#2 of the “A Match Not Made In Heaven” series
I don’t own them. I’m just taking the Lancers out for some fun and adventure. Johnny, Scott, Murdoch, Teresa O’Brian and Buck Addison, and Aggie Conway belong to the original owners of the CBS television show Lancer.
Major David Hunter, Captain Matthew Duncan, Joe Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Lancer, Jeff Connor, Seth Hanson, Tom Parker, Frank Hawkins, Walt Thomas, Paul Carter, Dave Nelson, Pat Johnson, Billy Graham, and Cooper the dog belong to me and may not be used without permission.
This is part 2 to “ A Match not made in Heaven “ it would help if you read that one first so you understand what’s going on.
Johnny, Walt, Frank, Joe, Scott, Jeff, Seth and Tom are driving a herd of 150 mustangs to Fort Klamath in Oregon. Johnny sold them to the Army and is making a nice amount of money from the sale. Part 1 left off they had just left Lancer with the herd.
Any and all towns or other places mentioned in this story were in existence back then as where some of the people mentioned and will be in research notes (links at end of chapters).
This story will have an R rating for possible cussing and violence, nothing drastic though.
Word count: 61,335
“ He left three days ago with the herd.” Paul Carter said.
“ Okay. You got some men to help you? I want that herd of mustangs.” Buck said.
“ I’ve got two men with me now. We’ve been together a long time. I think they’ll both want in. Both are dead shots with a Henry rifle.” Paul responded.
“ You understand what you’re up against?” Buck asked.
“ Yeah, you already told me. Look, just because he’s Johnny Madrid don’t mean nothing to me. He’ll be just as dead as all the others.” Paul responded sharply.
“ I’ve seen Madrid in action. Don’t underestimate him for one second. Or his brother Scott.”
“ What do you know about the other one, Scott Lancer?” Paul asked.
“ He served in the Union Army under Phil Sheridan. He’s an excellent shot with a rifle and even though he was raised in Boston, he’s no dandy. You drop your guard on him and you’ll wind up with a bullet in you. The Lancers are hard as nails and so are the six men riding with them. I’ve already had Madrid ambushed once and he survived.” Buck said.
“ That’s because whoever you had ambush him did a sloppy job of it. I did some checking around on you Addison. You got money, so why you doing this?” Paul asked.
“ I have my reasons and they are none of your business. You just do what you’re being paid to do.” Buck responded.
“ You have something personal against Madrid, that’s it. What’d he do, kill someone you knew?”
“ I told you, my reasons are my own and don’t you forget it. You just make sure he don’t make it to Fort Bidwell. He reaches there you won’t be able to stop him because he will be under military escort the rest of the way.” Buck said firmly.
“ We’ll leave at first light. We should catch up to them before they reach that Fort.” Paul said as he mounted his horse.
“ Just know this. If any of you try to double cross me, I’ll have you hunted down and killed.” Buck instructed before turning and walking away.
“ How far you think they are now?” Teresa asked Murdoch as she sat on the floor with the baby.
“ I expect they’re somewhere just northeast of Sacramento. I think Johnny will keep them moving at an even trot making about thirty miles a day.” Murdoch responded. “ I expect they’ll keep the herd along the base of the mountains for water and grazing for as long as they can before they have to cross them.”
“ He told me about what happened in town when we took our ride together the next day. I can’t believe that man used Johnny to ease his pain and suffering. It wasn’t right.”
“ I guess being sick like the man was, he figured that would be the best way for him to go, and didn’t think of what it would do to Johnny.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I’m gonna put Mary down for her afternoon nap now and help Maria with supper.” Teresa said as she walked over to Murdoch. “ Give grandpa a kiss.”
“ Good night sweetheart.” Murdoch said as he gave Mary a kiss. “ I still can’t believe I’m a grandfather.” he added.
“ Sometimes I can’t believe I’m a mother. I love her and Johnny so much.” Teresa responded.
“ Looks like a storms brewing to the west. Maybe we should find a good place to bed them down early?” Scott suggested.
“ Yeah. Why don’t you ride ahead and see if you can find a good place with grass and water for them?” Johnny responded.
“ Okay. I’ll be back before it hits I hope.” Scott said before kicking the stallion into a lope.
Johnny reined Barranca around and galloped over to Frank. “ I sent Scott ahead to find a place to bed them down before that storm hits. Pass the word to the rest of the men. They may get jumpy on us from the lightening.”
“ Gonna be a long night I expect.” Frank said before turning his horse to tell the other riders.
Scott came back about thirty minutes later, just as the rain started.
“ There’s a canyon with both grass and water. We can hold them there until this passes. There’s even some shelter for us from the rain with the way the rocks and boulders are.” he told Johnny.
“ Sounds good. You see anyone around?” Johnny asked.
“ No, why?” Scott asked.
“ I have a feeling we’re not alone.” Johnny responded.
“ You think someone is following us?” Scott asked.
“ Watching is more like it. Had the feeling start when we broke camp this morning.” Johnny said as he looked to the trees north of them.
“ Well whoever it is must be on horseback to keep up with us.” Scott suggested.
“ Yeah, maybe.” Johnny said as he turned Barranca. “ It’s not hard to follow a herd of horses this big.”
“No, I guess not.” Scott responded.
“How come we’re stealing those horses Paul?” Dave Nelson asked.
“ Yeah, how come?” Pat asked.
“ We are. Those horses won’t have a brand on them until they belong to the Army. Right now they’re just green broke mustangs being drove to Oregon. Lancer just has a contract agreement that don’t mean anything.” Paul responded.
“ I don’t like it Dave. Somethings not right. I don’t think he’s telling us everything there is about stealing those horses.” Pat said after Paul left.
“ Yeah I got the same feeling. He’s making it sound to damn easy.” Dave responded.
“ At least we have some shelter from the wind and rain in these big boulders tonight.” Frank said.
“ I think the worst of the storm will miss us. I don’t think we’ll get any rain much harder than what we’re getting now.” Johnny said.
“ What’s up Johnny? You kept looking to the trees all afternoon.” Joe asked.
“ I think we’re being watched.” Johnny responded.
“ Trouble?” Frank asked.
“ No, I don’t think so.” Johnny said as he went to the fire and fixed a plate of food and poured a cup of coffee and walked over to a log a couple hundred feet out and set it down, just barely visible in the campfire light.
“ A stray dog maybe.” Frank suggested.
“ Not likely.” Walt said.
“ How you know?” Frank asked kicking at Walt’s foot playfully.
“ Because dogs don’t drink coffee.” Walt said with a laugh as Johnny walked back over to the campfire.
“ I seen some footprints this morning to small to be a grown mans around the horses.” Johnny said softly.
“ You think we have a kid following us?” Scott asked.
“ I don’t know, maybe. Whoever it is, they gotta be cold and hungry.” Johnny said.
“ You think they might try and steal one of the saddle mounts?” Frank asked.
“ I don’t think so.” Johnny said.
“ Whoever it is, they must be scared to not show themselves.” Scott suggested.
“ Well I for one am going to get some sleep.” Joe said as he set his plate down.
“ I’ll take the first watch Johnny.” Frank suggested.
“ Alright Frank. Walt, you spell him at midnight and wake me up at three to relieve you.”
“ You sure brother?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. One man will be enough. The rest of you guys go ahead and get some sleep. You can take watch tomorrow night.” Johnny said before walking over to check the string line.
“ Your brother is a good man Scott.” Joe said.
“ Yes he is.” Scott responded as he set his plate down and stood up.
Johnny was rubbing Barranca’s face when Scott walked over.
“ You alright?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. I’m fine.” Johnny responded.
“ Missing Teresa and the baby?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. For the first time in my life Scott, I have someone to miss. I didn’t think it would be this hard on me though.” Johnny responded.
“ The first time apart is always the hardest brother. When I left Boston, and came out here, I missed everything about my life back there.” Scott said.
“ How’d you get over it?” Johnny asked.
“ I haven’t really. It just got easier. I mean, I miss my friends and grandfather, and the parties, but I think I’m happier out here.” Scott responded.
“ Really. Why?” Johnny asked.
“ Because what I have at Lancer, I could never get back in Boston. Don’t get me wrong, the parties, women and clothes were nice, but none of that can compare to sitting next to a campfire with my little brother listening to the sounds of the night, and being able to look up at the stars at night and see the milky-way.” Scott explained.
“ Wait until you’re in the mountains in Colorado or Wyoming, and you look up at those stars Scott. It’s almost like you can reach out and touch them.” Johnny said.
“ What are your plans for our shadow?” Scott asked.
“ Gain his trust if we can. I know what he’s going through because I was there once. Hiding in the shadows, stealing what food I could to eat.” Johnny answered. “ The first move is up to him.”
“ He’s got to be cold out there in the rain. How about we take a walk and see if he took the food?” Scott suggested.
“ Sounds good. I’ll see you in the morning amigo.” Johnny said as he patted the golden stallions face and walked off into the dar with Scott.
“ Good morning Maria.” Murdoch said as he walked into the kitchen and sat down.
“ Good morning. You are up early this morning.” Maria said as she poured a cup of coffee and brought it to him.
“ Me and Teresa are going to go to Stockton for a few days.” Murdoch responded. “ Why don’t you take some time off.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Gracias patron.” Maria responded with a smile. “ I miss my Juanito and senor Scott.” she added.
“ We all miss Johnny and Scott. He’s going to miss the babies first steps.” Teresa said.
“ Si, but when Juanito comes back she can walk to her papa.” Maria suggested.
“ I know, but it won’t be the same.” Teresa responded. “ But I guess it will have to do.”
“ Maybe shopping in Stockton will help.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I hope they’re alright.” Teresa said
“ I’m sure they’re fine.” Murdoch responded even though deep down inside he too hoped his boys were okay.
“ Morning.” Scott said as Johnny flipped the blanket off him and sat up. “ Coffee’s hot. Want a cup?”
“ Yeah.” Johnny said as he rubbed his face. “ I need a bath and a shave.”
“ Water might be a little cold for a bath.” Scott said as he poured a cup of coffee and handed it to him.
“ Jeff and Tom rode out to check the herd.” Scott said.
“ Everyone else still asleep?” Johnny said as he stood up and took the cup of coffee. “ Thanks.” Johnny said as he took a sip of coffee.
“Yes. Breakfast is cooking, there’s bacon and some biscuits and beans.” Scott said.
“ Hey guys. Looks like someone smelled your bacon Scott.” Frank said softly as he pointed to a dog coming out of the trees.
“ Think it’s a stray or maybe belong to whoever is following us?” Scott asked.
Johnny grabbed a biscuit and walked toward the dog. “ Hey boy. You hungry” he asked as he knelt down. The dog wagged his tail as he approached Johnny and snatched the biscuit from his hand.
“ Please don’t hurt my dog.” a voice said from the trees.
“ I don’t plan to. Why don’t you come on down and show yourself.” Johnny suggested as he pet the dog. “ We won’t hurt you.”
Scott, Johnny and the hands watched as a boy in his teens walked out of the trees and stopped about thirty feet from Johnny.
“ My god.” Scott said.
Johnny seen how torn and ragged the boys clothes were. “ You hungry?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes sir. I can work for it if you wants.” the boy said.
“ Damn boy, where’s your family?” Frank asked.
“ Ain’t got nobody but Cooper there. Indians killed my folks and little sister last summer. Me and Cooper was out hunting’ up some sage hens when they attacked. Came back and found everyone dead and the wagons burned. I guess they stole the horses and killed the mules.” the boy responded.
“ You got a name?” Johnny asked as he poured a cup of coffee and handed it to the boy. “ Drink that, it’ll help warm you up.”
“ Thanks. Names Billy, Billy Graham.”
“ How old are you Billy?” Scott asked.
“ Sixteen. Who are you all?” Billy asked.
“ I’m Johnny Lancer, this is my brother Scott Lancer. Over there you have Frank, Joe Walt, Jeff, Seth and Tom. They work for me.”
“ You got yourself a mess a horses. Wouldn’t be needing another hand would ya?” Billy asked.
“ These horses are going to Oregon. They’re sold to the Army.” Johnny explained.
Scott walked over to his saddlebags, pulled out a shirt, and walked over to the boy. “ Put that on.” Scott said as he handed the shirt to Billy.
“ I’ve got a spare pair of britches he can wear until we can get him some pants at the next town we get close too.” Joe said.
“ I got a pair of socks he can have.” Frank said.
“ You mean you’ll take me with you?” Billy asked.
“ Sure not going to leave you out here. How’d you feed yourself all this time?” Johnny asked as he fixed a plate of bacon, beans and biscuits, and handed it to the boy.
“ Traps and snares mostly.” Billy said as he took the plate. “ Cooper there once in a while would catch a rabbit when he could. I got real good at catching fish.”
“ Johnny, could I have a word with you in private?” Scott asked before walking over to the horses.
“ Sure.” Johnny responded before following Scott over by the horses. “ What’s wrong?”
“ You see the condition that boy is in?” Scott asked. “ He’s as skinny as a door just about.”
“ You would be too Scott if you lived out here for almost a year with barely anything but what you have on your back.” Johnny responded.
“ I understand that. What are we going to do with him?” Scott asked.
“ Take him with us.” Johnny responded.
“ All the way to Oregon?” Scott asked.
“ Unless the plans have changed without me knowing, yeah all the way to Oregon.” Johnny said before slapping Scott gently on the back. “ Billy……How good a rider are you?” Johnny asked as he walked back over to the fire.
“ Been riding since I was three. My pa taught me how.” Billy responded.
“ Okay, Look, until we can get you a saddle, you’ll have to ride bareback. I want you to stay by Seth and lead a pack horses. Can you do that?” Johnny asked.
“As long as they trail good and won’t go tearing my arm off. How you got em tied is wrong though. I’ve been watching.” Billy responded and asked.
“ Head to tail is wrong.” Frank said.
“ Better control if you have them up closer and tied around the one on the lefts neck. Pa said giving them about three feet of lead rope is just enough to stave off trouble. They can’t rear up. I been watching your pack horses. That big sorrel should be the one closest to the rider, the other three are lazy and will plod along with no problems.”
“ Your pa taught you that huh?” Johnny asked.
“ Yeah he did.”
“ Kids right Johnny.” Frank responded.
“ Tell ya what Billy, you lead the pack horses every day and help set-up and break camp, fix meals, and whatever else needs done, and I’ll pay you a mans wages of a dollar a day.”
“ Really. You mean it?” Billy asked.
“ Yeah. How bout it, we have a deal?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes sir. I’ll start cleaning up after you all eat some breakfast.” Billy said.
“ That damn storm cost us time Paul.” Pat said as he tossed the remaining coffee in his cup.
“ It cost them too. No way they would try and drive a herd of horses in a storm. It would be suicide.” Paul responded.
“ Yeah well they have all the time in the world to deliver those horses.” Dave said.
“ What did you mean what you said earlier about Lancer’ contract agreement doesn’t mean anything. How come?” Dave asked.
Because his names not Johnny Lancer, that’s why.” Paul said.
“ What the hell are you talking about?”
“ Oh didn’t I tell you his real name isn’t Lancer, it’s Madrid, Johnny Madrid, he’s the one we’re stealing the horses from.” Paul explained.
“ You’re crazy. Madrid was killed two years ago in Mexico by a firing squad.” Pat stated.
“ Lancer hired Madrid to make sure those horses get to Oregon didn’t he?” Dave asked.
“ We both knew you weren’t telling us the whole story about this job. I guess now we know why.” Pat said.
“ I’ve never lied to you boys before, why start now. Addison didn’t tell me Madrid was hired until our last meeting in Stockton before we left.” Paul said.
“ I don’t know Paul, this is a whole new game now. Nobody said anything about Johnny Madrid being involved.” Pat said.
“ Stealing horses is one thing, nobody said we would be going up against the fastest gunfighter out there. I’m not doing it. I’m not facing Madrid for no amount of money.” Dave said.
“ Dave’s right Paul. Count me out too.” Pat said.
“ Now hold on guys. We’ve been together a long time. He’s just one man.” Paul said.
“ Who happens to be Johnny Madrid.” Dave said with anger.
“ Look, stealing horses and taking the risk of being hung is one thing. Knowingly going up against Madrid is something totally different. He’s killed every man he’s faced. He’s been ambushed, yet is still alive. You yourself said Addison had him shot in the back two years ago and he’s still alive.” Pat spat. “ Forget it Paul. Madrid can’t be killed. Let’s go Dave, he can find someone else to help him steal those horses. I’m not going against Madrid.” Pat said as he stood up and went to his horse.
“ I’m sorry Paul. As much as I’d like to help you steal those horses. I can’t. I won’t go up against Madrid.” Dave said as he stood up and walked over to his horse.
“ So you two are gonna forget all the times we rode together. You’re gonna tuck tail and run away from making a lot of money.” Paul said angrily.
“ What goods money like that if you’re dead. If you had any smarts Paul, you’d ride away and forget about doing this too. Madrid will kill you.” Dave said as he mounted his horse and rode away with Pat.
“ I’ll get us checked in at the hotel and then take the buggy to the livery.” Murdoch said as he stopped in front of the Lincoln Hotel and got down.
“ I had no idea Stockton has gotten so big.” Teresa said as she handed Mary to Murdoch and climbed out of the buggy.
“ Excuse me sir. Will you and the young lady be staying with at the Lincoln Hotel?” a man in a suit asked.
“ Yes.” Murdoch responded as he handed the baby back to Teresa.
“ Very well sir. I shall get your luggage for you.” the young man said.
“ Thank you.” Murdoch said as he escorted Teresa into the lobby.
“ Why Murdoch Lancer……… Teresa….What a pleasant surprise……..What brings you two to Stockton?” Agatha Conway asked.
“ Mrs Conway, what a nice surprise.” Teresa said.
“ I thought I would bring my daughter-in-law to a place bigger than Green River and let her do a little shopping.” Murdoch responded.
“ Oh my goodness, would you look how big she’s gotten. I can’t believe this is the same baby.” Aggie said as she took Mary from Teresa.
“ How long will you and the young lady be staying with us Mister Lancer?” the hotel clerk asked.
“ A few days I guess.” Murdoch responded.
“ Very well. I have the suite at the end of the hall available. You and your daughter will be quit comfortable.” the desk clerk said as he handed Murdoch the key. “ See that Mister Lancer’s luggage gets to his room.” he ordered the bellboy.
“ Daughter-in-law and grand daughter.” Murdoch said as he took the key.
“ Very well. If there is anything the young lady needs for the baby in the middle of the night, just let me or whoever is working the desk know and we will get it for her.” the clerk said.
“ That won’t be necessary, but thank you.” Murdoch responded. “ So what brings you to Stockton in the middle of the week Agatha?”
“ I came with Buck. He had some kind of business meeting and asked me if I would like to come along.” Aggie responded. “ Why don’t we all have supper together tonight? The hotel diner is quit good.” she suggested.
“ Oh Mrs Conway, that sounds wonderful.” Teresa said with a smile.
“ Good. Me and Buck will meet you in the diner at seven. That way you have time to freshen up, unpack and rest.” Aggie suggested.
“ Sounds good. We’ll see you then.” Murdoch said before escorting Teresa up to their room.
“ There you are. I have been looking all over town for you.” Buck said as he walked into the hotel lobby. “ I have an hour free if you would like to get something to eat.” he suggested.
“ That sounds wonderful.” Aggie responded. “ You will never guess who just checked in the hotel for a few days.”
“ No, I’m afraid I haven’t a clue. Who?” Buck said and asked.
“ Murdoch Lancer. He brought Teresa and the baby with him. Isn’t it wonderful. Now I will have someone to spend time with while you take care of that business you said you had. I can show Teresa around town and talk.”
“ And Murdoch Lancer, will he too be with you?” Buck asked.
“ Buck……..Murdoch Lancer is my oldest and dearest friend. I suggest you keep that in mind.” Aggie suggested.
“ I’m sorry Aggie. It’s just that, well it wouldn’t look good if my fiance was seen around town with Murdoch Lancer. People might get the wrong idea.” Buck responded.
“ Most of the people that live in this town already know the history between me and Murdoch. There is nothing going on between us, and there never will be Buck, we are friends and that’s all. Now I have invited them to join us for dinner tonight at seven.” Aggie said firmly.
“ I can’t tonight Agatha. I promised the Captain I would………..”
“ Just a minute Buck. You have not had dinner with me once since we got here. Every night you have been in a meeting. Can’t you make an exception tonight?”
“ I’m sorry Agatha, I can’t, Captain Duncan will be leaving soon, getting this contract with the Army is more important to me than having dinner with your oldest friend Murdoch Lancer.” Buck responded softly before turning to leave.
“ I’ve been watching Billy for the past week and I gotta say, that’s one hard working kid Johnny. I ain’t never seen anyone his age work so damn hard at pleasing those around him.” Frank said.
“ Yeah, he has manners that’s for sure. He bumped into me when I was unsaddling my horse and just about fell all over himself saying how sorry he was to me.” Scott said.
“ I watched him pack this morning. He checked numerous times to make sure nothing would rub a sore on any of the horses.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny, we need to find him a saddle somewhere. He can’t keep riding bareback.” Scott suggested.
“ Yeah I know. Susanville is a couple days ride. We can get him one there when we go in to get supplies.” Johnny said.
“ I’m going to go back and ride with Billy for a bit.” Scott said.
Billy stopped his horse and turned watching behind him as far as he could see.
“ Is something wrong Billy?” Scott asked as he rode up.
“ No, I just like watching behind to make sure there ain’t no horses got separated from the herd.” Billy responded.
“ Have you thought about what you want to do after we deliver these horses Billy?” Scott asked.
“ Don’t rightly know. I guess buy me a horse and go were there’s work for me and Cooper.” Billy said.
“ What if you came back to Lancer with us to work? I haven’t talked to Johnny about it yet, but I don’t think he would say no, and the men all like you.” Scott suggested.
“ You mean it Scott?”
“ Yes Billy, I mean it.”
“ Thank you. I know my folks will rest easy now knowing I’ll be alright.” Billy said. “ Just how big is this ranch of yours?” Billy asked
“ Lancer, it’s over one hundred thousand acres with roughly one thousand head of cattle and the finest Capanero D’ Palominos in the San Joaquin. Johnny’ horse Barranca is one.” Scott responded.
“ I ain’t never seen a ranch that big. Where did you all get these mustangs from?” Billy asked.
“ Lancer. There are more mustangs running free on Lancer land than Johnny could break in a lifetime. He just got a contract with the Army to sell green-broke mustangs to them. This herd is bringing him seventy five dollars a horse.” Scott explained.
“ Wow, that’s……………….that’s over eleven thousand dollars. I ain’t never seen that much money before. The most money I ever seen was the twenty double eagles my pa had coming out here.”
“ What happened to them?” Scott asked.
“ I guess the Indians took them cause I searched the next day after I buried my family, and I couldn’t find them.” Billy said.
“ You buried your family all by yourself Billy. That’s something no child should ever have to do.” Scott said.
“ Had to be done. Don’t really understand why Indians like scalping white folks though.” Billy said.
Scott’ stomach rolled as he listened to Billy tell how he had to bury his own family at a mere fifteen years old. He couldn’t help but think about his brother, and wonder if he too had to bury his mother.
“ Billy, I’m sorry you had to do that. As for scalping, not all Indians do that. Some take children and women hostage and they become part of the tribe. They completely forget about the white man ways.”
“ You and Johnny got a pa and ma?” Billy asked.
“ Both our mothers are dead. My mother died giving birth to me. Johnny’ mother……..I’m not sure really how she died. He doesn’t talk about his past much.” Scott said.
“ You mean you both have the same pa, but different ma’s? How come you don’t know anything about his past or how his mamma died if you’re the oldest?” Billy asked.
“ Because I grew up in Boston. I was raised by my grandfather until a few years ago when I decided to come home to Lancer. Johnny was raised in Mexico. His mother ran away with him when he was only two. He’s just come home last year.” Scott responded.
“ Your pa, is he a good man?” Billy asked.
“ As good and as fair as they come Billy. You give him a good days work, and he will treat you right.” Scott said.
“ My pa always said, treat others the way you would want to be treated, and if you take on a job, make sure to do it right the first time and always finish that job.” Billy said.
“ It sounds like your father was a very wise and noble man Billy. He did a fine job raising you.” Scott said as Johnny rode up.
“ Billy, I want you to ride on ahead with Frank and start setting up camp. Frank will know where.” Johnny ordered.
“ Yes sir. Thanks Scott, for listening. Ain’t had nobody to talk to about it before now. I appreciate your kind words.” Billy said before kicking his horse into a trot around the herd to where Frank waited.
“ You two have a little bonding session there brother?” Johnny asked.
“ As a matter of fact we did Johnny. He needed to talk about what happened. He had to bury his family. Something no fifteen year old should ever have to do. I can’t begin to imagine seeing them scalped.”
“ Jesus Scott, he said that?” Johnny asked.
“ Yeah. Listen, I told him he could ride back to Lancer with us. That he could go to work there.”
“ The old man may not like that, but I don’t have a problem with it. He’s good with horses and if Murdoch doesn’t want him working the ranch, he can work for me with the horses.” Johnny responded.
“ So you’re not mad that I asked him?”
“ Nope. I had planned on asking him tonight what his plans were after we deliver the horses. Has he said anything about where his family was killed?”
“ No, He’s slowly opening up and talking about what happened. I don’t want to push it.” Scott replied.
“ Probably best.” Johnny said.
“ He asked about us as brothers and our mothers.” Scott said.
“ What did you tell him?” Johnny asked.
“ The truth. That my mother died giving birth to me, and your mother died also, though I don’t know how. You should have seen the look he got when I told him how big Lancer is.”
“ You didn’t tell him about who I was did you?” Johnny asked.
“ No. Why would I. That’s not who you are anymore brother.” Scott responded.
“ I’ll always be Johnny Madrid, Scott. It’s just that he only shows himself when some jackass comes along and calls him out.” Johnny responded.
“ I meant to ask you in the lobby earlier how come Johnny and Scott are not with you two?” Aggie asked.
“ Scott and Johnny took a herd of mustangs to Oregon. Johnny sold to the Army. They left last week.”
“ Oregon, I thought he had sold them to the Army in Colorado?” Aggie asked.
“ So did he, but a Major Hunter and Captain Duncan showed up and told Johnny the horses were to be delivered to Fort Klamath in Oregon. That the Army will pay him seventy five dollars per horse.”
“ Oh Murdoch, I bet you’re so proud of him. That’s a lot of money.” Aggie said.
“I’m very proud of him yes.” Murdoch responded.
“ Wait, did you say a Captain Duncan?” Agatha asked.
“ Yes, why?”
“ That’s the man Buck came to Stockton to have a meeting with. Something about a huge contract.” Aggie said.
“ A huge contract, doing what?” Murdoch asked.
“ He didn’t say, but he said it was very important that he get it. That’s why he’s not here tonight to have dinner with us. He’s with Captain Duncan.”
“ Murdoch, do you think it’s the same Captain Duncan that was at Lancer?” Teresa asked.
“ It has to be.” Murdoch responded.
“ You don’t think he’s trying to take Johnny’ contract away do you?” Agatha asked.
“ He doesn’t have the horses to supply the Army, so I don’t see that happening.” Murdoch responded.
“ He does if he has those horses stolen. They won’t have a brand on them until they belong to the Army. You told Johnny, wild horses belong to nobody until they wear a mans brand.” Teresa said.
“ Yes, but Johnny has the contract agreement from the Army, that says he’s to deliver one hundred and fifty green broke mustangs.” Murdoch said.
“ A contract that will be canceled if he cannot make it.” Teresa added.
“ I just can’t get over how much this little one has grown. Why it won’t be no time at all and she will be walking.” Aggie said.
“ She’s trying to pull herself up now reaching for things and rolling over.” Teresa said.
“ Excuse me ma’am, I was wondering if the little one might like some broth with a biscuit soaked in it?” the waiter asked.
“ That will be fine. Thank you.” Teresa said. “ Do you think Johnny and Scott are at risk of losing the horses before they get them to Oregon?” Teresa asked.
“ I don’t know. I’ll check at the telegraph office tomorrow and see where the nearest wire will be for them and send one warning them.” Murdoch responded.
“ What will you say?” Teresa asked.
“ Captain possibly shady. Be careful.” Murdoch said. “ That will alert them to possible trouble.”
“ So……Teresa, what do you want to do tomorrow?” Aggie asked.
“ Look around the dress stores. Maybe find a nice dress to wear when Johnny comes home.” Teresa responded.
“ Do you have other things you can do Murdoch, or will you be accompanying us?” Agatha asked.
“ Other than sending the wire, I thought I would look at the cattle at the livestock pens. See if there are any good looking bulls for sale.” Murdoch responded.
“ Isn’t that Captain Duncan that just walked in with Mister Addison?” Teresa asked.
Murdoch turned and looked as the two men walked toward their table. “ Why yes it is.” Murdoch said.
“ Agatha, I thought I would introduce you to the man who has kept us apart these last two days. Captain Duncan, this is my beautiful fiance Agatha Conway.” Buck said, refusing to introduce Murdoch or Teresa.
“ I’m sorry to have kept Mister Addison from such a beautiful lady.” Captain Duncan said. “ Lancer isn’t it?” he asked, looking at Murdoch.
“ Captain Duncan, I thought you and Major Hunter had to get back to Sacramento for some urgent business?” Murdoch asked.
“ The Major took care of that and is back in Oregon now awaiting the arrival of your son and the horses.” Captain Duncan responded. “ Has your son left with the herd yet?”
“He left last week. I’m surprised to see you still around instead of back at Fort Klamath as well.” Murdoch said.
“ I had some other business to attend to for the Army before I head back to Oregon.” Captain Duncan responded. “ It would seem your son lied to the Army, therefore they will not be buying those mustangs from him when he delivers them.”
“ And just what did my son lie to the Army about……Captain?” Murdoch demanded.
“ Who he is. I personally don’t like being lied to by a man about who he is. Your son, if he is even your son, goes by a different name I am told, Johnny Madrid I believe.” Captain Duncan said.
Murdoch stood up. “ He used to be, but he gave it up and has come home to live as my son, Johnny Lancer. This man here, for god knows why is bent on trying to ruin my son and what he wants to do.”
“Mister Lancer, I have wired Major Hunter. I have told him of the deception your son has done. I assure you, the Major will not stand for this.” Captain Duncan said.
“ Now you listen here Captain……..”
“ Mister Lancer, if your………son attempts to sell those horses to the Army as Johnny Lancer, he will be arrested and tried for deceiving the Army. The contract he carries will not be honored.”
Agatha stood up. “ How could you do this Buck? How could you tell such lies. I will be leaving first thing in the morning. I never want to see you again.” Agatha said as a tear ran down her face.
“ You can ride back with us if you wish Mrs Conway. You can stay in our room tonight if you like.” Teresa suggested.
“ Thank you Teresa. Buck Addison, you are a cold hearted, hateful man.” Agatha said before walking away with Teresa.
“ All that hate you have for my son who has never done anything to you Buck, I hope it was worth what it just cost you.” Murdoch said as he took out some money to pay the bill. “ Captain Duncan, I hope you don’t plan on a long life in the Army, because I am very good friends with the Governor, and I assure you, once he hears about this, he will be contacting the War Department and if one hair on either of my sons or the men with them is harmed by anyone at Fort Klamath, you sir will wish you had never heard the name Lancer.” Murdoch said firmly before pushing past them and heading upstairs.
“ He writes the Governor this will all backfire on us. You never said anything about Murdoch Lancer knowing the Governor.” Captain Duncan said.
“ Let him. By the time the Governor does anything Madrid will be dead, and those horses will be ours.” Captain Duncan said.
“ You better hope so, because I just lost the only woman I ever really loved Captain.” Buck said.
“ Mister Devine, they’re coming sir. The herd is just outside the small town of Beckwith.”Juan Redon said as he dismounted and tied his horse to the rail.
“ How many riders and how many horses?” John S. Devine asked.
“ Nine riders and about a hundred and fifty horses. Lancer is bringing them up along the mountain range for grazing and water.” Juan responded stepping up onto the porch.
“ Alright. I want to know when they cross into Oregon with escort from Fort Bidwell.” John S. Devine ordered.
‘ Yes sir.” Juan said. “ The one they call Johnny, he is the famous pistolero Johnny Madrid si?” Juan asked.
“ Yes. From what Murdoch wrote he’s trying to put that behind him and live a life as the son of a rancher. I met Murdoch in sixty eight. He was at a cattle auction in Stockton. He helped me to buy some good strong cattle to trail here a year later.” the rancher boast.
“ Does it not worry you that the pistolero Johnny Madrid is coming here?” Juan asked.
“ Not at all Juan. He may not even accept my invitation to come here after he delivers his horses.” the rancher said.
“ Why did he not take the herd into Nevada and come north? There would still be plenty of water and grazing for the horses.” Juan said.
“ Maybe his father warned him about Kingsbury and the Smoke Creek Ranch.” the rancher suggested.
“ Perhaps. That man would not allow him to cross his land.” Juan responded.
‘ Not without paying a high amount to do so. I heard tell George Winters bought the Shinn Ranch and plans on raising grapes to make wine.”
“ Perhaps he will.” Juan responded. “ I shall go check on the fencing of that new section now.” Juan said as he stepped down to his horse and mounted up. “ You are a good man John S. Devine.” Juan said before turning his horse and riding away.
“ You’re boys smart Murdoch, I’ll give him that. Moving a herd that size at a nice pace at the base of the Sierra’s, smart. Too bad you’re not with them old friend.”
Johnny sat looking down at a huge lake with water as blue as the sky and a meadow of grass as far as the eyes could see. Removing the telescope from his saddlebag, Johnny looked around the lake for any sign of cattle, or the possibility of the area belonging to a rancher. Movement to his right along the lakes shore caught his attention. Two covered wagons with the teams unhitched and a small fire. Looking closer he could see two small children playing with what looked like a puppy, two men and two women could be seen sitting around the campfire. Hearing a horse approaching, Johnny turned to see his brother riding up.
“ Everything alright?” Scott asked.
“ Take a look down there.” Johnny said as he handed Scott the telescope and pointed to where the wagons were.
“ You reckon they’re homesteading the place?” Scott asked.
“ I don’t think so Scott. Look, the horses need a rest. There’s plenty of water and good grazing for them down there.” Johnny said.
“ Well, shall we ride down and see if they would object?” Scott asked.
“ The herds what, a quarter mile back?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes.” Scott responded.
“ Ride back and have them hold the horses until I come back.” Johnny said before turning Barranca and heading down the hill.
“ You’re the boss.” Scott said as he turned his horse and headed back to the herd about a quarter mile away.
“ I’m really sorry Mrs Conway.” Teresa said as they rode along in the buckboard.
“ I never expected he would be like that Murdoch. I’m sorry.” Agatha said.
“ Aggie, you are my oldest and dearest friend in this valley. What happened last night was not your fault and will not come between our friendship.” Murdoch responded.
