I don’t own them, I’m just borrowing them for some creative fun. Murdoch Lancer, Scott Garrett Lancer, Johnny Madrid Lancer, Teresa O’Brian, and any other character name from the show belong to their rightful owner. No money is being made from this. Just broken hearts, and wanting wishes.
I will give this story an R-Rating due to some cursing ( nothing bad), and violence.
Johnny and Scott comes across a wagon full of Missionaries headed to San Francisco, on their way back to California. Johnny knows it could be a very dangerous journey for them, so him and Scott decide to ride along with them to provide safe passage. Both unaware there is ten thousand dollars in gold in the bottom of their wagon for the Mission in San Francisco.
(Characters listed below in my story are real names from the Mission in my story except the 4 sisters. The two Pastors, really did work at Mission San Francisco De Asis during the years in parenthesis. The 4 sisters names are just vintage names I came across in a list and liked. The two Bishops both served at Mission San Francisco De Asis, and took over at dates in parenthesis.)
Bishop George Thomas Montgomery ( 1894)
Mission San Francisco De Asis / St. Francis of Assisi.
Johnny Madrid Lancer
Scott Garrett Lancer
Red Jack Gang;
Jack “ Red Jack” Almer/ Alias Jack Averill
Word count: 47,270
“ What are we going to do now Bishop Montgomery?” Sister Emaline asked.
“The lord provides. We must not lose faith.” Bishop Montgomery responded.
“ That’s right. The lord will provide.” Father Williams said.
“ But we have no food or water. Those men took everything we had!” Sister Josephine said.
“ Not everything. We still have our lives.” Sister Alexina said.
“ And the gold for the mission.” Mother Feltin added.
“ May I suggest we keep moving Bishop Montgomery. Those men might come back.” Father Williams suggested.
“ Yes. But first we should bury this man. He did die trying to protect us.” Bishop Montgomery said.
“ Are we going to find someone else to guide us to San Francisco Mother Feltin?” Sister Emaline asked.
“ Mister Cooper said we would be going west until the ocean, and then go north to San Francisco.” Sister Alexina stated as they buried their guide.
“ Perhaps we should do like he said, at least until we can find another worthy guide.” Father Williams suggested.
“ I don’t mind saying I’ll be glad when we get to the next town and I can get a bath.” Scott said as he swatted another fly. “ I have welts upon welts from these damn flies biting me. How come they’re not biting you?”
Johnny stopped his horse and smiled. “ I rubbed sage all over me. Insects hate the smell of it. Why you think I put it in our fire at night.”
“ Sage. Why didn’t I just ask.” Scott said as he stopped his horse and got down.
“ Take off your shirt and I’ll rub some on your back.” Johnny said as he dismounted and pulled a small pouch from his saddlebags. “ You being so light skinned is why they like you so much brother. You need to expose your skin to the sun more.”
“ I’ll do that. Got any suggestions on how to stop the itch?” Scott asked as he removed his shirt.
“ Yeah, but it will sting like hell.” Johnny said as he handed the pouch to Scott. “ Start rubbing that on your face, arms, and chest.” he said as he went to his saddlebags and pulled out a small bottle of tequila.
“ What are you going to do with that?” Scott asked.
“ Pour some on my kerchief and dab it on your bites to stop the itching.” Johnny responded.
“ Do I have a choice?” Scott asked.
“ Not if you want to stop itching brother.” Johnny said as he started dabbing the bites.
“ Can I ask who taught you this?” Scott asked.
“ An old man in Sonora when I was a kid.” Johnny responded.
“ Well I guess I should be grateful. Thank you.” Scott said as he put his shirt back on.
“ Tell me something Scott. How come the old man didn’t trust me enough to go to San Antonio on my own? It didn’t take the two of us to handle six horses.” Johnny asked as he checked his cinch.
“ It wasn’t his decision. It was mine. He told he had planned on you going alone, and I asked him to let me go along with you.” Scott responded as he tucked his shirt back in.
“ You……..why?” Johnny asked, somewhat shocked.
“ Why not. All the major work is done. He could get along without the two of us. I thought it would give us a good chance to get to know each other better. You’ve only been at Lancer a year.” Scott said as he untied his canteen, took a drink, and offered some to his brother.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said softly as he took a drink.
“ I know there’s some things in your past you don’t want to talk about, and I can respect that. I’d just like to know more about my little brother.” Scott said.
“ I’d have thought you knew all there is about me in those Pinkerton reports the old man has locked up the bottom drawer of his desk.” Johnny responded as he handed the canteen back to his brother.
“ I seen the scars on your back Johnny, and I have to say, I’ve seen scars on men from the war, but you…………..What the hell happened to you?” Scott asked with concern.
Johnny started walking Barranca. “ I was ten when my mother died. I awoke one morning and found her dead. She’d been beaten to death. I was sent to an orphanage and Mestizo’s ain’t liked to well in Mexico, so the other kids picked on me.” Johnny explained as they walked along. “ I ran away every chance I got from that damn place. Especially away from Father Martin.” Johnny said as he stopped and reached into his saddlebag and pulled out some beef jerky, and handed a piece to Scott
“ Thanks. Father Martin?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah, he found it real easy to blame me for everything that went wrong or that someone else did. He would either beat me, lock me in a hall closet, or make me go without any food or water for at least three days.” Johnny explained.
“ Jesus. Wasn’t there anyone else there to stop him?” Scott asked.
“ Father Williams, but he could only do what he could when he witnessed my being abused by the other kids.” Johnny explained. “ Father Martin, he got real good at abusing me whenever he got the chance, which was usually when Father Williams was busy or in his office. You see this scar across my left palm, some of the other boys thought it would be real good to gang up on me and see what color my blood was one morning. I was out gathering the eggs and they cornered me in the coop. Father Williams seen me come in with my hand all bloody and asked what happened as father Martin walked into the kitchen. I told him I caught it on a nail in the coop, but I know he knew I was lying. He knew I didn’t tell the truth because Father Martin was there.”
“ So those boys got away with what they did to you?” Scott asked.
“ Not exactly. Father Williams made them clean and tend the pigs for a month. Father Martin tried to persuade him to change the punishment, but he wouldn’t. I heard him tell Father Martin that if a child will do something that callous to another, his cruelty toward others will only worsen with age if not dealt with then.” Johnny explained.
“ What ever happened to the boy who cut you?” Scott asked.
“ I seen him one day, still mean. I watched from the shadows as he started a fight with a man a few years later. He pulled a knife on the man, and ended up getting cut from his dick to his throat by that man.” Johnny said.
“ Father Martin put those whip scars on your back?” Scott asked.
“ No, the Rurales did that when I was in a Mexican prison. They didn’t like Madrid helping the peasants fight against their corrupt ways. I was seconds away from being shot by a firing squad when the old mans Pinkerton found me.” Johnny responded.
“ That why you became Johnny Madrid, to stop the abuse?” Scott asked.
“ Partly, and partly to stop others like me that are lesser from being abused. Someone has to stand up for the little guy Scott. Big, rich, powerful ranchers in Mexico don’t care about the little man. Not all, but most of them don’t. See, I got tired of one man telling another he can’t sell his own property or what he can and can’t do, and that’s not right. Hell even Murdoch does it. He’ll deny it, but he does with being a member of the California Cattleman’s Association. Smaller ranchers can’t sell their cattle unless the association says they can. They try and their blocked. Look how he was with Warburton when he wanted to sell his cattle at a lower price. Murdoch Lancer likes to throw his weight around, you know it, and I know it. Why do you think he said he calls the tune in that partnership agreement.”
“ Johnny, surely you don’t think our father would treat others like those rich Mexican ranchers do? Murdoch has made sure to help a lot of the people in the valley and the families who work at Lancer. He’s very respected and even the governor and a few judges have good things to say about him……” Scott responded.
“ What’d you do back in Boston?” Johnny cut in.
“ I worked at my grandfather’s shipping business at the harbor. Why?” Scott responded.
“ No reason. Was just curious if you used that Harvard education back there or not.” Johnny said.
“ After the war I did. I had only been out of college a short time when the war broke out and I enlisted.” Scott said.
“ You said you were in Libby. I heard from others tell that that place was hell. Sounded about like a Mexican prison.” Johnny replied.
“ Libby was…………”
“ What the hell is that?” Johnny cut in as he mounted up.
“ Looks like a wagon.” Scott said as he too mounted up.
“ Bishop Montgomery, look! Two riders coming this way.” Sister Emaline said as she pointed east.
“ Do you think they’re with those that killed our guide Mister Cooper?” Sister Margaret asked.
“ You girls get in the wagon, stay quiet, and stay out of sight.” Mother Feltin ordered.
“ I don’t think they’re a threat to us Bishop Montgomery. I think those two are going to be the answer to our prayers.” Mother Feltin said as the two riders approached.
“ You wouldn’t happen to have some water you could spare would you?” Bishop Montgomery asked.
“ Certainly Father.” Scott said as he handed him his canteen.
“ This isn’t the best country for you three, plus whoever is in the wagon, to be traveling in. Apache, Comancheros, Kiowa. Not to mention outlaws.” Scott said.
Johnny rode around to the front of the wagon and looked at the team. He knew they would never make it to wherever they were going with the horses as tired as they were.
“ Were you headed?” Johnny asked.
“ San Francisco to the mission there.” Father Williams said.
Johnny stared at the man for several seconds before finally speaking.“ You have a horse dead and the other three are exhausted. There’s a town about ten miles where you can get another horse, but you won’t make it there today. I’ll cut the dead horse loose, and then fix it so you can have a three horse hitch. There’s a stream about two miles from here with plenty of wood for a fire and you ladies can freshen up.” Johnny said.
“ That’s very kind of you young man. Thank you.” Mother Feltin said.
“ Why don’t you have them others come on down out of the wagon while I do what needs to be done.” Johnny suggested.
“ Of course. Sisters, please come down so our angels can help us.” Mother Feltin requested.
“ I’m Scott Lancer, and the charming one over there is my brother Johnny.” Scott said.
“ We’re Missionaries. I’m Bishop Montgomery, this is Bishop Williams, Mother Feltin, and Sisters Josephine, Emaline, Margaret, and Alexina. Where are you boys headed?”
“ Back home to our ranch in California. We delivered some horses to a good friend of our fathers in Texas.” Scott responded.
“ Oh, we came from San Antonio.” Mother Feltin said.
“ How’d you end up here?” Scott asked.
“ Our guide was killed by what I believe you would call outlaws. They stole everything we had for food, water, and bedding. We buried Mister Cooper and were discussing what to do when you two showed up.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ Did your guide know who they were?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes, he said they were the Red Jack gang. He ordered us to give them everything they wanted if we wanted to stay alive.” Father Williams said.
“ Yet they killed your guide. How come?” Johnny asked.
“ Because one of the men decided he was going to………Mister Cooper defended her honor, and unfortunately it got him killed.” Mother Feltin said with a slight quiver to her voice.
“ Have we met before young man?” Father William asked.
“ That depends Father on where it is you think you seen me?” Johnny said. “ Who drove the wagon before your guide was killed?”
“ That would be me young man.” Bishop Montgomery said. “ And Mother Feltin.”
“ Well, one of you need to get up there and drive the team, the rest of you need to walk.” Johnny instructed.
“ Walk, on heavens earth why?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Because you’re down one horse and the other three are tired. They don’t need to be pulling the extra weight right now.” Johnny snapped back.
“ Easy Johnny. There’s no reason to snap at them.” Scott said. He could tell something was bothering his brother for him to be so short with the Missionaries, especially women. Maybe later tonight he would find out why his brother was being so short tempered with them.
“ How come you let them Missionaries live Jack?” Jo asked.
“ Because I ain’t in the business of killing women or priest.” Jack responded.
“ Yeah, he may be a lot of things Jo, but even Jack has his limits. Unlike some people.” Jesus said as he glared at Robert.
“ You got something to say greaser, say it.” Robert ordered.
Jack stepped in front of Jesus, gave an ever so slight nod before turning to face Robert. “ I’m going to say this one time only, so I suggest you listen real close. You ride with me, you will not disrespect women in any way. You want to use that thing in your pants, you use it on a whore………..Do I make myself clear?” Jack asked coldly.
“ Yeah, for now.” Robert said before turning to walk away.
“ You got a problem with what I say, we can settle it right now Bob!” Jack said firmly.
Robert spun around and drew his colt, aiming it right at Jack.“ What I have a problem with is you or this greaser ruining my fun. I’m going back to that wagon, and I’m going to have all the fun I want with those nuns, and none of you are going to stop me.”
Bill heard the raised voices as he walked back from the horses. Seeing Bob draw, he pulled his own pistol and cocked it. “ Put it away Bob.” he ordered firmly. “ raping a nun isn’t worth dying over.”
“ You won’t shoot me Bill.” Robert said as he pulled the hammer back.
“ You sure about that?” Bill asked. “ We’ve rode together a long time the six of us. Is this how you want to end a friendship?”
Robert took his eyes off Jack just long enough for Jack to draw, aiming his gun at him.
“ Looks like we have us a three way standoff Bob.” Jack said as James rode up.
“ What the hell is going on?” James demanded as he dismounted.
“ Just a little disagreement James. What’d you find out?” Jack said, and asked.
“ The rumor is true. Ten thousand true.” James responded.
“ What’s he talking about? What rumor?” Robert asked.
“ That wagon, those Missionaries have ten thousand dollars in gold in that wagon.” Jack responded.
“ We went through that wagon, me and Bill. We didn’t see no gold.” Lopez said.
“ That’s because they have it hidden.” James said.
“ Probably under the wagon.” Jack said.
“ They’re headed to San Francisco, to a mission there. The gold is probably for there.” James said. “ That’s almost two thousand dollars each.”
“ Well alright then. Let’s rest up the night, and head out tomorrow for our gold.” Jack ordered.
“ You’re back Murdoch!” Teresa said as she walked into the grand room wiping her hands on her apron. “ Any word from the boys?”
“ No, nothing. What smells so good?” Murdoch asked as he walked over to his desk and sat down.
“ That would be cookies I made for you this afternoon.” Teresa responded.
“ Is that cinnamon I smell?” Murdoch asked with a smile.
“ It is. I thought I would make you some of those snicker-doodles you like so well.” she said.
“ Alright, out with it young lady. What’s bothering you?” Murdoch asked as he stood up, and walked over to pour a glass of brandy.
“ Nothing is bothering me.” Teresa answered as she played with her apron.
Murdoch walked over and put his right hand under her chin, raising it up to look in her eyes. “ I know you young lady. Whenever you are worried about something, you bake cookies. What is it?”
“ Does something have to be wrong for me to want to make you some snicker-doodles? Maybe I just felt like baking.” Teresa responded.
“ I have known you your whole life young lady, and ever since the boys came home, you worry. Especially about Johnny. Now I will ask you again, what’s wrong?” Murdoch said.
“ How can you not be worried about them?” Teresa asked.
“ And what makes you think I’m not worried about them sweetheart. I know Johnny runs the risk of someone calling him out, but that’s a risk that could happen here too. I worry every day about how the next time he is called out could be his last. I worry every day that Harlan Garrett is going to show up here and talk Scott into going back to Boston with him, and I will never see him again. I worry about you also.” Murdoch responded.
“ Me, why?” Teresa asked.
“ Every time you go to town, I worry that something will happen to you. I worry some day you will meet a young man, fall in love, get married and leave Lancer.” Murdoch explained.
“ I could never leave Lancer. It’s my home.” Teresa said.
“ Maria said that to me shortly after I brought her here.” Murdoch said. “ Never underestimate the power of love young lady. I seen Aggie in town and she invited us to her place for supper tomorrow night. I thought it would be nice and give you someone to talk to, besides I’m sure Maria would like a night off.”
“ I’d like that very much Murdoch. I better get back to finishing up your cookies.” Teresa responded.
“ I’m gonna go out and make sure we’re not being followed, and camp in the shadows. I’ll see ya in the morning Scott.” Johnny said as he tightened his cinch. “ Keep them close to the wagon and keep that fire burning good all night.”
“ Alright. You be careful.” Scott said.
“ Talk to them Scott. I don’t think they’re telling us the whole story about why their guide was killed.” Johnny said as he slid his rifle into the scabbard.
“ How do you mean?” Scott asked.
“ I know Red Jack. He don’t go around robbing a wagon full of Missionaries Scott. It’s not his style. He robs stagecoaches for payroll and such. Why have a four horse hitch to pull a wagon that two horses could easily pull? They don’t have but a few valises of clothes. For having so little, they have way to big a wagon. ” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle. “ I think they have gold with them brother. Hidden in or under that wagon somewhere. I’d bet my life on it. I’ll see ya.”
“ It’s quite beautiful here. I never thought such a place could exist in such a hot and seemingly baron land.” Mother Feltin said. “ If you don’t mind my asking, how did your brother know of this place?”
“ My brother knows a lot about surviving in the desert. I guess you could say, Johnny is my teacher.” Scott said.
“ I have the feeling we have slowed you both down on your journey home.” Mother Feltin said.
“ That’s alright. We couldn’t very well have ridden off and left you stranded.” Scott said as he stirred the fire.
“ Your mother must be proud, but I must say, you and Johnny do not look like brothers.” Mother Feltin stated as Father Williams came over and sat down.
“ Our father had two wives.” Scott said.
“ Do they get along, you and Johnny’s mother I mean?” she asked.
“ My mother died giving birth to me. I was raised by my grandfather back in Boston. Johnny grew up below the border. We didn’t know about each other until a year ago.” Scott explained.
“ What do you mean, your brother grew up below the border?” Bishop Montgomery asked.
“ He means in Mexico.” Father Williams said.
“ You know, my brother was telling me about a Father Williams he knew at an orphanage in Mexico about eight or so years ago. That wouldn’t happen to be you would it Father?” Scot asked.
Father Williams looked from Bishop Montgomery to Mother Feltin and then Scott. “ I knew a blue eyed mixed breed boy named Johnny at the orphanage. The other children picked on him all the time. He was unfortunately blamed and punished for a lot of things he did not do.” Father Williams explained.
“ He told me about the time four of the boys cornered him when he was gathering eggs and cut his hand because he wanted to know what color Johnny’s blood was.” Scott said.
“ That’s not what John said happened, but I knew. I could tell by the clean cut that he didn’t do it on a nail. The skin wasn’t torn, and those four boys came into the kitchen laughing until they seen me.” Father Williams responded.
“ Johnny said there was another priest at the mission. A Father Martin, who liked to lock my brother in a closet and make him go three days or more with no food or water. He also beat my brother every chance he could.” Scott said with anger in his voice.
“ Unfortunately yes there was a Father Martin at the mission who was not nice to certain children. Shortly after Johnny ran away the last time, Father Martin, at my request he was denounced at the end of that year. Where he is now I couldn’t say.” Father Williams said.
“ To bad he wasn’t punished for what he did to my brother.” Scott said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ Father Martin was punished in the worst way possible Mister Lancer.” Bishop Montgomery said. “ You see, when someone is denounced from a church, he is set to a life of uncertainty. After reading what Father Williams wrote that Father Martin did, it was I who had him denounced from the church. I cannot have a man working for god who abuses gods children. It doesn’t matter what that child looks like, or why they are in the orphanage.” Bishop Montgomery explained.
“ I had been writing to the Bishop for almost a year telling him what I myself witnessed, what the children told me happened even. Several children spoke up to me about the treatment your brother received.” Father Williams said. “ I often wondered whatever happened to your brother. I guess now I know. It pleases me he has his family.”
“ Johnny lived along the border until about a year ago, when he came home. His life hasn’t been easy like mine has.” Scott responded.
“ It’s getting late. Perhaps we should turn in now?” Mother Feltin suggested.
“ You and Bishop Montgomery go ahead. I think I’ll stay up a while longer and talk with Mister Lancer.” Father Williams said.
Johnny stayed awake all night, hiding in the shadows, his mind flooded with childhood memories he’d worked so hard to forget. Memories that played a huge part in who he had become the last eight years of his life. Never would he have thought he would see Father Williams again. The only adult to ever be kind to him while he was at the orphanage. He knew it was him the minute he walked around the wagon. He knew no other man to have as much kindness and caring in his eyes as Father Williams did at the orphanage. The last year spent learning about his father and what the man was like. Laying in bed recovering from Pardee’s bullet in his back, Johnny learned the truth from Teresa about his mother, and the real reason she left Lancer and took him with her that night sixteen years ago. How when his father was laying in bed also recovering from a bullet in his back, called out for Maria, begging her to come back. He remembered the gambler Teresa said she ran off with. Remembered how at first the man seemed nice, but as Johnny got older, he remembered how the man and his mother would argue day and night about him. How his mother should have gotten rid of him when they got to Mexico. He never did know what happened to that man. Both him and his mother awoke one morning to find the gambler gone, and a note on the table. A note that angered his mother, and that anger was toward her own son. After that, Maria blamed Johnny for everything. The beatings started soon after, when he was about five. Usually she would be drunk, come home with a strange man and beat him before ordering him out of the shanty shack they lived in, not to come back until the next day. She didn’t care what the weather was like, Johnny learned real quick to leave when he heard his mother at the door with a man. When he was about eight is when his mother beat him the first time. All he had done was ask her who his gringo father was. Never had he seen his mother so angry. She grabbed him by his shirt and slapped his face so hard it bruised almost immediately. Maria forbid him to ever ask about his gringo father again after that. After that, she didn’t need an excuse to beat him, though usually it was because she couldn’t get a man for the night, or their food was almost gone.
Sitting there as the sun started to rise, Johnny wiped away a tear that ran down his cheek. Crying was not something he did. He didn’t dare when growing up. His mother told him that crying was a sign of being weak, so whenever he felt like he would he would think of something else to stop it.
“ Johnny, you awake brother?” Scott called out from his left.
“ Yeah, been awake all night. Barranca heard you coming ten minutes ago.” Johnny said as he wiped his face again to make sure there were no tears. “ How’d ya know where I was?” he asked.
“ I looked up and figured this would be the most logical place for you to be so you could watch over the camp. Are you alright?” Scott asked with concern as he dismounted.
“ I’m fine. I seen you had company at the fire for a long time.” Johnny said as he picked up his saddle and blanket, and walked to Barranca.
“ Yes I did. Father Williams is a nice man.” Scott responded.
“ Yeah he was the only one nice to me at the orphanage.” Johnny said as he swung the saddle up onto Barranca’s back.
“ He had Father Martin denounced not long after you ran away the last time.” Scott explained. “ It would seem he had been writing to Bishop Montgomery for some time about the man and what he was doing to certain children. How he beat them. He said there were some children there who would tell him what Father Martin did to you. That a certain little girl there really liked you, and would sneak you a piece of bread or cheese to eat whenever she could.”
“ What do you want me to do Scott, ride down there and hug the man? You have no idea what it has done to me seeing Father Williams again. The memories it’s brought back. Memories I have struggled with all night. Memories I thought I had pushed to the back of my brain not wanting to remember them.” Johnny said with anger as he tightened the cinch. “ I have demons you know nothing about Scott, because you grew up being loved and wanted. You weren’t beaten by your mother like I was because there was no food, or she didn’t have a man for the night. The gambler Teresa told me she ran off with, he started beating me when I was five for that gambler leaving. You have any idea what it’s like to have your own mother tell you she should have drowned you in the river when they crossed into Mexico, no, you don’t. Because my old man took my mother to bed and got her pregnant…… before they were married I might add, I’ve paid the price every day of my life Scott, for his selfish wants. If he loved my mother like he says he did, he would never have taken her to bed before they were married.”
“ I’m not the bad guy here Johnny. You have every right to be angry. Just make sure your anger is for the right reasons and at the right people.” Scott said.
“ I’m sorry. I know I have no right jumping on you like I just did.” Johnny said as he walked over to his brother. “ They tell you anything last night?” he asked.
“ Forget it. That’s what big brothers are for. Just………make me a promise that you will talk to me. Don’t keep it inside like you are. I promise you that what we talk about goes no further. It stays between us Johnny.” Scott said. “ As for them saying anything, no. Nothing to indicate what you think they have in that wagon. I did look around and the only place they could hide it would be under the seat. It looks like a compartment has been hastily built to hide something. No wagon I’ve ever seen has a compartment under the seat like that.”
“ We’ll find out when we get to town.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle.
“ And just how do you propose we do that little brother?” Scott asked as he swung up in the saddle.
“ I’m going to suggest a smaller wagon, and when I do, I’ll bet you a night with a whore that they won’t go for it.” Johnny said.
“ I’ll bet you a steak dinner against your……….lady of the night brother.” Scott responded as they started back down to the Missionaries so they could start toward town.
“ So what’ is this town like that we are going to Mister Lancer?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Bradshaw City. It’s a mining town, but has a good hotel where me and my brother can get a bath, and places to eat. You can get another horse there, or you can trade this freight wagon for a smaller wagon that would only need two horses to pull it.” Johnny responded.
“ We are quite happy with this wagon and have the money to purchase another horse.” Mother Feltin said.
“ Let me ask you something. You being a Mother, and him a Bishop, You gotta tell the truth right?” Johnny asked.
“ Lying is against my nature Mister Lancer, as well as Bishop Montgomery.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ Then how come you need such a big wagon with four horses pulling it? You got nothing heavy but your valises.” Johnny said.
“ If I answer your question Mister Lancer, will you answer one for me?” Father Montgomery asked.
“ Father……..” Bishop Montgomery started to protest.
“ His brother told me last night that they would guide us safely to San Francisco De Asis. We should be truthful with them.” Father Williams said.
Johnny looked hard at his brother. “ I guess you forgot to mention that to me this morning brother.” he said sharply.
“ I didn’t see any harm in it since we are going the same way.” Scott responded.
“ Go ahead and ask your question Mister Lancer.” Bishop Montgomery said.
“ Alright. To some people they wouldn’t think anything of it, but me and my brother are not stupid. A big freight wagon pulled by four horses when a smaller wagon and two horses would have been enough. How much gold you have hidden in the false compartment under the seat?” Johnny asked.
Father Williams looked at Bishop Montgomery, receiving a nod to tell. “ Ten thousand in gold coins. It’s for the mission so it can continue to help those who need it for years to come.” Father Williams explained. “ Nobody knows about it except the Bishop in San Antonio, us, and now you.”
“ And Red Jack’s gang. He’s made a career of robbing stagecoaches. You can bet he’s gonna find out and be coming after you.” Johnny explained.
“ But he already robbed us. Surely he wouldn’t come back would he?” Sister Margaret asked.
“ Let’s hope he don’t get curious as to why missionaries have such a big wagon and so little in it.” Scott said.
“ Can any of you ride?” Johnny asked.
“ You mean horses, yes we can all ride. Why?” Bishop Montgomery asked.
“ Because we are going to get rid of that wagon and put the gold in the saddlebags of the horses you will be riding.” Johnny explained. “ Besides, we can make better time on horseback. In a wagon you run the risk of having a wheel or axle break going over the mountains that are ahead.” Johnny explained.
“ Alright Mister Lancer. If that’s what you think would be best.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ You can get another wagon when we get to Lancer. Me and Johnny will have a couple hands go with us and help escort you on to San Francisco.” Scott added.
“ One more thing, and it’s not open for discussion. When we get to Wickenburg, I want all of you to change into regular clothes. Red Jack and possibly others will be looking for you dressed like that riding in a wagon.” Johnny ordered as he glanced around.
“ I think the lord will forgive us for dressing, how should I say it’s…..out of character.” Bishop Montgomery said.
