Alright son.” Murdoch answered as he glanced at Scott.

“ Something else happened in town today didn’t it sir?”

“ Yes.” Murdoch answered then proceeded to tell Scott about the man with one arm.

“ Do you think he will ever be able to live in peace sir?’ Scott asked.

“ I hope so son…….he wants to but his past won’t let him.”

Johnny led Barranca out of the barn the next morning and took  notice of a rider coming in. To early for a hand since the sun was barely up his hand went to his colt then on his thigh as a smile came across his face.

Murdoch and Scott had just walked out of the house when they noticed Johnny’s reaction to the rider coming in.

“ Billy Jenks what the devil are you doing here?” Johnny asked as he got down from Barranca.

“ Well I thought I would come look up a friend.” Billy answered as he stopped his horse and got down.

“ Where’ Toby?” Johnny asked as the two shook hands.

“ Toby got killed Johnny two months ago……A drunk shot him down when he came out of the saloon after making the man leave.”

“ Damn Billy……I’m sorry.”

Murdoch and Scott walked up to the two.

“ Murdoch….Scott you remember Billy Jenks don’t you?”

“ Of course we do son……I heard what you said about your brother……..I’m sorry.” Murdoch said.

“ Billy……why don’t you take him inside brother I’ll get the men started on the bridge.” Scott suggested.

“ Uh Murdoch we could use another good man around here couldn’t we?’ Johnny asked as he watched Scott walk toward the barn.

“ Why yes we could son…….that is if Billy wants to work for us?”

“ How about it Billy……..pays a dollar a day and the works hard but the food’s  the best in the valley.”

“ Thanks Johnny…..Mister Lancer…..I’d like that.” Billy answered.

“ You ate breakfast?”

“ Yeah beans and hardtack.”

“ Well then lets get you a fresh horse and you can start work. You can ride with me and Scott up to where we are putting in a new bridge.”

“ Sounds good.” Billy said with a smile.

A week passed and the new bridge was done. Murdoch was proud of how hard both his boys had worked, especially Johnny. He would be up and gone with Billy before sunup, Murdoch would hear them leave and have Scott take the two something to eat. With tomorrow being Saturday and payday Murdoch knew the boys would be wanting to go into town for a cold beer and whatever else they wanted.

“ Johnny….Scott.” Murdoch called as his boys came into the grand room. “ Johnny I need you to check the south pasture fence. One of Aggie’ hands came by and said some of our cows were on her land.”

“ Sure…Can I eat some lunch first?”

“ Yes son you can eat some lunch.” Murdoch responded with a grin. “ Fix what you can if it is down and make note of what you will need to replace that stretch.”

“ Okay….You sending me alone?”

“ Well if you need someone to hold your hand brother I’d be glad to come along.” Scott said with a laugh, hoping to get a joking response back.

“ I think I can handle a stretch of wire brother.” Johnny said as he hit Scott in the shoulder playfully.

“ Scott I need you to take a draft to the bank for me……My back’s bothering me today so I don’t really feel like the ride.”

“ Why not let Johnny do it sir?”

“ Because he don’t trust me with his money.” Johnny said jokingly.

“ No son that’s not true…….I just….”

“ Just what Murdoch?…….Your banker friend tell you what the store owner told me?………That I ain’t welcome in this valley and he don’t want me in his bank?”

Murdoch didn’t respond.

“ Hey it’s alright old man……I’ve been treated that way my whole life…Why should here be any different?…….I’ll see ya tonight.”

“ I thought you wanted to eat lunch first?”

“ Changed my mind…….I’ll see ya.” Johnny responded as he walked out.

“ Damn it all….I want that boy to feel welcomed here…..not run off from his own home because people want to be prejudice.”

“ You know the year is almost up sir.”

“ I know son….I know……I have to tell you I’m scared I’m going to lose that boy again.”

“ That makes two of us……..I’ll be back in time for supper.” Scott said as he headed out.

Murdoch stood there and watched his youngest come out of the barn leading a big bay. Barranca received a stone bruise and was receiving some much deserved rest and pampering from Johnny whenever he could. The bay was a good choice, Johnny had rode her before and liked how she worked cows. One thing Murdoch had noticed with his youngest, he had a way with animals.

Murdoch watched as his two son’s exchanged words about something before his youngest swung up in the saddle.

“ Johnny hold on a minute.” Scott said.

Johnny stopped and checked his cinch to make sure the mare hadn’t held her breath when he saddled her. “ What’s on your mind brother?”

“You…….Look the year is almost up and well…….”

“ And you’re wondering if I’m going to stay on here or ride out right?”

“ Yeah I am………..Look I know we still don’t know each other as brothers or even friends Johnny, but I want to. I want to know you.”

“ You read that report, you know me.”

“ I don’t give a damn about that report Johnny………It’s the past…I’m talking about * your * future. I don’t want you to leave Lancer and end up with a bullet in you and you dying out there alone with nobody to care for you.”

“ I don’t want that either Scott but my past isn’t the past……It comes back and as long as I’m alive it always will…..Someone will show up and try and kill me…..Oh it may be a week, a month, year or more but you can bet that until I am dead my past won’t go away.”

“ So are you going to stay?”

“ I don’t know……….As I told the old man Johnny Lancer died years ago……only Johnny Madrid is alive.”

“I don’t believe that….I think if you really try hard you can bring Johnny Lancer back……..I’m not saying for Johnny Madrid to die……..I’m saying you can retire him so to speak and * be * Johnny Lancer…..that is until your past shows up, then you could be Madrid.”

“ Were’d you say you went to college?”

“ Harvard….why?”

“ And that’s where?”

“ Boston, Massachusetts.” Scott responded wondering where his brother was going with this.

“ Okay * Boston dandy *.” Johnny said with a smile. “ I can’t give you an answer yet.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle and rode out.

Scott stood there watching his brother ride away. ‘ Boston dandy ‘ he had called him. With a smile his brother had called him. Would today be the start of two brothers, strangers really starting down a road to friendship and trust that two brothers should have? Glancing at the house, Scott noticed his father had been watching the two. Smiling he turned and headed into the barn to get his horse.

“ Your brother should have been back by now.” Murdoch said.

“You think he had trouble with the cattle sir?”

“ I don’t know son………something is wrong though. I can feel it.”

“ It’ll be dark in an hour…..You want me to ride out and see if he needs help?”

Murdoch walked over to the french doors and looked out. “ It would be dark by the time you got out there…….There’s no moon tonight.”

“ So what do we do then?………Wait and have him out there injured needing our help?”

Murdoch turned around and could see the worry on his oldest sons face. “ Go saddle two horses up….We”ll take some lanterns with us.”

 “ Yes sir.” Scott said as he hurried out the door to the barn.

Johnny limped along hoping to find the mare. “ Stupid damn cow.” he said aloud. “ Wasn’t trying to hurt your damn calf.”

Riding back to the ranch after fixing the fence the best he could and getting the strays back on Lancer land, Johnny had come upon a cow who’s calf was stuck in mud. Knowing he couldn’t pull the calf out with a rope he got down and looked at the mother who was tossing her head around and bellowing at her calf. Treading into the mud knee deep he got the calf and about two feet from dry land the calf bellowed and the mother charged Johnny before he could do anything hitting him hard in his right leg with her horn. The stupid cow then went after his horse and spooked her off when her horn connected with the mares left flank. Crawling out of the mud cursing he quickly checked his leg relieved to find the horn hadn’t went thru his leather pants. Stopping and wiping the sweat from his brow Johnny sat down and with what little light was left in the sky he checked his leg again and found it swelled and a dark bruise was already present on his thigh.

Scott and Murdoch stopped their horses. In the distance they could make out a riderless horse grazing. Riding cautiously up to it they found it to be the mare Johnny rode out on. Scott got down and checked her over. Finding the mare okay he took up the reins.

“ His rifle and canteen are here.” he said as he remounted his horse.

“ Something happened……..Your brother wouldn’t have let the mare get away from him……..he knows better than that.” Murdoch said with concern.

Scott took out his pistol and fired a single shot. When a rider worked alone out on the range and needed help he was to fire three shots signaling anyone within hearing.

Johnny heard a shot and took out his colt and fired three shots seconds apart knowing it was someone looking for him. A few minutes later he could hear horses hooves and make out what appeared to be lanterns. Firing one more shot to let them know just where he was Johnny stood up and started limping toward the riders. Surprised to find it his brother * and * father who searched for him. Seeing the mare with them he sighed relief that she wasn’t hurt by the cows horn.

“ Hey brother you loose something?” Scott asked as he reined in.

“ Not by choice…….Is she okay?” he asked as he stopped and about fell down from the pain in his thigh.

“ Yes she is….what happened son?” Murdoch asked seeing his son was in pain.

Scott got down and helped his brother over to the mare as johnny told them what happened.

“ Let’s get you home and get that leg checked out.” Murdoch said with concern in his voice.

“ It’s alright.” Johnny said between clenched teeth, biting back the pain as he got on the mare. “ She didn’t break the skin, just hit me hard……..Guess she thought I was hurting her calf.”

“ Well I’ll send a hand to have Sam come out at first light if I think that leg will wait till then son.”

Sam came down stairs the next morning and set his bag down on the table.

“ How is it Sam?” Murdoch asked.

“ May I have a cup of coffee?”

“ Yes of course Sam……How about something to eat as well since we drug you out here so early?”

“ That would be fine………His leg will be sore for a spell…..The swelling should start to go down in a day or two…….I told him to stay off it for at least a week.”

“ I bet he wasn’t to thrilled with that.” Scott added.

“ No he wasn’t but he gave me his word he would follow my orders. I told him that I do not want him trying to come down those stairs alone that leg could give out on him…….he then said a few choice words about a certain cow and her calf and thanked me then went to sleep.”

“ Well if you both will excuse me I think I’ll take a couple hands and ride out and check that fence line again.”

“ Alright son.”

“ So how’s it going between the two of you?” Sam asked after taking a sip of coffee and sitting down. Maria placed a plate of food before him. “ Thank you Maria. This smells delicious.”

“ Da nada doctor…..Juanito he be fine?” she asked.

“ Yes his leg will be with rest.”

“ Good…..I will fix him a plate and take it to him.”

“He’s sleeping right now.” Sam added.

“ Ah bueno I will make him a good lunch then.” she said before heading to the kitchen.

Sam looked at Murdoch. “ So.”

“ We have our ups and downs Sam but we are both trying……I just wish I knew if he was going to stay or not……..Scott asked him yesterday.”

“ And what did he say?”

“ He didn’t really……..I don’t want to loose him again Sam.”

“ Well I think the two of you have come a long way since that night he and Teresa……”

“ Yes we have.”

“ Have you heard from her at all?”

“ Not since Scott received the wire telling that she arrived there………..Sam have you noticed a man with one arm around Moro Coyo?”

“ Rides a black and white paint?……….yes why?”

“ I think he’s here to try and kill Johnny.” Murdoch said then told Sam what little he knew about the man and how Johnny knew him.

“ Johnny knows he’s here?”

“ Yes.” Murdoch stated then told Sam about meeting the man in town.

“ He’s been asking around town why Johnny Madrid is here………You do know he may find out that he’s your son and not here on a job.”

“ I know……..I haven’t pushed it with him……..I want him to be able to relax here and * not * have to wear that damn gun all the time.”

“ There’s a church social next weekend, why don’t you and Scott bring Johnny to it so people can meet him?”

“ And have them treat him like they did here last year?” Murdoch said with anger. “ My son has already been treated badly by the store owner and the saloon refused to serve him………..Hell the bank doesn’t even want him coming in there.”

“ Murdoch surely you didn’t expect the people of this valley to welcome him with open arms…….He’s Johnny Madrid and as sorry as I am to say this to you his reputation as a gunfighter scares them.”

“ He’s my son Sam. I will not stand for people being prejudice against him for what he did in the past to stay alive…….I did enough of that when he came back here.”

“ Well I suggest you keep doing what you are Murdoch…….Being his father and to hell with everyone else…………But you do realize that people won’t be able to know him as your son if he doesn’t socialize   with them……….Not everyone hates him.”

“ I don’t know Sam…….I’ll talk to him about it……It’s got to be his choice.”

“ Alright…well I need to get going on my rounds……I’ll stop by next week and check his leg again.”

“ Okay Sam…Thanks.” Murdoch said as he walked his friend out.

                                                                 Chapter 17

“ I thought you were going to follow my orders young man?…………What are you doing sitting in that chair clear across your room?”

“ He is Sam.” Murdoch said as he came in behind the doctor. “ His brother and I helped him over to it.”

“ Yeah Sam…….I haven’t put any weight on it at all………..I told you I wouldn’t and I haven’t.”

“ Alright then……Murdoch why don’t you give us some privacy so I can check his leg?”

“ Stay for lunch Sam?” the patriarch asked.

“ I would love to but Mrs. Conway has a hand with a broken leg I need to check on.”

“ Alright.”

Johnny walked around the room with a slight limp for Sam. The bruising was still evident but starting to fade, the swelling was gone finally.

“ Okay……..Well I think you can start walking around on it more now John. Let’s see how you do going down the stairs with me to join your family for lunch.

Johnny smiled at the doctor. “ Thanks Sam.” he responded as the two headed for the stairs.

Taking it slow Johnny walked down with no trouble. Entering the kitchen he was greeted by Maria with a kiss on the cheek after sitting down.

“ Well he can as you can see walk on it now. I don’t want you riding yet Johnny for another week. Just take it slow and easy and the limp will go away.” Sam said as he headed out. “ Oh Murdoch have you asked him yet about the social?”

“ No Sam I haven’t.”

“ Well I’ll be seeing you.”

“ Give Aggie my best Sam.”

“ Ask me what?” Johnny asked as he dived into his plate of food.

“ Um son there is a church social next weekend and me and Scott will be going to it.”

“ And you want me to go along is that it?”

“ Yes………..I would like people to meet you and get to know you.”

“ After the way I was treated here at the barbecue you had and in town do you really think they will be any different to me old man?”

“ Not all people in this valley are bad John……You can’t hide on this ranch forever.”

“ Who say’s I’m hiding?……..Johnny Madrid don’t hide from no one but the Rurales.” he responded with a slight smile. “ There gonna be any pretty girls at this social?”

“ Yes I believe there will be son.”

“ You know…..I don’t much care for crowds…………but I don’t care for people telling me I can’t go some place more……….I’ll go with you.”

Murdoch looked at his oldest and smiled

“ I think I’ll go out and check on Barranca after lunch.”

“ He’s been took real good care of brother. I changed his bedding this morning.” Scott stated.

“ Thanks.” Johnny answered back.

Two hours later Johnny stood brushing Barranca. The bruise on on his right hind leg was gone now and after walking him around in the barn a little Johnny decided that another week of rest wouldn’t hurt his friend.

‘ You like it here don’t you boy?” he asked the stallion as he came around to the front and scratched that special spot behind the ear.

Barranca pressed his head into Johnny’s chest and let out a sigh bringing a smile to Johnny’s face.

“ Yeah so do I amigo…..The old man’s not so bad…..he’s nothing like my mother told me he was like that’s for sure……..Course others in this valley don’t really want me here though……..What ya think…….should we stay?”

Barranca shook his head up and down and pawed at the barn floor with his right foot.

“ I’m looking for Johnny Madrid.” a man said riding a black and white paint.

Carlos looked at the man and seen he had no right arm and wore no gun. “ You know him?”

“ I’m an * old * friend you might say.” Dakota answered.

“ He’s in the barn.” Carlos answered.

Dakota got down and walked to the barn leaving his paint standing ground tied. Walking into the barn he spotted Madrid brushing a beautiful stallion. He also noticed Madrid was unarmed.

“ Hello Madrid.” he said coldly.

 Johnny stopped brushing his friend and looked at the man who spoke. Stepping away from Barranca.

“ What do you want Dakota?” he asked realizing he had come to the barn without his gun.

“ Why I just wanted to come see if what I was told in town was true Madrid…….or should I say Lancer?…………Here I thought you were working for that man you were with the other day and it turns out you’re his pup.” Dakota stated as he stepped closer. “ You know why I’m here Johnny……….I swore I would kill you for what you did to me.”

“ I could have killed you that day Dakota.”

“ You did in a sense breed…….that bullet cost me my right arm and I think it’s only fair that I pay you back……..I see you don’t have your gun on so this is going to be easier than I thought.”

Johnny glared at the man and wondered where the gun was Dakota had. He received his answer when a derringer slid into Dakota’ left hand.

Murdoch walked into the grand room and noticed a black and white paint standing in the yard outside the barn.

Grabbing a rifle he hurried outside and found Carlos. “ Where’s the man who rides that horse?”

“ He’s in the barn talking to senor Johnny.” Carlos answered.

Murdoch hurried to the barn hoping he wasn’t to late.  Entering the barn he seen the man had a gun pointed at his son.

“ Drop it.” he ordered as he chambered a round into the rifle.

“ You shoot me and I’ll still fire and kill your son.” Dakota said.

“ Drop it now.” Murdoch ordered.

Dakota glared at Johnny then finally let the pistol drop to the ground. Turning around he glared at Murdoch.

“ You’re only delaying his death……..I will kill him.”

“ You come anywhere near my son again and I will be the one killing you.” Murdoch said with firmness. “ Get off Lancer now.”

“ Sure………I can wait to kill you Madrid.” Dakota said as he walked past Murdoch and out to his horse.

“ You ever set foot on Lancer again and you’ll be leaving it laying across that saddle.”

Dakota mounted his horse. “ I’ll see you again Madrid.” he said before riding out.

Murdoch turned to his son. “ Are you alright?” he asked.

Johnny looked at him. “ Yeah thanks.” he said softly before walking to the house.

Murdoch watched his son walk away as Scott rode into the yard.

“ What happened?” he asked as he got down.

Murdoch told him how close they had possibly come to Johnny being killed. Both men headed to the house were they found Johnny at the side board pouring a drink.

“ A little early for that isn’t it son?” Murdoch asked calmly.

Johnny looked down at the bottle of tequila in his hand and then without warning threw it hitting just above the fireplace shattering it, sending shards of glass all over.

“ Easy son.” Murdoch said as he stepped cautiously to him.

“ Talk to us brother……..Why does that man want to kill you?”

Johnny shot him a cold hard look. “ Why the fuck do you think Scott?……..I’m the reason that sonofabitch doesn’t have his right arm…….I should have killed him two years ago.” he said as his anger grew and he flipped the side board over shattering the crystal decanters full of whiskey and scotch.

Johnny stop it.” Murdoch yelled.

Johnny glared at him a second then looked at the broken glass. “ Go to hell.” he said before heading to the front door were he grabbed his colt and strapped it on.

Murdoch moved fast for his size and grabbed his son’s arm gently but firmly to stop him.“ Son please don’t do this…..Let us help you.” he pleaded.

“ Help me……….Hell old man you and Scott you going to kill every man who shows up here wanting to kill me?”

Yes. If that’s what we have to do then Yes we will……..I lost you once son……i am not going to loose you again…….Not if I can help it….Now talk to us please.”

“ Look I appreciate the offer but………I need to be alone right now.”

“ Sam doesn’t want you riding a horse yet son.”

“ Yeah well I guess Sam will just have to be mad at me then…..I’ll see ya.”

“ Johnny.” Scott said.

“ Leave me be right now Scott………I’m sorry about the liquor…..I’ll replace it.” he said before walking out.

“ You going to let him leave?” Scott asked. “ What if he goes after this man?”

“ He won’t son……I think him being caught without his gun is what has him more upset…..He was relaxed enough here to not wear it out to the barn.”

“ And he should be………He shouldn’t have to wear his gun around the house here.” Scott said before he went to start cleaning up the broken glass.

Johnny saddled the mare and took her out. The way he was feeling right now, all mixed up inside he needed some space. Galloping out he let the mare have her head as the breeze blew on his face. Stopping  he got down carefully and dropped the reins so she could graze. Walking over to an old oak tree he sat down under it in the shade and looked out at the valley below. Lancer, one hundred thousand acres, the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley. West of him the San Benito mountains rose up, beyond them the ocean.

Sitting there looking out at what could be his future he thought back to the lies his mother told him when he was old enough and started asking about his father.

( Flash back )

“ He does not want us Juanito….He threw us out of his big house.” Maria told her then six year old son Johnny.

“ Why mama? Did I do something wrong to make him not want me?”

“ Yes……….you were born and you were born with blue eyes…….You are a halfbreed…a mestizo my son and he has no room for you in his life. He only wants his perfect gringo son.”

“ I have a brother?”

“ No…..Now I want you to stop asking me about him do you understand me?” Maria said firmly as she grabbed Johnny’s arm and jerked him to her. “ If you ever speak of that gringo again I will beat you….Do you understand me?”

“ Si mama.” Johnny told her. When she let go of his arm he received a slap across the face. Bolting from the shack to the cave he had found just outside town.

“ Some day I will meet this gringo father and I will kill him.” A blue eyed six year old boy vowed that day and every day since. That is until almost a  year ago.

( Present day )

Johnny jerked awake and looked around. The sun was setting behind the mountains and the sky was red with gold in just the right spots to make it more beautiful than he had ever seen. Getting up he walked over to the mare and after checking the cinch mounted up and headed back to the ranch. After taking care of the mare and giving Barranca some attention Johnny headed inside. He knew he had missed dinner and wasn’t hungry any ways.

Murdoch looked up from reading his paper as he stepped down into the room. “ Son……Maria kept a plate warm for you in the kitchen.”

“ I’m not hungry.” Johnny answered as he looked at the now empty side board. “ Guess you both want some answers about my past huh?”

“ No son…….we just want to know about this man who came here to kill you and why.”

“ Actually sir.” Scott said as he stood up. “ I would like to know about Johnny’s past beyond reading it from some Pinkerton report…….I think you owe us that Johnny.”

“ I don’t owe you anything Boston……My past is just that, * my * past…….What do you want to know Scott?……How many men I’ve killed or maybe how many men I’ve murdered huh?”

“ No brother that’s not it………..What I want to know is the lies your mother told you……………I’ve told you a lot about me and my childhood, the war and college but you, damn it Johnny I’m your brother…i want you to talk to me……I want us to be able to share things that only brothers can do.”

“ It don’t matter what she told me Scott….not any more because I know they were all lies……Look I know the year I promised you is almost up and you’re both wondering if I’m going to stay here or leave so this is what I’m saying before I go up to bed. I want the two of you to think real hard on what my staying here  could bring and at the end of the week on the last day of that year I promised I want your answer…..Not before then……..I don’t want spoke to of this again until that time.” Johnny said firmly.

“ What about Dakota son?”

“As far as Dakota goes……I’ll kill him…..I should have two years ago when I walked in on him cutting a whore up in Cordova but I didn’t. I shot him in his arm and shattered the bone. I knew it would and I wanted him to be scarred like she would be the rest of his life.”

Johnny and Scott rounded up cows and calves for branding the next three days. Saturday night came and Scott tried to get Johnny to go into town for a beer but his brother wouldn’t. Johnny elected to stay at Lancer and play chess with his father. Sixteen years without a father in his life was to long, and never knowing when the final bullet would come he wanted to know all he could about his father. Questions ran through his mind that he felt he couldn’t ask with his brother present. Questions he didn’t know if his father would answer.

“ Is there a reason you didn’t want to go to town tonight son?” Murdoch asked as he study the board.

Johnny looked at him. “ Just didn’t feel like it is all…..Wanted to stay here with you…….I need……I think we need to have a talk.”

Murdoch looked up at his son. “ Alright……what’s on your mind son?”

Johnny leaned back and let out a sigh, running a hand thru his hair. “ You.”

“ Me?”

“ Yeah you and my mother.”

Murdoch had hoped they would have a father son talk, he just wasn’t prepared for his youngest to ask about his mother and him.

“ What about us?”

“ She didn’t tell me anything about you. How you met, how long before you got married to her and where.”

“ I see……..Well why don’t we finish this game and since it’s such a lovely night we could go sit out on the veranda with a couple drinks……That is if it’s alright with you son?”

“ Checkmate.” Johnny said as he claimed his fathers king.”

Murdoch looked at the board then his son. “ It would seem so……..Come on son.” he said as he stood up.

Scott and Billy sat at a table drinking a beer when Dakota walked in. Scott had never seen the man but Billy had. Leaning over closer to Scott he said.

“ That man was in Douglas a while back looking for Johnny…….He goes by the name Dakota.”

“ Is that so?” Scott responded as he watched the man walk up to the bar and order a beer.

“ Toby told me he lost his arm because of a bullet Johnny put in him down in Mexico…….He’s bad news and even though he only has one arm he’s still deadly fast at his draw.”

“ He isn’t wearing a gun.”

“ He carries a derringer up his left arm Toby told me. Said he seen him use it against a man once…….Scott if he’s here then he must know Johnny’s here.”

“ He does…….He was at the ranch a few days ago going to kill Johnny in the barn but our father stopped him.”

“ Hey Lancer.” Dakota yelled. Everyone in the bar got quiet. “You tell Madrid that I will kill him…and his old man or you will not be able to stop me……..You tell him that.” Dakota said before downing his beer.

Scott stood up and Billy grabbed his arm to stop him. Jerking his arm free Scott walked up behind Dakota. “ My brother told us why he shot you……..If it was me I would have killed you right then.”

Dakota turned around. “ Is that so……..Did he tell you why I cut up that whore?”

“ I don’t care what she did to you…….Nobody deserves to be cut up and scared for life like you did her.”

“ I see you’re wearing a gun Lancer……You anything like Madrid…oh excuse me…Lancer I mean.”

“ I’m not a gunfighter but I know how to use it yes.”

“ Yeah……..I’ll keep that in mind.” Dakota said as he stepped up to Scott. “ You never know I just might kill you just so Madrid will come after me to play.” he said before walking out.

Scott turned and watched the man walk out as Billy stepped over to him.

“ That brother of yours is nothing but trouble for this valley…..The best thing Murdoch Lancer could do is make him leave……..We don’t need no halfbreed killer living here.” Slim said.

Scott walked over and grabbed the bartender by the shirt. “ My brother was born here and he has a right to live here……..You ever call him a halfbreed again and you’ll find yourself swallowing your teeth.” Scott said firmly before shoving the man back. Turning he walked over to the door and turned back to the patrons. “ My brother is not  a cold blooded killer and if you people would bother to take the time and get to know him you would see that but no you want to be prejudice and spiteful to him……Just remember you can’t judge a book by it’s cover…..He did what he had to do to stay alive in Mexico and I am proud to have him as my brother.” Scott stated firmly before turning and walking out.

Murdoch sat looking out at the evening sky. “ Mind if I ask where you went the other day son?”

“ Up there.” Johnny answered, pointing to the hill. “ The view from up there can help when a person needs to do  some serious thinking.”

“ I know……That’s the hill I was on when I first seen this place. When I brought your mother home she fell in love with it from up there also.” the patriarch began. “ I was in Matamoros when I first seen Maria…..She was a beautiful woman and I couldn’t help but wonder how such a woman ended up in a town like that. We seen each other a short time while I was down there and I had to come back here…. I returned two months later and………”

“ And found she was pregnant with me?” Johnny stated.

“ Yes son…..I married her and brought her here to Lancer were I thought she was happy…….I guess I was wrong about that though……A ranch this size is time consuming to run and I guess I didn’t spend enough time with her……When you were born seven months later.” Murdoch had to stop and get his emotions in check.

Johnny glanced at his father and knew these memories were hard on him to talk about. “ I’m sorry……It’s just that I need answers and only you can give me them.”

“ It’s alright son…….That first time I held you was the second best day of my life. The first being your brother………I spent every second I could with you showing you off. Scott….he was just as proud I think because he had a little brother he could protect and teach.”

“ So you and my mother married in Mexico?”

“ Yes son…….There is something you need to know about your mother…….I don’t know if she ever told you this……I found out when searching for you.”

“ What?” Johnny asked softly.

“ Your mother told me she was an orphan…..Well I found out that that was not true…….She was the only daughter of a Don Luis Del A Vega a very prominent well respected man in Mexico.”

“ Del A Vega?”

“ You know him son?”

“ He summoned me to his estancia once………wanted me to do a job for him or so I was told. When I got there I learned differently. He started asking me a bunch of questions about my mother at dinner and I thought it was a little odd that a man of his stature would have me in his home for supper……I guess you could say I didn’t like what he was asking and left the next morning.”

“ He’s your Grandfather son…………I think that if he is still alive that maybe he would like to know you some maybe.”

“ Yeah well he’d have to come here because I can’t go back to Mexico……I’m wanted dead down there by the Rurales as well as other gunfighters.”

“ Son did she ever tell you why she left and took you with her?”

Johnny leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “ She said you threw us out……Said that you didn’t want a halfbreed son running around…….That you only married her so you wouldn’t have a bastard child…………I hated you so much from the time I was six I vowed I would kill you whenever I got the chance for what you did to her…….My whole life I hated you * Pa *  because of the lies she told me.” Johnny said with a quiver in his voice.

Sitting there listening to his son Murdoch knew Johnny was going to stay at Lancer…..He knew it in his heart.

“ I loved her Johnny………Taking her to bed out of wedlock was wrong son but I want you to know that you were and are wanted by me. I don’t want to loose you again if I don’t have to.”

Horses could be heard coming into the yard. Looking up Johnny seen his brother and Billy. “ You’re back early brother…….What’s the matter the women in town not pay you any attention?’ he said with a grin.

“ Actually brother I came back because of Dakota.” Scott said as he got down and handed his horse off to Billy. “ He’s spreading it around town that he’s going to kill you…….Getting the towns folks riled up.”

“ Yeah he even said he might kill Scott just to get at you Johnny.” Billy added before leading the horses away.

Scott could tell he had come back at the wrong time, that Johnny and Murdoch were having a father son talk, but he felt his brother needed to know what Dakota was up to. “ Billy’ going to tell the men tomorrow to keep an eye out for Dakota’ paint on Lancer land……That man fully intends on killing you brother.”

“ Let him try.” Johnny said before turning and walking back in the house.

Murdoch looked at his oldest. “ Maybe until this is over you and your brother should stay close.”

“ We have cattle to round up and move sir……Calves to brand, fences to mend.” Scott stated back.

“ I know that son but……..”

“ But nothing sir….I for one am not going to hide from this man and I know Johnny will not.”