“ Did you send those wires?” she asked.
“ Yes. One warning Johnny, and I also sent one to the War Department asking if what Captain Duncan said was true. I requested an immediate response.” Murdoch responded.
“ Do you think they will?” Teresa asked.
“ They will. I just hope Johnny and Scott get the wire I sent them.” Murdoch said.
“ Someone’s coming.” one of the men said.
“ Children get over behind the wagon with the women.” one of the men ordered.
“ You think it’s one of them come back?” one of the men asked.
“ Could be……..That’s close enough mister.” the older man yelled.
Johnny stopped Barranca. “ Take it easy mister. I mean you folks no harm. I’m just scouting for my herd of horses I have coming behind me. I need a place to bed them down for a day or two of rest. Look mister, I know you have women and children with you. I promise you, I mean no harm to any of you.” Johnny said.
“ I’m sorry. We had a run in with some men who weren’t all that friendly. They robbed us of all our money we had, most of our food, and all of our rifles.”
“ May I get down?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. Please forgive me. I’m Stan Marshall. This is my wife Martha, daughter Sara, and son Jacob.” Stan said. “ And this is my brother Josh, and his wife Ruth Anne.”
“ Pleased to meet you all. My names Lancer, Johnny Lancer.”
“ You said something about a herd of horses?” Josh asked.
“ Yeah, me and my brother and six hands are taking them to Fort Klamath in Oregon. They’re green broke mustangs I sold to the Army.”
“ That’s a very pretty horse you have there mister.” little Sara said. “ He looks like gold.”
“ Why than you. He’s a palomino colored mustang. Listen, If it’s alright with you we can bed them down at the other end of the lake.” Johnny suggested.
“ That’s fine. There’s more than enough room.” Stan said
“ Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll ride over and let my men know they can bring the herd on in.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle. “ If you don’t mind my asking, whens the last time you all ate any meat?”
“Ever since those men robbed us. We’ve been here for about a week now.” Martha responded.
“ You’ll have venison tonight.” Johnny said.
“ What’s venison?” little Jacob asked.
“ Well venison is another word for deer, elk or antelope meat son.” Stan said “ Thank you mister Lancer.”
“ Don’t mention it. I’ll be back.” Johnny said as he galloped off.
“ How long we gonna wait Scott?” Frank asked.
“ Johnny said to give him an hour.” Scott responded.
“ Here he comes.” Joe said.
“ Take them down and keep ’em at this end of the lake. There’s plenty of lush green grass for grazing. Scott, go back where we seen those elk and kill one. Take Tom with ya.” Johnny ordered.
“ I thought we were buying supplies in Susanville?” Scott asked.
“ We are. Those people have had no meat for at least a week. They got robbed of all their money, guns and ammunition.” Johnny responded.
“ Where they come from Johnny?” Frank asked.
“ I don’t know and I didn’t ask. All I do know is those two little kids will not go to sleep hungry tonight. Get them moving.” Johnny said before kicking Barranca into a gallop to the back of the herd.
“Papa look at all those horses.” Jacob said.
“ Oh my. I don’t think I have ever seen that many horses before.” Martha said. “ Look at all of them. There seems to be no end to them coming down that hill.”
“ There’s Mister Lancer on that pretty golden horse.” Sara said.
“ Yes child, we see.” Stan said.
“ I wonder how many horses they have?” Josh asked.
“ I’d say there’s over a hundred easy.” Stan responded. “ It took a lot of time to round that many up and break them to saddle.”
“ Yeah, he did say they were green broke. Seems I heard mention somewhere the Lancer name, and it wasn’t all that long ago I heard it either.” Josh said.
“ Looks like Scott got an elk.” Walt said.
Johnny looked and seen his brother and Tom coming back with a big bull elk draped across a pack horse’s back.
“ Hey brother. Good job.” Johnny said as he walked back and looked. “ You got two hindquarters here.”
“ Me and Tom figured they could use the meat.” Scott said as he got down.
“ Coffee’s hot. Thanks Scott,…Tom.” Johnny said as he went to Barranca and swung up on his back.
“ Hold on brother. I’ll go with you.” Scott said as he poured a cup of coffee and took a sip. “ No saddle huh?”
“ No.” Johnny responded as he grabbed the pack horse lead and started toward the wagons.
“ You either fix this problem or you can forget about the whole damn thing Addison.” Captain Duncan ordered.
“ Now wait a minute Captain. I had no idea Paul was going to back out of the deal. He assured me he had two loyal men to help him steal the horses.” Buck
“ With all due respect Mr Addison, I don’t think you or anyone you know would know the first thing about loyalty.” Captain Duncan said.
“ It’s got to be Madrid.” Buck said. “ That’s probably why those idiots won’t do it.”
“ Just who the hell is this Madrid?” Captain Duncan demanded.
“ Only the best gunfighter above and below the Mexican border. Madrid is known for his deadly speed and accuracy in every border town all the way up into Wyoming. Any man foolish enough to call him out, dies.” Buck responded.
“ He’s just one man. He can die just like you or me.” Captain Duncan said.
“ Let me tell you something Captain………the minute you go underestimating Madrid, that’s when you will find yourself looking down the wrong end of his gun.”
“ If I see Madrid ride into Fort Klamath, it’s you who will be looking down the wrong end of a barrel Addison. Mark my word, Failure is not an option.” Captain Duncan said firmly before leaving.
“ When you said you had a herd of horses, I was thinking along the line of maybe thirty head.” Stan said as Scott and Johnny rode up.
“ Scott, this is Mister Marshall and his family. Let’s see now, we have his wife Martha and son Jacob. Then his brother Josh and his wife Ruth, and the one you gotta watch because she has an eye for horse flesh is this sweetheart…….this is Sara. This is my brother Scott Lancer. He went and killed a couple elk so you all would have some meat for a little while.”
“ Pleased to meet you Scott. I can’t thank the two of you enough…..all of you really for what you’ve done for us.” Stan said.
“ Listen, I’m going to ride into Susanville tomorrow and get supplies for us. Why don’t one of you come along? I can get you folks some basic things like hardtack, coffee, beans, sugar, flour and such.” Johnny suggested.
“ We can’t ask that of you Mister Lancer. You’ve been more than gracious already.” Martha said.
“ Call me Johnny please. Mister is my old man.” Johnny said as he slid off Barranca’s back.
“ You don’t have a saddle on him now. How come?” Sara asked as she stepped closer to Barranca and held out a hand full of grass. “ That tickles.” she said when Barranca started removing the grass from her hand.
“ No. I took it off him to give him a rest. You want to ride him?” Johnny said and asked.
“ Could I papa?”
“ I don’t see why not.” Stan responded. “ You do as Johnny says.
Johnny swung up on Barranca and reached down, pulling little Sara up to him.
“ Don’t worry. My brother broke that horse. He spoils him rotten. She’ll be alright.” Scott said as he dismounted. “ Were would you like the meat?”
“ Here, I’ll take it.”Josh said.
“ Your brother is quit good with Sara. He will make a good father.” Stan said.
“ Johnny has a little girl at home. She’ll be a year old in November.” Scott said
“ If you don’t mind my asking, where are you and your brother from?” Stan asked as Josh came back over.
“ We have a ranch in the San Joaquin valley called Lancer. Me and Johnny run it with our father Murdoch.” Scott said.
“ Would you care for a cup of coffee Scott?” Martha asked.
“ Thank you ma’am.”
“ How big is your ranch?” Stan asked as he handed Scott a cup of coffee.
“ Lancer, over one hundred thousand acres and a thousand head of beef. The mustangs came from there. Took Johnny all winter to break them. He broke and trained that black I ride.” Scott responded.
“ You don’t look like brothers. He looks like he’s part Mexican.” Josh said.
“ We have the same father, but different mothers.” Scott said, noticing the look in Josh’ eyes. A look he’d seen many time before from people who no fault of their own, don’t like someone because they’re different.
Johnny rode back up with Sara, both laughing. “ Would you like a ride Jacob?” Johnny asked as he slid down and helped Sara down.
“ His horse does a neat trick Jacob.” Sara said with a smile.
“ No thank you sir. Thank you for taking my little sister.” Jacob responded.
“Jacob, why don’t you and your sister go down to the lakes shore and pick some dandelion greens to go with the meat.” Martha suggested.
“ Okay, come on Sara.” Jacob responded.
Martha handed Johnny a cup of coffee. “ That’s the first time she’s laughed in two years.” she said with a quiver in her voice.
“ Thank you. Where you all coming from?” Johnny asked.
“ Little Rock, Arkansas. I have a sister in Portland, Oregon who has a business she needs help running.” Martha responded.
“ We came across the south slowly working our way northwest until those men robbed us.” Stan added.
“ Are you aware there is an Indian war going on, and you folks are headed right through the middle of it?” Scott asked.
“ Indian war. We haven’t seen a single Indian since we left home.” Martha said.
“ Trust me ma’am. They’ve seen you. I suggest you go west to a town called Redding, and go north from there. It will be a lot safer for you.” Johnny said.
“ That’s why you’re taking those horses to the Army isn’t it?” Josh asked.
“ Yes it is. Listen, the Modoc and Paiute will kill you and not think twice about doing it. Trust me. After we get you some supplies tomorrow, point these wagons west and then go north. What Indians you do encounter will be friendly.” Johnny said.
“ We need to get back to the herd Scott.” Johnny said as he set is cup down and walked to Barranca.
“ Thank you for the coffee. Enjoy that meat.” Scott said as he also set his cup down.
“ Do you have a saddle horse?” Johnny asked as he swung up on Barranca.
“ No, just the wagon horses.” Stan replied.
“ Okay. I’ll bring a saddle mount with me in the morning.” Johnny said.
“ Have a good night, we always have a couple guards watching the horses, so don’t worry.” Scott said as he mounted up.
“ Stan, this is Billy Graham. He’s gonna ride in with us. We picked him up a ways back and as you can see. He’s in need of a saddle and clothes. Billy, this is Stan Marshall and his wife Martha and son Jacob and daughter Sara.” Johnny said. “ This is one of our spare mounts. He’s young, but fully broke.” Johnny added as he got down and handed the reins to Stan.
“ Thank you. He’s a fine looking animal.” Stan said as he walked over and took the reins Johnny offered.
“ Are you a gunfighter Johnny?” Jacob asked.
Johnny turned and faced the boy. “ Why do you ask that?”
“ You wear your gun like one. Low on the hip, holster cut away at the top for fast draw. I bet you got the sight filed off too.” Jacob responded.
“ I’m so sorry Johnny. He’s been reading dime store novels his uncle got him back in Texas.” Martha said. “ Jacob, you say your sorry to Johnny, for asking such a foolish question.”
“ But it’s not foolish. He’s just like the famous gunfighter Johnny Madrid. I’ll show you.” Jacob responded before running off the the back of the wagon.
“ I’m sorry. He has such an imagination sometimes.” Martha said.
“ See. He’s right here.” Jacob said as he ran back over and showed the dime store novel to Johnny. “ Johnny Madrid, Peasant Savior.” Johnny said aloud as he opened the novel and looked through it.
“ It says Johnny Madrid always helped the less fortunate or poor people down in Mexico. That he became their Savior.” Jacob said.
“ Jacob, what have I told you about believing lies?” Martha demanded.
“ He’s alright Mrs Marshall.” Johnny said as he handed the novel back to Jacob, and got down on his knees to face the boy. “ Do you believe in people getting a second chance at life Jacob?” Johnny asked.
“ My pa told me that everyone deserves a second chance to redeem themselves. To try and make right what they did wrong.” Jacob responded.
“ Well Jacob. That’s what I’m trying to do. I became Johnny Madrid to stay alive below the border. You see, my mother was a beautiful Mexican lady and my father was an American. That’s why I have blue eye. In Mexico, I’m what’s known as a half-breed and they figure I shouldn’t live. When my mother died, I was put in an orphanage and the kids there, well they weren’t nice to me. I became Johnny Madrid to stop that, but I made a big mistake. See, what I bet those dime novels don’t tell you about me is the price I have to pay every day for becoming Johnny Madrid. I got a reputation as the fastest gunfighter, and well, sometimes men come along thinking they are faster than me, and they call me out. I try to get them to walk away. To not do it, but they won’t listen. I have no choice but to draw and kill them. It’s just a matter of time before someone does come along who is faster and kills me. Last year I was shot in the back by a coward and found out what my mother told me about my father was all a lie. I’m not Johnny Madrid any more. All I want to be is Johnny Lancer, the son of Murdoch Lancer and Scott’ brother. A rancher, that’s all.” Johnny said.
“ You never broke the law did you?” Jacob asked.
Johnny glanced at the boys father and mother. He could see the shock in their eyes. “ No Jacob. I always stayed on the right side of the law. I’m not wanted by the law except the Rurales in Mexico, and that’s because of what I did down there helping the little people who were being bullied by the rich people. Listen to me Jacob, what I did I did to stay alive and I’m not proud of it. Don’t you ever think you don’t have choices, because you do. A gun is a tool and nothing more. Don’t make a choice to live by a gun because some day another gun will kill you. You understand what I just told you?” Johnny explained and asked.
“ I think so. You’re a good man Johnny. I’m glad I got to meet you.” Jacob responded.
“ Well I’m glad I met you and your family. Your good people.” Johnny said as he stood up and went to Barranca and swung up in the saddle.
“ We’ll be back before dark.” Stan said as he mounted the horse Johnny brought him.
Stan stopped his horse just outside of town. “ I’ve been thinking about what you told my son back there and I just want you to know, I don’t hold it against ya for what ya did in your past Johnny.” Stan said. “ I’m grateful to you for what you said to Jacob about reputations and using a gun. That he will always have a choice.”
“ Mister Marshall, your doing a good job bringing that boy of yours up. I never meant for you to feel like you weren’t when I told him what I did.” Johnny said.
“ You didn’t. A father can only teach his son so much. The rest he has to learn on his own, and I recon this morning Jacob learned a lot, and I thank you for that.” Stan responded.
“ I was wondering if it would be alright to get Sara and Jacob some hard candy?” Johnny asked.
“ That would be fine. Jacob has never really been one to like hard candy though.” Stan replied. “ He likes the soft oh shoot……. I can’t remember what it’s called.”
“ Licorice maybe?” Billy asked.
“ Yeah that’s it, licorice. Thank you Billy.”
“ Then licorice it shall be for him.” Johnny said as they rode into town and stopped outside the general mercantile. “ Billy, we’ll see about getting you a saddle after we do the shopping. Let’s go get you some clothes.”
“ Yes sir.” Billy said as he slid off his horse and tied him to the rail. “ Here, I’ll take the pack horses and tie them for ya Johnny.”
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he handed him the lead rope and swung down from Barranca. “ Let’s go get you some food and him some clothes.” Johnny said as he stepped up onto the boardwalk followed by Billy and Stan.
“ This is the last of it Mister Lancer.” the store clerk said. “ I really appreciate your business. How’s those boots feel young man?”
“ They feel real good sir. Thank you.” Billy responded.
“ We don’t get many cattle herds up this way. Where did ya say you were taking your herd?” the store clerk asked.
“ It’s not cattle, it’s horses, mustangs sold to the Army at Fort Klamath up in Oregon.” Billy responded.
“ Billy, why don’t you and Stan take the pack horses and head on down to the livery and get their shoes checked. See if he has a saddle he’ll sell for a reasonable price. Tell the man I’ll be along shortly to pay him.” Johnny ordered.
“ Sure Johnny.” Billy said as he untied his horse and swung up on him.
Johnny waited until Billy and Stan were gone before he stepped back inside the store. “Ma’am, I need enough of that blue flowered fabric there to make a real nice dress for a lady and some lace to trim it up with please.” Johnny asked. “ I also need a bag of hard candy, one of licorice, and one of peppermint.” Johnny added.
“Alright sir. I’ll get that for you right now and wrap it up.” the store owners wife said.
“ How come you’re selling horses to the Army up in Oregon?” the store owner asked harshly.
“ What I do is of no concern of yours mister…….I appreciate all your help with the boy getting clothes and such and your wife there helping us fill our huge order. You made a lot of money off us, so I figure I’ll only say this once. You ask a lot of questions about something that’s none of your business. Where we are headed and what our herd is……….that ain’t no business of yours. After we leave here, if I see anyone following us or anyone tries to steal any of my herd. I’ll kill them…….understand?” Johnny asked coldly. “ Every one of my riders is an expert shot with a rifle.” Johnny said firmly as the mans wife came over with the fabric and handed it to Johnny.
“ Now that’s a bag of hard candy, Licorice and peppermint correct?” she asked.
“ Yes ma’am.” Johnny responded. “ When you’re done, could you let me have a look at that skinning knife you have in the case?”
“ Certainly.” she responded.
“ Did I do something wrong in town Johnny?” Billy asked as they approached the wagons.
“ The man was asking questions he shouldn’t have been asking Billy. I’m not saying he would do anything. I’m just saying, be careful what you say and who you say it too when it comes to driving a herd of horses, or even cattle. Just because he runs that store that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be tempted to try and steal our herd.” Johnny explained.
“ Sometimes life’s lessons are hard Billy. His wife told me the town is barely getting buy. That we were the first customers to pay in cash they’d seen in months.” Stan added. “ I made a few mistakes growing up that I learned from. You listen to Johnny and you’ll do alright.”
“ Why don’t you take your pack horses and go on over to camp. Send Scott over to the wagons for me.” Johnny ordered.
“ Sure thing Johnny. Mister Marshall.” Billy said before riding off leading three pack horses.
“ How’d you end up with him Johnny, if you don’t mind my asking?” Stan asked as they rode on over to the wagons.
“ Papa, Johnny, you came back.” Sara said with cheer as she ran to her father.
“ Well of course we came back child. You think I could ever leave my favorite girl.” Stan said as he dismounted and grabbed her up in his arms.
“ Is something wrong?” Josh asked as he walked up with his wife Ruth, and Martha.
Stan noticed Scott and another man riding toward them at a gallop. “ Lets start getting this horse unpacked Josh. Mister Lancer was very generous in the supplies he bought.” Stan said as he took the lead rope from Johnny and led the horse over behind the wagons.
“ Come along Sara. You can help me and aunt Ruth.” Martha said.
“ Actually ma’am. I need to borrow Sara for a few minutes If I could?” Johnny cut in.
“ Alright. Come help me when you’re done.” Martha said before walking away.
“ You are in luck young lady. I found what you asked me to get your mom.” Johnny said as he undid his left saddlebag and reached inside, pulling out a package wrapped in brown paper with twine tied around it. “ I hope she likes it.” Johnny said as he handed it to Sara. “ I also got something for that sweet tooth of yours I know you have.” Johnny said as he walked around and undid the other saddlebag and reached inside, pulling out three brown paper bags. “ One is hard candy, and the other is licorice for your brother. I also got some peppermint for you both. It will help settle your stomach if it gets upset.” he said as he knelt down and handed the bags to her.
“ Golly Johnny, thank you. I haven’t had hard candy since we left Arkansas.” Sara said before giving Johnny a hug.
“ Now you go help your mom.” Johnny ordered as Scott rode up.
“ Billy said you wanted to see me.” Scott said.
“ Yeah It may be nothing.” Johnny responded and then proceeded to tell Scott about the store owner and all the questions he asked.
“ We leave at first light. I want night guards doubled tonight.” Johnny ordered.
“ Okay, but what about them Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ They’ll be alright. They can’t go with us Scott. The wagons won’t be able to keep up with the herd at the pace we’re moving.” Johnny responded.
“ They can go as far as Fort Bidwell with us.” Scott suggested.
“ In a couple days, we will be in the mountains and terrain those wagons can’t travel in. I’m sorry, but it’s just not possible.” Johnny responded as Stan and Martha walked over.
“ Johnny, I don’t know what to say.” Martha said as she held the fabric.
“ Your daughter asked me to get that for you so you would have a new dress to see your sister in.” Johnny responded.
“ Thank you, for everything.” Martha said as she stepped over and gave Johnny a hug.
“ We have to pull out in the morning. You stay on that road we took and it will take you to Redding, head straight north from there. It’s a good road for you to travel by wagon through the mountains. The cavalry patrols it from Sacramento to Yreka, to protect the miners from robbers and Indians.” Johnny said.
“ What about snow. Doesn’t it snow in the mountains before it does in the valleys?” Martha asked.
“ Yes ma’am it does. But snow usually don’t start falling in the mountains until November. You should be able to make it out of the mountains and down into Willamette Valley before then. Once you leave Redding, you’ll have several established settlements along the route. Ashland, Grants Pass, Roseburg. Once you reach Roseburg, you’ll be out of the mountains and it will be easy travel to Portland from there.” Scott said. “ Many of the places were started by fur trappers.”
“ Listen, we won’t be back home for at least three months. You write to us at Morro Coyo, California and let us know you made it. I’d like your kids to write to us too.” Johnny suggested.
“ Writing to you two fine boys is the least we can do after all you have done for us.” Stan responded.
Murdoch stood at the corral fence with his right foot resting on the bottom rail. Just a few weeks ago he watched his son break horses in the now empty corral. Standing there he couldn’t help but think about what Captain Duncan had said. Waiting for a reply from both the Governor and the War Department only added to his worries. Would Johnny be arrested when he arrived in Oregon at the Fort, or was it some kind of trick planned out by Addison and the Captain? Having had no word from either son, all he could do was pray they were both alright.
“ Murdoch.” Teresa called as she walked up. Getting no reply, she gently touched his right arm.
“ I’m sorry, what did you say darling?” Murdoch asked as he turned to face her.
“ Are you alright?” she asked.
“ Just thinking about the boys. We should have heard from them by now.” Murdoch responded.
“ Mrs Conway is at the house.” Teresa said, trying to get his mind off worrying about the boys. Deep down she too was worried for both of them. Every night before going to bed she would pray that both boys come home safe.
“ I’m sorry our trip to Stockton didn’t go as planned.” Murdoch said as they walked to the house.
“ Maybe we can all go to Sacramento as a family when the boys come home?” Teresa asked.
“ I don’t think Johnny has ever seen a city like San Francisco before. Maybe we could take a trip there.” Murdoch suggested.
“ That would be nice.” Teresa responded as they reached the house. Walking inside they found Aggie on the floor playing with Mary.
“ Oh, Murdoch, you caught me. Teresa, she is growing up so fast. How long has she been sitting up and scooting across the floor?” Aggie asked.
“ About a week now. She’s growing up so fast. I wish Johnny was here to see her doing it.” Teresa said as she sat down on the floor.
“ Is everything alright Agatha?” Murdoch asked.
“ I was wondering if you have heard anything from the boys or got a response on those telegrams?” Aggie asked as she got up off the floor.
“ No, nothing yet. Why?”
“ One of my hands seen Buck leave Green River yesterday afternoon with the Captain on the stage. He overheard the Captain say they would be at the Fort before the horses.” Aggie responded.
“ He has no way of knowing where Johnny and Scott are with the herd, so he’s going to wait for them at the Fort. Murdoch, we have to do something.” Teresa pleaded as she stood up and picked the baby up.
“ I fully intend to. First thing in the morning I will ride into town and send a wire to my friend John Devine. He’s a very powerful man in Oregon. I had already wrote him a letter telling him what was happening. I’ll let him know the latest. He can help the boys.” Murdoch responded.
“ Is that the same John Devine that drove twenty five hundred head of cattle to Oregon five years ago?” Agatha asked.
“ Yes it is.” Murdoch responded.
“ He took a huge gamble and made it pay off. I just hope he continues to thrive up there.” Aggie said.
“ I did. What John Devine did is really no different than what I did when I bought Lancer all those years ago. Look at me now. I’m the biggest cattle ranch in the San Joaquin valley. He’s the biggest cattle rancher in southeastern Oregon.”
“ I remember. Me and Henry had been here a couple years before you came. I thought you were crazy, but you turned this land into something beautiful. Teresa, it was so dead and desolate. The grass around the house was so tall and full of weeds, you couldn’t see the fence.” Agatha said.
“ I remember my father telling me how it looked when he came to work here.” Teresa said. “ He said the desert looked more alive than Lancer. The big barn, you could lay in the loft and look up at the stars at night there were so many holes in the roof.” she added with a laugh.
“ Alright, I’ll admit, Lancer was in pretty bad shape when I bought it twenty five years ago.” Murdoch responded.
“ He likes to say he has a Grey hair for every good blade of grass you can see out there.” Teresa added.
“ It’s been just over a month. How close do you think the boys are to making the delivery?” Agatha asked.
“ Oh I expect they’ve been making good time and should be somewhere up around Susanville area. If my memory serves me right. There’s a huge lake with good grazing where Johnny can rest the herd for a day or two before they get into the mountains and steep canyons.” Murdoch responded.
“ You mean Indian country don’t you?” Teresa asked.
“ They could be, yes. Listen to me Teresa, Johnny and Scott both know how to survive. They’ll be fine.” Murdoch responded. “ In less than three months both boys will ride into the yard and this little one will walk to her papa.” Murdoch added as he walked over and took Mary Elizabeth into his arms.
“How long you think this storm will last?” Scott asked.
“ Don’t rightly know. I’m just glad the rain eased up some and the wind stopped howling.” Johnny responded.
“ You think we lost any horses last night?” Joe asked.
“ No lightening hit close, but that don’t mean some didn’t spook and run off.” Johnny said. “ Billy, you did real good setting up camp so fast yesterday.”
“ Thanks Johnny.” Billy said as he removed the lid and stirred the stew. “ I found some wild onions and added them t the stew.”
“ Smells good Billy.” Scott and Frank said.
“ We may have to make you our cook when we get back to Lancer.” Joe said jokingly.
“ I don’t care, as long as me and Cooper have a roof over our head, I’m happy.” Billy responded as Johnny turned and pulled something out of his saddlebags.
“ You learn to cook from your ma Billy?” Tom asked.
“ Sure did. My pa taught me the biscuit recipe I use.” Billy responded as he picked the lid up and looked at the biscuits inside with their golden tops. Setting the lid back on, he lifted it out of the coals and set the oven next to the fire. “ Biscuits are done.”
“ Billy, when I was in Susanville, I got you something after I sent you and Mr Marshall to the livery. It’s not much, but you’ll find it will come in handy for you.” Johnny said as he handed the brown paper wrapped box to him.
Billy sat back against his saddle and took the offered package. “ You didn’t have to do this Johnny. You already bought me clothes, shoes and a saddle.”
“ Just shut up and open it.” Johnny said with a smile.
Billy unwrapped the box and opened it. Inside was a bone handled skinning knife. “ Johnny…….I….wow, it’s beautiful.” Billy finally said.
“ You gonna let the rest of us see what it is Billy?” Frank asked.
Billy pulled the knife out of the box. “ I don’t know what to say.”
“ Always keep it sharp and clean. I can show you how to use a stone to keep an edge on it if you like later.” Johnny suggested. “ You earned it.”
Scott couldn’t believe his brother and how attached he has gotten to Billy in the four weeks he’s been with them. Was it possible his little brother seen a part of himself in the boy, or could he be trying to be a big brother to Billy? Something he never had at that age.
“ How come the tip is rounded like it is Johnny?” Billy asked.
“ That eight inch blade will gut just about any wild animal out here for you and the round tip will keep it from damaging the hide of an animal as you skin it out.” Johnny responded.
“ I think Johnny there has adopted you Billy.” Joe said.
“ Yeah, kinda like your his little brother.” Tom added.
“ Heck that’s okay. I think of all of you as my big brothers. It’s kinda nice to have someone care about me again. You see, unless you’ve done what I’ve done, seen what I seen and had to live like I did for almost a year to stay alive, then you just don’t know what it’s like to have a family again. Even if we’re not blood.” Billy said. “ There is something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”
“ What’s that?” Johnny asked as he leaned back against his saddle.
“ What you told Jacob that day we went to town. Was that the truth? Are you really Johnny Madrid?” Billy asked.
Joe, Tom, Seth and Jeff all looked at Johnny. They remembered what Frank said that day at the South Mesa line shack. Now though would be the first time they would hear Johnny say he was Madrid.
Johnny looked around and gave a slight smile to his brother. “ Yeah it was Billy. I am known as Johnny Madrid.”
“ Holy cow, I heard tells about you when we were crossing Wyoming.” Billy said. “ Pa said he seen you once in Laramie. Said you gave a man every chance to walk away, but he wouldn’t. Pa said you were faster than lightening.” Billy boasted.
“ I’m trying to give that part of my life up Billy.” Johnny said.
“ How many men you killed?” Billy asked.
“ To many Billy. Listen. I’m gonna tell you something and I want you to remember it. Being a gunfighter isn’t anything to be proud of. It’s real easy to kill a man, but it’s impossible to bring him back to life.” Johnny said with firmness. The likes of which will haunt your dreams.”
“ You have bad dreams Johnny from the men you killed? Even those that called you out?” Billy asked.
“ Yeah I do Billy. It don’t matter who they were, they haunt my dreams, just that some are worse than others.” Johnny responded.
“ Billy, I’m nowhere near as good as Johnny, but I can tell you that what he just told you is the gospel truth. I have nightmares sometimes from the men I’ve killed hiring out in range wars. I can’t even imagine what Johnny goes through with nightmares from the men who have called him out, because I’ve never been called out.” Joe said. “ It’s nothing to be proud of. Being a gunfighter is a trade, and pretty soon someone comes along that’s better than you. Not many men like Johnny get a chance to walk away from it. To live a normal life.”
“ Do you miss any of it Johnny?” Billy asked.
“ No. Billy, I used to think it was cool to have people afraid of me when I rode into a town. I built a reputation I wish I never had. It’s because of that damn reputation that men come calling to kill me. It’s like I told Jacob, you always have choices. Make the right ones, not because they may be easy, but because they are right.”
“ Tom, Seth, and Walt I want you three on guard duty at midnight. Joe, Scott and Jeff will take over until dawn. Me, Billy and Frank will take the first watch after we eat until midnight.” Johnny ordered. “ So I suggest you get as much sleep as you can under the canvas tarps.”
Johnny rode into Alturas with Frank and sent a wire to the Fort Bidwell commanding officer, General George Crook, letting the man know they were roughly thirty miles from the fort and delayed by weather.
“ Hey, your name wouldn’t happen to be Lancer would it?” the telegraph agent asked.
“ Yeah, why?” Johnny asked.
“ I got a wire for you came through over a week ago.” the man said as he reached under the counter and brought a wooden tray out, setting it on the counter. “ Let’s see now where is that wire……..Ah here we go.” the man said as he handed the wire to Johnny. “ Most nobody ever gets a wire around here unless they be the Army.” he added. “ I’ll get to sending this one for you right away. You want it sent urgent, waiting response?”
“ Yeah, that’ll be fine.” Johnny said as he read the wire then handed it to Frank. “ You got a saloon in this town?”
“ Just the one down the street. If’n you’re wanting something to eat while you wait for an answer, the saloon serves a real good steak and spuds.” the telegrapher said.
“ Much obliged. “ How bout a drink Frank?” Johnny said as he started out the door. “ Oh, what do I owe ya for sending that?”
“ Two dollars will cover it.” the man responded.
Johnny took out two silver dollars and laid them on the counter before walking out.
Walt galloped up to camp and got down. “ I found boot tracks in the tress across the way.”
Scott stood up and tossed his coffee. “ How many?”
“ At least twelve. I found where they camped back in the tree’s during the storm.” Walt responded.
“ Any sign of them still around?” Scott asked.
“ No. Tracks went off to the north…….Scott, all the horses were shod.” Walt said.
“ What’s that mean?” Billy asked.
“ It means whoever they are they’re most likely white men, not Indians.” Joe responded.
“ Indians don’t ride a horse with shoes. He steals them, he pulls the shoes off as soon as he can.” Joe added.
“ How come when they killed my folks they killed the mules instead of taking them too?” Billy asked.
“ Indians ain’t got no use for a mule except to eat. If they just killed yours and didn’t take the meat, then it was most likely they had enough meat.” Walt responded.
“ It’s good that you ask questions Billy. You’re willing to learn, and listen.” Scott said.
“ Don’t take this the wrong way, but most farmers that come out west, they don’t listen, therefore they rarely make it through the first year once they get over the Rockies.” Joe said.
“ It’s a whole different world out here Billy. Johnny has a huge advantage over me because he grew up in the west.” Scott stated.
“ Because you grew up in Boston?” Billy asked.
“ Exactly. Frank and Walt, even Cipriano, they knew I was what they sometimes call a greenhorn, and a few times I’ve done things wrong that could have got me killed had it not been for them being willing to teach me.” Scott responded.
“ What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned so far?” Billy asked.
“ I like how you said, so far. I would have to say, working with barbed wire. The first time I went out with Walt and Frank to string it, I didn’t wear gloves. I sliced my hand open on it and couldn’t work for two months. All because I didn’t wear gloves.” Scott answered.
“ Three things working a ranch are your friend Billy. A good horse, a gun, and a pair of good gloves. With those three things, you can work the range” Tom added.
“ There’s a fourth and fifth. A good rope and a good man to work the range next to you.” Seth added.
“ Billy, a cowboy lives by a code that only cowboys know. Working six days a week sunup to sundown for a dollar a day is back breaking dangerous work. A cow is the dumbest, orneriest critter on god’s green earth. A cows nothing but a lot of trouble tied up in a leather bag. Horse ain’t much better.” Walt said.
“ Better not let Johnny hear ya say that about a horse.” Seth said.
“ Yeah, he spoils that horse of his, and done a right nice job training that black he gave you Scott.” Joe said.
“ Billy, you stay here while the rest of us ride out and move the herd in closer” Scott ordered.
“ What’ll it be?” a tall lanky man with a pencil mustache asked from behind the bar.
“ Two beers and a couple steaks.” Johnny ordered as him and Frank sat down at a table in the corner, Johnny with his back to the wall.
“ Habits hard to break isn’t it?” Frank asked.
“ Yeah, especially when it’s kept me alive.” Johnny said as a woman came over with two cold beers, and set them on the table. “ I’ll bring your steaks out in a few. Will there be anything else I can get either of you?” she asked.
“ No ma’am.” Johnny said as he removed his hat and hung it on the back of his chair.
“ Well, if you boys need anything more than a couple beers and steaks, just let me know. I’ll go get your steaks.” she said before walking away.
“ She was mighty tempting.” Frank said with a smile.
“ I’m a happily married man now Frank with a beautiful daughter..” Johnny responded. “ If I didn’t have them waiting for me at home, I’d be all over that woman.”
“ What’s your plans on what that wire said?” Frank asked before taking a swig from his beer.
Johnny picked up his beer and took a swig. “ I guess that depends on what Fort Bidwell says.” Johnny responded as the saloon lady brought two plates with steaks and potatoes and a couple slices of bread on them. “ Much obliged.”
“ Can I get you fellas another beer?” the bartender asked.
“ No, just the one will be enough.” Johnny responded.
“ Alright, you can pay me when you’re ready to leave.” the bartender said before walking back to the bar.