“ Ask your question Padre.” Johnny said.
“ So you do remember me. It is good to see you grown up Johnny. I don’t get a chance to see many of the children after they leave the orphanage.” Father Williams said. “ You have been busy the last six years. I have heard about you and how the peasants and villages speak of the Salvador Campesino ( Peasant Savior )who goes by the name of Johnny Madrid.”
“ I just did what I had to do Father. I still do. I just go by a different name now is all.” Johnny said.
“ Your christian name of Johnny Lancer.” Father Williams said.
“ Father, are you saying this…..That Mister Lancer is the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Bishop Montgomery asked.
“ Is that a problem Bishop?” Johnny asked.
“ You have killed many men. I do not care for the sisters to be around a man who could choose to make a living by a gun killing other men.” the Bishop responded.
“ What my brother did Bishop, and everyone else who wants to pass judgment on him without knowing him, he did to stay alive and to stop the abuse he was receiving.” Scott cut in and said firmly.
“ It’s alright Scott. They have a right to think whatever they want of me. Others have my whole life. I’ll stick with you Scott since you gave them your word we would help them get to San Francisco.” Johnny said firmly as he stepped up to the Bishop. “ You can think what you want of me, I don’t care, but until you are at the mission in San Francisco I am in charge. I am your escort and you will call me Madrid, not Lancer. I’m known in Arizona and my reputation is what will get you there safely, but only if you do as you are told, when you are told.” Johnny ordered. “ I want you all ready to leave in ten minutes.” he added before turning and taking Barranca to the stream to drink.
“ Bishop Montgomery, I can assure you that Johnny is a good person. He has never murdered anyone. The only men my brother has killed are those who call him out. He is not wanted, and has always stayed on the right side of the law.” Scott said. “ For you to judge a man for what he has done without knowing all the truth is wrong.” he added before turning and walking away.
“ Supper was wonderful Mrs Conway.” Teresa said as they cleared the table.
“ It’s such a lovely evening, shall we go sit on the porch?” Aggie asked.
“ Alright. I wonder where Murdoch got off too?” Teresa asked.
“ If I know Murdoch, he’s out at my barn looking over the horses I’m taking to the sale next month.” Aggie responded.
“ How many years have the two of you bid against each other at the sales now?” Teresa asked.
“ Oh I think since my Henry died, so it’s going on ten years now.” Aggie responded. “ So how do you like having two big brothers at Lancer now?”
“ It’s great having Scott there. He’s taught me so much about back east and what the ladies wear and such.” Teresa said.
“ And Johnny?” Aggie asked.
“ I don’t know. I mean……..Johnny is……………..he’s so quiet. He hardly talks about his past at all. How am I supposed to get to know him if he won’t talk to me?”
“ Did you ever think that maybe Johnny doesn’t want you knowing about the bad he’s experienced?” Aggie asked.
“ But I’ve seen the scars he has. Some of them are horrible. I just wanted to know.” Teresa responded.
“ What you asked Johnny isn’t a very lady like thing to do, and he most likely didn’t want to tell you because it’s not for a lady to hear.” Aggie said. “ Does Murdoch know you seen the scars Johnny has?”
“ No ma’am. Johnny didn’t either until I said something. He was sitting on his bed with his back to the door.” Teresa responded.
“ And was his door open?” Aggie asked.
“ Not all the way. I pushed it open. When I seen his back, I was taken aback and I turned around and left.” Teresa said. “ Murdoch has Pinkerton reports on him, but he keeps them locked up in his desk. I don’t think Johnny even knows about them.”
“ Do you know when the boys will be back?” Aggie asked. Changing the subject as Murdoch walked toward them.
“ No. The last wire we got, Scott said they were in Arizona, but didn’t say where exactly.” Teresa responded.
“ You ladies having a nice visit?” Murdoch asked as he walked up the steps and sat down next to Teresa.
“ Yes we are.” Aggie responded. “ We were talking about the boys. I asked if Teresa knew when they would be home.”
“ I expect they should be home by august.” Murdoch said. “ I don’t expect them to push to hard in the heat.” Murdoch responded.
“ Didn’t you say you wanted to purchase some of Clarkston Stables cutting horses?” Aggie asked.
“ Yes I did, why?” Murdoch responded.
“ Oh just that I heard they are bringing four of their fine cutting horses to the auction to sell next month.” Aggie said.
“ Is that so, well I guess I will have to bid on them then. It’s getting late Teresa, we better be heading back.” Murdoch said.
“ I had a wonderful time Mrs Conway.” Teresa said as she gave Aggie a hug.
“ Perhaps you would like to go with me to Sacramento after the auction next month?” Aggie asked.
“ Oh I would love too. Can I Murdoch?” Teresa said with excitement.
“ I don’t see why not. I’ll see you at the auction Agatha.” Murdoch said as he mounted up.
Johnny, Scott, and the Missionaries rode into Wickenburg and stopped at the general store so the Missionaries could purchase the plain clothes they would need to continue their trip. Scott stayed with them while his brother went to the livery and asked about trading the wagon and horses for riding horses and saddles. The livery owner only had two horses and a couple burros for sale. Johnny could tell from a distance that the two horses wouldn’t make it to San Francisco.
“ Is there anyplace where I can buy seven riding horses, tack, and a couple pack horses?” he asked.
“I seen ya come into town. How come you only have three horses instead of four?” the livery man asked.
“ One of the horses was bit by a rattler and I had to shoot it two days back.” Johnny responded.
“ Tell ya what I’ll do. I’ll pay you five hundred for all of it. Horses like these won’t do any good working around here, and I might’s be able to use that wagon though.”
“ I don’t think so. You and I both know horses like these sell for between two and three hundred each because of the weight they can haul from the mine and you’ll make twice that selling them to the Vulture Mine……..As far as the wagon, it’s worth three hundred alone.” Johnny said firmly. “ Thousand dollars and you can have it all.”
“ I can’t do that much. You can probably get that from the OX Ranch. It’s fifteen miles north of town.”
“ You say the OX ranch about fifteen miles north of town?” Johnny asked.
“ Yeah. The owner is a man named Brent Oxley, he’ll have the horses you’re needing.”
“ Much Obliged.” Johnny said.
“ Looks like they’re headed toward Wickenburg Jack.” Campbell said. “ There’s two riders with them. Probably who cut that horse away and rigged the hitch for three horses to pull that wagon.”
“ Hey Jack, how come they got that big slow wagon? If they only got ten thousand in gold coins, hell a pack horse or two could’ve carried that.” Jo said.
“ Because Missionaries are to good to ride a horse.” Bob cut in.
“ Missionaries, they be like those stinking sheep herders. They walk everywhere or ride in a wagon, but never on an animal. It’s against their religious beliefs to enslave a horse to carry them.” Harvey asked.
“ That’s not it at all you jackass.” Lopez said. “ They’re called circuit riders assigned to an area where they have to check on every person who attends their churches. Most walk because they can’t afford a good horse.”
“ Jack, you better tell this greaser he calls me a jackass one more time…..I’ll gut him from his dick to his throat.” Bob said firmly.
“ You do, and I’ll put a bullet in your head. What Lopez said is correct. You might want to be sure of what you say before you speak next time Bob.” Jack said glaring at Bob, before turning to face Lopez. “ The next time you want to smart off and call Bob names, you better be ready to swallow some teeth. I’ll not have you two squabbling with each other anymore. Is that understood?” Jack demanded.
“ Sure Jack.” Lopez said. “ As long as he don’t call me a greaser anymore.”
“ Just stay the hell away from me Mex.” Bob ordered as he walked past to his horse, and mounted up.
“ You think they might get rid of the wagon in Wickenburg and go to horses Jack?” Campbell asked.
“ They just might. We’ll stop at the livery and ask.”
“ Sun’s going down. There’s a place about two miles from here where we can camp for the night. Plenty of water.” Lopez suggested.
“ We’re what, two days from Wickenburg, I suggest we keep going Jack.” Harvey said.
“ I’m not riding in the dark and have my horse stumble and break a leg.” Jack responded. “ Lopez, show us where this place is at.”
“ We cannot thank you enough Mister Oxley for your generosity sir.” Mother Feltin said.
“ I was needing another heavy wagon for hauling lumber. You saved me a lot of money selling me yours. Those horses will get you to San Francisco with no problem. My foreman made sure their feet was trimmed and the shoes good on them.” Brent Oxley responded.
“ Those pack boxes will do ya good for carrying what you are instead of in your saddlebags.” Brent said. “ Oh, before I forget, here’s a bill of sale for all the horses and tack.”
“ Thank you.” Bishop Montgomery said before mounting up.
“ Scott, head out with them. I want to talk to mister Oxley a minute.” Johnny said.
“ You men can go on back to work now. Thank you for your help.” Brent said.
“ Mister Oxley, there’s a chance the Red Jack Gang knows about the gold and will be coming after them.” Johnny explained.
“ Red Jack usually only robs stagecoaches of gold. If he knows they have some, he probably will.” Brent responded. “ But I gotta say, The man is a fool if he does try. I wouldn’t go up against Johnny Madrid on my best day.”
“ When I was told in town about the OX Ranch in town, I never gave it a thought that it would be you Brent.” Johnny said. “ I’m grateful to ya.” Johnny added as he extended his hand to shake.
“ It’s the least I could do. I’d be dead if it wasn’t for you that day three years ago in Mexico. You take care of yourself Johnny Madrid.” Brent said as he grabbed Johnny’s hand, and shook it. “ Listen, if he comes around here asking, I’ll tell him I have no idea what he’s talking about.”
“ Your livery man might say otherwise though since he’s the one who sent me out here.” Johnny said.
“ That could be a problem. I’ll do what I can.” Brent said as Johnny swung up in the saddle.
“ I sent a wire to Murdoch telling him we will be longer coming home than previously thought.” Scott said
“ You didn’t tell him why?” Johnny asked.
“ Nope. I figure the less people know, the better.” Scott responded. “ Besides, we don’t need Teresa saying anything and maybe the wrong person hears her.”
“ Why you think they do it?” Johnny asked.
“ Do what?” Scott asked back.
“ Those four are pretty young ladies Scott. What makes a girl that young want to………to give up living and having fun, being courted, getting married and having children?” Johnny asked.
“ They could be going to learn how to be all those things you just mentioned.” Scott responded. “ Or they could be going as a last attempt to keep them from a life of bad choices. I suggest you ask Mother Feltin if you want to know.”
“ The way she looks at me, you really think she would tell me………….No Scott, that woman doesn’t like me or my kind.” Johnny responded.
“ Mother Feltin, is Mister Lancer really the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Sister Alexina asked.
“ That’s what Father Williams said.” she responded.
“ He seems too nice to be a gunfighter though. Especially the kind I’ve heard about.” Sister Emaline said. “ Of course he could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing too.”
“ I’ve seen how he watches all of us. He gives me the creeps. He’s nothing like his well mannered brother Scott.” Sister Josephine said.
“ Sister, do I need to remind you of the rules?” Mother Feltin asked. “ You will never call either of them by their first name, and you will never speak of them the way you were. Is that understood?”
“ Yes ma’am.” Sister Josephine responded.
“ When we camp for the night, you and sister Emaline will prepare supper and wash the dirty crockery, after which you both will read from the bible. You Sister Josephine will read Titus, and you Sister Emaline shall read Luke about judging others. After which we will all study our proverbs together.”
“ I guess they have both forgotten what James says Mother Feltin!” Sister Margaret said.
“ And just what does James say Sister Margaret?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.” Sister Margaret responded.
“ But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” Sister Alexina said.
“ There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.” Sister Emaline added.
“ Well, it seems you all know your verses and such about speaking ill of others in the bible, but I still think you should read refresh your minds tonight.” Mother Feltin said firmly. “ And one more thing, I don’t want to catch any of you alone with either of the Lancer brothers. Is that understood?”
“ Yes ma’am.” came softly from Sisters Margaret, Alexina, and Josephine.
Sister Emaline lost in thought of what could make someone at such a young age even pick up a gun. “ Mother Feltin, can I speak to you in private tonight?”
“ I supposed you could, but only after supper and the chores are finished.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ Mister Lancer, could I have a word with you.” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Of course ma’am.” Scott responded as he brushed his horse down.
“ It’s about your brother. Please ask him to stop looking at the sisters like he has been doing? They are innocent girls, and I will not permit men of his……..shall we say nature, leading those girls down a path that would ruin them for life.” Mother Feltin demanded.
“ Ma’am, I can assure you, my brother has no intention of leading the sisters anywhere except to San Francisco with you, the Bishop and Father Williams.” Scott responded. A little taken aback by the allegation being made against his brother.
“ I’m quite sure he will find the type of woman he likes in the next town. I am not a woman to be trifled with.” Mother Feltin said before turning and walking back to the sisters.
“ I see what you mean little brother. That woman is as cold as ice.” Scott said as he watched her walk away.
“Must have been a talk about me.” Johnny said as he walked over to Barranca.
“ I wouldn’t call it a talk little brother. Think of it more as a warning from Mother Feltin, who by the way says she’s not one to be trifled with.” Scott said.
“ A warning about what?” Johnny asked.
“ You, it would seem you have been looking at the sisters inappropriately and she wants you to stop. Said she doesn’t want a man of your nature leading them down a wrong path that would ruin them for life.” Scott explained. “ She said women of your liking will be found in the next town.”
Johnny glanced over at Mother Feltin standing and talking to Father Williams and Bishop Montgomery, glancing his direction as she spoke. “ To hell with this Scott.” Johnny said before walking past his brother toward Mother Feltin.
“ Johnny, we were just discussing how we would like to spend a night in the next suitable safe town so the women can freshen up properly.” Father Williams said.
Johnny glared at Mother Feltin. “ If you got a problem with me, say it to my face lady. Don’t go talking about me to my brother. I assure you I have no interest in..how did you put it……..guiding the sisters down the wrong path that would ruin them for life. I have no intention of sleeping with any of them. I like my women mature, not little girls. The only reason I’m doing this is because my brother said we would. I don’t owe any of you a thing except Father Williams.” Johnny said with anger before turning and walking away.
“ Well I never.” Mother Feltin said.
“ Maybe that’s your problem. Maybe you should. My brother is usually very nice and polite to women, he heard some of what you said to me Mother Feltin. Johnny had every right to be upset with you.” Scott said before turning and walking away.
“ Mother Feltin, I feel you speaking of Mister Lancer like you have, may have put us all in jeopardy of losing two people we know we can trust to get us to San Francisco safely.” Bishop Montgomery said.
“ Jack, they get across that river, we don’t stand a chance of getting that gold.” Bob said.
“ He’s right Jack. Why we dilly dallying around? We should have caught up to them by now and have that gold with us.” Jo added.
“ Lopez, why don’t you tell them what you told me you found out in Wickenburg at the livery.” Jack suggested.
“ Oh you mean from that livery man who didn’t want to answer my questions without some persuasion.” Lopez said. “ It would seem that one of the two riders with those missionaries is non other than Johnny Madrid.”
“ Madrid………you sure about that Lopez?” Bob demanded.
“ I thought Madrid only ran below the border?” Jo asked.
“ According to the livery guy, Madrid was with a gringo named Lancer.” Lopez said.
“ This Lancer must have hired Madrid to escort him to wherever he’s going and they just happened to stumble upon those Missionaries.” Campbell suggested.
“ A gun hand like Madrid’s don’t come cheap. Below the border, Madrid is a savior amongst the villages. The Rurales want him captured or dead because of his revolt against the commander of the Mexican Army Porfirio Díaz.”
“ How much money he got on his head?” Harvey asked.
“ A gunfighter like Madrid, I’d bet he easily has five hundred dollars if not more on his head.” Jack said.
“ I don’t think there’s any wanted posters on him. Madrid always stays on the right side of the law. Hell, any range war he hired out to, he always hired out to the one in the right, not the one who paid the most.” Lopez explained. “ That’s what he’s a savior to the people in Mexico.”
“ He’s also the best of the best Jack, and we know nothing about this Lancer character.” Bob suggested.
“ Yeah, what if he’s good with a gun also?” Jo asked.
“ Look, there’s roughly ten thousand dollars in gold with those Missionaries. You all need to decide right now if you want to try and take it, or forget about it, and tuck tail because of one man?” Jack asked.
“ If it was anyone else Jack, I would do it, but Madrid.” Campbell said.
“ Go ahead and run. Just more gold for the rest of us.” Bob said.
“ I ain’t running Bob. Jesus, we’re talking about Johnny Madrid. He’s not even twenty years old and he’s the best there is with a gun. Anyone stupid enough to call him out dies.” Campbell snapped back.
“ I heard Madrid tries talking every one of them out of drawing on him. He gives them more than a fair chance to walk away.” Lopez added. “ Nobody can figure out how he does it. Beats them to the draw.”
“ You ever watch a man’s eyes Lopez?” Jack asked.
“ Watched his eyes………..What the hell you talking about Jack?” Lopez asked.
“ Stand up and come over here to me.” Jack said. “ I’m going to show you how Madrid wins every time.”
Lopez walked over and stood right in front of Jack, just mere inches from his face.
“ Watch my eyes close. Now you don’t know when I’m going to draw, none of you do.” Jack said right before he drew his gun.
“ I’ll be a sonofabitch.” Lopez said.
“ You seen it?” Jack asked.
“ Yeah. So that’s how Madrid does it.” Lopez responded.
“Seen what. What the hell are you talking about Jack?” Bob and Jo asked.
“ Your eyes change. Especially your pupils when you’re going to do something sudden. Your eyes get wider. That’s how Madrid beats them to the draw every time.” Campbell said.
“ That’s right. Now, how do you beat a man like Madrid?” Jack asked.
“ Be far enough away he can’t see your eyes.” Jo suggested.
“ Have the sun behind you.” Harvey added.
“ Both of those will work, but also have someone behind Madrid.” Jack said.
“ We catch up to them and try and take the gold. Madrid won’t refuse if one of us calls him out. It’s against his nature, and against the code of a gunfighter to refuse a challenge.” Harvey said.
“ Especially Madrid, because he’s the best. Everybody wants his reputation, and as long as he’s still alive, all those other gunfighters can’t get the highest pay on a job because they’re not the best.” Lopez explained.
Johnny stopped Barranca on a hill looking down at the the Missionaries. He knew the women would like to freshen up and sleep on something not as hard as the ground. Crossing the Colorado river was still two days away. He knew they could find everything they would need at the settlement inside the fort until they reached Barstow. Deep down inside it still bothered him on how he got angry with Mother Feltin, and how he spoke to them. Words Father Williams said to him once drifted back. “ Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.” Johnny said aloud.
“ You alright brother?” Scott asked.
“ What…yeah, I’m fine.” Johnny responded.
“ I thought I heard you talking to yourself when I rode up is all.” Scott suggested.
“ I had no right talking to her like I did Scott.” Johnny said, wanting to change the subject.
“ Little brother, you had every right to be upset. She made some pretty strong allegations against you. I think she knows now not to worry about you bothering any of those young ladies.” Scott said.
“ You know I’m as good as dead if she tells the old man when we get to Lancer.” Johnny said with a laugh as they started down the hill toward their party.
“ Where do you want to pick up supplies at?” Scott asked.
“ We won’t be stopping in a town until Barstow, so I figure the settlement at the fort along the Colorado river should get us what we need until Barstow.” Johnny responded.
“ I don’t think the old man will kill you. He may be a little upset, but I really don’t think you have anything to worry about.” Scott said.
“ I’ll remind you of that if he starts yelling at me.” Johnny responded as they rode up to the Missionaries.
“ Mister Lancer, how far is the next town?” Bishop Montgomery asked.
“ We won’t come to an actual town for a week yet. There’s a fort and settlement where we’ll cross the Colorado river. We can get some supplies there to get us to Barstow. I figured the ladies would like to freshen up in a hot tub and sleep in a bed that’s not cold hard ground.” Johnny responded.
“ That’s very considerate of you Johnny. Thank you.” Father Williams said.
“ Well you know Father, I’m not really a cold hearted bastard like some might think.” Johnny said.
“ Your manners and how you speak around ladies leaves something to be desired Mister Lancer.” Mother Feltin said.
“ There’s something I’m going to say, and it’s mostly directed at you Mother Feltin. Regardless of what you think of me, I’m not a cold blooded killer. You were so quick to pass judgment on me, and you don’t even know me. You just know my name from hearing it somewhere, or you automatically assumed the worst when Father Williams said what he did about me. You might do good to not be so quick to judge people. Especially out here, and especially on hearsay or appearance ma’am.” Johnny responded.
“ That was a lovely service Father Thomas.” Teresa said.
“ Thank you Miss Teresa.” Father Thomas said. “ I was wondering Mister Lancer, if Teresa could help me a couple days a week with the children at the orphanage?” Father Thomas asked. “ It would just be until I can get someone permanent to work there.”
“ I don’t know Father. Who else would be there with her?” Murdoch asked.
“ Well, the children of course, and me. You see, I have a school teacher coming from back east, but he won’t be here for a month yet, and I could really use the help.” Father Thomas explained.
Murdoch looked at Teresa, and could see the excitement in her eyes. “ Why don’t you come to supper tomorrow night, and we can discuss it then?” Murdoch asked.
“ Alright. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a good home cooked meal. Thank you.” Father Thomas responded.
“ Good. I’ll send the buggy for you.” Murdoch said as he helped Teresa up into the buggy.
“ How you wanna do this Jack?” Jo asked.
“ Let’s just kill them all.” Bob cut in. “ I’m tired of waiting for you to get enough sand to steal that gold.”
Jack grabbed Bob by his shirt and pulled him up to mere inches from his face. “ Any time you’re not happy with how I run this gang, you’re free to leave.” he said with anger before shoving Bob away.
“ They’ll be at the river soon. We just think we should have taken that gold by now Jack.” Campbell said.
“ Yeah Jack. It’s just seven Missionaries, Madrid, and some cowboy. How come you’re stalling on this one so much?” Harvey asked.
“ I’ll say it once more, any time any of you aren’t happy with how I do things, you can leave. You all have your share of every job we’ve done up till now.” Jack said with anger. “ You all have lived pretty damn good these past five years because of me. You’ve had plenty of whores, food, whiskey, and money in your pocket, which is a hell of a lot more than any of you had before I came along. Especially you Bob.”
“ We’re all grateful for what you’ve done for us Jack.” Lopez said.
“ It just seems like you’re spooked on doing this job. There’s ten thousand dollars in gold with those Missionaries. That’s going to be the most money we’ve stolen at one time ever. Is that what’s wrong?” Campbell asked.
“ I think he’s afraid of Madrid.” Bob said. “ Ever since learning he’s one of the two cowboys with them now, all he’s done is drag his feet.”
“ Get out.” Jack ordered. “ Get the hell out of here now, and don’t come back.” he ordered.
Bob glared at Jack a minute before turning and going to his horse. “ Harvey, Campbell, you riding with me?”
“ I’m with you Bob.” Campbell said as he went to his horse.
“ Me too.” Harvey said as he swung up in the saddle.
“ You even think of trying to steal my gold, I’ll hunt every one of you down and kill you.” Red Jack said with anger.
“ It ain’t your gold yet.” Bob said before spurring his horse into a gallop leaving Jack, Jo, and Lopez standing there.
“ You know he’s going to try and steal that gold tomorrow Jack.” Lopez said.
“ He might even try it tonight.” Jo added.
“ He’s to stupid to try with just the three of them.” Jack responded. “ He knows how dangerous Madrid is.”
“ Maybe so, but gold has a way of making people do stupid things Jack.” Jo said.
“ Yeah, stealing money from a stagecoach and passengers is one thing, but this………this is stealing from Missionaries Jack. I can’t do it. Not because of Madrid as much as because of how they helped me when I was a kid in Mexico after my mother died. I had two friends in that damn orphanage, the padre and another kid, a half-breed who got picked on pretty bad by the others.” Lopez said. “ He ran away after being there a year or so. Usually they went after him, but this one priest named Martin, that man was mean. He used to lock that kid in a closet, beat him, and make him goes days with no food or water.”
“ Whatever happened to that kid?” Jack asked.
“ I don’t know. Dead for all I know. Why?” Lopez said.
“ No reason. Was just wondering. Sounds like the two of you were friends.” Jack responded.
“ There was a girl too. She used to sneak food to Johnny, and tell this other man, a Father Montgomery what was being done to him. How he was being punished.” Lopez said.
“Hey what did this Johnny look like?” Jo asked.
“ He was a mestizo, Gringo father, and a Mexican mother. Dark hair and the coldest blue eyes I ever seen. I swear when you looked into his eyes when he was pissed off, his stare could turn you to ice.” Lopez responded. “ If he didn’t have blue eyes, you wouldn’t know he was a half-breed.”
“ Maybe I’m crazy, but cold blue eyes, dark hair, about your age, tell me your Johnny isn’t this Johnny Madrid.” Jo suggested.
“ You know, come to think of it, he could be.” Lopez responded.
“ If he is, could you draw on him?” Jack asked.
“ So what are we going to do Bob?” Harvey asked.
“ Yeah, there’s no moon tonight, so we can’t see good enough to hit them in the dark.” Campbell added.
“ We hit them in the morning when there’s enough light to see. We’ll go as close as we can on the horses, and then closer on foot and wait until it’s light enough.”
“ We killing all of them Bob?” Harvey asked.
“ We are if you want that gold.” Bob responded.
“ Not me. Look, I’m sorry Bob, but I may be a lot of things, but I ain’t no murderer of innocent unarmed Missionaries.” Campbell said. “ I’m leaving.”
“ Go ahead. That just means more for the two of us.” Bob snapped back.
“ You’ll be smart to leave too Harvey. You do this, and the law won’t stop until they either catch ya, or kill ya.” Campbell said as he walked to his horse and tightened his cinch.
“ He’s right Bob. I’m not doing it. I’m not gonna spend the rest of my life, however short it may be, living with the guilt of murdering innocent people for some gold.” Harvey said as he walked to his horse and mounted up, riding away with Campbell.
Ten minutes later, Bob found himself alone. “ I can do it. I don’t need them. Hell, there’s only two of them with guns. I hit them as soon as there’s enough light, and that gold is all mine.” Bob said as he watched Campbell and Harvey ride away. “ I get ten thousand dollars in gold all to myself, and the reputation of being the one to kill Johnny Madrid.” he said as he went to his horse and mounted up.
“ Johnny!” Murdoch cried out as he sat up in bed fast, and tried to get his breathing under control. Wiping the sweat from his face, Murdoch flipped the covers off him, and swung his legs over the side of the bed.
“ Murdoch, are you alright?” Teresa asked as she knocked on Murdoch’s bedroom door.
Murdoch stood up and grabbed his robe, and put it on as he walked to his door and opened it. “ I’m sorry I woke you.”
“ It sounded like you cried out Johnny’s name.” Teresa said.
“ I did. It was a bad dream I was having.” Murdoch said.
“ Well, the coffee is ready and I was about to start breakfast.” Teresa said.
“Let me get dressed and I’ll be out.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Are you sure you’re okay?” Teresa asked with concern.
“ Yes sweetheart, I’m alright. Now let me get dressed and I’ll be out in a few minutes.” Murdoch responded as he closed his door. Walking back over to his bed, Murdoch sat down, opened the drawer of the nightstand next to his bed, and pulled out an old worn bible. Opening it up, he pulled out a piece of worn paper, carefully opened it, and began to read aloud.
“ Lord, my children are my ultimate purpose in life. They are all that I have. I pray that you protect them from evil. Please guide them to make the right decisions, and stay out of harms way. Keep them safe, and return them home to me…..Amen.”