“ I think your brother wants to stay here son……We had a good talk tonight……he got the answers he was looking for I think and more.”

“ More sir?”

“ Yes…..maybe some day he’ll tell you but until then son…….don’t ask.”

“ I see……well I think I will have a night cap then turn in…..Care to join me?”

“ I’d like that son.” Murdoch said as the two walked into the house and found Johnny headed for the stairs.

“ I’m going to turn in now…….Thanks Mur……Pa.” he said before heading upstairs.

Murdoch glowed with pride and smiled. “ That’s twice he called me Pa tonight.” he told Scott as he headed to the sideboard.

Tonight bridges had been crossed and a relationship between father and son got stronger. Tonight Murdoch Lancer got to hear the one word he had wanted to hear his youngest say to him for sixteen years. Tonight was the third best night of his life.

                                                                  Chapter 18

Dakota watched thru the spy glass keeping to the shadows so the sun wouldn’t catch the glass. Smiling as his plan came formed on how to draw Madrid out. How to make Madrid screw up and give him the edge he would need to kill the gunfighter. He studied each possibility and came to the conclusion on who he would take.

You can learn a lot about someone’s habits if you watch them enough or in Dakota’ case, a little not so friendly persuasion and the saloon owner was glad to give it up for him, especially since it would mean the death of Johnny Madrid.

Johnny and Scott worked hard rounding up cows and calves and  branding them. Neither men aware they were watched the better part of the morning from the time they left the house until they stopped for lunch.

“ Johnny.” Scott started.

 “Yeah Boston.”

Scott smiled. “ I need you to know something little brother and I mean what I’m going to say with all my heart.”

Johnny just looked at him as he finished off his sandwich.

“ No matter what happens……what you decide I want you to know I am proud to have you as my brother…..I would want no other.”

“ You’re not so bad yourself Scott….I know you don’t know a lot about me or my past……There are some things that you don’t want to know but……..’

“ It’s alright…..I understand brother….I have things in my past from the war and when in Boston that our father will never hear from me about…………..A man is entitled to his privacy Johnny but just keep this in mind would you……..As long as you are here at Lancer I will always have your back no matter what.”

“ You may regret saying that……..I don’t trust easy you know that but………..I would trust you and the old man if need be.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to tighten Barranca’ cinch.

“ Back to work I guess.” Scott said as he got up knowing he would get no more from his brother right now. “ Just think Johnny, we get to round all the calves up again at six months and castrate them.”

“ Yeah well I guess we’ll eat good then huh?” he asked with a grin.

“ So you’ve eaten them before?”

“ Yeah in Mexico.” he answered before riding away.

“ You are a mystery little brother.” Scott said before mounting up and following his brother.

Murdoch rode out of Moro Coyo headed back to the ranch. Tom Richardson his attorney  would start the  papers  that would hopefully make Johnny stay and splitting the ranch into thirds. He hoped his youngest would stay and when he reached his majority, sign the papers and become part owner of Lancer. What the Lancer patriarch didn’t know as he rode home was a storm was brewing and his youngest would face the hardest challenge of his life. A challenge that would play dearly in his decision to stay or leave, to have a future or be gunned down, gunned down by another man just because that man wanted the reputation his youngest so desperately wanted to leave behind.

Johnny had agreed to go to the church social dance, which surprised him. The big man had noticed his youngest hadn’t been going into town seeking the comfort of the saloon girls since Teresa had left. Could it be his boy was starting to settle down and not be so wild? Only time and patience could and would tell. Murdoch knew his oldest son had a lot of influence on Johnny and how he behaved now. The boy wasn’t using that foul language as much as he had. Oh he still had a mouth on him, as any boy his age would, but he was changing.

Meals were now going peacefully with the three. Johnny was even showing up on time even though breakfast was still a challenge for him. Murdoch knew his son having run wild all this time with no set schedule or rules was still having a hard time adjusting to a life of rules. A life were when he got out of bed in the mornings it wasn’t to possibly kill someone but to do an honest days work for an honest days pay.

Johnny leaned against the back of the church watching the people talk and some dance. Murdoch had introduced him to several others from the valley he had not met at the barbecue months earlier. Aggie Conway, a widow about his fathers age seemed to be nice enough. Her ranch adjacent to Lancer, about half the size ran some good cattle as well as horses. Her men respected her, which given the time a woman running a ranch was a rarity in it’s self. Watching his older brother talk with a couple of young ladies about his age he couldn’t help but start to regret coming to the dance. Three of the ranchers daughters had turned him down on dancing, saying they did not consort with killers regardless of who their father was.

Scott looked over and seen his little brother was not having a good time he politely excused himself from the ladies and walked over.

“ Why don’t you ask one of the girls to dance brother? This is a church social and dance after all.”

Johnny looked at him. “ Because I don’t meet their standards to dance with brother.” he responded.

“ Don’t be silly……..How do you know if you don’t ask them brother?”

“ I did ask brother……look I’m a halfbreed and him being my old man don’t make a damn bit of difference.”

Scott could tell by the tone in his voice Johnny was irritated and not happy. “ So you just gonna stand here and not socialize?”

“ I learned my lesson a long time ago Boston about when I’m not wanted.  I don’t plan on changing now, not for you and not for any man in this valley.”

“ Well I do hate to be the bearer of bad news Johnny, but you have changed…..You may not realize it but you have in the year you have been here.”

“ Yeah okay, whatever you say Scott…..Look I’m gonna head back to Lancer and check on that mare, she’s gonna foal soon so I want to make sure she’s alright.”

“ We have hands that could do that Johnny. Murdoch won’t be to pleased with you if you leave.”

Johnny stepped away from the building. “ Did you notice what the sermon was today Scott?”

“ Yes I believe we all did…….Why?”

“ It was because of me being there Scott…..The padre don’t like me and kept looking right at me when he would talk about hell and killing…..I already accepted death and I know I’m going to hell for what I’ve done……” Johnny stopped short as the man in question walked over.

“ So you are Johnny Madrid?” he stated more than asked. “ I have heard of you…….Your kind is not welcome in my church.”

“ Yeah and just what kind is that……Padre?” Johnny retorted back.

“ You know what kind.”

“ No Padre why don’t you enlighten me?”

“ Alright.” the padre said as he glanced at Scott. “ The kind who takes another mans life for the sole purpose of money…….You and your kind are the devil.”

“ Fallen angels brought down from heaven to do the devils work. Is that it Padre?” Johnny asked stepping closer to the man.

“ I am not intimidated by you one bit Madrid……..You have no soul…if you did you would not wear that gun.”

“ This gun is what has kept me alive Padre…..If you got a problem with that then I suggest you walk away now while you still can.”

“ Okay brother……Padre I think you should leave my brother be now….he’s done nothing wrong.”

“ Good people of Moro Coyo hear me now……We have a wolf amongst us. A wolf trying to hide in my flock of sheep.” the Padre yelled.

Murdoch and everyone turned and looked. He could see both his sons standing with the padre. His youngest he could see was angry.

“ Padre.” Murdoch yelled as he hurried over. “ You have no call talking about my son like that……Johnny is a good man and has done nothing wrong in this valley.”

“ Your * son * will bring death to this valley…….His kind always do……Mark my words he is death.”

“ He is my son and I will not have you or anyone else talk about him like that……You are a man of god and supposed to……..”

“ I am supposed to help those souls who need it……..I do not help those who do the devils work.”

Johnny had heard enough. Turning he started to walk away when something the Padre said stopped him in his tracks.

“ I know how you murdered a man when only a child…….How you got your mother killed.”

Turning back around Johnny stepped up to the Padre. “ If I were you Padre I would shut my mouth…..unless you want all these * good * people to know what you did in Mexico…..Yeah that’s right I was only a child but I have a real good memory. Especially for those who hurt me.”

This statement drew both Murdoch and Scott’ full attention.

“ What are you talking about son?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny looked at him a second then back at the Padre. “ Ask your good Padre here how just because I’m a mestizo, how he would beat me, lock me in a closet or go without food for days on end because he claims he knew I was the son of the devil.”

“ He speaks lies……..I have never hurt a child.”

“ No…..I bet if we wanted to we could find out real quick why you no longer serve a church in Mexico.”

The Padre glanced around at the people gathered around before turning and walking into his church.

I know there are some of you who don’t want my son here…….Well I’m here to tell you that Lancer is his home and he has a right to live in this valley, and any man who says others will answer to me.” Murdoch stated firmly.

“ I’m not worth it old man.” Johnny said before turning and walking away.

A short time later people headed home, some upset with what happened and some in wonder if what Johnny had said about the Padre was true. Murdoch and Scott let Johnny be knowing he would want some time alone and headed back to Lancer. Murdoch didn’t want to leave his son alone with Dakota out there somewhere gunning for him but he knew his son was hurting emotionally right now. His anger boiled when he heard what Scott told him that the Padre had said to Johnny and why Johnny didn’t dance with any of the young ladies.

Madrid sat on the bank in the shade of the stream that ran east of town. How could his father and brother expect him to stay in a place where people hated him. Where men who until he came there were his fathers friend and did business with Lancer. Several had already refused to any longer, saying it was bad for their business to associate with a known killer. Turning at the sound of footsteps, colt in hand.

“ Mind if I join you?” a female voice asked.

Glancing around Johnny put the colt away and turned back to look out over the water.

“ Don’t let them bother you.” she said as she sat down next to him.

“ They don’t……..What do you want?”

“ Well I couldn’t help but notice you were alone most of the dance and I was going to ask you to dance but the Padre kinda put a halt to that…….The pompous jackass.”

Johnny looked at her. She was about his age  he judged and had a very nice figure. Her corset pushed her breast out with cleavage enough to make any man look, only this wasn’t a saloon girl. No this girl was of fine social upbringing. “ So how come I never seen you around here before now?”

“ I’m Jessica…….Aggie Conway is my aunt…….I finished school and came to spend the summer with her.”

“ School?”

“ Yeah boarding school back east.”

Johnny and Jessica talked into the late afternoon.

“ Well it’s getting late……I can escort you home if you wish?” Johnny said.

“ Only if you’re not a gentleman about it.”

“ Excuse me?”

“ Oh I know all about you and how good you are with women Johnny…..Question is would you care to prove it to me?”

Johnny had hoped this girl would be different that the others but she wasn’t. Having a reputation with his colt he knew but now it seemed he also had one with his other gun as well.

“ And just how would you know that if you’ve been in boarding schools?”

“ Oh we girls have our way of knowing things.” she answered. “ I ran into a friend of yours…named Teresa and she talked about how she lost her innocents to you and how after she had treated you badly…It would seem that she is still in love with you.”

Hearing this shocked him a little. Teresa had treated him badly after he took her. Hearing, if true, how she was sorry for that surprised him, but just a little.

Having planned to pay a visit to a whore before heading home to satisfy his urge Johnny figured he might as well do it here with this girl. Taking her hand he led her down stream a little to a place  the brush would conceal  them from passers by. Stepping into the pocket Johnny pulled her to him and claimed her mouth hungrily as he put his hands on her breast and squeezed them through her blouse.

Dropping to their knees, both hungry for what was to come as the heat rose between them.

Undoing his gun belt and laying it aside as Jessica undid her blouse and pulled it out of her jeans. Johnny shucked his clothes before claiming her breast and sucking on them fiercely bringing a moan from her lips. Moving his mouth up he reclaimed hers as she lay back and wrapped her legs around him pressing her mound up against his hard shaft.

“ I’m not innocent if that’s what you think Madrid.” she told him as she reached down and took his shaft in her hand and guided the tip to her entrance and pressed up more.

Sexual hunger was what he felt right now. The need for release strong as he thrust into her hard and fast.

Jessica held on tight with her legs as Johnny drove deeper than the men before had ever been inside her.

Running her hands up and down his back before grabbing his ass and throwing her head back as she climaxed.

Madrid felt her muscles tighten around him as his own release started. Thrusting and grunting his seed spilled out as he raised up and squeezed his eyes shut from the pure ecstasy and thrill he always felt when he claimed another woman sexually.

“ Are you alright son?” Murdoch asked when his youngest walked into the house that evening.

Johnny smiled at him, after what he had just done with Aggie Conway’ niece the strife at the church social was forgotten.

“ Yeah…I’m good old man…….Sorry to have ruined the day.”

“ You didn’t ruin the day Johnny.” he answered. “ Son is what you said true about Padre Thomas and what he did to you in Mexico?”

“ I don’t lie so yeah it is…….Look just let it go okay………I’m gonna get cleaned up before dinner.”

“ Alright son.” Murdoch said softly as he watched his son head upstairs. He couldn’t help but wonder just what all his son had endured after Maria died. Hearing his own son tell just a small fragment of abuse he received at the hands of the church angered him deeply.

“ Was that Johnny I heard come in?” Scott asked as he walked into the room from the kitchen.

“ Yes it was son.” he answered as he walked over to the side board and poured a shot and downed it.

“ Are you alright sir?”

DAMN THEM…….. How can a man, a Padre no less treat a child like that?……..How can anyone beat or starve a child?” Murdoch demanded.

“ I don’t know sir…….What we heard Johnny say today I think is just a fragment of the abuse he has received….He doesn’t want to talk about his past to us……I               have tried but he won’t.”

“ Do you know why your brother won’t talk to us about it?”

Scott nodded his head.

“ Because he’s afraid we won’t love him…….He’s afraid I will think less of him…..I am ashamed Scott.

I’m ashamed of what that boy has been thru and it’s not his fault……I’m his father it’s my responsibility to protect him.”

“ Yes it is but you couldn’t do that just like I couldn’t either as his brother because we didn’t know where he was.”

“ Maybe if I tried harder……If I hired more men.”

Johnny sat on the bottom stair listening to his father and how angry he was over what had been done to him. As a boy he had always wanted someone to protect him, someone who would stop the abuse. None of the men his mother had did. They only added to it if he got in the way, which seemed like a lot. Closing his eyes Johnny tried to will the memories away as tears threatened to fall. Having heard his father blame himself enough he stood up and  stepped down into the room.

“ It wasn’t your fault.” he said softly.

Scott turned and could see the pain in his brothers eyes. Not knowing what to say really he remained quiet.

Murdoch looked at his son, he too could see the sadness in his sons eyes. Sadness and pain.

“ I wish…”

“ Don’t okay…Don’t do this to yourself old man…….There’s only one person to blame for what was done to me as a child and she’s dead.”

Neither man spoke, both lost in memories, for Murdoch some good but for Johnny those memories plagued him constantly. Turning away from his father as the tears welled up.

Murdoch stepped to his youngest and put his hands on his shoulders. To his surprise Johnny turned around and hugged his father tightly.

“ It’s alright son……I’m here now and I won’t let anyone hurt you ever again.”

“ All I wanted was a piece of bread and he beat me.” Johnny said into his fathers chest. “ he beat me and locked me in a closet for two days then made sit in a corner and watch the other children eat. When they were done he would scrape their leftovers together on one plate and put it on the floor. He’d then make me eat it like a dog and the other kids would kick me and laugh at me.”

Scott couldn’t stand it any more. He stormed outside just as Maria brought the food into the table. She seen it was a bad time so she hurriedly left the room so’s not to disturb a father consoling his son.

The next morning Johnny came downstairs and found his father and brother already there as usual.

“ Do you ever sleep in Boston?” he asked hitting his brother playfully on the arm.

“ Occasionally I’ve been know to sleep late.” Scott responded back.

“ Good morning son……How are you feeling this morning?”

“ I’m fine…..Listen I think me and Scott should ride up and check the water holes  before we move the cattle to the north range……Don’t you think?”

“ That’s fine son……..I need to ride into town and take care of some business at the bank…..I should be back by lunch.” Murdoch said knowing Richardson would have the papers done he asked for.

Johnny and Scott headed back to the house late afternoon. Four of the six water holes were well out of their banks and the other two almost as full. Riding along Johnny stopped Barranca and sat there silent.

Scott stopped his horse and looked at him. “ Something wrong Johnny?” he asked.

“ You thought about what I said the other day?” he asked as he got down and checked his cinch.

Scott got down also. “ Yes I have brother and my answer is sound……I would like you to stay at Lancer and let us be brothers………I’ve went sixteen years not knowing if you were alive or not…..I really don’t want to wonder that any more.”

“ Even though the people of this valley don’t want me here?…..Even though I could be called out any time and killed?”

“ Johnny there is something you don’t seem to realize brother…Lancer takes care of it’s own.”

“ Yeah I know that Scott it’s just that……..up until a year ago I’ve been free as a bird, going where I want when I want with nobody telling me I can’t.”

“ I can understand that but can you honestly tell me that you wouldn’t want to settle down and have a future without the worry?”

“ That’s all I’ve been thinking about lately Scott.” he answered as he started to walk. “ What if something were to happen to Murdoch because of me huh?…………Would you still want me as your brother then?”

“ Yes I would……Johnny nobody can predict the future and what will happen…….All you can do is take it one day at a time.”

“ All I ever wanted was to be Johnny Madrid good at my trade.”

“ And now?”

“ Now……..I don’t know Scott……A part of me wants to stay and be a ranchers son.”

“ Go with your heart brother……..Go with what you feel inside here.” Scott said as he put a hand on Johnny’ chest.

Johnny stopped walking and moved to mount up. “ You know Aggie Conway’ niece Jessica?” he asked as he swung up in the saddle.

“ I have seen here yes……She is quit lovely…….I believe Mrs. Conway had her back east in boarding school why?”

“ You’re right about the lovely……..Seems she ran into Teresa.”

“ And how would you know this may I ask?”

“ Well let’s just say that we got real friendly yesterday Scott.”

“ Johnny please tell me you didn’t do what that sounds like you did?”

Johnny only smiled his answer.

“ You do realize what Murdoch will do don’t you if he finds out?”

“ I know it was wrong Scott but……”

“ But you couldn’t refuse right?”

“ No I couldn’t……When a girl want’s it from me I’m more than happy to give it to her.”

“ Even when it’s wrong?”

“ Yeah I guess so.”

“ Let me ask you this………Do you even think of what you’ll do if you get one of these girls pregnant?”

“ I haven’t yet so…….”

“ So you just keep right on doing it.”

“ How about you……….I know you’ve been with whores Scott so don’t tell me you haven’t thought about that.”

“ A whore is different Johnny…….She knows the risk……Teresa and now Jessica are or I should say were innocent young ladies who you took pleasure in making women knowing it was wrong. There is a big difference.”

“ No there ain’t……Teresa came to me as did Jessica.” Johnny answered.

Riding into the yard the brothers handed off their horses and headed into the house.

“ Murdoch.” Johnny called out.

“ He is not hear Juanito.” Maria said as she came into the room with cold drinks.

“ Didn’t he say he would be back by Lunch Scott?”

“ Yes he did……..Maybe his business took longer than expected.”

“ Yeah maybe.” Johnny answered, not liking the feeling he was getting as he walked over and sat down on the couch.

Carlos came in thru the french doors. “ Scott, Johnny you better come out here.”  he said before turning and going back out.

Scott and Johnny walked outside and found Murdoch’ horse in the yard.

“ He just straggled in with this.” Carlos said handing Johnny the note written in blood.

I have him, Cedar Canyon. In the morning come alone Madrid or he dies.

Johnny handed the note to Scott and turned and went inside to the gun rack and removed a rifle and ammo.

“ Johnny.” Scott said as he came in. “ Johnny stop………you can’t go there alone.”

“ You read the note Scott……..That’s his blood it’s wrote in.”

“ Would you calm down for a minute?”

“ Don’t tell me to calm down Scott…..Dakota has our father and he will kill him if I don’t show up.”

“ You’re riding into an ambush brother….. It’ll be dark by the time we got there. Let’s think this out okay…….Cedar Canyon has only one way in and out of it…..he could have our father anywhere up there.”

“ You told me you’d have my back the other day……I hope you’re still good with a rifle brother because you’ll need to be on this.”

“ I will I just don’t want you riding in to that canyon not thinking clearly.”

“ Look I know what to do.”

“ And just what is that?”

“ You’re going to go to Hawks ridge. It’s the highest point overlooking Cedar Canyon while I ride in. We can’t shoot him until we know Murdoch is there.”

“ Johnny did you hear what I said?……..It will be dark by the time we get there and there.”

“ It’s a full moon tonight Scott and I’m betting Dakota will have a fire going not expecting us to show up tonight.”

“ Alright….I’ll have a hand go fetch Sam so he’s here when we come back.”

“ Fine……Maria.”

“ Yes Juanito.”

“ Get some bandages and things together for a gunshot wound and hurry.”

“ Si.” Maria responded as she hurried back to the kitchen.

Just about midnight the brothers reached Cedar Canyon. Johnny hurt inside knowing his father was hurt or worse because of him.

“ He’s still alive Johnny……..I know it.” Scott said as he removed his rifle.

“ I’ll give you an hour to reach Hawks ridge.” Johnny said as he got down.

“ You be careful Johnny.” Scott said before riding away.

“ No way old man……..I’ve went most of my life without you……..I’m not losing you now.” he said as he took his colt and out checked it.

Scott rode to Hawks ridge and got down. He could smell smoke and couldn’t help but smile at his brother being right about Dakota having a fire. Crawling on his belly close to the edge he looked down and could see Dakota sitting by the fire almost directly below him, but he couldn’t see Murdoch. Glancing toward the entrance he seen Johnny riding Barranca into the canyon. Looking back at Dakota he seen the man stand up and look toward the entrance as his brother rode in.

Johnny smelled the smoke as he entered the canyon. When he seen the fire he stopped Barranca and glared at Dakota.

“ I told you in the morning Madrid.”

Johnny looked around and couldn’t see his father. “ Where is he you sonofabitch?”

“ Oh he’s around……he just isn’t here with me…….I needed a sure way to get you to come to me alone.”

“ Where is he?”

“ Let’s take a ride and I’ll take you to him…….That way if that brother of yours is following us I’ll know it and your father as well as you are both dead.” Dakota said as he drew the colt he wore. “ Drop your gun real easy like Johnny and step away.”

Scott couldn’t hear what was being said. Not knowing where their father was he knew he couldn’t shoot Dakota. Seeing his brother remove his gun belt and step away from it told him Murdoch wasn’t there.

“ Damn it Johnny…….Now what?” he asked himself.

Dakota walked up to Johnny and smiled. “ I’ve waited a long time for this Madrid…….I’m going to love having your father watch you die.” he said. “ Get on your horse and if you try anything, anything at all Madrid he’s dead for sure.”

Johnny walked to Barranca and mounted up. He knew he was alone in this now with Scott up above and no way of being able to follow without being spotted.

“ Move out.” Dakota ordered as the two men rode out of Cedar Canyon.

Scott rode back to the entrance and found their tracks heading southeast. The only place he knew of where their father could be held without someone seeing him would be the Lorelei mine. Knowing a shorter faster way there he hoped he was right as he spurred his horse and took off.

                                                                   Chapter 19

Johnny rode along with Dakota wondering if his brother would find them. Knowing he was on his own to handle this he started to put a plan together.

“ You know Madrid I’m going to love having your father watch you die.” Dakota said. “ You should have killed me when you had the chance.”

“ I will kill you.” Johnny said coldly.

Dakota stopped his horse. “ I killed that whore……..Walked in the Cantina and shot the bitch dead.”

“ Bet it made you feel like a man didn’t it?”

“ I’m more of a man than you ever will be * boy *.”

“ I doubt that.”

Scott pushed his horse hard hoping he could reach the mine before his brother. The terrain was hard and his horse struggled, lathered and covered with sweat. He hated pushing an animal like this but time was not on his side and if he failed to reach the mine he knew his brother and father would be dead.

About a mile from the mine his horse stepped in a hole and went down hard sending him flying,landing 

hard Scott got up and could see his mount limping on his right front leg.

“ Easy boy, take it easy.” he said as he went to the horse and checked the leg, finding it not broke he breathed a sigh of relief.

“ Damn it.” Knowing he couldn’t ride the last mile he grabbed his rifle and took off leaving the horse standing there. “ Hold on brother.” he said aloud as he hurried along.

Dakota stopped his horse at the little building near the Lorelei and took out his pistol.

“ Get down.” he ordered Johnny.

Johnny got down and stepped around Barranca.

“ Inside and don’t try nothing.” Dakota said as he swung his right leg over his horses neck and slid to the ground.

Johnny stepped up on the porch and opened the door. Inside he found his father tied up in a chair, a rag was stuffed in his mouth, going to him he pulled the rag out.

“ You alright old man?” he asked.

“ I’m fine son.”

Johnny took notice of the wound his father had in his left arm.

“ It’s nothing son.” Murdoch told him.

“ I could have killed him but like I said……….I want him to see you die…….untie him and both of you outside.”

Johnny untied Murdoch and helped him stand. After a minute they walked outside and stepped down off the porch, supporting his father as they stepped away from the building.

“ That’s far enough Madrid.” Dakota said.

Johnny stopped expecting a bullet in the back at any second. “ I’m sorry for this.” he told his father.

“ It’s alright son…….It’s not your fault.” Murdoch told him as he placed his right hand on his son’s shoulder.

“ Turn around Madrid…..I want you to see this coming you sonofabitch.”

Turning around Johnny faced Dakota, anger burned inside. With eyes colder than ice he glared at the man.

“ Just think……I’m going to be known as the man who killed Johnny Madrid.” Dakota said with confidence.

“ It’ll only be your word, without a witness alive to verify it, it will only be your word that you killed me.” Johnny said trying to buy time.

“ Oh I’ll have the proof I killed you…….You see that medallion around your neck ad those beads on your right wrist…well people will know when I show them that they belonged to you.”

“ My other son will hunt you down and kill you for this Dakota…….I promise you that…..Scott will kill you.” Murdoch said with anger.

“ Maybe…..maybe not.” Dakota answered before shooting Johnny in his right thigh dropping him to the ground.

Johnny felt the white hot pain as he dropped to the ground as the bullet tore thru his thigh missing the bone. Sucking in air and biting back the pain he glared at Dakota.

Murdoch knelt by his son. Watching him die was something the big man did not want to do. Powerless to help his son beyond comforting him knowing the next bullet would take from him the what he just got back.

“ Get away from him now.” Dakota ordered. “ Do it now or the next bullet will be in you.”

“ Go on Murdoch do as he says.” Johnny said between clenched teeth.

Murdoch stood up and stepped away from his son.

Dakota walked over to the man putting his back to Johnny, a mistake the man would regret dearly.

Johnny pulled the knife from the inside of his right boot and flipped it so he had a hold of the blade.

Dakota.” he said before throwing the knife with deadly accuracy hitting Dakota in the chest.

Dakota turned and seen the knife as it left Madrid’ hand. Bringing the pistol up as the knife entered his chest he fired.

A rifle shot echoed of the mountain walls a second after exploding the mans head.

Johnny fell grabbing his side as Dakota’ shot tore it’s path thru his flesh.

Murdoch spun and seen his oldest son, rifle in hand across the stream, moving to his son’s side he knelt down.

“ Let me see son.” he said as he tried to check the wound.

“ I’m alright.” Johnny said as he went to sit up.

Scott hurried across the stream and dropped the rifle as he knelt down and looked at his brother.

“ Took you long enough brother.” Johnny said as he lay back so his father could check his wound.

“ My horse went down. I had to run the last mile here on foot brother.” Scott answered as he helped Murdoch check the wound.

“ Lets get you inside son so I can stop the bleeding.”

“ It’s just a graze……I’ve had worse.” Johnny said.

“ I know son……I know but how about you humor an old man huh?”

Johnny smiled before looking at Dakota. “ Good shooting.” he said to Scott as they helped him stand up and start walking to the shack.

“ Thanks brother.” Scott answered with a grin as he helped his brother inside.

Murdoch wrapped Johnny’s chest. The wound was deep and would need stitches as would his leg.

Scott rode behind Johnny on Barranca  and Murdoch rode the paint back to Lancer. Sam met them as they rode into the yard. Carlos and Billy hurried over and helped Scott get Johnny down and into the house.

“ Get Murdoch settled and start cleaning that wound Maria……I’ll be in as soon as I tend to Johnny’ leg.”

“ Take care of him  now Sam…….I can wait.” Johnny answered as he sat on the edge of his bed.

“ You have two wounds that I can see young man, both which are bleeding.”

Johnny stood up and turned to him. “ I said take care of Murdoch first……He’s had that wound for at least a day Sam………..Now.” he said with firmness as his hand dropped to his gun.

Sam looked at his stubborn patient. “ Very well Johnny……Scott help him get his clothes off and…….Well you know what to do…..I’ll be back.” he said before walking out.

Walking into Murdoch’ room Sam set his bag down. “ Thank you Maria, it would seem that Johnny want’s to wait to be treated.”

“ His wounds need stitched Sam.” Murdoch stated.

“ Yes well……..that son of yours is……….I don’t know who is more or him……..The two of you are so much alike.” Sam said with slight irritation.

“ He has his mothers temper.”

“ Ha…I’d say he has your temper old friend……You and that boy are going to try my patience.”

Aggie Conway walked out of the general store and was met by  Padre Thomas.

“ Padre.” she said politely.

“ Mrs. Conway……….I think me and you need to talk.”

“ I’m a busy woman Padre….I’m meeting my niece for lunch.”

“ It is your niece I wish to speak to you about.”

“ Jessica…why?”

“ The company she keeps……Shall we go somewhere more private?”

“ Just tell me Padre.”

“ Very well then…….Last Sunday after that killer ruined the Church social.”

“ Johnny is the son of my dearest friend…….I will not stand here and listen to you talk hatred of him for what is in the past.”

“ Perhaps you should talk to your niece about inappropriate actions with him.”

“ Padre if you are suggesting that my niece and Johnny……”

“ I am not suggesting…..I seen the two of them together when I took a walk along the stream…….I felt it was my duty to tell you that your niece has……..”

“ That will be enough Padre…….Good day.” Aggie said before walking away.

Padre Thomas smiled as he watched her walk away angry. The more people he got to hate Madrid the better he liked it. Running him out of the valley was something he would be determined to do.

Sam finished bandaging Murdoch arm. “ The infection isn’t to bad… won’t be using that arm for a while as I’m sure you know already.”

“ Yes…….now lets go take care of my son.” Murdoch said as he stood up.

“ So getting you to stay in bed is out of the question I suppose.”