“ Okay Johnny, I seen the look in your eyes when you ready that wire.” Frank said softly.
“ I’ll wait until we’re back with the herd before I say anything Frank. I want all the men to hear what I have to say.” Johnny responded as he started to cut his steak up.
Johnny and Frank rode into camp late afternoon. Dismounting, they tied their horses to the picket line and walked over to the fire.
“ There a reason you got the herd so close?” Johnny asked as he took a cup of coffee Billy poured him.
“ Walt found tracks in the trees across the meadow after you left.” Scott responded.
“ How many?” Johnny asked.
“ About a dozen. They camped back in the trees so we wouldn’t see them. Tracks show they went north.” Walt said.
“ Shod or unshod?” Frank asked.
“ Shod.” Walt responded.
“ How far did you follow their tracks?” Frank asked.
“ All the way to the river.” Walt responded.
“ Okay, listen up. I sent a wire to Fort Bidwell and waited for a response. They’ll be here tomorrow about mid-day.” Johnny said. “ I also got a wire from Murdoch.” Johnny added as he pulled the wire out of his coat pocket and handed it to Scott who read it out loud.
Possible Trouble. Stop
B.A. and D. Stop
M name known. Stop.
“ I don’t get it. What’s that mean Johnny?” Billy asked.
“ Buck Addison and your Captain from the war Duncan will most likely be waiting for us at the fort. Captain Duncan knows I’m Madrid and will probably try and use that against me somehow.”
“ Johnny, that contract agreement you got it with you?” Frank asked.
“ Yeah, it’s in my saddlebags. Why?” Johnny responded.
“ It says Lancer on it right?” Frank asked.
“ Yeah, it says Johnny Lancer is selling one hundred and fifty head of green broke mustangs to the Union Army at Fort Klamath, Oregon at a price of seventy five dollars a head per the War Department.” Johnny responded.
“ Johnny, I think I know what Captain Duncan and Buck Addison are going to try to do.” Scott cut in. “ Remember after Duncan left Lancer, I told you how his methods in the war were very unorthodox?”
“ Yeah, I remember.” Johnny responded.
“ I think Addison is hoping to get you on what is called defamation of character. I remember a man took my grandfather to court over such a thing when I was in college.” Scott said. “ Your contract says Johnny Lancer, I think Addison is going to try and use Madrid against you. Say tell Major Hunter that you Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter are deceiving the Army under false pretenses. It can also be known as a libel.” Scott stated.
“ What the hell is libel?” Johnny asked.
“ Libel is when someone makes a malicious, false statement in written published words. Addison may try and use that against you because your contract agreement says Johnny Lancer on it when most of your life you have been known as Johnny Madrid. It can be treated as a crime rather than a civil wrong.”
“ Okay, I know you’re not a lawyer and such Scott, but what can I do if Addison and Captain Duncan claim this?” Johnny asked.
“ You can do what my grandfather did and claim slander against them both……Before you ask, slander is a false or malicious claim that may harm someone’s reputation.” Scott explained.
“ Reputation, now there’s a word I’m all to familiar with.” Johnny responded. “ Addison and this Captain Duncan, what’s the chances of them winning this claim and me being sent to prison?”
“ I’d say slim. You have all of us to verify who you are.” Scott responded. “ Addison just has himself and Captain Duncan only has what Addison told him.”
“ You see and pretty girls while in town Frank?” Joe asked.
“ Just one at the saloon were we ate while waiting for a reply from the fort. Johnny made it clear to her we weren’t interested.” Frank responded.
“ Maybe I’ll pay her a visit on the way back.” Joe said with a smile.
“ What’s he talking about Frank?” Billy asked.
“ Oh hell, you ain’t never been with a woman yet Billy?” Joe asked.
“ What he means is, have you been to bed with a girl yet? You know, made love to a girl yet?” Frank asked.
“ I’m only sixteen. Pa told me to never disrespect a girl in that way. To wait until I was married.” Billy responded.
“ Billy, that’s good advice your father gave you. Joe, leave him alone. I don’t want any of you getting the idea of taking Billy to town and getting him with a whore. Is that understood?” Johnny ordered.
“ He’s right Billy. Your first time should be with a girl you love, not some two dollar whore in a saloon.” Joe said.
at a pleasant surprise.” Teresa said when she opened the door.
“ I thought I would come out and see how the baby is doing.” Sam said as he walked into the foyer.
“ She’s in the grand room with grandpa.” Teresa said as she closed the door. “ Can you stay for supper?”
“ That’s why I made visiting you my last call of the day.” Sam said as he walked over and found Murdoch laying on the floor playing with Mary. “ No that’s a sight that brings back memories.”
“ With Johnny, Sam?” Teresa asked as she went and sat down on the floor.
“ Yes. I caught Murdoch a few times on the floor just like he is now, playing with Johnny.” Sam boasted.
“ The privileges of being a father, when I was much younger I might add.” Murdoch said.
“ I told him he’s going to hurt in the morning if he lays on the hard floor for to long.” Teresa said.
“ That’s alright. Every ache and pain I get from playing with my grand daughter will be worth it. You little one, be good. I need to go check on some things outside.” Murdoch said as he sat up and got up off the floor. “ I shouldn’t be long.”
“ Well, lets see how this little one is doing. Is she eating alright?” Sam asked.
“ She has her fathers appetite Sam. I mushed a potato up the other night and she ate the whole thing.” Teresa responded.
“ Any signs of teething yet?” Sam asked as he checked Mary’s heartbeat and listened to her lungs.
“ She has a tooth coming in on the top and bottom Sam. I’m bottle feeding her mostly now and giving her mashed up vegetables.” Teresa responded.
“ You using that new infant formula in powdered form?” Sam asked.
“ Yes, she seems to like it okay. She hasn’t thrown it up.” Teresa said.
“ What about diarrhea?” Sam asked as he felt the teeth coming in.
“ No. She hasn’t been sick at all Sam. No sniffles or cold of any kind.” Teresa responded.
“ That’s good. Some babies can’t handle the new formula so the parents are giving them cows milk diluted with water and adding some honey to it. What else are you offering her to drink?”
“ Juices when I can, squeezed. I’ve let her chew on an orange Mrs Conway brought over last week for her. After I removed the seeds. She liked that even though it was very sticky.”
“ How long has she been sitting up on her own.” Sam asked as he put his stethoscope away.
“ About a month now. She pulls herself up too, but hasn’t taken and steps yet.” Teresa responded.
“ Good. Now, how are you doing? You look a little pale. Are you feeling alright?” Sam asked.
Teresa looked around the room to make sure they were alone. “ I think I might be pregnant again Sam.”
“ Oh my…….Are you sure?” Sam asked.
“ Pretty sure. All the signs are there from when I was with this one.” How far?” Sam asked.
“ About two months.” Teresa responded. “ I haven’t said anything to Murdoch. I want to be sure before I say anything. I’m hoping to know for sure by the time Johnny gets back.”
“ Well, if you are. That will most certainly be one homecoming present I think Johnny will love.” Sam said.
“ You wanna talk about whatever it is bothering you little brother?” Scott asked
“ It’s never going to end Scott. I want to give up living by my gun, yet men like Addison won’t let me.” Johnny said as he let out a sigh.
“ Men like Addison get theirs in the end Johnny. They always do.” Scott said.
“ You know, all I wanted to do was make more money for Lancer…….doing something I know I’m good at. Now it seems like that dream won’t happen.” Johnny said as he sat down on the rocks and looked up at the stars.
“ You want that dream to happen little brother, then you have to fight for it. Fight Addison. When we get to that Fort, if Addison is there, stand up to him like you did when you hired out in a range war. There’s no difference.” Scott suggested. “ You know, Murdoch has a friend who has a ranch in Oregon. The Whitehorse ranch. John Devine I believe is the mans name. He took twenty five hundred head of cattle from California to Oregon. Him and Murdoch have known each other for years.”
“ How do you know about him?” Johnny asked.
“ I asked Murdoch who he was one time when I brought the mail back. I noticed they corresponded a lot.” Scott responded.
“ What’s he got to do with this?” Johnny asked.
“ Nothing really. I was merely making a suggestion. He’s closer than Lancer, maybe if needed, he can help us out.” Scott suggested.
“ She offered you know.” Johnny said.
“ I’m sorry, what? Who offered what Johnny?” Scott asked, confused.
“ The woman at the saloon. Was real tempting, but then I thought about what I would be hurting waiting for me at home……….I miss them. I think about them every day. I can’t help but wonder if Mary has said her first word yet, or took her first step. Is Teresa alright.” Johnny responded.
“ I’m sure Teresa is fine and I bet our father is having the time of his life spoiling his grand daughter.” Scott said as he sat down next to him.
“ You think we should post extra guards tonight and have them keep the horses up close?” Johnny asked.
“ Probably wouldn’t hurt. What are you thinking, three?” Scott asked.
“ Four. I want someone on each side of the herd watching. It’ll be a full moon tonight, so the light will be in our favor.” Johnny responded.
“ It could also be in their favor too for picking us off.” Scott said.
“ I figure Frank, Walt, Joe and me will take the first watch. You, Seth,Jeff and Tom relieve us around two till dawn.” Johnny suggested.
“ Sounds good. What about Billy? You know he’s going to want to be out there too.” Scott asked.
“ Not tonight. I want him keeping the fire going and the coffee hot.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ Lets go tell them.”
“ Enter.” Major Hunter yelled.
“ Sorry to bother you Major sir, but Captain Duncan just rode in with another man, a civilian sir.” Sergeant Wilson said.
“ Tell Captain Duncan I want to see him after he gets cleaned up Sergeant.” Major Hunter ordered.
“ Very well sir.” Sergeant Wilson said before turning and leaving the Major’ office.
“ Captain Duncan, you better have a good explanation for being gone so long.” Major Hunter said aloud.
“ Captain Duncan sir, the Major would like to see you after you freshen up.” Sergeant Wilson said.
“ Very well sergeant. Show my guest Mr Addison to my quarters. I’ll see the Major now.” Captain Duncan ordered.
“ The Major wishes to not be disturbed right now Captain. He’s doing paperwork that came in from Washington.” the Sergeant said
“ Very well. Mister Addison, if you will follow me, I will take you to my quarters where we can clean up. After, the Sergeant will show you around the fort while I see the Major.”
“ I’ll have a Corporal show your visitor around I have more important things to do than nurse maid a civilian.” Sergeant Wilson said.
“ Unless rank authority has changed while I was away Sergeant, you will do as I ordered. Is that clear?” Captain Duncan ordered.
“ Oh yes your order is clear. It’s as clear as the sky, but perhaps you would like to tell the major I had to nurse maid a civilian you brought to the fort instead of carrying out the orders he gave me this morning to do once you returned.?” Sergeant Wilson asked.
“ And what orders are those Sergeant?” Captain Duncan demanded.
“ You’ll have to ask the Major, sir. I’m not at liberty to say.” Sergeant Wilson said before stepping down to his horse, and heading to a mounted patrol waiting across the yard.
“ Is that normal behavior Captain?” Buck asked.
“ No, something is going on, and I fully intend on finding out.” Captain Duncan said before heading to his living quarters followed by Buck Addison.
“ Where’d Johnny get off too?” Joe asked.
“ He went to take a look across the meadow to see if anyone was around last night.” Scott responded.
“ How come Johnny wouldn’t let me ride herd last night Scott?” Billy asked.
“ I asked him that Billy, and never did get a definitive answer.” Scott responded.
“ Maybe he figured there might be trouble last night and he wanted you in a safe place.” Frank suggested.
“ I know I have a lot to learn, but I ain’t no little kid. I can handle my own.” Billy snapped back.
“ Can you shoot Billy?” Johnny asked as he rode up. “ Can you take aim at another man and pull the trigger?”
“ I can do whatever you all can do Johnny to defend what’s ours. I may not be a crack shot like you, but I know how to pull a trigger.” Billy responded.
“You keep an attitude like that Billy, and the first man comes along will kill you.” Joe cut in.
“ My pa taught me how to shoot.”
“ Shoot what………….tin cans…………Let me tell you something Billy, tin cans don’t shoot back.” Johnny said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ You don’t want to feel a bullet slam into your body, the white hot pain it causes. The copped smell of blood as it runs out of a hole in your body. If you’re lucky, a bullet goes in and stays, if not, the exit hole a bullet makes is a lot bigger than the entrance wound. I’ve been shot more times than I care Billy. I’ve had to remove bullets from my body myself because there weren’t no doctor around. I’ve stitched up my wounds, cauterized my own wounds to get them to stop bleeding. Don’t be in an all fire hurry to get yourself shot Billy.” Johnny explained.
“ Johnny, riders coming.” Frank said.
Johnny looked across the valley and could tell from the sun glistening on the uniform it was their escort from Fort Bidwell.
“ Johnny, they from the fort where we’re taking the horses?” Billy asked.
“ No, they’re our escort from Fort Bidwell. They’ll escort us to a small settlement called Bly in Oregon where Fort Klamath soldiers will escort us the rest of the way.” Johnny responded as the soldiers stopped.
“ Are you Lancer?”
“ Yeah. I’m Johnny Lancer and this is my brother Scott.”
“ I’m Captain Jackson. I was ordered to escort you and this herd of mustangs to a settlement called Bly in Oregon.” Captain Jackson said.
“ Won’t you get down Captain. We have hot coffee and some stew left from lunch if anyone is hungry.” Scott suggested.
“ How many horses do you have?” the Captain asked.
“ Hundred and fifty. All green broke and sold to Fort Klamath.” Johnny responded.
“ Corporal McKee, tell the men they can dismount and rest for an hour before we start back to the fort.” Captain Jackson ordered.
“ Yes sir.” the Corporal McKee said.
“ The fort sir?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. I have men getting the yard ready for the horses. It’s not safe to travel the area we will be going into tomorrow. You and your men can bath and have a good nights rest at the Fort and we will leave out in the morning with more men. How far can the herd travel in a day?” the Captain asked.
“ We’ve been pushing them at thirty or so miles a day due to the terrain.” Johnny responded.
“ It’s a hundred miles to Bly from the fort. Modoc and Paiute have been killing settlers and raiding ranches and farms in that area. I will have two companies go with us. If it doesn’t cloud over, the moon will help traveling at night. The Indians seem to not like to attack at night. The war Department said at all cost to make sure you get this herd to Fort Klamath, and that is what I intend to do.” Captain Jackson said.
“ With all due respect Captain. I’m not pushing my men or these horses like you’re suggesting. I guaranteed a hundred and fifty horses, and that’s what I intend on delivering. I’m not pushing these horses after dark across mountainous terrain I don’t know.” Johnny stated firmly.
“ Very well, but just so you know, I will not be held responsible for any of your horses or men being killed.” Captain Jackson said.
“ We appreciate that Captain, but we all knew the risk before we left home.” Johnny said.
“ You were a lieutenant during the war. Major Hunter speaks highly of you.” Captain Jackson said.
“ I was. I served with the Major at Shenandoah.” Scott responded.
“ Your records show you served with General Phil Sheridan also. He said that you were an excellent horseman.” Captain Jackson said. “ How long will it take you to break camp?” he asked.
“ Twenty minutes. I have all the pack horses ready. I just have to pack up from lunch and make sure the canteens are all full.” Billy said.
“ Corporal McKee, have the men ready to ride in thirty minutes.” Captain Jackson ordered. “ We have about thirty eight miles to the fort. Can they handle that at a canter?”
“ Haven’t had them canter, only trot. We can try it and see how they do. As long as we keep the lead mare out front I think they’ll be okay.” Johnny responded. “ Scott, you ride point with the mare on your stallion. I’ll push from the back on Barranca.”
“ You’re the boss little brother.” Scott said as he went to his horse.
“ What a magnificent animal. Is he for sale?” the Captain asked.
“ No sir. My brother broke and trained this one for me. He’s not with the herd.” Scott responded as he mounted up.
“ She was over next to the water grazing earlier.” Johnny said. “ Mount up boys. We have a herd to move. You got everything Billy?”
“ Yeah Johnny. I got it all.” Billy said.
“ I don’t want you at the back. Stay up with Scott in the front.” Johnny ordered.
Johnny had the herd slowed from a canter to a trot when they got about two miles from the fort. All his senses on high alert ever since they left the meadow eased a little as they got closer to the fort. Five cavalry rode behind him as he pushed the herd forward. The rest were ahead of Scott riding in a column of two. Smiling as he remembered the Rurales would always ride like that, made picking them off that much easier. Talking to Billy before the cavalry showed up, he noticed the look in the boys eyes. A look he himself knows he had at that same age, if not younger. He could also hear it in Billy’s voice after the cavalry showed up. Having witnessed his own mothers death, Johnny couldn’t help but wonder if allowing Billy to come along instead of leaving him in Susanville until he came for him was the best decision. Having his whole family killed and scalped by Indians, and having to bury them, no child should ever have to do.
Johnny watched as the gates were opened and the horses entered the huge structure. He could hear his own men whistling and shouting to get the horses where the Army wanted them for the night. Riding up to the huge corral as Frank, Walt and Joe slid the poles across to hold the herd.
“ Would you look at this place Johnny. It sure don’t look like no fort.” Tom said.
“ The two big houses across the way are where General Woods, and Colonel Golding live with their wives. The two long buildings on the end are the enlisted men’s quarters. Corporal McKee, show these men where they can get a hot bath and be sleeping.” Captain Jackson ordered as a sergeant walked up. “ Yes Sergeant?”
“ Sir, General Woods wishes to talk horses and would like Scott Lancer to join him and his wife for dinner after he gets cleaned up.” Sergeant Leonard said.
“ Sergeant, the mustang deal is my brother Johnny’s deal, not mine. I’m just along to help. It’s my brother he needs to talk to.” Scott said politely.
“ The General specifically said you sir. Shall I tell him you are declining his invitation?” the sergeant asked
“ Go ahead Scott, I Never was much for talking to officers.” Johnny said. “ Were can we unsaddle our horses Captain?”
“ Picket string there along the fence for you. Sergeant have a couple men see to it these men’s horses get hay and water for the night. And give them some grain if they want it. I expect they haven’t had any since you left your ranch.”
“ That’s very kind. Thank you.” Scott said as he led his horse over to the picket line and started removing the saddle.
“ If you change your mind about selling this beautiful horse, I’ll pay you two hundred dollars for him.” the Captain said.
“ I’m sorry Captain, but no amount of money can buy this horse. He’s very special to me.” Scott responded.
“I can appreciate that. Still there’s no harm in asking.” the Captain said. “ I’ll see you gentlemen at breakfast then. Cooks will have it ready at seven.” Captain Jackson said before turning and leaving.
Johnny stood listening to the captain and his brother talk as he rubbed Barranca down. He couldn’t help but smile when he heard his brother say the horse was very special to him. “ There ya go buddy.” Johnny said as he patted the golden stallions neck before walking down to his brother.
“ So he wants to buy your horse huh?” Johnny asked.
“ He knows good horse flesh when he sees it. Told him this horse isn’t for sale for no price.” Scott responded as he brushed the blacks coat.
“ You think of a name for him yet?” Johnny asked as the hands walked up with Corporal McKee.
“ Johnny, Scott, we’re more than ready for a hot bath and food not cooked over a campfire. Frank said.
“ You fellas go on ahead. Me and Scott will be along directly.” Johnny responded.
“ Thanks Johnny. See ya in a bit.” Frank said before walking off with the others following the Corporal.
“ You upset they want to see me Johnny?” Scott asked as he walked around behind the stallion to brush the right side.
“ Don’t you find it a little odd Scott that they know so much about you?” Johnny asked.
“ Maybe. I did serve with Major Hunter, Johnny.” Scott responded.
“ I just find it’s odd they’re so all fire interested in your military background Scott. I don’t like it.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny, I assure you, I will not re-enlist in the Army. I served four years. That was enough for me.” Scott said. “ Lets go get a hot bath, and I want you to go with me to have dinner with the General and his wife.”
“ The General and his wife will be down in a minute.” a private said as he closed the front door. “ You can have a seat in the Generals den.”
Scott and Johnny followed the private into another room with a huge beautifully carved desk sitting in front of a wall full of books. A gorgeous grandfather clock stood in one corner of the room. A couch and two overstuffed chairs were placed near the fireplace.
“ Remind you of anything?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. You don’t suppose they’re related any do ya?” Johnny asked.
“ I had that desk shipped all the way from Germany.” General Woods said when he walked into the room with his wife. “ You are the owner of the horses, Scott Lancer I presume?” The General asked.
“ Yes and no sir. I’m Scott Lancer, and this is my brother Johnny Lancer. He owns the horses sir.” Scott responded.
“ Oh…..I was told by Fort Klamath that a Scott Lancer owns the horses.” the General said.
“ That wouldn’t have been Captain Duncan telling you that would it sir?” Scott asked.
“ It would.” the General responded as he walked to his desk and opened the top middle drawer. “ This wire I got from him over a month ago. “ It says the herd belongs to a Scott Lancer and would I send an escort for them to Bly Oregon where he and some of his men would escort you on to Fort Klamath.”
“ I’m afraid the Captain has misinformed you General.” Scott responded.
“ I got this wire two weeks ago. It says that one of the men with the herd is a gunfighter named Johnny Madrid. From the description it gives, that would be you young man?” the General asked.
Johnny took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he fidgeted.
“ My brother used to be Johnny Madrid, but that was before he found out the truth about his family sir.” Scott cut in.
“ Can your brother speak for himself, or do you do all the talking for him?” the General asked.
“ I can speak. Captain Duncan is working with a man named Buck Addison. They want my herd of horses and Buck Addison wants the contract business I am trying to get with the Army sir. I became Johnny Madrid in Mexico to stay alive. I’ve never broke the law, and I never killed a man who wasn’t trying to kill me first.”
“ Dinner is served sir.” the private said from the door.
“ Thank you Private.” the General said as he walked back over to his wife and arm in arm escorted her to the dining area.
Johnny followed behind Scott into the room. Beautiful paintings of western scenery adorned the walls. The table, just as beautiful as the desk had a feast of turkey, yams, corn, bread, cornbread, potato’s and three pitchers of water placed at each end and in the middle of the table.
“ Please, sit down.” Mrs Woods said. “ My husband said you have been away from home for a while, so I figured you would like a good home cooked meal.”
Johnny and Scott both waited until Mrs woods was seated and the General at his chair before sitting down. Johnny could never understand why people thought they needed all those different sized forks to eat a meal when one could do the job.
“ This was very thoughtful of you to do ma’am. Thank you.” Scott said.
“ You asked about Captain Duncan. Do you know him?” the General asked.
“ Yes sir. I served with Major Hunter in Shenandoah. I’m afraid I have no nice words to say about the Captain sir.” Scott responded.
“ His methods are unorthodox. The reason he is still a Captain is because of his methods, and the complaints against him.” the General said.
“ Maybe the Lancers can help you be rid of him once and for all?” Mrs Woods asked her husband.
“ Maybe. Johnny, tell me about this other man with him. This Buck Addison I believe you said.” the General asked as the Private and a woman started walking around the table serving the food.
“ He doesn’t like my kind.” Johnny said. Glancing at Mrs Woods.
“ Your kind?” she asked.
“ Yes ma’am. I’m what’s called a half-breed. My mother was Mexican and our father American. My eyes being blue is my downfall. That’s why I became Johnny Madrid.”
“ I must say your eyes are a beautiful blue.” Mrs Woods said.
“ Thank you ma’am. I get my blue eyes from my father.” Johnny responded.
“ So, Johnny, you’re trying to start a contract selling green broke mustangs to the army. Is that correct?” the General asked.
“ Yeah. I believe our ranch could do better breaking and selling horses.” Johnny responded.
“ My brother has a gift with horses sir. The black stallion I ride, Johnny broke him and taught him all kinds of things that will come in handy on a ranch or even out on a trail somewhere.” Scott explained. “ Watching my brother break a horse is something you won’t see anywhere else. He has a special touch with them.”
“ How big is this herd you have now?” the General asked.
“ Hundred and fifty head not counting our spare mounts that go back with us.” Johnny responded.
“ How many men besides the two of you?” the General asked.
“ Seven men and four pack horses.” Johnny said.
“ Shall we retire to the porch and a nice after dinner drink.” the General suggested.
“ That was a very nice meal Mrs Woods.” Scott said as he stood up.
“ Well I’m glad you boys appreciated it. You go on outside with my husband now.”Mrs Woods ordered.
Scott walked out onto the porch with his brother and leaned against the rail just as the Corporal came out with a tray of glasses and a bottle of brandy.
“ Thank you Corporal. After you pour the drinks, would you bring out three of my fine Cuban cigars please?” the General asked.
“ Right away sir.” the Corporal responded as he handed a drink to the General and then Scott and Johnny..
“ I have a lot of pull in Washington DC. What if I could get you a guaranteed contract selling mustangs to the Army at one fort?” the General asked.
“ That would be great General, but I would have to know what state, how many horses?” Johnny responded and asked.
“ Montana.” the General responded. “ This herd was headed to Colorado wasn’t it?”
“ Yes sir it was. Major Hunter showed up and said your war department wanted them up here instead, and was paying forty dollars a head more than I was selling them for in Colorado.” Johnny said as the Corporal came out with three Cuban cigars.
“ Thank you Corporal. So you were going to sell them for thirty five dollars a head. That would be just over fifty two hundred dollars. Not much of a profit. Are either of you married, have children?” the General asked.
“ I am. Why?” Johnny responded.
“ Do you have any children?” the General asked before lighting his cigar.
“ I have a daughter. She’ll be a year old in November.” Johnny responded.
“ I ask because what I am offering can take you away from that family from spring till winter, maybe longer.”
“ My wife understands.” Johnny said as he lit his cigar.
“ Okay. What if I got a contract drawn up for you from the War Department in Washington saying they will buy your horses at thirty dollars a head broke, plus an extra five hundred dollars upon delivery if over five hundred miles. Would that work?” the General asked.
Johnny looked at the General and could tell the man was testing him. “ Sorry General, but if I have to be gone maybe half a year delivering horses, it’s gonna be worth my time. You’re asking me to take a five dollar a head loss from what I was going to sell them for in Colorado. I can’t do that. I have expenses and my men have family. We have to eat. What you just offered, I wouldn’t even break even on.”
“ I know you wouldn’t. I was just seeing if you knew the business part of a contract.” the General said.
“ Why don’t you just get to the point General and stop jerking me around.” Johnny said as Mrs Woods walked out onto the porch.
“ You’re good. Scott, your brother has done his homework on selling horses to the Army. I asked Washington when I received a wire that you would be coming, I asked them what primary forts they would want horses delivered too. I received this back.” the General said as he pulled a piece of paper out of his coat pocket. There is a fort in Montana called Fort Keogh, it sits on the south banks of the Yellowstone river at the mouth of the Tongue river. Colonel Nelson A. Miles, Commanding the 5th infantry regiment has it as a remount station. Therefore they can take as many horses as you can deliver. They don’t even have to be broke. Washington feels the Sioux Indians are going to gather and lead a massive attack on the white settlers in the valley. Based on the Colonels findings, I have to agree. We just don’t know when. Your horses, if you agree would be used as cavalry and infantry mounts. It’s now the early summer of eighteen seventy four Johnny. I feel an all out Indian war will happen in the next two years. How many horses could you bring up?” the General explained and asked.
“ Lancer has the horses, so you tell me how many you want delivered.” Johnny said as he looked at Scott.
“ Could you deliver six hundred head over the next three years at forty dollars a head?” the General asked.
Johnny cleared his throat and swallowed hard. “ Yeah. I can do that.” Johnny said. “ But I have to talk it over with my men first, before I agree to anything.”
“ That’s fine. Talk it over with them and let me know on your way back and I will have the contract agreement drawn up and have a special courier deliver it to your ranch in California.” the General said.
“ I think these boys want to get some sleep now Bill.” Mrs Woods said.
“ Of course. If I don’t see you in the morning before you leave. Have a safe trip.” the General said as he shook their hands and headed inside.
“You wanted to see me Sir?” Major Hunter asked.
“ Closed the door Sergeant, and see that we are not disturbed.” Colonel Chamberlain ordered.
“ Yes sir.” the Sergeant said before closing the door.
“ Have a seat Major.” the Colonel ordered as he walked over and poured two drinks and came back, offering one to the Major.
“ Thank you sir.” Major Hunter said as he took the offered drink.
“ How well do you know Captain Hunter?” the Colonel asked.
“ We were together at Shenandoah and then after the war I didn’t see him again until I came out west.” Major Hunter explained.
“ Are you aware of the man that came back with him, a Buck Addison?” the Colonel asked.
“ No sir I’m not. Who is he?” the Major asked.
“ I haven’t spoken to the man personally, but Captain Duncan says the man claims that the man bringing the mustangs, a Johnny Lancer is not who he says he is. That his real name is Johnny Madrid and he has lied to you.” the Colonel explained.
“ I’m afraid I don’t understand sir. What does this Buck Addison have to do with the Army buying horses from the Lancers?” the Major asked.
“ Possibly the contract the Lancers will get selling horses to the Army. That’s a lot of money to be made.” the Colonel responded. “ Did you know anything about this Johnny Madrid when you checked them out?”
“ Yes sir. I knew all about him. He became a gunfighter to stay alive in Mexico. I have the file locked in my office desk. I can get it for you if you wish to read it sir.”
“ That won’t be necessary. Lets let the Captain and his friend Addison play this out when the Lancers get here. Once they do, I will have the Captain charged with defamation of character and Addison brought up on slander charges.” the Colonel responded.
“ Corporal McKee.” Captain Jackson called.
“ Yes sir.” the Corporal said as he rode up.
“ We only got about an hours daylight left. Start setting up camp. Sergeant Leonard, I want the men positioned fifty feet apart all around the herd just off the treeline. I want their fires kept high. One man from every other tent is to stand watch until midnight where the other will take over. Is that clear?” Captain Jackson ordered.
“ Yes sir. Where would you like your camp set up sir?” Sergeant Leonard asked.
“ I will have my camp over there at the base of those rocks Sergeant.” Captain Jackson responded.
“ Very well sir.” Sergeant Leonard responded before turning his horse and giving orders.
“ Did you like that Scott?” Johnny asked as he dismounted.
“ Like what?” Scott asked.
“ Taking orders, giving orders. Being told where you can sleep, when?” Johnny responded.
“ I made the choice when I joined the Army. In all actuality, it’s no different than you telling the men what you want done.” Scott responded.
“ I guess I can see your point, but at least the hands are free to leave any time they want. Once in the Army, your stuck until you either get yourself killed, get kicked out or retire.” Johnny said as Billy walked over.
“ Johnny, am I fixing food for the whole bunch or just us?” Billy asked.
“ I don’t know Billy. I imagine the Captain will have his own food as well as his men, but you’re welcome to invite them.” Johnny responded.
“ Billy, the men will be eating their rations. You can ask the Captain if he would like to join us for supper if you want too.” Scott suggested.
“ That won’t be necessary Mister Lancer.” the Captain said. “ Me and the Sergeant have our own food. I came over to tell you your men don’t need to stand guard over the herd tonight, and to ask when you wanted to leave in the morning so the Sergeant can tell the men so they are ready.”
“ We usually leave after the sun is up over the mountains.” Johnny responded.
“ Very well. Sergeant, have the men make sure they are ready to leave about eight or so.” Captain Jackson ordered.
“ Straight away sir.” Sergeant Leonard replied.
“ Do you think they made it there yet?” Teresa asked as she walked out on the veranda with Mary.
“ Oh I expect they’re there or rel close.” Murdoch responded.
“ Can I ask you something?” Teresa asked as she sat down.
“ Only if I can hold my grand daughter.” Murdoch responded.
Teresa smiled and handed Mary to him. “ Johnny wants this to turn into a profitable business selling horses to the Army and such. Do you think it can be? I mean, I know he’s making good money off selling this herd, but that’s not a guarantee he makes that kind of money every time. He spent almost three months breaking those horses. He was so tired in the evenings he barely stayed awake to eat and spent hardly any time with his family.”
“ Teresa, it sounds to me like you need to have a serious talk with Johnny about this. I’m for it * if * he can make it a profitable business, but not at the expense of neglecting his family, and by that I don’t mean me and his brother. I know it’s hard on you with him being gone. I’m seeing in you what his mother must have went through with me being gone so much when Johnny was a baby.” Murdoch responded.
“ I knew getting involved with Johnny, and marrying him I could lose him any time to someone who calls him out, I just didn’t expect I would lose him to horses.” Teresa said.
“ When he gets back, the three of you need to spend some time together. You need to tell Johnny how you feel. His mother never did, so I didn’t know she was unhappy here until it was too late and I woke that morning and found her gone. Don’t let it come to that sweetheart. I don’t think I could handle losing anyone of you.”
“ You will never lose me or your grand daughter. I would never take her away from her home and family.” Teresa responded. “ I think if it’s nice tomorrow I’ll take Mary and some flowers up and visit her other grandpa.”
“ I’m sure Paul would like that. In the mean time, how about we take my grand daughter down and let her see the new foals before supper.” Murdoch suggested as he stood up.
Johnny watched and listened as the hands talked amongst themselves as they say around the fire. He could see Scott glancing at him every once in a while. Probably wondering if he was going to talk to the hands tonight about the offer. An offer he himself had been doing some serious thinking about, not knowing if he would be able to be away from his family for that long next year or not. Being married and having a family, two things he never thought he would ever have, was proving to be a challenge. Sitting up and reaching for the coffee pot, Johnny decided the men needed to know.
“ I need to speak to all of you about something.” he said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ Sure Johnny. We could tell you’ve had something on your mind ever since you had dinner with the General last night.” Frank said.
“ Yeah, you and Scott both have been awful quiet.” Joe added.
“ We got a contract offer that if I accept it will mean a lot of money, twenty four thousand dollars to be exact.” Johnny said.
“ Holy mother of…………….Are you serious Johnny?” Frank asked.
“ Twenty four thousand dollars………how many horses do we have to deliver and when?” Joe and Walt asked.
“ Six hundred head to Fort Keogh…………in the next three years.” Johnny responded.
“ Six hundred head.” Joe said.
“ Where’s this fort Keogh at Johnny?” Frank asked.
“ Southeastern Montana. On the Yellowstone river.” Johnny responded. “ They don’t have to be broke. General Woods said that Colonel Miles, who built and runs the fort says there’s a big war coming from the Sioux and other Indians up there. That they need horses bad. It would mean being gone six months, maybe longer.” Johnny explained.
“ That’s what…….forty dollars a head. Does Lancer even have that many mustangs?” Joe asked.
“ There are, and many more.” Frank responded.
“ You three are awful quiet. If you don’t want in tell me now. You’re good men. Nobody will hold it against you if you don’t want to go.” Johnny said to Jeff, Tom and Seth.
“ I recon I’ll stay at Lancer Johnny.” Seth said.
“ Yeah me too Johnny. I kinda want to keep my scalp.” Jeff added.