Murdoch folded the paper up, placed it back inside the bible, and put it back in the nightstand drawer. Standing up, he headed to the kitchen.
“ Pareces cansado, Señor Lancer. Estás preocupado por tus hijos.”( You look tired Senor Lancer. You are worried about your sons!) Maria said as Murdoch sat down.
“ Estoy bien, Maria.es trabajo de los padres preocuparse por sus hijos.”( I’m alright Maria, it’s a fathers job to worry about their children.)
“ Sí, pero con Johnny, tus preocupaciones son más de lo que un padre debería tener.”(Yes, but with Johnny, your worries are more than a father should have.)
“ Estoy bien Maria. Gracias por preicuparte.” ( I’m fine Maria. Thank you for being concerned.) Murdoch responded.
“ Hoy no es un buen día. Una cámara de sueños vino a mí anoche. Me mostró que habrá muerte para los inocentes.”( Today is not a good day. A dream came to me last night. It showed me there will be death to the innocent.) Maria said before turning and going back to the stove.
“ Eso es algo terrible que decirle a Murdoch.”( That’s a horrible thing to say to Murdoch.) Teresa said.
“ Teresa, Maria has a right to say what is on her mind.” Murdoch cut in.
Teresa came over and sat down with a cup of coffee. “ Tell me about the dream.”
Murdoch took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “ It was dark, shots rang out…………….When it was over, Johnny lay on the ground with blood on his chest.”
Teresa put a hand to her mouth as a tear ran down her face. “ Why do you think Scott said they’ve been delayed?”
“ I don’t know, but I do know that whatever it is, it has to be important to the boys.” Murdoch responded.
“ Let’s go people. Rise and shine. I want to be across the river before noon today.” Johnny said as he walked around nudging legs or feet with his boot tip.
“ It’s not even daylight yet Mister Lancer.” Sister Margaret said as she sat up.
“ Let’s go people, get a move on.” Johnny ordered as Scott walked into the light of the fire.
“ Pack horse is ready.” Scott said as he squatted down to get a cup of coffee.
“ Mister Lancer, might I suggest a more appropriate way of waking people up than kicking them.” Mother Feltin suggested.
“ Sure, but for the record, I didn’t kick any of you. I nudged you with the toe of my boot on the foot of you ladies, and on the leg of the Father and Bishop.” Johnny responded.
“ That’s fine, but may I suggest you find a different way than touching the sisters please.” Mother Feltin said as she reached down to grab her blanket and start folding it.
Johnny stood there staring at the woman a few seconds before turning to walk away when a bullet slammed into the Bishop, knocking him backwards to the ground.
“ Get down now!” Johnny and Scott yelled as they drew their guns.
“ Can you see where the shot came from Scott?” Johnny asked.
“ Up high. I think the shooter is in those rocks up there!” Scott responded.
“ Help Bishop Montgomery!” Mother Feltin yelled.
Sister Emaline got up and started toward the Bishop when another shot rang out and she screamed in pain as she fell to the ground. A red stain crept across her chest.
“ Emaline.” Sister Alexina yelled as she stood up and tried to go to her friend.
“ Damn it……..Stay down!” Johnny yelled as he scrambled to the terrified girl. “ Get over there next to the edge of the wash and lay flat so he can’t see you!” Johnny ordered as he rose up and started firing.
“ Move!” Scott yelled as he too started firing.
“ Mother Feltin, Alexina, she’s been shot!” Sister Josephine said.
“ Scott, toss me your pistol. I’ll fire at him while you grab your rifle and kill that sonofabitch!” Johnny ordered.
Scott reloaded his pistol and tossed it to his brother. When his brother started shooting, Scott made his way to his horse, grabbing his Henry rifle, and crept out away from the others so he could get a clearer shot. “ Come on you sonofabitch, fire again so I can see where you’re hiding at.”
Johnny looked and could see Sister Alexina was still alive, but bleeding badly from her right side. The other sister, Emaline, he could see her chest was covered in blood, her eyes open and blank. Looking at the Bishop, he could see the hole in the left temple and knew the Bishop was dead. “ Father Williams, keep them down!” Johnny yelled as he reloaded both guns. He knew his brother would need just one shot, but since the shooter was only shooting at targets he could see, it was now a waiting game. Johnny had a pretty good idea where his brother went to get his shot. “ Don’t miss brother.” he said as he stood up and started shooting.
Scott seen the flash from the sun hitting the rifle barrel up in the rocks, taking aim as whoever the shooter was fired again, he fired one shot, and watched the man raise up, and fall forward, tumbling down the hill dead. Standing up, Scott turned and hurried back to the group.
Father Williams stood up when he seen Scott coming toward them with his rifle in hand. “ Is he dead?” he asked.
“ Yes.” Scott responded as he knelt down. “ Are you all alright?” he asked.
“ They’re dead. Bishop Montgomery, and Sisters Alexina, and Emaline. This can’t be happening…..We did nothing wrong…….Why?” Sister Josephine asked as she started to shake and sob.
Sister Margaret came over and wrapped a blanket around her as she pulled her into a hug to let her grieve their loss.
Scott watched as his brother put a blanket over Bishop Montgomery so the women wouldn’t see his wound. “ Why don’t the three of you go sis in the shade while Father Williams helps me and Johnny with the sisters and Bishop.” Scott suggested.
“ We can’t bury them out here in the middle of nowhere.” Mother Feltin said.
“ No ma’am. They will be going with us to the settlement at the fort. We can bury them proper there.” Johnny said as he walked past to the horses.
“ Johnny, are you alright?” Scott asked as he grabbed his brothers left arm to stop him.
“ I’m fine. Good shooting brother.” Johnny responded.
“ You stood up and deliberately made that man shoot at you.” Mother Feltin said. “ You risked your life for us. Why?”
“ As I told you Mother Feltin, don’t be so quick to judge someone. What I did for you, I did because it was the right thing to do. They never should have died. I should have been able to protect them.” Johnny said before walking off.
“ Your brother, he is a good person. He shouldn’t blame himself for what happened here this morning.” Sister Margaret said.
“ My brother has one fault I’ve learned in the short time we’ve been together. He cares about those around him that are innocent. You won’t be able to stop him from blaming himself for their deaths, none of us can. Try and put yourself in his place.” Scott said as he watched his brother walk back, leading three horses.
“ Let’s get this done and get moving before the others show up.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny, are you alright?” Father Williams asked.
“ I’m fine father. Let’s get this done so we can get the women out of here.” Johnny responded.
“ Sergeant, I asked to not be disturbed.” Major Mason said.
“ Yes sir. Begging your pardon Major sir, but some riders just came in.” Sergeant Ward explained.
“ And why are you bothering me over some riders coming in Sergeant?” the Major demanded.
“ Well sir, they’re Missionaries, well the four that are still alive are and there’s two men with them as well as three dead bodies.” the Sergeant explained.
“ Dead bodies?” the Major asked as he stood up and walked over to his window to look out. “ Well I’ll be damned, Johnny Madrid.” Major Mason said as he headed to the door. “ Sergeant Ward, get these people anything they need and help bury their dead.” the major ordered as he stood on his porch and stared at the group.
“ Privates Kirkpatrick and Kern, give me a hand over here helping these people to the infirmary.” Sergeant Ward ordered.
“ You look like you seen a ghost Major.” Johnny said softly as he dismounted.
“ I thought you were dead. Last I heard, Rurales had you in a Mexican prison and killed you.” Major Mason said as he stepped down off the porch.
“ They tried.” Johnny said as the two men shook hands.
“ Climb down Scott. I want you to meet a good friend of mine.” Johnny said. “ Mason, this is my brother Scott.”
“ Major, it’s good to meet you.” Scott said as he shook the Majors hand.
“ Did you say brother?” the Major asked.
“ Yeah, it’s a long story. You still have that damn stuff you call whiskey?” Johnny asked with a laugh.
“ I’ve got that, and some real nice Brandy too.” the Major responded. “ Why don’t you get cleaned up and take care of whatever you need to, and plan on all of you having supper with me and my wife tonight.” Major Mason suggested.
“ You mean Mary hasn’t left you yet?” Johnny asked with a smile.
“ Hell no. Woman is too smart for that. She knows what would happen if she ever left me.” the Major said. “ Let the doc take a look at that wound you got too.”
Scott turned to his brother. “ You were shot?” Scott asked.
“ It’s nothing but a scratch.” Johnny responded.
“ Damn it Johnny, you’re not alone anymore. When are you going to start trusting me, and tell me when you’ve been hurt?” Scott demanded.
“ I didn’t say anything Scott because I didn’t want Mother Feltin or the sisters anymore scared than they already were. They just seen Bishop Montgomery get shot in the head and Alexina and Emaline killed. That’s enough shock for them for one day.” Johnny snapped back.
“ Major Mason, where’s the infirmary?” Scott demanded.
“ Straight across the yard there.” the Major responded. “ I think your brother is a little mad at you, Johnny.” Major Mason added with a laugh.
“ I can’t tell you how much of a blessing Teresa is helping me at the orphanage.” Father Thomas said.
“ I have to say, I haven’t seen Teresa as happy as she was that first day she came home from helping you.” Murdoch said.
“ I hope you don’t think badly of me for saying this Mister Lancer, but Miss Teresa will make somebody a very good wife some day.” Father Thomas said.
“ Yes she will Father. Watching her grow up when my own two sons weren’t here has been a blessing.” Murdoch said.
“ If you don’t mind my asking, what happened to her mother and father?” Father Thomas asked.
“ Her mother left when she was just a baby. Her father was killed two years ago. He was my best friend and died helping me when land pirates stole my prized stallion. We tracked them to Morro Coyo. We rode right into a trap.” Murdoch explained. “ Paul had asked me to look after Teresa if something should ever happen to him. She has always been like a daughter to me. Even when Paul was still alive.”
“ She worries about you.” Father Thomas said. “ She told me you’re not sleeping good at night ever since you got a wire from the boys saying they would be delayed in coming home.”
“ I had a dream last week and I guess I cried out Johnny’s name and she heard me. I was fine, but it worried her.” Murdoch responded.
“ I believe it’s supposed to be the parents who worry about their children!” Father Thomas said as Teresa came into the room with a tray of Lemonade and cookies.
“ I really must be getting back to the church. I have some things that I need to get ready for the charity fundraiser for the orphanage.” Father Thomas said.
“ I have everything done already Father. The children have made up some wonderful fliers, and I thought they could pass them out Sunday after church.” Teresa said with a smile as she handed Father Thomas a glass of cold lemonade. “ I made the cookies this morning.” she added as she handed Murdoch a glass.
“ I must say, the children have really responded to you. I think the new teacher will be very pleased with how they behave when he arrives.” Father Thomas said.
“ Have you had any luck finding someone to work at the orphanage full time yet?” Murdoch asked.
“ No, I’m afraid nobody around Morro Coyo seems interested in working at an orphanage. You see, there is very little, if no pay I can offer them.” Father Thomas responded.
“ Father, what is wrong with the little girl, Jesse?” Teresa asked.
Father Thomas set his glass down and stood up, walking over to the veranda wall, he turned around and leaned against it. “ Jesse Parker, she’s a very sweet little girl, you would think someone would adopt her, but I’m afraid that may never happen.” Father Thomas said with sadness.
“ She can’t be more than six or seven years old.” Teresa said.
“ She’s six, but I’m afraid nobody wants to adopt her because of what has been done to her.” Father Thomas responded.
“ Father Thomas, are you trying to say this little six year old girl has been abused?” Murdoch asked.
“ To say the least Mister Lancer. Let’s just say, her father loved his daughter too much.” Father Thomas said.
“ I don’t understand. How can a father love their daughter to much?” Teresa asked.
“ I’m not sure how to explain it to you Teresa.” Father Thomas said.
“ Teresa, Jesse’ father loved her in a way that only an adult married couple should love. He did things to her that……”
“ Oh that poor child. No wonder she’s so shut down, and won’t talk to anyone.” Teresa said with sadness.
“ Teresa, maybe if you talked to her. Started trying to get her to open up. If we can get that to happen, Jesse has a very good chance of being adopted. There have been families interested in her, but when she refuses to allow them to touch her, and she won’t talk to them, they’re not interested in her anymore.” Father Thomas explained.
“ I’ll do whatever I can to help her. You should see her Murdoch, she is so pretty with her long blonde hair, and has she ever got the prettiest brown eyes.” Teresa responded.
“ Maybe you could bring here to Lancer some time. Maybe that would help her open up.” Murdoch suggested.
“ That just might work. Get her in a more friendly place than the orphanage.” Father Thomas said.
“ Maybe we could have a picnic or something for the children here at Lancer. We have plenty of gentle enough horses they could ride around in the corral. Maybe I could get Jesse interested in needlepoint, or sewing.” Teresa suggested.
“ All this sounds good, but it’s up to Mister Lancer if he wants to have the children here running around. This is after all a working ranch.” Father Thomas said.
“ Maybe after church Sunday we can get together and discuss it Father?” Murdoch asked.
“ Of course. Well I really must be going. I’ll see you Sunday, and Miss Teresa, thank you for all you are doing to help me.” Father Thomas said as he stepped toward Murdoch to shake his hand. “ I enjoyed our visit very much Mister Lancer. Thank you.”
“ You’re welcome here any time Father. Maybe when the boys get back you can come for supper?” Murdoch suggested.
“ I would like that very much.” Father Thomas responded as they walked to his horse.
“ Vultures. You think it’s one of them?” Jo asked.
“ Only one way to find out.” Jack responded.
“ Hey Jack, over here!” Lopez yelled.
“ Go check that out.” Jack ordered.
“ Blood on the ground here in three places.” Lopez said.“ This much blood, whoever was shot is dead.”
“ It’s Bob. He was killed with what looks like a single shot to the heart by a rifle.” Jo said. “ You thinking Madrid got lucky?” he asked.
“ That’s over half a mile. Madrid don’t use a rifle.” Lopez said.
“ Had to have been that other man, cause those missionaries, they don’t use no weapons.” Jo added.
“ Which means the gold is still with them.” Lopez said.
“ Unless Harvey or Campbell got it.” Jack said.
“ I don’t think so Jack. I only seen one set of tracks leading up to Bob. No footprints either.” Jo said.
“ They’re most likely at the fort by now. Probably stay there the night and ride on tomorrow.” Jack suggested.
“ So what do we do?” Jo asked.
“ We go back to robbing stagecoaches up around Prescott. Anyone who can make a shot like they did killing Bob, I don’t want to cross paths with. They can keep their gold.” Jack said as he turned his horse northeast.
“ You say Red Jack is the one who robbed these Missionaries when you found them?” the Major asked.
“ Yes sir, that’s what they said the mans name was.” Scott responded.
“ Only an ex military man would call me sir. You in the war?” the Major asked.
“ Yes sir I was. I served with Sheridan.” Scott responded.
“ Makes no sense Red Jack attacking Missionaries, especially a second time. His game is robbing stagecoaches of payroll and especially gold.” the Major explained.
“ Look Mason, there’s something you need to know about these Missionaries.” Johnny said.
“ How much are they carrying?” he asked.
“ Ten thousand. Taking it to San Francisco to the Mission San Francisco De Asis.” Johnny said softly.
“ Must be gold, otherwise Red Jack wouldn’t bother.” the Major said as he stood up.
“ This mornings shooter was only one man. He was about three quarters of a mile and started shooting as soon as it was light enough to see us from that far away.” Johnny explained.
“ You kill him?” Major Mason asked Johnny.
“ No, Scott did with his Henry and one shot.” Johnny said.
“ Only one man with Red that’s any good with a rifle would be Robert White, everybody calls him Bob. Has a temper. Word has it him and Jack were always butting heads over how the gang should be run. It’s unusual for Jack to be south of Phoenix though. He usually works up around Prescott and the stage line up there.” Major Mason explained.
“ What about the others that ride with him?” Johnny asked.
“ Rides with him, lets see, you got James Harvey, Jo Waters, and William Campbell.” the Major explained. “ Jack found them in Santa Fe they say. Not to loyal to him though. The one you really have to watch is a scrawny ass Mexican. Loyal to him through just about anything. Goes by the name of Lopez. The others I think Jack just uses to help him steal, but Lopez, he’s been with Jack about ten years or so and would kill for the man. Word has it Jack went below the border and came back with him.”
“ Jesus Lopez?” Johnny asked.
“ Yeah, you know him?” Mason asked.
“ Maybe. If it’s the same man, we were in the orphanage together.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to the window.
“ Maybe Father Williams will know.” Scott suggested.
“ He might.” Johnny said.
“ I have a place you can keep the gold safe for the night if that’s what you need?” Mason asked.
“ That’s up to them.” Johnny said.
“ I thought they were going to join us for supper?” Major Mason asked.
“ The sisters are tired, so it will only be Father Williams, me, and Scott. Mother Feltin is going to stay with the girls.” Johnny said.
“ They’ve had a pretty traumatic day.” Scott added.
“ Where did they come from?” Major Mason asked.
“ San Antonio is all we know.” Johnny responded
“ Well now that’s a voice I would know anywhere.” came a female voice behind them. “ Get on over here and give me a hug.”
Johnny glanced at Mason before setting his drink down, walking over, and putting his arms around the silver haired woman.
“ We heard you were killed in Mexico.” Mary said as she hugged Johnny.
“ Go easy on him Mary, remember the boys been wounded.” the Major said.
“ Not as bad as his backsides going to be if he doesn’t have a good excuse for not coming around sooner.” Mary responded.
“ I think acquiring a brother, and I’m assuming a father also is excuse enough Mary.” the Major said.
Mary pushed back from Johnny, and looked him straight in the face. “ You found your family?”
“ Yeah. Mary, this is my older brother Scott. Scott, this is Mary Mason, she literally saved my life once when I got cut up really bad.”
“ It’s a pleasure ma’am.” Scott said.
“ You look nothing alike.” Mary said as Father Williams stepped into the room.
“ Major, Mrs Mason, this is Father Williams.” Scott said.
“ Father, you drink?” the Major asked.
“ Richard, he’s a man of the cloth.” Mary said.
“ So that’s your first name huh. All the time I know’d ya, I never knew ya by anything but Mason.” Johnny said.
“ Your brother has always refused to call me Major.” Richard said.
“ Mary, what is his full name?” Johnny asked.
“ Major Mason.” Richard cut in.
“ Major Richard B. Mason.” Mary replied.
“ What’s the B stand for?” Johnny asked with a smile.
“ Bartholomew.” Mary said.
“ Major Richard Bartholomew Mason………I’ll stick with calling you Mason cause I sure ain’t calling you Bartholomew, and there’s no way in hell I’m calling you Richard.” Johnny said.
“ You could call him Dick.” Scott said.
“ Dick is an alias for Richard.” Father Williams added. “ And to answer your question about the drink, I would love one.”
Johnny looked at Father Williams.
“ The lord is not going to strike me down for having one drink. Even though I’m a man of the cloth, I still like a good glass of wine or brandy on occasion.” Father Williams said.
“ How long you think the ladies will need after what they been through this morning?” Johnny asked.
“ Mother Feltin wants to leave tomorrow. She thinks the sooner we get going, the better it will be for them.” Father Williams responded.
“ Man she’s one cold hearted b….. Sorry Mary. Does Mother Feltin not have a heart?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes, but from what Bishop Montgomery told me about her, she’s strict, and after her daughter was murdered, and her husband left her, I guess she became cold toward certain things, and people.” Father Williams responded. “ I guess that’s when she decided to leave back east and go to San Francisco.”
“ She had a daughter murdered and her husband ran off……I can see why she’s angry, but being angry at others for what happened to her isn’t right. You’ve seen how she’s been toward me, just because she heard you that first day.” Johnny said.
“ Do not judge, and you will not be judged.” Father Williams said.
“ The bible also says, Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” Johnny added.
“ Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Mary said.
“ Before I end today’s service, I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the charity fundraiser the orphanage is having in two weeks.” Father Thomas said. “ When you leave, the children will be handing out fliers they made up telling about the events that will be taking place during the fundraiser. I would like to take the opportunity at this time to thank both the Lancer, and Conway ranches for their generous donations already. I’m going to end today’s service with a prayer I find fitting for what has transpired this last week. Please bow your heads.
Thank you that you are a loving, gracious God. Thank you that you’ve offered us forgiveness and the gift of new life in you. Thank you that your love is perfect, it never fails, and that nothing can separate us from your love.
We pray that our lives would be filled and overflowing with the power of your love so we can make a difference in this world and bring honor to you. We ask for your help in reminding us that the most important things are not what we do outwardly, it’s not based on any talent or gift, but the most significant thing we can do in this life is simply to love you and to choose to love others.” Father Thomas said.
“ That was a lovely sermon Father Thomas.” Aggie Conway said.
“ Thank you. I hope it was alright my thanking both you and Mister Lancer for all you have generously donated?” Father Thomas responded.
“ Of course it was. Teresa was telling me that you are going to take the children to Lancer for a picnic and sleepover. I’m sure they will love that. You let me know if you need anything and I will help in any way I can.” Aggie said.
“ Thank you, but nothing is set yet on what will take place beyond a picnic. Mister Lancer and I however are going to discuss it over lunch at the cafe. Would you care to join us?”
“ I would love to join you father.” Aggie responded as Murdoch and Teresa walked over with Jesse.
“ Mrs Conway, I would like you to meet a friend of mine. This is Jesse.” Teresa said as Jesse shied back behind her, holding onto her hand tightly. “ Jesse, it’s alright. Mrs Conway is a good friend. She won’t hurt you.”
“ Hello Jesse. How old are you?” Agatha asked.
“ I’m sorry Mrs Conway. Jesse has only been at the orphanage a short time. Teresa is the first person she’s responded to, and trusted enough to venture outside the orphanage walls.
“ That’s alright. I bet you’re six years old.” Agatha said. “ You are quit beautiful Jesse. I bet you have either blue or brown eyes to go with that hair.”
“ Brown.” Jesse said softly as she peeked around Teresa’s dress at Mrs Conway. “ Do you like little girls?” she asked.
“ Why yes I do. I love to teach little girls how to sew, and bake cookies. As a matter of fact, maybe Teresa can bring you with her Saturday morning. We are going to be doing some baking that day and could sure use the help. Would you like to come to my ranch and help us bake some pies, cookies and cakes for the church social and dance next Saturday night?”
“ I don’t know how to bake.” Jesse responded.
“ Well, me and Teresa will just have to teach you.” Aggie said.
“ Shall we head to the cafe for some lunch and discuss the charity fundraiser?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’ll take Jesse back to the orphanage and be along directly.” Teresa said.
“ Nonsense. She can come with us and have some lunch and maybe a piece of pie.” Aggie said as Jesse went to her, and took hold of her hand.
“ Thank you for allowing us a day to grieve Mister Lancer.” Mother Feltin said.
“ It’s only proper that you do. I’m sorry they were killed.” Johnny responded.
“ It wasn’t your fault, and I don’t want you blaming yourself for their deaths. Only the lord decides who shall live, and who shall die. Sadly it was their time to.” Mother Feltin said.
“ Like it was your daughters time?” Johnny asked.
Mother Feltin turned sharply and faced Johnny, looking at him a few seconds before she realized what he just said to her. “ You know, for someone so young, you are a very smart and wise young man. A young man I greatly misjudged, and for that I am sorry.” Mother Feltin said.
Johnny just nodded. He knew no verbal response was needed for what was just said. “ You know, my mother, before she died, she used to get angry at me if I asked about my father. She told me he didn’t want a half-breed kid running around and threw us out when I was only two years old. I found out that that was nothing but a lie when I finally went home. For all those years I hated my old man for something he didn’t do. Kinda like you hating whoever for your daughter’s death all these years.” Johnny explained. “ Can I ask you a personal question?”
“ Yes, as long as it’s within reason.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ Have you allowed yourself to grieve for your daughter? To cry tears at all for your loss?” Johnny asked.
Mother Feltin could feel the tears starting to well up, as she turned away from Johnny, trying with all her might to stop them.
“ There’s no shame in crying. It doesn’t make you weak. Father Williams taught me that.” Johnny said softly as he stepped up behind her, and placed his hands on her shoulders, turning her around.
Mother Feltin pressed her head into Johnny’s chest as she let years of tears and grief go for the loss of her daughter. Deep down inside, she couldn’t help but wonder how he knew she had never grieved for her loss. Perhaps one day before they get to San Francisco she would ask him, or perhaps just let it remain a mystery between them.
“ There’s something I would like you to do for me.” Mother Feltin asked as she wiped away her tears.
“ If I can.” Johnny said.
“ Your brother is a remarkable young man Scott.” Father Williams said as they watched.
“ I would have to agree Father. I do wonder what their conversation was about to lead to Mother Feltin hugging him.” Scot responded.
“ He’s not hugging her Scott. Your brother is comforting her. I believe he has succeeded in getting her to grieve the loss of her daughter finally.” Father Williams said.
“ You know, maybe you could have a talk with Johnny about why he won’t go to church with us at home?” Scott asked.
“ He does not attend church?” Father Williams asked.
“ No sir. I think it might have something to do with him being a gunfighter and feeling he is not wanted in a church.” Scott suggested.
“ Or maybe he doesn’t attend because of how Father Martin treated him as a child.” Father Williams suggested.
“ But that was in the orphanage wasn’t it?” Scott asked.
“ Yes, but the orphanage was part of the church. Therefore Johnny might stay away because of that reason. Have you or your father discussed his not going?” Father Williams said and asked.
“ I believe Teresa did, or tried to.” Scott responded.
“ She’s our fathers ward. Her father was his foreman. He was killed two years ago by land pirates. Teresa is like a daughter to Murdoch.” Scott explained.
“ And how do you and Johnny feel about her?” Father Williams asked.
“ She’s like a little sister to me. She’s only a year younger than Johnny I believe.” Scott said as he noticed his brother walking toward them.
“ You two spying, or just passing the time?” Johnny asked with a smile.
“ Actually, we were talking about Teresa.” Scott said.
“ Yes, Scott was telling me how she’s like a daughter to your father, and a sister to you both.” Father Williams said.
“ She ain’t like a sister to me. Fact is, if it wasn’t for the old man, I’d claim Teresa as my wife, but since I can’t do that…..I guess she is like a sister to me too.” Johnny said.
“ Maybe you can do that some day Johnny?” Father Williams asked.
“ That would never happen Father. The only women who care about and love me are whores, and that’s because I satisfy them so good.” Johnny responded.
“ And why do you feel that would never happen John?” Father Williams asked.
“ You’re kidding right? I’m Johnny Madrid, a gunfighter. There isn’t a woman in the state of California who would want anything to do with me beyond what I can give them in bed.” Johnny responded.
“ You’re not Johnny Madrid anymore though. You’re Johnny Lancer now, a son, brother, and rancher.” Scott said.
“ As long as I’m breathing Scott, a part of me will always be Johnny Madrid. No matter how hard I try not to be.” Johnny responded.
“ You deserve happiness Johnny. It pleases me that you have your family now.” Father Williams said.
“ Mother Feltin would like to leave tomorrow morning.” Johnny said before turning and walking away.
“ He is too hard on himself Scott.” Father Williams said as they watched Johnny walk away.
“ There’s how many children at the orphanage Father Thomas?” Murdoch asked.
“ Ten. Three girls and seven boys. I’m afraid I can’t remember their ages, but I do know Jesse is the youngest.” Father Thomas said.