“ Sam………I could loose Johnny over what happened…..he’s going to blame himself for this I know it and leave this ranch……I will not loose that boy again.”

“Very well.”

Scott cleaned Johnny’ leg wound and wrapped a bandage around it to stop the bleeding, glancing at his brother every so often as he did. Johnny stared at the door mostly and Scott knew he was worried about their father.

“ This isn’t your fault brother.” he said.

Johnny looked at him. “ Yeah……how you figure that Scott……..It was me Dakota wanted to kill and Murdoch got shot and taken hostage because of me so tell me how it’s not my fault.” Johnny said with anger.

“ You can’t blame yourself for everything that happens to me or our father Johnny.”

“ I can and will when it’s my fault………He could have been killed because of me.”

Scott stood up. “ Little brother I think it’s about time you stopped blaming yourself for all the bad that has happened to you……..You need to start letting others share that blame.”

“ It’s not you or him men want to kill Scott………it’s me okay?…………Johnny Madrid good at my trade.”

“ Yes you are…you are also the son of Murdoch Lancer and * my * brother.”

“ I don’t want to talk about it any more Scott………Thanks for what you did out there though.”

“ I told you I would have your back…….You wouldn’t have been shot if my horse hadn’t fell.”

“ Yeah you need to have a hand go fetch him back.”

“ I will after Sam takes care of your wounds and you are resting.”

“ I don’t need a babysitter Scott……..Go get that horse took care of.”

Just then the door opened and Sam and Murdoch walked in.

“ Okay will you let me take care of those wounds now young man?” Sam asked with a grin.

“ Sure Sam…….You alright?” he asked his father.

“ Yes son I’m fine……Looks like neither one of us will be doing much for a spell… especially with that leg.” he said as he sat down on the bed.

A week later Johnny sat on the couch with his leg propped up with his head back resting when he heard his father walk into the room.

“ That mare sure did have a nice colt.” he said without opening his eyes.

“ Yes she did son.” Murdoch said as he walked over and sat down next to his son. “ I just had a visit from Aggie……..Would you care to take a guess why she came here?”

“ To check on you.”

“ Yes but she also told me something it seems the Padre told her he seen last Sunday after the social……..along the creek.”

Johnny opened his eyes and sighed. “ I just bet he did.” he said as he lowered his leg.

“ Son……..Aggie Conway is my closest friend…….I love her and respect her but what you did with her niece is inexcusable.”

“ What we did together is nobody else’ business.”

“ Now see that is were you are wrong Son……as your father it is my business when my youngest son dishonors the niece of a close friend………How could you Johnny?”

“ If you need me to tell you the answer to that…..”

“ You know damn well what I mean.”

Johnny stood up. “ Look she came to me alright………..I didn’t go seeking her out…….i was going to go to the brother for that but……”

“ But you couldn’t tell her no……you couldn’t be a gentleman and refuse her is that it?”

“ Yeah I could have………should have but I was angry about earlier………..I’m sorry Murdoch but I’m not the first man she’s been with………..Teresa told her about me.”

“ Teresa?”

“ Yeah it seems they ran into each other back in Boston.”

“ I see.”

“ Jessica said Teresa was real sorry for the way she treated me but……….”

“ But what son?”

“ I don’t know Murdoch………….i get the feeling there’s something else that Jessica didn’t tell me.”

“ Why don’t you have your brother write to his grandfather and ask him how she is doing?”

“ Maybe I will.”

“ Speaking of grandfathers son……….I need to ask you something.”

“ Well go on.”

“ I would like you to take me to your mothers grave and maybe after we could ride to your grandfathers.”

“ You want me to ride back into Mexico knowing the Rurales want me dead just so you can see her grave?”

“ Son I know it’s a risk but I think you need to go back there as well.”

“ Yeah and why’s that?”

“ You need closure just as I do.”

“ She’s dead Murdoch…….how the hell am I going to get closure from a dead person?”

“I think it will help you to put the past and the lies she told you behind you son, besides I think you’re using your mother as an excuse. I think the real reason is Don Luis…..Am I right?”

Johnny hobbled over to the big window behind his fathers desk and stared out at the land he began to love. Turning around he looked at his father with sadness in his eyes.

“ All he would have had to do was tell me who he was that day.”

“ Yes but didn’t your mother tell you like she did me that her family was dead?”

“ Yeah but he knew who I was. I would have known he was telling the truth if he had said he name.”

“ Would it have really been that easy son?”

“ Maybe…..I……..look the truth always works well with me okay.”

“ Then son I suggest we take a  ride south together and ask him that.”

“ And who is going to run the ranch while we are gone?”

“ Your brother can do that.”

“ Sam won’t let me ride yet.”

“ I know that……We can leave when your leg is healed.”

“ You sure you’re up to a ride like that?…….It’s pretty rough country down there.”

“ I have been in Mexico son…….I know the terrain is rough.”

“ You were a lot younger then too.”

“ Do you want to send a wire to your grandfather telling him we are coming?” Murdoch asked ignoring his son’s remark about his age.

“ No………..we do and the Rurales will be waiting at the border……….Listen when we go down there         * you * do as I say when I say and don’t ask no questions.”

“Alright son.”

“ I mean it old man……You don’t and you could be riding back here alone.” Johnny stated firmly. “I’m tired so I’m going to go lay down for a bit before dinner.”

Murdoch watched his son walk away. Walking over to his desk he sat down and took out a piece of paper.

Mister Daggett

I need you to check out two men for me……A padre named Thomas. He was in charge of a mission down there twelve years ago. I need you to find out all that you can on this man while he was in Mexico. The second one is Don Luis Del A Vega. I will be taking a trip down there with my youngest son in about  a month  and will meet you in Nogales.

I ask that you speak to no one about this. Not even your office, it is imperative that no one knows of my son coming back into Mexico. Again it is imperative that this remain private.

  • Lancer

Moro Coyo, California.

Murdoch reread what he had wrote before putting it in an envelope. He would have a hand take the letter to town tomorrow and mail it for him. He just hoped that his son didn’t find out about this. The repercussions he knew could be bad.

Scott wrote to his grandfather asking how Teresa was doing that night and mailed it off the next day.

Even though he would have liked to accompany his father and brother on this trip, he knew this was something that the two of them needed to do. Two days before Johnny would be leaving Scott received an answer from his grandfather, finding it a little odd that the man responded back so soon. What he read about Teresa disturbed him and left him with a serious dilemma to face. Should he show the letter to his brother? Or worse yet, his father?

Since he and Johnny would be alone repairing fence tomorrow he put the letter in his coat and headed downstairs to dinner and a game of chess with his little brother.

“ We’ll cross the border at Nogales……..There’s a place we can camp until midnight and then cross.” Johnny told his father as Scott walked in. “ Hey brother it’s usually me who’s late for dinner.” he said with a grin.

“ I apologize for being late sir.” he said as he sat down and glanced at his brother.

“ Hey Boston….you alright?”

“ Yes…….I just have something on my mind is all.”

“ Have you heard back from the old man yet?”

“ And who would that be Johnny?”

“ You know….your grandfather…….You did write to him didn’t you?”

“ I did that night and yes I did hear back from him……That’s why I am late. I was reading his letter.”

“ Is everything alright son?”

“ Yes sir.” he lied. “ Teresa it would seem has a gentleman whom she is engaged to be married to in….well tomorrow.” Scott answered looking at his brother.

“ Married….Well I’m sure he is a fine upstanding gentleman.” Murdoch stated.

“ Yeah not a halfbreed killer like me huh old man?”

Murdoch took a sip of his wine and set it down. “ I want you to get something straight young man………I will not have you talking that way about yourself in this house any longer…..You are my son and that’s all that matters.”

“ Yeah okay.” Johnny smirked back glancing across at his brother knowing the letter told more than he was saying. Tomorrow alone with his brother he would approach the subject when it was just the two of them. Sometimes, well most of the time being able to read people paid off for Madrid and he knew his brother wasn’t telling everything about the letter.

Johnny set the last post in the ground then wiped the sweat from his brow as he watched Scott fill the hole in and stamp the dirt around the post. The sun was now going behind the mountains and they would be riding home after this.

“ You gonna tell me what was in that letter brother?” he asked bluntly.

Scott glanced at him as he finished the hole. “ I told you what it said.” he responded.

“ Look I know there’s more to that letter than what you said last night Boston, so cut the bullshit and tell me.”

“ Alright Johnny.” Scott said with a raised voice as he threw the shovel down. “ Teresa is pregnant.”

“ Yeah, well I guess it’s a good thing she married that guy then huh?”

“ You sonofabitch……..she was pregnant when she left here with * your * child Johnny.” Scott told him as his anger rose. He had wanted this to be a calm talk between brothers but for some unforeseen reason he couldn’t hold his temper back.

“ Grandfather said she started getting sick a month after arriving and found out……..he found out that it was you, not me, who got her with child……..He said that he would do whatever he had to do to keep you away from her and * your * child brother.”

“ Ain’t the first and it probably won’t be the last.” Johnny said as he walked to Barranca and tightened his cinch.

“ Not the first?………What the hell does that mean Johnny?”

Swinging up into the saddle Johnny looked down at his brother. “ You’re a college man figure it out.” he said before turning Barranca and heading home.

Scott stood there watching his brother ride away. “ How many brother?” he asked the air as he headed to the wagon and threw the tools in the back. Climbing up in the seat he slapped the reins hard heading home. He knew Johnny would be in the barn still taking care of Barranca when he got back.

Murdoch seen his youngest son ride in and dismount. He wondered why he had come back without his brother. Watching Johnny dismount he knew something was wrong, something had happened between the two, a brotherly disagreement he assumed as he went back to his desk. He heard the wagon come into the yard thirty minutes later.

Scott got down from the wagon and let a hand take care of the team as he headed into the barn. Just as he figured, his brother was still brushing the stallion.

“ What the hell do you mean by that statement you made Johnny?” Scott demanded.

“ Just what I said……Teresa ain’t the first one I got pregnant.” he said as he put the brush away and headed to the house, walking past Scott.

Anger in full gear now Scott turned and went after his brother. Grabbing his arm and spinning him around. “ Don’t you walk away from me…….When.” he demanded.

“ When……In Mexico three years ago…….I knocked a whore up and by the time I found out she had gotten rid of it Scott.” Johnny responded as he jerked his arm free. “ Don’t grab me again.” he said firmly as he turned to walk away. Just as he stepped out of the barn he was again grabbed and spun around. This time a fist connected with his jaw and sent him flying backwards landing on his butt.

“ Okay brother.” he said as he got up. “ If that’s how you want it.” he said as he dove at Scott and hit him in the gut with his head sending Scott back into the barn wall. Swinging Johnny hit him in the face, then his gut before another blow caught him up side his head  dazing him.

Scott swung as hard as he could hitting his brother in the side of his head, knowing he dazed him, he grabbed Johnny’s arms and spun him around and pinned him to the barn wall. “ You little bastard…….You are an irresponsible jerk Johnny…..Didn’t you hear a word I said?”

“ Stop it now……..both of you.” Murdoch yelled as he hurried over and separated the brothers. “ What the hells the matter with you two?” he demanded.

“ Just a difference in opinions old man.” Johnny said before storming away to the house.

Murdoch turned to his son. “ Johnny…..come back here now.” he demanded but his words fell on deaf ears. Turning back to his oldest. “ Does this have something to do with that letter son?”

“ Yes it does sir………..that’s  all I’m going to say.”

“ I think I know what it is……….I may be old as your brother keeps reminding me, but I’m no fool son……..He got Teresa with child didn’t he?”

Scott just nodded his head, he would not tell his father the other. That would remain between the brothers. “ If you will excuse me sir I’m going to go get cleaned up.” Scott said before heading to the wash room.

That night at supper the tension between the brothers could be felt. Murdoch bit his tongue on addressing the issue. He would wait until he was alone with his youngest. A grandchild, he had a grandchild on the way and knew Harlan Garrett would do everything in his power to keep him * and * Johnny from seeing that child. The man hated him so much for his daughter marrying him and then dying giving birth to Scott.

Sitting there he could tell his youngest was hurting inside over this news, knowing he had a child on the way and would never be able to see that child could destroy a man. It had come close to destroying himself, and had it not been for Scott when he lost Johnny, it probably would have.

Two days later father and son rode away from Lancer with a pack horse headed southeast. The brothers hardly spoke after the fight and supported bruises on their face. He had tried the night before they left to get the two to talk but it came to no avail. Scott excused himself and turned in when his brother refused to answer their father, instead heading to the door to leave.

“ I’m going in to town to get fucked.” Johnny said flatly before walking out.

Both Murdoch and Scott stood there, one angry for the way his son had spoke and the other for what his brother left to do.

                                                     Chapter 20

Murdoch and Johnny rode in silence pretty much for three days., he knew the risk of asking his son to return to Mexico. Memories he was sure were not good also plagued his son. Memories he wished his youngest would talk to him about. Desperate to know about Maria and the last years of her life, the Lancer patriarch sat there wondering if this trip would make or break their relationship.

“ When do you expect we should cross into Mexico son?” he asked finally, breaking the silence.

Johnny looked across at him. “ Depends on if you want to cross at Yuma or Nogales.” he answered.

“ Where is her grave son?” he asked.

“ Madera.”

“ Listen son I know I’m asking a lot of you to go back to Mexico with who you are and……..and the memories I’m stirring up for you.”

“ Yeah… just remember what I said. You do as I say and we can both ride back out of there alive.”

“ What if the Rurales get wind of you or you get called out son?”

“ I get called out I’ll do what I always do and kill them… far as the Rurales  well that can be a little tricky……You see they want me dead but if they caught me alive well…….Let’s just say a Mexican prison is the same as death and with me they would love nothing more than to have me behind bars to torture every day.”

A sick feeling came over Murdoch as he listened to his son.

“ Don’t look so surprised old man….I’ve done my share of hell raising with them.”

“ Why?” he found himself asking.

“ Why?……….Because down there the Rurales like to steal from the farmers…..I guess you didn’t see to much when you went down there huh?”

“ See what son?”

“ How you rich gringo’s and men like my Grandfather push the little man around and take what you want……Oh sure you may not do it at Lancer but tell me something……..How many people have you walked on old man to get what you wanted huh?”

“ I have treated no man badly son and I have acquired everything I own legally.”

“ Maybe legally for the gringo………Peasants work their whole life for the rich man down there for barely enough food to stay alive……They work sunup to sundown just so the Don’s can be richer.”

“ Is that what you think your Grandfather does?”

“ Don’t know but seein’s how he’s a rich powerful man in Mexico probably.”

“ It seems to me son that you have a lot of hatred built up inside.”

“ Yeah well you tell me how the fuck am I supposed to feel Murdoch?………..You’re not the one who grew up down there fighting every day to stay alive…..going days on end wondering when or where your next scrap of food would come from…..having people spit on you because you’re neither Mexican nor you tell me just how am I supposed to feel huh?” Johnny said with anger as he stood up.

Murdoch stood up also. “ I am not the one who did those things to you John…..i did everything I could to find you…….What happened at the mission son?….Just what all did Padre Thomas do to you?”

“ Things that would make you sick.” Johnny said barely above a whisper as he looked down at the ground. “ You don’t want to know….trust me.”

“ If I didn’t think I could handle it son I wouldn’t ask……I’m your father and…..”

“ And that’s all you are…….all you ever are.” Johnny said before walking off into the dark.

Murdoch stood there watching his son disappear into the dark. Trust he could tell would not come easy from his boy.

Four days later Murdoch and Madrid rode into Nogales just after dark. Johnny had purposely waited until dark to do so. Coming in from the east he stopped his horse at the back of a run down two story building and got down.

“ We’ll spend the night here.” he told his father as he removed his rifle and took the pack horse lead and tied him off on Barranca’ right.

Murdoch got down and stretched his back muscles. “ What’s this place son?”

“ A whore house old man.” Johnny responded with a smile as he stepped up on the back porch and opened the door.

“ Son why don’t we go to the hotel and get a room?”

“ Because I’m safer here that’s why…….What’s the matter old man you afraid to get fucked?”

“ That will be enough of that John.”

“ Look you wanted to know about my mothers past after she left Lancer with me…..Here is where that starts.” Madrid said as he opened the door and stepped in.

The light inside was dim and the smell of sex in the air was eminent as he cautiously stepped to the entrance to the parlor and glanced around. Three girls sat fanning themselves from the heat around the room. Smiling Johnny stepped into the room with his father stopping in the hall. Putting a finger to his lips to keep the girls quiet Madrid stepped up behind a woman wearing a light blue dress unbuttoned to her waist showing her chemise and full breast barely contained. Her hair pulled up off her neck Johnny walked up and kissed her neck then ran his tongue up to her ear and sucked on the lobe.

“ I only allow one man to kiss me like this.” the woman said as she turned around. “ Well as I live and breath if it isn’t a dead man.”

“ Did that feel like a dead man just then?” Johnny asked with a smile.

“ It sure the hell didn’t honey…come here.” she said as she pulled Johnny to her and their mouths came together hungrily. Running a hand down to his crotch she could feel him getting hard. “ You’ve grown up some since the last time doll.”

Johnny smiled. “ In more ways than you know.” he said before claiming her mouth hungrily again pressing himself into her.

“ Johnny.” Murdoch snapped. Unhappy at the behavior he was witnessing between his son and an older woman.

“ And who do we have here……this your new job Johnny?” Sheri asked.

“ No…….Sheri I’d like you to meet my old man Murdoch.”

“ Old man huh……so you went and found him after all and didn’t kill him like you said you’d do.”

Murdoch snapped a cold look at his son then back at Sheri. “ Don’t you think my son is a little young for you?” he asked gruffly.

“ Honey who do you think was Johnny’ first woman……….Hell five years ago I’m the one who set him on the sexual path of pleasuring a woman.”

Madrid could see the shock on his fathers face at the realization his son was only fourteen his first time.

“ What’s the matter old man?….What’d ya expect when you got a whore for a mother and spend most of your time in a whore house. Sheri here was the * only *  one who cared about me while my bitch mother didn’t.”

“ That will be enough talking about your mother like that…….She may have…….done things inappropriate  but she * was * your mother and I will not have you talking bad of her.”

Johnny stepped away from Sheri toward his father. “ My mother?………….She used me to get  more money from the rich gringo’s who came looking….You wanted to go see her grave and I agreed to take you but * you * are going to learn a little about the whore you married that you call my mother.”

“ Okay I think you two need a time out.” Sheri interrupted.

“ Stay out of this.” Murdoch snapped. “ He is my son and he will have manners when speaking of his mother……..regardless…….”

“ Tell him Sheri………tell him how much of a whore Maria was here……’s obvious he won’t believe me.”

“ And why should I believe a whore telling me these things?” Murdoch demanded.

“ I am not a whore……..I run this place and take good care of the girls who work for me but I assure you Lancer I am not a whore.”

“ And what would you call yourself if not……You take a fourteen year old * boy * into your bed…you dress like you do showing all……”

“ A whore does it for money……I……I do it for pleasure with certain men……..Johnny was all pleasure when I took his innocents and I’d do it again  in a heart beat………You need to learn the manners and not be so fast to judge a book by it’s cover…Everything isn’t always what it seems.”

“ I know what I see and what I see is a whore and nothing more.”

Johnny had had enough, stepping up to his father. “ You call her that again old man and it will be the end of this trip………..Go get a room at the hotel until tomorrow night when we cross into Mexico.” he ordered as he stepped back over to Sheri. “ Let’s me and you go have some fun.”

“ With pleasure.” she answered as the two went to her room leaving Murdoch standing there in disgust.

Murdoch turned and walked out with anger. Tomorrow he would address this behavior his son was having come hell or high water.

“Man do you think he will fuck us also?” Candy asked.

“ I sure hope so……….It’s been a long time since a real man has.” Dori responded.

“ Whats the big deal about him and whether or not he fucks you?”

“ Well honey since you’re new here I’ll tell you…….When you get fucked by Johnny you get fucked…….other men get on, shove it in and get off but not Johnny…no sir Madrid makes you feel like a real woman when he fucks you…….he does things to you that no other man would do.” Candy told her.

“ Hell I bet another man wouldn’t even do those things to his wife.” Dori said.

“ You called him Madrid.”

“ Yeah……..that’s Johnny Madrid…the fastest gun in the southwest girl and I’m not talking about the gun between his legs, even though he can fuck fast if need be.”

“ Yeah but no woman want’s it to end when he’s between her legs………..Hey you alright? You look like you’re sick girl.” Candy asked.

“ Oh I’m just fine…….I just……..I thought he was dead?”

“ Well did he looked dead to you…………Listen don’t go saying anything about him being here okay……he came in the back and after dark so he doesn’t want it known he’s here.”

“ Hey Candy maybe me and you can tag team him again…remember the two of us being fucked by him together?”

“ Oh yeah I remember that night like it just happened……..God he’s good even with two women at the same time the man is incredible in bed.” Candy said with a grin.

Johnny closed the door and stepped over to the bed and removed his gun. “ That one girl…..she new?”

“ Who Shannon?……..she’s been here two months..why?”

“ She looks familiar to me.”

“ Familiar how?” Sheri asked as she dropped her dress baring her body to him.

“ You know for a woman your age I gotta say you got the body of a………….much younger woman.” Johnny said as he shucked his pants and pulled off his shirt.

“ Yeah, well me and this body are about to give you the ride of your life.” she said. “ So why don’t you show me how well you’ve improved in five years.”

“ Love to.” Johnny responded.

“ Wow….I…….I have never had it that good or like that ever Johnny……You really are a man good at using both your guns.” Sheri said between gasp for air.

“ Thanks.” he answered as he walked over to the bed and dropped onto it exhausted.

“ You look like you haven’t slept well in a while…..Why don’t you get some sleep here…….I’ll wake you in the afternoon unless you wake up before then.” Sheri said as she grabbed her robe.

“ Yeah……Thanks Sheri.”

“ Don’t you worry honey you’re safe her….I’ll make sure the girls don’t both you or tell that you are here.”

“ My old man comes back tell him Sheri……about Maria.”

“ Just don’t you worry none about that hon……..I’ll handle your old man.” Sheri said as she covered him up. “ You are something else Johnny.” she said kissing his forehead before walking out.

“ Candy….Dori….Shannon I don’t want it known Madrid is here and I don’t want you bothering him…..let him sleep……Understood?”

“ We know Sheri you don’t have to worry…….Sounded to us like you two had a good time.”

“ Yes we did.”

“ I wouldn’t think you would want a killer like him here.” Shannon said.

Sheri looked at her. “ Let me tell you something honey….Johnny is not a killer….he has only killed those dumb enough to call him out and when that happens he is defending himself not committing murder.”

“ That’s what you think.”

“ You know you said your brother was killed by a man a few years ago. I’d be willing to bet Madrid killed him didn’t he?”

“ He murdered my brother……..Shot him down in cold blood in Douglas and they made him the law there for it.”

“ Let me tell you something….If you got revenge on your mind forget it because if anyone comes here looking for him while he is here I’m going to make you wish you’d thought differently……..understand me?”

“He’s a killer and nothing more.”Shannon said before heading up to her room.

“ She’s gonna make trouble for Johnny Mrs. Sheri.” Dori said.

“ Go on to bed now girls it’s late……..I’ll close up.”

“ Yes ma’am.” Candy said as the two girls headed upstairs.

Scott heard the knock at the door as he came out of the kitchen, opening the door he was surprised to find Teresa standing there holding a baby.

“ Teresa…….Come in………..What are you doing here?”

“ Is Johnny here Scott?”

“ No…..Him and Murdoch went to Mexico to take care of some business…….They won’t be back until early fall….Why?”

“ This is Johnny’ son………Michael  Madrid……..I….I can’t keep him and I wasn’t going to put him in an orphanage.”

“ I don’t understand…….I thought your new husband had accepted your condition.”

“ He did until he looked at him.” she responded as she removed the blanket and showed Scott his nephew.

Looking down Scott could see the dark curly hair and shin complexion just like his brothers.

“ He has his eyes also……..Look I brought all his things with me……We have to catch the midnight train back to Boston tonight.”

“ We……..Your husband came with you?”

“ Yes but he would not come out here because he wanted to kill Johnny…….I talked him out of it.”

“ Does he know who Johnny is Teresa?” Scott asked as he was handed the baby.

“ No and I don’t want him to know it either………Johnny Madrid is dead to me and will always be from now on.”

Maria walked into the room and seen the baby Scott was holding. “ Ah a nino…….you brought your baby home.”

“ Maria this is Johnny’ son Michael Madrid.”

Maria looked from one to the other then took the baby from Scott. “ My Juanito has a son?”

“ Maria…….Teresa is leaving him here with us…….permanently.”

“ Que?”

“ I can’t take care of him Maria my new family won’t allow it and I am not losing my husband over this child……..Now Scott please have some hands unload the things I brought so I can leave.” she demanded.

“ Fine..excuse me Maria.”

A half hour later Teresa climbed up into the buggy. “ Oh this is a legal document your grandfather had drawn up giving Madrid full custody of his son.” she said handing the paper to Scott before slapping the reins and leaving.

Scott stood there in shock at what had just happened. A baby……..His little brother would come home to the biggest surprise of his life……He just hoped he could handle it as he walked back into the house.

Sheri headed to the mercantile and stopped when she heard a familiar voice, it was Johnny’ father and another man talking about a padre in Mexico. Hearing the name Thomas she put a hand to her mouth. She had heard Johnny call out this mans name when fevered from a bullet he received five years ago.

“And you’re sure that this information is correct?” Murdoch asked Daggett.

“ Yes sir…….It comes from the higher up in the church……..also this Don Luis Del A Vega knows this man and is the one who got him removed from the church.”

Murdoch’ anger got worse as he suspected his son’s grandfather knew the conditions Johnny was suffering and did nothing to prevent it.

“ Very well……..Thank you for your services.” Murdoch said as he handed the man an envelope.

“ Mister Lancer…..I learned that this Don Luis went to that mission on several occasions specifically to see Johnny without the boy knowing. He paid Thomas money to care and feed the boy.”

“ That is not what my son told me……he said he was starved and beaten by this man and made  to eat leftovers from the others on the floor like a dog.”

“ Yes sir, that is one reason the padre was dismissed. It seems he pocketed the money for your son’s care.”

“Thank you again for your services.” Murdoch said before turning and walking away.

Sheri felt sick at what she heard. Not wanting to be found listening she turned and headed back to the brothel.

“ My god Johnny.” she said to her self as she hurried along. “ I had no idea.”

That afternoon Johnny woke and stretched before getting up and dressing. Walking out of the room he was approached by Shannon.

Shannon waited for Madrid to wake up. When he came out she walked over to him and slapped him hard across the face.

Johnny grabbed her arms just as his father walked into the establishment. “ What the fuck was that for?” he demanded.

“ Let go of me you bastard……..You killed my brother…..let go.”

“ Shannon.” Sheri said aloud. “ I warned you.”

“ I thought you looked familiar………Douglas right?……..Your brother was harassing an old miner…he could have walked away like Sal told him to do but he didn’t……he chose to draw on me so I killed him.”

“ You’re a liar… brother didn’t do no such thing.”

“ Okay then why don’t we wire the mayor of Douglas and ask him because just about the whole town seen it.”

“ Get out Shannon….get out of here now……..You no longer work for me.” Sheri said firmly.

Murdoch just stood there listening. One thing he had learned the hard way was that his son was not a cold blooded killer.

“ Seein’s how you fuck him I’d expect you to take his side…..the rest of you also……..I know you’re going into Mexico and I sent a wire to the Rurales telling them…..They’ll be waiting for you……..I’ll have my revenge one way or another for you killing my brother.”

That evening as the sun set Sheri pleaded with Johnny not to go into Mexico with his father but her pleading fell on deaf ears. She did after their last love making that evening tell him she over heard his father talking to another man about Padre Thomas as well as him refusing to listen to her about Maria. This news angered Johnny some, she could see it in his eyes.

“ You come back safe you hear me Johnny?”

“ I will Sheri……Take care.” he said as he kissed her softly on the lips before going and swinging into the saddle. He didn’t even look at his father, he was so damn pissed at the man.

Sheri walked over and placed a hand on his thigh. “ I mean it Johnny.”

Madrid bent down and kissed her passionately their tongues entwined for a few seconds. “ I’m a man of my word you know that Sheri.”

“ Excuse me patron.” Jose said softly.

“ Yes….what is it Jose?”

“ He has crossed the border a couple hours ago……He rides with a gringo man older.”

“ A gringo about my age?”

“ Si patron.”

“ Very well……keep an eye on him and Jose……..I want no harm to come to my grandson is that clear?”

“ Yes sir but what about the Rurales……they also know he is back in Mexico and they want him in prison or dead.”

“ I will handle the federal es…..Messilla would not dare  harm my grandson. He knows what I will do to him if he does.”

“ Yes sir but Messilla swore vengeance against Madrid for the bullet in his leg.”

“ Messilla is a fool and should not be in uniform……Does he  think I don’t know what he does?……….How he is robbing the peasant workers and killing them……..Turning his back when his men rape the women and young girls of the villages…..Let my grandson come back here and * he * will be the stopping force of Messilla…..I will see to that.”

“ Even if it means he will be shot down if he kills Messilla?”

“ My grandson will and  he will serve a life sentence if caught not death…….Now go and remember what I said……..I need and want Johnny Madrid to come to me alive.”

Johnny and Murdoch rode all night in the darkness of the night. No moon in the sky and knowing the terrain they rode over helped Madrid go unnoticed. As the sun started to hint in the eastern sky he stopped at the ruins of what was once a village. All that remained now were a few rock walls and fence, getting off Barranca and dropping the reins he started walking toward what were the remains of the village church. Stopping he turned and looked at his father still in the saddle.

“ Well you gonna sit there all day or come see her grave?” he asked sharply before walking off disappearing behind the back wall of the church, the only part still standing.

There behind the church was a beautiful headstone shaped as a cross. The engraving was simple and as he read it as his father walked up to his side anger burned in his gut. He knew who had done this.

Maria Madrid Del A Vega

Daughter and Mother

Johnny turned to walk away. “ Chock up another one for the old man to answer.”

“ What do you mean son?”

“ That’s not the headstone I did for her.” he answered before walking away.