“ The only reason I agreed to come on this one was because of the Army escort we have getting there. We won’t have any coming back.” Tom said.
“ We won’t have a herd of horses slowing us down either Tom. We can ride faster.” Seth said.
“ Alright, if that’s how you three feel. None of us will hold it against you any.” Johnny said as he leaned back against his saddle.
“ What about Teresa, Johnny? If you agree to this contract, how’s your wife gonna feel. You’re talking about being gone a long time.” Frank asked.
“ Teresa knew when I started this that it would take me from her sometimes.” Johnny responded.
“ Why don’t you have hands do it Johnny, and you stay home with your wife and kid and work on getting other contracts.” Joe suggested.
“ Because it would seem that Johnny would have to be at the delivery.” Scott said.
“ He speaks finally.” Billy said. “ So where does this leave me Johnny?”
“ What do you mean. I didn’t say it didn’t include you did I?” Johnny asked.
“ No, I just figured that maybe you wouldn’t want me going.” Billy responded.
“ You have more than proved yourself Billy. You can go.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny, how’s your old man gonna feel about this?” Frank asked. “ I don’t see him letting you do this.”
“ He don’t have a say in what I do.” Johnny replied.
“ Actually Johnny, he does. We’re both a third owner in Lancer, but remember, he calls the tune.” Scott cut in.
“ This has nothing to do with the ranch.” Johnny responded.
“ That may be, but the mustangs are on Lancer land brother.” Scott responded.
“ I don’t think Murdoch will fight me on this once he knows how much money’s to be made Scott. He wouldn’t make half that amount selling cattle.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked off toward the picket line.
“ I don’t think your General or Colonel like me being here.” Buck said.
“ What have you told them?” Captain Duncan asked.
“ Nothing. I haven’t spoken to either of them or the Major.” Buck responded.
“ I was asked when we got here who you were and why you were here.” Captain Duncan
“ What did you tell them?” Buck asked.
“ The truth. I told them about Lancer and Madrid and that you can prove he’s committing fraud against the Army.” Captain Duncan responded.
“ You did what?” Buck demanded.
“ Look, I’m facing a court martial if this doesn’t go our way when they get here. I have the most to lose and you have everything to gain Addison.” Captain Duncan said with anger. “ I never should have let you talk me into this.”
“ Just remember, I never forced you Captain. You’ve been a willing participant from the start.” Buck said.
“ It’s not to late for me to back out of this.” Captain Duncan said. “ I haven’t done anything………….yet.”
“ You try backing out now Captain, and I promise you, the people I know will make your life a living hell. You won’t have to worry about what the Army will do to you.” Addison threatened.
“ You threaten me Addison, and all I have to do is go to the General right now and tell him what I know. What your real motive is.” Captain Duncan stated firmly.
Buck took a stepped toward Captain Duncan. “ I don’t take kindly to being threatened Captain.”
“ Neither do I Addison. Neither do I.” Captain Duncan said before walking away.
“ Looks like a little disagreement.” Sergeant Wilson said to Major Hunter.
“ that it does Sergeant.” the Major responded.
“ Permission to speak freely sir?” the Sergeant asked.
“ Within reason.” the Major said.
“ Captain Duncan, he’s like a two headed snake I seen once. Didn’t know which head would bite, so you couldn’t trust either. The Captain there, he’s bad news sir. Most of the men despise him.” the Sergeant said.
“ Captain Duncan’s time in the Army is numbered Sergeant, but you’re not to speak a word of it to anyone. Is that understood?” Major Hunter ordered.
“ Perfectly sir. Will I be riding with you to meet the herd?” the Sergeant asked.
“ Yes. I want fifty men saddled and ready to leave at dawn.” Major Hunter ordered. “ The Colonel feels that will be a sufficient amount of men.”
“ Very good sir. I’ll have the men ready and waiting sir. Will that be all?” Sergeant Wilson asked.
“ Yes Sergeant. Go make your selection of men. I’ll see you in the morning.” Major Hunter said.
Johnny woke before dawn and started a pot of fresh coffee before going to the picket line and checking on all the horses. Barranca nickered softly as he approached. “ Hey amigo. Bet you’re ready for some rest huh buddy. We get back to Lancer, I’ll put you in that south paddock and let you graze on that lush green grass and be lazy for about a month. How’s that sound?” Johnny asked as he rubbed the golden horses face.
“ He’s quit an animal.” Captain Jackson said. “ You two seem to have a special bond. Did you break him?”
“ Yeah, but I don’t own him. We’re partners and friends. I take care of him, and he takes care of me.” Johnny said.
“ Not really. He won’t let anyone else ride him but me.” Johnny said.
“ You have a way with horses. I seen a man with the very same gift in the war. Trust me Lancer, they way you have with horses can make you a very rich man. Your brother said you trained his horse to do all sorts of things. I would bet ranchers would pay for you to train and teach their horses.” the Captain suggested.
“ You all train your horses to come back on a certain bugle call don’t you?” Johnny asked.
“ Why yes we do. During a skirmish or battle, horses have a tendency to fright off. Blowing the bugle brings them back quicker than looking for them on foot. Can I ask how you knew that?” the Captain responded and asked.
“ I knew a man who served in the Army in Texas. We shared a campfire once and talked.” Johnny said. “ I have coffee brewing. You want a cup?”
“ That sounds good.” the Captain said as the two walked toward the camp. “ Just how good are you with that?”
“ With what?” Johnny asked.
“ Your gun. You wear it like you know how to use it. The holster is different from a regular one. Yours has some cut away. Something a gunfighter would do.” the Captain stated.
“ It keeps me alive.” Johnny said as they reached camp and he knelt down and poured two cups of coffee. “ If I was, would it matter?” Johnny asked as he handed the Captain a cup.
“ Not at all. I didn’t mean to pry. I’m sorry.” Captain Jackson responded.
“Lets just say it’s a part of my past I’d like to put behind me Captain.” Johnny said.
“ I can appreciate that. You know how to make a good cup of coffee. Have you ever had skillet coffee?” the Captain asked as Scott sat up and rubbed his eyes.
Johnny laughed slightly and smiled. “ Best kind there is.”
“ Good morning Scott. Well I better go see to it the men are getting up. Thanks for the talk, and cup of coffee Johnny.” the Captain said before walking back to his tent.
“ What’s your business here Major?” a tall husky man demanded.
“ The Army’s business is none of your business.” Major Hunter responded. “ Sergeant, have the corrals emptied out and ready.”
“ Now see here Major. You can’t come into our settlement and take over. We don’t want you or your men here.” the man said with anger.
“ That’s right. Every time you Army soldiers come around, you end up destroying my saloon and hurting my girls.”
“ I assure you my men will not be going in your establishments tonight. We are here for the night only and will be leaving in the morning.” Major Hunter said as he watched a cloud of dust on the horizon. “ If you will excuse me.” he said before riding away from the two towns men. “ Sergeant, get those gates open!” the Major ordered.
“ What in the world. Would you look at that.” the saloon keeper said.
“ That’s a lot of horses.” the other man said as they walked toward the corrals.
“ Captain Jackson, you made good time. We only just arrived in town.” Major Hunter said. “ Did you have any trouble?”
“ No sir. Didn’t see any Indians at all. I expect they seen us though.” Captain Jackson said. “ You’re getting some good horses.”
“ Scott. I thought you weren’t coming?” Major Hunter said as Scott and Johnny rode up.
“ I want you men to listen up. I don’t care if you go have a drink or two while we are in town, but any man who gets in a fight and starts destroying these peoples property will find himself out of a job. If you choose to be with a saloon woman, treat her right.”
“ Johnny, me and the men already talked it over. All we want is a hot bath and sleep.” Frank said. “ We’ll be sleeping here by the horses.”
“ They got a bath house in this town Johnny?” Billy asked.
“ My ladies at the saloon can give you a bath like no other.” the saloon owner said.
“ I’m sure they can, but that’s not what we want. We can give ourselves a bath.” Billy responded.
“ There’s a bath house down the street. A real nice Chinese family runs it. They’ll clean your clothes for ya while you bath.” Major Hunter said. “ After, there’s a big tent across from the bath house were you can get a real good meal.”
“ Thank you Major. Would you join us after we clean up and get the dust off us?” Scott asked.
“ I’d like that. Maybe catch up on some old times.” the Major said. “ Say around six?”
“ Six sounds good. That good for you Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. I’m kinda curious to hear about you in the war and such Boston.” Johnny said.
“ I really enjoyed last night Scott.” Johnny said as he saddled a buckskin gelding he’d been using as a remount. “ I know what it’s like to be in a war….I mean, I may not have been in that war, but we both fought for someones freedom. I’m glad you had some good times you can reflect back on.”
“ I’m glad you were there last night. Maybe some time me and you can do that.” Scott suggested as he put the bridle on his horse.
“ Do what.” Johnny asked as he tightened his cinch.
“ Share a memory of something you did before we met. I know it can’t all be bad brother.” Scott responded.
“ No Scott, I have good memories too. Just not as many. You send that wire last night so they know we made it this far?” Johnny responded and asked.
“ Yes. I told them we were all okay and would wire again from Fort Klamath.” Scott responded.
“ I gotta tell ya. I miss them something fierce. The old man too.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny Madrid………Come on out here and face me you gutless swine.” a voice yelled from out on the street.
“ You have got to be kidding me. Somebody all the way up here knows you.” Scott said
Johnny finished saddling his horse and putting the bridle on.
“ Come on out Madrid. I know you’re in there. Come on out and face me like a man, or are you a yellow bellied coward now?” the man yelled.
Major Hunter, Captain Jackson all the hands and just about all the army men stood looking toward the livery barn.
“ You ready brother?” Johnny asked as he untied the buckskin and started toward the doors.
“ Whenever you are brother.” Scott responded as he untied his horse and followed Johnny outside.
“ Your blonde friend there, if he still needs someone to protect him while he delivers those horses, I’ll be glad to take the job right after I kill you.” the man said.
Johnny could see whoever this man was, there would be no talking him out of it. Glancing, he could see the army and his own men watching as well as those awake in town.
“ Can’t the army stop this?” Billy asked.
“ Hush up kid. No they can’t. Johnny was called out. It’s a legal fight. Just stay still and quiet so you don’t distract Johnny.” Frank ordered.
“ That man doesn’t stand a chance.” Major Hunter said. “ He’s dead and don’t even know it.”
“ I don’t know you mister. I don’t want this. Just let me do my job and you be on your way. I got no quarrel with you.” Johnny said.
“ Can’t. You’ve been alive to long. Course I never expected to find you all the way up here in Oregon. Guess it’s my lucky day though.” the man said as he undid the tie holding his pistol down.
“ Why you in an all fire hurry to die mister. Killing me won’t get you nothing.” Johnny said.
“ Wrong. Killing you will get me your reputation and a lot of money. And I got the Army as my witness to killing you.”
“Can I at least have your name so they know what to put on your headstone?” Johnny asked.
“ I ain’t the one gonna be dying Madrid, you are, but I’ll tell ya……..It’s Reno.” he said.
“ You don’t look much older than eighteen.”
“ I’m twenty, now shut up and face me Madrid. I’m tired of all this talking. Make your play.” Reno demanded.
“ If you knew anything about me kid, I never make the first play. You decide when you want to die.” Johnny said as a bee buzzed his left ear.
“ You can’t beat him kid. Turn around and walk away from this. Nobody will say anything.” A man watching said.
Johnny went sick to his stomach. He seen the sign. Drawing his colt, he fanned the hammer once, hitting the kid in the right shoulder, knocking him back to the ground.
Reno couldn’t believe it. He thought for sure all his practicing, he could beat Madrid. How did the man know he was going to draw. Why wasn’t he dead. So much pain and the smell, what was that smell. Now he remembered, his blood. The copper smell was his own blood flowing from a hole in his right shoulder. Seeing his gun laying on the ground in front of him, Reno reached for it with his left hand.
“ Don’t do it kid.” Johnny begged as he cocked his colt and aimed it at the kid.
Reno brought the colt up and pulled the hammer back as he took aim at Madrid standing not ten feet away from him now, when a sharp stinging pain started in his left hand and arm. The colt now gone from his grip as blood started pouring from the palm of his hand.
“ Damn you Madrid………Kill me!….. Don’t leave me like this! Kill me damn you!” Reno yelled as two men walked up to the boy and helped him up.
“ Kill me Madrid! Don’t make me live with the shame of losing!” Reno yelled as the two men took him to a tent, Johnny could only assume was a doctors office.
Johnny stood there a and watched until the boy was taken into the tent, before turning and walking back to his horse. Nodding at his brother, when he noticed him standing, rifle ready.
“ Frank, I want everyone ready to leave in one hour.” Johnny yelled. “ Scott, you make sure they get ready.” Johnny ordered as he swung up in the saddle. “ I’ll catch up to you.” he added.
“You be careful.” Scott said as his brother galloped out of town, and Major Hunter walked over.
“ Is he going to be alright?” the Major asked.
“ Yeah. He just needs a little time alone. It’s never easy for him.” Scott responded as Frank walked over.
“ Can I ask why he didn’t kill the kid?” Frank asked.
“ Because he’s trying to change Frank. He also taught Billy and that kid a valuable lesson about making the wrong choices and the consequences of those choices.” Scott responded.
“ That kid will be crippled for life, but he’ll still be alive. He may hate that for now, but he’ll realize his mistake eventually and be thankful he’s not dead.” the Major added. “ I can’t believe he did that just because he wanted Johnny’s reputation. Reading it in the file, and seeing it are two totally different things.”
“ What do you mean reading it? What file?” Scott demanded.
“ I told you at Lancer I checked you out. I know all about Johnny’s past in Mexico Scott. Relax, the General knows also.” Major Hunter responded. “ I also knew Scott, not like the Major, but I knew your brother was a gunfighter from the way he wears his gun and the type of holster he has.” Captain Jackson added.
“ Sergeant Wilson, have the men ready to leave in an hour.” Major Hunter ordered.
“ Corporal McKee, see to it the men are ready to leave in twenty minutes.” Captain Jackson ordered.
“ Yes sir.” Corporal McKee responded.
“ You be careful on your way back to Fort Bidwell Captain.” Scott said. I thank you for your hospitality and will see you in a few days.”
“ You too Scott. Tell your brother I said he’s one hell of a damn good man.” Captain Jackson said as he shook Scott’s hand before turning, saluting the Major and walking away.
Johnny stopped the gelding just shy of the tree line and looked out at the valley below. In the distance he could see a snow capped mountain taller than any he had ever seen before, standing grand against the blue sky to the south of him. Looking around he noticed several mountains with snow on them sticking up above all the others. Seeing a small trail of dust to his north, Johnny removed the telescope from his saddlebags and looked. Not knowing if they were Paiute or Modoc or both, Johnny counted at least fifty moving parallel with the herd to his left. Putting the telescope away, Johnny turned the buckskin around and headed down to the herd.
“ Looks like your brother coming.” Major Hunter said.
Scott stopped his horse and waited for his brother to ride up. “ That horse looks like he’s been run a ways.” Scott said.
“ There’s a bunch of Indians about a mile north of us.” Johnny said.
“ They camped?” the Major asked.
“ Nope, moving same direction as us.” Johnny responded. “ I counted maybe twenty that I could see. Looks like a lot of women and children with them.” Johnny added.
“ Sergeant Wilson.” the Major called out.
“ Yes sir.” Sergeant Wilson answered as he rode over.
“ Sergeant, when were the Cow Creek band supposed to arrive at the fort?” the Major asked.
“ Not until next month sir.” the Sergeant responded.
“ Lancer spotted a group of about twenty moving parallel us about a mile north. Take a couple men with you and see if it’s them, but be careful.” the Major ordered. “ We’ll take a break here and wait for you to return.”
“Yes Sir. Right away sir.” Sergeant Wilson responded before turning his horse and riding back.
“ That horse could use a cooling down.” Scott said.
“ Yeah.” Johnny responded as he dismounted and loosened the cinch, dropping the reins so the horse could eat grass.
“ We need to talk little brother.” Scott said as he walked over to Johnny.
“ You want to know why I didn’t kill him. I didn’t expect him to try a second time with his left hand. He’s just a kid Scott, barely twenty years old. He has his whole life ahead of him. I’ll be damned if I’m going to be the one to end it for him.” Johnny said.
“ So you crippled him for life.” Scott said.
“ He’s still alive, and will still be able to work if he wants too.” Johnny snapped back.
“ Take it easy brother. I’m not the enemy.” Scott said.
“ I know that………it’s just that………..Hell Scott I can’t even escape my damn past way up here in Oregon.” Johnny said before walking over to the stream.
“ Do you think it will be worth it taking that contract Johnny?” Scott asked. “ You’ll be away from your family a lot longer and I can tell you’re missing them both now pretty bad.”
“ Right now Scott, I don’t know. I don’t know if it would be worth the money, and the risk taking horses to Montana. Especially with the Indians possibly starting a war.” Johnny said softly.
“ It’s not easy is it?” Scott asked.
“ Is what not easy?” Johnny asked back.
“ Growing up, and having responsibilities for others.” Scott responded. “ I know you’ve been responsible for yourself most of your life, but now you’re finding out what it’s like having to be responsible for those around you and family.”
“ Three years ago when I took that job guarding the money for Wells Fargo……..if you’d have told me I would have what I have now, I probably would have shot you.” Johnny said with a laugh. “ I know I have a responsibility to my wife and child, but I also have one to the men.” Johnny said as he walked over to the buckskin and tightened his cinch. “ Ever since I learned what I know about horses when in Mexico, I’ve dreamed of having a horse ranch some day. Of breaking and training horses, and selling them all over. Pretty dumb huh, considering a man like me has no right dreaming like that. Wanting something like that.”
“ That’s bullshit Johnny. You have every right to dream and want something like that.. Look at our father. Not a year off the boat from Inverness and he marries my mother, packs up and moves out west where he buys a ranch and turns it into the biggest cattle ranch in the San Joaquin. If you want a horse ranch little brother…….then do it. Get your contracts. I’ll help you in any way I can to make this dream come true for you.” Scott said firmly.
“ Takes land I don’t have Scott. The old man isn’t going to let me have part of Lancer for a horse ranch.” Johnny responded.
“ You won’t know that until you ask him. Johnny, I honestly don’t think our father thought you could do it. Do you want to prove he’s right, or do you want that horse ranch?” Scott asked as Sergeant Wilson rode back.
“ What did you find Sergeant?” Major Hunter asked.
“ Just like Mister Lancer said sir. It’s a group of Lower Umpqua from the Cow Creek band.” the Sergeant responded.
“ Cow Creek. Did they say what they are doing this far east?” the Major asked.
“ The Chief said they were coming back from wintering at the base of the Blues near a trading post at the mouth of Mckay Creek.” the Sergeant explained. “ He said their enemy the Paiute killed a bunch of their braves and stole their horses two moons ago. They plan to rest at the fort a few days before they move on. Major, they look like they haven’t eatin anything for some time.”
“ I seen a herd of elk on the east side of that mountain there. I can go kill them an elk or two Major.” Johnny suggested.
“ Sergeant, take two men and go with Mister Lancer and get them some meat. You can catch up with us tonight when we camp at Chiloquin. I don’t want to risk taking the horses through that swampy area in the dark.” the Major ordered.
“ Scott, let me have your Henry. It’ll reach farther than my Winchester.” Johnny asked. “You’re in charge until I get back.”
“ You be careful brother.” Scott said as he handed his Henry rifle to him.
“ She looks more and more like you every day Teresa.” Murdoch said as he walked up to the Veranda and sat down.
“ Johnny is missing so much of her first year growing up.” Teresa said.
“ Teresa, what if Johnny makes this horse selling business a go and becomes successful at it. Are you prepared for that?” Murdoch asked.
“ I think about that almost every day. I know Johnny wants a horse ranch, he told me he’s had that dream ever since he was little in Mexico. I want him to be happy, really I do.”
“ But at the same time you want him here with you and the baby.” Murdoch cut in.
“ Murdoch, what do I do? Do I let him have his dream and become a stranger to his family, to his children, or do I have him stay here with us every day and be unhappy?”
“ I wish I could give you the answer Teresa, I really do, but I’m afraid that is something the two of you will have to discuss. I will tell you this. I’m prepared to give Johnny the land he will need for corrals if he can make this horse business be a profitable one.” Murdoch said as Maria walked out.
“ It is time for the little ones nap.” Maria said as she took Mary from Teresa.
“ Thank you Maria.” Teresa said as she kissed Mary on the forehead. “ You be a good girl.”
“ Teresa, I could have sworn I heard you say children a minute ago.” Murdoch said when Maria walked inside.
“ You did.” Teresa responded. “ It’s not definite yet, but I’m pretty sure I’m almost three months pregnant.”
Murdoch stood up and walked over to Teresa, pulling her into a hug. “ So if you are, I will have another grandchild to spoil rotten in January!”
“ Looks that way.” Teresa said.
“ That will be quit the homecoming for Johnny. His daughter walks to him possibly and you telling him he will be a father again.” Murdoch said.
“ I might not tell him here at the house. I just hope he isn’t upset over it.” Teresa responded.
“ Why would you think he would be upset. You seen how happy he was when you had Mary.”
“ I know. It’s just that it’s so soon after having Mary. I was hoping to have them be a couple years apart.” Teresa said as Cipriano rode up.
“ Patron, there was a wire for you in town.” the segundo said as he dismounted and walked over to Murdoch, handing him the telegram.
Murdoch took the telegram and opened it. “ Thank god. They made it to Bly with escort from Fort Bidwell. They’ll send another wire when they reach Fort Klamath.”
“ Oh Murdoch, that’s wonderful news.” Teresa said.
“ Juanito, he is good with horses senor. It is in his heart. He has a gift.” Cipriano said before turning and leading his horse to the barn.
“ I think this calls for a celebration. Would you care to join me in some fresh made lemonade and cookies?” Teresa asked.
“ That’s the best offer I’ve had in a long time.” Murdoch responded and the two walked into the house.
Sergeant Wilson, Johnny and the two privates rode into camp at dusk.
“ I’ll take care of your horse Johnny.” Frank said. “ You go get something to eat.”
Johnny removed the Henry rifle from his scabbard, dismounted, and handed the reins to Frank. “ Thanks.”
“ Not a bad rifle, has a little kick to it.” Johnny said as he handed the Henry to his brother.
“ It kills what you shoot usually with one shot.” Scott said as he slid the rifle back in his scabbard and handed Johnny back his rifle.
“ I gotta tell ya Scott, what I just seen………You should have seen their eyes when we rode up with those three elk. I never seen people so glad to have meat.” Johnny said as he sat down and leaned back against a log as Billy handed him a plate full of beans, cornbread and fish.”
“ Thanks Billy. Who caught the fish?” Johnny asked.
“ Me, Billy and Walt did.” Scott said.
“ Taste real good. Thank you.” Johnny said.
“ The Major said we should be at the fort by noon. Said it will be slow going through the swamp area, but the trail is marked good. We just have to keep the herd together.” Scott said as Major Hunter walked over.
“ Johnny, Sergeant Wilson told me you killed three elk for them. Said you dropped the second two before they could bolt from the first shot.” Major Hunter said. “ I thank you for what you did for them. The Lower Umpqua are a peaceful tribe who unfortunately have been harassed by the Paiute and Modoc for the last ten years.”
“ How come?” Johnny asked.
“ Because they trade with white settlers and with us at the fort. The Lower Umpqua, Coos and Siuslaw tribes are peaceful people. They’re indigenous to the plateau, and unfortunately they cross paths with the Paiute and Modoc tribes.” Major Hunter explained.
“ About like some of the Indians I came across in the south down in Mexico. I came across Yaqui, during Mexico’s struggle for independence from Spain, under the reign of Maximillian, until he was killed in 1860. Under the leadership of Jose Maria Leyva, the Yaqui continued the struggle to maintain their independence. In 1868, the Mexican Army locked one hundred and fifty Yaqui in a church and set it on fire. By the time I got to them, there was nothing I could do. They didn’t deserve to die like that, nobody deserves to die like that.” Johnny said before getting up and walking off into the darkness.
Scott sat there in shock at hearing what his little brother just said.
“ My god, I thought I had seen horrible things during the war Scott, but what your brother just said………He couldn’t have been more than thirteen, fourteen years old.” Major Hunter said.
“ That’s the first time my brother has said anything about his past to me.” Scott said.
“ After hearing that, I can understand why.” Frank said
“ I seen Johnny with his shirt off once……the scars on his back……He must have got them during that war.” Walt added.
“ Johnny got a lot of those scars I believe while he was in a Mexican prison Walt.” Frank said.
“ They probably tried to break him.” Major Hunter added.
“ Break him?” Billy asked.
“ Make me beg for my life Billy.” Johnny said as he walked out of the darkness and sat back down next to Scott. “ The Mexican Army, they take pride in making prisoners suffer. If they don’t like you Billy, your life might as well be over, because what they do to you in a Mexican prison will make you wish you were dead. You lay in a filthy cell with a bunch of other prisoners, or if you’re lucky, you get one all to yourself like I did. It was maybe four across and five deep. They gave you water that, drinking piss would have been cleaner. Very little if any food, usually moldy bread and a cup of that nasty water. Beatings every morning. See, if someone else screwed up, I was the fall guy. It didn’t matter if I did it or not, I was the one punished. They never broke me though. I never screamed.”
“ Jesus Johnny.” Billy said softly.
“ I learned how to block the pain out like you did from losing your parents Billy. I would put my mind somewhere else and most of the time I didn’t feel the whip or brine until I was thrown in my cell later.” Johnny said.
“ I haven’t blocked the pain of losing my parents.” Billy said.
“ Billy, when you came back and found your little sister and parents scalped, did you get angry, did you cry or scream when you were burying them?” Johnny asked.
“I don’t need to Johnny, I’m fine.” Billy responded.
“ How about you Johnny, you seen your mother murdered.” Joe cut in and asked.
Johnny shot Joe a look as cold as ice telling him he’d crossed the line. “ I sent the man who murdered my mother straight to hell.” Johnny said in a tone as cold as his stare.
“ Johnny…………Who taught you how to use a gun…….to shoot?” Billy asked.
“ I taught myself kid. I practiced every day drawing until my muscles screamed in pain and I could hardly stand up, and my hands and fingers had blisters on them.” Johnny responded.
“ You think if I did that, I could get as good as you?” Billy asked.
Johnny got up so fast, and grabbed Billy, nobody seen it coming. “ I don’t ever want to hear you say that again. Do you understand me?”
Scott got up and grabbed Johnny’s right arm. “ Take it easy brother. He just asked a question.”
Johnny yanked Billy up withing inches of his face. “ You seen what happened in Bly. How that kid called me out because he thought he was better than me. Let me tell you something Billy………….Let go of my arm Scott…………You can ask Joe, I’m the best there is. I got to be the best by practicing like I told you, but sooner or later, someone will come along that will be faster than me. I didn’t kill that boy because I wanted to teach him a lesson. I told you every choice you make has consequences. If you choose to start practicing and want to use a gun in a stupid way like that, go ahead and practice. Just remember, someone faster and better will come along and kill you.” Johnny said before shoving Billy back and jerking his arm free from Scott’s grip and walked over to the stream.
“ What the hells wrong with him Scott? He had no call to go off on Billy like that!” Joe said as he stood up.
“ He had every right Joe.” Billy said before turning and walking down to the stream to Johnny’s left.
“ I’m sorry Johnny. I didn’t mean I wanted to be a gunfighter like you……I………I thought to use a gun for anything you had to be good.” Billy said.
“ It depends on the job Billy, like I told you before. A gun is a tool and nothing more. Look, I owe you an apology for the way I just treated you. It was wrong, and for that I’m sorry. I guess with the bad memories that came back, then you asking me that, I guess I just lost it. I’m sorry.”
“ It’s alright Johnny. I’m not sore at ya. I don;t want to do anything to make you made at me. I want to learn from you. That’s why I asked. I guess I asked you wrong though.” Billy responded.
“ I tell ya what. We get back to Lancer, I’ll take you out and teach you how to shoot a pistol and handle a rifle.” Johnny said. “ There is one thing I’ want to tell you right now Billy. I don’t expect your pa ever told you this. When out working on the range at Lancer and something happens, whether you get hurt or someone else… take your gun and fire three shots a few seconds apart. It will let anyone close know somethings wrong, and find you.”
“ Golly, that’s good to know Johnny.” Billy responded.
“ It’s getting late, you better turn in. We get rid of these horses tomorrow.”
“You think he’ll be in a better mood this morning?” Joe asked.
“ Johnny had every right to be upset last night. What he told us all happened to those Indians in Mexico and then me asking him a stupid question like I did, he had every right to be upset.” Billy said firmly.
“ You like him don’t you kid?” Frank asked.
“ I like all of you, but with Johnny, I don’t know, it’s different I guess. Just something about him I can’t explain.” Billy responded.
“ I think I can kid. You weren’t that much older than Johnny was when he lost his mother.” Joe said.
“ You were what Thirteen, fourteen…..Johnny was ten when he lost his mother.”
“ And I killed my first man when I was twelve.” Johnny said. “ The Major said we have swamp to take the herd through, so get up and get breakfast going so we can get these horses to the fort by noon.” Johnny ordered before turning and walking over to the picket line.
Scott stood up and stretched before walking over to his brother.
“ I want you to ride your stallion today. I need him to lead the herd through the swamp or whatever the hell it is out there that we have to take them through.”
“ Okay, what will you be riding?” Scott asked.
“ Barranca. I’m thinking of giving this little Buckskin to Billy. He needs a horse of his own. He’s a good, sound, solid horse. I think he’ll turn into a good cow pony for him.”
“ He thinks a lot of you Johnny. He was defending you last night and this morning.” Scott said.
“ About last night Scott, I apologized to Billy for how I reacted. I’ve never told anyone about that before. There’s things in my head I wish I could get out. Things I’ve seen, things I’ve done that if you knew half of them, you wouldn’t want me for a brother.” Johnny said.
“ Well now see that’s were you are wrong little brother. What you did in the past is just that, the past, where as far as I’m concerned it can stay.” Scott responded. “ Johnny, any time you want to talk about something from that past, I’m a real good listener.” Scott said.
“ I appreciate that Scott.” Johnny said as Major Hunter walked over.
“ Something wrong sir?” Scott asked.
“ Modoc and Paiute attacked that group of Umpqua last night. They attacked the Chief’s tepee, killed him and his wife and daughter. Nobody heard or seen anything.” the Major explained. “ The Chief’s oldest son came to us this morning, asking for help in protecting the rest of the group. Those horses are only green broke correct?”
“ Yeah, but that was three months ago Major.” Johnny replied.
“ Those people will be slaughtered if we leave them on foot to go through that swamp area to the fort, and it’s too risky for them to go north around it.” the Major said.
“ Look Major, I got no trouble with them riding those horses to the fort, but I don’t think putting women and children on them is a wise decision.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny, what if we put the women and children on our remounts and pack horses?” Scott asked. “ We could put three, if not four kids each per horse and let the women ride our remounts.” Scott suggested.
“ That will work.” Johnny responded. “ Frank, I want you, Walt and Joe to catch up the remounts. Billy, even out the packs so the horses can be rode. Major have some of your men bring them here while we get the horses ready.” Johnny ordered.
“ Alright. Sergeant Wilson, you take Corporal Miller and some men and bring them here. Tell them what we are going to do.” the Major ordered. “ Help them bury their dead if they want.”
“ Any of the younger men might be able to ride some of the mounts without a saddle.” Jeff suggested.
“ How many are there?” Tom asked.
“ Altogether, fifteen to twenty roughly.” the Major responded.
“ Corporal James, I want you and a couple privates to help Lancer get the horses ready.” the Major ordered.
I guess we can’t go riding together today.” Teresa said.
“ It started storming around three this morning and hasn’t let up that much.” Murdoch said.
“ I wonder how the weather has been for Johnny! He should be in Oregon now shouldn’t he?” Teresa asked.
“ They should yes. They should be at the fort or pretty close to it.” Murdoch responded.
“ Well, since it’s a rainy, gloomy day, I guess I will do some baking.” Teresa said.
“ Just a minute young lady. I need you to sit down. I want to have a serious discussion with you about something I’ve been thinking about for some time now.” Murdoch said.
“ This sounds serious.” Teresa said as she sat down.
“ I’ve been thinking about Johnny, and this horse ranch he’s wanting to start up. I happen to know of a neighboring spread adjacent to Lancer that is for sale. It already has a big barn, corrals, pasture, and the house is in really good condition. It would be prime land for Johnny to set up. I happen to know the owner and they would be willing to sell it for what they paid for it.”
“ Adjacent to Lancer? What property Murdoch?” Teresa asked.
“ Jake Mendoza’s old place. Aggie and I were talking last week. She bought the place to help Jake out and doesn’t really need it. She asked me if I knew anyone who would be interested in buying, and I told her I would for Johnny.” Murdoch explained.
“ But we don’t have that kind of money. Sure Johnny is making a nice amount on the herd he took to Oregon, but………”
“ Teresa, I talked a long time with Agatha about this. She will let Johnny have the place for ten thousand dollars. Plus an agreement that Johnny trains four cutting horses for her she’s purchasing from Clarkston Stables in the fall.” Murdoch said.
“ It sounds good Murdoch, but I thought you didn’t want us leaving Lancer?” Teresa asked.
“ I don’t, but the Mendoza place isn’t that far and the land is adjacent to Lancer.” Murdoch responded.
“ How many acres is it?” Teresa asked.
“ Oh, I believe it’s about two hundred acres. It runs from the old Simple place down to Agatha’s and over to Lancer. We can take a ride and look after church tomorrow if you want.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I’d like that.” Teresa responded.
“ The Major wasn’t kidding about this swamp area was he?” Joe asked.
“ No. I have an uneasy feeling about crossing this too.” Frank responded.
“ You can bet they’re probably watching us right now.” Walt added.
“ Probably waiting for their chance to attack us.” Joe stated.
“ At least the horses are cooperating and moving through good.” Frank said.
“ Looks like we’re almost out of it. That must be the fort up ahead.” Walt said as he pointed.
“ Which way you figure Johnny will want to travel back Frank?” Joe asked.
“ Not sure. I know he needs to go back to Fort Bidwell to talk more about that contract to Montana.” Frank responded.
“ I sure will be glad when we get out of Indian country. I want to keep my scalp.” Joe said.
“ You not going if Johnny takes horses to Montana Joe?” Walt asked.
“ Haven’t decided yet really. The money sounds real good, but I don’t know if it’s worth my life or not.” Joe responded as shots fired from behind them.
“ Get them moving. Paiutes behind us.” Sergeant Wilson yelled.
“ Bugler, sound assembly.” the Major yelled as the herd of horses bolted out of the water following the Umpqua toward the fort. “ Lancer, get those horses inside the fort.”