“The oldest is Luke, he’s sixteen and then there’s Mary, fourteen, Paul who’s thirteen, Steve is twelve, Kyle and Josh are twin brothers ten years old, Peter and Tom are nine, and Callie is eight.” Teresa said.
“ You would think I should be able to remember all that like Miss Teresa can, but I’m afraid that has been my one downfall all my life.” Father Thomas said with a slight laugh.
“ Maybe I should have you do the books at home every month young lady?” Murdoch asked.
“ Oh no Murdoch, I’ll leave that part of running Lancer to you and the boys.” Teresa responded.
“ I used to think that too Teresa when I was married to Henry, and look at me now, I’m a widow and I have a ranch I’m responsible for and keeping the books balanced every month is vital to my ranch succeeding just like Lancer. Murdoch helped me a great deal, but most of it I had to learn all on my own.” Aggie said. “ What I’m getting at is unless you plan of moving away when you meet the right man, get married, and become only a house wife, you’re going to want to know bookkeeping.”
“ Adding that knowledge to your dowry will be attractive to some young man.” Murdoch said with a smile.
“ Alright, I get the picture. Now, how about we get back to why we are here today.” Teresa suggested. “ Obviously you had a reason for asking how many children are at the orphanage Murdoch.”
“ Yes I did for horses. I figure Steve, Paul, and Luke could ride horses and the others could ride in a wagon when we come to pick them up. That is unless Father Thomas would prefer they all ride in the wagon?” Murdoch said and asked.
“ I think that would be fine. I’m sure the boys would like that, but I’m not sure they know how to ride a horse.” Father Thomas responded.
“ How about I bring Buster by tomorrow and we can see?” Murdoch asked.
“ Buster, who is Buster?” Father Thomas asked.
“ He was Teresa’ first horse eleven years ago.” Murdoch responded.
“ My goodness, he’s still alive?” Aggie asked.
“ Yes. He was four when Paul bought him for her from your Henry.” Murdoch responded.
“ I remember that day. Teresa, your father came over with Murdoch and my Henry had several prospects for him to look at. I think Buster was the third one Paul looked at and said he was the one.” Aggie said.
“ I had completely forgotten my father bought him from you.” Teresa said.
“ Why did your father buy a horse from Mrs Conway, when Mister Lancer had horses too didn’t he?” Father Thomas asked.
“ Yes, but none of the horses I had were really fit for a child to ride that young. Aggie and Henry I knew would have one, so I arranged for Paul to buy one for her.” Murdoch responded. “ Paul gave her the horse, and I gave her the saddle on her fifth birthday.”
“ I don’t know about the rest of you, but I would like a slice of apple pie. How about you Jesse, would you like a slice of apple pie?” Murdoch asked.
“ Never had any.” Jesse said softly.
“ Karen, could you bring us five slices of your delicious apple pie please?” Murdoch asked.
“ I sure can. I just took one out of the oven a little while ago.” Karen responded.
“ You know, the twenty fifth anniversary of when California became the 31st state in the union is this year. They say there’s going to be a huge celebration in Sacramento.” Aggie said.
“ Yes, September 9th, 1850. I came here with Scott’s mother Catherine and bought Lancer that year. It seems like yesterday when we topped that ridge and looked down on what would become Lancer.” Murdoch said as Karen brought them their desert.
“ I cut a smaller piece for the little one because I heard her say she had never had it before.” Karen said as she set the plates down in front of each one.
“ That’s fine Karen. Thank you.” Murdoch responded.
“ How far is it to this town you said Mister Lancer?” Sister Josephine asked as she watched him saddle her horse.
“ Barstow, roughly about two hundred miles, so five days.” Johnny responded as he tightened the cinch. “ Does Mother Feltin know where you are?” he asked.
“ No, I couldn’t sleep so I decided I would come see if you needed any help.” she responded.
“ This isn’t exactly something a young lady should be doing. Especially being alone with a man in the livery like this. All it would take is the wrong person or people to see and start spreading rumors that could hurt your innocent reputation.” Johnny explained.
“ I’m not exactly innocent Johnny. My parents are forcing me to go to San Francisco to the mission there to become a nun or whatever. It’s not what I want to be.” Sister Josephine said.
“ How old are you?” Johnny asked as he went to the next stall and started brushing the horse down.
“ Eighteen.” she responded.
“ Eighteen, let me guess, you think that’s all grown up out here right? You think because some boy back east somewhere made out with you in the hayloft or wherever that that makes you grown up. Let me tell you something Josephine, it don’t. Not by a long shot. You go acting like you are toward me to some other man, and I promise you, he’s going to make you regret it. There’s a lot of men out here that would love to get a young girl like you. You have no idea what a dangerous game you’re playing. Because I promise you, that boy back home is nothing compared to what’s out here.” Johnny said as he saddled the horse.
“ I can take care of myself. I’m not afraid of men. They’re not that different.” Sister Josephine said.
Johnny stopped and lay his head against the saddle, letting out a sigh before he turned around, and faced her. “ You’re a fool.”Johnny said to himself as he quickly stepped to her, grabbed her arm and yanked her into the darkness of the stall, his mouth claiming hers as his hands roamed all over her back. Pulling her skirt up, he touched her between her legs.
“ Stop please.” Sister Josephine begged.
Johnny stopped and stepped back from her as tears ran down her face. “ I’m sorry, but like I said, you have a lot of growing up to do little lady. If you don’t want to be a nun, that’s your right, when you become of age. What I just did to you was nothing compared to what the wrong man will do to you. He might not stop when you ask him too. He will continue and probably slap you around as he rips off your clothes. Now you go on over there and sit on that hay bale while I finish up here, and then I will walk you back to your room.” Johnny ordered.
“ You going to tell Mother Feltin about what happened?” she asked.
“ I don’t know yet. I like her a lot. She’s a really nice lady. I probably will.” Johnny responded.
“ That won’t be necessary Johnny.” Mother Feltin said from the doorway. “ I’m actually quit surprised at your ability to restrain yourself from her temptation.” Mother Feltin said as she walked over to them.
“ It wasn’t easy, but I guess you were right.” Johnny said.
“ Right about what?” Sister Josephine asked.
“ If I was thirty years younger, I would be flattered to have a man do to me what you just did to her.” Mother Feltin said. “ Sister Josephine, what happened here, I will forget, but just this one time. If when you reach your majority and want to leave, you may do so, but, until then, I will ask that you behave in a proper manner around men. I do not want to catch you alone with another man who is not of the cloth. Do I make myself clear?” Mother Feltin stated firmly and asked.
“ I asked you a question, right about what Johnny?” she demanded.
“ You, and how you would respond to my advances.” Johnny responded.
“ So this was all a setup. You played with my feelings.” Sister Josephine asked with tears in her eyes. “ You deceived me, you bastard.” she said with anger before slapping Johnny hard across the face.
“ Sister Josephine, that was totally uncalled for young lady. Mister Lancer simply did what I asked of him to do.” Mother Feltin said with anger. “ I want you to apologize to him right now.”
“ That’s alright Ma’am. She has every right to be upset. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let it go as far as it did…….Excuse me.” Johnny said before turning and walking out.
“ You’ve been awful quiet since we left the fort. It wouldn’t have anything to do with Sister Josephine would it Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ What makes you think that?” Johnny asked as he brushed Barranca.
“ Oh I don’t know, maybe the slight bruise on your left cheek by your eye, or the fact that in the evenings she glares across the fire at you with daggers in her eyes. What’s going on?” Scott responded.
“ I did a favor for Mother Feltin the morning we left and Sister Josephine isn’t happy about it is all.” Johnny said as he glanced over at the group sitting around the fire.
“ Okay, well Mother Feltin and Father Williams asked me to come have you join us tonight.” Scott said.
“ Maybe I’ll tell you about it someday.” Johnny said.
“ Fair enough. You going to join us?” Scott asked again.
“ Yeah sure.” Johnny said.
“ I see how you have been staring daggers at the younger Lancer ever since we left the fort. How come?” Sister Margaret asked softly.
“ Mister Lancer, how good of you to join us tonight. Sister Margaret has a question she would like to ask you.” Mother Feltin said as Johnny knelt down to pour a cup of coffee.
“ Ask away.” Johnny responded.
“ A friend of mine wrote to me once about a town in California called Lone Pine. I was just wondering if we would be going anywhere near it?” Sister Margaret asked.
“ Nope. Ain’t really a town left there right now. A bad earthquake hit and wipe out almost all of it six months ago. Close to thirty people lost their lives in it. Unless you have business there, they don’t really want anyone coming around that doesn’t live there, or isn’t bringing supplies in for them.” Johnny responded.
“ Lone Pine is a mining town. It’s not a very safe place for us to be going with ten thousand dollars in gold coins.” Scott added.
“ Alright. Thank you.” Sister Margaret said.
“ We’ll be in Barstow tomorrow afternoon. So you ladies will be able to properly freshen up and get your things washed if you like.” Johnny said.
“ A hot bath and a bed softer than the ground sure does sound good to me.” Father Williams said.
“ Indeed it does Father.” Mother Feltin said.
“ I’m telling you it’s him damn it.” Butler said.
“ You’re crazy. He wouldn’t be here in Barstow.” Wilson responded.
“ Then get up and take a look for yourself if’n ya don’t believe me then.” Butler said.
“ Fine, I’ll look.” Wilson said as he stood up and walked over to the saloon doors and looked across the street. “ Well I’ll be damned.” Wilson said before spitting and wiping his chin on his sleeve. “ I finally get a chance to kill that sonofabitch.”
“ He rode in with three women and two other men.” Butler said.
Charlie Wilson and Bill Butler were both from El Paso. Both as hard core as they come when it came to killing. Both not caring who or how they killed someone. Butler had been seen on several occasions spitting his nasty chew on the face of his dying victim, usually right before he put a bullet between their eyes. Wilson was almost as bad as Butler when it came to killing. He favored shooting his victims in the back before facing them, then once they were down and usually unarmed, he would walk up to them, laugh, and then kill them slowly, especially if there was no law in the town. Now they both had their eyes set on making one more kill. A kill that would make them both famous beyond borders. A kill that would make every gunfighter, or person in the southwest fear them.
“ When do you want to do it?” Wilson asked.
“ When I’m sober. I’m not about to go up against that sonofabitch drunk. Go find out how long he paid to stay at the livery.” Butler responded.
“ What if he sees me?” Wilson asked.
“ He don’t know us. We never worked a job with him. Just go do what I said. I’ll be upstairs with a whore. ‘ll see you later.” Butler said before turning and walking over to one of the girls, grabbing her by the arm and heading upstairs.
“ One of these days you’re gonna order me around one too many times.” Charlie said as he walked out of the saloon.
“ Let me have a beer.” Butler said as he sat down at the table Wilson was sitting at.”So what did you find out?”
“ Plenty. The livery guy wasn’t too keen on sharing, but I got it out of him. “ Board is paid on all seven horses until Monday morning when they will be leaving. It seems they’re Missionaries, headed to San Francisco, and that ain’t all.” Wilson said as the waitress brought two fresh beers.
“ What more is there?” Butler asked before taking a drink of his beer.
“ It seems they were a right bit testy about the livery man getting near the pack horse. Said they were asking about the bank, and if it had a safe in it.” Wilson explained. “ I bet that’s why I seen him coming out of the bank today. I bet those Missionaries have gold with them that they’re taking to San Francisco. I bet that’s why he’s with them to keep them safe.”
“ You could be right. I’d sure like to know what, and how much they put in that bank.” Butler said.
“ You still want to kill him here?” Charlie asked.
“ No. Let’s wait until they’re out on the trail. It’s a long ways to San Francisco from Barstow. Plenty of places we can ambush him from and take that pack horse.” Butler said with evil in his eyes.
“ Did you ladies sleep well last night?” Scott asked
“ Quit well. How about you?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ I believe I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow.” Scott replied.
“ Good morning Father Williams. I trust you slept well?” Scott asked.
“ I did indeed.” Father Williams responded. “ Where’s your brother?”
“ He was up pretty late last night. I don’t think he’s awake yet.” Scott responded knowing his brother found female company last night until well after midnight.
“ Probably out drinking and whoring with some trollop from the saloon.” Sister Josephine said softly.
“ What did you say sister?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ I said he was probably out having a good time.” she responded.
“ That’s not what she said Mother Feltin.” Sister Margaret cut in. “ She said he was probably out whoring and drinking with some trollop in the saloon.”
“ That is quite enough Sister Margaret. It is not your place to tell me what was said. Especially using that kind of language.” Mother Feltin said firmly. “ Sister Josephine, after breakfast I think we should go back to our room and have a private discussion on why you find it necessary to use such vulgar language, and talk so disrespectful about Mister Lancer.”
“ And like we should discuss what you and Johnny did to me back at the fort.” Sister Josephine said as she glanced to Scott.
“ Not that this is the place to discuss what happened at the fort I will say this and then it will not be discussed again. What Mister Lancer did, he did for me because I needed you to learn a lesson. You think you can take care of yourself. That you are all grown up. Well you’re not. If you wish to leave when you are twenty one, that is your right, but until then you are my responsibility. If that had been any other man, what he would have done to you is what men do to those at night in the saloons and brothels. Your parents warned me you would be trouble if you were around men, and I can see how right they were. Scott, I don’t want you thinking anything bad about your brother. What I asked him to help me with was not fair to him, and you being rude to him like you have is going to stop, and stop now. Is that understood?” Mother Feltin said softly so the other patrons couldn’t hear. “ I said is that clear?”
“ Yes ma’am.” Sister Josephine responded finally as Johnny came into the room sporting a black eye and split lip.
“ What happened to you brother?” Scott asked.
“ What’s it look like happened, I got hit.” Johnny responded.
“ I hope the other man looks worse.” Father Williams said.
“ He does Father. He won’t be beating on a woman ever again.” Johnny said as he glanced at the ladies.
“ Why’d you do it?” Sister Margaret asked.
“ Do what?” Johnny asked before taking a sip of his coffee.
“ Why did you risk injury to yourself defending…………” she asked.
“ Defending a whore. There’s three things I believe in strongly Sister Margaret, regardless of what others might think of me. I won’t stand for being lied too. I won’t stand for those I care about to be hurt, and I will not stand by and allow a man, any man to put his hands on a woman, any woman in a violent way. Yeah she works in a saloon, a lot of women do. Some don’t have a choice. That don’t make her any less a human being than any one of us sitting here.” Johnny explained.
“ It’s hard for a woman out west to make a living. The women back in Boston could walk the street, go shopping and do other things without the worry women out here have. A lot of women could be orphaned and to keep from starving did the only thing they thought they could do to stay alive. Some of them are really very nice people.” Scott added.
“ I wasn’t meaning to imply she was any less than us. I just never heard of anyone defending one before. Especially since we have no rights like men do.” Sister Margaret said.
“ The day will come when women will have the same rights as men. The lord will see to that when the time is right.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ Johnny.” Scott said as he looked toward the front desk. “ It would seem the livery man wishes to speak to us. Excuse us please.”
“ I’m sorry to bother you during breakfast, but I feel you should know. A man came in the livery last night and started looking at your horses, and asking questions about you.” the man said.
“ What kind of questions?” Scott asked.
“ He wanted to know how long your board was paid up for, and who was with you.” the man said.
“ Do you know this man?” Johnny asked.
“ Him and another man rode into town a few days ago. Been mostly hanging out at the saloon. I think his name is………Wals……..no it’s Wilson. I remember the bigger one calling him by name when he got angry at him.” the livery man said.
“ That would be Charlie Wilson, and the bigger man would be William Butler. I appreciate you telling us.” Johnny said.
“ Well, I figured you would want to know Mister Madrid.” the man said barely above a whisper. “ I better get back.”
“ Damn it.” Johnny said.
“ Who are they Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Two gunfighters without a conscience.” Johnny responded as he headed back to the table.
“ That’s them watching you now from down the street Madrid.” the livery owner said.
“ I guess if they let us leave without any trouble, then we know they know about the gold.” Scott said.
“ I did see them harassing the bank manager when he was closing up yesterday. I didn’t know it had anything to do with you though. I’m sorry.” the old man said.
“ That’s quit alright. You’ve done enough for us already sir.” Father Feltin said.
“ How you want to play this Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ You take them out of town Father Williams. Me and Scott gonna go have a little talk with them.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle.
“ I don’t think that’s such a good idea Johnny.” Father William said.
“ I think I know what you have planned brother.” Scott said as he mounted up. “ I just hope it works.”
Johnny reached in his pocket and pulled out a ten dollar gold piece, and tossed it to the old man.“ I’m much obliged for what you’ve done. Let’s go Scott.” he said as he started toward Butler and Wilson.
“ He’s riding this way with that other fella.” Wilson said.
“ I got eyes.” Butler said before spitting chew and wiping his chin on his sleeve.
“ Mornin’.” Johnny said. “ You’d be William Butler and Charlie Wilson, a couple of low life dogs who seem to have an awful interest in me and my friends.”
“ You best watch who you’re calling a dog Madrid. I’ll blow you clean out of that saddle half-breed.” Butler said as he came forward from leaning against the saloon wall.
“ Oh I figure I got what you are right. Now I’m gonna give you some serious advice I strongly suggest you both take. Forget you seen me and any notions you have about stealing the gold from us, I would forget. The last man from Red Jacks gang who tried is dead over in Arizona.” Johnny said with coldness in his voice that could make a man shiver.
“ I don’t carry this Henry rifle for looks boys. Where Madrid is good with his pistol, I’m just as good with my Henry. I would think real serious about not trying to steal the gold.” Scott added.
“ There a problem here?” a man asked from the street.
“ Mind your own business mister.” Butler ordered.
“ Well now you see, I can’t do that because I’m making it my business Butler. You got them Davies?” the man asked.
“ Sure do Sheriff.” Deputy Davies responded as he held a short barreled scatter gun, pointed right at Wilson and Butler.
“ You see, I’m Sheriff J.C. Curry, and the good people of Barstow like me keeping the town and my jurisdiction safe. A job I take very seriously. Now I seen you two trouble-makers ride into town a few days ago, and thought I would be nice and let you drink and whore some. That is until you decided to rough up our nice livery man and the bank manager. Now I asked both of those men why you would do such a thing, and seeing you here right now, facing the deadliest gunfighter there is on my street, on this beautiful morning tells me you are both stupid.”
“ All we’re doing is standing here minding our own business. They rode up and started threatening us Sheriff.” Wilson blurted out.
Johnny never moved, keeping his right hand on his saddle-horn, reins in hand, left arm in plain sight for the deputy at his side.
“ Is what the bank manager said true Madrid?” the sheriff asked.
“ It is. We were having a discussion with these two dogs about thinking twice about trying to steal it.” Johnny responded.
“ Well I can help you out with that. You’re both under arrest for assault. Unbuckle those gunbelts real slow and let them drop to the ground, and step on down here.” the sheriff ordered.
Wilson did as he was told, but Butler just stood there staring hard at Madrid. “ You got no call to arrest me sheriff. I never laid a hand on either man. Ask them. It was Wilson who done the roughing up.”
“ I can arrest you for any damn charge I want. Now drop the gunbelt right now. I’m not going to ask again.” Sheriff Curry ordered.
“ You’re a dead man Madrid.” Butler said as he unbuckled his gun belt and let it fall to the ground. “ He can’t hold me in jail more than a day. Not if he wants to keep his job. I’ll be seeing you again real soon. Both of you.” Butler said before walking toward the jail with Wilson, and the deputy behind them.
“ You and your friend ride on out Madrid.” Sheriff Curry ordered.
“ Scott Lancer!” a man yelled as he hurried across the street. “ It is you. Wow talk about a small world. What are the odds of us meeting here, so far away from Boston. How are you?”
“ Spencer Lee, it has been a long time.” Scott said as he reached down and shook the mans hand. “ I can’t stay, but if you’re ever around Morro Coyo, come on out to the Lancer ranch and see me. We can catch up on old times.” Scott said before riding off with Johnny.
“ Do you think they’re alright Father Williams?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ I’m sure they are. There’s one thing Johnny does that most people don’t talk about. He tries his best to talk someone out of going up against him. His childhood was rough, and he became a gunfighter to stay alive below the border. He really is a very nice person.” Father Williams explained.
Sister Josephine couldn’t help but think about how Johnny had touched and kissed her in the barn. Ever since that morning she stole looks at him, wondering what it would be like to have him touch and kiss her with no clothes on, to feel his manhood inside her. Thoughts and feelings she didn’t dare let Mother Feltin know she was having. Vowing she would be alone with him again before San Francisco, and when she was, nothing would stop them. Especially since she knew what turned Johnny on to touching and wanting all depended on how aggressive she could kiss and touch him.
“ Sister Josephine!” Mother Feltin called. “ Did you not hear a word that was said?”
“ I’m sorry Mother Feltin, I was remembering something from my childhood.” Sister Josephine responded as she tried to suppress forbidden feelings.
“ Father Williams, dust!” Sister Margaret said as she pointed behind them.
“ That’s probably the Lancer brothers. Let’s get off the trail just in case it’s not.” Father Williams said.
“ So this man, Butler, when do you think he will try something?” Sister Margaret asked.
“ Pretty much any time he wants once he’s released.” Johnny responded. He noticed how Sister Josephine kept side glancing at him whenever she though he wouldn’t notice ever since Barstow.
“ Why does this man want to kill you? Did you do something to him in the past?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ No I didn’t. He wants to kill me like all the others who have tried, reputation.” Johnny said.
“ Reputation?” Sister Josephine said. “ What reputation could anyone have that would make another want to kill him for it?”
“ This reputation.” Johnny said as he pulled out his gun. “ I built a reputation as the fastest and best at my trade. It’s all I wanted back then. Now that I have a family, I don’t want it anymore. Unfortunately as long as I’m alive, men will come and try to take my reputation from me, and the only way they can do that is by killing me.”
“ That’s a terrible thing to do.” Sister Margaret said.
“ So you live every day thinking it’s your last don’t you?” Sister Josephine asked.
“ I live every day trying to stay alive as long as I can, and I do what I want, when I want, with who I want.” Johnny responded.
“ I’ll take the first watch until midnight Johnny.” Scott said.
“ Good. I’ll get some sleep and take midnight till dawn watch.” Johnny said.
“ There is no reason why the two of you should carry the burden of standing guard at night.” Father Williams said. “ I know how to use a gun, and wish to share in keeping watch.”
“ How longs it been since you fired a gun Father?” Johnny asked.
“ Three years, but I assure you, I hit where I aim.” Father Williams responded.
Johnny smiled slightly. “ Can you kill if it comes down to it? Because I can assure you, that that is what Wilson and Butler fully intend on doing.”
“ I will do whatever I have to do to keep everyone safe just like you and Scott are going to do.” Father Williams responded.
“ I appreciate the offer, but if you want to help, then stay here with Scott and keep watch.” Johnny suggested.
“ Father Thomas, I asked you here today because I wanted to talk to you about…………adopting one of the girls from the orphanage.” Agatha said as she set a tray of lemonade and cookies down on the table. “ I realize we could have had this conversation at either the orphanage or church, but I wanted to be sure this is done in private. At lest for now.”
“ Of course. Mrs Conway, all adoptions are confidential.” Father Thomas responded. “ But won’t it become apparent to people when they see you with her?”
“ Yes, I suppose you’re right. I guess I’m a little nervous and afraid.” Aggie said.
“ Afraid. Why?” he asked.
“ That I would be turned down. I am a widow, but I would make a good mother.”
“ Mrs Conway, you don’t have to tell me what I already know. Now, which girl is it you would like to adopt?” Father Thomas asked.
“Well, you have three, correct?” she asked.
“ Yes. Jesse , who’s six. Mary, who’s fourteen, and Callie, who’s eight.” he responded.
“ What can you tell me about the other two girls, Callie and Mary?” Agatha asked.
“ Well, Mary was found eating garbage at the back of a cafe in Stockton when she was twelve. Placed in an orphanage there, but ran away. She was caught and placed with me last year trying to eat from the trash again at the cantina in Morro Coyo. Callie, she was found almost naked between Morro Coyo and Stockton three months ago. Nobody seems to know where she came from, or if she has any family alive. She won’t speak.” Father Thomas explained.
“ Won’t speak, or can’t? There’s a big difference Father Thomas. Perhaps she was traumatized by whatever happened to her family, and that’s why she doesn’t speak.” Agatha suggested.
“ I thought of that. Teresa has been working with the girls and gotten Jesse to come a long way in the short time she has been helping me. You know, Jesse actually came back Friday and told me what fun she had with you and Teresa baking cookies and pies.” Father Thomas said.
“ She was very good, and listened to me and Teresa on how to peel the apples. In fact, Jesse made these cookies.” Agatha said.
“ So is it safe to say Jesse is the one you wish to adopt?” Father Thomas asked.
“ Yes, but now I’m wondering about Callie.” Agatha said.
“ Mrs Conway, if you would like to adopt both Jesse and Callie, I see nothing wrong with you doing so.” he suggested. “ Both those girls need a lady in their life to teach them what they will need to know to make it when grown up.”
“ Well, it’s just that, after what you told me about her. I really think I could help her, and maybe Jesse could too. How do they get along at the orphanage?” she asked.
“ As far as I can tell, they get along fine. I see them together all the time. Now I don’t know if Callie has ever spoken to Jesse, course I’ve never thought to ask her” Father Thomas said as he stood up. “ Why don’t I bring the girls out to your ranch Monday? We can do the paperwork up then. You have a lawyer don’t you?”
“ Yes. I’ll speak to Randall after church Sunday and see if he can come out.” Agatha said as they walked outside, and down to his buggy.
“ I’m sure the girls will be fine with this, but are you sure you can handle two girls?” Father Thomas asked as he picked up the reins.
“ I handled my Henry, I think I can handle two little girls. I’m not looking to get remarried again, and I get lonely in this big house.” Aggie said before heading back inside.
“ I’m going to give both of you a real friendly word of advice.” Sheriff Curry said as he unlocked Wilson and Butler’s cells. “ Forget about going after Madrid. It’ll only get you killed.”
“ Butler stepped out of his cell and stopped, glaring at the sheriff. “ I can’t see it’s any of your business what I do tin star.”
“ As long as you’re in my jurisdiction It’s my concern.” Sheriff Curry said.
“ Little man wearing a tin star is all you are sheriff.” Butler said as he continued to glare at the man.
“ Both your horses are saddled and waiting for you outside. Get on them and ride out of Barstow, and never come back. And just to make sure you don’t get any notions to go near the bank or livery, I have deputies with scatter guns watching for you.” Sheriff Curry ordered.
“ You’re lucky I want Madrid more Sheriff, otherwise I would take this town apart, and enjoy killing you slowly.” Butler said before turning and walking outside to his horse.
“ What about our guns?” Wilson asked.
“ You’ll find your pistols hanging from a tree outside town on the south road.” Sheriff Curry said as they mounted their horses.
“ I think we should stop in Bakersfield and send a wire to Murdoch letting him know we’re alright and should be there in roughly ten days.” Scott suggested.
“ I was thinking we should stay out of bigger towns. Maybe send it from Fresno. We can be at the ranch in four days from there.” Johnny suggested.
“ How far are we from San Francisco?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ From Bakersfield, I would say less than three hundred miles.” Scott responded.
“ Do you think those two men from Barstow will find us?” Sister Margaret asked.
“ I doubt Butler will give up. He can ride harder and faster than us, so he could very well already be ahead of us somewhere just waiting to ambush us.” Johnny said. “ He likes his women, and whiskey too, which is why I want to stay out of towns as much as possible. Neither one of them would care if they killed innocent men, women, and children to get what they want, and kill me.”