Murdoch knew then, Maria’ father had done this, but why did it anger his son so that he did?

                                                           Chapter 21

Murdoch stood looking at the headstone before him for the longest time, a million thoughts and memories flooded his mind when a shot rang out. Turning he ran to his horse. Johnny was already mounted.

“ Federal es get that damn horse moving southeast old man now.” Johnny ordered as he shot dropping the lead rider and making the other two stop not wanting to face Madrid alone. Spurring Barranca he took off after his father leaving their pack horse behind.

After several miles of hard riding he slowed Barranca down to an easy gate. The stallion would have no problem maintaining it and be ready to run again if needed.

“ He’s tired son.”

“ That nag of yours will play out before he does. He’s a mustang and they’re good runners…..Barranca came from here.”

“ So what now?”

“ Now we ride day and night for two days to reach his estancia.”

“ With no supplies or food.”

“ Hell old man I’ve went a hell of a lot longer than a couple days without……I think you can do the same.”

“ Too bad you can’t say the same about women.” Murdoch said harshly.

Johnny stopped Barranca. “ Yeah and just what is that supposed to mean old man?”

“ Getting Teresa pregnant for starts and that older woman back there……..How many others are there Johnny?………..How many women have you left pregnant and rode away not caring?”

“ So big brother told you huh……Figures……..Teresa came to me so lets get that straight. I told her what could happen and she didn’t care……..Jessica was the same and those ladies back there work in a whore house so they know the risk when fucking……….You know maybe that’s your problem old man……..maybe you should get fucked course it’d be a little hard to do since your  having meetings with men in alleys.”

Murdoch stopped his horse, how could his son know of his meeting Daggett. One of the girls must have seen them and told him.

“ What I do in my spare time is my own business young man.” he responded.

“ Yeah well not when it involves me……..So tell me something you gonna do something to the padre huh?…….You gonna make all that that bastard did to me just go away sticking your nose into it old man?”

“ Johnny don’t talk to me like that……There is more going on here than you realize son…….Your grandfather……..”

“ What you have him checked out too……..Boy you sure are something…It must be real nice to snap your fingers and have all you want on someone………I’m going to say this one time only………..stay the fuck out of my past………” Johnny said as he looked past Murdoch to a dust cloud. “ Fuck…come on amigo we gotta go now……I know a canyon we can loose them in.”

Messilla pushed his men and horses hard knowing that if Madrid made it to the canyon he was headed to Madrid would be able to pick his men off with ease from many vantage points. Learning that Madrid was the grandson of Don Luis Del A Vega and how he hated Messilla made the Captain want Madrid alive all that more. Figuring if he could catch Madrid, he could use him against Vega to remove the man from Mexico leaving the area Vega had just ripe for pilfering.  Every day Messilla has been reminded of Madrid for the past four years. Madrid put a bullet in his right leg, a bullet that still caused him pain and would the rest of his life.

Raiding a small village that fateful day when he first laid eyes on the halfbreed he laughed at the boldness the kid possessed when he walked up to him as he beat an old peasant. The kid had drawn his gun and fired so fast killing his four men he had no time to draw himself, had he not dove for cover the bullet would have hit killing him.

That was four years ago and a man can build a powerful hate in that time. Madrid took special pride in harassing him and his men. The last time just a couple years ago Madrid had killed three of his men in Sonora, walked right into the Cantina and shot them down, course patrons said they tried to draw on him and he defended himself. That day and those three dead Rurales added fuel to his already burning desire to torture Madrid slowly. If he could get the man behind a prison’ walls he could break him and kill him so slowly that he was certain Madrid would beg for death.

Eight men were with him now, Eight men who he hoped would be enough to capture the halfbreed and allow him justice. Today would not be that day though, Messilla found himself flying thru the air and landing hard in the hot sand, his horse moved no more, dead from running until it’s lungs burst. Getting up he could see his men’ horses were in no better shape. He knew where Madrid was heading so he would get fresh mounts and lay in wait and catch the pistolero there.

Johnny rubbed as much dry sweat as he could from Barranca deep in the canyon he captured the stallion in years before.

“ I’m sorry amigo for having to run you so hard.” he told his friend as he rubbed his face. “ You remember this place don’t you boy?”

Barranca placed his head on his shoulder and sighed.

Walking over to his father sitting on a rock.

“ Is he alright son?”

“ Yeah……we got memories me and him of this place.” he stated looking down at the ground. “ This is the canyon I caught him in….Another stallion hurt him pretty good and took his mares….I nursed him and we built a trust……He lets me ride him in exchange for me saving his life.”

Murdoch listened to his son intently. Johnny didn’t speak much of his past so the man was eager to listen when he did, sitting there listening to a part of his past that wasn’t of abuse.

“ I used to come here every day just about and watch him and his mares. Seen him fight off a couple stallions but the last one I never seen before was bigger and If I’d had a gun I would have shot him, he was a mean one. He would attack the mares and even killed two of Barranca’ foals he sired.” he said before becoming quiet.

“ How did you decide to name him Barranca son?” Murdoch asked softly.

“This canyon is called Barranca Del Cobre and since we became amigo’s here………”

Murdoch knew his son was lost in the memories of that day so he remained quiet and let his son have those memories.

“ We’ll be at his estancia by late afternoon tomorrow if we don’t run into any more Rurales.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ I used to come here when my mother was drunk……..The day I saved him she………she beat me for coming home when she had a man with her…..It was raining and I was cold and wet and I didn’t know she had someone with her……..Her rule was I was to disappear when she did because they wouldn’t want to know she had a halfbreed kid………said it was bad for business with me around.”

Murdoch felt anger building inside him as he listened to his son. How could a woman he loved treat her own son the way she did, allowing him to go without food or shelter and be beaten by the men she bed. He couldn’t help but wonder just what all did happen to his son as a child? He seen the scars on the outside but knew that the scars his son had on the inside were much worse. Those scars he knew his son desperately wanted to get rid of. Only time and the love of a father and brother could hopefully help do that.

Looking at Johnny standing there with his back to him he could see the tremble in his shoulders and stood up, walking over he put his hands on them and turned him around, pulling him into his chest.

Johnny welcomed the security of his father’ strong arms around him as he let the tears flow. No words were spoken, no were needed. This was a father consoling his son, something that was long over due.

Don Luis watched as the two riders approached his estancia. He knew who it was and smiled  as he stepped off his porch into the hot afternoon sun.

Johnny seen the man step down off the porch and knew who it was, stopping Barranca just inside the entrance.

Murdoch stopped his horse as well and knew his son was battling himself inside on whether to ride on up to the house or not.

“ It’ll be alright son.” he said sincerely as he placed his right hand gently on Johnny’ left arm. “ I’m right here with you all the way son……you need to do this….He owes you answers.”

Johnny looked at him and gave a slight smile. “ Thanks pa.” he said softly before moving Barranca forward.

Don Luis smiled at how well his grandson sat his beautiful mount, noticing how the stallion stepped with grace and elegance, how he held his head high as his golden coat shined in the hot sun and his white mane and tale blew in the gentile breeze.

Johnny stopped Barranca five feet from his grandfather and sat there glaring at the man before him.

“ Es bueno ver que Juanito. Te ves cansado bajar y entrar en el interior, donde esta mas fresco. Traiga a su amigo con el que.” ( It is good to see you Juanito. You look tired, get down and come inside where it is cooler. Bring your friend with you.)

“ El es mi padre.” ( He’s my father.) Johnny snapped back as he continued to sit on Barranca.

Don Luis looked at the man next to his son. The man who dishonored his daughter.

“ So it is you who stole my daughter from me!” Don Luis said vehemently.

“ Va a hablar amablemente de mi padre, o nos vamos a.” ( You will speak kindly of my father or we will leave.)

“ Son ustedes los que se habla muy bien. Yo soy tu abuelo que me va a mostrar el respeto que merezco.” ( It is you who shall speak nicely. I am your grandfather and you will show me the respect I deserve.)

“ Hay que ganarse el respeto del hombre viejo y hasta ahora todo  lo que hemos hecho es mentira para mi.” ( You have to earn my respect old man and so far all you have done is lie to me.)

“ Johnny, este no es el hijo forma.” ( Johnny, this isn’t the way son.) Murdoch said firmly.

“ Don Luis mi hijo y yo vine aqui una sela razon………” ( Don Luis me and my son came here for one reason only.)

“So the gringo speaks our language does he……..I         know why my grandson is here……..I know more than you are aware of gringo.”

Johnny jumped down from Barranca. “ I told you old man……….”

Enough.” yelled a female voice. All three men turned and looked at a beautiful woman walking toward them. “ Don Luis he is your grandson and I warned you that if he ever showed up here again you would be truthful with him……….I am sorry my son for his rudeness to you and your father. I assure you it will happen no more.”

“ Ma’am I’m afraid my son is just as much to blame for this rudeness……..I’m his father Murdoch Lancer.”

“ Mister Lancer I am Maria Del A Vega……..your grandmother Juanito.” she said holding her hand out. “ We did not get to meet last time you were here I’m afraid.”

Johnny took her hand and kissed the back of it lightly. “ No we didn’t gran……”

“ It is alright if you wish to call me that………Your mother was named after me.”

“ Now I know where she got her beauty from ma’am.” Murdoch said as he too took her hand and kissed the back of it.

“ Come inside won’t you.” she said as she turned and started back to the house.

Johnny handed Barranca off to a vaquero, knowing his horse would be well cared for. Even though he didn’t really want to be here he knew his friend badly needed the rest.

Stepping into the house Johnny removed his hat as his father stepped up next to him and lightly touched his arm. A touch a father gave a son of support.

“ Would either of you care for some lemonade or perhaps something a little stronger?” Maria asked.

Johnny walked into the living room and stopped dead in his tracks. Hanging on the wall was a picture of his mother. Staring at it memories flooded back, memories of that night her beauty was taken from her.

Murdoch seen what had his son’ attention and smiled. Maria was a woman of pure beauty, seductive, charming and when she smiled she could light up a room.

“ Lemonade will be fine.” Murdoch answered.

“ Your mother was nineteen when we had that painted.” Maria stated. “ I’m afraid she was a wild child inside though…..We gave her anything she desired but out there is what she thought she wanted.”

Don Luis walked over to his wife and glanced at the picture then looked hard at Murdoch before letting his eyes fall to Johnny.

“ I wish to know of my daughters last days breathing Juanito…….Perhaps you could share them with us?”

Johnny glanced at his father. The looked he had said it all. How could he tell them his mother was a whore beaten to death by one of her men?

“ Maybe Juanito doesn’t want to talk about it.” Maria stated as she poured lemonade. “ You look like your mother child……I see her in you.” she said as she walked over and handed Johnny a glass of lemonade.

“ Gracias.” Johnny said softly.

“ If you will excuse me I will have a hot bath drawn up for you both and you can rest before dinner.” Maria told him as she put a hand to his face and gently touched him. “ Your mother would be proud of the man you have become Juanito.” she said before leaving the room.

Johnny relished the touch inside. He knew he couldn’t tell her how her daughter died, let alone what she did.

“ Come…….sit down and relax.” Don Luis suggested to them both.

Murdoch walked over and sat down on the couch and looked around the room. Some pictures in silver frames donned the tops of tables and hung on the wall. Statues of bull fighters and horses sat on a shelf

above the fireplace. The furniture was extravagant. Spanish design and color. Beautifully crafted cloth chairs with high backs like those at Lancer. The couches both long and elegant with wood trim along the top of the back. The wood almost black in color clearly did not come from Mexico. A coffee table scalloped in intricate detail sat in front of the couch they sat on.

“ What is it you do mister Del A Vega?” he asked.

“ I am a rancher like yourself……..I breed mestino’s with thoroughbreds.” He answered. “ Tell me Juanito which would you think is more important in breeding for quality, the stud or mare?”

Johnny knew he was being baited on his knowledge. “ I think the mare is more important…..A thoroughbred is bred for running and they race them on the east coast but nothing is stronger or better than the mestino. They have more heart and stamina and can survive in the desert better than any other horse.” he answered.

“ I quite agree with you…….I noticed the stallion you rode in on…….He is mestino and is nicely built…..perhaps you would like to sell him, no?”

“ Barranca ain’t for sell to no man for no price.” Johnny said firmly.

“ Everything has a price.”

“ Not him to you or no one else.” he snapped back.

Don Luis was a man used to getting what he wants and the stallion his grandson rode was a magnificent animal. He knew his grandson would never part with the animal, knowing the importance of a good horse he could appreciate the loyalty Johnny had for his.

“ Excuse me gentlemen but if the two of you would follow Felipe she will show you to your rooms.” Maria said walking back into the room. “ You will find a hot bath awaits you in your rooms. If there is anything you need please let her know.”

Johnny and Murdoch stood and followed the woman to their rooms.

Johnny was laying back with his eyes closed when a soft knock could be heard, sighing he opened his eyes.

“ Yeah.”

Murdoch opened the door and stepped in. “ Son… alright?’ he asked as he closed the door.

“ Yeah……..he baited me you know?……..Asking me about the horses.” Johnny stated.

“ I suspected as much son……..Your grandmother is a beautiful woman……I see where your mother got her strong will from.”

“ How do I tell them…….her how my mother lived pa?”

“ I know that will be hard to do son but they want to know so………”

“ So I just tell them the daughter they so adored was a whore?”

“ The truth is the best son you know that and sometimes hearing the truth isn’t always the best…….My father told me once that sometimes doing the right thing isn’t the right thing……Think on it and get some rest.” he stated as he turned to open the door.

“ Pa.”

“ Yes son.”

“ I’m glad you’re here with me……..I don’t think I could do this if you weren’t.”

“ So am I son. So am I.”

Johnny didn’t rest to well as dreams plagued his mind. Dreams he had thought would not return to him. Standing in front of the mirror he ran a hand over his face and sighed before turning to head to what he was sure would be an interesting dinner.

Sitting next to his father silently listening to his grandfather talk about Mexico and the peasant workers he could feel himself getting angry.

“ Men like you wouldn’t have a lot of what you do if it wasn’t for peasants working in your fields.” Johnny cut in.

Don Luis would not stand for rudeness in his home, especially addressed toward him. “ I am perfectly aware of what these peasant farmers do for me young man……I have many men working for me and much land…….Horses are not the only thing I raise.”

“ Yeah I know how you got a lot of that land too old man.”

Maria dabbed at the corner of her mouth with her napkin. She was smiling inside at how her grandson was standing up to his grandfather. Not many men dared to do so.

Murdoch wanted to stop his son, knowing a fight would ensure, but found he couldn’t. Pride inside for his son standing up for himself and others swelled his heart and he smiled as he glanced at Maria and noticed that she too was enjoying his sons determination and not backing down.

“ I see that your mother has taught you no manners young man……You will not speak to me in my own home in this way.”

“ Kinda hard for her to teach me manners old man when she was busy laying on her back most of the time……..I learned and raised myself and I don’t give a damn what you think of me and my manners.”

Don Luis stood up quickly. “ How dare you speak of your mother in that way………My daughter…….”

“ Your daughter was a whore.” Johnny snapped back. “ You want to know what she was like or doing when she died?…..Well let me tell you………”

Johnny.” Murdoch interjected.

Johnny glanced at him. “ No pa he wants to know so I’m going to tell him……..I’m sorry to be so blunt to you grandmother but I only know and speak the truth……….Your daughter was no angel…..She was a whore……She took me from my father when I was two and came back here to Mexico and sold her body to men for whiskey……..Most of the time I went without food in my belly and barely clothes on my back because she couldn’t make money with a halfbreed kid around…….She  was beaten to death by a man who also tried to kill me…..A man who I later hunted down and killed…………Your daughter used to beat me and would do nothing to stop her lovers from beating me.” Johnny said with anger as he stood up. “ Don’t tell me not to speak of my mother that way old man, that’s not a right you have……I raised myself and the beatings only stopped when I learned how to use a gun….I was just a halfbreed in the Mexicans eyes until I showed them I would take no more.”

Don Luis stepped around the dinner table to him. “ You have Del A Vega blood running thru your veins. Our heritage goes back hundreds of years and that man……* that * gringo you have for a father soiled my daughter. You are a mestizo because of him.”

Johnny glared at his grandfather with eyes as cold as ice. “ At least my father loves me…….He searched for me to bring me home where I belonged………What did you do huh…….I’ll tell you what you did…..Nothing.”

“ That’s not true son.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ Your grandfather knew where you where son….he knew you were in  that mission. He paid Padre Thomas money for your care.”

Johnny glanced at his father then back at Don Luis. “ You knew I was there and you did nothing to get me out……..You bastard.”

Don Luis slapped Johnny hard, his jaw muscles bulging, veins in his neck as well.

“ Don Luis.” Maria cut in.

“ You ever touch me again and I’ll kill you.”  Johnny said firmly.

“ Johnny……….Tell him Don Luis…….tell my son how you could leave him alone in that orphanage knowing how he was being treated.” Murdoch demanded.

“ I know why.” Johnny interjected. “ It’s because a mestizo kid would tarnish your brothers plans right?” he demanded. “ You know why he’s so important in Mexico pa?……..I’ll tell you…..It’s because his brother is El Presidente and that wouldn’t have happened if it got out that a halfbreed kid was in the family.”

This piece of information shocked Murdoch. Why had the Pinkerton agent not said anything about this he wondered.

“ It is because of me that you are still alive Juanito……The federal es want you dead especially after what you did in Sonora four years ago walking into that cantina and murdering those Rurales……Messilla   has sworn vengeance against you and will kill you………You are a disgrace to this families name and heritage.”

“ I may have Del A Vega blood in my veins but the Lancer blood I have is purer…….You brought me here years before to do your dirty work for you…..To kill peasant farmers you wanted rid of because you don’t have the stomach to do it yourself…….You make me sick to be related to old man…….Men like you only know how to take what you want and to hell with who’s in the right……..I’m riding out of here in the morning and I don’t give a damn if I ever see you again.” Johnny said firmly before walking out of the room.

Murdoch stood there watching his son leave the room with more hurt to burden.

“ My son is a proud man and only knows to speak his mind……What he said here tonight was the truth about Maria whether you want to believe that or not.” Murdoch said with anger. “ I will not stand by and allow you to belittle my son for what is not his fault…….It is you who’s to blame for who he became…..You left him alone after his mother died……You who allowed the abuse……You have no idea what kind of person Johnny is do you?”

“ I know my grandson is a killer……A wanted man here in Mexico.”

“ We are all killers Del A Vega, just that some men hire others to do it for them.”

“ He will not be touched as long as he is on my land,  but I assure you the Rurales, Messilla especially will capture him and I will not be the one responsible.” he said before turning and leaving the room.

Maria spoke when he left the room. “ May I show you something?” she asked as she stood and walked into the living room and over to a desk and pulled out a file and handed it to him. “ Don Luis is very proud of his grandson and the man he has become.”

Murdoch took the file and opened it up. Inside he found articles on his son about the gold he delivered and other things he had done in his life helping others. Whether it was a range war or called out Don  Luis had many newspaper clippings, all about Johnny.

“ I don’t understand……if he is then why does he speak to Johnny the way he does?”

“ That I do not know mister Lancer, but I will speak to him tonight about it…….Juanito is our only grandchild and I fear that I will never see him again if he leaves here in the morning without getting to know him some.”

“ I will also speak to Johnny…..they are a lot alike the two of them.”

“ Yes they are. They are both proud men and it makes me proud that Juanito stood up to him tonight. Not many men do that.”

“ As am I.” Murdoch said back.

Both talked well into the night, Murdoch about Johnny and Lancer and Maria about her daughter answering Murdoch’ questions and Don Luis and how people were wrong about the man. In the late hours of the night the two bid each other good night.

Johnny stayed a week with his grandfather and all three men got to know each other better than that first night. Their last night’s dinner together was a quiet one. The next morning as Johnny and his father mounted their horses Don Luis promised he would come to Lancer and see his grandson again. About half a days ride from the border Johnny became uneasy. No Rurales had been seen and he knew Messilla would not let him leave Mexico. Not alive. His feelings came true when a shot rang out and his fathers horse dropped dead from a bullet to it’s neck.

Jumping off Barranca Johnny hurried to his fathers side. “ You alright?” he asked as he fired his rifle at the Rurales.

“ Yes son.” Murdoch answered as he too shot at them.

“ Take Barranca and get out of here old man.” Johnny ordered.

“ I am not leaving you behind son.”

Damn it old man he can’t carry both of us to the border now get your ass on him and go.”

Murdoch knew his son was right but he could ‘t leave him alone. “ No son I will not leave you.”

“Get the fuck out of here now…..Messilla will take me to the prison in Sonora………Ride back to my grandfathers and get help…….he will be able to get me out. Now go damn it.”

Murdoch handed his rifle to his son and went to Barranca and mounted up. “ I’ll get you back son…..I promise.”

Johnny laid down heavy fire from behind his fathers dead horse emptying his rifle so his father could get away. He knew what Messilla had planned for him would not be pleasant and he wasn’t about to surrender without a fight. A bullet slammed into his right shoulder hard knocking him backwards and before he could do anything the Rurales swarmed on him. One hit him in the head with his rifle butt dazing him just enough so they could get his pistol away from him.

A minute later dazed he stared into the eyes of the Capitain as one of his men checked him for weapons. Two others held him by his arms.

“ Hows the leg?’ Madrid asked with a smirk as he fought to keep the bile down that rose in his throat.

Messilla punched him hard in the face, then gut knocking the wind from him. “ I am going to make you pay for every day of pain I have had since you put that bullet in me swine.” he said with hatred as he again hit Johnny in the face splitting his bottom lip.

Murdoch stopped Barranca and headed back to his son. He had to know if he was still alive or not. What he seen made him sick. A man whom he could only assume would be Messilla was beating his son. Their laughs could be heard as he watched his son receive blow after blow to his face, chest and back before his hands were bound in front of him and Johnny was made to walk and stagger behind their horses away from him toward Sonora.

At sunset Messilla and his men led an exhausted Madrid into the prison yard were he dropped to his knees and hands. Messilla got off his horse and walked over to him and kicked him in the ribs.

“ Madrid is mine and I will kill anyone who touches him…….Is that clear?’ he said firmly to the guards.

“ Yes Capitain.”

“ Tie him up to the post for the night. I don’t want him laying down and no water.” he ordered.

Two guards grabbed Johnny under each arm and drug him over to two post about six feet apart and shackled his arms to each one before stepping back.

Messilla walked over behind him and grabbed a hand full of hair. “ When the sun comes up I will start my vengeance on you mestizo and before I am done you will be begging me to kill you I promise you this.”

“ I doubt that…….Ain’t nothing you can do to me that would make me beg to you swine.”

Messilla stepped around to his front and smiled right before he slammed his fist into the wound in Johnny’ shoulder. “ Have the doctor come and stop the bleeding I do not want him dying on me before I have my vengeance.” he ordered before walking away.

“ Yes Capitain right away.” a guard answered.

Johnny knew that a prison doctor was filthy. They rarely washed their hands or cleaned their instruments. The thought of one doctoring his shoulder caused him to lose his battle and stomach all over the guard still with him.

Not pleased at all the guard busted him up side the head with his rifle butt and darkness claimed Madrid for the night for when the sun came up he knew that that would be when hell would start.

                                                                Chapter 22

Messilla stepped out into the early morning, the sun just breaking on the horizon and smiled. Today would be the beginning of something he had waited four long painful years for. Rubbing his leg he walked out to the two post set in the center of the yard where Madrid was secured. Arms stretched across and shackles bound to each wrist. Leaving strict orders that a guard was to stay with Madrid at all times even though the man could go nowhere. A crude bandage was wrapped around Madrid’ right shoulder, the bullet still inside.

“ Morning Capitain.” the guard said as he stood from his chair.

“ Has the swine moved at all?”

“ No sir, he has been still all night.”

“ Get the other prisoners out here now……..I want them to see this swine get what is deserved.”

The guard hurried away as Messilla  stepped around to the front of Madrid. Pure hatred could be seen in his eyes as he glared at the man before him with more hatred than any man could posses.

“ Time to wake up swine.” he said before slapping him hard.

Johnny felt the sting of the slap and snapped his eyes open. Immediately his shoulder screamed in pain and his arms ached as he tried to focus his eyes at the man standing before him.

“ I hope you had a restful sleep Madrid.” Messilla said as the prisoners came out into the yard.

“ Can’t complain…… least out here I didn’t have to smell the stench that’s inside.”

“ I see you still have a sense of humor……….I want you all to see this swine before you……..This is the dangerous pistolero Johnny Madrid.” Messilla yelled to the other inmates. “ This is what happens when you cross me and kill my men……..Four years ago this swine put a bullet in my leg and now I get my revenge.”

Johnny tried to relieve some of the ache in his shoulders from hanging stretched out all night. He immediately regretted moving his right arm. The doctor knew who he was last night and had cared for his shoulder as best he could. Blood began to run down his shoulder and chest. The sound of insects buzzing around the wound at the smell of blood could be heard  faintly. He knew his father had gotten away, he just prayed Barranca could get him to his grandfathers and together the two men would be able to get him out of this hell. All he had to do was hang on and wait.

Messilla had moved around behind him and he struggled to keep panic at bay. ‘ Keep your enemies close.’ he told himself as he struggled to hear what the man was doing. He got his answer when the unmistakable sound of leather being uncoiled drifted to his ears. Seconds later leather and flesh connected and Johnny jerked his head back and sucked in air as the whip bit into his flesh.

Sweat ran down into his eyes as he prayed for darkness to claim him as again and again the leather left its bloody marks down his back and around his sides on his chest.

Messilla stopped and walked up to Madrid and grabbed a hand full of hair and jerked his head back.

“ Still think you’re smart swine?” he spat in Johnny’ ear.

“ That the best you can do pendecah?” Johnny said between breaths.

“ Oh I can do more…….much more to you and I will.” the man said as he yanked the bandage off Johnny’ shoulder before walking away.

Madrid glanced at the other inmates standing and watching his treatment. All dressed in the familiar thin white cotton pants and shirt stained from sweat. Thin sandals covered the bottom their feet held on by a thin leather strap. Some of the men were old with beards of white and others younger.  He knew they were being made to watch to keep them in line.

Messilla came back and stood in front of him again smiling. “ I will break you and you will beg me for a swift death Madrid.”

“ It” be a cold day in hell before I beg you for anything Messilla.”

Messilla brought his right hand up and showed Madrid what he had. “ Let’s see how well you like this…..I wouldn’t want that bullet wound getting infected.” he said as he pressed his hand to the wound and the salt entered his wound.

Johnny bit the inside of his mouth to keep from screaming as the salt burned. Tears came to his eyes as sweat ran down his face. Gasping for air as blood ran from his mouth. Dropping his head to his chest for a second as blood filled his mouth. The smell and taste caused his stomach to rebel. Raising his head back up inches from Messilla’ face he spat blood all over the Capitain face and uniform.

Messilla heard laughs from the other prisoners as he wiped the blood from his face. Walking behind Madrid he took the remaining salt and rubbed it roughly over the lash marks.

“ Beg me swine……..beg me to kill you.” he spat.

Johnny bit the inside of his mouth again and arched forward as much as he could trying to get away from the man. His back screamed white hot pain and his shoulders and arms protested. Unable to take the pain any longer he screamed out before darkness finally claimed him and his head dropped to his chest.

Messilla smiled with satisfaction as Madrid screamed out before from the pain. Looking at the prisoners he could see they had dropped their heads.

“ Throw him in a cell and leave him……..he gets no water or food until I say.” the man ordered before walking away.

Two guards moved to Madrid and undid the shackles around his wrist and let him fall to the ground. Grabbing the unconscious man and dragged him inside the prisoner quarters. Dragging him into a small cell about five feet by five feet, they dropped him to the filthy cobblestone and dirt floor. Grabbing the chain shackle attached to the wall one of the guards yanked his boots off and locked it securely around his left ankle, stepping over Madrid he viciously kicked him in the ribs bringing a moan from the mans lips.

Murdoch pushed Barranca as hard as he could without playing the stallion out. Time was of the essence and his son’s survival depended on him reaching Del A Vega in time. Late afternoon brought him into the yard of the Don’s estancia.

Don Luis watched the rider gallop toward his home and recognized the golden palomino immediately as he stepped off his porch.

“ What has happened?……Where is Juanito?” he asked the Lancer patriarch.

“ The Rurales have him….They shot my horse and Johnny made me ride Barranca and get away…. He said to come here, that you could help him.” Murdoch said as he got down from the exhausted stallion covered in sweat.

“ Jose take care of Juanito’ horse………Come inside and tell me all that happened.” Don Luis ordered.

Murdoch finished telling Don Luis what he knew and seen happen to his son as the Rurales took him away.

“ It will take time but I can get him out……Go with Felipe and get cleaned up and some food and rest while I contact my brother.”

“ How can you expect me to sleep knowing my son is in that hell hole.”

“ You will do him no good if you run yourself down……Por favor…..he will need you to be strong for him because I assure you he will be in bad shape * when * we get him out.”

“ How……….how are you going to get Johnny out of that prison?”

“ Do you not remember who my brother…..Juanito’ great uncle is?”

“ El Presidente.”

“ Si…….and he has been looking for a way to get Messilla out of the army and now has that means to do so.”

“ Get him out…….the man should be put before a firing squad and shot down.”

“ That is what he will eventually do to Johnny I am afraid…….Now please go with Felipe……We will leave at first light and head to Sonora.”

“ What about medical treatment for Johnny?……..Is there a doctor in Sonora?”

“ I will have my own personal doctor come with us…….I will trust no other with his care…..The doctor they have at that prison isn’t fit to treat a scrape.”

Scott you could say was having the time of his life with his little nephew Michael. The baby hardly ever cried and could polish off his food just like his father.

Sam had been over joyed when asked to come out to the ranch, but not told why. Upon seeing the baby in Maria’ arms, one look told him who the father was.

“ Johnny comes back to Lancer, that boy is going to get the surprise of his life Scott, or does he already know the baby is here?”

“ No Sam….I thought about wiring them but what he’s doing in Mexico is important so……..”

“ So you chose not to tell him……….You’re just gonna let him come home and find out is that it?”

“ Yeah……….He’s went most of his life without his father in it and maybe he will be able to resolve things with his grandfather and get the answers he needs.”