Scott and the hands yelled as they started the horses running, heading to the fort gates as Major Hunter and his men assembled and started firing at the Paiutes. Scott felt the pain in his upper left arm as he galloped through the gate, grabbing his rifle as he dismounted and ran toward the terreplein to help fight off the attack. Soldiers with rifles started firing as Johnny ran the last of the horses through the gate just as a familiar white hot pain hit his right side ribs.
Addison came out with Captain Duncan as the horses ran into the yard. “ What’s going on?” he asked.
“We’re under attack.” Captain Duncan responded. “ Stay here.” he ordered as he started running toward the gate. “ You men get up on that terreplein and start firing. Give the Major and his men some cover damn it. Sergeant Hay, get some men at that Parapet and out along the scarp.” he ordered before heading up the stairs to the terreplein.
Teresa sat in her favorite chair sewing when she heard a knock at the door. Getting up, she walked over and answered it. “ Sam, what are you doing here?” she asked as the doctor walked into the house.
“ Can’t I stop by for a visit once in a while?” Sam asked as he walked down into the grand room.
“ Of course. Can you stay for supper? I made pot roast, and was just about to go see if it was ready yet.” Teresa asked.
“ That sounds wonderful. Thank you.” Sam responded as he walked over to Murdoch, sitting at his desk.
“ Hello Sam.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ It’s good to see you.”
“ Murdoch, I thought I would stop by on my way back to town and see if you heard anything from Johnny or Scott yet?”
“ We received a wire saying they had made it to Bly and would wire again when they made it to Fort Klamath.” Murdoch responded.
“ Bly, that’s about the halfway point between the forts isn’t it?” Sam asked.
“ Yes. They were escorted there by soldiers from Fort Bidwell and will be escorted to Fort Klamath by Major Hunter and his men.” Murdoch responded.
“ I must say, I’m a little surprised you let Johnny do this.” Sam said.
“ I think I am as well Sam. Lancer is a cattle ranch, but if Johnny can make a go of selling horses to the army, I think I can be a reasonable father and give him a chance.” Murdoch said as he walked over to the sideboard. “ Would you care for a drink?”
“ Yes. So what made you change your mind?” Sam asked.
“ To be honest, I didn’t think there would be any money in it. Rounding up and breaking horses is a full time job. One my son is very good at doing. He worked real hard breaking those hundred and fifty head he took to Oregon……Plus did all his chores for the ranch. Teresa and I are going to go by Jake Mendoza’s old place after church tomorrow and look at it. I may buy it from Agatha so Johnny would have a place already set up for his horse business.”
“ Well now I am in shock. You do that Murdoch, and I think you will make that boy very happy. I’ve been to Jake’s a couple times before he left, the house has three bedrooms, one downstairs and two up. I think Johnny would like it.” Sam said.
“ Are you two ready to eat?” Teresa asked as she walked into the room carrying Mary.
“ That was a beautiful service Father Thomas.” Teresa said.
“ Thank you. This little one is sure growing up fast.” Father Thomas said.
“ She misses her father.” Teresa responded.
“ Any word on when he will be home?” the Father asked.
“ The end of summer, early fall is what he said before he left.” Murdoch said.
“ well, I say a prayer for both your boys to return home safe.” Father Thomas said. “ Now if you will excuse me. I need to go to the orphanage now.”
“ Of course Father. See you next Sunday.” Teresa said.
“ You want to get some lunch here in town before we head over to look at the Mendoza place?” Murdoch asked.
“ Sure. Maybe Mrs Conway can join us?” Teresa responded and asked.
“ How many men injured or dead Sergeant?” Major Hunter asked.
“ Seven men injured and four killed sir, that we know of so far.” the Sergeant responded. “ Those injured, only two have bad wounds sir.”
“ Alright, make sure they get medical treatment and as soon as we know it’s safe, we’ll bring in the dead so we can identify them and write their families if needed.”
“ Yes sir. Sir, I notice the one Lancer, Johnny was wounded also. I seen him get hit when he was running the horses inside.” Sergeant Wilson stated.
“ Very well. I’ll check on him at the hospital when I get a chance.” the Major said.
“ Do you think they attacked because we had the Umpqua or were they after the horses sir?” Sergeant Wilson asked.
“ Probably both. The Northern Paiute have been at war with the Umpqua for a long time. I better go see Colonel Chamberlain and General Crook.” Major Hunter responded.
“ Yes sir. I’ll see to the men.” Sergeant Wilson said as the Major walked away.
“ Let me tie something around that arm to stop the bleeding.” Captain Duncan said to Scott. “ It looks like the bullet passed right through and missed the bone. Private, take Mister Lancer to the hospital to get this wound tended too.”
“ I need to see if my brother and the hands are alright.” Scott said.
“ They all made it inside the fort. I believe they are with the horses at the back. I know I seen your brother ride in at the back of the herd.” Captain Duncan said.
“ Thank you. My wound will keep for now private. There are men with worse wounds than mine.” Scott said as he started down the stairs to go find Johnny.
“ Frank, is everybody here?” Johnny asked. Ignoring the burning pain in his side.
“ We lost Seth and Tom. I seen them go down.” Frank responded.
“ Damn it. Did any of the horses get hit?” Johnny asked.
“ It doesn’t look like it. Once they calm down, we can do a thorough check of them.” Frank said.
“ Johnny, you’re bleeding.’ Billy said, noticing the blood on Johnny’s side under his coat.
“ It’s just a scratch. Have any of you seen Scott?” Johnny responded and asked.
“ Right behind you little brother.” Scott said as he walked up.
“ How bad’s the arm?” Johnny asked.
“ Bullet passed clean through. It missed the bone.” Scott responded.
“ Johnny’s been shot too Scott.” Billy said.
It was then Scott noticed the blood on his brothers right side. “ How bad is that?”
“ Just a graze. It’ll keep for now.” Johnny said.
“ Little brother, you got two choices, one you can willingly walk to the hospital to get that wound cleaned and bandaged, or two, we can carry you there.” Scott said firmly.
“ We lost Seth and Tom. Frank seen them go down.” Johnny said as Captain Duncan walked over.
“ Looks like both of you need to go to the hospital.” the Captain said.
“ Yeah. Captain, we lost two men out there. Could you let us know when their bodies have been recovered so we can bury them?” Johnny asked.
“ Right away. Corporal Wilson, escort the Lancer brothers to the hospital so they can get their wounds tended too and then bring them to Colonel Chamberlains office.” Captain Duncan ordered.
“ The house is just lovely inside.” Teresa said as her and Murdoch walked out onto the porch.
“ A fresh coat of white wash and it will be really nice looking on the outside too. I can have Cipriano check the roof to make sure there’s no bad spots to leak.” Murdoch said as he stepped down and looked up at the roof. “ Will have to make sure no birds have built nest in the chimney.”
“ I just love it. There’s room I can have a big garden out back.” Teresa said as she stepped down to stand next to Murdoch. “ A few rose bushes in the front will be nice.”
“ You have always had a love for roses. Shall we go see what the barn looks like.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Yes. From everything I see and the way it’s laid out with the corrals and room to build more, I don’t see why Johnny wouldn’t like it.” Teresa said as they walked to the barn.
Murdoch opened the barn doors to allow light inside. “ Well he has plenty of room to store hay both up above and down here if he wanted.” Murdoch said.
“ Murdoch, something’s been bothering me. If you suggest this to Johnny, he won’t think you’re trying to get rid of him will he?” Teresa asked.
“ Get rid of him, heavens no. I want to see him be successful in his horse business. You think he might feel that way?”
“ That’s just it, I don’t know. I mean, when he learned he was a Lancer, I think it scared him a little to be honest.” Teresa said.
“ I can understand that. Johnny’s had nothing almost all his life until three years ago when he learned he’s my long lost son and a third owner in the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley.” Murdoch responded.
“ Sometimes though, he would tell me he feels like he’s nothing more than just a hired hand for you and not your son.” Teresa stated.
“ I can see and understand that given how I treated him sometimes. I think I’m going to go ahead and buy the place for you both. It can be a late wedding present.” Murdoch said. “ I’ll have Cipriano bring some men over and get the place painted and the roofs check and it will be ready for you both to move into when Johnny gets back if he wants.”
“ And if he doesn’t?” Teresa asked.
“ If he doesn’t, then I guess we will cross that bring when and if it happens.” Murdoch said as they headed to the buggy to go home.
“ Corporal, you wouldn’t be related to Sergeant Wilson would you?” Scott asked as they walked to the Colonels office.
“ He’s my brother sir. I graduated from west point and wanted to be with him so I requested transfer out here.” the Corporal responded as they reached the Colonels office and he knocked on the door.
“ Corporal Wilson sir with the Lancer brothers Johnny and Scott.” the corporal said when he opened the door.
“ Very well Corporal. Show them in.” Colonel Chamberlain said.
Scott and Johnny walked inside as a big man about six feet walked over to them and offered his hand.
“ Welcome. Those horses you brought are a true blessing for us. I can’t thank you enough.” the Colonel said as he shook each ones hand. “ Come in, sit down. Can I offer you a drink?”
“ Thank you sir.” Scott said as they walked over and sat down.
“ Corporal, pour three drinks please and then you may go.” I was told you were shot.” the Colonel said as he walked over to his desk and sat down. “ Oh Corporal, have Captain Duncan, Major Hunter and that civilian come here, and ask General Crook if he could join us, and have the Major bring his file?”
“ Yes sir.” Corporal Wilson said before leaving.
“ Nothing serious sir.” Scott responded as the Corporal offered them each a drink.
“ You would be Scott,and you would be Johnny Lancer?” the Colonel asked.
“ Yes sir.” Scott answered. “ The horses belong to my brother sir.”
“ Major Hunter speaks highly of you. Said you served with him at Shenandoah.” the Colonel stated.
“ Yes sir I did.” Scott responded.
“ Major Hunter said you went by another name, Johnny Madrid I believe he said. There’s a civilian man here, he cane back a week ago with Captain Duncan. His name is Buck Addison. He says you are trying to commit fraud against the army selling us those horses under false pretense.” the Colonel said.
“ Colonel Chamberlain, I used to be a gunfighter. I’m trying to give that up. I just want to live a normal life with the family I never knew I had until three years ago.” Johnny said firmly. “ Buck Addison has had a problem with me ever since he met me and found out who I used to be.”
“ I’m aware of your past son. Major Hunter did a thorough background check on the Lancer’s before he ever left here to see you. He has a quit extensive Pinkerton report on you.” the Colonel said as someone knocked on the door. “ Enter.”
“ Captain Duncan and Mister Addison sir.” the Corporal said upon entering the room. “ General Crook said he would be here in a few minutes sir.”
“ Thank you Corporal. That will be all.” Colonel Chamberlain said. “ I believe everyone knows each other.”
Scott and Johnny stood up and turned to face the Captain and Addison. “ Unfortunately.” Johnny said.
“ This is the man I told you about Colonel. The one trying to commit deception against the army.” Buck said.
“ We will discuss this deception you claim this man is trying to do once General Crook joins us.” Colonel Chamberlain responded.
“ Major Hunter, I believe you told Mister Lancer the army would purchase his herd at seventy five dollars a head. Is that correct?” Colonel Chamberlain asked.
“ Yes sir. Upon delivery eleven thousand two hundred and fifty dollars is to be wired to the Lancers bank account.” Major Hunter responded as the door opened.
“ Colonel. I have my men checking over every horse to make sure none of them were injured. I don’t want you paying for an unsound horse.” Johnny said.
“ That’s very thoughtful of you son.” the Colonel responded. “ General Crook, this is Scott and Johnny Lancer. They delivered that herd of horses for us.”
“ General sir. It’s a pleasure to see you again.” Scott said as he shook the mans hand.
“ You know each other?” Major Hunter asked.
“ The General here is an old acquaintance of my grandfathers back in Boston. He’s the reason I joined the army.” Scott responded.
“ Glad to see you are still kicking. Is that bad?” the General asked of Scott’s arm.
“ No sir. It’ll be alright.” Scott said.
“ Johnny. I take it you’re the man this Addison says is being deceitful to us?” the General asked as he shook Johnny’s hand.
“ I’m afraid you have been misinformed General about my brother sir.” Scott said before Johnny could answer.
“ Captain Duncan, how do you know this man?” the General asked.
“ I met Lancer with the Major sir.” Captain Duncan responded.
“ Not the Lancers. This man, Buck Addison, how do you know him? And I suggest you tell the truth Captain, because your career depends on it.” the General ordered.
Captain Duncan looked around the room then at Addison directly. “ I told you I’m not risking my career for you and those horses.” the Captain said. “ He approached me in Green River. Said he had a proposition for me that would make me rich. I asked him what he was talking about and he told me about Lancer and the horses. Said he hired three men to steal the herd before they got out of California, but they found out they would be going up against Madrid, so they didn’t do it.” Captain Duncan explained. “ He also said that if I tried to cross him, he would have me hunted down and killed. That I was to remember what he had done to Madrid earlier.”
“ What do you mean, what he did to Madrid earlier?” Major Hunter asked.
“ It seems he shot Madrid in the back for guarding the Wells Fargo payroll shipment. Said he couldn’t finish the job because someone came along before he could kill him and steal five hundred dollars Madrid had on him from doing the job.” Captain Duncan added.
“ Captain Duncan, have you ever heard of defamation of character?” General Crook asked.
“ Yes sir I have heard of it. Sir, I have not made false accusations about this man.” Captain Duncan said.
“ You brought this man here and claimed to have proof that Johnny Lancer was not who he says he is. That he is misleading the army, did you not?”
“ Sir I…….”
“ Did you or did you not bring this man to my fort with the intention of slandering his name so this man, Addison can somehow get the contract to sell horses to the army? It’s a simple yes or no answer Captain Duncan.” General Crook demanded.
Scott glanced at Johnny and could see his brother was enjoying hearing and watching what was happening. He himself was enjoying the fact that Captain Duncan was getting confronted, even though it meant a possible court martial.
“ Yes sir I did………. I’ve given fifteen years of my life to the army and never rose above Captain in ranks sir. I served along side Major Hunter in the war, yet never once got promoted or any recognition for what I’ve done for the army.”
“ What you’ve done for the army? What you’ve done is tarnish the armies good name soldier. You schemed with this man in the hopes of making money. You are a disgrace to that uniform and I will see to it that you are punished to the full extent of the law…….Corporal.”
Corporal Wilson opened the door. “ Yes sir.”
“ Escort Captain Duncan to the jail and have him locked up.” General Crook ordered.
“ I didn’t do anything wrong sir. Addison did. It was his idea.” the Captain pleaded as the Corporal ordered him outside where two other armed guards waited.
“ Now you Addison.” General Crook said.
“ I’m a civilian, you can’t do anything to me. Besides it’s his word against mine.”
“ The only law in this area is the army Mister Addison, so you see, I can arrest and charge you as well if Mister Lancer wants to press charges against you for conspiracy to commit a robbery of army property and attempted murder.” the General responded. “ Am I correct Major Hunter?”
“ Yes sir you are.” the Major responded. “ Do you want to press charges against him Johnny?”
Johnny walked over to Addison. He could see both fear and anger in the mans eyes. Before anyone knew what happened, Johnny hit Addison hard in the mouth, knocking him to the floor. “ That’s for ambushing me you sonofabitch.” Johnny spat as Scott stepped over next to him, and put a hand gently on his arm.
“ Do you wish to press charges against him Johnny?” Major Hunter asked.
“ No. You ruined a mans military career Addison and tried to take what was mine.” Johnny said coldly.
“ Wait a minute Johnny, you’re going to let him go?” Scott asked.
“ He’s not worth it Scott. I told you I was trying to change. Murdoch and you gave me a second chance, that’s what I’m going to give you Addison, a second chance. If I see you around Morro Coyo or any of my family……I’ll finish this.”
“ Mister Addison, you have thirty minutes to get your belongings and leave my fort.” General Crook ordered.
“ Wait a minute Johnny. You let him ride out of here, who says he don’t ambush you out on the trail somewhere?” Scott demanded.
“ He won’t try it again because too many people know Scott. If I get ambushed, you’ll know who it was.” Johnny responded.
“ Don’t think I’m going to let this go Lancer. All I have to do is send a wire and every gunfighter around will be gunning for you. Offering a private bounty isn’t against the law.” Addison said before turning to walk out.
Scott stepped forward and grabbed the man by the arm, spinning him around. “ If anyone comes calling on my brother, or I see anything of a private wanted poster, I’m coming after you personally Addison, and I won’t shoot you in the back.” Scott said with anger.
“ Can I ask why you let that man walk out of here Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ You remember what I told Billy about choices Scott. He made his when he decided to cross the line. It’s just a matter of time before he gets what’s coming to him. It’s a long ride back for him to make alone.” Johnny said as the door opened and Sergeant Wilson walked in.
“ I’m sorry to disturb you sir, but there was an attack on a family. Modoc killed the whole family.” the Sergeant said.
“ Where?” the Colonel asked.
“ West of here. A patrol found the burned out wagons and one survivor. They brought her in. A little girl. She’s with the doctor now at the hospital.” the Sergeant said.
“ Do they know who the family was, Sergeant?” the Colonel asked.
“ They found something in the wagon that had the name Marshall on it.”
“ What name did you just say?” Johnny asked.
“ Marshall. You know them?” the Sergeant asked.
“ Yeah, we spent some time on the trail with them outside Susanville, California. They got robbed and were out of food. They were headed to Portland to Mrs Marshall’s sisters. She had a store there that they were going to work at.” Johnny responded. “ The little girls name is Sara.” Johnny said with a sick feeling in his stomach.
“ The other family members names were Stan, and Martha, Jacob, Sara’s brother, and Josh and his wife Ruth.” Scott added.
“ The little girl is in shock. Maybe if she seen a familiar face, it would give her some comfort.” Sergeant Wilson suggested.
“ Yeah.” Johnny said as he started to the door.
“ Sergeant, send a wire to Portland and have them locate the sister if they can. Do you know her last name?” the Major asked.
“ They never said.” Johnny said softly.
“ Well maybe you can get the little girl to tell you her aunts last name.” the Major suggested. “ Sergeant, take Mister Lancer to the little girl now.”
“ Johnny, I’m going to go send a wire letting Murdoch and Teresa know we made it here.” Scott said.
“ Don’t say anything about my being shot Scott. I don’t want Teresa worrying over a scratch.” Johnny said before walking out.
“ They were a real nice family……General, It was good to see you again sir.” Scott said as he walked over to shake the mans hand.
“ You’re brother won’t be riding for a day or two because of his wound. Major Hunter, set Lancers and their men up in Captain Duncan’s
quarters.” the General instructed.
“ Yes sir. I’ll show you were you can send that wire.” Major Hunter said as he saluted and walked out.
Johnny stopped outside the room the doctor has Sara in and waited as the Sergeant went in and talked to him. A minute later the Sergeant and another man, he assumed was the doctor walked out and closed the door.
“ I’m doctor Andrews. The Sergeant tells me you know the little girl in there?”
“ Yeah doc I do. I spent a couple days with her and her family. I came across them on the way here with the horses. They had been robbed and had very little food. Sara, that’s the little girls name, she……….Is she alright doc?” Johnny said and asked.
“ She has what appears to be a wound on her head from either being shot or hit. I think she has a slight concussion from it. I can’t get her to say anything, so I’m assuming she seen her family killed.”
“ She has an aunt in Portland. That’s where they were headed. Can I see her and see if I can get her to talk?” Johnny asked.
“ I don’t see why not. All she does is sit with her legs drawn up to her chest and stare straight ahead.” Doctor Andrews said before opening the door so Johnny could step inside.
Johnny stepped inside the room and closed the door. He could see Sara sitting on the bed just the way the doctor said. Walking over he pushed removed his hat and set it on the table next to the bed. Sitting down on the bed he reached out and touched Sara’s little hand.
“ Sara, it’s me, Johnny. Do you remember me?” he asked softly.
Sara looked at him with tears in her eyes. “ They killed my family Johnny.”
“ I know sweetheart. Come here.” Johnny said softly as he reached for her.
Sara went into his arms and let the tears fall as she hugged him tightly, and started to shake as she sobbed harder into his chest.
Johnny gently rubbed her back as he held her tight. “ It’s okay. It’ll be alright. You’re safe now.”
For twenty minutes Johnny held Sara tight as she wept. “ Sara, I need to ask you something. You think you could talk to me?”
Sara leaned back and looked up at Johnny, and nodded.
“ Do you know your aunts last name in Portland?” Johnny asked.
“ No. Mama said she didn’t like children, and that she wasn’t happy me and Jacob were coming with them. Mama said when we got there, we would have to be on our best behavior so aunt Carol wouldn’t get mad at us.” Sara responded as she wiped her nose.
“ Do you have any other family, say back in Arkansas?” Johnny asked.
“ No, just uncle Josh and aunt Ruth, and now they’re in heaven with my brother, mommy, and daddy. I have nobody now Johnny.” Sara said as she started to sob again.
“ You got me sweetheart. I’m not going to let anything happen to you. I promise.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ I need to talk to the doctor and General Crook. You stay here and I promise you I will be back okay.”
“ Please don’t leave me Johnny. I’m scared.” Sara pleaded.
“ It’ll be alright. I promise I’ll be back. Nobody will hurt you here.” Johnny said as he wiped a tear from her face. “ I’ll tell you what, I’ll leave my hat with you so you know I’m coming back.” Johnny said as he handed her his hat. “ I’ve had that hat a long time, so you take real good care of it for me, and I’ll be back.” Johnny said before giving her a hug and kiss on the forehead before walking out, and closing the door.
“ Did she talk to you?” Sergeant Wilson asked.
“ Yeah, she talked to me. I need to speak to the General Crook and Colonel Chamberlain.” Johnny told the Sergeant.
“ Okay, the General is still with Colonel Chamberlain.” Sergeant Wilson said as they headed out of the hospital.
Scott stepped outside from sending the wire and seen his brother walking with Sergeant Wilson back to the Colonel’s office.. Stepping down, Scott headed across the yard to catch up with Johnny.
“ What’s going on?” he asked as the Colonel and General walked outside.
“ I need to speak to the two of you.” Johnny said.
“ Alright. Step back into my office.” General Crook said as he opened his door.
Johnny walked into the General’s office, followed by Scott, the Colonel, Doctor Andrews, Major Hunter, and Sergeant Wilson.
“ Johnny, what’s going on?” Scott asked as the Colonel closed the door. “ Is it Sara?”
“ It’s her Scott. She seen her family murdered. I asked her about her aunt and she told me her aunt wasn’t happy her and Jacob where coming. That her mother told her that they would have to be on their best behavior so they didn’t anger her.” Johnny said.
“ Does she know the aunt’s last name?” Major Hunter asked.
“ No. I asked her if she had any family still back in Arkansas and she said her only family were those killed other than the aunt. She’s a scared six year old little girl with no family left that loves her.” Johnny responded.
“ Well, if she doesn’t know the aunts last name, and she doesn’t want her. The only thing left is to place her in an orphanage and hope someone comes along who will want to adopt her.”
Johnny looked at Scott, then glanced around the room. “ What if I adopted her? I have a little girl that will be a year old in November, and Lancer is a sound name.”
“ I’m not doubting you on that Johnny, but what about your past. How fair would it be to that little girl to have someone adopt her who’s.” Major Hunter said.
“ Ex gunfighter?” Scott cut in looking at Johnny.
“ Look, she has nobody. I know what it’s like to be placed in an orphanage. I don’t want that little girl going through that. Me and Scott are the only people she knows Major.” Johnny said firmly.
“ Simmer down Johnny. Look, let us talk to the girl. You’re going to be here a couple days to let those wounds heal up some. Let us talk to her and you two spend some time with her. See if she would want to go with you. That’s a long ride back home.” General Crook suggested.
“ Johnny, if we let you do this. How will your wife feel about it?” Colonel Chamberlain asked.
“ Teresa would want me to do this. That’s the kind of woman she is Colonel.” Johnny responded.
“ So would our father.” Scott added.
“ Doctor Andrews, do you see any reason they couldn’t adopt the little girl?” General Crook asked.
“ Lancer is the only one she’s talked too so far. Maybe your wife could get her to talk?” the doctor suggested.
“ Martha is back east visiting her family until fall.” the General responded.
“ Listen, go get cleaned up and rest. You can have supper with me tonight with the little girl and we can talk.” Major Hunter suggested.
“ I told Sara I would come back.” Johnny said as he headed to the door. “ She’s had enough disappointment these last few days.”
“ I’ll come with you.” Scott said.
“ If you two don’t mind. I think I’ll come along and see how this little girl responds to you.” General Crook said.
“ Murdoch, what a pleasant surprise. What brings you here?” Aggie said as she came out of her came down the steps.
Murdoch dismounted. “ Now since when do I need a reason to come see you?” Murdoch asked as he walked over and gave her a hug.
“ You know you don’t need a reason to come here.” Aggie said as she hugged him back.
“ Well this time I do have a reason. Lets go sit down.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I just made a fresh pot of coffee. Let me get us some.” Aggie said before going inside.
Murdoch sat down and removed his hat. Looking around her place and how well it was set up, he visioned Johnny doing the same thing in the evenings at his place.
“ Here we go.” Aggie said as she came out and set a tray down. “ So……..what’s on your mind?” she asked as she poured some coffee and handed him a cup.
“ Thank you. I showed Teresa the Mendoza place. She likes it, but it’s Johnny’s decision to make.” Murdoch said.
“ Do you think he would like it?” Aggie asked.
“ I don’t know. Teresa brought something up that has me thinking. She said how I present it to Johnny really matters because he could take it as a sign that I don’t want him at Lancer any longer.” Murdoch explained.
“ Why would he think that?” she asked.
“ I haven’t exactly been good to him at times. In fact I’ve been harder on Johnny about doing his chores than anyone else, including Scott. Granted most of that was when I first learned he was my son and offered his a third share in the ranch.” Murdoch responded.
“ But surely he knows that’s not true. You made huge progress when you allowed Johnny to break and sell horses to the army.” Aggie stated. “ Tell me something Murdoch, and I want the truth. Did you think he wouldn’t make any money doing it, or does the fact that he proved you wrong and is making good money selling horses to the army bother you?”
“ Honestly Aggie, no, I didn’t think he would make money doing it. Not the kind of money he is. This herd he took to Oregon is making him over eleven thousand dollars. That’s more than I make selling cattle every couple years.” Murdoch responded.
“ And you didn’t think he would know how to run a business like this did you?” she asked.
“ He has very little education. What he knows he’s learned on his own and from others I expect……..No, I didn’t think he would. You know, I don’t think I’ve even told him how proud I am of him.” Murdoch said as he leaned back in the chair. “ I should have been there for him growing up Aggie. She had no right running off with that……….my son should have grown up at home, not in Mexico surviving by a damn gun.”
“ You can’t change what’s already happened Murdoch. All you can do is try and be a father to him now. Support him. Maybe volunteer to help him with the books, keeping records os sales and such. Show him that part, but offer to do it as a father, not as the bear you can be. Don’t give me that look, you know perfectly well what I’m taking about. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me a part of you still doesn’t like the gunfighter side of Johnny.” Aggie demanded.
“ When he gets called out, no I don’t still, but he does what he has to do to stay alive, and for that I’m grateful.” Murdoch responded. “ When I seen the scars on his back, I got so angry. Not at him, but at those who ever hurt him in the past, both as a child and grown up. No child should ever have to go through what he has in his life so far. He hasn’t even reached his majority yet in age, but was forced to grow up way before he should have……….To be honest, I had just about given up any hope of ever finding him again.”
“ Now that you have both your sons home, it’s scares you a little doesn’t it?” Aggie asked. “ You’re scared of not being the father figure they deserve.”
“ Yes. That’s partly why I want to go ahead and buy the Mendoza place from you for Johnny.” Murdoch responded.
“ Alright. I can let you have it for what I paid for it, fifteen hundred dollars.” Aggie said.
“ We can ride into town tomorrow and I’ll have Jim at the bank transfer the money to your account.” Murdoch said.
“ Okay, we can go by Mister Randall’s and get the deed changed over to your name then.” Aggie suggested.
“ Do you plan on going to the horse auction next week?” Murdoch asked. “ Clarkston stables has four magnificent cutting horses they are selling.”
“ I wouldn’t miss it. Are you looking to buy some cutting horses?” Aggie asked.
“ I might bid on them.” Murdoch responded.
“ And I just might bid against you.” Aggie said with a laugh.
“ I wouldn’t expect anything less from you. Well, I need to get back to the ranch. Oh, did I tell you the good news?” he asked.
“ What good news?” Aggie asked as she stood up.
“ I’m going to be a grandfather again.” he responded.
“ So soon. The baby isn’t even a year old yet.” she said.
“ No. This one will be born in the spring. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Murdoch said as he walked down to his horse, mounted up and rode away.
Johnny opened the door to the room where he left Sara and found her sitting on the bed like before with her knees drawn up to her chest.
“ Hey.” he said as he walked over to her.
“ Johnny, you came back to me. You didn’t leave me.” Sara said as she got off the bed and ran to him.
“ I told you I would come back.” he said as he picked her up, and hugged her. “ Look who else is with me.”
“ Scott……..Johnny I want to stay with you. Please don’t leave me again.” Sara pleaded as she hugged his neck.
“ I won’t sweetie. I promise I won’t leave you alone again. You feel like taking a walk with me and Scott? I need to go check the horses and talk to my men.”
“ Can I see Barranca again?” Sara asked.
“ You sure can.” Johnny said as he let her down.
“ Hey, you think I could get a hug from a pretty little girl?” Scott asked as he knelt down.
“ Sure.” she responded as she went and hugged him. “ Who’s that?” Sara asked.
Johnny turned and found General Crook standing there watching them from the hall.
“ That’s General Crook, he’s a very important man. He’s in charge of this fort and all the men.” Scott responded.
“ Kinda like Mister Grant?” Sara asked. “ Papa told me Ulysses S. Grant was the President of the United States just the other day.”
“ Kind of. President Grant is his boss.” Scott responded.
“ Sara, would you like to meet him? He’s a very nice man, and he won’t hurt you.” Johnny asked.
“ Hello young lady. How are you doing?” General Crook asked.
“ I’m better now that Johnny is back.” Sara responded. “ Him and Scott are taking me to see the horses. Johnny’s horse Barranca is pretty.”
“ Well I’ll not keep you. I just wanted to come and see you. Perhaps we can talk again tomorrow.” the General suggested.
“ As long as Johnny is with me. It was nice to meet you sir.” Sara said as she took Johnny’s hand and led him down the hall.
“ I see what he means……Scott, if I let him take her home, can he give her a stable environment to grow up in?” the General asked.
“ Sir, that little girl would be so spoiled. By all of us.” Scott responded.
“ Well, Major Hunter will talk to her tonight and see how she feels about it, but still, I’m making no guarantees. That’s a long ride for such a small child to make.” the General said.
“ She came this far from Arkansas sir. I think Sara could handle it. She’s a pretty tough kid. If you’ll excuse me.” Scott responded.
“ Well. I need to start the paperwork on Captain Duncan. I’ll see you later.” General Crook said before turning and walking away.
“ How they look Frank?” Johnny asked.
“ They all look real good Johnny. Haven’t found any of them lame.” Frank responded. “ Who’s that Johnny, the new boss?”
“ This is Sara Marshall, Sara, this is Frank.” Johnny said.
Frank looked at Johnny. “ Marshall, Isn’t that…………….”
“ I’m going to take Sara for a ride around the fort on Barranca. Scott will explain everything to you and the men.” Johnny said before turning and walking over to Barranca, and putting Sara in the saddle after checking his cinch.
“ Sure Johnny. Hey, the men were wondering how long we were staying here?” Frank asked.
“ A couple days. The horses could use the rest before we start back home.” Johnny responded.
“ Can I go home with you Johnny. I promise I’ll be good.” Sara asked.
“ Sweetheart, I’m going to do everything I can to take you home with me. It’s a very long ride though. You think you can ride a horse that long?” he responded.
“ I can do it. Papa would let me ride Polly, our one wagon horse all the time.” Sara responded.
“ Well if the General lets you come home with me, You’ll ride with me or Scott.” Johnny said as they rode up to General Crook and Colonel Chamberlain.
“ Hi General Crook.” Sara said with a slight smile. “ Who’s that man?”
“ Well Sara, this is my good friend Colonel Chamberlain. Colonel, this is Sara Marshall.” the General said.
“ Pleased to meet you young lady. I’m sorry about your family. Are you doing alright?” the Colonel asked.
“ I’m not alone anymore. I have Johnny. He’s giving me a ride on his horse.” Sara responded.
“ So I see. Listen Sara, how would you like to clean up and change into something not all torn and dirty?”
“ Can I finish my ride with Johnny first?” Sara asked.
“ Of course. I wouldn’t dream of taking a princess away from her knight in shining armor and his gallant steed.” Colonel Chamberlain said. “ Will you bring her to my living quarters Johnny when you’re done?”
“ Sure.”Johnny said.
“ Oh, I had the money wired to your bank account in Green River.” The General said.
“ Thank you General, Colonel, we’ll see you soon.” Johnny said before reining Barranca away.
“ Murdoch, I was hoping to see you today.” Jim Pierpoint said from his office door. “ Mrs Conway.”
“ Jim, We have some business we need to take care of.” Murdoch said.
“ Certainly, come on in my office. You know, I was quit surprised at the amount of money wired to the Lancer account this morning. That’s a great deal of money.” Jim said as he sat down at his desk. “ Please, have a seat.”
“ I’m afraid I don’t understand.” Murdoch said as he sat down.
“ I got this wire this morning for over eleven thousand dollars to be deposited into the Lancer account. It came from the War Department in Washington. Did you not know anything about this?” Jim asked.
“ Oh, yes, I’m sorry, it completely slipped my mind. Johnny sold a herd of horses to the army and I guess I forgot to tell you that amount of money would be wired. It should be eleven thousand two hundred and fifty dollars?” Murdoch said and asked.
“ That amount exactly. Uh, if you don’t mind my asking, will this be happening often? The large amount I mean.” Jim inquired.
“ I’m not sure yet, but I promise you, if it does, I will let you know ahead of time.” Murdoch responded.
“ Good. Now, what can I do for the two of you?” Jim asked.
“ I need you to transfer fifteen hundred dollars from the Lancer account into Agatha’s account.” Murdoch requested.
“ Alright. I can do that right now. I’ll just need you both to sign some papers and it will be done.” Jim said as he stood up and walked over to a filing cabinet and opened the drawer, pulling out two files. “ I must say, I’m a little surprised you allowed Johnny to go into the horse business. I remember hearing you tell him that Lancer isn’t in the business of selling wild horses. If you don’t mind my asking, did you have a change of heart, or was it the money that made you change your mind.”
“ Money has nothing to do with it. I decided to let Johnny make a go at selling horses to the army is all. Though I was surprised at how well his first herd sold for.” Murdoch responded.
“ Where did he deliver hem too? If I may ask.”
“ Fort Klamath, in Oregon. They left almost three months ago.” Murdoch said.