“ Just the thought of them frightens me.” Sister Josephine said.
“ Is there a telegraph office close to your ranch where I can send a wire to the mission in San Francisco and let them know where we are, and what has happened?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Spanish Wells and Green River both have a telegraph.” Scott responded.
“ Green River I think will be safer for her to go to send the wire Scott. Ben won’t say anything and will have his son bring the response out to the ranch so she doesn’t have to wait around for it.” Johnny said.
“ Why don’t you tell us about this ranch, and your father?” Sister Josephine asked.
“ Don’t really know that much about my old man. Only been back at Lancer now just over a year. I guess you could say we are still getting to know each other.” Johnny responded. “ You know, if you want to make conversation to pass the time, you should ask Scott about growing up in Boston.” Johnny suggested.
“ But I thought Lancer was your home. How come you grew up in Boston?” Sister Margaret asked.
“ I was raised by my grandfather. My mother died giving birth to me in a wagon outside Carterville, California. My father, Murdoch had sent her away because of land pirates. Me and Johnny didn’t know about each other until we met almost two years ago when we both came home to Lancer at the same time.” Scott explained.
“ That had to be quit a shock to you both?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Yes ma’am it was. Teresa came to Morro Coyo to pick me up, and didn’t know Johnny was on the stage too.” Scott responded.
“ I hitched a ride about ten mile from Morro Coyo. When I climbed in, the stage took off again as I was sitting down next to him. There was a padre sitting on your left wasn’t there, and two men, and a woman sitting on the other side?”
“ Yes. He says to me ‘ Didn’t mean to mess up your outfit ‘, and I told him ‘ Can’t be helped.’ ” Scott said.
“ What did the two of you think of each other when you found out you were brothers?” Father Williams asked.
“ You mean when Teresa told us, I thought my father was crazy to have a son who dressed like Scott did. He was wearing a ruffled shirt, fancy pants, and a jacket to match. Oh and this weird looking round hat on his head.” Johnny said with a slight laugh.
“ It’s called a bowler hat Johnny.” Scott responded.
“ And what were you wearing then Johnny?” Father Williams asked.
“ A white shirt with embroidery on it, leather concho pants with silver conchos down the sides, and a leather bolero jacket with the hat I’m wearing.” Johnny replied.
“ He has this one shirt that is pink in color that he wears.” Scott said with a laugh.
“ It’s not pink, it was red, but has faded with time and is now a salmon color.” Johnny said.
“ It’s pink, trust me.” Scott said with a laugh.
“ When you learned you had a younger brother Scott, did it bother you knowing he had a very rough life below the border, and you didn’t growing up in Boston?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ My childhood isn’t Scott’s fault. We didn’t know about each other I told you until almost two years ago.” Johnny said with anger before kicking Barranca into a gallop.
“ It angered me. Mostly because my grandfather knew about Johnny, and didn’t tell me.” Scott said. “ Johnny was told by his mother that they were thrown out when he was only two. That was a lie. Our father searched for him until last year when Johnny came home. Teresa set him straight on what happened. How his mother took him away in the middle of the night, running off with some gambler. I hate that until last year when we learned about each other, I had a very easy, comfortable life, and my little brother was being abused amongst other things, and had to turn to using a gun to survive.”
“ I think perhaps we should either be silent, or talk about something else!” Mother Feltin suggested.
“ Mister Lancer, I’m sorry. I never meant to upset your brother.” Sister Josephine said. “ I was just making conversation.”
“ I don’t think it was you and the conversation as much as my little brother is worried about the four of you staying safe.” Scott responded.
“ We keep pushing these horses like we are, and they’re going to drop.” Wilson said. “ Madrid is riding with three women, he can’t go that fast.”
“ He has a day and a half head start on us. He’ll probably stop in Bakersfield, and when he does, I want to be there to kill that sonofabitch.” Butler spat.
“ You know damn well Madrid isn’t going to keep going into towns. Not with that much gold and only him and that sod-buster to guard it. Now come on Butler, use your head. We can get ahead of them and find a place to ambush him. We know where he’s headed.” Wilson suggested. “ You know this area, where would be a good place to ambush them?”
Butler reined his horse to a stop, and pulled out his chew, biting off a chunk. “ I figure they’ll pass real close to Los Banos, if not stop for supplies and maybe rest there before they cross the San Benito mountains, and go on up to San Francisco.”
“ Why would they cross the San Benito’s there?” Wilson asked.
“ It’s the easiest place to cross with three women riding horses.” Butler said.
“ Wait a minute. They’re not crossing there. Don’t you remember what that man said back in Barstow? What name he called that one sod-buster with Madrid?”
“ What the hell was that name?” Butler said.
“ He called him Scott Lancer.” Wilson responded.
“ The only Lancer in California is a huge spread in the San Joaquin called Lancer. Day Pardee and Sully tried to take possession of it with about thirty men a little over a year ago.” Butler said.
“ You know, that Lancer kid could bring us a lot of money.” Wilson suggested.
“ Yeah, extra cash after we kill Madrid and steal that gold.” Butler said. “ We’ll trade these nags off for fresh mounts in Bakersfield and ride on.”
“ Hold up Scott, Sister Josephine, your horse has a loose shoe.” Johnny said. “ Climb on down.” Johnny ordered as he dismounted.
Josephine climbed down and away from her horse as Scott came over and took the reins.
“ We probably should have stopped in Bakersfield and had all their shoes checked.” Sister Margaret said.
“ How far are we from a town with a blacksmith?” Father Williams asked.
“ Don’t need one.” Johnny said as he untied his saddlebags and walked over to Sister Josephine, handing them to her. “ Hold these for me please.”
“ What are you doing?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ He’s going to fix the shoe. It just needs re-nailed is all.” Scott said.
“ Scott, would you check the others for me?” Johnny asked as he started pulling the shoe off.
“ I guess you would have to know things like this to stay alive out here?” Sister Josephine asked.
“ Sister Margaret, Mother Feltin, let’s go sit in the shade while Johnny does what’s needed. It shouldn’t take long.” Scott suggested. “ The other riding horses are good. The pack horse has two loose shoes, both on the back.” Scott said.
“ Why do you go ahead and start on his then while I finish up here.” Johnny suggested.
“ I heard a horse has what they call a frog on the bottom of their foot. Is that true?” Sister Josephine asked.
“ Yep, that’s it right here. It sheds off twice a year and leaves the horse’s feet sore for a couple days.” Johnny explained as he showed her the bottom of the foot.
“ Does it hurt them when you cut off some of the hoof?” Sister Josephine asked.
“ Nope. You ever trim or file your nails?” Johnny asked.
“ I am not going to use a horse file on my nails.” Sister Josephine responded.
“ I don’t blame you. No, they have a small one for ladies to use. I know because I’ve seen Teresa using one.” Johnny said as he adjusted the shoe and started hammering a nail in.
“ If trimming them doesn’t hurt their feet. What about that, putting nails through the hoof?” she asked.
“ Nope. The nails are going through the lower part of the wall that you want to leave when you trim a horses feet. That’s why I’m hammering them in at a angle, then I twist off the remain nail and then run the file or rasp over it to smooth it down so it doesn’t scratch the other foot causing the horse to maybe go lame.” Johnny explained.
“ Who taught you so much about horses and stuff Johnny?” she asked softly.
“ Horses, I learned a lot from an old Mexican man I worked for and the rest from making mistakes or reading. You can learn a lot from a blacksmith too if you watch and or ask.” he responded.
“ That’s not the kind of stuff Mother Feltin wants a lady to learn.” Sister Josephine said.
“ Could end up saving your life some day if you’re out in a buggy.” Johnny said as he set the foot down, and straightened up.
“ Maybe you could show me around this ranch of yours while we are there?” she asked softly. “ How big is it?”
“ Maybe I will. I’m sure Teresa wouldn’t mind going along.” Johnny said. “ Lancer, it’s one hundred thousand acres. It’s the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley. We have twenty thousand head of cattle, and the finest Capanero d’ Palomino’s in the San Joaquin. There’s roughly five thousand mustangs running on Lancer in the hills. Barranca was one I broke.”
“ He’s a beautiful horse.” she said.
“ Sister Josephine, if Mister Lancer is done with your horse, I think you should go and sit in the shade now!” Mother Feltin suggested.
“ Thank you for teaching me something about horses Johnny.” Sister Josephine said before walking over to sit in the shade.
“ I will ask you this once. Please…… don’t succumb to her Johnny. She is very good at manipulating to get what she wants, her parents warned me she might try. You know what she is wanting, and you know a young girl such as her is very vulnerable at her age.” Mother Feltin explained.
“ I’ve had a couple girls younger than her in a …….”
“ Whore house? It’s alright to say it like it is to me John.” Mother Feltin cut in with a smile.
“ Yes ma’am. Now before you go thinking bad of me, hear me out. They couldn’t have been more than fifteen. I talked them out of it by telling them flat out how much it was gonna hurt them the first time. That most men don’t care, they just climb on, shove it in and hammer away. I thought I wanted to be one of them, to be the first to……….until I looked into their eyes and seen the fear. They didn’t want to be there. They were trying to get to their aunt, I flat told them how it was going to be, gave them some money, and put them on the next stage headed east.” Johnny said.
“ That was very noble of you to do.” she said.
“ I thought so until…….All they did was go to the next town and do the same thing. I was suckered by them It hasn’t happened again, and won’t.” Johnny said firmly with a touch of anger to his voice.
“ Are you a God fearing man Johnny?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Isn’t that a little strange to be asking someone who lives by his gun?” Johnny responded.
“ You said you have never broken the law, or killed anyone who didn’t try to kill you first. In fact, Scott has said you try your best to talk them out of fighting you because you don’t want to kill them.” Mother Feltin said
“ Scott talks to much sometimes.” Johnny said as he picked up his saddlebags and started walking toward Barranca.
“ So you don’t deny it?” Mother Feltin asked as she followed him.
“ No, I don’t deny it. I don’t like killing. Especially over something as stupid as a reputation.” Johnny responded.
“ Okay, then what is it you want now if not to live by a gun?”
“ To be a little brother to Scott, and the son of a rancher.” Johnny said as he walked around Barranca and faced her. “ I want my legacy to be that I was a man of character, I was a God fearing man and somebody who bettered the sport in terms of the way I represented the sport. But also that fact that I was a fierce competitor and fought the best in the world and was able to come out on top.”
“ I would say since you went home, that is exactly what you are doing.” Mother Feltin said as Scott walked over.
“ Johnny, the pack horses coffin bone is cracked all the way up.” Scott said.
Johnny went and looked at the horses hoof. “ Damn.”
“ Is that bad?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Yeah. Scott ride into Bakersfield and see if you can buy another pack horse. We’ll set up camp and get the gear off this one.” Johnny said.
“ Alright. I should be back before dark.” Scott said before swinging up in the saddle. “ Be careful.”
“ What are you going to do with this horse?” Sister Josephine asked.
“ Walk her out and put her down. There’s no way her hoof will mend, and keeping her alive would be cruel and painful.” Johnny responded. “ Why don’t you girls get some firewood gathered up for the night while I take care of the horses.” he suggested.
“ I’ll help you unsaddle the horses Johnny.” Father Williams said.
Father Williams set the coffee pot on a flat rock in the fire to heat the coffee when Johnny walked past, leading the pack horse.
“ Are you sure you have to do this Johnny?” Sister Josephine asked.
“ I’m sure. Look at her hoof now with the shoe off. It’s split open and bleeding now. I’m sorry, but sometimes we have to do things that seem cruel.” he responded before walking off, leading the horse.
“ It’s not an easy thing he has to do Sisters. Johnny has to look that horse in the face as he aims and pulls the trigger. His shot has to be precise, or the animal will suffer before it finally dies.” Father Williams explained.
“ I have to agree with Father Williams. I had to shoot one of our horses when I was just thirteen years old back in Pennsylvania. He broke a leg when out plowing. Stepped in a badger hole. I can still see his face as he looked at me before I pulled the trigger.” Sister Margaret said.
“ Excuse me.” Sister Josephine said as she stood up, holding her hand to her mouth.
“ Do you want I should go with her Mother Feltin?” Sister Margaret asked.
“ No. Let her be for a bit. She just earned a valuable lesson about living out here.” Father Williams said firmly. “ I’m sorry Mother Feltin, but if you keep coddling the girls, trying to shield them from the way life is in the west, you’re doing them more harm than good. Most likely Johnny will find her on his walk back and talk to her.”
“ Here’s the bill a sale on the horse. Like I said, she’s a good horse. You’re pretty brave to leave that pack horse out there alone mister. Someone could come along and steal you bind of all your grub and such.” the man said as he handed Scott the piece of paper.
“ There’s someone with the horse. I’m much obliged to you.” Scott responded.
“ Hey mister, I don’t like to get in others business, but you seem like a nice fella so I’m gonna tell ya. Yesterday two fellas rode into town and left those two horses out back. They traded them for two fresh mounts. Said they were headed to some small town in the San Joaquin. They just about rode those two into the ground, and they’re young horses.” the livery man explained.
“ You get a name on the bill of sale?” Scott asked.
“ Sure did, but I already knew who they were. William Butler and Charlie Wilson. Nothing but trouble those two. Death is always around them.” the man said before heading back inside the livery.
“ Damn!” Scott said as he mounted up and headed to the telegraph office to send a wire to Murdoch, before heading out of town.
Johnny heard the unmistakable sound of someone crying as he walked back to camp, coming from the rocks on his left. Following the sound, he found Sister Josephine sitting on a rock with her arms wrapped around herself, crying.
“ You alright?” Johnny asked as he walked up, removed his kerchief, and handed it to her.
“ Thank you.” Sister Josephine said as she took the kerchief and dabbed her tears,
“ Wanna talk about it?” Johnny asked as he sat down on the rock next to her.
“ I guess I just got all caught up in what you had to just do, and Father Williams telling me how you had to look the poor horse in the eyes to make sure your shot was true so they wouldn’t suffer.” she explained between sobs. “ Then Sister Margaret tells us about how she had to shoot a horse when she was thirteen back in Pennsylvania.” she added as she started to shake uncontrollably and sob harder.
Johnny reached his left arm around her, pulling her into a comfort hug. “ You go ahead and cry. I got a feeling it’s long overdue for you to do.”
Sister Josephine turned and pressed her head into Johnny’s left shoulder as he comforted her. After about ten minutes she started to stop trembling. “ I….I’m sorry.” she said as she tried to get her emotions under control.
“ Hey, look at me, you have nothing to be sorry for okay. Don’t ever apologize for caring.” Johnny said softly.
“ Can I ask you something?” she asked.
“ Sure.” Johnny responded.
“ If I wasn’t…you know, would you have refused my advances back at the fort?” she asked.
“ We need to get back to camp before dark.” Johnny said as he slid down off the rock and offered her a hand to get down.
“ Thank you. Are you not going to answer my question?” she asked.
“ Maybe if you were more mature and older I would be. I don’t really care for girls who are in too much of a hurry to grow up fast.” Johnny responded. “ You want me to make you a woman so you can claim to be all grown up. Well let me tell you something Josephine, sex doesn’t make you grown up. You don’t have a clue what it is that makes you grown up, and I’m not going to be manipulated into taking your innocence…….”
“ Who says I’m innocent. I’ve been with a man before, several times in fact.” Sister Josephine cut in.
Johnny grabbed her by the arms. “ Stop with the lies okay. I could tell right away back at the fort in the barn you have never had a man kiss or touch you like I did. You’ve never felt a mans hardness between your legs, pressing against you as he undresses you to get what he wants. You’re just a spiteful, manipulative spoiled little girl who wants to grow up faster than her brain or body.”
“ Shut up!” Sister Josephine ordered with anger. “ You know nothing about me or what I’ve done.”
“ What’s the matter, the truth hurt?” Johnny asked.
Sister Josephine slapped Johnny hard across the face. “ You go to hell.” she said between clenched teeth.
“ I’ve already been there.” Johnny said as he yanked her to him. “ You ever hit me again and it will be the biggest mistake you ever make.” he said firmly before shoving her back away from him.
“ That will be enough John.” Father Williams said as he walked over to them. “ Sister Josephine, I think you should get back with the others now.”
“ Gladly to get away from that bastard.” she said as she started walking away.
“ That girl has a lot of spent up anger for something inside her.” Johnny said.
“ I fear you’re right. Someone or something has happened in her past to make her angry like she is.” Father Williams said. “ What I can’t figure out though is just what it could be, because she isn’t like that all the time.”
“ Just when I turn her down.” Johnny added.
“ Maybe when we get to your ranch to rest before we go on, maybe there you can find out just what it is without the worry of Mother Feltin finding out.” Father Williams suggested.
“ Mother Feltin is not a woman I would care to cross, but she has been coddling the girl instead of being stricter with her.” Johnny said as they started to walk back to camp.
“ Perhaps you can find out before those two come to blows for I fear that will be something I nor anyone will be able to stop.” Father Williams said as they reached camp.
“ Is everything alright?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Yeah, everything’s fine.” Johnny responded. “ I do have something to say, and I really don’t care who I piss off saying it. Mother Feltin, you need to stop coddling these girls so much. If they’re going to survive out here, they need to toughen up a hell of a lot more than they are. You need
“ Now see here Mister Lancer, how dare you speak to us like this.” Mother Feltin cut in.
“ Easy.” Johnny snapped back. “Sister Margaret, don’t you think it was a bit inappropriate to tell of your experience at fourteen of how you had to shoot a horse when it’s pretty clear Sister Josephine wasn’t handling what I had to do to the pack horse to well. Don’t you think a comforting hand or even a shoulder to cry on would have been a hell of a lot better? Mother Feltin, I have respect for you and what you want to do with these girls, but you better start realizing things are much different west of the Mississippi river. I suggest the next time you want to travel across country with ten thousand dollars in gold coins, you hire the army to escort you, or better yet, have the damn money wired to the church from a bank.” Johnny said firmly. “ Sister Josephine, I suggest you think real hard about what I said out there to you.”
Scott reached camp just after dark with the new pack horse. “ Coffee’s hot.” Johnny said. “ Want some?”
“ Yeah. I had an Interesting chat with the livery man before I left.” Scott said as he took the hot cup of coffee.
“ Let me guess, Wilson and Butler had been there?” Johnny asked.
“ Yeah. They just about rode their horses into the ground getting there yesterday. They traded them off for two fresh mounts and some cash. The old man said they said they were headed to the San Joaquin, and had to get there fast. I sent a wire to Murdoch telling him so he can let the law know.”
“ That means they’re ahead of us now. They could ambush us anywhere on the trail between here and your ranch!” Mother Feltin said.
“ Murdoch is good friends with the governor of the state and some judges. We’ll ride to Fort Miller and have an army detail escort us the rest of the way to Lancer.” Scott said.
“ The army! You mean to tell me you want us to ride to Fort Miller and ask for a detail to escort us to Lancer?” Johnny asked.
“ Johnny, you know as well as I do, the army knows our father, and they will do it. These women and Father Williams deserve to be a little more at ease in their travel.” Scott responded.
“ Maybe you should have thought about it a little more before you went and volunteered us to escort them.” Johnny snapped back.
“ I did what I thought was right and you know it Johnny. We couldn’t leave them there to die.” Scott said.
“ I know…..I know okay.” Johnny said before walking off toward the horses.
“ We had a little incident while you were gone Scott. I’m afraid your brother has every right to be upset right now.” Father Williams said.
“ What incident?” Scott asked.
“ If your brother wishes to tell you, that’s fine. Otherwise it will remain where it is.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ Murdoch, you’re back late. I was starting to worry.” Teresa said.
“ I had to ride to Stockton, and talk to the Marshal.” Murdoch responded.
“ The Marshal, why?” she asked.
I got a wire from Scott.” he said as they walked into the house.
“ It’s about time. When will they be home?” Teresa asked.
“He didn’t say for sure. He said to watch out for two men named Charlie Wilson and William Butler.I rode to Stockton and let the Marshal know they might be headed this way.” Murdoch responded.
“ Who are they?” she asked.
“ Trouble in the worst way.” Murdoch said.
“ You know them?” she asked.
“ I know of them, and it’s not good if they’re coming here. You can bet it’s Johnny they’re after.” Murdoch said.
“ Johnny, why?” Teresa asked.
“ Why else, he’s a gunfighter, and they’re gunfighters.” Murdoch responded as he walked over to the sideboard and poured a drink.
“ Murdoch, Johnny isn’t a gunfighter anymore, and hasn’t been since he came back. You know that. He wants to live a normal life, here, as your son, and Scott’s brother. There has to be another reason those two are coming here. Maybe Scott couldn’t say why in the wire.”
“ You’re probably right. Something delayed them in being home over a week ago. I just wish I knew what the devil it is.” Murdoch responded.
“ Wouldn’t it be uncanny if Scott and Johnny were helping the Missionaries?” Teresa asked.
“ I’m sorry, what did you say?” Murdoch asked as he went to his desk to sit down.
“ The Missionaries. Father Thomas told me about them yesterday. He said they are coming from San Antonio, and are going to San Francisco.” Teresa explained.
“ You seemed a little upset when you came home from the orphanage yesterday. Care to talk about it?” Murdoch asked.
“ Jesse and Callie both got adopted. Father Thomas took them to their new home Monday.” Teresa said with sadness.
“ Well I would think you would be happy they found someone to adopt them both and give them a stable, loving home.” Murdoch said as he stood up.
“ I am. It’s just that I had gotten so use to working with Jesse. She has come a long way since that shy little girl I first seen.” Teresa said.
Murdoch walked over and put his arms around her. “ What you did for Jesse, you should be proud of doing. I know I am very proud of you young lady.” Murdoch said as he hugged her. “ You are going to be a great mother some day.”
“ I wouldn’t count on that happening anytime soon. None of the boys around here interest me the slightest. Most of them only see Lancer and think they will be rich if they marry me.” Teresa said with a laugh.
“ Well then, you will just have to look outside the valley maybe. You deserve a man to love you Teresa.” Murdoch said as they started to the kitchen.
“ Enter!” Major Green yelled.
“ Begging your pardon Major, but there are some people who just rode in, and are requesting to see you sir.” Sergeant Henley said.
“ Requesting to see me! Who are they?” Major John Green asked as he stood up and walked over to his window. “ I don’t know them.” the major said as he headed to the door, and outside. “ What’s your business here?”
“ Major, I’m Scott Lancer, and this is my brother Johnny Lancer. I believe you know our father, Murdoch Lancer?” Scott said as he dismounted. “ May we go inside and speak in private sir?”
“ Of course, step into my office.” the major responded.
“ Do you wish to go inside with us, or wait out here?” Scott asked.
“ We will wait out here with the horses.” Father Williams responded.
“ Can I offer either of you a cup of coffee?” the major asked.
“ No thank you sir.” Scott responded.
“ So, what can I do for you?” the major asked.
“ We need a security detail sir.” Scott responded.
“ Security detail for what?” the major demanded.
“ The people we rode in with are Missionaries sir. They are going to San Francisco. We’ve already been attacked in Arizona, and the Bishop, and two Sisters were killed.” Scott explained.
“ We have some men who have been following us. Now, our old man is very good friends with the Governor.” Johnny cut in.
“ I don’t care if your father does know the Governor of California. I can’t assign a detail to guard those people to San Francisco.”
“ Look, what if we had our old man meet us at Panoche. That’s roughly a days ride from here. Our father can escort us over the San Benito mountains the rest of the way to Lancer.” Scott suggested. “ Now unless you want reassigned to some fort out in the middle of nowhere with just Indians Major, I suggest you do your civic duty and help us escort these people.”
“ Don’t come on my fort and threaten me boy.” Major Green said.
“ Perhaps you have heard of General Phil Sheridan? I was his first in command during the war.” Scott said.
Major Green glared at Scott a few minutes before looking at the rest of the group.“ Alright, Sergeant Henley, form a security detail to escort the Lancer’s and their party to Panoche. Have them ready to leave at first light.” Major Green ordered.
“Yes sir. Would you like I should make arrangements for the three ladies to be able to sleep tonight?” Sergeant Henley asked.
“ They can all sleep in the infirmary. There’s enough beds and privacy for the ladies. See to it Sergeant.” Major Green ordered.
“ Do you have a telegraph here at the fort Major?” Johnny asked.
“ Afraid not. Closest one is in Fresno, seven mile from here.” the major responded.
“ You stay here Scott, I’ll go send a wire to the old man and request a reply from him.” Johnny said.
“ You sure that’s wise brother?” Scott asked with concern.
“ It’ll be fine. I don’t want to be here with……..I’ll see you in the morning Scott.” Johnny said before walking outside, followed by Scott, Sergeant Henley, and Major Green.
Johnny walked out of the telegraph office and headed to the saloon. The proprietor of the telegraph office knew he was to bring a reply to him as soon as it came in. Stopping at the saloon bat-winged doors, Johnny glanced around before stepping inside and over to the table to his left in the corner that permitted him to see who came and went both upstairs, and the front, and back entrances.
“ What’ll it be handsome?” a. older woman asked as she picked up the two empty beer mugs from the table.
“ Shot of tequila, and a beer to start.” Johnny responded.
“ Coming right up.” the woman said before leaving.
Johnny removed his hat and hung it from the back of his chair by the stampede strap. Running his left hand through his hair as the woman came back with his order and a bowl of cut limes and another of salt.
“ We serve really good steak and potato’s if you’re hungry.” the woman said as she set his drinks down.
“ Got anything hot back there?” Johnny asked.
“ If you mean hot as in spicy, owner doesn’t care for spicy food being cooked here. Fact is, he’s losing a lot of money, but who am I to say.” the woman said.
“ Guess it’s steak and potato’s then.” Johnny responded.
“ I’ll have that out to you in a few.” she said before heading to the kitchen.
An hour later the woman came and picked up Johnny’s empty plate. “ How was it?” she asked.
“ Good, real good. Thanks. Tell your cook, he did a nice job on that steak.” Johnny responded.
“ He better. He’s my kid brother. Our mom taught us both how to cook. She used to say, If you kids are going to make it in this world after she’s gone, then cooking is the way. Know why she said that to us?” she asked. “ Because everybody has to eat. That’s a fact that will never go away. You want another beer?”
“ Sure, and bring me another shot of tequila, and here’s something to get yourself a shot.” Johnny said as he tossed the coins on her tray for the meal and drinks. “ What time you get off work?” he asked.
“ Whenever the joint closes. Pretty slow night, so I’d say we will be closing around midnight. I’ll go get your drinks.”
“ Now who the devil could that be?” Murdoch said as he walked to the front door and opened it.
“ Murdoch, but I got a wire from Johnny, and he needs a reply as soon before morning.”.” Ben said as he handed the wire to Murdoch.
“ What is it? Has something happened to the boys Murdoch?” Teresa asked as she walked down the hall toward them, drying her hands.
“ Morning?” Murdoch said aloud as he took the wire and began to read it.
“ Murdoch?” Teresa said.
“ Ben, when you get back to town, send a wire telling Johnny I will be there with help.” Murdoch responded. “ Oh Walt, I need to see you and Frank in the house. Have someone take care of Ben’s horse and saddle him a fresh mount to ride back to town.”
“ Sure thing Mister Lancer.” Walt responded.
“ I’ll send the wire as soon as I get back Murdoch, and don’t you worry about me saying anything to anyone about what that wire says.” Ben said before turning to follow Walt.