“ I think you young man are having way too good a time with this little man and don’t want Johnny to come home to soon.” Sam said with a smile.

Scott picked the baby up. “ Yeah I am Sam, but I miss my brother…….I miss them both………….You know I still have a hard time believing Teresa did this.”

“ You and me both……..I think it was nice of you to bring Johnny’ things from when he was a baby down from the attic for Michael.”

“ Well I seen no sense in them sitting up there collecting dust not being used when this little man could use them.”

“ Why do I get the feeling that something is bothering you Scott?”

“ Huh…..oh yeah I don’t know Sam I just got this weird feeling that something is wrong all the sudden.”

“ Wrong?”

“ Johnny…….something is wrong with my brother Sam……..I can feel it.”

“ Well for his sake and yours I hope you’re wrong.”

“ So do I Sam….So do I.”

Johnny opened his eyes to the smell of stench, dirt and sweat, tolling onto his back he immediately rolled back into his side as pain shot thru his body. His back was on fire and the deep throbbing in his shoulder made him loose anything he had left in his stomach. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he wretched until nothing else came up. Wiping his mouth with his left hand he slowly sat up and felt the bite of the shackle around his left ankle.

Moving back against the wall he used what little light there was and looked at his shoulder. Dry blood caked his skin and chest. Blood oozed from the wound still, but barely. Picking his right hand up and bringing the arm to rest in his lap he had no feeling at all. His fingers wouldn’t move and except for the throbbing pain in the would it’s self his right arm was dead.

“Die in here or out there.” he said to himself. Madrid knew that if he did get out and his right arm never worked again and he got called out he would never be fast enough with his left arm and a bullet would end his life. Someone, whoever it was would have the reputation so many before had tried to get. Those who called him out or ambushed him didn’t care really how they killed him, as long as he was dead and it was their bullet that did it was all they would care about.

Shadows crept toward him as the sun set and his first day of hell ended. A rat could be heard scampering along his wall. Listening he could hear the faint sounds of someone humming. Closing his eyes he let his mind drift away as he carefully lay down on his left side and curled up in a ball. He prayed Barranca had gotten his father back to his grandfathers estancia. A smile came to his face briefly as he thought about the look Messilla would have when he had to let him go free as darkness claimed his battered body.

Murdoch, Don Luis his doctor Hector and three of his vaquero’s rode out at first light. Barranca at his side being led. The stallion was still tired from the hard ride the day before seemed to sense he was going back to his master and didn’t protest when taken from his stall. Jose had rubbed him down thoroughly and given him good hay and grain. He thought about leaving the stallion at the ranch but knew his son would want his friend with him even though Don Luis assured him the horse would be alright left there. Murdoch quickly told the man the bond the two had as he mounted the fine chestnut mare Don Luis provided him. The man had understood and said no more about it.

“ We will be in Sonora tomorrow evening……..I should have word from my brother by the time we get there………Messilla will receive word upon our arrival from his men in town I am sure.”

“ Are you sure your brother will be able to get Johnny freed?”

“ Yes………I will not leave Sonora without my grandson.”

“ Did you say your son had been shot mister Lancer?” the doctor asked.

Murdoch looked at him. “ Yes……I could see the blood on his right shoulder….Why?”

“ Infection and fever will most likely have a good hold on him by the time he gets freed……if the bullet is still in there it can do more damage depending on where in the shoulder it is……..Your son could loose his arm if the infection or damage is to severe.”

“ My son will not loose his arm doctor…..You don’t know Johnny……he’s a fighter understand?”

“ Yes I understand that mister Lancer, but you need to think about the possibility of that happening to him.”

“ I have doctor I assure you….Johnny’ life depends on his right arm and I have thought about what his life will be without the use of that arm ever again.”

“ I have heard the vaquero’s talk of Madrid….They say he is the robin hood of Mexico, helping the peasants fight against the Rurales for only food or shelter…….He’s quit a son you have.”

“ Yes he is doctor.”

Johnny heard the footsteps coming closer to his cell and then stopping outside his metal grate door. Not moving as the door swung open he blinked against the bright light as he felt the chain removed from his leg and was dragged out into the rising sun to the middle of the yard were he was held by two guards as a third one shackled his legs together, then his wrist, jerking as hard as he could on his right arm knowing it would start it bleeding again.

Standing there with the cold steel biting into his wrist and ankles as Messilla walked out into the yard.

A chain ran from one pole to the other across the top with a metal ring in the middle. A rope had been thread thru the ring and hung down to the ground. One end of the rope contained a lock.

The three guards forced Johnny to start walking toward the two poles and he found himself stopping. He knew what Messilla had planned and had seen it done to a man before until his arms separated from his body completely.

I said bring him here………now.” Messilla vented angrily as he waited.

One of the guards took out a small black bat he had in his waist band and hit Johnny in his ribs hard dropping him to his knees. “ Get up breed.” the guard ordered before hitting him again. This time Johnny managed to grab the bat and struck the guard with it in the head knocking him out cold. The other two scrambled and grabbed Johnny around the waist and tackled him to the ground. His wrist bound with only a foot chain between Johnny fought the best he could but it was a lost cause. The odds against him he felt another bat glance off his temple and daze him just enough to allow the two guards to get up and start kicking him in his ribs and back.

Trying to desperately protect his ribs Madrid rolled onto his stomach and ignored the white hot pain surging thru his shoulder as blood flowed from the wound.

Enough.” Messilla ordered.

Johnny was dragged over and dropped between the poles.

“ Stand him up.” he ordered.

The two guards stood him up as Messilla took the end of the rope with the lock and secured it to his wrist shackles, then gleaming at Madrid he took the other end and pulled until Johnny’ arms were raised above his head and he could barely touch the ground.

This is going to be such fun swine, hanging in the hot sun all day. I know your legs will not hold out for you. You have had no food or water for two days and the blood loss has made you weak…I think you will be dead by morning.”

“ Don’t get your hopes up you fucking bastard…….I’m going to kill you Messilla.” Johnny snapped back.

Messilla walked around and faced him. “ Is that so?…….you’re going to kill me huh.” he said before breaking out in a laugh.

Johnny stood there glaring at the man as drool ran down his filthy chin. He could smell the stench oh his breath from rotting teeth. Teeth brown or black, some missing or soon to be. He watched as the man walked away from him still laughing as the sun shined down without a cloud in the sky.

Late afternoon Messilla came out and walked over to Johnny with a bottle of tequila.

“ I think I will cleanse your wounds.” he said before pouring the tequila on Johnny’ back causing him to scream out from the pain. And drop all his weight onto his already screaming arms.

Messilla heard the sound of approaching horses and looked to the gate, hatred came over his face.

Johnny looked and his heart skipped a beat and his breath caught in his throat as his father and grandfather both rode into the yard. Having either man see him like this shamed him. Pride was the only thing Johnny Madrid had most of his life and when another man takes that pride away a man can feel pretty low. Johnny was feeling that low right now.

Murdoch spotted his son and wanted to go to him badly but knew that he could get him killed if he did. Don Luis was the man calling the tune this time.

“ Well and what do I owe the pleasure of the great Don Luis Del A Vega and this gringo coming to my prison and visiting me?”

“ You know why I am here Messilla……….Let my grandson go now.”

“ I do not have your grandson Don Luis………I have captured the famous gunfighter Johnny Madrid. He has committed numerous acts of violence and murder against the federal es and is in my prison to pay for those crimes with his life.”

Murdoch could see his son had been beaten and the wound in his shoulder bled freely as his arms stretched above him now.

“ What kind of man treats another man like that?………Torturing a prisoner to death is wrong.”

‘ Ah but this swine is only being punished for his mouth…..he will not be killed yet…….I have not received word when that is to happen…………I have the right to keep my prisoners in line by any and all means necessary.”

Murdoch went to get off his horse but was stopped by two guards with rifles with bayonets on them.

“ Just what is Madrid to you gringo?…….Huh…….I know it was you with him the other day.”

“ He’s my son you sonofabitch………I’m going to make sure you pay for every injury you put on my boy Capitain.”

“ Are you threatening me gringo?”

“ That’s not a threat………that’s a promise.” Murdoch said before hitting Messilla in the mouth hard knocking him backwards.

A rider galloped into the yard on a well lathered exhausted horse and handed a note to Messilla.

Upon opening and reading the letter Murdoch and Don Luis knew what it said by the look on the mans face.

“ Cut my son free now.” Murdoch ordered. “ Cut him free now.”

None of the guards moved as Messilla wrinkled up the note and dropped it to the ground.

“ I really don’t think you want to go against El Presidente’s orders do you…….I believe that is punishable by a firing squad.”

Two guards finally moved and cut the rope holding Johnny up as Murdoch helped his son down to the ground.

Get that doctor in here now.” he yelled. “ Take it easy son……We’ll get you out of here.”

“ Hey pa……I knew you would come for me.”

“ You damn right I will son…..I lost you once I don’t want to loose you again.”

“ Barranca?”

“ He’s fine son…..He’s in town.”

“ Good….” Johnny said as he let the darkness claim him. He knew now he would be alright, he wouldn’t die in this hell and the next time he opened his eyes he would see the man he had wished for all his life to protect him.

It pained Murdoch deeply to see his son in this condition in just a matter of a couple days in this hell.

“ We need a wagon to get him out of here and start cleaning these wounds.” Hector stated as he bound the shoulder wound up. “ This shoulder is badly infected……He as a high fever and is dehydrated as well.”

“ Go ahead and save that swine now if you think you can…….I will not stop until I have killed him.”

Don Luis grabbed Murdoch’ arm as the big man stood and started toward the Capitain. Standing there as blood ran down his chin.

“ He is not worth it right now……..Juanito needs you more…there will be another time.”

“ You remember this Messilla…….and remember it good………Lancer takes care of it’s own…….We don’t need the law to get rid of scum like you…..if you come anywhere near my son again I will not rest until  * you * are dead.”

Messilla turned and started to walk away but was stopped by Don Luis.

 El Presidente has been looking for a reason to get you out of the Mexican army Messilla…….Soon you will be nothing but a peon.”

Straightening his back Messilla continued on to his quarters vowing vengeance.

Johnny stayed unresponsive and unconscious for three days. Hector cleaned his back and had Murdoch with himself rub a salve on it twice a day. The bullet he found lodged deep in Johnny’ shoulder beneath his clavicle. Even though his patient was unresponsive he knew paralysis in that right arm was sure to happen if it hadn’t already. Some got some mobility back with time but full use, strength and motion he didn’t see Madrid having happen.

Murdoch sat with his son almost constantly. Don Luis and Hector both would have to force the man to sleep and eat a little so he could be strong for his son when he woke. He contemplated sending a wire telling Scott what had happened but decided it was better not to since he knew his oldest would just worry.

On the fourth day his son began to moan and stir around mumbling in his sleep. Murdoch knew the fever that raged in his sons body was bringing back memories his son wanted to forget. Wiping the sweat from his sons brow Murdoch was greeted by blue eyes finally in the late afternoon.

“ Hey son…how do you feel?” he asked softly.

“ I hurt all over.” Johnny said, hating to admit it but knew his father would know.

“ Listen to me son…..Your shoulder………….”

“ I already know pa……I can’t feel my arm or move it.”

Murdoch was amazed at how calm his son was being about this.

“ I guess it’s just a matter of time now before word gets out and a bullet finds me.” Johnny said sarcastically as he tried to move and immediately regretted it.

“ Let me help you sit up.” Murdoch said as he put a hand under each of Johnny’s arms and gently lifted his son to sit up. “ Can you stay like that while I put some pillows behind your back son?”

“ Yeah ain’t like I got a choice in the matter.”

Murdoch sighed as he put more pillows behind his son’ back then poured some water from the pitcher next to the bed.

“ Here….you’ve had a pretty high fever and need to drink this.”

Johnny eagerly welcomed the cool liquid as he drank the whole thing. “ More.”

“ Let’s see if that’s gonna stay down first son.”

“ Where’s Don Luis?”

“ I believe he is downstairs son getting something to eat.”

“ Where are we?”

“ Sonora……..your grandfather paid for the hotel here for the extent of our stay so no one else can stay here…..He wanted to be sure of your safety.”

Johnny looked at him. “ Yeah and how are the two of you gonna get me back to Lancer safely?”

“ Son we’ll deal with that when the time comes…….right now you need to rest……..I’ll go get you some broth and let the doctor know you’re awake.”

“ Better start thinking about it now old man…..word gets out about me and…….”

“ I know son……I’ve been thinking about that these past days watching you fight your fever………Now rest and I will be back shortly.”

“ Murdoch.”

“ Yes son.”


“ I don’t know son……Don Luis said he was discharged from the Mexican army.”

“ He’ll come after me you know?”

“ He does and as I told him I will kill him if he does anything to hurt you ever again.”

A week later Murdoch and Johnny rode out of Sonora with four of Don Luis’ vaquero’s. The ride would be slow going but Johnny insisted on getting out of Mexico as soon as possible. Riding mostly at night to not be seen and staying away from towns two weeks found them just outside Moro Coyo.

The vaquero’s left and headed back to Mexico upon Johnny’s insistence that they would be alright the rest of the way home.

“ Do you want to go into town and have Sam check your wounds son?”

“ I just want to go home….If we keep going we can be there by dark.”

“ Alright son, but you look tired and I think your fever is back.” he said feeling his sons forehead.

“ I can make it.” Johnny said moving Barranca ahead.

Just at dark the two men rode into the yard and were both greeted by Scott. He seen Johnny’s arm in a sling and wondered what happened as he walked over to help him down.

“ Watch his back son.” Murdoch said as he got down and came over to help.

“ What happened to you brother?”

“ Not now Scott…….help him up to his room, I’ll be in after I have a hand go fetch Sam.”

“ It’ll wait old man.” Johnny said, his breathing ragged. “ Nothing he can do tonight that can’t wait till morning.”

“ Alright….Lets get you upstairs into your bed.”

Both men helped Johnny walk slowly up the stairs and to his room. Sitting on the bed sweat beaded on his brow as his father pulled his boots off.

“ I don’t want Maria seeing me like this.” he said as he took his right arm from the sling to remove his shirt.

“ She won’t son.”

Scott couldn’t stop the sudden gasp that escaped his lips as his brother removed his shirt. The whip marks were still raw in places, a couple deeper ones still oozed blood. Helping his brother lay down on his left side anger boiled inside him at the sight of his brothers back.

“ Would one of you please tell me what the hell happened to you?”

“ It’s pretty obvious ain’t it Boston?” Johnny said more than  asked with pain in his voice. “ I got beat and shot.”

“ You rest young man and I’ll go get the cream the doctor gave for your back.” Murdoch said shooting a look to Scott to follow.

Johnny was asleep before the two men made it out of the room.

Murdoch went to the sideboard and poured a stiff shot and downed it. Getting his shaking hands under control he turned to Scott. “ Sit down son.”

Scott sat there in shock after listening to what his father told him his brother did and had been thru.. He was thankful Maria had the baby with her tonight. His brother was in no condition to learn he had a son and that that son was brought to Lancer and left for him to raise.

 Murdoch sat at the table early the next morning drinking coffee when Maria walked into the kitchen with the baby in her arms.

“ Patron you are home……I did not know you would be back.” she said.

Murdoch noticed the baby and stood. “ We got home last night Maria….who is this little fellow?”

Scott walked into the kitchen. “ Maria……….Uh Murdoch……I would like to introduce you to Michael Madrid……..Johnny’s son.”

Murdoch stared in disbelief at the baby Scott now held in his arms. “ Teresa came here with him while you two were in Mexico……It would seem that her new husband and family wanted nothing to do with raising him and wanted her to put him in an orphanage…..Teresa wouldn’t do it and brought him here for Johnny to raise.”

“My god son…….I don’t know how your brother will receive this news with what has happened to him.” Murdoch stated as he took his grandson in his arms.

“ Juanito…….he sleep late patron?”

“ Uh yeah Maria Johnny has been injured and won’t be able to join us for breakfast.”

“ Say’s who old man?” a soft voice said from the entrance to the kitchen. Johnny, sweat on his brow stared directly at the baby in his fathers arms.

“ You look ready to fall over brother………..sit down before you do.” Scott said as he helped his brother to the table.

Johnny never took his eyes off the baby as he walked over and sat down across from his father.

“ Kinda hiring ’em young ain’t ya brother?” Johnny asked.

“ Maria would you fix Johnny something that will be easy on his stomach please?”

“ Si patron………You have a fever Juanito….you should not be out of bed.”

“ I’m alright Maria……..who’s the kid?”

“ Uh son…….”Murdoch started only to be cut off by Scott.

“ Johnny….this is your son Michael Madrid.” Scott cut in.

Both men could see the shock on his face as the news sank in. “ Teresa?” was all he could say.

“ Yes.” Scott answered back as he took the baby from Murdoch and sat down next to his brother.

“ Michael Madrid I would like you to meet your father Johnny Madrid.”

Johnny stood up and headed to the back stairs.

“ Son wait.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ Don’t you want to hold your son?”

“ Yeah but you tell me how the fuck am I going to do that old man with just one arm huh?” he answered back harshly before turning and walking back upstairs.

“ I’m sorry Maria for Johnny’s language.” the patriarch said as he headed to the stairs.

“ Murdoch……….give him some time…….let Sam check him over this morning and give him some time to adjust to this.” Scott suggested.

“ And if he doesn’t?”

“ Juanito is a good person…….he will not turn his back on his son.” Maria added. “ I will talk to him while I help the doctor with his injuries.”

“ No Maria…….Johnny doesn’t want you seeing them………Me or Scott will help Sam if need be.”

“ Si patron but I know from the way he move his back has been lashed upon.”

“ Maria knowing and seeing are two different things.”

Sam came out and spent over an hour with Johnny. His prognosis, which Johnny valued more than the other doctor wasn’t as bleak. He felt that with time Johnny would get the use of his arm back, but it would take patience and hard work. The salve was healing his back and only a couple lash marks would leave definite scars.

Putting his things away Sam could tell his patient was deep in thought. “ I’m a good listener if you want to talk to me Johnny?”

Looking at the man Johnny gave a faint smile. “ How you figure that Sam?”

“ Well I may be old as you have stated in the past young man but I’m not blind…..I know you’re worried about your arm and what it means to you Johnny……I also know you have a beautiful little boy who needs his father.”

“ And how an I supposed to be a father to him Sam with just one arm?”

“ Listen to me John……..I believe your arm will come back to you as I stated earlier…..It’s just going to take far as your son goes you have a brother and father…..even Maria to help you raise him……Why that boy has so many people ready to help you raise him I bet he will be spoiled rotten….not that his uncle Scott hasn’t been doing a good job of that already.”

“ Yeah?”

“ Why you should see Scott with him, changing his diaper, feeding him and all under the careful watch of Maria mind you.”

“ I’ve faced a lot of challenges in my lifetime Sam……I don’t know if I can handle this one……What if I fail? Or he gets older and hates me?”

“ You know even though others feel wrong about you in this valley I for one know that you are a good person John……That baby is going to grow up loving you and knowing nothing but that love.”

Johnny played with a thread on his quilt as he pondered what Sam said. A knock on the door interrupted them.

“ Yeah.” he called out.

Murdoch entered carrying a tray of food for his son. “ Maria made you up some scrambled eggs and biscuits son.”

“ Well I need to be going….Remember what I said Johnny and think about it would you for me?”

“ I’ll try Sam.”

“ He should stay in bed a few days…..The wounds are healing up good on his back, just continue with the salve twice a day and see that he drinks plenty of liquids. I’m not to concerned about the fever he still has, I think it is mostly from over doing it coming home so soon after.”

“ Alright Sam…Thank you.”

“ I’ll stop back by in a day or two and check on you…….In the mean time get some rest, that’s the best thing for you right now Johnny.”

“ I will Sam…….Thanks.”

That afternoon a lite knock at his door  woke Johnny. Looking he smiled a little as his father walked into his room with the baby in his arms.

“ Son……I think you need to hold your son and let him start getting to know his father.” Murdoch stated as he walked around the bed and placed the baby in Johnny’s left arm before he could protest.

Looking down at his son Johnny couldn’t stop the smile that came to his face. Taking his sons tiny left hand in his he felt the fingers.

“ He has your hair and eyes son……Maria says your appetite as well.”

“ Yeah……..he’s what about three months old now?” Johnny asked as he kissed the babies head.

“ I believe so yes.”

“ I’m sorry pa.” he said softly.

“ For what son?”

“ For this…getting Teresa with child and……”

“ Johnny stop………..I’m thrilled……..I have a grandson in this house. Do you honestly think that I would be upset with you over this?” he asked.

Johnny only nodded, he couldn’t take his eyes off his son.

“ Well I’m not son……..maybe how he came to be was wrong but not who his father is……..I am so proud of you right now I could yell it to the world.”

“ Who would ever have thought that me Johnny Madrid would be a father? Yet here I am holding my first born son.”

“ You feel anything like I did that night I held you for the first time son I know how you’re feeling.”

“ Are they supposed to be this little?”

“ Why yes son they are.”

Johnny found himself grinning as he readjusted the baby bringing him around to lay in his lap, holding his head up he looked down into the most beautifulest eyes he had ever seen.

“ He’s quiet just like his father is.” Scott said walking into the room. “ He only cries to be changed or eat.”

“ Thanks brother….you know, for taking care of him till I got back.”

“ De nada brother. I enjoyed doing it………i hope you two don’t mind but I brought the stuff down from the attic that was yours Johnny when you were a baby.”

“I don’t mind….he needed the stuff and it was just collecting dust up there.” he said as he stifled a yawn.

“ Why don’t you get some rest son before dinner?” Murdoch said as he reached to take the baby.

“ No leave him please………He can sleep next to me.”

Murdoch looked at Scott then back at the two Madrid’. “ Alright son……..I see no harm in letting your son sleep next to you……..Me or your brother will check on you two later.”

“ Thanks.” Johnny barely said as he fell asleep with his son next to his chest.

 One week later Sam allowed Johnny out of bed and gave stern orders of no work or riding of any kind.

Johnny was more than happy to agree with his friend and follow orders. He had a real reason now to stay alive, not that a brother and father were, but a son, someone totally dependent on him to survive in a way he wasn’t used to. People usually needed him for his gun and nothing more, his son however didn’t need but one thing from the infamous Johnny Madrid….* love * and that was something Johnny made a silent vow he would always give his son.

Maria showed Johnny how to change a diaper and feed the baby. Burping him Johnny learned fast was something he should never do without a towel on his shoulder. Feeling started to come back to his right arm and he could move it, but his strength just wasn’t there. His heart ached because he wanted to pick his son up and be able to walk around with him, but with only one arm working proper he couldn’t.

On this day he sat under the veranda and watched his father show off his grandson as he walked around the yard. He couldn’t help but wonder if his father was the same way with him when he was a baby. Sitting there with his colt in his lap, more for comfort than anything Johnny looked up the road at the sound of a horse galloping in. Colt cocked and in his left hand he stood up as he recognized the rider and smiled. Uncocking the colt he laid it in the chair and stepped out into the afternoon sun.

“ Murdoch.” he called as he waited for the rider to reach him.

Murdoch looked and he too smiled as he started walking over to his son.

“ Val how the heck are ya?” Johnny asked as he held out his right hand as far as he could.

Val got down and took the preferred hand in his. “ I’m good…..I was just passing thru and thought I’d stop by and see if you were still here.” he said as he looked at Murdoch.

“ Don’t tell me Scott went and got hitched and gave you a grandson mister Lancer?”

“Val I’d like you to meet Miguel Madrid… son.” Johnny said with pride.

“ Your son……..well I’ll be damned…….so you done found a woman and got hitched huh?”

“ No…..listen come on inside and sit a spell….you can stay can’t ya.”

“ Oh I reckon I could be persuaded to stay a spell if it’s alright with you old man…….this old horse could use a couple days rest.”

“ You’re more than welcome to stay as long as you want Val.”

That night at dinner Johnny and Murdoch told Val what had happened in Mexico. Johnny watched as his closest dearest friend got angry as he listened.

“ So I guess what I heard around the border is true then…….You know he’s lookin fer ya Johnny…….I seen Messilla in San Diego,  he was making it be known that Johnny Madrid would die when he found him.”

“ He can try but it’ll be him dying not my son.”

“ So you went and got yourself a rich grandfather and father…….and now a son as well……boy when you do something you do it up big time.” Val said with a smile.

“ This little man makes me richer than any money I could ever earn Val.” Johnny said with a smile before kissing his son on the top of his head.

“ Yeah he keeps my little brother rich in fertilizer Val.” Scott said teasingly.

“ No Scott that ain’t it at all. Miguel keeps me rich in love and to me that’s better than anything money can buy. Right pa?”

“ That’s right son.”

“ So you going by Lancer now?”

“ No………never will.” Johnny answered back sharply.

Murdoch felt pain in his heart hearing his son say he would never take the Lancer name as his own.

“ Whether he goes by Lancer or Madrid Johnny will always be my son Val.”

“And my little brother.” Scott added.

“ Well then I guess there’s only one thing left to do compadre……….A toast to Johnny Madrid, the best friend a man could ask for…..A man more loyal to what he does than anyone I know……A man who I know will be a great father…….Johnny It does me proud to call you my friend.”

Johnny just wanted to hide under the table. Compliments were something he could never take when he did get them. Hearing his longtime friend say what he did swelled him up inside with pride.

“Thanks Val…….Listen I got something I want to ask you…….i was going to do it in private but since you just embarrassed me I thought I would return the favor.”

Val cleared his throat and laughed. “ Go ahead an ask.”

“ I’d like you to be Miguel’s godfather.”

Both Murdoch and Scott couldn’t stop the shock from showing on their face. Johnny had been asking Scott about a godfather and just what it was they did a month ago and now he knew why. Hurt crept into him as he thought that it would be him his brother would ask.  A part of him could understand but it still hurt.

“ You know Johnny……I’m happy you asked me but don’t you think that Scott should be his godfather?”

“ He’s his uncle…..It has to be someone not related to him, ain’t that what you said Scott?”

“  No Johnny that’s not what I said……I said it would be better if it was someone not related.”

“ Oh…..well I’ve known you a lot longer than I’ve known him.” Johnny says looking from Scott to Val.

“ Alright..I guess.”

The rest of the evening was spent talking about the past two years. Johnny tried to get Val to stay longer but he wouldn’t.

“ Na Johnny……I need to find work what with winter and all.

“ Well if you will excuse me I think I’ll turn in early tonight…..sir.” Scott said as he went to leave the room.

“Night brother.” Johnny said but got no reply back, just a hard look as Scott walked past.

Murdoch noticed the hurt in his oldest sons eyes and the look he shot his brother. He just hoped the two didn’t end up not speaking at all over this.

“ Why don’t we go outside since it’s such a nice evening and all….Maria would you mind putting Miguel to bed for Johnny?”

“ Si….I can do that for Juanito.” Maria said as she came over and took the baby from him.

Stepping outside Val spoke to Johnny before Murdoch came out.

“ I think your brother is a little hurt that you didn’t ask him Johnny.”

“ Yeah you noticed that did you?…..Look I haven’t really known him but a year and well…” Johnny stopped when his father walked out.

“ Val what if I could get you a job here?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny looked at his father wondering if he meant working at the ranch.

“ I’m not much good punchin cows mister Lancer. Fact is the only thing I know about beeves is how good they taste.”

“ I didn’t mean here at Lancer Val…….I’m talking about as the sheriff of Spanish Wells…….we need a new one and I think you would be perfect for the job.”

“ Yeah Val…….you said yourself you was tired of the trail.”

“ Sheriff huh?”

“ Yes Val……it pays thirty dollars a month and two bits for every arrest.” Murdoch added.

“ Well mister Lancer I would have to say you got yourself a sheriff.”

“ Great.” Johnny said as he slapped his friend on the back.

Messilla rode into Moro Coyo about midnight. He learned about Lancer and where it was finally from a man who knew Madrid’ father. To get the information he told the man his brother worked there and he had lost the letter with the address on it. That was two days ago and now mere miles away Messilla bedded his horse down at the livery and got a room for the night. Now all he had to do was wait until the opportunity presented it’s self and Madrid would be his for the killing.

                                                               Chapter 23

Johnny refused to leave the safety of the ranch, feeling vulnerable with his right arm still slow. He sat near the fireplace with his head down as a tear escaped his sad eyes. Receiving a letter from his grandfather he sat there with shaky hands and stared at the words. His grandmother had passed away in her sleep.

Scott walked into the room and noticed his brother just sitting there.

“ What’s the matter with you?” he asked.

“ Leave me be Scott.” Johnny said softly as he sucked in air trying to keep his emotions from showing as he stood up and walked past his brother upstairs.

That night after putting Miguel to bed Johnny poured a shot and walked over to his father sitting at his desk. He wanted to tell him about his grandmother nut decided he wouldn’t. Talking to his father about the Christening his son would be getting just after New Years to help get his mind off the letter.

“ Can I ask you something?” he asked as he swirled the white liquid around in the glass.

Murdoch looked up from the ledger. “ Go ahead son, what’s on your mind.”

Scott came out of the kitchen and stopped in the hall before entering the grand room. What he was hearing he knew was a private conversation but couldn’t leave. He knew so little about his brother after almost two years together.

“ I’ve been thinking about Miguel’ Christening….I was wondering if you could tell me about mine…….What you and my mother did.”

Murdoch sat back in his chair and looked at his son, standing  he walked around his desk to him.

“ Alright son…..let’s go over to the couch and sit down.”

“ I know this won’t be easy Murdoch, bringin’ up the past and all with my mother but I’m kinda in the dark here on this.”

“ No it’s alright son…….Believe it or not me and your mother did have a good time.”

Johnny let a small smile come to the corner of his mouth.

“ Son Padre Thomas is the only Catholic priest in the area……..Have you given thought about that knowing how that man feels about you?”

“ Yeah I have…..I have a friend who’s a Padre in New Mexico……I sent him a letter last month and he sent back that he would come do this after the New Year.”

Murdoch smiled and laughed. “ You know that morning I held you in your white gown as the Padre read the verse, I think that was the only time you actually sat still son. You kept your eyes on him as he spoke and when I carried you over to him…….he took you in his arms and lowered you into the water.” Murdoch couldn’t stop the laugh as he stood up.