“ They, so that’s why I haven’t seen either of your sons. Well I wish Johnny all the best on this. Now, lets see, I need the two of you to sign right below your names on these two papers if you would, and that will make the money transfer complete.” Jim instructed.
Murdoch signed the papers after Aggie, and handed them back to Jim, before standing up. “ I’ll need any money wired to the Lancer account from Washington for selling horses to go into an account under Johnny’s name.”
“ Certainly. I believe your son already has an account with us. Lets go out front and I can check for you.” Jim said.
Ten minutes later Murdoch and Aggie walked out of the bank.
“ Would you care to get some lunch before or after we see Randall?” Murdoch asked.
“ Let’s get the business part of this day completed. That way we can spend our time visiting over lunch.” Aggie suggested.
“ Very well.” Murdoch said as they headed down the street to the attorneys office.
“ Morning.” Scott said softly as Johnny rose up in bed.
“ Morning.” Johnny responded as he sat up and slipped his boots on.
“ What time did she finally fall asleep?” Scott asked as Johnny walked over to his brother.
“ Let’s go outside so we don’t wake her up.” Johnny suggested as he poured a cup of coffee.
Scott quietly opened the door and the two stepped out onto the porch. “ She’s really bonded to you little brother.”
“ Yeah. You think Teresa will be jealous me coming home with another woman?” Johnny asked before taking a sip of coffee.
“ I don’t know. I mean, you did tell her she had nothing to worry about. That you wouldn’t cheat on her.” Scott responded with a smile.
“ I can’t leave her here to an uncertain fate Scott. I know what it’s like to be tossed into an orphanage. I wasn’t much older than her when I was. You can understand that can’t you?” Johnny asked.
“ I understand fully little brother, and I support you all the way on this.” Scott responded. “ You know, you not only have a way with horses, you’re good with children too.”
“ Maybe it’s because of how I was treated by other kids.” Johnny suggested.
“ You know, that’s one smart little girl asleep in there. The way she drilled the Major last night and answered his questions.” Scott said as screaming from inside got their attention.
Johnny hurried inside and found Sara sitting up, shaking and crying uncontrollably. Sitting down next to her, he pulled Sara to his chest.
“ Hey, it’s okay. Shh, it’ll be alright. I got you.” Johnny said as he comforted her.
“ I………..I seen them. I seen the Indians kill my parents again. They……….they cut their hair off. We wouldn’t have hurt them…….Why…..why did they do it Johnny?” Sara pleaded between sobs.
“ I don’t know homey. There’s some people who would rather be mean than nice in this world.” Johnny responded as he hugged her tight.
“ I’m sorry I screamed Johnny.” Sara said as she leaned back and looked up at him.
“ It’s okay. It’s better to get it out. You just have to give it time and the bad will be pushed aside by all those good memories you have with your family okay?”
“ Okay.” Sara answered.
“ Johnny, why don’t you go let the doc check your wound and re-bandage it while I get Sara ready for breakfast.” Scott suggested.
“ You got hurt Johnny?” Sara asked.
“ It’s just scratch. Big brother likes to worry about me.” Johnny said glancing at Scott and winking. “ You be good okay. I promise, I’ll be back as soon as the doc’s done so we can eat together.”
“ Okay. Do you know how to braid hair Scott?” Sara asked.
“ Boy is today your lucky day. I was thinking you would look terrific with one big braid in the back.” Scott said.
Johnny walked out of the doctors office an hour later with a clean bandage. Standing outside in the morning sun watching the soldiers doing what they were doing, he started thinking about the contract offered to him. If it were just him, he wouldn’t have a problem with it, but now he had a wife and child and an orphaned six year old little girl depending on him. Would he be able to fulfill his dream of having a horse ranch, and take on the responsibility of having a family?
“ You look like you’re deep in thought there Johnny.” Frank said as he walked up. “ Your wound alright?”
“ Yeah. I just got the bandage changed. “ How’s the men doing?” Johnny responded.
“ Their good. I think they’re enjoying the fact they don’t have to ride for a couple days.” Frank said. “ Uh Johnny……..Scott told us what you’re trying to do for the little girl. That’s real nice of you, her family getting murdered and all……Do you think she can ride that far. I mean, she’s only six years old.”
“ Sara will ride with me. She’ll be fine Frank.” Johnny responded.
“ Okay. Well I guess I’ll go see what the men are doing……Oh hey, I told them about the lead mare and how she is.” Frank stated.
“ What’d they say?” Johnny asked.
“ Said he knew the perfect soldier to ride her. I’ll see ya later Johnny.” Frank said before walking away.
“ Mr Randall, could we have a moment of your time?” Aggie asked.
“ Of course. What can I do for you Mrs Conway, Mister Lancer?” Randall asked.
“ It’s about the Mendoza place. I just sold it to Murdoch and I need to transfer the deed over to him.” Aggie responded.
“ Alright. That’s easy enough to do. Will only take a few minutes to do up the new deed.” Randall said.
“ Uh Mister Randall, I need that deed to be in John Lancer’s name, not mine.” Murdoch said.
“ Alright. Will Johnny be here shortly to sign the deed?” Randall asked.
“ No. Johnny and Scott took a herd of horses to Oregon. They won’t be back for a while.”
“ Well, I need to owning party to sign the deed upon transfer Murdoch…….Tell you what, you can sign for him as executor of the place if you wish, otherwise I will have to wait until Johnny is here to sign.”
“ Go ahead and put it in my name, and when Johnny gets back, we will come in and have it transferred to his name.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Very well. You say Johnny sold some horses to the army in Oregon? That’s strange, Buck Addison was in here some time back and asked me to do up contract papers and have them ready for selling horses to the army.” Randall said.
Murdoch looked at Aggie and shook his head. “ Buck Addison has no horses to sell to the army Mister Randall, therefore you have wasted your time doing up those so called contracts for him.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ Well, he paid me to do them, said it was a guaranteed deal.” Randall responded.
“ Did he say how many head of horses?” Murdoch asked.
“ Well, by law I’m not supposed to talk about a clients business. Attorney, client privileges, but I despise that man. He had me draw it up for one hundred and fifty head to be sold at thirty dollars each to Fort Klamath. He came in with an Army Captain, named……..”
“ Duncan!: Murdoch said.
“ That’s it. You know the man?” Randall asked.
“ Yes, unfortunately I do know Captain Duncan.” Murdoch responded.
“ Here ya go, a nice new deed listing you as the new owner of……Does it have a name?” Randall asked.
“ We’ll keep it as the Mendoza place until Johnny gets back and has a name for it…..What do I owe you?”
“ Lets see, transfer of deed……that’ll be five dollars.”
“ Thank you. I’ll be back with John as soon as he gets back.” Murdoch said as he opened the door and followed Aggie outside.
“ Murdoch, I am so sorry.” Aggie said.
“ I don’t blame you for what that man does Agatha. I know he’s your friend, but if Buck Addison ever shows his face around here again.”
“ After the way he was toward Johnny at his wedding, I stopped seeing him. I cannot be friends with a man who is so full of hate for another man who has done nothing wrong.” Aggie said. “ I just hope he doesn’t do anything to hurt Johnny or Scott.”
“ Well, we know the boys got the herd there. I’m sure they will be fine. If anything happens to either of my sons, and I find out Addison was behind it, There won’t be anyplace that man can go to hide.” Murdoch said firmly. “ I enjoyed spending the day with you. Even if it was partially business.”
“ So did I.” Agatha responded. “ I guess we better get back since we both do have a ranch to run.”
“ Johnny, could I have a word with you alone?” Major Hunter asked.
“ Sure. Sara, you……….”
“ I know, stay with Scott and you will be back as soon as you can.” Sara cut in.
“ Yeah.” Johnny said as he gave her a kiss on the top of the head, before following the Major over to his office.
“ Have a seat.” Major Hunter said when they walked into his office.
“ You’re quit a man Johnny.” Major Hunter said as he pulled a file out of his drawer and set it on his desk. “ You know what that is?”
“ No, but I’ll take a guess and say that’s a file on me when I was Johnny Madrid.” Johnny responded.
“ Yes it is. I’ve read every report, and I have to say, a couple of those don’t do you justice.” Major Hunter said. “ I’ve been talking with General Crook and Colonel Chamberlain, and we all three agree that after last nights supper and watching you with the little girl, we’re gong to allow you to take her. The General will have all the proper papers ready for you to sign before you leave to go home.”
Johnny let out a sigh of relief. “ I gotta tell ya Major, I was a little afraid you called me in here to tell me I couldn’t take Sara with me. I can’t thank you enough for this.” Johnny said.
“ Just so you know, Washington is aware of this file, and they still would like to do a contract with you for horses.” Major Hunter said.
“ General Woods asked me to come back and discuss it with him on my way home.” Johnny said,
“ That won’t be necessary. What did General Woods say you would be paid?”
“ He said they wanted five hundred head at a fort in Montana.” Johnny responded. “ At forty dollars a head.”
“ Fort Keogh. The post Commander there is Colonel Nelson A. Miles. They train horses for the army there that are sent all over.” Major Hunter said as he opened the middle drawer of his desk. “ The War Department sent me this wire this morning. They have sent by courier a contract that will be waiting for you at home to read over and sign. If you agree to do this, the five hundred head of horses are to be delivered over the next three years. If you agree, just sign and date the contract and have it with you when you deliver the horses.”
“ Three years, General Woods said two.” Johnny said.
“ Yes, and that many horses cannot be drove that far in one herd. It’s farther than bringing a herd here.”
“ And more dangerous if what the General said Colonel Miles was saying about the Sioux Indians.” Johnny responded.
“ I can understand your concerns. You have plenty of time to think about it. If you accept, send a wire to Colonel Miles telling him when you would be leaving and with how many horses.” Major Hunter suggested.
“ Alright. I promise you Major, I’ve been thinking about this, a lot.” Johnny responded.
“ Why don’t you go tell Sara the good news.” Major Hunter suggested.
“ I think I will. Thank you sir, for everything.” Johnny said as he stood up and offered his hand.
Major Hunter stood up and shook Johnny’s hand. “ Well like I said earlier Johnny, you’re a hell of a man. I have to leave tomorrow and go to Fort Yreka. You take care of yourself and maybe I’ll see you and your brother again.”
“ Hello Murdoch. Did you get everything done with Mrs Conway in Green River?” Teresa asked.
“ Yes I did. Randall says Johnny will have to be present to sign to have the deed in his name, so until he comes back it is in my name.” Murdoch responded. “ Also, the money for the horses was wired to the account. I had Jim put it in Johnny’s account, not Lancer’s. It’s his money. I don’t want him spending it on Lancer unless he wants to.”
“ Johnny already had over a thousand dollars in his account when he added me to it.” Teresa said.
“ He did?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes, he did. He wants to make sure there is money for the baby.” Teresa responded.
“ He is nothing like I thought he would be from reading those Pinkerton reports.” Murdoch said as he went over and poured a drink.
“ Now you know why I fell in love with him. Did you eat while in town?” Teresa said and asked.
“ Yes. I had a nice lunch with Aggie after we concluded our business.” he said.
“ Somethings wrong. I know you, so don’t tell me nothings wrong.” Teresa said.
“ Randall said Buck Addison had him draw up a contract to sell one hundred and fifty horses to the army. He said Captain Duncan was with him when he asked.” Murdoch explained.
“ I don’t understand.” Teresa said as she walked over to him.
“ Where’s my grand daughter?” Murdoch asked.
“ Taking a nap.”
“ He had planned to sell Johnny’s herd. To steal them and then sale them to the army in Oregon. That man has gone too far.”
“ Wait a minute, Scott sent a wire telling us they made it. The money has been wired, so that must mean Addison’s plan didn’t work.” Teresa said.
“ Yes, but Addison and this Captain, where are they? What if any will they do or try to do to the boys?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m sure Johnny and the army handled it. Why don’t you go lay down and rest before supper.” Teresa suggested.
“ I think I will.” Murdoch said as he headed toward the stairs. “ I’m glad you and Johnny are together Teresa, you’re good for each other.”
“ Everything alright?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. Sara comes home with us. The General is having the papers drawn up allowing me to adopt her.” Johnny said. “ Where is she?”
“ Inside taking a nap.” Scott responded.
“ I’m gonna go talk to the men. Let them know we will be leaving in the next day or two for home. Oh, we don’t have to go back to Fort Bidwell. We can go south and then cut southwest and follow the wagon trail down. More towns and a place for Sara to sleep besides out on the cold hard ground.” Johnny responded.
“ Sounds good brother.” Scott said as Johnny headed to where the men were.
Two days later, Johnny, Scott, Sara and the hands left Fort Klamath and headed south leading the remounts and four pack horses, headed home. Sara rode in front of Johnny on Barranca, Scott at his side.
“ How far you going to go today Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ I figured to go as far as Alturas. When I went in and sent the wire I seen they have a hotel there.” Johnny responded. “ It wasn’t the greatest looking place, but it will be better than sleeping on a cold hard ground.”
“ You the least bit concerned about Addison Johnny?” Frank asked.
“ Nope. I don’t think we will be seeing anymore of him until we get back to Green River maybe.” Johnny responded.
“ You know, that man ever since he showed up in the valley people didn’t really take to him all that well.” Walt said. “ Me and Frank both seen a couple of Conway hands wanting to rough him up.”
“ Probably deserved it.” Tom said.
“ Johnny, I’m hungry.” Sara said.
Johnny stopped Barranca and got down. “ I have some beef jerky in my saddlebag. Will that be alright until we get to town?”
“ I have to go too.” Sara responded.
Johnny reached up and grabbed Sara around the waist and brought her down. “ Okay, you can go behind that bush over there. Let me go make sure it’s safe for you.” Johnny said before walking toward the bush.
A few minutes later Johnny got Sara back on Barranca and grabbed some jerky from his saddlebag before swinging up behind her. “ All better.”
“ Thank you.” Sara said.
“ You’re welcome. Here, you can suck on this for the juice, or take small bites okay.” Johnny suggested.
“ Papa used to make jerky for us back home. He told me and Jacob the same thing.” Sara said. “ I miss my brother Johnny.”
“ I know you do sweetheart.” Johnny responded.
“ Sara, you know your family is still with you. You carry them in your heart and in your memories forever.” Scott said. “ I know it’s not the same as if they were still alive, but I bet they are smiling at you up in heaven, watching over you.”
“ How big is your ranch?” Sara asked.
“ Lancer, it’s one hundred thousand acres. There’s meadows, hills and mountains with streams and ponds. There’s even a special place I’ll take you too where me and my wife Teresa like to go swimming. Do you know how to swim?” Johnny responded.
“ No. Papa never taught me.”
“ Well, me and Teresa and even Scott can teach you if you want to learn, but it has to be your decision.” Johnny responded.
“ What do I call you? I mean, papa said to never call an adult by their first name.” Sara asked.
“ Sara, if you want you can call me Uncle Scott, or just Scott. I don’t mind.” Scott suggested.
“ That’s right. I don’t mind if you call me Johnny.”
“ But aren’t you my papa now?” Sara asked.
Johnny felt his stomach flip and a lump came to his throat. “ If you want to call me Papa you can.” he finally managed to say as he glanced at Scott.
“ Hey Johnny, isn’t Teresa going to be jealous? I mean you coming home with such a beautiful little lady.” Joe asked.
“ Not a chance, and if she is, she’ll get over it.” Johnny joked back.
“ Sara, did Johnny tell you you’re going to have a little sister when we get back to Lancer?” Frank asked.
“ Well it’s true. He has a little girl at home who will be a year old in November. You can be a big sister to her.” Walt added.
“ You have a daughter at home already?” Sara looked up and asked.
“ Sure do. Her name is Mary Elizabeth Lancer. You know what else. I’m the luckiest man at Lancer, because now I will have three beautiful women in my life.” Johnny said as he hugged her.
Murdoch came out of the house and walked down to the corral where Cipriano was working on a calf. “ What happened to the calf?”
“ We found it early this morning. It’s mother was killed by a cat.” Cipriano responded as he tried to get the calf to suckle from a bottle. “ I have men out tracking it now.” he added.
“ Good. That calf might not survive being so small. But go ahead and try. How are the men coming on replacing that bridge?” Murdoch asked.
“ They should have it completed in a few days senor.” Cipriano said as a rider galloped into the yard.
“ Mister Lancer, Cipriano, that cat brought our bull down. It was still there and we were able to kill it. The bull was to wounded to save. We had to shoot it.” Colt said.
“ Damn. I just bought that bull last year.” Murdoch responded. “ Make sure there isn’t another cat around and have the men stay on high alert just in case there is. Especially if working in the brush or around outcroppings where a cat can attack from.” Murdoch instructed.
“ Yes sir.” Colt said before turning his horse and riding off.
“ That bull, he cost you a lot of money senor.” Cipriano said as the calf started suckling finally.
“ Yes he did. I won’t be able to get another one with his bloodlines.” Murdoch responded.
“ This little one, he is a bull calf. He carries his fathers bloodlines.” Cipriano said.
“ Do what you can for him Cipriano. There’s a cattle sale coming up in the fall in Stockton, maybe I can find another good bull then.” Murdoch responded. “ How’s the alfalfa looking?”
“ It is getting tall, and thick. I think we will get a good cutting from it because of all the rains.” Cipriano responded.
“ How long until you think it’s ready to cut?” Murdoch asked.
“ I would say next month. We should be able to get three cuttings, if not four this year because of the rains.” Cipriano said.
“ You think the hay shed will hold all of it?” Murdoch asked.
“ With what we can put in the barn I think, but it depends on if we can get two more cuttings or not.”
“ Alright. Why don’t you mark out and decide how much material will be needed and build another big hay shed next to the barn.” Murdoch suggested.
“ You want it three sided with a roof, or fully enclosed?” Cipriano asked.
“ I think one end open will be alright. Have it face southeast since in the winter most of the storms come out of the west and northwest.” Murdoch instructed before turning to walk away.
“ I will let you know by tomorrow senor.” Cipriano responded.
Johnny, Scott, Sara and the hands rode into the town of Red Bluff one month after leaving Fort Klamath. Hot, tired and in need of a bath, they stopped at the livery and were greeted by a short man somewhat older than them.
“ Afternoon. If your staying the night, I’m afraid I don’t have room for all those horses in my barn, but my corral is empty except for a couple mules?”
“ Corral will be fine for most of the stock. Got two studs that need to be kept apart so they’ll be needing a stall each.” Johnny instructed.
“ Alright. I can do that. You want all these with saddles curried down, grained and hayed?” the man asked.
“ Yeah. We’ll take the gear off them. Billy, take the packs out to the corral and start taking the packs off them.” Johnny said as he dismounted, and reached up for Sara.
“ Well I must say, if you ain’t the prettiest little thing I seen in this town in a long time. How are you little lady?” the man asked.
“ Her names Sara.” Johnny said.
“ Well Sara, my name is Percy, and it sure is a pleasure to see such a sweet little lady.” Percy said.
“ Thank you. Sir.” Sara said.
“ And polite too. There isn’t a kid in this town with manners like that. I recon you’ll be needing a place to sleep, baths and such?” Percy asked.
“ There a place in town we can get all that and a hot meal that’s safe for my daughter?” Johnny asked.
“ Got rooms above the Silver Dollar Saloon, but the best bet for the little one would be the Minot Boarding house at the other end of town. It’s run by a widow and her daughter. Real nice folks. The lady who runs it is Mrs Carter, her daughters name is Elizabeth.”
“ How much for all the stock?” Johnny asked.
“ Lets see, that’s what, eighteen horses, hayed and seven of them hayed, grained and curried down plus two stalls. Ten dollars will cover it I think.”
Johnny paid the man, then removed his rifle and saddlebags from his saddle, and walked outside with Sara, waiting for Scott and the others.
“ I’m going to take Sara to the boarding house. Billy, I want you to go with me. Frank, Tom, Walt, and Joe have a good time tonight.” Johnny said as he gave each one a ten dollar bill. “ Try to stay out of trouble.”
“ I’ll keep them good Johnny. We’ll see you in the morning. You going with us Scott?” Frank said and asked.
“ I think I’ll go with Johnny. I’m going to send a wire letting Murdoch know where we are at.” Scott responded.
“ Have a good night.” Johnny said before walking away with Sara, followed by Billy and Scott.
Murdoch rode into Green River and stopped at Brainards Hardware to see if the supplies ordered for the new hay shed had come in yet.
“ I’m sorry Murdoch. A rock slide from that storm we just had closed the road. It should be open in the next day or so. Check back with me Monday and your order should be here.” Brainard said.
“ Alright, thanks.” Murdoch responded before walking outside.
“ Murdoch, wait a minute.” Tom the telegrapher said. “ I got a wire from your boys.”
“ Thank you.” Murdoch said as he took the wire and opened it.
“ I bet you’ll be glad when them there boys get home. Well, take care. I need to get back.” Tom said.
“ Thanks again Tom.” Murdoch said as he read the wire. A smile coming to his face. “ This will make Teresa happy.” he said aloud as he put the wire in his pocket and untied his horse. Looking down the street he noticed Buck Addison talking to Randall. The anger on his face could clearly be seen. Mounting up, he rode down to where they were talking and dismounted.
“ Hello Murdoch.” Randall said. “ Did you need to see me about something?” he asked.
“ No. I want to speak to Buck.” Murdoch responded.
“ Very well. I’m about finished here. I meant what I said Mr Addison. I will no longer represent you. I will not risk losing my firm for no man. Find yourself another lawyer to do your dastardly deeds. Good day sir…….Murdoch.” Randall said before walking away.
“ I have nothing to say to you Lancer.” Buck said before turning to walk away.
Murdoch grabbed Bucks right arm and spun him around. “ That’s fine, because I have something to say to you. I know what you tried to do. How you thought you could steal Johnny’s horses and sell them to the army. How you tried to steal his contract. Let me tell you something Buck, if you ever do anything that hurts Johnny…..or anyone else in my family, I won’t go to the law……..I’m coming after you.”
“ Why Murdoch, that sounds like a threat.” Buck said.
Murdoch drew his arm back and hit Buck as hard as he could in the mouth. “ Wrong word……..Fact.” he said before mounting his horse and leaving.
Teresa watched Mary pull herself up and stand. “ Come on, you can do it. Come to me.” she said as she held her arms out. Watching and smiling as Mary let go of the table and reached for her before taking a step.
“ She walks.” Maria said with a smile. “ Juanito will be so surprised when he comes home.”
“ I can’t believe she’s doing it. She hasn’t said any words or even crawled yet.” Teresa responded.
“ She is like her papa, he was about her age when he started walking. She will start talking soon. You will see.” Maria said as Murdoch walked into the house.
“ Oh Murdoch, you just missed it. Mary took her first step.” Teresa said as she picked Mary up.
“ Well I guess I will have to see her do it again.” he said as he walked over and gave Mary a kiss on the head. “ I got a wire from the boys.”
“ You did. Where are they?” Teresa asked with enthusiasm.
“ Red Bluff.” Murdoch responded as he walked over and poured a drink.
“ Red Bluff, where’s that?”
“Oh about a hundred miles north of Sacramento.” Murdoch responded.
That means they should be home by the end of the month or sooner.” Teresa said with a smile. “ You hear that Mary, your father is almost home.”
“ How are you feeling?” Murdoch asked.
“ Tired. Sam is coming out tomorrow to give me a check up.” she said.
“ If you need anything, you let me know.” Murdoch said as he went to his desk and sat down.
“ What happened to your hand?” Teresa asked, noticing the skinned knuckles.
“ What, of it’s nothing sweetheart.”
“ Murdoch Lancer, don’t you dare sit there and lie to me. There’s only one way your knuckles got like that. Who did you hit?” Teresa said and asked with firmness.
“ Buck Addison. I seen him in town talking to Randall.” Murdoch responded.
“ He’s back? Was Captain Duncan with him?” Teresa asked.
“ No. No he wasn’t. Randall told him he would no longer represent him, and I confronted him, and warned him that if anything happens to Johnny, or anyone in this family, I’m coming after him because I know what he tried to do to Johnny, and then I hit him.” Murdoch said.
“ Oh I wish I could have seen that.” Teresa said. “ Well, I’m going to put her down for her afternoon nap. Did you eat when you were in town?”
“ No, I wanted to get back and tell you the good news about the boys.” Murdoch responded.
“ I’ll fix you a sandwich as soon as I get her put down.” Teresa said before walking away.
“ Good morning. I hope you four slept well?” Widow Carter asked.
“ Yes ma’am. Best sleep we’ve had in a long time.” Johnny responded as he set his rifle and saddlebags down.
“ So you and your daughter Elizabeth run this?” Scott asked as he set his rifle and saddlebags down and walked into the dining room.
“ Yes. Please sit down. Elizabeth has breakfast just about ready.” Mrs Carter responded. “ We had a farm not far from here and when my husband died, I decided to move us into town. Elizabeth was only eleven then. I seen this place for sale and decided to buy it and turn it into a boarding house. We’ve done right nice too these last couple years.” she said as she poured them a cup of coffee. “ Would you like a glass of milk young lady? Milked the cow this morning.”
“ Yes please.” Sara responded. “ Thank you for helping me with my bath last night.”
“ Well you are most welcome. I must say Mister Lancer, your daughter is very well mannered for such a young age.” Mrs Carter said. “ She told me what happened, and I have to say that what you are doing is a wonderful thing. She seems very attached to you.”
“ Thank you.” Johnny said as he glanced at Scott.
“ Me and Sara are kinda the same. Both our families were killed by Indians.” Billy added. “ Johnny found me, or rather I found him and he took me in and let me help him drive a herd of horses to Oregon for the army. Offered me a job and a home.”
“ You know, Lancer….seems to me I’ve heard that name before, and not to long ago.” Mrs Carter said.
“ That man that stayed her a couple weeks ago mother. You remember, the one wearing the suit. Only he wasn’t talking nice about them.” Elizabeth said as she carried two plates of bacon and sausage on one, and scrambled eggs on the other. I don’t remember his name, but he sure didn’t like you Johnny. I’ll go get the biscuits.”
“ His name wouldn’t happen to be Buck Addison would it?” Johnny asked.
“ Why yes it would. He said you cost him a contract with the army to sell horses. I could tell he was lying though from the way he talked. He wouldn’t look me in the eye when he said it. Most of the time he would look away.”
“ Unfortunately Mrs Carter, this man Addison doesn’t like my brother.” Scott stated.
“ I can’t imagine why with beautiful blue eyes like his.” Elizabeth said as she walked back in with a plate of biscuits.
“ Elizabeth, why don’t you go start cleaning up their rooms for the next guest we get.” Mrs Carter ordered.
“ Yes ma’am. Maybe I’ll see you again Johnny.” Elizabeth said before leaving the room.
“ I’m sorry about my daughters behavior towards you Mister Lancer. I’m afraid she’s getting to be that age were she takes interest in men. I just pray she finds the right one some day who will treat her right.”
“ Call me Johnny. You have no worries ma’am. I have a wife and beautiful little girl waiting at home for me.” Johnny responded.
“ Well, I’ll go help her clean up the rooms. Now you boys enjoy your breakfast and don’t worry about cleaning anything up. Me and Elizabeth will get it. Have a safe rest of your trip home.” Mrs Carter said before walking out of the room.
“ You think the men stayed out of trouble last night?” Scott asked.
“ If they didn’t, I’m sure we would have heard something from Frank or Walt.” Johnny said. “ Her daughter is a good cook. These biscuits are almost as good as what Teresa makes.”
Murdoch sat at his desk, going over recent expenses for the new hay shed cost when a knock on the door got his attention. Getting up and walking over, he opened the door and found Tom standing there.
“ Tom, come on in out of the rain.” Murdoch said. “ How about a drink to warm the insides?”
“ No thanks. I just wanted to bring this wire out to you. Martha’s sister came in on the stage this morning so I have to get back.” Tom said as he handed Murdoch the wire. “ I hope it’s good news. I’ll see you Sunday.”
“ Murdoch, oh hello Tom. I didn’t know we had company.” Teresa said.
“ I can’t stay. I need to get back or Martha will have my hide. Her sister arrived this morning.” Tom said as he turned and walked out.
“ Is it from the boys?” Teresa asked.
“ Yes. They’re in Sacramento. The storm is bad up that way so they’re waiting it out.” Murdoch said.
“ Sacramento, that’s a two day ride from here.” she said.
“ Yes. Day and a half if you push it. I expect when the storm leaves it may take them a little longer to get home.” Murdoch responded.
“ He’s so close, yet so far away from us.” Teresa responded.
“ I’m sure he isn’t happy about the weather either sweetheart.” Murdoch said. “ Did I tell you that the hands finished with the roof repair on the house and barn, and the white wash is almost done.”
“ Thank you. I just hope Johnny doesn’t take it the wrong way and not want the place.” Teresa responded.
“ I’ll tell him about it after they’ve been home a bit. I don’t want to spring it on him right away. I imagine hi and Scott will be pretty tired and want to sleep in a soft bed for a spell.”
“ How far are we from Lancer Johnny?” Billy asked.
“ About two hours.” Johnny said from the main house. We’ve been on Lancer for a couple miles now.”
“ You going to stop on the hill?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. I want Billy and Sara to see Lancer for the first time like I did.” Johnny responded.
“ You sure doing that’s not for you also Johnny?” Frank asked.
“ Can you blame me if it is Frank.” Johnny asked.
“ Not one bit. Fact is I wouldn’t mind seeing Lancer from up on that hill either.”
“ You do realize the element of surprise is probably over. A hand most likely seen us and reported that we are coming in.” Scott said.
“ I guess we’ll find out if the bell rings.” Johnny responded as Barranca started snorting and prancing.
“ I think he knows where he’s at.” Scott suggested.
“ You have a bell Johnny?” Sara asked.
“ Sure do. In the tower on the house. It’s there to warn of a fire, or approaching trouble.” Johnny said.
One hour later they stopped on top of the hill. “ There it is, as far as the eye can see, the most beautiful place in the whole wide world, Lancer.”
“ You mean all of that is Lancer?” Billy asked as he looked in awe at what he was seeing.
“ One hundred thousand acres, twenty thousand head of beef and the finest Capanero De Palomino’s in the San Joaquin.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ That’s a whole lot of cows.” Billy said. “ Is Barranca on of those Palomino’s?”
“ No. I got him in Mexico.” Johnny responded as the bell sounded.
“ Guess we’ve been seen.” Joe said.
“ Looks that way. Lets go home.”
“ Cipriano, señor Lancer, en la colina, ya vienen. Senior Johnny y Scott, están de vuelta.” a hand yelled as he galloped into the yard.( Cipriano, Mister Lancer, on the hill, they are coming. Senor Johnny and Scott, they are back.)
Murdoch and Teresa came outside and looked toward the hill. They could see seven riders coming down the hill. Murdoch said a silent prayer thankful both his boys made it home safe.
“Who is that riding with Johnny?” Teresa asked as they got closer.
“ It looks like a small child.” Murdoch said.
Johnny stopped. “ You fellas go on . You all got the next two days off to rest up. Billy, let Frank have the pack horses and you come with us up to the main house.”
“ Tomorrow night, my treat in town fellas.” Scott added.
“ Look Mary, that’s your papa coming home.” Teresa said as Johnny rode up and smiled down at them.
“ Who’s that?” Teresa asked.
Johnny dismounted and reached up to get Sara down. “ Teresa, Murdoch, this is Sara Marshall.” Johnny said as he set Sara down and handed the reins to Cipriano.
“ Welcome home Juanito.” Cipriano said before leading Barranca away.
“ There’s my little Mary.” Johnny said.
“ Just a minute.” Teresa said as she took a couple steps back and put Mary down. “ Mary, walk to papa……Go see Papa.”
Mary walked to Johnny who quickly picked her up. “ Come here you.” he said as he reached for Teresa. “ Oh I missed you two so much.”
“ Scott, welcome home son.” Murdoch said.
“ Sir. It’s good to be home.” Scott responded as he reached out and shook his fathers hand. “ Murdoch, this is Billy. He works for Johnny. Billy, this is our father, Murdoch Lancer.”
“ Glad to meet you sir. Johnny and Scott told me a lot about you.” Billy said as he shook Murdoch’s hand.
“ It’s good to meet you too Billy. Let’s all go inside where it’s cooler.” Murdoch suggested.
Johnny hugged Teresa and Mary, not wanting to let them go. “ I love you two so much.” he said.
“ Can I hug my little niece?” Scott said as he walked over.
Johnny let Teresa go long enough for Scott to take Mary from him. “ Come here you.” Johnny said before he kissed her.
“ We will see you two in the house.” Scott said. “ Come with me Sara.”
Johnny just stood there holding Teresa, afraid to let her go.
“ Do you feel anything different?” Teresa asked.
“ Yeah, your wonderful soft skin and lips.” Johnny responded before kissing her again.
“ You don’t notice anything else?” Teresa said as she pushed away from him.
It was then Johnny noticed Teresa’s belly was bigger. “ Really?” he asked.
“ Yes.” Teresa responded as Johnny picked her up and spun around with her in his arms.
“ When?” he asked as he put her down.
“ January.” Teresa responded.
“ Wow, what a homecoming. How long has Mary been walking?” he asked.
“ She started the day we got your telegram from Red Bluff.” Teresa said. “ Johnny, who is that child?” she asked.
“ I’ll tell you all about her inside. Right now, come with me.” Johnny said as he led Teresa by the hand to the rose garden, pulled her to him. “ I’ve thought about doing this all the way home.” he said before he claimed her mouth.
“ Oh Johnny…..I missed you so much.” Teresa said as she clung to him.
“ Come on. I want you to meet Sara. She is such a sweet little girl.” Johnny said as they headed inside.
“ Hello Maria.” Scott said as the longtime cook and friend came into the grand room with her arms out to hug him
“ Oh señor Scott, usted está en casa otra vez a salvo. Donde esta Mi Juanito?” Maria asked. (Oh senor Scott, you are home again safe. Where is my Juanito?)
“ He’ll be along shortly.” Scott responded as he hugged her. “ I missed your good cooking.”
“ Estás para adelgazar. Te engordaré de nuevo.”( You are to thin. I will fatten you up again ) Maria said as she felt his ribs.
“ That go for me too mamacita?” Johnny asked from behind her.
“ Juanito, nunca te puedo engordar.” Maria said as she wrapped her arms around him and gave a big hug. ( Juanito, I can never fatten you up.)
“ Mañana por la noche tendremos una fiesta de fieast. Un banquete de bienvenida en casa.” Maria said before going back into the kitchen.( Tomorrow night we have a fiesta. A welcome home feast )
“Johnny.” Sara said as she ran to him.
“ Sara.” Johnny said as he picked her up. “ Perhaps we could all take a seat.” Johnny suggested.
“ Johnny, why don’t I take Sara and Billy upstairs while you talk to Murdoch and Teresa?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah sure Scott.” Johnny responded. “ Sara, you go with Scott okay. He’s gonna show you and Billy where you will sleep.”
“ I want to stay with you. I don’t want to go with Uncle Scott. I’m scared.” Sara said as she hugged him.