“ Murdoch, what’s going on?” Teresa asked with worry.
“ We know now why the boys are delayed in coming home. It would seem you are correct young lady. Scott and Johnny are helping those missionaries you told me about earlier. Johnny said they are having an army escort as far as Panoche, where he wants us to meet them and provide security to Lancer.”
“ Security to Lancer. I don’t understand. If they are helping the Missionaries, why do they need an army escort and you?” Teresa asked.
“ Whatever the reason, the need it, and we will be there to help them.” Murdoch responded.
“ I’ll put together food for you and the men. How many will be going with you?” Teresa asked as Walt and Frank came in the veranda doors.
“ “ I need the two of you and one more hand to be ready to ride at first light.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Pete’s a good man. I’ll let him know.” Walt said.
“ Teresa will put together some food for us. I imagine the boys will have a pack horse with supplies, so just your bedrolls, rifle and handgun. I’ll be sure and bring plenty of ammunition just in case.”
“ Extra ammunition, does this have to do with Johnny, Mister Lancer?” Frank asked.
“ I don’t know Frank.” Murdoch responded.
“ Alright, we’ll be ready sir.” Frank said before he and Walt turned and left.
Johnny rode into Fort Miller just as the sun was starting to break on the horizon. The Missionaries and his brother were already mounted and waiting on Captain Godfrey, and Sergeant Henley. A first sergeant and three privates stood ready in front of their mounts as he rode up to his brother.
“ You look like you had a good night brother.” Scott said.
“ That I did. Murdoch will meet us there.” Johnny responded. “ Good morning sisters. Mother Feltin, you look rested, as do you too Father Williams.”
“ Glad to see you in a better mood today Johnny.” Father Williams said.
“ Amazing what a night with a mature woman can do.” Johnny said as he looked directly at Sister Josephine.
“ Mister Lancer, please refrain from speaking in that manner around me and Sister Margaret.” Sister Josephine said with a cold stare as Captain Godfrey and Sergeant Henley came out.
“ Lancer, did you get an answer from your father?” the captain asked as he mounted his horse.
“ Mount up.” the sergeant ordered.
“ I did. He’ll be there.” Johnny said.
“ Good…..Sergeant, let’s go.” the captain ordered as he started out.
“ I have plenty of cold roast beef sandwiches and hard boiled eggs for you and the men.” Teresa said as she closed up the saddlebags. “ I put bandages and some other medical supplies in this one, just in case you would need it. Johnny didn’t say how many Missionaries there are with them did he?”
“ No he didn’t sweetheart.” Murdoch said as Frank and Walt came into the kitchen.
“ Take these saddlebags out. I’ll be out in a few minutes.” Murdoch said.
“ Walt, the saddlebags you have are full of medical supplies. The other two are full of hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches for all of you.” Teresa said.
“ Thank you Miss Teresa.” Walt said as he picked up the saddlebags and headed outside.
“ How long until you’re back with the boys?” Teresa asked.
“ A days hard ride we should be in Panoche. I imagine it will take a little longer coming back with the women.” he responded as he closed up the saddlebag he put extra ammunition in and picked up. “ Maria is going to stay with you until we get back. Cipriano will be here.”
“ Will you stop worrying about me. I’ll be fine Murdoch. Go help Scott and Johnny come home safely.” Teresa said as they walked out the front door.
Murdoch fastened his saddlebags, turned and gave Teresa a hug before mounting up. “ We’ll be back in three days.”
“ Captain Godfrey, the women are asking to take a break.” Scott said.
“ Very well Lancer. There’s a couple cottonwoods up ahead that will give the ladies some shade. Will an hour be a long enough rest?” the captain asked.
“ Yes sir it will.” Scott responded. “ Thank you.”
“ Very well. Sergeant Henley, prepare the men to break for lunch.” Captain Godfrey ordered.
“ We don’t have time to cook a meal, so beef jerky and water will have to do for lunch I’m afraid.” Scott said as he pulled a sack out of his saddlebag and handed it to Mother Feltin. “ You can suck on the jerky for just the juice and flavor, or you can eat it.”
“ Jerky is always a good thing to have with you. Out here, you can’t always find game to kill.” Johnny added as he dismounted, pushed his hat back to hang from the stampede strap, and began to loosen the cinch. He could see Sister Josephine watching his every move. Ground tying Barranca, Johnny walked over to sit on a rock.
“ Care for some jerky Johnny?” Father Williams asked.
“ Thanks, but no, I’m good.” Johnny responded.
“ You know, I have to say, you have come a long way from being that boy I knew at the orphanage.” Father Williams said.
“ Everybody grows up Father. Just that some have to sooner than others.” Johnny responded.
“ Yes, and sadly, those who do, never get the childhood they deserve.” Father Williams said.
“ Yeah well that may be true for people like Scott growing up, but not me. You forget I’m a half-breed, and my kind isn’t really liked or wanted.” Johnny said before standing up.
“ Can I ask why you have so much anger inside you?” Father Williams asked.
“ Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t!” Johnny demanded.
“ Because it’s not who you are. Maybe a while ago, but not now. Now I see a caring, loving man standing before me. A man I am proud to know, and call my friend.” Father Williams responded as the Captain walked over to them.
“ I know who you are, and it isn’t Lancer.” the captain said.
“ Captain Godfrey, I was born a Lancer over eighteen years ago.” Johnny responded.
“ I seen you down in Nogales once. I watched you gun down two of the best. Only your name wasn’t Johnny Lancer, it was Johnny Madrid.” the captain said.
“ I go by Johnny Lancer now Captain Godfrey. Don’t judge my story by the chapter you walked in on. Because you know nothing about me.” Johnny said firmly before walking away.
“ I know he’s lying to me. His kind always do.” the captain said.
“ I appreciate what you are doing Captain Godfrey, But there’s something you need to realize, or maybe you do, and just don’t care. There’s a story behind every person. There’s a reason why they’re the way they are. Think about that before you go judging someone.” Father Williams said before walking back over to the group.
“ You alright?” Scott asked.
“ He knows who I am Scott, and he doesn’t like it.” Johnny responded.
“ Who, Captain Godfrey? Don’t let it bother you. Who you are only matters to those who care about you Johnny.” Scott said. “ You’re being judged no matter what, so be who you want to be.”
“ You never had to make a living by a gun Scott. You’ve never had people judge you every single day of your life because of the color of your eyes.” Johnny said harshly.
“ We reach the top, we’ll give the horses an hour rest before we start down.” Murdoch said.
“ The east side of this pass is much easier to go down. Do you think the women will be able to handle a horse going over this Mister Lancer?” Frank asked.
“ If not, they can walk, or we can lead their horses.” Murdoch responded.
“ What about if we double up, have them ride with us, especially down the pass?” Walt suggested.
“ I’m sure Scott, and Johnny have told them about the pass condition.” Murdoch responded. As he stopped and dismounted. “ Listen, have any of you men heard of two men named Charlie Wilson and William Butler?”
“ I have. Those two are just about as bad as they come for gunfighters. Wilson, he likes to shoot his victim in the back and then walk up and kill them. Butler, he likes to wound his victim before he walks up to them and spits tobacco in their eyes, right before he shoots them in the head.” Walt responded. “ They run southern Arizona and New Mexico, why you asking about them Mister Lancer?”
“ The boys mentioned they are coming here, to Morro Coyo possibly.” Murdoch responded.
“ They after Johnny you think?” Frank asked.
“ Why would two gunfighters be after your son mister Lancer?” Pete asked.
Murdoch looked at the man, Walt and Frank both liked the man. Both said he’s a hard worker. Even his sons liked him. “ Johnny didn’t live at Lancer until almost two years ago Pete. He grew up below the border in Mexico, under a different name. It’s that name those two might be after to kill.”
“ Name, what name?” Pete asked.
“ Mister Lancer’s youngest son is Johnny Madrid.” Frank said.
“ Johnny Madrid……………..holy smokes. Are you serious?” Pete asked.
“ Unfortunately yes. He’s come home and wants o live a life as a ranchers son. He doesn’t want to live by his gun anymore.” Murdoch responded. “ Unfortunately there are some out there that want him dead so they can have his damn reputation.” he added with anger.
“ There isn’t a man on Lancer who wouldn’t back Johnny up at any time. He’s a damn good person.” Walt said.
“ Count me as one of them. I like Johnny, Scott too Mister Lancer.” Pete said.
“ Thank you. Let’s eat some lunch before we head down to Panoche.” Murdoch suggested.
“ What the hell we gonna do now Butler?” Wilson demanded. “ Madrid is riding with the damn army. There’s no way we can get that gold, or him now.”
“ You’re afraid of those blue bellies, then ride on. Otherwise, shut the hell up and let me think.” Butler ordered. “ Those blue bellies are from Fort Miller.”
“ So.” Wilson said.
“ So……they won’t be crossing the San Benitos. Most likely they’re just escorting them to Panoche.” Butler responded. “ Madrid won’t have them when they ride into Morro Coyo.”
“ I don’t give a damn about that gold. I want Madrid.” Wilson said.
“ You’ll have Madrid in Morro Coyo. We’ll be there ahead of them and find the perfect spot to kill him.” Butler said.
“ It’s not much of a town. I don’t know if there is anything here for the women, but this is Panoche.” Captain Godfrey said.
“ We’re only going to stay here long enough to meet up with our father.” Scott responded.
“ The livery will be adequate enough. It’s practically a ghost town.” Johnny added. “ Food and water for the horses, and the women can rest.”
“ I thought we would……..”
“ The horses will need rest when Murdoch gets here Scott. They had farther to go and the pass to go over.” Johnny cut in.
“ Have you given any thought as to the women riding over the pass Lancer?” Captain Godfrey asked. “The other side is pretty steep for a woman to be riding a horse down.”
“ These women have more than proved they can ride Captain Godfrey.” Johnny responded firmly.
“ You know Madrid, the day I read that someone killed you, I think I will celebrate with a drink.” Captain Godfrey said. “ Sergeant Henley, have the men set up camp outside town away from the livery.” he ordered.
“ Captain Godfrey!” Mother Feltin yelled as she rode over to him. “ What you just said to Mister Lancer is wrong. For a man of your stature has no business speaking so of a man who has done nothing wrong.”
“ Lady, I know his kind all too well. Madrid is nothing but a killer, and always will be until the day he burns in hell.” the captain said before turning his horse to ride away, ending the conversation.
“ Judging a person does not define who they are captain. It defines who you are.” Mother Feltin yelled.
Father Williams stared at Mother Feltin a moment. “ Well said.” he said finally.
“ I see what you mean about not wanting to get on her bad side brother. That woman has a temper and is not someone to be reckoned with.” Scott said.
“ No she’s not. You get the women settled. I’m gonna go have a look around.” Johnny responded.
“ Begging you pardon Captain Godfrey, but your behavior toward Mister Lancer?” Sergeant Henley said.
“ What I said is my feelings. Any man who makes a living by a gun killing innocent people for money, that person deserves to burn in hell for their actions.” Captain Godfrey said with hatred.
“ With all due respect Captain. Johnny Madrid has never crossed the line and committed murder. He has always helped the poor or ones in the right. He’s even helped the army in Arizona. Major Mason thinks very highly of the man. Madrid saved his life. Peasants in Mexico think of him as their savior.” Sergeant Henley responded.
“ And the Rurales have a price on his head below the border Sergeant, so don’t tell me Madrid is a saint. He’s killed countless Rurales, and will pay for it one day.” the captain spat.
“ Your hatred is going to get you killed one day Captain.” Sergeant Henley said before walking away.
“ Hard to believe you used to be a lawman.” Johnny said as he watched his father ride right past him.
Murdoch stopped, and turned his horse around. “ Johnny.” he said with enthusiasm. “ What the devil are you doing here son?”
“ Looking for you.” Johnny said as he reined Barranca in next to his father.
“ Would you care to fill us in on what is going on son?” Murdoch asked.
“ That’s why I rode out to meet you., Frank, Walt, Pete, good to see you boys again.” Johnny said as they started toward town. “ We stumbled upon these Missionaries just south of Phoenix. They had been robbed and one of their wagon horses killed. While I was cutting the dead horse free and rigging up a three horse hitch, Scott agreed to help them reach San Francisco. Course that was before we knew what they had in a compartment under the seat. It was Red Jack’s gang that hit them the first time, and then found out what they missed. It was one of his gang members who ambushed us and killed Sisters Emaline and, Alexina. We buried their bodies at Fort Parker, two weeks ago.” Johnny explained.
“ How much are they carrying son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Ten thousand dollars.” Johnny responded. “In gold coins. The army escort doesn’t know about it. They’re taking the gold to San Francisco de Asis.”
“ I take it you and Scott will be going all the way with them to San Francisco?” Murdoch asked.
“ Unless you have a better solution. To tell the truth, I would rather deal with ornery cows, or break horses than do this. Me and Scott haven’t had a solid night’s sleep since we met up with them. We planned on giving them a couple days rest at Lancer before going on. Mother Feltin, she wants to go into Green River and send a wire to the church letting them know they’re still coming.” Johnny responded.
“ Forgive me for asking this son, but I have to know. What about Charlie Wilson and William Butler, are they after you or the gold?” Murdoch asked.
“ Both. Already had an altercation with them in Barstow. The sheriff and his deputy helped us out there. But Scott learned they are now ahead of us, headed to Morro Coyo.” Johnny responded.
“ Johnny, you got plenty of friends that will back you up. You just say the word.” Pete said.
“ Thanks Pete. Did you tell them?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes son I did. I also told Pete about your other name you are known by.” Murdoch responded.
“ So as far as we know, Wilson and Butler are the only two that know about the gold?” Frank asked.
“ How did they find out about it Johnny?” Walt asked.
“ They roughed up the livery man, and the bank manager in Barstow. That’s why the sheriff held them in jail when we left there. Scott had to go into Fresno to get a new pack horse, and learned they had been there and got two fresh horses. The old man told Scott they said they had to get to Morro Coyo fast.” Johnny explained. “ Wilson likes to shoot his victims in the back before walking up to them when they’re down, and killing them. Butler, he’s the worst of the two. He’s good, damn good. When he shoots, it’s to wound, then he walks up to his victim, spits tobacco juice in their eyes, and then shooting them in the head.”
“ Can you take him Johnny?” Frank asked.
“ If it comes down to it, I don’t know. Like I said, he’s fast Frank, Real fast.” Johnny responded.
“ You know, Teresa has been helping Father Thomas at the orphanage three times a week until the new teacher arrives. She told me that Father Thomas had told her about these Missionaries coming from San Antonio.” Murdoch said. “ Son, if Father Thomas knows about them………”
“ Then others might know about them also. Damn it.” Johnny said with anger. “ You know old man, I’ve hired out my gun to a lot of jobs, but this one. I have never had a job where something that is supposed to be secret, is known by more people than all the San Joaquin.”
“ You thinking maybe someone in San Antonio said something after they left there son?” Murdoch asked.
“ How else would Father Thomas know! Morro Coyo is a long ways from San Antonio Murdoch.” Johnny responded.
“ Well, we can ask him when we get back. He’s been coming by for supper on Saturdays since Teresa started helping him out.” Murdoch said.
“ That’s the army camped for the night over there. Scott and the Missionaries are in the livery barn. Only place the women could have some privacy, and make getting at the gold harder.” Johnny said.
“ That smells delicious Mother Feltin.” Scott said.
“ Thank you. It will be ready shortly. Where did Johnny get off too?” she asked.
“ He said he was going to check the area out, and I imagine he’ll ride out and meet our father.” Scott responded.
“ Mister Lancer, there’s five riders coming in. I think the one is Johnny.” Father Williams said from the hay loft.
Scott grabbed his Henry rifle and went to the barn door to see. Smiling when he seen it was his brother, and father riding in with Walt, Frank, and Pete.
“ Scott, it’s good to see you son.” Murdoch said as he rode up and dismounted.
“ And you as well sir.” Scott responded as he shook his fathers hand. “ It’s been a long time.”
“ Your brother filled us in on what’s going on.” Murdoch said as he stretched his back muscles.
“ I had a feeling he would ride out an meet you.” Scott responded. “ Mother Feltin has supper just about ready if you want to go in with Johnny and meet everyone while I take care of your horse.” he suggested.
“ It pleases me that Johnny has found his family, and that he has an older brother.” Father Williams said.
“ You talk too much.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to the corral fence.
“ I’m sorry, but did you know my son before?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes, I was one of the men in charge of the orphanage in Mexico, when Johnny came to stay.” Father Williams responded.
Murdoch stood up and started toward Father Williams, only to be stopped by Johnny. “ It wasn’t him old man.” Johnny said softly. “ Father Williams never laid a hand on me while I was there. It was Father Martin who beat me.”
“ Forgive me Father Williams. My son has scars no man should have. Some of which he got while in that orphanage.” Murdoch said.
“ Apology is not necessary Mister Lancer. You can imagine the shock when I realized it was Johnny who rode up to us. When he left the orphanage, I never thought I would see him again. It does my heart good to know he has grown into a fine caring man.” Father Williams responded.
“ John Joseph Williams, you talk to damn much.” Johnny said as he tossed his coffee and set the cup down before walking outside.
“ He is a proud young man, who sadly does not know how to receive a compliment very well Mister Lancer.” Father Williams said as he watched Johnny walk outside.
“ The life he lived before coming home Father Williams, is why Gunfighter’s are not respected or liked. At least not until they are needed.” Scott added.
“ Can I ask where it is you have traveled from, and why you are going to San Francisco?” Murdoch asked.
“ The seven of us came from Mission San Francisco de la Espada in San Antonio, and we are going to Mission San Francisco de Asis in San Francisco Mister Lancer. We are going there to help Father Richard Brennan with converting the local Indians to Christianity. The gold is to buy medicine, food and supplies that cannot be grown on the church grounds. For however long it will last. Father Thomas Cushing in San Antonio entrusted me to deliver the gold to the church, and that is what I fully intend on doing.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ Yeah, at the cost of Sister’s Alexina and Emaline.” Sister Margaret said.
“ And Bishop Montgomery.” Sister Josephine added. “ The three of them paid the ultimate price for that precious gold.” she added sarcastically.
“ Sister Josephine, you are treading on thin ice, need I remind you of manners?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ With the way she’s been carrying on about Johnny, I mean Mister Lancer, trying to get him to make her a woman, she needs a good thrashing out behind the wood shed.” Sister Margaret said.
“ That will be enough of that kind of talk young lady.” Mother Feltin ordered. “ I apologize for their behavior Mister Lancer. The sisters talking like that is prohibited.”
“ Has Johnny done anything inappropriate around you ladies?” Murdoch asked.
“ Johnny has been a perfect gentleman around the women sir.” Scott cut in. “ You thinking otherwise is wrong.”
“ I asked because I know how your brother is with women.” Murdoch responded.
“ And just how an I with women old man?” Johnny said from the barn door. “ I don’t remember you ever being with me when I’m around any women, except Teresa or Maria.”
“ What I meant was you’re young.” Murdoch stumbled.
“ Let’s get something perfectly clear old man. I only bed women who want me too, and I never mistreat them. Sister Josephine has been trying to get me to make her a woman ever since the fort at Camp Parker.” Johnny said before walking over and grabbing his bedroll and rifle. “ I’ll bed down in the shack at the end of town that still has a roof. It’s going to rain tonight Scott, so watch the stock don’t spook from the lightening.”
“ You just couldn’t wait to start assuming the worst of him again could you?” Scott asked as he watched his brother walk away.
“ I never intended for it to go like that son. You know how me and Johnny bicker over just about everything.” Murdoch responded.
“ Yes sir I do. I also know that most of the time, It’s not Johnny who starts that bickering.” Scott said before turning and walking out to the corral.
“ As you can see, having two sons who never grew up at Lancer is a challenge I guess you could say.” Murdoch said. “ We’re getting to know each other still, and sometimes me and Johnny don’t get along.”
“ With someone like Johnny, you have to take a firm hand when they have had no proper upbringing Mister Lancer.” Mother Feltin said.
“ Ma’am, I just met you, so I don’t really know anything about you, so I will be as nice as I can be about saying this to you. Johnny has manners, ad is very smart for someone not having the schooling any of us have had. He may have lived by his gun, but that doesn’t make him a fool. In fact, if anyone here is a fool, it’s us.” Murdoch said before heading to the door, and walking outside.
Johnny spread his bedroll out on the floor in the corner to the right of the door before walking back outside and sitting down on the steps to listen to the coyotes in the distance, and stare at the stars. Without looking he knew it was his father walking over to him.
“ You need to work on sneaking up on people Murdoch.” he said.
“ I wasn’t sneaking up on you son. I know better than to do that. I’ve had the business end of that colt pointed at me once, I don’t care to ever again.” Murdoch responded. “ Can I sit with you?”
Johnny scooted over and allowed his father to sit next to him. “ Seems like me and you will always bicker about something.” he suggested.
“ Yeah, I guess we will, but you know, your brother said something after you left that got me to thinking on my walk over here.” Murdoch responded.
“ And just what did Boston say that got you to thinking?” Johnny asked.
“ Most of the time when we bicker, it’s me that causes it son. What was said earlier didn’t come out the way I had intended it to. I’m sorry.”Murdoch responded.
“ She won’t leave me alone. Whenever she gets a chance, she’s asking me to…….She want’s me to show her around Lancer. I told her I would, but with Teresa along. She wasn’t to happy about that.” Johnny explained. “ Mother Feltin said she is very manipulative and good at manipulating people into doing what she wants.”
“ Sounds like this young lady is going to find out the hard way from the wrong man son.” Murdoch responded.
“ The morning we left the fort, Mother Feltin had me take it so far with Josephine, to do just that. Murdoch, it made it worse I think. She was pissed at me for a couple days, but then started right back up again.”
“ I know you can take care of yourself, and I know you wouldn’t do anything with this young lady son…….but as your father, and you being underage still, I will put my foot down to her once we reach Lancer.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Just so you remember, I became a man a long time ago. Age has no bearing on the life I’ve had.” Johnny responded.
“ No it doesn’t, and I would have to say, my youngest has grown up to be one hell of a good man, and I am damn proud of you son.” Murdoch said as he put his left arm across Johnny’s shoulders.
“ Your father did not come back last night.” Father Williams said.
“ I expect he stayed with Johnny to allow him to get some sleep.” Scott responded.
“ Yes of course. I would imagine you both will be glad to be rid of us and the gold, and you can get on with your lives?” Father Williams asked.
“ Father, I can’t really speak for my brother, but if I had to do it all over again, I would. Granted traveling from San Antonio to San Francisco with ten thousand dollars in gold coins is foolish, and very risky without a proper escort, but you have made it this far, and me and my brother fully intend on seeing you make it all the way.” Scott responded.
“ It has cost us dearly though. I cannot have your family and friends risking your lives for us any farther. The price is more than I am willing to pay Scott.” Father Williams said.
“ Is that how Mother Feltin feels also?” Scott asked.
“ It is. We had a talk last night, and we both agree.” Father Williams responded.
“ Alright. When we get to Lancer, my father can make some request from Governor Booth and request a full military escort for you to San Francisco.” Scott suggested.
“ I will be doing just that son, but I will ride to Sacramento and see Governor Booth in person. I would like Father Williams to go with me.” Murdoch said as he and Johnny walked into the barn.
“ You look like you didn’t sleep little brother. As a matter of fact, neither one of you do.” Scott said.
“ I slept enough.” Johnny said harshly as he walked past. “ Okay, listen up. This is how you are going to go over San Benito pass. Going up, I don’t want any of you trying to make your horse hurry. Let them pick the pace they want to climb so they don’t break a leg or go down and skin up their knees. Me and my father will be in the front going up. Walt, you and Frank will be in the rear. Pete, I want you to ride in the middle with Father Williams.” Johnny added as he walked over and poured a cup of coffee for him and his father.
“ When we get to the top, we will take a break and give the horses a one hour rest before we start down.” Murdoch added.
“ The west side of the pass is pretty steep and narrow in a couple places where you will have to get off and walk. Now me and Johnny did some talking last night, Johnny will go down first with Frank and the ladies horses. There’s a wide place about half way down they will stop and wait for us. Once we get there, you ladies will be able to ride the rest of the way down.” Murdoch explained.
“ Sure don’t look like much of a town.” Wilson said as they rode into Morro Coyo, and stopped in front of the cantina.
“ It will do use fine until he rides in.” Butler responded.
“ I wonder if people in this town know about him?” Wilson asked.
“ There’s one way to find out. You go to that mercantile we rode past, and nonchalantly ask the Mex sweeping the steps if he’s heard anything about Johnny Madrid being around here. Watch how he responds. I’ll do the same in the cantina here.” Butler suggested.
Baldanero seen the two rides come into town as he swept his porch steps. Glancing as they stopped in front of the cantina and talked. Noticing the one looking his way. He knew men like them could only be there for one thing, or person, Turning, he went back inside and was closing the doors when the rider jumped off his horse and hurried to the door.
“ Hey Mex. I need a word with you.” Wilson said.
“ I am closed senor.” he said as the man forced his way into the store.
“ I said I need to ask you a question. Do you not hear to well old man?” Wilson asked as he pushed his way inside.
“ Please senor. I don’t want any trouble.” Baldanero pleaded.
“ Well that depends on the answer you give me chili-bean.” Wilson said as he took hold of Baldanero’s shirt. “ Now……me and my friend heard that Johnny Madrid lives around here. We want to know where, and you’re going to tell me.”
Butler sat with a bottle of whiskey and a beer watching who came in or rode past. The bartender told him he had not seen Madrid since Day Pardee tried taking Lancer, and Madrid killed both him and Sully almost two years ago.
“ He’s here.” Wilson said as he sat down. “ Bring me a cold beer. The greaser didn’t want to answer my question, but I persuaded him. He said Madrid’s been here two years now, but he don’t go by Madrid anymore. He goes by Lancer now. It seems he’s old man Lancer’s youngest pup.” Wilson said as the bartender brought his beer over and set it down. “ Said Madrid killed Day Pardee and Sully in a land pirate dispute.”
“ So he’s Lancer’s pup. That won’t help him any when he faces us.” Butler responded. “ How bad you rough up the Mex?”
“ Just wrinkled his shirt was all. Never laid a hand on him.” Wilson said.
“ Hey bartender, come here!” Butler yelled.
“ Yes senor. Is something wrong?” the man asked.
“ Where’s this Lancer ranch and how big is it?” Butler asked.
“ Lancer,está a unas diez millas al sureste de la ciudad. La estancia del Señor Lancero es de cien mil acres.”( Lancer, it is about ten miles southeast of town. Senor Lancer’s estancia is one hundred thousand acres.)
“ ¿Cuántos hombres tiene trabajando para él?” ( How many men does he have working for him?)
“ Tiene, creo, ciento cincuenta vaqueros trabajando para él, Señor.” ( He has, I believe a hundred and fifty vaqueros working for him Senor.)
“ What the hell did he say?” Wilson asked angrily.
“ He said you should learn the language dummy. He said Lancer is about ten miles southeast of town, and that he has about a hundred and fifty vaqueros working for him. He also said the Lancer spread is one hundred thousand acres.” Butler responded.
Scott watched as his brother cleaned Barranca’s feet and checked the stallions legs. So far everyone made it up the pass with no problems, except the pack horse not wanting to go the last bit to the top.
“ Would you care to tell me why you volunteered your brother to do this son?” Murdoch asked as he too watched his youngest.