“ What happened Murdoch?”

“ Happened… kicked your feet and got water all over him…………Your mother…..Maria got so upset after and kept apologizing until the Padre left.” Murdoch became quiet after that for a few minutes.

Johnny knew his father was trying not to tell him something, he could feel it in his gut. His mother had done something, something happened that day that brought pain and heartache to his father.

“ Are you alright?” Johnny asked softly.

“ Yeah son……I was just remembering that not long after you were Christened your mother started to change. A couple months later is when she left me……….I don’t know what happened to change her but it started that day…..and I’m not blaming you for it so please don’t think that son.”

“ Murdoch I grew up with hatred for you because of the lies she told me about you……I know the truth now……I know we don’t talk much about my past and all and haven’t gotten along that great at times but….every day I learn more about you and what kind of man you are and………..” Johnny stopped knowing that what he was about to say could turn this father son talk the wrong way. “ I know getting Teresa pregnant was more my fault than hers…..I should have used better judgment and refused her advances but I didn’t and it’s in the past……..That little boy upstairs means the world to me and……..I want to stay here and raise my son with your guidance……I want my son to have the kind of life as a child I never got……I want him to know he is loved by his father, uncle, grandfather and godfather.”

“ Well I don’t mind telling you son that having both you boys here filled my heart with joy, but having a grandchild from one of you here to grow up on Lancer makes me more proud than I ever thought I could be.”

“ Let’s see if you still feel that way when he’s walking……..I never thought……you know……I never thought that me Johnny Madrid would ever get the chance to be a father…….To do what I have seen so many fathers do in towns I rode into or when growing up.” Johnny became silent for a moment, lost in his past.

Murdoch walked over and placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “ Are you alright?”

“ Yeah….I was remembering something.”

“ You want to share it with me?”

“ It was Christmas and my mother was drunk……she’d made several peso’s and spent them on liquor. She had promised me a Christmas dinner but I guess she needed the whiskey more. I was cold and hungry and I forget what I said to her but she got mad and beat me…..I took off out into the storm and came upon this man camped outside the village……He was the first gunfighter I ever talked to…..He fed me that night and doctored my back…..when the storm passed the next day he took me home and I don’t have to tell you what my mother tried to do….the man spent that day and night with us and when he left he gave my mother a twenty dollar gold piece for food…….After he was gone she beat me again and accused me of going and begging that man…..She told me that I had shamed her and would go to hell for what I did.”

Murdoch didn’t know or want to respond to that knowing his anger could get out of control, so he changed the subject.

“ Son have yo thought about who you want to be at the Christening?”

“ Just my family and Val……why?”

“ Well Maria is going to need to know how much food to prepare for the party after.”

“ Well Val’ the only real friend I have…….maybe if the weather is good that day we could have a barbecue and the hands could join us?”

“ I think they would like that son…….you have more friends than you realize……I’ve heard the men talk about you John, they like you…….you’re a hard worker and they like working with you, Carlos I know likes you. That boy is watching you every chance he can when you work a horse.”

“ What was his mother like Murdoch?”

“ Catherine?…….she was a very beautiful woman Johnny…..When I met her I wasn’t a year off the boat from Inverness……..Like your mother she was a thing of beauty.”

“ Did you feel for her like you did my mother?…or was my mother just a romp I’m the result from?”

“ Now listen to me young man…….I loved Scott’ mother and yours both very much. They were two totally different women son……Yes I got your mother pregnant with you out of wedlock but we married and you were born of love from us both………Scott never got the chance to know his mother like you did yours.”

Scott had heard enough, walking into the room with hurt in his eyes. “You might want to make sure Val knows he needs to shave and dress nicely for * his * godson’s Christening.” he said with sarcasm not liking hearing his mother compared to Johnny’s.

Johnny didn’t miss the tone in his brothers voice. “ Val knows whats to be expected * brother * look you’ve had a chip on your shoulder ever since I asked him to be Miguel’ godfather……I told you why I chose him and if that pisses you off to bad.”

“ Too bad huh…….Teresa comes here looking for you and leaves him with me to take care of till you come back…if you even came back and all you can say is to bad……….You know what Johnny from now on since it’s pretty obvious that you are too stupid to know about certain things go ask Val…….or better yet the old man here.”

“ I may not have your fancy education brother, but I ain’t stupid.”

“ No….then why you asking him about what’s to be expected at your sons Christening huh?………..tell me you gonna have all your gunfighter friends here for it?……That should go over real well with a town that already hates you. Hell your own grandparents……..”

Johnny swung and hit Scott hard knocking him backwards. “ Go to hell Boston…..Don’t you ever speak of them or any friends I do have in a bad way again.” Johnny said with anger before walking out of the room. He grabbed his colt and strapped it on.

“ Son where are you going?” Murdoch asked as he walked over to him.

“ Into Spanish Wells to get drunk…….I’m sick of staying here…..I need to get away from him right now Murdoch or……”

“ Yeah go on Johnny……I’m sure a whore will be glad to see you.”

“ That will be enough Scott.” Murdoch yelled as Johnny left slamming the door. Barranca’  hoof beat could be heard a few minutes later as his youngest galloped away.

Turning to his oldest with anger. “What the hell is the matter with you?……..Your brother…..”

“ My brother……Johnny is all you seem to care about since the two of you came back here…….Johnny this Johnny that…….You heard the Padre in town….wake up Murdoch……Your grandson’s life is in danger because of who his father is……Him coming here to live isn’t going to make his past go away………..and another thing, I don’t like my mother being compared to his….My mother was brought up proper.”

“ So was Johnny’ until she ran away from Don Luis…….You don’t tell me how to speak of Catherine…she was my wife and I loved her.”

“ I know you did sir, but it sounded to me like…..”

“ Young man I suggest you go after your brother and the two of you settle this……I will not have you two fighting…You’re brothers for gods sake.”

Scott glared at his father a minute before turning and leaving the house.

Murdoch watched as his oldest son came from the barn a few minutes later, mounted and headed to town. He couldn’t help but feel worry for his youngest son going into town and his right arm not one hundred percent. If he got called out would he be able to beat that person. Tonight he couldn’t help but feel that something would happen, something that his youngest would be involved in. All he could do was say a silent prayer for both his sons to come back home.

He could understand Johnny’s pent up frustration having not left the ranch since coming home. When feeling and mobility started returning to his arm and against Sam’ orders his youngest could be heard not far from the house practicing almost every day for an hour or longer in the afternoon warmth.

Johnny rode into Spanish Wells and stopped in front of the saloon, looking over at the sheriff’s office he decided not to see his friend. Right now he wanted a bottle of tequila and a whore.

Walking into the saloon as rain started to fall he glanced around. The saloon wasn’t crowded yet as the evening was still early. Walking over to the bar he ordered a bottle and turned around, looking at a whore standing at a table watching the card game. Motioning with his head the whore walked over to him.

“ You want some company cowboy?” she asked as she put a hand on his left arm.

“ Yeah I do.” he responded back as he turned and picked up the bottle and a couple shot glasses.

“ Let’s go.” she said as she headed to the stairs with Johnny following behind.

Scott rode into Spanish Wells an hour behind his brother. He himself angry for the harsh words he had said to his brother. Angry for the way he was acting so childish about his brother having his only true friend be his sons godfather. Stepping out of the saddle next to Barranca, the rain pelting his hat and running off the brim as he stepped up onto the sidewalk and inside the saloon doors.

Looking around he didn’t see his brother. Waling over to the bar he asked the bartender and learned Johnny had gone upstairs an hour ago with a whore and a bottle, he ordered a shot and beer. Two beers and a couple shots later Scott went upstairs with a whore, something he rarely did. Tonight though like his brother Scott had a lot of pent up anger and frustration and a good romp between the sheets could rid that frustration. The alcohol would calm his anger, he hoped.

Madrid and the whore walked back downstairs two hours later and sat at a table at the back. Johnny noticed a couple hands from the Conway ranch sitting at a table watching him intently. Still agitated  and spoiling for a fight Madrid picked up the bottle of tequila and took a long swig from it, never taking his eyes from the hands.

“ You know just what we need is another halfbreed bastard  in this valley……..Tell me something Madrid that bastard kid of yours gonna grow up and be a killer like you are?”

Johnny stood up so fast his chair fell back. Several patrons got up and moved back clearing a path between Madrid and the hands. Seeing the look in his eyes Billy managed to get out of the saloon and head to the sheriff’s office.

Val Crawford was sitting at his desk sipping on a cup of hot coffee when he heard footsteps outside his door. A second later it swung open.

“ Sheriff you better get over to the saloon and fast.” he said.

“ Why someone get drunk already and busting the place up?”

“ No Johnny is about to kill a hand from the Conway ranch……..He has a look in his eyes I’ve never seen before.”

Val stood up and grabbing his hat he headed to the saloon stopping at the door. “ Is he drinking?”

“ Yeah…he came in a couple hours ago and bought a bottle of tequila and went upstairs with a whore.”

“ Damn.” Val said as he headed out into the rain.

Johnny took out his colt and cocked it, aiming it at the table, firing it into the wall the bullet hitting just over one of the hands left shoulder. Cocking the pistol again Madrid stepped forward.

“ Drop it Johnny.” Val ordered as he came into the saloon. He could tell his friend was drunk. Others wouldn’t notice it but Val did. Cautiously walking over next to him. “ Johnny drop the gun now.”

“ You get that bastard sonofabitch out of here sheriff. He tried to kill me.”

“ If Madrid wanted you dead he wouldn’t have missed…… shut up and don’t move.” Val ordered. “ Johnny I don’t know what’s set you off boy but drop the gun now.”

“ My son is not a bastard Val……….Nobody calls him that….nobody.”

“ I said……..”

Johnny hit Val and  turned back to the hands. Before he could do anything Val cursing hit Johnny in the back of the head knocking him out.

“ Billy….ride out and tell mister Lancer he can bail his son out in the morning.” Val said as he picked Johnny up and put him over his shoulder.

Scott came downstairs just as Val left carrying his brother over his shoulder.

Val.” Scott yelled as he hurried down the stairs and outside catching up to him. “ Val what the hell is going on?”

“ What’s it look like…….I’m arresting your brother for assaulting me for starts.”

“ Assaulting you, I thought you were his friend.”

“ I am that’s……..  why he’s just unconscious and not needing a doctor………Open the door.”

Scott opened the door then went and opened the door to the back and a cell.

Val carried Madrid into the cell and dropped him on the bed a little harshly.

“ Johnny do that to you?” Scott asked noticing Val’ eye was getting black.

Murdoch fumed as he mounted his horse and headed to Spanish Wells. Very little sleep after Billy  told him what happened in town. Drunk, whoring, assaulting a lawman and god knows what other charges his son faced when sober enough to realize where he was when he wakes up.

Johnny opened his eyes and and became confused. Looking around his eyes finally focused enough he knew where he was. Rubbing his eyes he swung his legs over the side of the cot and stood up, walking over to the cell door and found it locked.

“ Val…..come on buddy unlock the damn door……..Val.”

Val walked back with a cup of coffee. “ Nope.”

“ What do you mean nope Val?…….Open the damn door.”

“ As I said no not till your old man gets here and pays the fine.”

“ Fine what fine….Val what the fuck are you talking about?”

“ Do you even remember last night Johnny?”

“ Yeah I remember last night…… so called brother making sarcastic remarks to me so I left and came into town to get fucked and away from him.”

“ You assaulted me last night, not to mention you shot that damn gun of yours at an unarmed hand of Mrs. Conway’………What the hell were you thinking?”

“ Let it go Val………..look how much is my bail?….I’ll pay it.”

“ One hundred dollars.”

“ What…….Val that’s……..”

“That’s what it cost when you assault a lawman and you better be glad I’m your friend………..I saved you from doing something I know Madrid wouldn’t do……You were going to kill that man as sure as my name………..What the hell is the matter with you?”

“ Fuck off Val.” Johnny said turning his back to his friend.

Val knew now that something * was * bothering his friend.  “ We’ve known each other a spell boy and you know I’m your friend and would give my life to protect you.”

“ She died.” Johnny said barely above a whisper.

“ Who died?’ Val asked changing the tone of his voice.

“ My grandmother….I got a letter yesterday from Don Luis…….he said she went in her sleep……She never got ta see her great grandson Val.”

“ Boy I’m sorry…I take it you haven’t told anyone but me.”

Johnny shook his head. “ How can I Val….my brother hates me for making my best friend my sons godfather and Murdoch…….”

“ Murdoch what son?” the big man asked as he walked into the back. “ I guess you didn’t hear me and Scott come in Val.”

“ No….me an Johnny was havin a talk.”

“ Scott told me what the charges are…….I’ll pay the fine Val.”

“ Listen I’m going to drop the assault charge just take him home and Johnny…….You need to talk to them.”

Johnny just stood there looking down at the floor.

“ Let’s go son.”

That afternoon Johnny showed his father the letter. He couldn’t trust his voice to not fail him.

“ Look Scott I’m sorry for the way I’ve been toward you….I didn’t think you would want to be Miguel’ godfather…..Can you forgive me?”

“ Johnny there’s nothing that says he can’t have more than one godfather but It’s I who should be apologizing to you for getting upset over this……For what I said to you last night…….I didn’t mean it.”

“ Yes you did brother otherwise you wouldn’t have said it but that’s alright……I know I’m not smart like you and I didn’t  have much schooling, but I know how to survive and in the life I’ve lived that’s the only education you need below the border.”

“Son I’m so sorry this happened.”

“ What happened sir?” Scott asked.

“ Tell him.”

“ His grandmother passed in her sleep.”

“ Johnny…….”

“ I don’t want  pity from either of you……I can handle this.”

“ No brother……..You have family now. Family who cares about you.”

“ That’s right son….You need to start talking to use when something is bothering you.”

Johnny sat there looking at them as he remembered his grandmother’ face.

That night the three Lancer men shared things of their  past. Johnny shared some of his childhood, the good that he could remember. He would look at his father when he talked of Maria and what he could remember  before the abuse and drinking really started.

Christmas morning Johnny came downstairs with his son in his arms.

“ Morning Murdoch….Scott.”

“Morning son.”

“ Brother.” Scott said as he stood and walked around to his brother. “ Come here young man.”

Johnny handed Miguel to his brother. He knew he had slept late, looking at his father sitting there sipping his coffee.

“ Sorry  I couldn’t get to sleep until late.”

“ Are you feeling alright son?”

“ Yeah I……..I just…….I remember once I went to this church to attend mass and……..well lets just say that even on Christmas eve a mestizo wasn’t welcome.”

“ Where was your mother son?”

“With a man….I wasn’t wanted around while they…….I guess you could say that that was the last Christmas mass I ever tried to attend.”

“ Well brother something you need to realize is that from here on out your life will be better.”

Johnny smiled. “ You brother are holding the third best thing to ever happen to me.”

“ The third best son?”

“ Yeah you and Boston there are the first two.”

Messilla walked into the church after morning mass, seeing Padre Thomas at the back .

“ Still trying to save the souls of swine Padre?”

Padre Thomas turned around. “ I try with those who really want to be saved.”

“ And Madrid……have you tried saving his.” Messilla could see the hatred come over the Padre’ face at the mention of Madrid’ name.

“ That man is of the devils work…….he has no soul and only brings death.”

“Death is what I will bring to that swine. Madrid is going to die Padre.”

“ Him and that bastard child of his should not be in this valley.”

“ So Madrid has a child?”

“ Yes…..he got an innocent girl pregnant and…….Why are you here and not in Mexico?……..The Rurales cannot touch him here.”

“ I am not a Rurales any longer because of him and his grandfather…….A man I believe you will remember?”

Thomas turned away and made no comment.

“I believe he paid you handsomely did he not to take care of Madrid when a child.”

“ And I did just that……I took care of that devil child the way he deserved to be.”

“ Perhaps the two of us together can kill him, no?”

“ He hasn’t come into town since he came back from Mexico……….Word has it that he was captured down there and shot……..Some are saying that his gun arm is of no use to him any more.”

“ I put that bullet in him Padre and I will put many more before he begs me to finish him.”

“ And just how do you plan to kill him Messilla?…….Madrid hasn’t come into Moro Coyo for several months and you will not be able to get near him on the estancia.”

“ You said he has a child si?”

“ Si he has a son.”

“ A son I bet he would do anything to protect.”

“ Messilla I strongly suggest you not do this. I may want Madrid out of this valley but using an innocent child to kill his father is wrong.”

“ If you worry about my soul Padre…….Don’t……..I swore it to hell the day Madrid put a bullet in my leg almost five years ago.” Messilla said before turning to leave. “ Perhaps Padre you should be more careful what you wish for.”

Padre Thomas stood there watching Messilla leave. How could he have gotten so hateful toward a man that now because of him an innocent child may pay for that hatred.

Johnny opened a small box from his father. Inside he found a small wooden horse carved beautifully.

“ Read the bottom of it son.”

Johnny Lancer first Christmas 1852

Love Pa.

“ I figured that maybe you would like to pass that on to your son on his first Christmas……that is if you want to?”

“Murdoch this is very good work…….I didn’t know you could carve like this.” Johnny stated as he let his son take the carved horse and put it in his mouth to gum.

“ Scott’ is hanging on the tree that I carved for him on his first……maybe now that I have my two strong sons here I’ll start carving again for this little man.”

“ Johnny…..I got you something I couldn’t put under the tree.” Scott said as he got up. “ I’ll be right back.”

Johnny sat looking at his father a moment wondering what his brother had since he went outside. A moment later he got his answer when the french doors opened.

“ Johnny would you come out here please?” Scott asked as he came in the doors then turned and went back out.

Johnny got up and handed Miguel to his father and walked out on the Veranda. There sitting on a horse was his grandfather. Next to him a beautiful golden palomino mare with a leather silver inlaid halter and matching lead. Speechless Johnny walked over to the man as he got down from his horse.

Murdoch knew who it was and stayed inside with the baby out of sight.

“ Is that any way to greet an old man who has rode many miles to see his grandson for Christmas Juanito?”

Johnny stepped closer and the two men embraced for a moment.

“ I……when did you get here?”

“ Yesterday afternoon……..I ran into your brother in town and we decided…..”

“ Johnny….I asked your grandfather if he wouldn’t mind waiting till now to show up……All things considered I thought today would be the perfect day for you to let him……you know.”

Johnny gave his brother a puzzled look then it dawned on him. “ Come on inside I have a surprise for you.”

“ Juanito…..The mare is yours my son……She comes from the best mare and stallion I have….I thought she would be good for your beautiful stallion.”

Johnny walked over to the mare and held out his hand. She gently put her muzzle in his palm and licked his hand. “ I don’t know what to say abuelo…….she’s beautiful Gracias.”

“ Su nieto de bienvenida.” ( Your welcome grandson.)

Johnny why don’t you take your grandfather inside and show him what you have for Christmas while I take this mare to the barn.” Scott suggested.

“ Thanks brother.” Johnny said with a smile. “ Come on abuelo….I have something you are going to love to show you.”

Johnny walked in and found his father not in the room, walking into the kitchen he found him and took his son into his arms.

“ She’s a beautiful mare son.”

“ Yeah she is…I sure hope he isn’t upset over this…….You go on in and I’ll follow.”

“ He won’t be son.” Murdoch said before walking into the grand room. “ Don Luis welcome to Lancer. May I interest you in a drink sir?”

“ Si Juanito told me you have some fine liquors.”

“ Yes I do.”

“ Um abuelo.” Johnny said as he entered the room. “ I would like you to meet your great grandson Miguel Madrid.” Johnny said with a smile.

Don Luis turned around and stared speechless and unable to move.

Johnny walked up to him. “ Would you like to hold him sir?”

Don Luis cleared his throat and reached out for the dark haired, blue eyed little boy his grandson held.

“ Why did you not tell me when in Mexico Juanito?”

“ I didn’t know…….I mean…..It’s a long story abuelo. One to be told later si?”

“ Yes…….Your abuelo she would have loved to meet him……She was so happy Juanito after you left, getting to  finally see her grandson made her so happy….She talked of the time the two of you spent together just that night and how happy she was on how you have grown into such a fine man.”

That day and the week that followed Johnny grew closer to his grandfather as the two rode around Lancer. Barranca got jealous as Johnny rode the mare while showing his grandfather around the ranch. Johnny promised him an extra ration of oats that night if he behaved and the stallion turned his back to him and snorted. Johnny showed his grandfather the view from on top of the hill, the first view he himself had gotten of the ranch almost two years ago.

“ The most beautifulest place on earth abuelo.”

“ I am happy for you Juanito.”

The Christening was now only two days away and Johnny’s Padre friend from New Mexico would be arriving on the stage tomorrow in Moro Coyo. He hadn’t told his grandfather about Padre Thomas being here and had asked that his father and brother not tell him either. He was glad his grandfather had not seen the man while in Moro Coyo.

                                                           Chapter 24

Johnny came down to breakfast with his son in his arms early and found his father and grandfather already up talking.

“ Good morning Juanito……..How is my great grandson doing this morning?”

“ I think he’s cutting a tooth or something…he’s a little fussy…..You want to go see your great grandpa little man?”

Don Luis took Miguel from Johnny with a smile on his face.

“ Son doesn’t your padre friend from New Mexico arrive today?”

“ Yeah, the stage will be in around ten……I figured we could all ride in together Murdoch, if that’s alright?”

“ I don’t see why not son……That is if your brother want’s to join us?”

“ Join you for what?” Scott asked as he entered the room.

“ Ride into town with us to pick up the padre.”

“ Sure…..I’d like that brother.”

“ Excuse me but doesn’t Moro Coyo have a padre already?…..I seen the mission and….”

“ Don Luis the padre here Johnny does not want doing his sons Christening.”

“ And why is that Juanito?”

Johnny looked at his father then grandfather, then down at his coffee. “ Because he is a man from my past in Mexico.”

“ Your past……does he have a name?”

“ Father Thomas.” Johnny said softly before looking up at his grandfather. “ I believe you know him don’t you sir?”

“ Yes I know him Juanito……..So he is here running the mission?”

“ Yeah.”

“ And he’s making life hard for Johnny also, trying to stir up trouble for him.” Scott added.

“ Maybe I should remind him who’s grandson you are?”

Johnny let a small smile come to his face. “ Only if I can watch.”

“ I think that could be arranged…….Maybe today we will see him.”

“ Son, I think this should wait until after Miguel’ christening.” Murdoch chimed in. “ It is tomorrow after all.”

“ Yeah….I guess we better eat so we can head into town and meet the stage.”

“ Maybe you could share with us why this padre is so special and you want him to do this brother?”

Johnny looked at him thru eyes of emotions. “ It’s real simple Boston…..He was the only one who didn’t beat me, starve me or see me as a mestizo or devil child.”

Scott didn’t know how to respond to that. “ Uh…does he have a name?”

“ Padre Julio Javier…..why?”

“ I was just wondering brother, that’s all.” Scott answered.

“ Well I for one am going to thank that man for giving you some kindness son, God knows you sure didn’t get much growing up.” Murdoch stated as he looked at Don Luis.

The four men arrived in Moro Coyo just as the stage came in from the other direction, dismounting they tied off their horses and walked over to the stage. Padre Julio Javier stepped off into the late morning sun and brushed some of the dust from him.

“ Bought time you showed up you old coy.” Johnny said as he walked up to the man and they shook hands.

“ It is good to see you too Juanito…I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read your letter……So were is this son of yours?”

“ He’s back at Lancer.” Johnny said.

Introductions were made and Julio couldn’t stop the surprise that came to his face when Johnny introduced his grandfather.

“ I see you took my words to heart Johnny…..I am pleased you found your father and have settled.”

“ Listen we should be heading back, you can ride in the surrey with my old man, I didn’t think you would care to ride a horse after that long stage ride.” Johnny said, changing the subject.

All the men mounted up and headed out of town when a man stepped out into the middle of the street and stopped in front of them.

“ Johnny Madrid.” he called standing there.

Johnny stopped Barranca and looked at the man standing there and sighed, dropping his reins, his right hand dropped to his colt.

“ Johnny… know this man?” his father asked.

“ Yeah.” he responded as he got down. “ Stay out of this….all of you.” he said as he stepped to the front of Barranca. “ Jack…..I thought you were in prison.”

“ I was but now I’m out….I’m out and I’m going to kill you.”

“ We don’t have to do this Jack…Just step aside and we can go about our business.”

“ Can’t Madrid…….You double crossed me and it cost me three years in prison.”

“ I didn’t double cross you Jack……That ranchers was trying to get us to force good decent people off land that was legally theirs.”

“ I don’t care what the reasons were Madrid…… backed out and took that farmers side……Nobody double crosses me and gets away with it.”

“ This is stupid…….you’re wanting to die for something that happened five years ago Jack……..five years.”

Murdoch couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Five years ago would make his son barely fourteen at the time.

“ You’ll be the one dying Madrid….you ain’t nothing but a punk kid…..I seen you then and I know I can take you now.”

“ I wouldn’t be so sure of that Jack……I’m not that rookie kid any longer.”

“ You’re still a kid…oh sure I heard all about how you made a name for yourself and have killed what fifty, sixty men……Well today I am going to kill you…..You see I know all about your gun arm Madrid and you been hiding because you can’t draw so I figured when I seen you ride into town that I wouldn’t get a better chance than now to take that reputation of yours and that is just what I plan to do.”

“ Well I guess if you’re that sure you can kill me then I guess there is nothing left.”

People on the street moved to a safe place and watched the two men in the street. Murdoch, Scott, Don Luis and Padre Javier moved to the side. No one spoke, no one moved. Murdoch worried that his sons arm would not be as good as it was before as he watched, silently praying that he would not witness his son being killed on this morning.

“ Someone should stop this.” Don Luis said.

“ Don’t……you need to be quiet and still….You try anything and it will get my brother killed for sure.” Scott said firmly.

Johnny heard his brother and blocked the fact that his family was about to see Madrid in action. A quick thought came of his son and he silently prayed he would get to go home alive and see him again.

“Time to die Madrid.” Jack said as he went for his gun. It never cleared leather as Johnny’s colt spoke and his bullet found it’s mark dropping the man dead as it tour a path through his heart.

Scott couldn’t believe what he just witnessed. Was it even possible? His brother he was sure drew faster than he had seen him do in the past. Glancing at Murdoch he knew his father was thinking the same thing.

Johnny stood there a minute before holstering his gun, turning he looked at his family and friend with sadness in his eyes, walking over to Barranca he looked at his grandfather. He knew this was the first time the man had seen him kill another and it shamed him.

Mounting up he glanced at his father before heading out of town.

Murdoch knew his son was hurting over this. He knew how badly Johnny wanted to let his past go and live a normal life. It just seemed that when he thought he was someone from that past would show up and bring it all back.

Messilla watched from the hotel lobby window when he heard Madrid’ name called, watching and hopping he would see the man he hated more than anything shot down. That would not be the case though, Madrid’ gun arm was good and he even thought that maybe Madrid was faster than before he had shot him. After they rode out of town he headed to the livery and got his horse and rode out following a safe distance behind.

Johnny stopped Barranca a couple miles from the ranch. “ I need to be alone for a bit…..I’ll see you back at the ranch later.” he said softly.

‘ Alright son…….I understand.” Murdoch said.

“ Want some company brother?’ Scott asked.

“ No……..I need to be alone for a spell……You go on and show Julio my son.” he responded. “ I’m sorry grandfather.” he said before riding off.

Murdoch knew now what was bothering his son. It wasn’t so much having to kill that man as it was he had to do it in front of his family and his grandfather, whom he suspected had never seen Johnny kill before. He was proved right when the old man spoke.

“ He is faster than I ever imagined a man could be.” Don Luis said.

“ Faster than before.” Scott added looking at his father.

Johnny rode to the top of south mesa and got down from Barranca, walking over he looked out at his home and the land he had so come to love.

“ How can I be such a fool amigo and think my past will leave me be to live a life in peace?”

Barranca snorted as he munched on the lush green grass, twitching his ears and tail at the pesky insects that buzzed around.

Johnny sat down and drew his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on them as he wrapped his arms around them.

Barranca heard another horse approaching and looked to the west and nickered.

Johnny didn’t turn around, figuring it would be his brother or father come to check on him. Scott knew where he liked to go to think and clear his mind.

Starting to stand Johnny felt the bullet slam into his lower back and throw him forward, grabbing his colt he listened but heard nothing but silence for a minute then the sound of a horse galloping away could faintly be heard.

Rolling onto his right side he whistled and Barranca came over next to him and stopped. Reaching up he grabbed hold of the stirrup and pulled himself up, standing there sweat running down his face he patted the stallions neck as a wave of dizziness claimed him. He knew he wouldn’t be able to pull himself up into the saddle  as shaky as he was  so he did the only thing he knew he could to get help. Staggering around to Barranca’ face. He knew that if he fired off three shots they might bring whoever shot him back to finish the job.

“ I need your help amigo…..I can’t do it buddy….I………” Johnny never got to finish as he dropped to his knees and darkness claimed him as he fell forward.

Barranca stood there not moving as his master lay at his feet unconscious as blood seeped from the hole in his back soaking his shirt.

“ Sir something is wrong………I can feel it.” Scott said. “ I’m going to ride out and check on him.”

“ Let me………I think it is because of me that Juanito rode away………I think he feels he shamed me killing that man in front of me.”

“ Do you know where south mesa is?” Murdoch asked.

“ Si…….Juanito has taken me up there and told me that it is were he loves to go to think as he looks out of this valley.

“ Alright……take a rifle with you and if there is something wrong fire three shots close together. I have some hands working the fence line up that way and if you need help they will hear the shots and come to you.”

“ A signal…..that is good.”

Don Luis rode up to south mesa and seen Barranca standing there looking at him, as he approached the stallion became agitated and stomped his right foot and pawed the ground snorting.

When he got closer Don Luis seen why and dismounted quickly, talking softly to the stallion as he stepped toward his grandson. “ It is alright my friend, I only want to help him.” he said then remembered the three shots to fire signaling he would need help. A few minutes later a couple hands rode up and seen what happened. “ Go to the estancia and bring back help…….My grandson has been shot in the back and is bleeding badly…………Go now.” he ordered as he tried to get near Johnny.

Barranca wouldn’t let him near, snapping his teeth and stomping the ground  next to his fallen compadre.