“ Okay. Billy, go on upstairs with Scott.”
“ Sure Johnny. It was nice meeting you ma’am, Mister Lancer.” Billy said before heading upstairs with Scott.
“ Okay, Sara, this is my father, Murdoch Lancer, and this is my wife Teresa.” Johnny said as he sat down with her on his lap as Mary walked over to him. “ And this is your new little sister Mary Elizabeth.”
Sara turned her head into Johnny’s chest, and wouldn’t look at them.
“ Hey, what’s this all about huh? Why you scared? They won’t hurt you. I promise.” Johnny asked and said.
“ Sara, how old are you?” Teresa asked as she came over next to Johnny.
“ We came across her and her family the first time outside Susanville. They had very little food and had been robbed. Sara took a liking to Barranca and me while we were there a couple days letting the horses graze and rest. I took the father into town and got them some supplies.” Johnny explained. “ They came from Arkansas, headed to Portland. Her mothers sister has a business there they were going to help her run.”
“ But my aunt don’t like kids so me and………” Sara started as tears started to run down her cheeks.
“It’s alright. You’re safe now.” Johnny said as he rubbed her back. “ It was her parents, her big brother Jacob, and her uncle and his wife. Shortly after we arrived at the fort, the Sergeant came in saying a patrol had found two burned out wagons, and that everyone but a little girl was killed. Said the name was Marshall. I couldn’t leave her there Teresa. I’m the only one she would talk to. The only one she would trust, so I asked General Crook, Colonel Chamberlain and Major Hunter if I could adopt her. I have her papers in my saddlebags. She had no family back in Arkansas, and an aunt in Portland who despises children. I wasn’t going to let them stick her in an orphanage. I know what that’s like. She seen her family killed.”
“ That’s why she called Scott uncle!” Murdoch said.
“ Sara, I promise I won’t hurt you.” Teresa said as she put her arms out.
Sara glanced up at Johnny, before finally going to her. “ Oh you poor child. Nobody will ever hurt you again.” Teresa said as she held her to her chest. “ See that big man over there, he won’t hurt you either. Sometimes he talks loud, but he’s a really nice person.”
Sara looked at Murdoch before scooting down from Teresa’s lap and going over to him. “ Johnny, do I call him grandpa?” she asked.
Johnny looked at Murdoch. Why don’t you ask him that?”
“ Do I call you grandpa?” Sara asked.
“ That would be fine.” Murdoch said as he picked her up. “ How old are you?” he asked.
“ Six, almost seven.” Sara responded.
“ Sara, would you like to go upstairs with me and Mary and see your room?” Teresa asked.
“ Okay.” Sara said as Murdoch helped her off his lap.
Johnny stood up and gave Teresa a kiss before picking Mary up and handing her to her. “ You need some help getting upstairs?”
“ No, we’ll be fine.”
Johnny walked with them to the bottom of the stairs and watched as they went upstairs before turning and walking over to the sideboard and pouring him and Murdoch a drink.
“ I have a feeling something is on your mind son.” Murdoch said as he walked over and took the drink Johnny poured him. “ Lets go sit outside and talk.” Murdoch suggested. He had a feeling what his son was going to say, and would wait to tell him about his encounter with Buck Addison in Green River.
“ We had some trouble with Paiutes when we were almost to the fort. Seth and Jeff were killed. Scott was shot in the arm and I got grazed. Nothing serious.” Johnny said before taking a sip of the whiskey. “ Buck Addison was there. It seems him and Captain Duncan thought they could take my contract. Addison tried to claim I deceived the army. That I lied about my name. You remember when Major Hunter was here and he said he had checked out the Lancer name?”
“ Yes.” Murdoch replied.
“ He had a file from the Pinkerton’s on me as Johnny Madrid. Captain Duncan was arrested for defamation of character and slander. General Crook wasn’t all to pleased with him. You should have seen Addison when he addressed him, and ordered him off the fort.” Johnny said as Teresa walked outside to join them.
“ There you are. Sara fell asleep in her room and Scott has Mary.” Teresa said.
“ It was Addison who had me shot in the back that day you found me.” Johnny said. “ When Captain Duncan realized what he was facing, he told about how Addison approached him with the idea of stealing the herd and contract, with the assumption they would make a lot of money.”
“ Too bad you didn’t hit him harder.” Teresa said.
“ What? Hit who” Johnny asked.
“ I ran into Buck in Green River when you sent the wire from Red Bluff and confronted him. It seems he had Randall do up some contracts for selling horses to the army. Your horses. I warned him that if anything happened to you, Scott or any other member of this family, I wasn’t going to the law, I was coming after him, and then I hit him.” Murdoch explained.
“ So he’s back here?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. In Green River. Son, why didn’t you have him arrested like Captain Duncan?” Murdoch asked.
“ Because he made his bed. His time will come soon enough. I’ve dealt with men like Buck Addison most of my life. Seeing the fear in his eyes when the General ordered him to leave the fort was satisfaction enough for me.” Johnny responded.
“ Were they pleased with the horses?” Teresa asked.
“ Yeah, so much so in fact that they offered me a contract that would pay twenty thousand dollars over three years. Only catch is, I would have to drive them all the way to Fort Keogh, up by Miles City, Montana. If I take the contract. I would be gone the better part of a year.” Johnny explained.
“ Montana, a year. Johnny you have a family now. It’s not just you you have to think about, and now you brought Sara here, and we will have another baby in January.” Teresa stated.
“ I know that. Believe me, I’ve been thinking about this all the way home Teresa. You knew my one big dream was to have a horse ranch and sell horses to the army.” Johnny responded. “ You knew that would mean I would be away from home.”
“ Yes, but a year, all the way to Montana. You just got home from being gone almost five months. I didn’t think a horse ranch would take you so far away from me and the children for such long periods.” Teresa said with tears in her eyes.
“ It’s not a done deal yet. Washington will do up the contract and send it to me. If I accept it, I sign the contract and have it with me when I deliver the horses.” Johnny explained.
“ Son, you said five hundred head. That’s a lot of horses to drive all the way to Montana.” Murdoch said.
“ Yeah, that’s why they said over three years. We just delivered a hundred and fifty head over eight hundred miles. If I do this, I would make two trips. It’s roughly thirteen hundred miles up there.” Johnny explained.
“ Excuse me.” Teresa said as she turned to go inside.
Johnny reached out and grabbed her arm, stopping her. “ Hey, you’re my wife, don’t walk away from me angry when I’m trying to talk to you about our future. About our kids future.”
“ What future Johnny? What future will our children have with their father if he’s gone all the time?” Teresa demanded.
“ I wouldn’t be gone all the time Teresa. Don’t you see, I would make enough money from selling those five hundred head, I wouldn’t need to do any more and could get that horse ranch I’ve always wanted and start breaking and training horses for other people.” Johnny said.
“ Okay, I think the two of you need to calm down. We need to think this over more. The two of you need to talk this through more without getting angry at each other.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I’m not angry at her Murdoch. I just want her to listen to what I’m saying, not walk away from me angry.” Johnny said as he let go of her arm. “ I have to go with the first time, but not the second time.”
“ You would still be gone a year from us. How fair is that to me?” Teresa asked.
“ How fair is that to you, what about me Teresa? I know I have a responsibility to you and the kids. I also have a responsibility to this ranch and to myself. Doesn’t it matter what I want to make of my life?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes, but at what cost Johnny? I knew the risk when I married you. That you could get called out and gunned down and I accepted that. I didn’t accept the risk of you being killed by Indians while you deliver horses thirteen hundred miles away.” Teresa said firmly.
“ Boy you saying that tells me just what you think of me…….I’ll tell you what Teresa, I’ll stay here at Lancer and be nothing more than a hired hand.” Johnny said before heading out to the barn.
“ Teresa, you’re wrong in the way you are being toward Johnny.” Murdoch said.
“ I’m wrong? How is it I’m wrong for wanting my husband to see his children grow up. He was gone and missed Mary taking her first steps.” Teresa snapped back.
“ Young lady, don’t talk to me in that tone. Johnny would have missed it if he had been right here working on the ranch. You seem to forget, he’s been alone most of his life. Look how me and him were at first. He’s never had anyone to be responsible for until now. Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe Johnny is a little scared of being a failure in your eyes?” Murdoch said. “ I don’t want him to be gone a year either, but if it keeps my son happy and keeps him from leaving forever, then I can accept it. Now why can’t you if you love him the way you say you do?” Murdoch added before walking back inside, leaving her there to think.
Teresa stood there with tears running down her face. This was not how she had planned her husbands first night back home. Was she being unreasonable? Did he actions just cost her her marriage and the man she loves? Wiping her eyes, she headed to the barn. She knew Johnny would be in there with Barranca.
Scott came downstairs with Mary in his arms when Murdoch walked back inside. “ Is everything alright?” he asked.
Murdoch shook his head.
“ I heard most of it from my room. It is a good deal for Johnny, and I can understand her concerns, but to get angry with him for wanting to fulfill his dream, that’s being selfish.” Scott said as he set Mary down on the floor. “ Johnny takes risk every day working on this ranch just like the rest of us. She knows that. She was raised here.”
“ Where’s Billy?” Murdoch asked.
“ Fast asleep. Johnny tell you how we acquired him?” Scott asked.
“ No. I never got the chance to ask him. We were having a good father son discussion when Teresa came out and it went bad from there.” Murdoch responded.
“ If she thinks she can control Johnny, she’ll lose him. He’ll leave here Murdoch. He’s not used to having someone tell him what he can and cannot do.” Scott said as he walked over and poured a drink for the two of them.
“ I know son. I tried to keep it calm between them. It just seemed like she wanted to push him. To tell someone they can’t try and make a better life for themselves and their family is not right. I just hope they can work through this what with another baby on the way and all.”
“ Wait, what did you just say?” Scott asked.
“ Teresa is with child again. It’s due in January.” Murdoch responded.
“ Does Johnny know that?” he asked.
“ I believe he does son.” Murdoch answered.
‘ Where are they now?” Scott asked.
“ In the barn, hopefully talking.” Murdoch responded. “ I have a surprise for Johnny, but after what just happened outside, I don’t know if he will like it.”
“ What kind of surprise sir?” Scott asked.
“ I bought the Mendoza place from Aggie for his horse ranch. The land is next to Lancer. I had a couple hands fix the roof of the house and barn and they’re almost done with the white wash.” Murdoch explained. “ Teresa seen it, and loves the place. It’s perfect for what he wants to do.”
“ The Mendoza spread. That’s a pretty hefty investment for Lancer.” Scott said.
“ I know I should have waited and asked Johnny when he got back, but I wanted to do something for him to show I support his dream son.”
“ And that’s a good way for a father to show he supports his son.” Scott said.
“ I just hope he doesn’t take it the wrong way and think I want him off Lancer, because I don’t.” Murdoch said.
“ I don’t think he will think that at all. Once things calm down between him and Teresa, I think he will be pleased with what you have done for him.” Scott responded. “ So what else has been going on while we were gone?”
“ Cipriano is nursing an orphaned calf. The mother was killed by a cat. We also lost that Hereford bull I bought two years ago to a cat. Colt and another hand were able to kill the cat, but unfortunately they also had to destroy the bull.”
“ Damn. We can’t get another bull with that kind of bloodlines.” Scott said. “ I noticed lumber stacked out by the corrals. What are you building?” he asked.
“ Another hay shed. We”re about to do our third cutting of hay thanks to the weather this year and we needed another place to store it out of the weather for winter.” Murdoch said.
“ We had a coupe good storms going up, but nothing like that one that kept us in Sacramento for two days. I think if we didn’t have Sara, Johnny would have came on home.”
“ So, about Billy.”
“ We picked him up about two weeks after we left. He had been trailing us. It seems his family was killed by Indians while he was out hunting sage . He lived out in the wild for almost a year. Johnny got him some shoes and clothes and offered him a job working here. He’s real good with horses. So good he even impressed Frank.” Scott explained.
“ Did your brother have any trouble?” Murdoch asked.
“ You mean as Madrid? He was called out by a kid in Bly the morning we were leaving with Major Hunter and his unit. Johnny didn’t kill the kid. He wounded him in his right arm and the kid went for his gun on the ground with his left and Johnny shot him again. He gave that kid every chance to walk away, but he wouldn’t. He also taught Billy a valuable lesson about the choices a man makes.” Scott said.
“ You mean to tell me that someone recognized your brother as Madrid all the way up in Oregon?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes sir they did. If you will excuse me. I’m going to go get cleaned up.” Scott said before turning and heading upstairs.
Murdoch looked down at Mary sitting on the floor chewing on a wooden toy. “ I sure hope your parents work things out so there is peace in this house young lady.” he said as he walked over and sat down on the couch to watch her.
Teresa walked into the barn and found Johnny sitting on a bale of hay, his head down. Not wanting to startle him, she stopped.
“ If you come in here to get angry with me again you can just turn around and go back in the house. I’m not in the mood for it Teresa.” Johnny said without looking up.
“ How did you know it was me, and not someone else?” Teresa asked,
“ You walk a lot softer than they do.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to Barranca.
“ Johnny. I came out here to apologize to you. I was wrong in what I said. In how I just treated you.” Teresa said as she walked over next to him and put a hand on his arm. “ Johnny, look at me….please.”
Johnny turned and looked at her. “ Almost my whole life it’s been just me until a couple years ago. Now I have a family I’m responsible for. Something I never thought I would have. Teresa, I’m sorry, but it’s hard for me to understand how you couldn’t want me to make something I’ve wanted for a long time come true. I know there would be risk going to Montana, just like there’s the risk of me being gunned down or killed working on this ranch.”
“ I know that. I want you to make your dream come true. I want to help you make that dream come true. Earlier you said that you dreamed of having a place. That the money from selling the horses in Montana would get you that. What did you mean when you said that?” Teresa asked.
“ Just what I said. I want us to have a place of our own. Some place close to Lancer so Murdoch can see his grandchildren, yet ours. A place I can have corrals full of horses to train for other people and sell.” Johnny said. “ Look, I’m sorry if you’re not happy about me adopting Sara, but I wasn’t about to let her be put in some god forsaken orphanage somewhere.”
“ Johnny, what you did for that little girl shows me just what kind of man I married. I’m not made about it. I was shocked at first, but I’m not made.” Teresa said. “ If anything, I’m mad at myself. This is not how I wanted your homecoming to go.” she added with tears in her eyes.
Johnny put a hand on each side of her face, and looked into her brown eyes. “ So does this mean I can sleep with you tonight, or am I sleeping out here with Barranca?”
“ You even think of sleeping out here with that horse, and I will take a frying pan to you.” Teresa said as she put her arms around his neck.
“ Care to step back into the darkness behind the hay with me Mrs Lancer?” Johnny asked as he started touching her in ways he knew would excite her.
“ Oh Johnny. I missed how you touch me so much. Make love to me.” Teresa said as she started undressing him and they walked back behind the hay, grabbing a blanket off the rail as they did.
Murdoch sat watching Scott play with Mary when Johnny and Teresa walked into the house. “ There’s my girl.” Johnny said as he went and picked Mary up off the floor. “ Is Sara still asleep?”
“ Yes. I just went and checked on her.” Scott said.
“ Son, with this being strange surroundings to her, will she sleep all night, or will she get up and be scared?” Murdoch asked.
“ I think she’ll be okay. She slept all night in the hotels and out on the ground.” Johnny responded. “ Where’s Billy?”
“ He’s asleep too.” Scott said.
“ Is there anything in the kitchen left from supper to eat?” Johnny asked. “ I’m starved. We didn’t eat anything since breakfast.”
“ I’ll go fix you and Scott something to eat.” Teresa said before heading to the kitchen.
“ Is everything alright?” Murdoch asked.
“ I think so. Hey Murdoch, thanks for whatever it was you said to her after I went to the barn.” Johnny responded.
“ I don’t know what you’re talking about son.” Murdoch said with a wink to Scott.
“ Yeah okay, still thanks. I can’t believe she’s walking already.” Johnny said.
“ I can’t believe I am going to be an uncle again in January.” Scott said.
“ Yeah I know. I hope this one is a boy. I’d like a son. Either way. I just hope all goes well for her like it did with Mary.” Johnny said.
“ She hasn’t had any morning sickness with this one so far. Sam said everything looks good for her so far. He was out just the other day and checked her.” Murdoch said.
“ Good.” Johnny said as he sat down on the couch. “ So what you got me and Scott doing tomorrow?” he asked.
“ What do you want to do son?” Murdoch asked back.
“ Honestly, sleep in then ride to Green River. I need to see Jim at the bank.” Johnny responded.
“ Sleeping in does sound good brother.” Scott added.
“ I think the two of you have earned that. If you don’t mind the company, I’ll ride into Green River with you son.” Murdoch responded.
“ Okay. Hey Scott, don’t forget, we owe the men a night in town.” Johnny said as Teresa walked into the room.
“ Let me take her, and you two go eat. It’s her bedtime.” Teresa said as she took Mary and headed toward the bedroom.
Johnny walked into the kitchen the next morning and found Maria at the stove, her back to him, Johnny walked up and wrapped his arms around her, giving her a hug.
“ No deberías asustarme así Juanito. Tu papá dijo que estarías durmiendo. Siéntate, te traeré el desayuno.” Maria said as she swatted him. ( You should not scare me like that Juanito. Your papa said you would be sleeping in. Sit down, I will get your breakfast.)
“ Extraño tu mamacita de cocina. ¿Donde está todo el mundo?” Johnny asked as he poured a cup of coffee and sat down. ( I missed your cooking mamacita. Where is everybody?)
“ Comieron hace horas. Están todos fuera.” Maria responded as she brought a plate full of eggs, bacon and potato’s to him. ( They ate hours ago. They are all outside.)
Thirty minutes later, Johnny walked out the front door and looked around as he let his eyes adjust to the bright light. Spotting his father and Teresa down by the corral with Mary and Sara, he headed down. He could see Scott in the corral with Billy, working the buckskin.
“ Johnny.” Sara called as she took off running toward him.
Johnny knelt down and scooped her up in his arms. “ Good morning beautiful.” he said as she hugged him.
“ Grandpa Lancer said he’s gonna get me my very own horse to ride.” Sara said as Johnny walked over to them.
“ He did. Well you need a good horse if you’re going to live on a ranch. “ Good morning beautiful.” Johnny said before giving Teresa and Mary a kiss.
“ You slept well I take it?” Murdoch asked
Johnny glanced at Teresa, and thought about last night, and how they had made love well into the early morning hours. “ Yeah. Guess I was more tired than I thought I was.” he responded. “ You still want to ride into Green River with me?”
“ Yes I do. I need to have a talk with you about something.” Murdoch replied.
“ What’s all the lumber for?” Johnny asked.
“ Building another bigger hay shed. We’ve got three cuttings so far thanks to the weather.” Murdoch explained.
“ I’ll go saddle our horses. You need anything from town?” Johnny asked Teresa.
“ No. We’re good. Maybe you could stop by and get Sara some clothes.” Teresa suggested.
“ I had planned to do just that.” Johnny said before kissing them. “ Sara, I need to ride into town. You be a good girl for Teresa for me?”
“ I’ll be good Johnny. I’ll help her with my baby sister.” Sara said as Johnny knelt down and gave her a hug and kiss before heading to the barn to saddle the horses.
“ So what is it you wanted to talk to me about?” Johnny asked as they rode along.
“ What are your plans son? With the horses I mean?” Murdoch asked.
“ I thought I made that pretty clear last night when we talked.” Johnny responded.
“ Yes, but after your disagreement with Teresa, I wasn’t sure if you still wanted that or not.” Murdoch responded.
“ I do. My whole life I’ve wanted something I could call mine. Something I achieved that didn’t involve living by a gun. I know I’m a third owner of the biggest spread in the San Joaquin valley, but it’s not the same. You built Lancer and made it what it is today with your arms, legs and guts. I’m good with horses, and Scott suggested I train them for other people. I’ve been thinking about that seriously, and I think I could make it work. I could buy a place and make that dream come true. Taking a herd to Montana will give me the money I need to do that.” Johnny explained.
Murdoch stopped Chug. “ I did something for you while you were gone son. Something I’m hoping you’re not made at me for doing and don’t think I’m trying to get rid of you.”
Johnny stopped Barranca and turned him to face his father. “ This sounds serious. Murdoch, nothing you do could ever make me think you were trying to get rid of me. We’ve had our disagreements and I’m still here. Me and Scott have had disagreements and I’m still here. What did you do that makes you think I would be mad enough to leave?”
“ I bought the Mendoza place for you from Agatha. She offered it to me for what she paid for it. I thought it would make a great place for you to start your horse business.”
Johnny sat there looking at his father in total disbelief at what he just heard.
“ The land is adjacent to Lancer, and I had a couple hands repair the roof on the house and barn last week, and they’re almost done with the white wash on the house.” Murdoch explained.
“ You….you did that for me?” Johnny finally asked.
“ Yes I did son. I believe in you and know you can make this horse ranch a success.” Murdoch responded.
“ I don’t know what to say Murdoch. I never expected something like that from you.” Johnny said. “ Thank you.”
“ I already paid Agatha for it last month and had the new deed done up at Randall’s. He needs you to sign it though to make it officially yours.”
“ I can do that while we’re in town.” Johnny said as he turned Barranca around. “ Does Teresa know?”
“ Yes. We stopped by after church to look at it. She is very pleased with the place, but was worried how you would take me buying it for you.” Murdoch responded. “ Maybe on the way back, we can stop by and you can look at it?”
“ Yeah, sure. Is that supplies paid for yet for the new hay shed?” Johnny asked.
“ What’s wrong son?” Murdoch asked. One thing he had learned about his youngest in the short time they’ve been a family is he always changed the subject when he was uncomfortable.
“ Nothing. I just asked if that supplies was paid for yet.” Johnny responded.
“ Son, I may not know you completely, but I do know you change the subject when you get uncomfortable. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean….”
“ It’s not that Murdoch……..It’s…….I never had anyone do something like that for me before. I guess I’m a little overwhelmed.” Johnny said. “ Thank you…….Thank you for believing in me.” Johnny responded.
“ Well, I think you need to know. It was Aggie who suggested it to me. I was visiting her and we were talking, and she offered the place to me at cost. Course she does have one request from the new owner.” Murdoch said.
“ What’s that?” Johnny asked.
“ That you train a couple of horses for her.” Murdoch responded.
Johnny laughed. “ I think I can do that. I’ll go over with Teresa and the girls next week maybe and talk to her about it.” Johnny said as they rode into Green River, and stopped at the bank. “ When we’re all done, how about me and you have lunch and a cold beer together before we head back?”
“ That’s the best offer I’ve had in a long time son.” Murdoch said as he got down from Chug, tied him next to Barranca, and walked into the bank with his son.
“ Johnny, welcome back” Bank manager Jim Pierpoint said as he stood up and walked over. “ What can I do for you?”
“ I need to withdraw a thousand dollars so I can pay my men, and I need to talk to you .” Johnny responded.
“ Certainly. Come on back in my office.” Jim said.
Johnny and Murdoch followed him back and took a seat as the man closed the door.
“ Now, what’s on your mind?” Jim asked as he walked around and sat down at his desk.
“ It’s not definite yet, but I was offered a contract for five hundred head of horses to Montana over the next three years at twenty thousand dollars to be wired when completed.” Johnny said.
“ That’s a considerable amount of money Johnny.” Jim said.
“ Yeah it is. It’s my future I guess you could say. Listen, I didn’t come in and give you a heads up about the eleven thousand dollars being wired, and I’m sorry about that. I wanted you to know about this though.” Johnny explained.
“ I appreciate that Johnny. Will that amount be wired all at once, you know, in a one lump sum, or from a couple smaller wires?” Jim asked,
“ One lump. Less confusion that way about what’s already paid. Murdoch can let you know when it will be coming roughly or I can send a wire to you letting you know.” Johnny suggested.
“ No, I think we should have Murdoch let me know. I think it’s better the less people know about that kind of money being in the bank Johnny.” Jim responded. “ Is there anything else?”
Johnny stood up. “ No, just the withdraw.”
“ Of course. I’ll get that for you right now, if you will follow me back out front. Do you have your bank book with you by chance” Jim asked as he opened his door.
“ Yeah.” Johnny said as he took it out of his Bolero pocket and handed it to him.
“ Good. I’ll just add the amount wired and then deduct the amount you are taking so you have a new balance.” Jim said as he took the book and walked around behind the counter and opened the safe to remove the money.
Johnny walked up to the counter and leaned against it. “ I was thinking of maybe buying Teresa some nice fabric for a new dress.” he said.
“ I think she would like that.” Murdoch said as the door opened and Buck Addison walked in.
Johnny straightened up and glared at the man. He could see the remains of the bruise his father gave him on his face.
“ Her you go Johnny, one thousand dollars. I have everything wrote down in your bank book for you.” Jim said as he handed the money and book to Johnny.
Johnny turned and took the money. “ Thank you.” he said as he turned and walked up to Addison. “ I told you I didn’t want to see you around these parts again.” he said coldly.
“ I have every right to be in Green River Lancer. Your threats mean nothing to me. Though you might be interested in knowing I sent a wire to Mexico, to the Rurales. I received an interesting reply. It seems they are very pleased to learn Johnny Madrid is still alive.”
“ Any time you think you can kill me Addison, go ahead and try. Course back shooting is your thing though isn’t it? Johnny responded coldly. “ I have a written deposition from General Crook, Colonel Chamberlain and Major Hunter on our little meeting we all had. I wonder just how long I can get you sent away for if I let Randall have that and contact the Unites States Marshal?”
“ You half-breed killer. It’s just a matter of time before you’re killed, and when that happens, I promise you, I will dance on your grave.” Buck said.
“ Addison I warned you.” Murdoch cut in right when Johnny grabbed Addison and slammed him up against the wall.
“ You want to try me right now? We can step outside.” Johnny said with anger.
“ I’m not going outside and facing you.” Buck said. “ You all are seeing this. Johnny Madrid is threatening me.”
“ Johnny, let him go. Let him go son.” Murdoch ordered.
“ You shot me in the back, you bastard.” Johnny said as he shoved Addison into the wall again.
“ John, let him go.” Murdoch pleaded.
“ I won’t miss next time Madrid. I promise you that.” Buck said as he straightened his jacket out. “ Those depositions you have mean nothing here in California. They won’t hold up in court of law.”
Johnny swung as hard as he could and hit Buck square in the mouth, splitting his top lip wide open. “ Maybe not from a regular citizen, but from the United States Army they will.” Johnny said before turning to face Jim, who stood there with his two tellers and watched, nodding at the man before walking out of the bank, followed by Murdoch.
“ You alright son?” Murdoch asked as they stepped down to their horses.
“ Yeah. I’m fine.” Johnny said as Buck came out of the bank, stopped and stared hard at Johnny as he mounted Barranca. “ Lets go see Randall.” Johnny said loud enough for Addison to hear as he turned Barranca and started up the street.
“ Lancer……this isn’t over.” Buck said to Murdoch before walking away.
Murdoch caught up to Johnny just as he was dismounting in front of Randall’s office. Dismounting, he tied Chug and walked up the steps to were Johnny stood waiting. “ I want to ask you something son. Those deposition papers you talked about, do you really have them on what took place and was said in Oregon?”
Johnny stepped down to Barranca and reached in his saddlebag, pulling out several papers. “ Got them right here. Along with the papers allowing me to adopt Sara.” Johnny said as he stepped back up next to Murdoch and handed them to him. “ One thing I don’t do that you might want to remember old man, I don’t lie.”
“ I didn’t mean to imply that son. I thought maybe you were running a bluff against Addison.” Murdoch responded.
“ Another thing I don’t do is bluff, ‘cept maybe in a poker game.
“ Hold on son. Buck heard you say you were coming here. He told me after you rode away that this isn’t over yet. I want you to show these depositions to Randall, along with the adoption paper from the army for Sara. I want that filed away as legal. I don’t want someone coming along and saying she isn’t your daughter. That the adoption isn’t legal. It would destroy that little girl if she lost you.”
“ I had intended on him hearing me say that. I also had intended on showing Randall the papers, all of them. Relax old man. I may not have a fancy education like Scott does, but that don’t mean I don’t know a thing or two either.” Johnny said. “ Course, I’m always willing to learn a new thing or two from my old man too.” Johnny said before opening Randall’s door.
“ Like this Teresa?” Sara asked.
“ Yes, that’s it. You must have done needlepoint with your mother, because you are very good at it.” Teresa responded.
“ Me and Jacob had to help mama do a lot of things, but she never taught me this. The only sewing I did was mending clothes and such.” Sara responded.
“ Jacob…….was that your brother?” Teresa asked.
“ Uh huh. He was my big brother……He told me to hide under this big rock not far from the wagon, and to not come out until he came for me.” Sara said as the tears started to fall.
Teresa put her sewing down and went over to sit down next to her on the couch. She had a feeling what Sara was about to say, not even Johnny had been told.
“ All I could see where their legs. They did a lot of yelling, then I heard them scream…………Jacob…..he……he fell right in front of me….An Indian grabbed his head, and………..he cut his hair off…….There was so much blood……I was so scared Teresa, I crawled all the way back under that rock and stayed there until the next day when the soldiers found me.” Sara sobbed.
Teresa pulled her onto her lap and held her tight, tears in her eyes as she tried to comfort her. “ How……how did you know they were soldiers and not Indians again?”
“ Their boots, and they spoke English.” Sara sobbed.
“ Hey………..you know what Johnny likes?” Teresa asked as she held her tight.
Sara shook her head.
“ He has a sweet tooth. How about you and me go in the kitchen…….and we make some cookies for when he comes back? We can even make a chocolate cake for desert tonight. You want to do that?” Teresa asked.
Sara reached up and wrapped her arms around Teresa and hugged her tight. Just staying on her lap as the tears fell, until she finally calmed down.
“ I’ve never had chocolate cake before. We couldn’t afford sweets. Johnny got me a bag of candy though when he took papa with him to town.” Sara said as she looked up at her.
“ Well, you will have chocolate cake tonight. Johnny tells me it’s the best he has ever had. Come on, lets go do some baking.” Teresa said as they got up off the couch. “ Mary will be asleep for some time yet, so we can make up the cookie batter first.” she said as they headed into the kitchen and told Maria their plans.
“ Congratulations Johnny. You are now the proud owner of the Mendoza spread.” Randall said as he handed Johnny the deed.
“ Thanks. There’s two other things I need to discuss with you.” Johnny said as he handed him the paper. “ I adopted a little six year old girl while in Oregon. I want to put the adoption papers on file with you, just in case someone tries to dispute it.”
“ Alright, I can do that. Six huh. Can I ask what happened?” Randall asked.
“ Her family was wiped out by Indians. The only relative she has is an aunt in Oregon who doesn’t like children. The army was going to put her in an orphanage. I couldn’t let that happen to her.”
“ The papers look all in order, but………let me talk to Judge Parker. You may have to file again in California since the adoption happened in Oregon and you live here. I’m sure the Judge will grant it if you have to.” Randall said.
“ Judge Parker is a good fair man. I’ve known him since before he became a judge son. If you ave to refile, you won’t lose Sara.” Murdoch added.
“ Now what’s the other thing you wanted to talk to me about?” Randall asked.
“ These.” Johnny said as he handed the deposition papers to him. “ Deposition papers against Buck Addison for his involvement with a Captain Duncan in trying to steal my herd and contract,and for admitting he tried to kill me two years ago when he ambushed me and shot me in the back.”
Randall took the papers and started reading them. “ Says here he tried to accuse you of deception against the army and slander. I know what the army did to the Captain, but why isn’t Addison in jail for this Johnny?” Randall asked. “ Especially since the man admitted to attempted murder.”
“ Because his time is limited. He chose his path Mister Randall.” Johnny responded. “ It’s just a matter of time before he gets what’s coming to him.”
Randall walked around his desk and sat down. “ I don’t think you understand Johnny. I’m obligated by law to report this to the U.S. Marshal. I don’t and I could lose my license and be banned from practicing law.”
“ Mr Randall, what about Johnny being your client. Doesn’t this fall under Lawyer client confidentiality?” Murdoch asked.
“ To a point it does, yes, but……..Johnny, why did you give these to me if you don’t want Addison arrested and charged?” Randall asked.
“ He thinks that’s what’s going to happen. He knows I have them, and he knows I came here to see you after our little run in at the bank earlier.” Johnny responded.
“ What kind of run in?” Randall asked.
“ About the warning I gave him in Oregon. Part of the reason he’s not in prison.” Johnny said.
“ I also had a run in with him that day I seen you. I told him I wouldn’t go to the law if anything happened to any member of my family, that I was coming after him.” Murdoch added. “ And then I hit him.”
“ I wondered how he got the bruise when I seen him later in the day. Okay, I’ll hang on to these. I take it you don’t want him knowing charges are not being filed against him?”
“ Not yet, no. I want him to sweat a while.”
“ Addison told me earlier that it wasn’t over yet. He just might try something again. What we don’t know, but if he does, I want those papers shown to the Marshal.” Murdoch requested.
“ Is that how you feel Johnny?” Randall asked.
“ Yeah. Listen, we’re going to go get some lunch, you care to join us?” Johnny asked.
“ I wish I could, but I need to fill out some papers to go with these depositions, and go see Judge Parker about your adoption papers.” Randall responded. “ If I need you for anything will you be at the ranch?”
“ Yeah, if I’m not, Murdoch will know where I’m at. Thanks for everything.” Johnny said as he reached out to shake the mans hand.
“ Johnny, be careful. Buck Addison is a dangerous man.” Randall said as he shook Johnny’s hand.
“ I will. I’ll see ya.” Johnny said before opening the door and walking outside.
“ I hope he knows what he’s doing Murdoch. I really do.”
“ So do I.” Murdoch responded before walking out and closing the door. “ So where do you want to eat lunch at son?” he asked as he came down the steps.
“ The cafe is good enough.” Johnny responded.
“ Alright. We can have lunch, do the shopping and then have a cold beer before we head home.” Murdoch suggested.
Buck Addison watched both Lancers walk across the street and enter the cafe before mounting his horse and heading out of town. Spanish Wells was an hours ride and he needed a lawyer to file assault charges against Johnny and he needed it done today.
Riding into Spanish Wells an hour later, Addison stopped outside a building with a sign out front that read J.L. Peterson, Attorney at Law. Dismounting he tied his horse and walked inside.
“ Yes, Can I help you?” Mister Peterson asked as he stood up.
“ I want to hire you. I want to file assault charges against a man named Johnny Lancer, and I want it done today.” Buck said.
“ Lancer, you mean Murdoch Lancer’s boy?” he asked.
“ Yes. He assaulted me for no reason in the bank in Green River this morning, and threatened my life. I want him in jail where he belongs.” Buck ordered.