“ He spoils that horse too much.” Scott said. “ Because I couldn’t leave them out there to die sir. It was the right thing to do, and Johnny knows that.”
“ Okay, I agree with that son, but you could have escorted them to Fort Bowie and let the army handle it.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I never gave Fort Bowie a thought. I doubt they would have helped them anyway.” Scott replied.
“ Why do you say that?” Murdoch asked.
“ Because of the way Major Green was toward us at Fort miller. He refused to help escort us until I threatened him sir.” Scott responded.
“ Major Green, you mean Major John Green?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes sir. You know him?” Scott asked.
“ He was booted from guarding Governor Frederick Low in Sacramento back in sixty five. I wondered what happened to him.” Murdoch said.
“ Well, Captain Godfrey has a strong hatred for Johnny and has been nothing but hostile toward him. That’s why he camped out away from us. A man like him doesn’t belong in the army.” Scott said.
“ No he doesn’t son. I think you should talk to your brother.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I think I will.” Scott said as he started walking toward Johnny.
“ You have two wonderful sons Mister Lancer. You should be proud of them both.” Mother Feltin said.
“ I’m more proud of them boys than you could ever imagine.” Murdoch responded.
“ He alright?” Scott asked.
“ He’s fine. Just making sure he has no stones.” Johnny said.
“ Is there a problem between us Johnny?” Scott asked.
Johnny stood up straight, folded the knife up, and slid it in his pocket. “ Yeah there is Scott, and me and you will be settling this problem when we get to Lancer, when there are no women around.” Johnny said firmly before leading Barranca away.
“ How long after we get down this pass will it be to your ranch Mister Lancer?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ About two hours. We should be there early afternoon.” he responded.
You know, as I stand here and look at what is behind us, and then turn and look at what is ahead, it’s quite remarkable how the desert can change out here. I had no idea it would be so beautiful.” Mother Feltin said.
“ There are trees north of San Francisco they call the giant redwoods. Some of those trees are so big, you could build an entire home out of just one tree. The coastline from San Francisco north to Oregon can take your breath away, it’s so beautiful. In fact, it reminds me of home.” Murdoch explained.
“ Home. I thought Lancer was your home?” she asked.
“ Lancer has been since me and Scott’s mother came out here from Boston. I wasn’t a year off the boat from Inverness. Her family thought she was daft to marry me. Scott’s grandfather to this day blames me for Catherine’s death.” Murdoch responded.
“ Forgive me, but where is Inverness?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ I’m sorry, It’s in Scotland. I cane west to make a life for myself, and ended up carving out an empire with the biggest cattle ranch in the San Joaquin valley, one hundred thousand acres, roughly ten thousand head of cattle, and more mustangs than either of my boys could break in a lifetime.” Murdoch responded.
“ Oh my. It must take a lot of men to help you run a ranch that big?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ I have a hundred and fifty vaqueros, some with families working for me. They all live on or around Lancer. My cook, Maria, she helped deliver Johnny. Her and Cipriano, my segundo have been with me the longest. My ward Teresa, her father was my foreman and best friend of twenty years before he was killed two years ago.” Murdoch responded as Johnny walked over to them.
“ You ready to get of this mountain old man?” Johnny asked with a smile.
“ He calls me that just to irk me sometimes.” Murdoch said as he shook his head. “ Okay, ladies, Johnny is going to start down with the horses. As soon as him and Frank are far enough down, you can start walking down.”
“ You want me to walk down this mountain? That’s absurd. I know how to handle a horse and I am not walking when I can ride.” Sister Josephine said firmly as se went to get on her horse, only to be jerked back, landing on her butt hard.
Johnny grabbed Sister Josephine by the arm and jerked her up.“ I’ve had it with your attitude little girl. Unless you want your ass beat tight here in front of everyone, I suggest you start doing what you are told, when you are told. Do you understand me?” Johnny asked. “ Three people have already died on this damn trip, two because they wouldn’t listen and do what they were told to do.”
“ You’re hurting my arm. Let go of me!” Sister Josephine ordered.
“ Hurting your arm is the least of your worries. You’ve been a spoiled little brat all your life. Well guess what, not any more. You are going to walk down this mountain as far as you are told to, and you will start showing respect for others. Do you understand me?” Johnny demanded.
“ Mother Feltin, Father Williams, make him let go of me!” she pleaded.
“ I’m afraid Johnny will not let go of your arm child until you answer his question.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ Fine, I’ll walk down.” Sister Josephine finally said with anger. “ I hope you end up in hell.” she added before storming off.
Johnny looked around at everyone starring at him.
“ Very well done Johnny. Thank you.” Mother Feltin said with a smile.
“ Miss Teresa, they have made it over the San Benito mountains, and should be here in about two hours.” Cipriano said.
“ Do you know how many are with them?” Teresa asked.
“ I counted ten riders.” Cipriano responded.
“ Thank you Cipriano. Teresa said before going back inside to tell Maria and start preparations for lunch.
“Nuestros niños no han tenido una buena comida casera en muchos meses. Mi Johnny, será más delgado que cuando se fue de aquí.” Maria said. ( Our boys have not had a good home cooked meal in many months. My Johnny, he will be skinnier than when he left here.)
“ Tengo todas las habitaciones desempolvadas y sábanas limpias en las camas.” Teresa said as she started peeling potatoes. ( I have all the rooms dusted and clean sheets on the beds.)
“ Rellájate señora. Todo estará bien.” Mariua said with a gentle pat on Teresa’ back.( Relax senora. Everything will be fine.)
“ I’m relaxed Maria. I’m just……..I guess I’m nervous about our guest. We’ve never had guest like them stay at Lancer before. Just cattlemen, and politicians. Never people from a church.” Teresa responded.
“ Señora Conway, ha adoptado a dos niñas del orfanato.” Maria said as she put pains of biscuits in the oven.( Senora Conway, she has adopted two little girls from the orphanage.)
“Lo sé. Jesse y Callie. Espero que pueda ayudar a Callie a salir de su caparazón y comenzar a hablar nuevamente.” Teresa said with sadness. ( I know, Jesse and Callie. I hope she can help Callie come out of her shell and start talking again.)
“ La señora, ella es una buena persona. Ella y el señor Lancer han sido amigos durante muchos años. Ella la ayudará a volver a ser una niña y a hablar.” Maria responded. ( The senora, she is a good person. Her and senor Lancer have been friends many years. She will help her to be a child again and talk.)
“ Espero que les guste la comida.” Teresa said. (I hope they like the food.)
“ Pueden comerlo o irse sin él. Te preocupas demsiado. Ve, ne atuera en tu jardín de rosas y relájate. Puedo manejar el almuerzo. Ve ahora.” ( They can eat it, or go without. You are worrying to much. Go, go outside in your rose garden and relax. I can handle lunch.)
Teresa sighed and put down the knife she was using to peel potatoes with. She learned a long time ago to never argue with Maria about anything. The woman was like a mother to her, and she loved and respected her dearly. Walking out the backdoor, she welcomed the warmth of the sun on her face as a light breeze blew. Walking over to the rose garden, Teresa remembered the very first rose her father got her. Now ten years later, that rose bush and many others stood tall and healthy on the east side of the house. Reds, yellows, pinks, and whites. She loved how Johnny would sometimes give her a rose in the mornings before he would leave to do that days chores, telling her how beautiful she was in the morning sun. She often found herself wondering if anything could ever be between her and Johnny, or even Scott, when they came back, but now, now she is content to just have them as her brothers.
Johnny stopped on top of the hill looking down at Lancer with a smile. “ Good to be home ain’t it boy?” Johnny asked as he patted Barranca’s neck.
“ Feels good doesn’t it son?” Murdoch asked as he rode up.
“ Sure does.” Johnny responded as the rest of the group rode up and stopped.
“ Lancer?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Yes ma’am. From here, all the way to those mountains in the distance.” Johnny said.
“ That’s the house down there.” Murdoch said as he pointed.
“ I see what you mean now Mister Lancer. It is beautiful.” Mother Feltin said.
“ Let’s go home boys.” Murdoch said as they started down the hill.
Thirty minutes later they rode up to the house where Teresa came out and greeted them.
“ Johnny, Scott, you look tired.” she said
“ Nothing a good long soak in a hot bath, and a couple of nights sleep won’t cure.” Johnny said as he got down.
Teresa went to Scott and gave him a hug and kiss on the cheek, then to Murdoch, hugging him.
“ You got one of those for me querido?” Johnny asked.
“ I don’t know. You said you would only be gone………” Teresa started as Johnny grabbed her arm and pulled her into a hug. “ Missed you.” he said before kissing her on the forehead.
“ Missed me. I bet it was my cooking you missed mostly.” Teresa teased. “ I missed you both so much. Supper time around here just hasn’t been the same with you both gone.”
“ Ladies, Father Williams, this is my ward Teresa.” Murdoch said.
“ Teresa, this is Sisters Margaret and Josephine, Mother Feltin, and Father Williams.” Scott said.
“ It’s a pleasure to meet all of you. Lunch is about ready so, If you would follow me, I will show you where you can freshen up.” Teresa suggested.
Sister Josephine watched in anger how this girl and Johnny hugged, how he kissed her on the forehead, and how she stood with her arm around him.
“ You go ahead and go freshen up. We will unpack the gold and get it in the safe.” Murdoch said.
Johnny walked into the kitchen and smiled as he watched Maria preparing lunch. “ ¿Eso para mi?” ( That for me?)
“ No deberías acercarte sigilosamente a una persona así. Soy una anciana.”( You should not sneak up on a person like that. I am an old woman.)
“ Nunca serás vieja para mí mamacita. He estado pensado en tus pimientos rellenos cada vez más, cuanto más nos acercamos a casa.”( You will never be old to me mamacita. I’ve been thinking about your stuffed peppers more and more, the closer we got to home.)
“ Eres muy flca. Parece que has dormido muy poco.”( You are too skinny. You look like you have had very little sleep.)
“ Estoy nien Maria. Esta noche me sumergiré en un jacuzzi y me sentiré mucho mejor. Especialmente después de que como tu cocina.”( I’m alright Maria. I’ll soak in a hot tub tonight and feel a lot better. Especially after I eat your cooking.)
“ Ve, déjame terminar para que pueda servir el almuerzo a tu invitado.” ( Go, let me finish so I can serve lunch to your guest.)
Johnny laughed, gave Maria a hug and kiss on the cheek before turning to leave the kitchen when Teresa walked in.
“ Hey querido. I was just giving Maria some love.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ And asking her to make stuffed peppers for you. I know you all too well Johnny Lancer, now you march right on out of this kitchen, or you won’t get any cake I made for you.” Teresa ordered playfully as Sister Josephine walked into the kitchen.
“ No estás permitido en mi cocina.” Maria ordered.( You are not allowed in my kitchen.)
Johnny looked and seen the evil look in Sister Josephine’s eyes as she glared at Teresa.
“ I’m sorry, but Maria doesn’t allow guest in her kitchen. Is there something you needed?” Teresa asked.
“ I was just looking around and heard voices.” Sister Josephine said.
“ It’s not customary for guest to go wandering around their host home.” Johnny said.
“ I didn’t mean no harm.” she said.
“ Well, go on back in the grand room with the others, and don’t come in here again.” Johnny ordered.
Teresa watched her turn and leave. “ I don’t think she likes me. Ever since I met her, she has been giving me an evil, angry look.” she said.
“ It’s not you, it’s me. The girl has a serious problem Mother Feltin is stuck with trying to change when they get to the mission in San Francisco.” Johnny explained.
“ My compliments to you Miss Teresa for a wonderful meal. I don’t think I have ever had stuffed peppers before.” Mother Feltin said.
“ I’m afraid I can’t take the credit for tonight’s supper. Our cook Maria made them for Johnny. They’re his favorite.” Teresa responded.
“ Favorite among hundreds. My little brother as you can see, has no body fat, yet eats just about twice as much as me or Murdoch.” Scott added.
“ Well, I must say, I haven’t had stuffed peppers that good since I left Mexico. I will have to thank Maria for a wonderful supper.” Father Williams said.
“ Don’t go in the kitchen and do it. That old woman will run you off.” Sister Josephine said softly to Sister Margaret., but was heard by Johnny.
“Maria has been my fathers cook for close to thirty years. She’s earned the right to say who can come in her kitchen.” Johnny said as he looked right at Sister Josephine.
“ Did something happen this afternoon I should be aware of Sister Josephine?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ No, I mean….I was walking around looking at this big house, I heard voices so I went to see, and it was them with the old woman in the kitchen. She got all uptight because I was there and ordered me to leave is all.” Sister Josephine responded.
“ Actually, it was me who had to order her to leave. Maria doesn’t like anyone in her kitchen except Teresa when she’s cooking lunch, and especially when she is cooking supper.” Johnny said.
“ I didn’t see no harm in it. I was just looking. I’ve never seen a kitchen before. I was curious.” she said.
“ I’m sure no harm was done.” Murdoch said.
“ Perhaps Mother Feltin and Father Williams would like to join us for an after dinner brandy?” Scott suggested.
“ I do believe a brandy would taste right good after such a fine meal.” Father Williams responded.
“ Sister Margaret and Josephine will help you with cleaning up Miss Teresa.” Mother Feltin said as she stood up.
“ That’s not necessary, they’re guest. I can get it.” Teresa responded.
“ I’ll help you clean up querido.” Johnny said.
“ What does that word mean?” Sister Josephine asked.
“ It’s Spanish for dear. Johnny has always called me that after he was healed up from being shot in the back.” Teresa explained.
“ You were shot in the back, and you survived!” Sister Margaret blurted out. “ Forgive me please. It’s just that, I thought when anyone was shot, they died from it.”
“ Not always. Some end up wishing they were dead because a bullet maimed them in a crippling way, they don’t want to live.” Scott said. “ Gut shot is the worst. You die a slow agonizing death if someone shoots you in the gut.”
“ How many times have you been shot Johnny?” Father Williams asked.
“ I’ve been shot six times, and knifed four, and stabbed seven. Most of the bullets I removed myself and did all the stitching up of almost all the wounds.” Johnny responded.
“ Oh my. You are a true miracle to still be alive.” Mother Feltin said.
“ My brothers life has been hard. I used to think not having a girl was bad back in Boston when I was his age.” Scott said
Murdoch could tell Johnny was starting to get uncomfortable with the talk. “ Well shall we.” he suggested as he stood up and started toward the grand room.
“ Johnny, you don’t have to help me with the dishes. There’s some yearlings in the corral. Why don’t you go down and look at them.” Teresa suggested. “ See if you can tell which one I like.”
“ I’ll help you, then we can both walk down and look at them.” Johnny responded.
Sister Josephine watched in anger as Johnny and Teresa cleared the table and disappeared into the kitchen.
“ Your home is lovely mister Lancer. May I ask just how many rooms you have?” Mother Feltin asked as they sat around the grand room.
“ There are four bedrooms downstairs, and seven bedrooms upstairs. There were eight, but the boys had me change one into a bath so they wouldn’t have to go out in the pouring rain or cold to the bathhouse out back in the winter.” Murdoch responded.
“ Excuse me, Murdoch, me and Johnny are going to walk down and look at the yearlings.” Teresa said.
“ What he’s not telling you mother Feltin is Johnny requested a bath room upstairs to keep him from getting in trouble with Maria, by not tracking up her clean kitchen.” Scott added.
“ And it worked too Scott.” Johnny said before walking out the front door with Teresa.
“ Does he wear that gun even here at the house?” Father Williams asked.
“ It took some time for Johnny to feel comfortable not wearing a in the house.” Scott responded. “ He still sleeps with one under his pillow though.” Scott added and instantly regretted saying it as he noticed the shocked look on his fathers face.
“ Mister Lancer, is there a……..I need to……” Sister Josephine stuttered.
“ Oh…….Scott will you show the young lady where it’s at out back?” Murdoch asked.
“ Certainly.” Scott said as he stood up.
“ No, you don’t have to. If it’s out the back door, I’m sure I can find it.” Sister Josephine said.
“ Very well. There should be a lantern already lite hanging on the outside.” Scott said.
“ I like that one with the four white socks and white face.” Teresa said. “ I think she would make a good horse.”
Johnny ran a hand over the yearling, and liked how she didn’t flinch at his touch.“ She’s built good. Nice haunches, well muscled in her chest and neck for a yearling. I can see why you like her.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny, can I ask you something, and you not think bad of me?” Teresa asked as she walked to the gate and opened it.
“ Teresa, you know you can ask me anything. What’s on your mind querido?” Johnny responded as he followed her out and closed the gate.
“ You are.” Teresa said. “ Have you ever thought of us as more than brother and sister? What I mean is, if I wasn’t Murdoch’s ward, could you see me as……..would you?”
Johnny sighed as he looked at her. “ When I first came here, you were just a kid to me, but now, now you’re growing up to be a fine young lady, and a damn good looking one at that Teresa.” Johnny said. “ In fact, to be honest with you, if I wasn’t also known as Madrid, I would probably think of you not as a sister. Can I ask what made you ask that?”
“ No reason really. Me and Murdoch were talking the other day, and I guess since I started working at the orphanage, it got me to wondering if I could ever find someone to love me for me, and not because I’m Murdoch Lancer’s ward.” Teresa responded. “ Murdoch said I will probably have to look for someone outside the valley.”
“ I’m not going to lie to you Teresa, I’ve thought about us together many times. In fact, if Murdoch knew I’m pretty sure he would run me off Lancer with a double barreled shotgun.” Johnny said.
“ What if he didn’t know about us?” Teresa asked softly.
“ Teresa.” Johnny said as he put a hand under her chin and raised her face so he could look her in the eyes. “ I have to much respect for you to go sneaking around behind Murdoch’s back courting you. If I was going to do it, I would do it right, with his his permission. But you and I both know, with my past, and possibly short future, he will never allow it.”
“ You are going to live to be n old man Johnny.” Teresa responded.
“ I hope I do.” Johnny said.
“ What did you mean earlier about Sister Josephine when you said she has a serious problem with you?” Teresa asked as they started slowly walking away from the corral toward the house.
Johnny told Teresa what happened at Fort Parker, what he did at the request of Mother Feltin, and how it didn’t go as she had hoped.
“ What are you going to do about her?” Teresa asked.
“ Keep ignoring her.” Johnny said. “ She’s manipulative and vindictive if she doesn’t get what she wants. She can also spit out some pretty hateful words.”
“ So her and Sister Margaret are going to the Mission in San Francisco to spend their lives working for the church?” Teresa asked.
“ Yeah, except Josephine has blatantly said when she’s of age, she’s leaving there.” Johnny said.
“ She doesn’t look much older than me. Where does she come from?” Teresa asked.
“ She’s around my age. She comes from back east somewhere. I think Pennsylvania is what she said once. They all came from San Antonio with that gold.” Johnny responded as he stopped walking. “ To be honest Teresa, I don’t know how much longer I can refuse her.”
“ If you can’t, and you do give in to temptation, can you live with the consequences from giving her what she is wanting from you?” Teresa asked.
“ We should……You go on back inside. I’m going to go check on Barranca before I come in.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny Lancer, sometimes you can be so stubborn.” Teresa said before heading inside.
Johnny watched until Teresa was inside before turning and walking to the barn to check on Barranca, unaware Sister Josephine had watched and heard most of what was said between him and Teresa.
“ Yeah, it feels good to be home again don’t it boy.” Johnny said as he rubbed the stallions face.
“ He’s a beautiful horse Johnny.” Sister Josephine said as she stepped from the shadows.
Johnny spun around, gun in hand. “ What the hell is the matter with you? I could have shot you just now.” Johnny said with anger. “ Go back inside the house now Josephine.”
“ I like it out here with you, Just the moonlight coming in, me and you alone in the barn.” she said as she walked up to him.
When Josephine got close enough, Johnny noticed she had her shirt pulled out of her skirt and unbuttoned. He stood there as she reached up and pulled the shirt open, exposing her breast in the moonlight. “ I know you want me Johnny.” she said s she stepped closer. “ Touch them, feel how firm they are. Kiss me like you did at Fort Parker.” she begged.
Johnny stood there unable to move at the moonlight shined on her plump exposed breast. He could feel his body starting to respond to the almost half naked girl standing in front of him, begging him to make love to her. “ You need to leave now Josephine. You have no idea what a dangerous game you are playing little girl.” Johnny said before going and grabbing some hay to give to Barranca. When he turned back around, Josephine was standing not a foot away with her shirt completely off.
“ I’m offering myself to you Johnny. Don’t you want me?” she asked as she stepped out of her skirt and over to him.
“ Put your shirt back on right now before someone walks in here and sees you like this.” Johnny ordered.
“ Then let’s go back there in the dark where they won’t see us.” she suggested as she put her arms around him.
“ This isn’t happening Josephine. You’re just a kid.” Johnny said as she pressed against him, and rose up to run her tongue over his lips. Johnny grabbed her arms and shoved her back away from him. “ Put your shirt on now like I told you to do, and leave.” he ordered.
Murdoch noticed Sister Josephine had never come back into the grand room from using the outhouse. Smiling as Teresa walked in alone through the french doors. “ Where’s Johnny?” he asked.
“ He went to check on Barranca. He said he would be in in a few minutes.” Teresa responded.
“ If you will excuse me.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ I need to talk to Johnny for a minute. Scott, would you and Teresa see to our guest please.” he asked as he headed out the french doors to the barn.
“ Just touch me Johnny. Stop denying you want me. I see it in your eyes. I’ve seen how you watch me. I know it would be good between us.” Josephine pleaded as she tried putting her arms around his neck. “ Please make me a woman Johnny.”
Johnny grabbed her roughly and jerked her out toward the door of the barn. “ Put your damn shirt on and get the hell out of here now.” he ordered.
Josephine slapped Johnny hard across the face making him grabbed both her arms again.
“ Young lady!” Murdoch yelled from the door. “ I suggest you put your shirt on now and go back in the house.”
Johnny turned and walked back over to Barranca and was rubbing his face when his father walked over.
“ You alright son?” he asked.
“ I’m done Murdoch. I’m not going on with them to San Francisco. I can’t take anymore.” Johnny said.
“ I understand son.” Murdoch responded.
“ No you don’t Murdoch!……… Scott didn’t ask me if I wanted to do this. He just volunteered us. We should have taken them to Fort Bowie and been done with it. Let the damn army handle it. Three people are dead because I couldn’t keep them safe.” Johnny said with anger. “ What the hell is wrong with them? You don’t go from San Antonio to San Francisco with ten thousand in gold coins without a proper escort to keep you safe!”
“ I wish you or Scott would have said what was going on in a letter. I could have met you a lot sooner, or arranged a proper escort for you.” Murdoch said.
“ Take them all and the gold to Sacramento and put them on a train to San Francisco.” Johnny suggested.
“ Old man Lancer get back with his sons yet?” the bartender asked a man standing at the bar.
“ Yeah, they got back this afternoon. Got three women and a man with them. Missionaries I guess.” the man said. “ I guess they’re going to San Francisco.” he added.
“ San Francisco, they must be resting at Lancer before going on.” the bartender suggested.
“ I think Lancer is going to bring them to town to catch the stage to Sacramento and catch the train the rest of the way. From what I heard, his boys have been escorting them from Arizona.”
Butler and Wilson sat drinking their beer, listening to the conversation.
“ Now we know he’s here.” Wilson said softly.
Butler stood up and walked over to the bar. “ Excuse me, what name did you say?”
“ Lancer.” the man asked.
“ Murdoch Lancer. His sons names wouldn’t happen to be Scott and Johnny would they?” he asked.
“ Yeah, you know them mister?” the man asked.
“ I know one of them.” Butler said before walking back over to the table and sitting down.
“ What if Madrid doesn’t come tomorrow?” Wilson asked.
“ He’ll come.” Butler responded.
“ Well, I think we should turn in now sisters.” Mother Feltin suggested as Murdoch walked back inside.
“ I would like to have a word with you if I may.” Murdoch requested.
Sister Josephine knew what was about to happen. She could see the anger in Murdoch’s face.
“ Is everything alright?” Scott asked.
“ Its fine son.” Murdoch responded as he walked over to the sideboard and poured a drink.
“ Young lady, what I walked in the barn and seen, I will not permit. Johnny told me how you have been acting in an unladylike manner around him on the trip here. Tomorrow, me and some of my hands will take you all to Morro Coyo to catch the afternoon stage to Sacramento where you will board the train for San Francisco. You should be ashamed of yourself acting like you just did in the barn with my son. I opened my house to you and I will not allow that kind of behavior. If you were my daughter, I would turn you over my knee, and give you a good thrashing. You are to stay away from Johnny, except during meals when we are sitting at the table. If you speak to him, it will be in a proper ladylike manner. Do I make myself clear?” Murdoch said with anger.
“ Mister Lancer, I would like to offer my most sincere apology for Sister Josephine’s behavior. Young lady, you are to go up to your room, and I forbid you from leaving that room until either me or Father Williams knock on your door in the morning.” Mother Feltin ordered as Johnny walked into the house, and over to the sideboard, pouring a shot of tequila. “ I want you to apologize to Johnny, and Mister Lancer right now.”
Sister Josephine took a few steps toward Johnny. “ I’m sorry. My behavior was inappropriate, and will not happen again. Please forgive me.”
Johnny looked at her and knew she didn’t mean a word she was saying. “Teresa, please leave the room.” Johnny requested.
“ Alright, I’ll see you all in the morning.” Teresa said as she headed to her room.
“ Don’t say words you don’t mean. You keep playing the game you’re playing, and the wrong man is going to come along and assault you. Is that what you want?” Johnny demanded as he walked over to her, grabbed her rm and yanked her to the couch, shoving her down. “ Is this what you want? You want a man to throw you down, rip off your clothes and force himself on you? That’s exactly what is going to happen to you if you don’t stop. He’s going to have his way with you, and beat you while he does if you fight him or scream. I’ve seen it happen with my mother, and little girl, it’s not something you get over easily.” Johnny said with anger.
Father Williams and Mother Feltin stood watching what Johnny was doing. They knew he wouldn’t hurt the girl. That he was trying to get her to see the danger she was putting herself in with her behavior.
“ Johnny, that’s enough son!” Murdoch ordered as he walked over to the couch. He could see the tears and fear in the girls eyes.
Johnny let the girl get up off the couch. Treating a woman, any woman the way he just did went against everything he believed in.
“ I think I will take Sister Josephine upstairs now.” Mother Feltin said.
“ Why don’t you tell them about you and Teresa Johnny. I heard the two of you talking.” she spat as she wiped her tears. “ How you want her.”
“ That will be enough Sister Josephine.” Father Williams ordered.
“ Teresa is like a sister to me, and nothing more.” Johnny said. “ You obviously didn’t hear everything that was said between us.”
“ What’ll ya have mister?” the bartender asked.
“ A beer and some information.” the man responded. “ I’m looking for Johnny Madrid. I was told he lives around here.”
The bartender poured the man’s beer, and set it down for him as he glanced at Butler and Wilson. “ I know of no one by that name senor.”
The man grabbed the bartender and pushed his head down onto the bar. “ I don’t like being lied to Mex. I know he’s here…..Now you are going to tell me where I can find him.”
“ Lancer. He’s at Lancer.” the bartender said.
“ What is Lancer?” the man asked.
“ It’s a big ranch southeast of here about ten miles.” he responded.
“ Good, now that wasn’t so hard was it?” the man said as he let go of the bartender.
“ Who the hell is that?” Wilson asked.