Murdoch and Scott watched as a hand galloped into the yard and told them what had happened and where. Scott’ heart sank as he mounted his horse and took off to south mesa. Murdoch stayed and helped Maria get things ready his own heart sinking as he watched the wagon leave. His son had just gotten healed up from being in the Mexican prison and was looking forward to his son’ christening tomorrow.

“ Is Miguel sleeping Maria?” he asked as they turned down Johnny’s bed.

“ Yes patron…..I put him down just before you returned.” Maria said as she tried to remain calm.

“ Por favor, dios no toma Juanito de su hijo o familiar.” ( Please God, don’t take Juanito from his son or family.) Maria prayed as she walked past Murdoch to check the water she knew Sam would need hot.

Scott dismounted before his horse had come to a stop. “ How bad is it?”

“ I don not know, his stallion will not let me near him.”

“ Easy Barranca, it’s alright boy, we just want to help Johnny…….easy boy.”

Barranca knew Scott and calmed down some and moved back over to Johnny and nuzzled his face.

Scott walked calmly over and patted the stallion on the neck. “ Good boy…..We’re going to help him so you just stay calm for me okay boy?”

Don Luis came over, never taking his eyes off the stallion. “ He is a remarkable animal. I have never seen a horse so protective of his owner before in my life.”

Scott glanced at the stallion standing there watching them closely. “ Yeah he and my brother are soul mates Johnny told me.”

“ It look’s like he’s been shot in the back. We need to sit him up so I can get his shirt off and wrap the wound.”

Together Scott and Don Luis got Johnny sat up enough to remove his shirt. His grandfather was appalled at the scars he found on his grandsons back.

“ Dios mio lo que ha sucedido a el?” ( My God what has happened to him?)

“ Life sir, my brother has been persecuted his whole life because of who he is.” Scott said as he wrapped the wound after packing it.

“ Because he is Madrid?”

“ No…….Johnny became Madrid to stop the abuse he had been receiving since his mother died and before.”

“ Que podia hacer ta cosa?” ( who could do such a thing?)

“ Why don’t you ask Padre Thomas that question sir………he’s the one who did a lot of it to my brother when he was supposed to be helping him.”

Don Luis felt anger inside at what he could see had been done to his grandson, by a man of the cloth none the less.

The wagon showed up and four men carefully laid Johnny in the back on the bed of straw and headed to the ranch.

“ Damn it brother, don’t you leave us……..Your son needs you and so do I.” Scott pleaded as he wiped the sweat from his brothers forehead.

Murdoch came out as the wagon arrived, hurrying to the back. “ How bad?” he asked and the look his oldest gave him told him it was bad.

“ His room is ready, Sam hasn’t got here yet. Let’s get him up stairs and start cleaning the wound out.” he said as Scott and the hands carefully lifted Johnny out of the wagon and carried him up to his room.

Sam arrived and could see the worry on three faces in the room. “ Get out of there Scott and let me have a look.” he ordered.

“ He was shot in the back Sam………help him please.” Murdoch pleaded.

“ I will do all that I can……..Now out both of you and send Maria in here to help me.”

Neither Lancer moved.

“ I mean it you two, you know my rules now get out so I can try and save this boys life.”

“ You think Johnny maybe seen who shot him sir?” Scott asked as he paced the floor glancing toward the stairs.

“ I doubt it son, being shot in the back.”

“ Who…….why?”  Padre Julio Javier asked. “ Who around here would do such a thing?”

“ Someone who knew they couldn’t beat my brother face to face I’m afraid Padre.” Scott said.

“ Sir someone should go to Spanish Wells and tell Val what’s happened.”

“ Perhaps we should wait and hear what the doctor says after he is finished with Juanito.”

Murdoch walked over and poured a shot of rye.

“ Of course Don Luis…..It’s just that my son has had enough…..I mean how much more hatred does he have to face before they leave him alone?” he said with anger as he threw the shot glass  at the fireplace and it shattered into a million pieces. “All he wants to do is live a normal life and raise his son.”

Don Luis walked over and placed a hand on the big man. “ This is not helping Juanito senor…..He will need us to remain calm and strong for him.”

“ You know nothing about my son.” Murdoch snapped back. “ You knew where he was as a child and you left him in that place to be abused.”

“ Sir…..he’s right.” Scott interjected.

Murdoch looked at him with anger in his eyes. Anger for all the pain his son has been thru in his short life. “ I need some air.” he said finally before walking out onto the veranda.

“ I know I do not know my grandson and I can only blame me for my foolish mistake leaving him in that orphanage because I listened to my brother.”

“ None of us know Johnny that well sir.” Scott added.

Four hours later Sam finally came downstairs and wiped the sweat from his brow. “ May a tired old doctor have a drink Scott?”

“ Of course Sam.” Scott said as he went and poured Sam a shot of scotch.

“ Sam.” Murdoch said.

“ He’s alive, the bullet entered into muscle only thank god, barring there is no infection he’ll recover but it will take time and he’s not going to be moving around for some time.” he said before taking a sip of the scotch. “ He will need to be watched closely for a spell as I’m sure you know. He lost a good deal of blood and when he wakes up I want him to drink some red wine, a glass a day if he can to help build his iron back up. I thought about inserting a tube to get fluids in him but I’ll wait and see how he does when he wakes up. I want him to only have fluids for now until he can sit up.”

“ Can we see him Sam?”

“ Of course Murdoch…..he’s to remain flat on his stomach for now….he’ll be out most of the night from the morphine so when he does come to we have to make him lay still…….I had to do a lot of muscle repair from the bullet and I don’t need him tearing out my work.”

“ Sam could you tell if it was a rifle or pistol my brother was shot with?”

“ A rifle Scott.”

“ Forgive me please senor, but how do you know this?”

“ I have been a doctor for over thirty years and I know the difference between a pistol and a rifle slug.”

“ I am sorry for doubting your integrity doctor, please forgive me. I am just concerned about my grandson.”

“ So you are Don Luis?” Sam asked.

“ I’m sorry Sam.” Scott interjected then introduced the two men. “ Excuse me but I think I will go see my brother now gentlemen.”

                                                          Chapter 25

( Note the song Murdoch sings to his grandson is from a Marty Robbins song. It is called Spanish Lullaby)

Johnny drifted in and out of consciousness for three day’s. Infection staved off but the loss of blood was the main concern. The morning of the fourth day he opened his eyes and found three very worried men, two sitting and one standing looking out the window, closing his eyes he didn’t move as his mind brought back what had happened.

“ I think Juanito is in a place he wishes not to be in right now.” Don Luis stated.

Murdoch looked at the man. “ Why did you come here?…….Is it to try and ease the guilt you have maybe for leaving him alone after his mother died?……Is that why?”

“ I believe that is between me and my grandson.”

“ He is my son and I will not let him be hurt any more. Is that clear?………..I want you to tell him the truth……you owe him that.”

Scott turned around. “ Stop it the both of you…….Listen to you two, arguing and acting like two spoiled little kids……..Johnny is a grown man. He doesn’t need the two of you fighting over who should do this or who should do that.”

“ Son I………..”

“ No Murdoch…….he’s right. This * is * between Don Luis and Johnny…………You did all you could do looking for him and * you * have tried to be a father to him in the time he’s been here, but some things you cannot change, no matter how bad you want to, you can’t.”

Johnny opened his eyes again, hearing his brother stand up for him like he was, was more than he could stand. Moaning as a sharp pain grabbed at his back.

Murdoch immediately moved to his son’s side. “ Easy son…..try not to move around to much.”

Scott moved over and poured some water and handed it to Murdoch. “ Good to see you awake brother.” he said, having a feeling his brother had heard what had been said minutes before.

“ Thanks.” he said softly as he lay his head back and looked from his father to grandfather.

“ How do you feel Juanito?”

“ Hurts some……what happened?”

“ You were shot in the back son…….Someone ambushed you. Sam said you’ll be alright but you’ll need to stay in bed a while.”

“ How long?”

“ A week or so.”

“ No how long ago was I shot?”

“ Three days brother….Don Luis found you.”

Two days ago his son was supposed to be christened, raising a hand to his face. “ Padre?”

“ He is here son…….We postponed Miguel’ christening until you are well.”

“ Thanks………Uh I need to talk to you Murdoch…….alone.”

Scott looked at his father then Don Luis. “ You get some rest brother and don’t worry about Miguel, he is being spoiled by Padre Javier.”

Don Luis stood there not moving looking at him. “ Juanito…….”

“ Not now……..I need to speak to my father alone.”

Don Luis was hurt he was being ushered away. “ Very well………when you are strong enough perhaps *we* could talk?”  he said before walking out with Scott.

Murdoch looked at his son and knew this talk had something to do with his grandfather. He also knew hi son needed to start this talk on his own terms and when he was ready, sitting down he poured a glass of water and offered it to Johnny.“ No thanks.” he said barely above a whisper. His father had to strain to hear it. Sitting the glass down on the table he let out a sigh.

“ Son this can wait until you’re stronger.”

“ I heard the two of you….I heard it all.”

“ How long you been awake son?”

“ Was awake when you two came in……..I knew Scott was here already all morning.”

“ Yeah……him and some men and even Val searched but found nothing telling who it was who shot you.”

“ Messilla……probably thinks he killed me since he never came and checked me.”

“ I will……….”

“ No you won’t old man……..he’s mine, has been for a long time.”

Murdoch let it go but silently vowed that if he ever seen that man again he * would * kill him for all the pain he had inflicted on his son.

“ Talk to me son…….please.”

Johnny glanced up at him then back at the quilt covering him.

“ Son I have an idea what is bothering you.”

“ Yeah?”

“ Yes…… had to kill a man in front of your grandfather and I don’t think he has ever seen Madrid in action before has he?”

Johnny just shook his head barely, not speaking.

“ I think that and what he did to you when a child is eating you up inside son.”

“ You’ve got to know me pretty good old man.” Johnny said softly as he tried to sit up more. A white hot pain flashed thru his back and he sucked in air.

“ Let me help you?………I like to think I am getting to know my son.” Murdoch said as he helped him sit up and placed more pillows behind his back. “ Better?”

“ Yeah, thanks……………I want to talk to him about it but……….Every time I think I can ask him I don’t.”

“ Why do you think that is son?”

“ Because we are getting along and getting to know each other I guess.”

“ Yes but son I think, and this is just my opinion as your father keep in mind, But I think you are afraid to hear what he has to say. Why he did it.”

“ I know why he did it, he told me that that day in Mexico, my uncle was more important and I’m just a halfbreed who could have ruined all they had planned.”

“ Son please don’t call yourself that.”

“ Why?…’s the truth Murdoch.”

“Son like it or not you got two choices here, talk to him or let it stay in the past like you do and always wonder.”

“ I hated him seeing me kill.”

“ I know son………..I know how badly you want to leave that part of your life behind you and I do too, but Johnny………me and your brother noticed something son.”

“ Yeah whats that?”

“ I don’t think I am wrong about this but……….you looked like you were a lot faster.”

“ I am……I know that for certain………I think I surprised myself a little…………..Listen Pa I need you to help me with something legal when I can ride to town.”

Murdoch raised a brow. “ I will if I can son.”

“ I need legal papers drawn up so you and Scott can raise Miguel if something happens to me………I know I have a bullet out there with my name on it……I want to know my son will be cared for and raised here at Lancer like I wasn’t………..I don’t want him to have the kind of childhood I had…..i want his nothing but love.”

“ We can do that son…….I’ll tell you what…….How about we set up a trust fund for him and………”

“ He already has that from me from the money I made guarding that gold.”

“ Well you don’t mind if a grandfather does the same do you?”

“ No, but ya don’t have ta.” he responded with a smile as he tried to stifle a yawn.

“ You need to rest son……One of us will be up to check on you later.”

“ Okay.” Johnny said as he snuggled down in his bed and was fast asleep.

Don Luis went down stairs with Scott and walked over to the window and looked out.

“ He thinks I am ashamed of him for what he did, doesn’t he?”

Scott glanced at the man before going and pouring two drinks, walking over he handed Don Luis one.

“ It hurt him yes……..It hurts Johnny every time he is called out.”

Don Luis turned and looked at him. “ Why….it is not his fault.”

“ No……and that is why he tries to talk them out of it……….Look I’ve only known my brother a short time but one thing I learned………..our father also is that when Johnny kills a man a small part of him dies with that man.”

“ I do not understand this that you are telling me, Senor Scott.”

“ How would you feel if men came looking for you just to kill you so * they * could have your reputation?”

“I guess I would feel the same way………My grandson is more of a man than I ever could have dreamed him to be.”

“ You do realize that you are going to have to tell him why don’t you?”

“ Yes Scott I do……….I want nothing kept from him….he deserves the truth……….I should have told him that day he came to my ranch years ago but I didn’t.”

“ Well sir, my little brother believes in second chances and that is what he is trying to get here at Lancer…..You have a second chance also…….he doesn’t trust easily so please don’t blow this…You won’t get another……….now if you will excuse me I need to go check on something.”

“ Yes of course.” Don Luis said as he stood there lost in thought.

Murdoch came downstairs. “ He’s asleep, where did Scott go?”

Don Luis told him before excusing himself and going outside.

Johnny sat on the couch with his head back and his eyes closed a week later. His son’s christening went well. Padre Javier had left that morning to head back to New Mexico but promised Johnny he would come again when he could to see him. Johnny had promised to write and let him know how he and his son were doing. Johnny knew his friend wanted to ask but didn’t as to why he went by Madrid still and not Lancer. Madrid was who he had been most of his life, Madrid had been the one to keep him alive all these years, changing his last name to Lancer he just couldn’t bring himself to do. His father and brother understood, but he knew his father hoped he would change his mind some day.

“ You alright son?”

“ Yeah…..just thinking is all…….When will Scott be back?”

“ He should be back day after tomorrow son. Why you missing him?”

“ Yeah I guess I am a little……..I think Miguel is also.”

“ Son have you and your grandfather talked yet?”

“ No……..I don’t know if I can Murdoch……I mean I understand what you said when we talked, really I do but……….”

“ I know son…….one thing I have learned from you Johnny is that you do things at * your * pace, when you are ready.”

Johnny smiled and laughed as he leaned forward.

“ That’s good to hear son.”

“ What is?”

“ You laughing.”

“ Thanks.”

“ I need to ride into Moro Coyo tomorrow…..your grandfather needs to go in and asked me if I would ride in with him.”

Johnny cocked a brow. “ He did?”

“ Yes.”

“ Has he talked to Thomas?”

“ Son he hasn’t left this ranch since you were shot.”  Murdoch said.“ Well guess I’ll go get cleaned up for dinner son……you need anything?”

“ No I’m good.” Johnny answered knowing that if his father really knew what was wrong he would get a lecture well into the night. Soon enough he thought as he stood up and stretched his back a little. The wound was almost healed now, but Sam said he couldn’t do any riding or work yet, which he didn’t mind. It gave him a chance to be with his son more.

Johnny Madrid, all five foot six inches of him weighing in at about a buck fifty was a man to be reckoned with and not face the wrong end of his colt. This same feared man afraid of nothing and been thru more at his age than his brother or anyone else, even his father was afraid. He was afraid of failure. Never before had Madrid ever thought about failing at whatever job he took on, but this job, raising his son with no mother he felt would be the biggest challenge of his life. A challenge he didn’t want to fail at,  but couldn’t help feeling he would.

He wanted to talk to his father, since the man did raise him for the first two years of his life, but found himself for some reason unable to ask him. A part of him couldn’t help but think it was maybe the fear of bringing up painful memories for his father, but watching the big man with his grandson and how gentile he was with him, how his big hands securely held the child, how his bull tone voice could be so quiet and soothing. A lot went thru his mind as he headed to his room to see if his son was awake.

At the top of the stairs he stopped and listened and what he heard brought back memories he had only had when hearing what he was said by his padre friend Julio Javier. Walking to his room he stood in the door and listened. His father had his back to him and was talking to his grandson. What he was saying or rather singing was in Spanish but Johnny remembered those words like it was yesterday.

“ Cierre los ojos unpoco y dormir.” ( Close your eyes little one and sleep.)

“Y el sueno como los angeles te cuide.” ( and dream as the angels watch over you )

“Voy a tomar yu mano.” I will hold your hand)

“Y cuando se despierta con la manana.” ( and when you wake with the morning )

“ Yo to davia estare aque.” ( I’ll still be here )

Murdoch picked Miguel up and turned to find his youngest standing in the door with a look in his eyes and on his face he had never seen before now.

“ Are you alright son?” he asked stepping over to him.

“ You used to sing that to me when I was a baby didn’t you?”

“ Yes I did……It’s called……..”

“ Cancion de cuna espanola.” ( Spanish Lullaby ) Johnny cut in softly.

“ Yes it is……….Your mother used to sing it to you while you nursed.”

“ Is he alright?”

“ He’s fine son….are you?”

“ Yeah I’m fine…….come here little man.” Johnny said taking his son into his arms.

“ Son something is on your mind…….Listen any time you want to talk I’m here for you.”

“ Thanks.” he said softly before kissing his sons head. “ How about we head down to supper young man, your grandfather has a strict rule about being on time for meals.”

“I think we can be a little tardy son if you need some time.”

“ No I’m good Murdoch…….really.”

“ Well let me carry him down the stairs for you son, you know Sam doesn’t want you doing anything yet.”

“ Yeah I imagine he’d have a fit if he knew I been picking him up and carryin’ him around.”

Johnny stood on the veranda as his father walked out of the house.

“ We should be back this afternoon son…….do you need me to pick up anything for you?”

“ A mother maybe.” Johnny answered.

Murdoch looked at him. He now knew with his saying that, what was wrong last night. Choosing not to respond to it he checked his cinch and Don Luis walked out.

“ I thought maybe you would like to ride the mare you brought me abuelo?”( grandfather)

“ That is very kind of you nieto.” ( grandson)

“ You need anything son let Carlos know. All the hands are out working………”

“ Go Murdoch I’ll be fine….I’m probably gonna lay on the couch and sleep since Maria took my son with her  for the day.”

“ Alright son.”

“ Adios nieto.”

“ Adios.”

Messilla watched as two men rode away from the main house. He knew who it was, watching the house from afar for some time now. Anger boiled in him as he was sure he had killed Madrid that day, only to learn that he had not. Sitting back he would wait a little while before making his move down, knowing all the hands were out for the day, now would be his chance to kill Madrid, and this time he would not fail.

“ Oh how I would love to see their faces when they come back and find you dead mestizo.” he said with a nasty grin.

Johnny sat on the couch eating some cookies and drinking a glass of milk, missing his son. Maria was being wonderful with his son, spoiling him rotten, yet at the same time being patient with showing him what to do or how to do it. He couldn’t help but wonder about Teresa and how she could give his son away like she did. He was glad she brought him to his father, but still he found himself wondering what could make a mother do something like that. His mother had stole him away from his father, telling him lies and in the end, she hadn’t really wanted him. Miguel Madrid would know nothing but love from his father and others, this he vowed. Never would his son go to bed hungry, cold or without clothes or shoes on his back and feet.

Never would he feel the pain of a belt or whip tearing his flesh open or the vicious slap of a hand across his face.

Laying down to ease the nagging pain in his back Johnny was soon fast asleep dreaming about Teresa and the lovemaking they shared.

Murdoch and Don Luis rode into Moro Coyo and were stopped by Padre Thomas.

“ If you stopped me to bash my son more Padre………”

“ Please Senor Lancer I have not, I need to warn you.”

“ Warn me? Warn me about what?”

Thomas looked at Don Luis then back at Murdoch. “ Your son……he is in grave danger.”

“ What are you talking about?” he demanded.

“ A man is here, a man who I am afraid will stop at nothing until your son Johnny is dead.”

“ Messilla.” Don Luis said.

“ Si……he has been around and watching your ranchero.”

“ My god, Johnny is home alone.” Murdoch said as he glanced at Don Luis before turning his horse and both me galloped out of town.

Messilla opened what he believed to be the back door and cautiously stepped inside, finding the kitchen empty he walked down the hall to the grand room and smiled at what he seen, pulling out his knife he stepped over to Madrid sleeping on the couch.

Johnny woke with a start, opening his eyes he seen Messilla lunge toward him with a knife in his hand. Reaching up he grabbed a hold of the mans wrist as he landed on him. Pushing up with all his strength he shoved Messilla off him and quickly got to his feet as Messilla came at him again.

“ I am going to gut you like the swine that you are mestizo.” he said as he charged Johnny and hit him hard in his chest sending them both backwards to the floor.

Johnny grunted as the wind was knocked from him and his back screamed in pain as Messilla landed on top of him, pinning him down. Swinging as hard as he could he hit the man and bucked as the knife drew blood on his left arm. Bringing his left knee up into the small of Messilla’ back hard as he again pushed him off, scrambling backwards on his butt he turned to get up when Messilla grabbed his right foot and stopped him.

“ It does you no good to fight me, I will kill you.” Messilla said as he got to his knees and took hold of both Johnny’s feet and twisted turning him over onto his back.

Johnny kicked and hit him in the face just hard enough to get away and to his feet, hurting he scrambled toward his fathers desk where he knew a pistol lay in the top drawer, opening it he frantically searched for the gun as Messilla came at him again lunging over the desk just as his fingers curled around the butt of the colt. Both men crashed to the floor, the gun knocked from his hand, skidded to a stop near the fireplace.

Messilla hit Johnny hard in his side and smiled at the pain he brought. “ That hurts don’t it?” he said as he hit him again.

Johnny couldn’t stop the cry from the pain as he was hit hard in his side. His back screamed and his arms shook as he tried desperately to get away. His strength faltering with every passing second.

Messilla got to his feet and kicked Johnny hard in his back, the boot connecting with his wound bringing another cry of pain from him.  Standing there he watched as Madrid rolled onto his side and then to his knees as he tried to get up. Grabbing a hand full of hair he yanked Johnny’s head back and brought the blade to his throat.

“ I think I will cut your throat slowly and watch you bleed to death gasping for air mestizo.” Messilla said between clenched teeth as he pressed the blade into Johnny’s throat causing blood to trickle. “ I would so love to see your gringo fathers face when he comes back and finds you dead.” he said as he started to slowly move the knife across Johnny’s throat.

Johnny knew he would be dead in a matter of seconds as he felt the blade cut into his throat. Pinned down he frantically reached behind him and grabbed Messilla’ arm but had no strength left as he tried to pull the arm and knife away from his throat.

Messilla leaned forward, his stinking breath assaulting. “ “ How does that feel swine?” he asked right before he was knocked forward off Madrid from a bullet.

Murdoch and Don Luis pushed their horses hard frantic to get back to Lancer. When they reached the ranch the big man dismounted faster than he thought possible and hurried in the front door. What he seen boiled his anger. Pulling his gun he fired, hitting the man on his son hitting him in his back right shoulder, knocking him off. It was then he seen the knife that was to his son’s throat skid across the floor.

Messilla got up and glared at the man who shot him then at Madrid laying on the floor.

“ You cannot stop me.” he vented as he went for the knife again at his feet.

Murdoch fired again hitting him in the leg as he stepped forward. “ Johnny.” he called out.

Johnny coughed and rose up on his knees as his back screamed in pain and blood trickled from the cut to his throat between his fingers.

Murdoch was appalled at what he seen of his son as he stood there with his gun aimed at Messilla.

“ I told you that I would kill you if you ever hurt my son again……..This is for all the pain you have ever caused him you sonofabitch.” Murdoch said with anger as he pulled the hammer back and shot Messilla in the head.

Johnny watched as his father pulled the trigger on the unarmed man. Never before had he seen a look like the one he seen in his fathers eyes. *Never* had he ever thought his father would kill an unarmed man. Exhausted he collapsed to his side as his father and grandfather came to his side.

“ Easy son……..let me look at your neck.” his father asked. “ Don Luis find me something I can wrap around his neck, it’s not deep but we need to stop the bleeding.”

Don Luis hurried away, returning a minute later with a towel.

“ Help me get him over to the couch.” Murdoch ordered as he wrapped the towel around his sons throat.

Sam came downstairs and stepped into the grand room.  “ He’s gonna be very sore for a spell, but the wound didn’t break open…….The cut on his throat isn’t deep enough for stitches, I cleaned it out good and wrapped his neck to keep it clean. He’s exhausted more than anything.” Sam stated.

“ He’s gonna be alright Sam?” Murdoch asked.

“ Physically yes……I don’t know about emotionally though Murdoch……he had his throat cut………I don’t know how well he’ll be able to deal with this….Which by the way would one of you care to explain to me?”

“ Don Luis why don’t you go sit with Johnny while I fill Sam in on what happened?” Murdoch said as he went and poured Sam a drink.

“ Si………thank you doctor.” he said before heading upstairs to his grandson.

Murdoch filled Sam in on what happened and who the man was who attacked his son and why. Just as he finished he heard a knock and went to the front door and opened it. Val Crawford was standing there.

“ Val.”

“ How is he?” Val asked as he stepped inside.

“ Beat up but Sam here says he’ll be alright.”

“ Sam.” Val said as he removed his hat.

“ Sheriff……well I need to get going. Send for me if you need me Murdoch. Remember what I said about Johnny my friend.” Sam said as he walked past Val and left.

“ You want to tell me what happened here mister Lancer?”

Murdoch told Val what he knew happened and what he did. When he finished he could see anger in the sheriffs eyes.

“ Is Johnny awake so I can get his account of what happened?” he asked.

“ I don’t know Val………Don Luis is upstairs with him now.”

“ I see and did Don Luis see what happened?…….I mean did he see you kill Messilla?”

“ Yes he did I think.”

“ You think?”

“ I believe he was right behind me when I came in and found that animal cutting my sons throat Val.” Murdoch said with anger.

“ Alright….don’t go getting all angry with me mister Lancer……….A man was killed here and I’m just doing my job trying to find out what happened.”

“ What happened……..what happened Val I told you……….* THAT * bastard came into my home and tried to kill my son…….it was him who shot Johnny in the back.”

“ Do you have proof Messilla is the one who shot Johnny?”

“ I don’t believe what I am hearing……..You’re supposed to be Johnny’s friend…….how can you stand there and question me like this about who shot him.”

“ I am his friend damn it…..that’s why I want to get to the bottom of this……..I have a job to do and friend or no friend I have to ask………..Now I am going to go up there and see if he is awake so I can talk to him……..I will also question his grandfather……then I will come back down here so I don’t want you going no where.”

“ I am going up there to my son now Val.” Murdoch stated firmly as he stormed past the sheriff with anger and headed upstairs.

                                                                  Chapter 26

Val Crawford walked into Johnny’s room and found Don Luis sitting next to the bed wiping the sweat from his friends brow. He could see his friend was asleep as he walked over and looked down at him. A white bandage was wrapped around his throat and bruises could be seen darkening on his right side.

“ He come to any?” Val asked.

“ No Senor, he has not. The doctor said he may sleep thru the night.”

“ Uh huh……..Uh I……listen I need to speak to you about what happened, what you saw.”

“ Very well sheriff.” Don Luis said as he stood up and walked around the bed to the door.

Murdoch looked at the two men after sitting in the chair Don Luis vacated.

“ I am afraid I cannot tell you much sheriff. Senor Lancer was in the house before me…..By the time I got in he was ordering me to get a towel for Juanito’ neck.”

“ Uh huh…… you didn’t see anything…….How many shots did you hear?”

“ I believe it was three.”

“ How far apart?”

“ I would say less than a minute each on the first two, mister Lancer fired the first one I believe right after entering the house.”

“The victim has a bullet in his back, one in his leg and one in his head…….So you didn’t see Messilla with the knife to Johnny’ throat?”

“ No as I told you I did not see anything until after the third shot when I came in.”

“ Did you hear anything said?”

The look Val seen come on the mans face told him he hit pay dirt.

“ I’ll ask you again….did you hear anything said by either Lancer or the victim?”

“ My grandson is the victim here sheriff, that man was an animal……..he got what he deserved.”

“ That’s not for me or you to decide………nor is it for Johnny or his old man either.”

“ I heard nothing senor.”

Val sighed. “ Alright if that’s how you want it.”

“ That is how it is sheriff……Now if you don’t mind I would like to go be with my grandson.”

“ Sure……..Just one more thing, and this is between me and you……..Johnny’s my friend, I know what you did to him as a child, leaving him in that orphanage…….if you hurt that boy at all me and you are going to dance, understand?”

“ You are a good compadre sheriff….I assure you I have no plans to hurt my grandson any more than I already have.”

“ Listen tell mister Lancer I’ll be back out some time tomorrow to talk to Johnny.” Val said as he headed to the front door. “ Take care of him.”

“ We intend to sheriff.” Don Luis said as he headed back upstairs.

Johnny jerked awake and sat straight up in bed gasping for air as his hands went to his throat. Murdoch woke with a start and immediately went to his son trying to calm him down.

“ Easy son, it’s’s over, you’re safe.” he said as he tried to get his son to calm down. “ Johnny it’s alright son.”

A familiar voice made it’s way into his head and Johnny looked into his fathers eyes as the events of the day before came back to him more clearly.

“ Murdoch?”

“ Yes son it’s me……..are you alright now?”

Johnny wouldn’t let go of his throat as he shook his head slightly. “ Messilla?”

“ He won’t hurt you ever again son.” he told him as he poured a glass of water. “ Here drink this but go slow.”

Johnny drank the cool liquid then pressed his head back into the pillow and brought his right hand up over his eyes.

“ How bad is it?”

“ Sam said it would heal up alright. It wasn’t deep enough for stitches but you will have to keep it covered for a week or so to keep it clean.”

“ Do you remember what happened son?”

Johnny looked at him as he brought his right arm back down, his eyes cold. “ Yeah I remember……I remember what you said right before you shot an unarmed man.”

Murdoch placed a hand on Johnny’ right arm only to have his son jerk his away.

“ Don’t.” Johnny said as he carefully turned on his side away from his father.

Murdoch stood up not understanding why his son was being this way. “ Son…..I did what I had to do to save your life..and I would do it again if I had to.”

Johnny turned back facing him. “ I guess now I get to call you a cold blooded killer huh……You know what old man….I never shot anyone unarmed…….Messilla was, he was unarmed. The knife fell away out of his reach when you put the second bullet in him………hell you didn’t even have to shoot him then……Tell me something Murdoch…….were you really doing it for what he did to me or did you blow his head off because of something else?”