“ Dan Nodean. He usually runs along the border of Texas.” Butler responded. “ I heard a couple years ago, Madrid put a bullet in him. That’s why he limps.
“ So he could kill Madrid before we do.” Wilson said.
“Maybe. I guess tomorrow we’ll find out.” Butler said.
“ Buggy is ready. I have Frank, Walt, and Pete riding with us.” Johnny said.
“ Alright son. They should be coming downstairs soon.” Murdoch responded.
“ Where’s Scott?” Johnny asked.
“ I believe he is up in his room.” Murdoch responded.
Johnny turned and headed upstairs, stopping outside his brothers closed door.
“ Good morning Johnny. We missed you at breakfast.” Mother Feltin said as her, Father Williams, and Sisters Margaret and Josephine headed downstairs.
“ I wasn’t hungry.” Johnny said as he watched them go downstairs before opening his brothers door.
“ Johnny. It’s customary to knock before entering someones room.” Scott said.
“ Don’t feel much like manners this morning brother.” Johnny said as he stood in the door.
Scott put his coat on and walked over to his brother and stopped. “ Is something on your mind Johnny?”
“ You know, I laid awake most of the night thinking about how to handle this between us, and I kept coming up with the same answer.” Johnny said.
“ What answer would that be?” Scott asked.
“ This!” Johnny said right before he hit Scott as hard as he could, knocking him back onto his bed.
“ What the hell’s wrong with you?” Scott demanded as he got up.
“ Don’t you ever……..ever volunteer me for something without talking to me first about it. Neither one of us had any business escorting them here Scott and you know it.” Johnny said with anger.
“ You would have done the same thing I did Johnny, and you know it!” Scott responded.
“ I would have taken them to the nearest Fort and let the army handle it.” Johnny responded. “ Now because of them, I have Butler and Wilson, probably in Morro Coyo waiting to gun me down. Do you want to get me killed?”
Scott sat down on his bed. “ I can’t believe you would think that Johnny. I would gladly give my life for yours.” he said. “ If you will think back, neither one of us knew about the damn gold until after I had volunteered us to escort them, and it was you who found the place they had it under the seat of the wagon.”
“ Hear me when I say this Scott. You ever do it again, and I will finish this.” Johnny responded.
“ If you know they’re in Morro Coyo, why go?” Scott asked.
“ Because I don’t run from trouble Scott. Never have.” he said. “ Can I count on you to back me up if I need it?” he asked.
“ You know I will back you up any time, anywhere Johnny.” Scott responded.
“ Is everything alright in here?” Murdoch asked from the doorway.
“ Everything is fine Murdoch. Me and Scott were just having a brother to brother talk.” Johnny said before walking out.
“ Don’t be mad at him. I had it coming.” Scott said as Murdoch looked at the black eye that was already starting. “ I never knew he could hit that hard.”
“ The stage is running an hour late.” Murdoch said.
“ Hello Mister Lancer.” Father Thomas said.
“ Good Morning Father Thomas. May I introduce Sisters Margaret, and Josephine, Mother Feltin, and Father Williams.” Murdoch responded.
“ Father Williams. It’s been a long time.” Father Thomas said.
“ Santa Fe I believe wasn’t it?” Father Williams asked.
“ You two know each other?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Me and Father Thomas served the church in Santa Fe for two years when I was asked to go to San Antonio.” Father Williams said. “ What are you doing here?” he asked.
“ I serve the fine people of Morro Coyo. I was sent here shortly after you left Santa Fe.” Father Thomas said. “ Johnny, Scott, it’s good to see you both home again.”
“ Do you remember me telling you about a young boy at the orphanage. The one Father Martin abused?” Father Williams asked. “Johnny is that young man.”
“ Why I had no idea………..”
“ Johnny Madrid!” Dan Nodean yelled from the cantina.
Johnny looked toward the cantina.“ Dan Nodean. Damn. Take the women inside.” Johnny ordered.
“ Who is Dan Nodean Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Someone from my past I thought was dead.” Johnny said as he started to step down into the street.
“ Johnny!” Murdoch said as he grabbed his left arm. “ Son, don’t do this.”
“ You were told when I decided to stay that this could happen. Stay out of it.” Johnny responded as he jerked his arm free. “ Scott.”
“ I got it.” Scott said as he stepped down and pulled his Henry rifle from the scabbard and started watching the rooftops.
“ Frank, Walt, help Scott watch the rooftops for the two other men, Wilson and Butler who are in town to kill Johnny.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Come out and face me Madrid.” Nodean ordered as he stepped out into the street.
Johnny glanced at the rooftops as he walked out to the middle of the street and stopped.
“ I have a bullet with your name on it Madrid for the one you put in my leg three years ago you sonofabitch.” Nodean said.
“ Isn’t somebody going to stop this?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ This is how it is for Johnny. Men come who want to kill him.” Father Williams said.
“ Why?” Sister Margaret asked.
“ Because he is Johnny Madrid, the best of the best.” Father Williams responded. “ Unfortunately he is worth a lot to them dead.”
“ You mean someone is paying them to kill him?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ No. Gunfighters live by their gun. The better the gunfighter, the more money they can make working a range war.” Father Williams explained.
“ Johnny has the best reputation with being the fastest. That is what they want. His reputation.” Father Thomas said.
“ I’m not in the game anymore Nodean. Ride on out. I don’t want to kill you.” Johnny said.
“ For three years I’ve looked for you. Three years I’ve been reminded of you every day with every damn step I take.” Nodean said with anger.
“ I’ll kill you this time. Is that what you want?” Johnny asked
“ You’re the one gonna die you half-breed sonofabitch.” Nodean spat as he went for his gun.
Johnny drew and fired as Nodean’s gun barely cleared it’s holster.
A red stain slowly spread across Dan Nodean’s chest as he dropped to his knees. “ You bast….ard.” he said as he fell forward dead.
Johnny stood there few seconds before turning to walk back to where is father stood when a shot rang out and he jerked to his left, and fell to the ground.
“ The shot came from the hotel down the street!” Frank yelled.
Scott ran to his brother as he looked toward the hotel. Seeing movement in an open window he started firing as he walked toward the hotel.
“ Frank, the hotel, go around back. Stop anyone who comes running out.” Murdoch yelled as he went to his son. “ Walt, go get Sam!” he ordered as he rolled Johnny over and seen his shirt soaking with blood.
“ Let me help you.” Mother Feltin said as she came running out to them. “ Here, lets put this on the wound to stop the bleeding.”
Murdoch opened Johnny’s shirt and seen a deep furrow across the left side of his ribs. “ Looks like the bullet creased him, but it’s deep.”
“Let’s get him up and off the street.” Father Thomas said.
“ Sam isn’t here. He’s at the Palmer ranch.” Walt said as he ran back up.
Scott stopped outside the hotel lobby, and peared inside, seeing if anyone was waiting.
“ They’re upstairs. Last room on the left. Two of them Senor Lancer.” the manager said.
“ Come on out of there.” Scott ordered as he headed to the stairs. Running footsteps could be heard coming toward him. Aiming his rifle, he fired hitting one of the men square in the chest when he came around the corner. “ Give it up Butler. There’s no way out.” Scott yelled.
Butler fired several shots as he tried door after door, finding them locked.
“ Give it up Butler!” Scott yelled as he went to the top of the stairs slowly and peaked around the corner. Seeing the door close to the last room on the left.
“ Where is he?” Frank asked.
“ Last room on the left.” Scott responded. “ Wilson is dead, you’re all alone Butler. Give it up now.” Scott said as he stopped outside the room. “ You can’t get away.”
Butler fired three shots at the door as he went to the window.
Scott burst into the room and fired,hitting Butler.
Checking to make sure the man was dead, Scott looked out the window and could see his brother on the ground.
“ Is the doctor’s office very far?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Just down the street.” Murdoch responded.
“ Let’s get him there so we can tend to this wound and try to stop the bleeding.” she suggested.
“ Walt, after we get Johnny to Sam’s office, ride out to the Palmer place and see how long he will be.” Murdoch requested.
“ Congratulations Martha, and Henry. You have a beautiful son.” Sam said as he wiped his hands dry.
“ I can’t thank you enough doc for all you’ve done.” Henry said.
“ Martha did all the work. I’ll stop by in a couple days and check on you and the baby. Come get me if anything should happen.” Sam said as he closed up his bag and headed out the door to leave the new family lone.
Walt galloped up to the Palmer farm and seen Sam come outside. “ Doc Jenkins, we need you in town. Johnny’s been shot.”
“ Oh my lord. How bad?” Sam asked as he climbed in his buggy.
“ I don’t know for sure, he was losing a lot of blood. They took him to your office.” Walt said as Sam whipped his horse into a gallop.
“ Let’s get his shirt off him so I can see the wound.” Mother Feltin ordered.
“ Have you dealt with gunshot wounds before?” Murdoch asked as Scott came into the room.
“ Butler and Wilson are dead.” he said as he started to help get the shirt off.
“ Yes I have. Why don’t you go on out in the other room. Scott can help me.” Mother Feltin responded and suggested.
“ I’m staying until Sam gets here.” Murdoch responded. “ I’ve done gunshot wounds before on Johnny.”
“ Alright. I’ll need some hot water and bandages to clean the wound. Carbolic acid if your doctor has any. The tiniest piece of cloth thread left in the wound can cause an infection.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ Johnny has a habit of running a fever.” Scott added.
“ Yes, he got a bad one three days after he was shot in the back. It took us two days to get it to break. We had to put him in a cold bath to do it.” Murdoch said as he got the bandages and carbolic acid from the medicine hutch in the corner and set them on the small table next to the bed. “ I’ll go get the water.”
“ I don’t think your father trust that I know what I am doing.” Mother Feltin said as she started to wipe the blood away. “ This is deep. The bullet may have fractured a rib. I hope your doctor gets here soon.” she said.
“ Johnny told me he once had to cauterize a wound with his knife to stop the bleeding.” Scott said.
“ I can’t imagine this boy having to treat his own wounds. The scars he has on his back, are those from when Father Milton beat him at the orphanage?” she asked.
“ Some of them are. Others are from when he was in a Mexican prison. It seems the Rurales liked to beat him just about every day.” Scott explained as Sam came into the room.
“ What do we have Scott?” Sam asked.
“ He has a very deep furrow from the bullet. It may have fractured a rib.” Mother Feltin said.
“ Who are you?” Sam asked as he washed his hands in the basin.
“ I’m Mother Feltin.” she responded.
“ Let me in there to see what we have. Scott, go get me some hot water.” Sam said.
“ Murdoch is doing that.” Scott said as Murdoch came into the room with a basin of hot water.
“ I’m glad you’re here Sam.” he said as he set the basin down.
“ Alright, Scott, you can stay and help me, you two, can wait outside.” Sam ordered.
“ I’m sorry about earlier. I didn’t mean to imply you didn’t know what you were doing.” Murdoch said.
“ That’s alright. I fully understand your concern. I would have been the same way if it was my child laying in there.” Mother Feltin said.
“ How’s he doing?” Frank asked.
“ We don’t know yet. Sam and Scott are treating him.” Murdoch responded.
“ The stage has come and gone Mister Lancer. What do you want we should do?” Frank asked.
“ Do you have a bank in this town?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ Yes.” Murdoch responded.
“ Father Williams, take the gold to the bank and have it put in the safe.” Mother Feltin requested.
“ After you do that Frank, take them back to the ranch. I don’t know how long we will be. Tell Teresa what’s happened.” Murdoch ordered.
“ I would like to stay if it’s alright?” Mother Feltin asked. “ I’ve come to be quit fond of both your boys.”
“Alright.” Murdoch said.
An hour later Sam came out of the room wiping his hands dry.
“ You were right. He does have a fractured rib. The wound is deep as you seen. I have him bound up tight, but if the bleeding doesn’t stop, I’ll have to cauterize the wound. I could only stitch up part of it.” Sam said.
“ How long until I can take him home?” Murdoch asked.
“ Not for a couple days. I want to watch the bleeding. You did good cleaning the wound as quick as you did. Johnny will have to be watch for a fever from infection. I don;t think he will get one, but I could be wrong. You know how that boy likes to prove us wrong.” Sam said.
“ Can I see him?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes. He’s still unconscious.” Sam responded.
“ Go as easy as you can. That rib is going to be painful. Johnny, I want you staying in bed until I say otherwise. Do you understand me?” Sam ordered.
“ I hear ya Sam.” Johnny said as he made himself as comfortable as possible in the wagon full of straw and blankets.
“ I’ll stop by on my way back from the Palmer farm day after tomorrow. Teresa will know what to do. Come get me if anything should change. Johnny, I want you to take the laudanum for the pain. Change the bandage every day, and watch for signs of infection.” Sam instructed.
“ What did Martha have?” Murdoch asked.
“ A little boy. Henry was smiling from ear to ear.” Sam responded.
“ Give them my best when you see them. I’ll let Teresa know and she can go over and help Martha if she needs it.” Murdoch responded as he climbed up in the wagon. “ Let’s go home boys.”
“ Are you sure you want to ride back there with Johnny?” Scott asked as he mounted his horse.
“ I’ll be fine. Johnny is going to be an obedient patient.” Mother Feltin said as she sat down next to Johnny.
“ Somehow I don’t think we are going to have too much trouble from Johnny as long as you are around.” Scott said as they started home.
“ I think it would be best for Johnny if you were not seen Sister Josephine. You have cost the boy enough grief. I think it best you help Teresa with other things that will need to be taken care of while she tends to his wound.” Father Williams suggested.
“ That’s alright Father. I can manage.” Teresa said.
“ We don’t mind Teresa.” Sister Margaret said.
“ It’s the least I can do for all the trouble I’ve caused your family. Especially Johnny.” Sister Josephine said.
“ Alright. You can help Maria prepare meals then when I’m busy with Johnny. He’s not the best of patients to care for. He can really test a persons patience about doing what Sam orders.” Teresa said.
“ But Maria doesn’t like anyone but you in the kitchen.” Sister Josephine said.
“ I have already talked to her and she will allow you to help her with preparing supper.” Teresa responded.
“ The pictures on Mister Lancer’s desk, are those women Scott and Johnny’s mothers?” Sister Josephine asked.
“ Yes. That’s the only pictures Murdoch as of them. He never got a chance to get a family portrait of Him, Maria, and Johnny before she ran off in the middle of the night.” Teresa said.
“ Scott’s mother was beautiful. I can see where he got his blonde hair and eyes from.” Sister Margaret said.
“ Johnny doesn’t have his mothers eyes. Hers look brown.” Sister Josephine said.
“ No, Johnny inherited his mothers temper, but he has Murdoch’s eyes.” Teresa responded. “ And her eye lashes. I have never seen a man with such long eye lashes.”
“ They are long for a man.” Sister Josephine added.
“ I hear a wagon approaching. It must be them. Sisters, I want you to stay out of the way as they bring him inside.
“ Will he be able to climb the stairs to his room?” Sister Josephine asked.
“ With help he will. I already know it would do no good trying to get him to stay downstairs in one of the bedrooms.” Teresa responded as she opened the front door and went outside.
“ Welcome home Johnny. I have your room all ready for you and some beef broth soup on the stove for you.” Teresa said.
“ That will be fine Teresa. Sam said he shouldn’t eat anything solid for a few days.” Murdoch said as he climbed down.
“ Hello Teresa. Johnny, you let them help you get out of this wagon. Understand?” Mother Feltin ordered.
“ Yes ma’am. I mean no disrespect, but you sure can be a bossy mother hen.” Johnny said as Scott got up in the wagon to help him.
“ That’s because we told her how stubborn you can be about accepting help when you need it brother.” Scott said with a laugh.
“ Nothing like being ganged up on by my own family. You going to also Teresa?” Johnny asked with a smile as Frank and Walt helped him out of the wagon.
“ When have I ever ganged up on you Johnny Lancer?” Teresa asked.
“ You really want me to answer that querido?” Johnny asked as they started toward the door.
“ Hello Johnny. It’s good to see you.” Father Williams said as they walked into the house and stopped.
“ Just give me a minute.” Johnny said as he looked up the stairs. “ Thanks. It’s good to be still breathing and home again.” he said as he glanced around the grand room wondering where the Sisters were.
“ Let’s get you upstairs and in bed now son.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Good morning Mother Feltin. You’re up early.” Teresa said as she walked into the kitchen. “ Hello Maria.”
“ Good morning Teresa. I thought perhaps Juanito could have some scrambled eggs this morning with a biscuit?” Maria asked.
“ I think that would be okay. He does need some protein to keep his strength up.” Teresa said as she poured a cup of coffee.
“ Me and Maria have been talking a little. She’s told me some things about Johnny when he was a baby. He must have been a handful for her and his mother.”
“ He was. Once he started walking, there was no stopping him.” Teresa said as she sat down. “ Did she tell you about the time Johnny disappeared?”
“ No. What happened?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ My father told me about it. Murdoch, and his mother search frantically all over this house for him, both upstairs and down. They couldn’t find him. My father found him asleep in the barn in a stall with one of the horses.” Teresa said.
“ He was lucky that horse didn’t trample him.” Murdoch said as he walked into the kitchen. “ You almost had to keep a rope on that boy to know where he was at. He was fast.”
“ I can imagine the fear not knowing where he was.” Mother Feltin said as Father Williams came into the kitchen.
“ Good morning. How’s Johnny doing this morning?” he asked.
“ He was still asleep when I looked in on him before I came downstairs.” Murdoch responded. “What do you plan on feeding his this morning?”
“ Maria is scrambling him some eggs. We figured they would help keep his strength up as he recovers. I have got to get him to drink some water today to help replenish the blood he lost.” Teresa responded. “ Problem is, he will think I put laudanum in it.”
“ Even when he can see you pour it straight from the pitcher?” Father Williams asked.
“ Yes. He thinks we add it down here when we fill it up.” Teresa responded.
“ What about milk, or coffee? That would help too wouldn’t it?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ It could, but water is the best for someone to drink that’s lost a lot of blood.” Murdoch responded.
“ When did you want us to leave Mister Lancer?” Mother Feltin asked.
“ That is up to you I guess. You’re more than welcome to stay on a little longer. As long as Sister Josephine acts like a lady and stays away from Johnny.” Murdoch said.
“ I had the gold transferred to the bank for the mission when we were in Morro Coyo yesterday. I should have done that in the first place. It cost three innocent good people their lives and created nothing but trouble for Johnny and Scott.” Mother Feltin said.
“ The man Johnny faced, Dan Nodean, he was here to kill Johnny for putting a bullet in him three years ago. The other two men that Scott killed, Wilson and Butler, they were also after Johnny, and the gold.”
“ It’s still my fault all of this happened. Johnny wouldn’t have been shot by one of them after he killed that Nodean. He wouldn’t be laying up there with a fractured rib and a deep furrow across his chest if I hadn’t insisted on transferring that gold like I was.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ Perhaps you would allow me to show you around Lancer?” Scott asked. “ There’s some breathtaking beautiful places on the ranch. Johnny’s favorite is the waterfall.” Scott said
“ That would be nice to see before we leave. Thank you Scott. As long as it does not take you away from your responsibilities.” Mother Feltin responded.
“ I think he can miss a day of work to show all of you around the ranch before you leave.” Murdoch said.
Johnny was sitting up in bed when Sam came into the room. “ And how is my patient doing this afternoon?”
“ Bored out of my wits Sam.” Johnny responded.
“ Teresa told me you have been behaving and doing what you are told. She said the only problem is getting you to drink enough water.” Sam said as he walked around the bed and set his bag on the table. “ You lost a lot of blood Johnny. You need that water to help you replenish what you lost.”
“ I drink anymore water Sam, and I’m going to be as full as a lake.” Johnny said.
“ Who’s the doctor, and whose the patient young man?” Sam asked as he picked up the laudanum bottle to see how much has been used. “ I see you’re refusing to take that for the pain. Can I ask why?”
“ I know you’re the doctor and I’m the patient Sam. I don;t like taking that stuff because it clouds my mind.” Johnny said.
“ Let’s sit you up so I can remove the bandage and check the wound.” Sam ordered. “ You know, that stubbornness is not doing you any good.”
“ I have a good tolerance to pain Sam. You can thank the Rurales for that.” Johnny said. I’ve been in this room, in this bed for almost two weeks not Sam. Can’t I go downstairs now to sit if Scott or Murdoch helps me?” he asked.
“ Let’s see how this looks before I say you can or cannot.” Sam responded. “ I imagine Murdoch is glad your house guest have left for San Francisco.”
“ They did? Nobody told me they left.” Johnny said with surprise.
“ Murdoch put them on the stage this morning.” Sam responded.
Scott helped Johnny downstairs a week later and over to the couch to sit. “ Have you told him yet?” he asked his father.
“ No. I wanted to let him read it for himself.” Murdoch responded as he picked up a newspaper and walked over to the couch. “ Sam gave me this in town this morning.”
Johnny took the paper and unfolded it. There it was in bold black letters right on the front page. “ I don’t understand. How can this be?” he asked as he read the article.
Famous gunfighter gunned down in Morro Coyo
It has been brought to this reporters attention that last Monday the famous, and fastest gunfighter, Johnny Madrid was gunned down in the street of Morro Coyo by three other gunfighters. I was told by two very reputable sources that Madrid walked out into the street to face off with a man named Dan Nodean who called him out. It would seem that right after killing this Nodean, two other gunfighters named Charlie Wilson and William Butler, both believed from Texas, ambushed Madrid from their hotel window, giving him a fatal shot to the chest. My witnesses, a Mother Feltin, and Father Williams who were passing through, and Father Thomas of Morro Coyo, all three witnessing the gunfight and ambush. The doctor, a Sam Jenkins of Morro Coyo told this reporter that Madrid bled to death from his wound.
Madrid led a wild life in the border towns of Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California. Below the border is where I am told his life as a gunfighter began at a very early age. Barely twelve years old when he gunned down his first man. Madrid never hired out his gun just to kill. When he hired out to a range war, he always hired to the one who was in the right. Madrid was thought of as a patron saint below the border in the small Mexican villages where he did most of his fighting against the Rurales and Mexican tyrants. I said earlier that Madrid was the best, and he was. It’s unknown how many men he killed, but every one who was foolish enough to call him out, he did his best to talk out of it. That is not something a cold-blooded killer would do. It didn’t take Madrid long to become the best, but there is one thing about this gunfighter that sets him apart from all the others, he cared. That alone set Madrid apart from the others. He always stayed on the right side of the law. Orphaned at a very young age, abused in an orphanage, and beaten horribly while in a Mexican prison. Escaping a firing squad and forever leaving Mexico two years ago. Johnny Madrid it is told, was believed to be no more than eighteen years old, yet the life he had was that of a man much older in age. I am told below the border, you have to grow up fast, or suffer the consequences, especially if you are what they call a half-breed. Madrid did just that, he grew up fast, and he grew up hard. Being a survivor of abuse, Johnny Madrid did his best to stop others from facing the same.
Johnny folded the paper, set it on the table and stood up. Walking over to the sideboard, he poured a shot of tequila, and downed it.
“ Are you alright son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Why’d they do it? They lied about me being dead. Why?” Johnny asked as he walked back over to the couch and sat down, giving Teresa a quick smile.
“ I think Father Williams did it because he felt a little responsible for what happened to you at the orphanage son. He felt like he failed to protect you from Father Martin and the others who abused you. As for Mother Feltin, she told me the day you were shot, she is very fond of you son, and she was glad she got the chance to meet you.” Murdoch responded.
“ Father Thomas did it because he likes you also Johnny.” Teresa added. “ He wants you to have the chance to live the life you deserve, and not have to worry about being gunned down by someone wanting your reputation.”
“ But people in Green River, and Spanish Wells, they know who I am, what I look like.” Johnny said.
“ Son, how many people in either of those towns have ever seen you as Madrid, or called you anything other than Johnny Lancer?” Murdoch asked. “ I know a part of you will always remain Madrid, but this gives us a chance as a family to have you as Johnny Lancer, brother and son.”
“ You got that second chance at life you wanted and more than deserve little brother.” Scott said.
“ There’s a letter for on the table for you son.” Murdoch said as Johnny and Scott walked into the house two months later. “ How did your ride go?”
“ Good. Barranca was chomping at the bit to go. I figured I would start Teresa on training that yearling she likes tomorrow.” Johnny responded as he picked up the letter.
“ Me, I thought you were going to train her for me Johnny?” Teresa said.
“ Nope, I never said that. I said I would help you train her. She’s going to be your horse, so you need to be the one training her. There’s a lot to teach her before you can ride her.” he said as he opened the letter and began to read it. “ It’s from Mother Feltin.”
Dear Johnny Lancer
I can only assume that by now you know, or have seen the newspaper article about the death of Johnny Madrid. I hope you are not mad at me for telling such a lie. I don’t think the lord will be too angry at us for doing it. I am sad to report that Father Williams passed away in his sleep a month after we arrived here. He thought the world of you young man. Before I met you that day in the desert, he had told me about you, and how he had wondered what had become of you.
Sister Josephine ran away from the mission two week ago. They discovered her body floating down by the docks. I think you know what happened to her without my needing to say. Writing to her parents, telling them what happened to their daughter was not an easy thing for me to do. I tried, they tried, but mostly, you tried Johnny that day in your grand room. I told Bishop Cushing and Father Brennan how you had tried to help me show Sister Josephine what could happen to her. I guess she was to remain a lost child.
On a better note, the gold is a blessing. There are so many that it will make a great difference to at the mission. You John Lancer will forever be in my heart and I am proud to call you a friend. If you or your family are ever in San Francisco, please stop by the mission to say hello.
Sincerely Mother Feltin
San Francisco de Asis Mission
San Francisco, Ca.
“ Is everything alright son?” Murdoch asked. He could see the sadness in his boys eyes.
Johnny walked over and handed him the letter to read before going out on the veranda.
Murdoch read the letter then handed it to Scott. Walking outside to stand next to his son. He knew Johnny was hurting inside over the death of Father Williams, and the preventable loss of Sister Josephine. Just standing there next to his son, his heart ached because he knew this pain his son had, he could do nothing about.
“ I’m sorry son. I didn’t know Father Williams, but a short time. He seemed like a really nice man. I’m glad you got the chance to see him again. Something a lot of people never get the chance to do.” Murdoch said softly as he put an arm around his sons shoulders.
“ At least he went peacefully in his sleep.” Johnny said as Scott walked out to join them.
“ I know you’re hurting Johnny, Father Williams was a good man.” Scott said. “ As for Sister Josephine, you and Mother Feltin tried your best to guide that girl away from what happened to her.”
“ I just wish she would have listened. She would still be alive if she had just listened to what was said to her.” Johnny responded.
“ Brother, there was a boy, new to the college. He was wild Liked to party every night. His parents didn’t think anything was wrong with it, until one night this boy, the son they thought did no wrong, he got very drunk and violated a young lady, and killed her. People tried to help him. I tried to help him, but he just wouldn’t stop drinking. I often thought about that boy, and still do. I wonder if there was something else we could have done to help him. Something those who tried had missed.” Scott said. “ What I’m saying brother is this. You can only help those who want to be helped. There’s only so much you can do, and you did all you could to try and help her.”
Johnny let out a big sigh as he turned around. “ Kinda like they helped me with lying about Johnny Madrid being dead?”
“ Yes. You have a big heart little brother, and sometimes it will get broken. It’s part of growing up. It doesn’t matter your age really. Sometime, somewhere, someone will come along and break it. Mother Feltin, and Father Williams did what they did for you because they care about you, and that is what The Missionaries do.” Scott responded.
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