‘ I don’t know what you’re talking about son………I made it clear to that, that animal why I was killing him………All you have had your whole life is abuse son, and I couldn’t be there to stop it then, but by god I did this time…..I will not stand by and let that animal continue to breath, not after all he had done to you.”

“ So I’m your scapegoat… that it?” Johnny asked harshly as he sat up and swung his legs over the side to stand up. “ You gonna fucking go and murder every man who ever abused me huh?”

Murdoch’ hand moved so fast it shocked him. The slap resounded in the room.

Johnny’s head snapped to the left causing him to almost loose his balance as his fathers hand connected with his face. Standing there with his anger building, he put a hand to his cheek as he fought the tears that welled up.

“ My god son I’m……..”

“ Get out…….get the fuck out now old man.”

“ Now see here young man………I am still your father and you will not talk to me that way.”

“ What on earth is going on in here?” Scott said as he walked into his brothers room. Upon seeing the bandage around his brothers throat he knew something happened, stepping around the bed, he sat on the edge. “ Johnny what happened?”

“ Get out Murdoch…get out of here now.” Johnny ordered as he tried to get up.

“ See if * you * can talk some sense into him Scott.” Murdoch asked as he stormed out, slamming the door behind him.

“ Take it easy…take it easy Johnny and calm down.” Scott asked his brother as he poured some water.

“ Calm down and tell me what happened brother.”

An hour later Scott walked downstairs and even though it was still morning he went to the side board and poured himself a drink, after listening to his brother he needed one.

“So did he tell you?” Murdoch asked rather gruffly as he turned around from staring out the window the last hour.

“ Have you gone mad sir?………….What on earth made you strike him?” Scott demanded.

“ What was I supposed to do son?……..Let your brother talk to me using that language?……..I am his father and he *will* respect me.” he declared.

“ Respect you…….Did you respect him when you hit him?………Did you even consider what he just went thru?………..My god sir he had his throat cut, Watched his father kill an unarmed man and *then* he gets slapped by said father because he was a little irrational.”

“ So he’s mad at me for hitting him?”

“ For starters…..yes.” Scott answered. “ Do you even remember how you treated him when he first came here?……..How * you * yourself cut him down for what he did in the past to stay alive?……..You called your own son a cold blooded killer just because he * was * a gunfighter.”

“ That………..that animal abused your brother, shot him in the back and then breaks into * my * home and attacks him again, fully intent on killing him so yes I killed him……..I told that sonofabitch in Mexico that I would if he ever….ever hurt my son again…….I would do the same for you too.”

“ Would you?…….Would you have the hatred for someone who hurt me like Johnny or is there more to this than you are saying sir?”

“ I don’t know what you are talking about……..I’m his father and it’s my right………my duty to protect my children.”

“ Yes sir but at what cost?” Scott shot back.

“ You weren’t here son……You didn’t come into this very room and find that man with your brother pinned to the floor over there with a knife to his throat.”

“ No I wasn’t…….but if I had that first shot would have killed him while he had the knife in his hand……not when he didn’t.”

“ I am not going to stand here and debate this *what if * with you any longer……I did what I did and that is the end of it.”

“ Because * you * call the tune right?…….It doesn’t matter really what anyone else has to say on the subject…….you had your say and heaven forbid if someone else is right and you’re wrong.”

Murdoch stood there and glared at his oldest.

“ You don’t give an inch do you sir?…….All pride and Johnny’s cut from the same mold.”

Don Luis rode into Moro Coyo to the mission and stopped his horse, getting down he tied the animal off and walked inside.

Padre Thomas walked out of the back room and stopped, staring at the man standing there before him.

“ What is it you want Don Luis?”

Don Luis walked up to him, anger clearly showed in his eyes. “ I will give you one week to vacate this mission, I do not care where you go, but you will leave this valley, perhaps go back to Mexico, or better yet, leave the church all together.”

“ And why would I leave the church?……..I have done nothing wrong.”

“ If you don not leave, you will force me to write, shall I say a very revealing letter to the Diocese and tell him what you did to my grandson, now you used the money I gave you for your own personal needs……..How you abused him………I really don’t think you would want that known would you?”

“ You have no proof of what you say.”

“ I wouldn’t be so sure about that Padre……….I guess you do not know who my brother became, since you left Mexico?”

“ I am perfectly aware of * who * he is, we are not in Mexico, so you can not make me leave the church.”

“ Oh I can and I will………..You knew Messilla was here and you knew what he was planning to do, yet you said nothing of this until it was almost to late…………why?”

“ So he is still alive?”

“ Yes, my grandson is still alive, does that news shock you?”

“ It is only a matter of time before * someone * kills him…….He is a cold blooded killer who doesn’t deserve to live.”

“ And you do……is that it?”

“ I am a man of peace…….I do the lords work.”

“ The lords work?………Do you really believe the lord would abuse a child the way you did Juanito, just because he is a mestizo?”

“ That half breed……..he is the son of the devil, nothing but pure evil, he got an innocent girl with child and now has that child here in this valley to grow up and be a killer just like him.”

Don Luis grabbed Padre Thomas by his robe. “ One week, if you don not vacate this church at the end of that week……..if anything else happens to my grandson or great grandson I will come back here and man of the cloth or not………I will kill you.” he vented before shoving the padre back turning and walking out of the church.

Val Crawford rode into the Lancer yard and got down, tying his horse off he started toward the front door when he heard two voices from within, standing there he listened to what his gut told him had happened to Messilla, how he was really killed. He knew the man, knew how sadistic he was in Mexico toward Johnny, how he would pillage small villages and rape young girls and women. Not bothering to knock he opened the front door and stepped into the foyer.

“ Am I interrupting?” he asked as he stepped down into the room.

Murdoch and Scott both turned at the sound of the voice.

“ Val…….No you’re not……….I was just leaving.” Scott said as he started toward the front door.

“ Is Johnny awake?” Val asked.

“ I was just up there with him, I believe he still might be sheriff.” Scott responded as he walked past.

Murdoch just stood there not saying anything.

“ Mister Lancer I believe me and you should have a talk after I talk to Johnny.”

Murdoch turned around and walked to his desk not answering the man. How much had the sheriff heard he couldn’t help but wonder as he sat down at his desk.

Johnny heard his door open and looked as his friend walked in.

“ Johnny.” Val said as he closed the door.

He knew Val would need to know what happened the day before between him and Messilla. Pushing himself up more in the bed.

“ Val.” he said softly.

“ How ya doin’ amigo?” Val asked as he walked over and sat down in the chair next to the bed.

“ I’m alright I guess.” Johnny answered.

“ You look like hell boy……..matter a fact you look like you haven’t gotten much sleep at all since this happened.” Val noted.

Johnny looked down at the quilt covering him. “  I guess you want to know what happened huh?”

“Yeah I do Johnny……I talked to your father and grandfather……..but you know I get the feeling they’re not telling me the truth……so why don’t you”

Johnny looked up. “ I been thinkin real hard on this most of the night Val.” Johnny stated. “ I’ll tell you, but I can’t.”

“You can’t?…….and why’s that?”

“ I can’t Val, not as long as you’re wearing that badge.” he answered.

“ My badge?”

“ Yeah, I need to talk to you as a friend……not the sheriff.”

Val knew his friend was being torn apart inside by what had happened. He knew that if he told what he had heard said between his brother and father minutes ago could send his father to prison.

“ We’ve known each other a long time Johnny……..You know I’m your friend and will do what’s right…. I got me a pretty good idea what happened yesterday.”

Johnny looked down at his hands and sighed.

Sheriff Crawford came downstairs an hour later and stepped into the grand room.

“ Mister Lancer.” he said as he walked over to the desk.

Murdoch looked up. “ Sheriff.”

“ I want you to know that after talking to your son I feel Messilla’ death was justified.”

Murdoch stood up and walked over to the side board and poured a drink.

“ I want you to know that I’m not going to arrest you for what you did because of my friendship to your son………He’s had enough pain to last a life time………….I suggest you do some serious thinking because *you * owe that boy some answers.” Val said before turning and leaving.


Murdoch reached the top of the stairs with the tray of food Maria had fixed for his youngest, walking to his bedroom door he knocked softly before opening it and stepping inside. Johnny had his eyes closed and he could tell by the way he was breathing fast, his son was trapped in a dream.

Setting the tray of food down on the bedside table he gently touched his son’s right shoulder to wake him.

“ Johnny……….son it’s alright……..son open your eyes.”

Johnny shot awake and grimaced from the sudden move he made, his bruised ribs protesting.

“ You were dreaming.” Murdoch stated as he looked into confused aqua blue eyes. “ You want to talk about it son?”

“ No.” he responded gruffly. “ What do you want?”

“ I brought you your dinner………and I thought maybe we could talk?”

“ Not hungry and I don’t want to talk to you……..I want you to leave me alone.” he said as he carefully turned onto his side away from his father.

Murdoch sighed. “ Listen son……..I’m sorry. I did what I did to save your life and I would do it again……I now know how you felt son, killing the men you have to stay alive. I………..”

You had no right doing it old man.” Johnny yelled back.

“ I had every right to kill that bastard son……..Look I don’t want to fight with you John……I’m trying to tell you I’m sorry for the way I treated you when you first came back here.”

“ Why……no wait I’ll tell you why old man……because  this  time  you’re  the cold blooded killer and you think that I’m gonna just forget what you did because you say you’re sorry……..well let me tell you something old man……I never killed a man in cold blood……never. Every man I ever killed either tried to kill me or called me out……………Messilla wasn’t armed any longer….he had dropped the knife and you had put two bullets in him already……..He couldn’t do anything more to me.”

“ Can you honestly tell me that if given the chance * you * wouldn’t have killed him Johnny?”

“ Not unarmed I wouldn’t have……..I would have made sure that that sonofabitch * had * a gun in his hand first……….I heard what you said to him and you think that you can appease your guilt for what I went thru as a child because * you * weren’t there to stop it like you should have been…..A father is supposed to protect his children from abuse…..A mother * isn’t supposed to do it or allow it to happen to her child………..That’s really the reason you did it isn’t it?”

Murdoch stood there hearing the anger in his sons voice. “ It was your mother who took you away from me…….If I could have I would have protected you………I looked for you…..I had the Pinkerton’ search for you…………It was your mother who abused you….I didn’t tell her to take you away ………I didn’t get a chance to be a father to you, but I can now and killing that bastard is what any father would do to protect his child. I have lived with the guilt and pain of not knowing if you were alive or dead all these years…….If I’d have known she was going to take you away from me I would have done everything in my power to stop her.”

“ You kick us out………You didn’t want a mestizo kid tarnishing the good Lancer name.”

“ That is a lie…..I never kicked your mother out……I loved her……I woke and found her gone and you along with her.”

“ Get out……get the fuck out.”

Murdoch sighed and quietly left his sons room hurt in his heart.

Don Luis, Scott and Murdoch sat at the kitchen table three days later finishing breakfast when Johnny came downstairs. Maria was holding his son feeding him some scrambled eggs mixed with milk.

“ Hey little man.” Johnny said as he walked over and took his son from her. “ You be good for Maria today si?……..I’ll be back tonight.”

“ Did Sam clear you to ride son?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny didn’t answer him. “ Gracias momacita for taking care of him like you have……..You to brother.”

“ It is my pleasure Juanito to care for your son.” she said before leaving the kitchen.

“ Where are you going brother?”

“ Out and check the streams in the south pasture…….Been cooped up to long.”

“ Want some company?”

“ Nope.” Johnny said quickly.

“ Scott can check the streams….Sam hasn’t cleared you to ride yet son.”

Johnny glared at the man. “ Don’t need his or your approval old man.” he said sharply before heading to the back door.

“ Juanito….I wish to talk to you at some time about a personal matter if I may?” Don Luis stated.

Johnny stopped and looked at his grandfather a second before opening the back door and leaving.

Scott looked at his father. Four days since the attack and the last three his brother hadn’t said a word to his father. He couldn’t blame him in a way, but he also hated seeing the two at odds like they were.

“ You need to fix this between you two and now.”

“ Don’t you think I’ve tried son…….I told him I was sorry……..he has so much anger and hurt built up inside I don’t know what else I can do.”

“ You better figure it out before you loose both your son * and * grandson.” Scott said before he stood up and headed outside.

Johnny walked Barranca out of the barn as his brother walked toward him. “ I don’t want to talk about it Scott.”

“ Then don’t…….just listen…………Look I’m not condoning what our father did Johnny……and believe me when I say this, I know how you are feeling, but I also know that * you * are a good person and if it had been you in his place you would want his forgiveness.”

“ I’ve been in his place Boston, remember?…….How do you expect me to forget or forgive him for what he did when he still see’s me as Madrid the killer huh?”

“ He doesn’t see you like that Johnny……None of us do……..We see you as Johnny Lancer, brother, son and now a father.”

“ I ain’t no Lancer, never have been, never will be…….I’ll see ya tonight Scott.” he responded as he mounted Barranca and put spur to him and galloped south.

Scott stood there watching his brother ride away, a part of him hurting at what he said. “ You are brother whether you want to be or not.” he said before turning and going to saddle his own horse.

Pulling brush from the stream bed with force, Johnny had a lot of anger inside, yanking a scrub brush free as sweat from the afternoon sun ran down his face the sound of an approaching horse. Climbing up out of the stream bed he expected it to be Scott but was shocked at who he seen riding up.

“ Juanito we need to talk.” Don Luis said as he got down.

“ I don’t……..I have work to do.” Johnny stated as he turned to go back down into the stream bed.

Don Luis grabbed him by the arm and spun him around. “ You will listen to me.” he stated firmly.

Johnny jerked his arm free. “ Don’t you ever grab me again.”

“ Then don’t act like a spoiled child who got his feelings hurt…….You are a man and a father so start acting like one.”

“ What the fuck gives you the right to tell me what to do or how to act?”

“ You will not speak to me like that and used that kind of language to me…….I am your grandfather and you will show me respect.” Don Luis stated firmly. “ Have you never done something wrong in your past that ashamed you?………Something you wish you had never done?”

“ My past is none of your business old man, so stay the fuck out of it.”

Don Luis stepped up and slapped his grandson hard across the face and grabbed his arms. “ You are not to big for me to teach a lesson in manners to………Something I feel my daughter never did.”

“ Your daughter……Your daughter was a whore and didn’t give a rats ass about me….I was just someone in the way.” Johnny vented.

“ Do not speak of your mother that way, she may not have been good and did what she had to do to feed you……….”

“ Feed me…….she didn’t give a damn if I had food in my belly or not………as long as she had a man in her bed and whiskey she didn’t care about me…..She didn’t care if I was hungry or cold. Hell most of the time I went without shoes on my feet and barely clothes on my back.” Johnny said with pure anger.

“ You know…..I was trying to forget this, forget what Murdoch said that day in Mexico, but I can’t. I wanted so hard for me and you to get to know each other………to have a new beginning, but I can’t……… You knew where I was after she died didn’t you?”

Don Luis walked over under a big oak tree and sat down in the shade, taking his hat off he wiped the sweat from his brow before looking at his grandson.

“ That is why I rode out here……I did not come out here to fight with you Juanito….I came to talk to you…….to tell you things I should have told you that day you came to my estancia.”

Anger burned deep inside his gut. Anger for what he knew his grandfather was about to tell him. Walking over under the oak tree, Johnny glared at him. “ So tell me……….Tell me how you could leave me in that place, how you could turn your back on a ten year old child, knowing what would be done to me because of my being a mestizo old man.”

“ I knew of you si……I knew my daughter was dead……..I came to see you a couple ears before, to try and get her to come home, but she would not…….She hated me and her mother and our way of living. Your mother was a wild child and the older she got the more she wanted away from us…..When I learned of her marrying a rich gringo rancher I was both happy and disappointed…..I was happy she would be taken away from the border towns and live a good life, even if it was with a gringo, but at the same time I was disappointed to learn why she had married.”

“Because of me right?” Johnny snapped.

“ Yes…….My daughter had committed the ultimate sin in my eyes and your father as well. I felt that he had used an innocent girl like so many other gringo’s do when they come across the border. When I learned who you had become and requested your services, yes it was under false pretense to get you there. I wanted to tell you the truth then on who I was Juanito, but I found when I seen you I could not.”

“ Why?……..Why didn’t you tell me your were my grandfather instead of asking all the questions you did and lying to me?”

“ I did not lie to you….I just didn’t tell you the truth and I have had to live with that shame ever since.”

“ And that’s supposed to make everything alright?”

“ No it is not…..I listened to my brother, your uncle and I shouldn’t have. I should have listened to my heart.”

Johnny stepped over to the oak tree and sat down, leaning his back against it, drawing his knees up to his chest.

“ I was paying Padre Thomas good money to take care of you. To make sure you had all you would need in that mission.”

“ All I would need?………What I needed was my familia…….Do you even know what that bastardo did to me?……..How he treated me?”

“ Si I know………..I didn’t learn of his betrayal though until you were already gone…….He used the money I paid him for you, for his own self or the other children……I know how he abused you and I am Lo siento.”

“ Did you know my old man was searching for me?”

“ Yes.” Don Luis answered knowing it would anger his grandson more. “ I knew, but I said nothing when the Pinkerton’ came asking about you I told them I knew nothing of your whereabouts.”

Johnny glared at him a few seconds then dropped his head. “ Because of my father right?…..They were looking for me for him and you hated him for getting your daughter pregnant so you said nothing……You robbed me of my father…….you let me continue to believe the lies she told me about him.”

“ I did not know she told you lies about him.”

“Bullshit.” Johnny snapped back as he got up. “ It shouldn’t matter * who * my father was…….My mother was dead and I was a ten year old half breed child alone in the border towns fighting to stay alive.”

“ Why did you not go to him yourself Juanito when you were older?………..After you became Johnny Madrid?”

“ Because I believed the lies my mother told me………Oh I was going to go to him……I was going to go to him and put a bullet between his eyes for throwing me and my mother out.”

“ Why didn’t you?…….I read how Murdoch Lancer and some of his men helped you with the gold shipment….Why did you not kill him then?”

“ Scott.” he answered with a quiver in his voice. “ I learned I had an older brother and even though it took some time I knew that what she had told me had all been lies. She knew about Scott and never told me……..After the gold I went back to Douglas and finished that job then went to New Mexico for another…………Scott came after me and made me a deal and I took it.” Johnny said as he turned around and faced his grandfather. “ And you know, even though me and that old man don’t get along at times, even though I am angry at him for what he did to Messilla, I love him.”

Don Luis stood up and walked over to him. “ You have grown into a man I am proud to have as a grandson…….I know what I did was wrong Juanito and nothing I can do or say can change that……All I can do is ask that you forgive me and allow us to be family like we should have been so many years ago.”

Johnny sighed and walked over to the creek bed. “ When I came here I hoped I could start a new life……a life not as Johnny Madrid the gunfighter but as Johnny Madrid the son of a rancher.” he began softly. “ Murdoch had a hard time at first accepting me for who I was, but he did…….It wasn’t easy for either of us and if it hadn’t been for Scott I would have left Lancer a long time ago, but I didn’t. I stayed and made Lancer my home………..Now I have a son to raise and I will do anything I have to do to make sure Miguel doesn’t grow up and go thru what I did as a child…….I want the best for my son and he can only get that here……….I want him to know his grandfather, uncle and great grandfather, but if you go back to Mexico he won’t get that chance………I can’t go back there.”

“ What if I told you he could…….that you wouldn’t have to go back to Mexico so he can?”

Johnny looked at him confused.

“ Juanito I am not getting any younger and you are the only family I have left.”

“ What are you saying?”

“ I am saying……..I have sold my estancia to a long time friend of mine down there, minus my prized stallions and a few mares.”

“ Sold it….why?”

“ So I could buy a place here and be near my family.”

“ You sold your ranch for me…”

“ Yes…..You and Miguel are all that matter to me now.”

Johnny didn’t know how to respond to what he heard. All hi life he had wanted a family to love him and in the last two years he had gotten that and so much more.

“ There is the finest Capanero De Palomino’ in the San Joaquin valley here.”

“ Si……..and the finest horseman for breeding and training them as well.” Don Luis said as he stepped over and placed a hand on Johnny’ shoulder. “ I know how you got your stallion…….I have watched you with the mare……You have a gift that is rare.”

“ Does Murdoch know you did this?”

“ No…….Nobody knows but you.”

“ Well I guess we better head back and tell him then don’t you think?”

“ Yes.”

Murdoch sat at his desk going over the books when he heard the front door open and Scott walked in.

“Has Johnny come back yet?” he asked as he removed his hat and gun in the foyer before stepping down into the room.

“ No son, he hasn’t. Don Luis rode out to him a couple hours ago……..said he wanted to talk to him privately.”

Scott cocked a brow.  “He did mention that he wanted to talk to Johnny this morning……….How do you feel about his grandfather?”

Murdoch leaned back in his chair. “ Your brother needs his family Scott. His grandfather is all he has left from his mothers side.”

“ What about his uncle?”

“ His uncle is El Presidente in Mexico and I don’t think he cares about his nephew at all.”

“ His loss.” Scott said as he walked over to the side board and poured a drink.

Murdoch stood and walked over to him. “ Listen son……..I know that if it hadn’t been for you that Johnny would have left here long ago, and if I had lost him again it would have hurt more than the first time.”

“ You need to fix this between you two Murdoch before it destroys you both.”

“ I know son……..I just wish I knew how.”

“ Give him some time sir……one thing I have learned about my brother is that he has to work things out his own way……….If Johnny was going to leave Lancer he would have done so already.”

“ I hope he doesn’t son…….to loose him and my grandson both……”

“ You won’t………..Listen I’m going to go get cleaned up for dinner now.”

“ Alright son………After dinner I wish to discuss something with you and Johnny.”

“ Oh?”

“ Yes, something about the ranch.”

“ Very well sir.” Scott answered before heading up to his room to clean up.

Johnny and Don Luis rode into the yard at dusk, handing their horses off to Carlos, both men walked to the house.

“ We’re late.” Johnny said.

“ I will tell him it is my fault Juanito.”

“ Don’t matter……the old man likes us to be on time for breakfast and dinner.”

“ Punctuality is nice but some things just can’t be helped.” Don Luis stated.

Johnny laughed as he opened the front door and the two men walked in.

“ Sorry we’re late.” Johnny said as he sat down at the table waiting for his fathers harsh words.

“ That’s alright son……..We just began.” Murdoch said.

Johnny glanced at Scott who shrugged his shoulders. Not getting a chewing out for being late caught him totally off guard. Glancing at his grandfather as he poured some water.

Maria walked in with Miguel in her arms. “ Ah there is you papa…….he can feed you your dinner little one.”

“ Hey little man.” Johnny said as he took his son. “ Gracias Maria.”

“ Denada Juanito.” she said as she left the room.

Murdoch glanced at Don Luis. “ Did the two of you have your talk?’ he asked.

“ Yeah…..uh listen we need to have a talk after dinner……all of us.” Johnny answered.

“ Alright son.” Murdoch responded.

                                                                    Chapter 27

Johnny sat eating his dinner quietly as he listened to his father and brother talk about the ranch, trying to get his son to eat some mashed up green beans.

“ I think Miguel is like you brother.” Scott said laughingly.

“ Yeah how so big brother?”

“ Well it would appear that he doesn’t care for his vegetables either. Just like you don’t.”

Murdoch laughed as Miguel spit out the spoonful he was just given.

“ I don’t remember what I ate and didn’t eat when I was a baby Boston so how would I know that?”

“ Well, because you still don’t eat them son.” Murdoch answered before Scott.

Johnny wiped his son’ mouth and picked him up. “ If you will excuse me for a spell I think I will put my son to bed.” he said before walking out of the room as Maria walked in.

Murdoch looked at Scott then Don Luis. “ Ah Maria cena era excelente, como siempre. Muchas gracias.” (Ah Maria dinner was superb as always, thank you.)

“ Usted es patrona de bienvenida. Juanito no se como?” ( You are welcome patron. Juanito did he not eat?)

“ Johnny comio y tomo Miguel hasta lo puso a la cama. El estara de nuevo hacia abajo.” ( Johnny ate and took Miguel up to put him to bed.)

“ Juanito, que sera un buen padre?” ( Juanito, he will be a good father.)

“Si que es Maria. Johnny es joven aun pero como ser un buen hombre y padre.” ( Yes he is Maria. Johnny is young still but he has become a good man and father.)

“ Yal vez e gustaria oido estas palabras de su padre si?” ( Perhaps he would like to hear these words from his father yes?) Maria said before taking the dishes to the kitchen.

“ Well shall we retire to the grand room sir for our talk and after dinner drink?” Scott asked sensing his father’ uncomfortableness from what Maria said.

“ Uh yes son……lets.” the patriarch said as he stood and headed to the room.

“ Did you and Johnny talk this afternoon Don Luis?’ he asked as he went to the side board and poured three scotch and one tequila.

“ Yes we did……I am afraid that it is my fault we were late for dinner.”

“ I see……and everything is alright between you and Johnny now?” he asked as he walked over and handed a drink to Don Luis.

“It will take time I suppose for my grandson and me, but we have made a new start.”

“ A new start?”

“ Yes, Juanito said that * you * senior Lancer always did believe everybody deserved a new start.”

“ Uh huh, well I’m afraid you have that wrong Don Luis.”

“ I do?……In what way?”

“ You see it was  Johnny who taught me that everybody deserves a new start……When he first came back here with Scott I wasn’t the type  of father I should have been to him……I couldn’t see past who Johnny was trying to not be and see who he had become.” Murdoch stated with pride in his voice.

“ I see…and now.”

“ Now….now I see and have a son I am very proud of, both of them, but Johnny, he had it bad as you know growing up and he survived to become the man he is now because he became Madrid…….I would love my son to take the Lancer name, the name he was born with, but I will not make him do something he doesn’t want to do, just to please me.”

“ Does that include working with stupid cows old man?” a soft voice asked from the foyer.

Murdoch turned and looked at his youngest standing there. “ As a third owner of this ranch it does son.”

“ Ah….I guess that was in all that fine print on the contract huh?”Johnny said jokingly as he walked over to his father and took the shot of tequila. “ Thanks…………..Uh listen Murdoch I did a lot of thinking today and…..I understand why you did it, I just……”

“ Son when you are ready…..I mean really ready we can talk about what I did and if you never want to again that is fine also…..I want no secrets between us son.”

Always able to read a person, tonight Johnny was a little confused. First he shows up late for dinner with his grandfather and doesn’t get so much as a raised voice from him, and now his father wants to talk to him when he’s ready about what happened, no secrets between them. If his father really actually knew some of the things he had done in his past, he would not want him as a son.

“ Like you told your grandfather son, I believe in new beginnings, you taught me that when you came home to Lancer son.”

Okay now he was really confused, looking at his brother he could tell he was just as confused in this change in their father.

“ This ranch means the world to me, but when you came home  I realized that without my two sons it means nothing to me…..I know you have worked hard Scott helping me when Johnny wasn’t here, but it wasn’t the same, something was missing as I’m sure you felt also?”

“ Yes sir I did………My brother.” Scott answered looking at Johnny.

“ Right…..Don Luis as you are aware the only family Johnny has is right here in this room………..I would like to make you an offer, both of you……….I would like to offer you Lancer as your home…….Live here so you can be with your grandson and great grandson….If you don’t want to then I am willing to build you a home on Lancer so you and Johnny can be together……And as a business partner I would like to offer you son a business deal.”

“ What kind of business deal?” Johnny asked.

“ The kind I know you would be damn good at……….Horses.”

Johnny ran a hand thru his hair as he walked over and looked out the french doors to the darkness of the night.

“ Son…….I don’t ever want to loose you again. I want to watch my grandson grow up here on Lancer. I have watched you with horses when you break them for the ranch and you have a special gift, a special touch I have never seen a man have before son.”

“ A horse whisperer.” Scott said. “ That’s what they call them back east Johnny.”

“ Juanito, he is right…….You have a very special gift very few men posses.”

“Why are you really doing this Murdoch?”

“ I told you why son.”

“ Not all of it.”

“ Because I am proud of the man you have become and the father you are.”

Johnny had to turn away hearing these words from his father. Words he had wanted to hear said to him for a long time.

Murdoch walked over and place a hand on his youngest sons arm and could feel the slight tremble.

“ I should have told you that long before now……..I am proud of you Johnny.”

“ Senor Lancer……This afternoon I told Juanito that I sold my estancia  so I could live here close to him and Miguel……..I am not getting any younger and I want a new start with him……A start that should have happened a long time ago.”

“ Are you alright son?”

“ Yeah.” Johnny answered with a slight tremble to his voice. “ You really mean it about the horses?”

“ Yes I do son….we can go in and have Richardson draw up a contract if you like next week making it official.”

“ What about you brother?………..You got a say in this as part owner.”

Scott walked over to him. “ Johnny I think it is a good idea……..I know you are no fool little brother but if you pass this up, you are the biggest fool in the valley.”

Johnny smiled. “ It will mean having to hire more hands and building more corrals and such.”

“ I am aware of that son, I think the four of us together can work this all out.”

“ Would you want to live here?” he asked.

“ Yes…as you told me that day up on the hill overlooking this great land Juanito……..Lancer is the most beautiful place in the whole wide world.”

“ You know over two years ago when we first seen you with the gold, I never would have guessed that my little brother was the man behind the badge.”

To be continued in “A Father’s Greatest Challenge.”


Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Nancy Marie directly.


4 thoughts on “The Man Behind The Badge by Nancy Marie

  1. Fantastic story Nancy, you did it again. You seem to have an uncanny knack of getting the personalities, the vibe of the lancers &. Johnny very very well.


  2. Thank you. This was my very first Lancer story. I’ve come a long way since writing this one all those years ago, and I will continue to get better ( grammar mainly) I had so much fun writing this one. I’m glad you enjoyed it.


  3. This is a truly well written wonderful story. It has everything. I’m glad there’s more! Thank you so much for sharing your work.


    1. Thank you for reading it. When I wrote this, I never dreamed I would be writing my 34th story years later. I really enjoy writing these, and though my grammar isn’t the best, and still needs improvement, I’ve come a long way in how I write today from when I wrote this one.


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