“ I can’t do that. You’ll have to find another attorney willing to help you and quite frankly, I don’t think there will be one. You see, I know who you are Addison, and a lot of people, friends of mine have been done wrong by you. I’m not risking losing my license helping a crooked man like you. Now if you would be so kind and leave my office.” Peterson ordered.
Buck stood there fuming as he glared at the man.
“ I said leave my office now.” Peterson ordered.
Buck turned and walked out, slamming the door behind him. “ Damn you Lancer. One way or another I will have my revenge on you.” he said as he mounted up, and rode out of town.
“ I think Teresa will like that fabric you bought her son.” Murdoch said as they rode toward home.
“ I hope so. I know Sara will like those sweets you got her.” Johnny responded. “ She hasn’t had a whole lot of nice things in her life so far. Things people like us take for granted. Hell, I never used to until I started hiring out my gun hand.”
“ Well, she has a good life now, and I fully intend of spoiling her, Mary when she is old enough and all my other grandchildren you and Scott give me.” Murdoch said.
“ I wouldn’t count on Scott giving you any grandchildren any time soon. I don’t think he even has a girl.”
“ Maybe the right one hasn’t come along and caught his interest yet.” Murdoch said.
“ I never thought one would for me……but man of man when Teresa came along, I don’t rightly know what it was at first, but she………I never felt like that about any woman before.” Johnny said.
“ Sounds like the way it was when I seen your mother for the first time in Matamoros. She was a thing of absolute beauty.” Murdoch said with a gleam in his eyes.
“ You miss her still don’t you?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes I do son. I can’t help it. I loved her.” Murdoch responded.
“ So if she could walk through the front door and want you back, you wouldn’t be angry?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes I would, and no I wouldn’t to an extent. A part of me will always be angry with your mother for taking you away from me. That I can never forgive her for doing. Can you understand that?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, I can understand. I guess I can say I will always be angry at her for the lies she told me about you throwing us out.” Johnny responded.
“ What did Teresa say about your wound?” Murdoch asked.
“ I uh……I don’t think she noticed. It was just a graze. I heard one of the hands talking about a bull we lost to a cat.” Johnny said.
“ Yes. Cipriano is bottle feeding an orphaned calf. A cat killed her and then Colt and another hand came upon our prized Hereford bull. The cat had just brought it down. They were lucky enough to kill the cat, but the bull couldn’t be saved. His injuries were to bad.”
“ You mean the one you paid so much money for?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. The calf is a bull and has the bloodlines from him, but he won’t be able to breed any cows for a couple years. There’s an auction coming up in the fall in Stockton. Maybe we can find another good one there.”
“ Yeah maybe. So this Colt fella one of the hands you hired to fill in while I was gone?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. He works real hard. Cipriano is pleased with him. I know what you’re probably thinking son, and the answer is no. I don’t think he’s a gunmen. He only uses a rifle.”
“ There’s all kinds of gunfighters old man. It just depends on their preference for how they wear their gun. Where’d he come from?”
“ I believe he said he came from Canada. He has a bit of an accent. When I asked how he ended up down here, he said he was tired of the snow and cold winters up there. I told him it can get cold here in the winter, and he said nothing like up there.”
“ I don’t think Johnny Madrid is known in Canada. Except maybe from those damn dime store novels people read and believe. Sara’s brother Jacob, he knew I was a gunfighter from the way I wear my gun. He also knew who I was. Imagine that, an eight year old kid knowing I’m Johnny Madrid!” Johnny said.
“ Was Johnny Madrid son. Now you’re Johnny Lancer, and before you say it, I know a ;part of you always will be Madrid.” Murdoch said as they rode under the Lancer arch.
“ You know, it still feels like a dream. Like I’m going to wake up and find I’m still in Mexico and none of this has been real these past two years.” Johnny said.
“ Well it’s not a dream son, and you are not in Mexico. You’re right where you belong, at home with your family.” Murdoch said.
“ So it’s not going to bother you me and Teresa not living here any longer?” Johnny asked.
“ A little, but if having your own ranch son is what you want, then I want you happy. Besides it’s not like I won’t still see you.” Murdoch responded.
“ Maybe tomorrow we can ride over and check out the fence line and see how we want to do it.” Johnny suggested as they rode into the yard and were met by Teresa.
“ Hey beautiful. Where’s the girls?” Johnny asked as he got down.
“ Mary is sleeping still and Sara is in the kitchen helping Maria cook supper.” Teresa responded. “ I need to talk to both of you about Sara.”
“ Okay, right now?” he asked as he started untying his saddlebags.
“ It can wait until after she goes to bed.” Teresa said.
Johnny slung the saddlebags over his shoulder and wrapped an arm around Teresa as they started toward the house. “ So what have my girls been doing all afternoon?” he asked.
“ Baking cookies. You know she has never had a chocolate cake!” Teresa said. “ She helped me make one for desert tonight after supper.” Teresa said as they walked into the house. “ She’s so smart. I’m teaching her needlepoint. She’s been very helpful with Mary too.”
“ I got her a couple dresses I think will fit her. Murdoch helped me pick them out.” Johnny said as he set his saddlebags down on the table and opened one side, pulling small packages wrapped in brown paper out. “ I also got something for you.” Johnny said as he removed a bigger package and handed it to her. “ I hope you like it.”
Teresa took the package and opened it. “ Oh Johnny, it’s beautiful. I love the color. Thank you.”
“ Johnny, you came back.” Sara said as she ran to him.
“ Of course I came back. You didn’t think I would leave my three favorite girls did you?” he asked as he scooped her up in his arms. “ Me and Grandpa Lancer got you a couple new dresses to wear, and…..I got you some pants that I think Teresa might have to take up so you can go riding.” Johnny said as he handed her a package to open.
“ Where’s Scott?” Murdoch asked.
“ He rode out with Joe, Colt and Tom. Colt said they found another dead cow.” Teresa responded.
“ Cat?” Johnny asked.
“ I think so.” Teresa responded.
“ That damn cats here somewhere.” Tom said.
“ It’s probably either in the brush crouched down waiting, or up in those rocks watching us.” Scott said. “ Tom, you come with me. Colt and Joe, you check that brush, circle it and see if you see and tracks going in or out of it. Make a lot of noise and see if you can flush the damn thing out while you do. We’ll go check the rocks.” Scott ordered.
“ Watch your horse. He gets a whiff of that cat, he might spook.” Tom said.
“ You two be careful. From the size of those prints, we’re dealing with a big male.” Joe said as he and Colt rode off.
Scott and Tom rode along about thirty feet out from the rocks glancing up and looking on the ground for tracks until they reached a dead end. Turning their horses around, Scott seen the cat appear and leap clear across his horse for Tom before he could bring his rifle up and shoot.
Tom seen the cat to late and went down hard with the cat on top of him as his horse squealed and kicked before running off down the ravine. Grabbing at the cats head, Tom felt the teeth sink deep into his throat as he desperately tried to get the cat off him when he heard the shot and the cat let out a scream and collapsed on top of him dead. Gasping for air, he seen Scott come running to his side.
“ Hold on Tom.” Scott said as he drug the cat off his chest and stood up, firing three shots, signaling help before going to his stallion, and reaching in his saddlebag, pulling out an extra shirt he carried. Going back to Tom, he wrapped it around his neck, trying to stop the flow of blood as Tom gasped and grabbed his right hand.
“ Tell……..Johnny….thanks…..for…….” Tom said before his eyes closed and his hand slipped from Scott’s as Colt and Joe rode up.
“ Scott?” Joe asked.
“ He’s dead. The cat jumped clean over me and attacked him. I couldn’t get a shot until it was too late.” Scott said with sadness as he went to the stallion and led him over to the body. “ Easy boy. Help me get him on my horse.”
“ I’ll take him Scott. I can ride double with Colt.” Joe said with a tear in his eye.
“ Go to papa.” Teresa said as she walked into the grand room slowly with Mary.
“ There’s my girl. Come see me. Come on, I know you can walk all the way to me.” Johnny said as he knelt down and put his arms out.
Murdoch watched with a smile on his face as memories of Johnny doing the very same thing came flooding back to him.
“ Da…..da.” Mary said as she reached Johnny’s arms.
“ She spoke. Did you hear that? She said dada.” Johnny said happily as he scooped her up.
Teresa walked over to him. “ You are supposed to say mama first.” she said teasingly. “ I’m so happy you got to hear he first word.” Teresa said as Cipriano knocked on the veranda door and walked in.
“ Patron, you need to come outside.” the segundo said with sadness.
“ Teresa, keep them inside until we know what’s wrong.” Johnny ordered as he and Murdoch went outside. Both men seeing three riders coming , and a fourth draped over the saddle. “ Oh no.” Johnny said as he started walking toward them.
Scott stopped by the corrals. He didn’t want the risk of Sara or Mary seeing Toms body. He didn’t want anyone to see what the cat had done to his friend. A friend he had just spent over four months on the trail with. A friend he was going to go into town and drink, and play cards with.
“ What happened?” Murdoch asked.
Scott dismounted. “ We split up. Tom was with me. The cat jumped clear over me and attacked him. I couldn’t get a shot off fast enough to kill it before it bit him in the throat. I did everything I could to stop the bleeding.” Scott said.
“ It’s alright son. We know you did your best.” Murdoch said. “ Cipriano, have a couple hands go dig a grave so we can bury Tom up on the hill.”
“ Si Patron.” Cipriano said as he took the reins and led the horse away.
“ Tom was able to ask me to tell you something before he died Johnny.” Scott said. “ He said to tell you thanks.”
“ Why don’t you go get cleaned up son.” Murdoch suggested.
“I need to take care of my horse.” Scott responded. “ Johnny, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t faster.” Scott said before taking his stallion to the barn.
Scott was quiet during supper, something his brother noticed as a couple times Sara tried to get him to talk to her. Telling him how she made cookies and a chocolate cake. Johnny knew his brother was feeling guilty for Tom’s death because he couldn’t kill the cat in time. Something his brother would have to work out himself and accept that he had done everything he could to save the man.
“ Hey Scott, how about you ride over to my new place tomorrow and we take a good look around? You can help me plan how to lay out the corrals and such for my horse ranch.” Johnny suggested.
“ Yeah, sure. Do you know how old he was, or if he had any family?” Scott asked.
“ You mean Tom, No son he didn’t. He told me when I hired him that he came to California from Kansas with his family, but they were killed in Nevada. He said he was nineteen, but I don’t know when his birthday was. We can go in and have a headstone made for him tomorrow if you would like?” Murdoch responded.
“ Yeah. That would be nice.” Scott said as he looked at Johnny and smiled slightly. “ So Teresa, is that chocolate cake I smelled in the kitchen?”
“ Yes it is.” Teresa responded. “ Sara made it this afternoon, along with some cookies.”
“ You made it? Scott asked. “ I guess you know the way to Johnny’s heart. You see, my little brother has a sweet tooth and if you ever want to get your way, just make him a chocolate cake and he will let you do anything.” Scott said with a laugh.
“ Scott Lancer, don’t you dare teach Sara a bad habit like that.” Teresa ordered. “ That’s my job.”
Murdoch sat there loving hearing his family banter back and forth. Something he never thought he would get the chance to experience.
“ Johnny, since you now own a ranch, where do I go?” Billy asked suddenly.
Johnny set his fork down and looked at him. “ I hired you didn’t I?”
“ Yes, but you hired me to work at Lancer.” Billy responded.
“ You can work here, or at my horse ranch Billy. I’ll leave it up to you.” Johnny said.
“ I think I’d like to stay working for you. I mean, it’s nothing against you Mister Lancer, but Johnny did give me a job, and such.” Billy responded.
“ That’s fine with me Billy. A man should stay loyal to his employer.” Murdoch responded.
Two hours later, everyone sat around the grand room. Billy played chess with Scott, while Murdoch and Johnny engaged in a game of checkers. Sara on his lap.
“ I think Grandpa Lancer has you beat Johnny.” Sara said.
“ Well, I’m going to put Mary to bed. Sara, it’s your bedtime too.” Teresa said as she stood up and walked over to Johnny. “ Give your father a kiss goodnight.”
Johnny kissed Mary. “ I’ll take Sara up and tuck her in.” he said as he stood up. “ You got me.” he said as he winked at his father. “ Come on Sara.”
“ Could Uncle Scott tuck me in tonight?” Sara asked.
Johnny glanced at Scott. “ Yeah, if that’s what you want. Can I still have a hug and kiss?”
Sara wrapped her arms around Johnny and gave him a big hug and kiss, then went and did the same with Murdoch.
“ I think I’ll turn in too.” Billy said as he stood up. “ We can finish the game tomorrow night if you like Scott?”
“ Yeah. I’d like that.” Scott said as he picked Sara up. “You’re quit a chess player.” Scott said before heading upstairs with Sara in his arms.
“ Me and my pa played every night since I was little.” Billy responded as they walked upstairs.
“ You want a drink?” Johnny asked as he went to the sideboard.
“ Scotch.” Murdoch said as he stood up, and walked over to him. “ I wonder what happened today that Teresa wants to talk to us about?”
“ Something to do with Sara, I’m sure of that. The look she had in her eyes tells me Sara maybe talked about what happened to her family.” Johnny responded.
“ You mean she hasn’t told you anything?” Murdoch asked as he took his drink. “ Lets go outside and talk son.” he suggested.
“ “ No, she told me Indians had killed her family. That’s about all. I didn’t ask her because she’d been traumatized enough from it.” Johnny responded as they walked out onto the veranda and sat down. “ When I walked into the room she was in, she was sitting on the bed with her knees drawn up to her chest rocking as tears ran down her face. Sergeant Wilson said she didn’t say a word the whole time back to the fort. The only reason they knew her last name was because they found the family bible.” Johnny said as Teresa and Scott walked outside to join them. “ Murdoch, I never seen a child with so much hurt and fear both in her eyes as Sara had that day. I sat down on the bed with her, and when she looked up at me, the pleading she had in her eyes as she called out my name and wrapped her arms around me…….I….”
“ I know son. You did the right thing adopting her.” Murdoch responded.
“ She talked about it today.” Teresa said. “ About how her family died. How she sen her brother killed.” Teresa said as she walked over to the veranda wall and leaned back against it, facing them. “ We were sewing when she mentioned something and I asked her if Jacob was her brother. She told me when the Indians came, he had her hide under a huge rock close to the wagons. She said she heard her families screams and seen Jacob fall right in front of her, seen an Indian come over, take his knife and scalp him. Sara said she scooted as far back under tha rock as she could until the next morning when the soldiers showed up. That poor baby seen her little brother get scalped. She said all she could see was blood all over his head when the Indians finally left until it got dark.” Teresa said with tears in her eyes.
Johnny stood up and went to Teresa, pulling her into his chest to hold as she cried.
“ Scott, would you go pour Teresa a glass of Brandy?” Murdoch asked as he stood up.
“ Certainly.” Scott said before stepping inside.
“ It’s alright. She never told me what happened. Not in detail like that.” Johnny said. “ Though I had my suspicions.”
“ I think the only thing we can all do is help her through this the best we can. When she wants to talk about it to any of us, we listen to her.” Murdoch suggested.
“ She’s one smart little girl, I’ll say that. She learned needlepoint today fast and baking, I’ve never known a child who could remember ingredients like she can. The cookies are a recipe her mother used to make for her and Jacob.” Teresa explained as Scott came out with a Brandy for her. “ Johnny, that little girl, I’m so glad you brought her home with you.”
“ So am I brother.” Scott added.
“ Johnny, I don’t know if I’ve told you this son, but I’m damn proud of you, for everything, but mostly proud of you for what you did for both Billy, and Sara. Your a good man.” Murdoch said with pride.
Johnny stood there not knowing what to say as a lump came to his throat. “ I……..thank you Murdoch. I never thought I would ever hear you say that to me.” he said finally.
“ Maybe we should all turn in now since my prestigious little brother wants my help in designing his new horse ranch.” Scott said, knowing his brother was uncomfortable with the unexpected compliment.
“ Yes, we should.” Murdoch added.
“ I’ll have the wagon hitched up so you, Mary and Sara can come with us tomorrow.” Johnny said as they all headed inside to bed.
“ Sara, what do you think of a big garden right over there?” Teresa asked. “ We can plant corn, green beans, carrots, squash, peas, carrots, peppers for Johnny, because he likes his spicy foods.” Teresa suggested.
“ What about potato’s? Mama always planted corn and potato’s to get us through the winter months. I would help her ground the corn down to flour because we couldn’t afford a bag of flour in the winter.” Sara asked and said.
“ We can do potato’s. How about sweet potato’s, you ever have them?” Teresa asked.
“ No. We need tomato’s too.” Sara said.
“ There’s a chicken coop, so we’ll have fresh eggs. Now, how about flowers. Do you think we should plant some roses around the house to make it more pretty?” Teresa asked.
“ Roses are nice. I had sunflowers back in Arkansas I had to take care of.” Sara said.
“ We can plant some sunflowers if you want. Let’s go inside and look at what we can do in there.” Teresa suggested.
So what do you think Scott?” Johnny asked as they walked around the barn.
“ You could build on both sides of the barn long corrals, maybe ten feet across and a hundred feet long, and have inside stalls so the horses would be able to get inside out of the weather. Add on too the back a roof for hay storage.” Scott suggested.
“ What are you thinking, maybe five stalls on each side?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. You already have two good corrals. How any more were you thinking?” Scott asked.
“ I have good water supply, so I was thinking build two more bigger corrals to run the horses into and separate.” Johnny responded.
“ Say maybe with a chute just wide enough for them to go through running to the smaller corrals for say, the stallions?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. Do either of you have any idea how much we are looking at for lumber to do that, so I can place the order?” Johnny asked.
“ I think you should wait on adding to the barn son, and start building those extra corrals and chute before winter.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I can draw it up and give you an estimate when we get back to Lancer.” Scott responded.
“ What, you can’t get that Harvard educated mind of yours to give a rough guess now?” Johnny asked teasingly.
“ It depends on how big you want those two corrals to be Johnny. The chute will be four feet across so they can’t turn around in it.” Scott explained.
“ I was thinking maybe the same size as the big corral at Lancer that I ran the herd into.” Johnny responded.
“ Okay. I’ll walk it out and let you know how much lumber times two.” Scott said.
“ Good enough brother. I think I’ll go see what my wife and Sara are planning for the house.” Johnny said before heading to the house.
“ You remained quiet. Didn’t you have any suggestions?” Scott asked.
“ Yes, but this has to be done the way your brother wants. I think what you recommended is fine son. I think Johnny is happy with your suggestions too. Especially about the barn. I just might have that done at Lancer.” Murdoch responded.
“ For having little to no education, Johnny is smart. I’ll give him that.” Scott said as Colt rode up.
“ Something wrong?” Murdoch asked.
“ No sir. You have a visitor showed up about an hour ago.” Colt said.
‘ A visitor. Who?” Murdoch asked.
“ A Harlan Garrett. He said he’s your grandfather.” Colt responded.
“ Alright. Thank you. I guess I should get back to Lancer then.” Scott said.
“ Just a minute son. Let’s go tell Johnny and Teresa, and we can all go back together.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Ride back and tell my grandfather I will be there shortly.” Scott ordered as he headed inside the house with Murdoch. He knew Johnny wouldn’t be pleased about this news.
“ Why the devil did that man show up here?” Murdoch asked.
“ I have no idea sir. I haven’t wrote to him since I left with Johnny for Oregon. Maybe that’s why.” Scott suggested as they walked inside and found Teresa, Mary, and Sara coming downstairs with Johnny.
“ We need to head back to Lancer son.” Murdoch said.
“ Why, something wrong?” Johnny asked.
“ It would seem my grandfather has arrived unannounced.” Scott responded.
“ Harlan Garrett is at Lancer.” Johnny said. “ Well I guess we better get headed back. Don’t want to keep him waiting.” Johnny said before heading to the door with Mary in his arms.
“ Johnny, can I ride Barranca with you back home?” Sara asked.
“ Sure.” Johnny said as he handed Mary up to Teresa.
Scott rode into the Lancer yard and dismounted. “ Grandfather.” he said as he walked toward the silver haired man who walked out of the house.
“ Scotty my boy. It’s so good to see you again.” Harlan said as he shook Scott’s hand.
“ I didn’t know you were coming sir.” Scott said as Johnny rode up and dismounted.
“ I haven’t heard from you in so long. I thought I would come and see if you were alright.” Harlan said as he glared at Johnny.
“ Grandfather, this is my brother Johnny and one of his daughters Sara.” Scott said with pride. “ Excuse me a minute.” Scott said before walking over to Cipriano.
“ So you are the half-breed gunfighter.” Harlan said. “ Is that an innocent creation from your sinful ways?” Harlan asked, pointing at Sara.
Johnny ignored the old man’s hateful question as Murdoch and Teresa walked up. Murdoch could tell something was wrong. That Harlan had said something to anger his youngest. Hell the man showing up unannounced angered him even.
“ Harlan.” Murdoch said.
“ Murdoch. Is this another young bride of yours?” Harlan asked snidely.
Johnny stepped closer to the old man. “ That happens to be my wife and daughter old man.”
“ Johnny.” Murdoch said.
“ You disrespect my family again, and I’ll bust your teeth out.” Johnny said coldly before grabbing Barranca’s reins and leading him to the barn
“ Come on Sara. You can help me put Mary down and fix lunch.” Teresa said. “ I would say it’s a pleasure to meet you Mister Garrett, but from what I just witnessed and heard. I don’t care to know you.” Teresa said before walking away.
“ You haven’t changed one damn bit have you?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m here to see Scotty only. That half-breed is of no concern of mine.” Harlan responded.
“ Let me tell you something Garrett. As long as you are here, you will treat Johnny and his family with respect. If you can’t, I will order you out of my house. Is that clear?” Murdoch said.
“ If I have my way, that half-breed son and you will not be keeping my Scotty away from me any longer. He belongs back in Boston with me. Not out here in this godforsaken desolate place.” Harlan said as Scott walked back over to them.
“ Johnny go inside?” he asked.
“ No, he took Barranca to the barn son.” Murdoch responded.
“ Cipriano is going to get those measurements Johnny will need and get them to me so I can start drawing up a plan for him.” Scott said. “ Is something wrong sir?”
“ Alright son. I don’t want to be disrespectful, but……….” Murdoch started to say.
“ Grandfather. What is it this time?” Scott asked.
“ He was disrespectful to me and Teresa, and I’m not sure, but I think he said something to your brother.” Murdoch said.
“ I’ll talk to him.” Scott said.
“ Right now I think you better go see your grandfather son. For him to show up here unannounced, he has to have a reason. I’ll go talk to your brother.” Murdoch responded.
“ Actually it was Johnny I meant, but now that you mention it, I think I will talk to grandfather. Get a few things straight with him while he is here. Excuse me.” Scott said before walking toward the house.
Murdoch headed to the barn where he found Johnny brushing Barranca. “ You spoil that horse.” he said as he walked over.
“ He deserves it. He’s the best horse I’ve ever had.” Johnny said.
“ I know Harlan said something to upset you son. You want to talk about it?” Murdoch asked.
“ Nothing really to talk about. He disrespected my family and I gave him a warning about it.” Johnny replied.
“ He has a reason for showing up here like he did. Your brother didn’t even know he was coming. He went inside to……..to set the man straight on a few things while he’s here.” Murdoch said.
“ I don’t care about what people say to me, but when they disrespect my wife and kids, I won’t stand for that Murdoch.” Johnny explained.
“ I can understand that son. I just wish I knew what his reason is for being here.”
“ He wants Scott to go back to Boston with him. Scott told me he’s asked him couple times in his letters to come back. “ Johnny said.
“ I doubt your brother will leave here, but I can’t help but wonder what Harlan will try.” Murdoch said.
“ So I guess it’ll be just me taking the men into town tonight since Scott’s grandfather showed up?” Johnny asked.
“ Your brother is a man of his word just like you are. If he said he would go with you, I believe he will still go. Let’s go asked him.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I think I will.” Johnny said as he put the brush away and walked out of Barranca’s stall.
Scott found his grandfather in the grand room looking at the family portrait on the wall taken last Christmas.
“ Grandfather.” Scott said as he walked in and removed his gloves. “ We need to have a talk.”
“ I don’t see that little girl in this portrait.” Harlan said.
“ Sara just joined the family if you must know. Johnny adopted her when we were in Oregon.” Scott said.
“ Adopted. You mean they let him……..”
“ As long as you are a guest in this house, you will show respect to every member of this house……especially my brother.” Scott ordered as he went and poured a shot and downed it. “ Like it or not, Johnny is my brother and I will not have you calling him a half-breed or anything else like you did in your last letter. THAT is why I have not written you back sir. That little girl witnessed her whole family murdered by Indians. Johnny is the only one she would respond to. We knew her and her family from the trail on the way to Oregon, when we came across them after they had been robbed.”
“ I did not raise you to speak to me in this manner Scotty. You show me some respect.” Harlan demanded.
“ With all due respect grandfather Respect has to be earned.” Scott said as Johnny and Murdoch walked into the house.
“ Scott, you still going with me and the men into town tonight?” Johnny asked.
“ I’m sorry what Johnny?”
“ Town with the hands tonight, remember. You said you were going to treat them to a night on the town when we got back.”
“ Oh yes, sorry I forgot. Of course I am. They’ve earned it.” Scott responded.
“ Out, tonight. Scott I just arrived and you are going out?” Harlan asked.
“ Yes. I promised the hands that went with us to Oregon we would take them out. Perhaps next time, you will have the consideration to let me know you are coming.” Scott responded back.
“ Uncle Scott, would your grandfather like some cookies and lemonade?” Sara asked.
“ You will have to ask him that sweetheart.” Scott responded.
“ Not right now. Perhaps another time young lady. I’m quit tired from my trip. I think I shall go lay down and rest before supper.” Harlan responded.
Buck Addison sat in the saloon drinking a beer when he seen Scott and Johnny walk in with three hands. And sit down at a table. Almost everybody in town knew how he got his split lip, and he heard some saying they were surprised Johnny hadn’t shot the man. Everybody knew there was no love lost between the Lancers and him. Most had been at the wedding and heard what he said. A few disliked having an ex gunfighter living in the valley, but most had accepted it.
“ Isn’t that Addison sitting over there watching us?” Joe asked.
“ Yeah. He’s been watching me ever since we came in.” Johnny responded.
“ How come he don’t like you Johnny?” Joe asked.
“ Because of what I used to be, but mainly because my mother was Mexican.” Johnny responded.
“ Well as I live and breath. How the hell are you Johnny?”” Chantey asked.
“ Been good. You?” Johnny responded.
“ Oh you know me. I go where the money is. I sure as hell didn’t know you were clear up here. You working a job?” Chantey asked.
“ No. Chantey, this is my brother Scott Lancer.” Johnny said. “ Frank, Walt and Joe.”
“ It’s good to meet you fellas. Did you say your brother?” Chantey asked.
“ Yeah. It’s a long story, but I found out my mother lied to me. I go by Lancer now.” Johnny responded.
Chantey bent down and kissed Johnny on the lips. “ I guess my Friday and Saturday nights will be getting better then?” she asked.
“ His wife might have something to say about that ma’am.” Joe said.
“ Wife? What wife?” she asked.
“ I got married and have an eight month old daughter, and another on the way.” Johnny said.
Chantey stood up straight. “ Just my luck. What’d she do to catch you?”
“ She just did Chantey.” Johnny said as he finished his beer.
“ Can I get you fellas another round of beers?” Chantey asked.
“ Yeah, and get yourself a drink too if you want.” Johnny said as he gave her some money.
“ Thanks doll. You know, getting married you sure broke a lot of women’s hearts Johnny, mine included. I’ll be right back with your beers.” Chantey said before walking away.
“ So where do you know her from Johnny?” Joe asked.
“ Yuma. She worked in a saloon down there.” Johnny said.
“ I want to thank you for what you payed us Johnny. That was right nice of you to do.” Frank said.
“ You earned it.” Johnny said as he looked and seen Addison was still watching them.
“ Here we go, fresh beers all around.” Chantey said. “ Boy we had us some good times in Yuma didn’t we Johnny?”
“ Yeah we did Chantey.” Johnny said as he took his beer from her and handed her his empty glass.
Chantey leaned down and whispered in his ear. “ Any time you want something different than your wife, you know where I’m at love.”
Johnny could feel a discomfort starting in his pants as he felt her warm breath on his neck. “ I appreciate the offer, but my wife keeps me happy.” Johnny responded as he picked up his beer and took a drink.
“ Can’t blame a girl for trying.” Chantey said before walking away to another table.
“ I bet she’s a handful in bed.” Joe said.
“ And then some.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ Can I get you anything Mister Garrett?” Teresa asked.
“ No, I’m fine. If I may ask, how old is the little one?” Harlan responded.
“ She’s eight almost nine months old. She just started walking just before Johnny and Scott got back from Oregon.” Teresa responded.
“ What did they go to Oregon for?” he asked.
“ Johnny has a contract with the army to sell them horses. He has to leave next year and take a bigger herd to Montana.” Teresa said.
“ Montana, that’s a considerable distance from here. Couldn’t he sell them closer to home?” Harlan asked.
“ He delivers them where the army needs them Mister Garrett.”
“ How long have you two been married?” Harlan asked.
“ A year. If you will excuse me, It’s time for the girls to go to bed now. Sara go say goodnight to Grandpa Lancer and then go upstairs. I’ll be up in a few minutes to tuck you in.” Teresa said.
“ I imagine you will be wanting Scotty to marry and give you grandchildren too soon?” Harlan asked as he walked over to Murdoch’s desk.
“ When he’s ready to, yes.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ Would you care for some Brandy?” Murdoch asked as he walked over to the sidebar.
“ Yes, thank you. It’s hard to believe Scotty could be happier out here than he was back in Boston.” Harlan said as he walked over.
“ Why? ” Murdoch asked as he poured their drinks.
“ I guess it’s because of the life he lived back in Boston. The clothes he wore. If he dressed like he does out here, they would think he was a vagabond, and not let him in any social events.” Harlan said.
“ Scott is quite happy out here. I’m not forcing him to stay. He can leave any time he wants too. He stays because he loves the land and his family.” Murdoch said
“ Yes, but I’m his family too. I raised him for twenty four years of his life. You can’t throw that away.” Harlan responded.
“ I know that, and like I just said, Scott is free to do what he wants. If he should decide he doesn’t want to be here any more, that he wants to go back to Boston to live and attend your social clubs, it will be his decision Harlan, Not mine and not yours.” Murdoch said as he walked back over to his desk and sat down.
“ It’s getting late. We better head back to the ranch.” Frank suggested.
“ Yeah, it’ll be around two by the time we get back.” Walt said as he stood up.
“ Lucky for us tomorrow is Sunday.” Joe said.
“ Had a real good time tonight Johnny, Scott. Thank you.” Frank said.
“ Yeah, so did I, and don’t worry, we won’t tell Teresa Chantey kissed you.” Joe said teasingly.
“ Thanks fellas.” Johnny said as he stood up and noticed Addison had left.
“ Let’s go home little brother?” Scott said as they walked outside and stepped down to their horses.
Johnny untied Barranca and swung up in the saddle, and turned his horse to leave just as Buck Addison stepped out into the street with a rifle.
“ Johnny Madrid!” he yelled right before aiming and firing, hitting Johnny in the back of his left shoulder.
Joe drew and fired, hitting Addison, knocking him back.
Addison felt the bullet slam into his shoulder causing him to drop the rifle as he was knocked backwards.
Johnny slumped over Barranca’s neck, his gun hand hanging as his pistol fell to the ground.
“ Johnny!” Scott yelled as he got off his horse and ran to his brother’s side.
“ Scott, leave him on Barranca. It’ll be easier to get him to docs.” Frank ordered.
Scott picked up Johnny’s gun, and mounted Barranca behind him. “ Walt, ride home and tell our father what’s happened.”
“ What do you want me to do about Addison, he’s still alive.” Joe asked.
“ Let him bleed to death, I don’t care.” Scott said as he held on to Johnny as he headed to docs.
Joe went to Addison laying on the ground holding his shoulder, blood seeping through his fingers. “ I hope that half-breed bastard dies.” Buck spat.
“ You better hope he doesn’t die Addison, because if he does, I will personally kill you. Get your sorry ass up.” Joe ordered.
Buck stood up. “ Your threats don’t scare me boy.” Buck said.
“ Shut up and move.” Joe ordered as he shoved Addison toward Sam’s office.
Murdoch and Teresa walked into Sam’s office and were met by Scott.
“ How bad is it Scott?” Teresa asked.
“ We don’t know. Sam hasn’t come out yet to tell us anything.” Scott responded as he stood up and ran a hand through his hair.
“ Who shot him?” Murdoch demanded.
“ Walt didn’t tell you?” he asked.
“No. All he said was Johnny was shot in the back when he came out of the saloon.” Murdoch responded.
“ We had just got on our horses to leave when someone called out his name, right before he shot him. Johnny spun Barranca around and fired, hitting the man.” Scott explained.
“ I asked who shot him son.”
“ It was Addison. Joe’s with him in another room.” Scott explained.
“ He’s still alive?” Teresa asked.
“ Johnny hit him in the shoulder. I didn’t know he was until Joe asked me what to do with him.” Scott said as Sam came out.
“ He’s alive. I dug the bullet out. Getting him to me as quick as you did Scott helped.” Sam said. “ Barring he doesn’t get an infection or fever, he should be alright. I’ll know more when he wakes up.”
“ Can I see him?” Teresa asked.
“ He’s still unconscious.” Sam said as he walked with her to the back and opened the door.
“ I’ll kill that man. I swear I will kill him.” Murdoch said as he started down the hall.
“ Murdoch stop. Killing Addison now will only get you arrested for murder. He’s unarmed. As much as I would like the man dead, we have to let the Marshal handle it.” Scott said as he stopped his father outside the room Addison was in. “ You go in there and kill him, you won’t be doing Johnny any good. Let the law take care of him. There are plenty of witnesses to put the man away for life.”
Murdoch opened the door and stepped inside. Joe sat in a chair by the window with his gun drawn. Buck Addison lay on the bed holding his left shoulder. Fear came to his eyes when he seen who came into the room.
“ Get away from me Lancer.” Buck ordered as Murdoch walked over to the bed.
“ I’m going to see to it personally that you go to prison for life for this Addison.” Murdoch said with anger.
“ For what, killing a no good half-breed killer like your son?” Buck spat back. “ The law don’t like gunfighters Murdoch, so me killing him won’t get me put in prison.”
“ Johnny isn’t dead. You now have two counts of attempted murder against my son. Both times you shot him in the back. So help me……” Murdoch said as he reached for Addison.
“ Mister Lancer.” Joe said.
“ Murdoch.” Sam yelled. “ Go be with Teresa and Johnny. Scott, get him out of here.” Sam ordered.
Murdoch stormed out of the room, followed by Scott.
“ I think you should calm down before you go in there with Johnny.” Scott suggested.
“ I’m alright son.” Murdoch said before going to the room Johnny was in.
Randall entered Sam’s office and found Scott sitting in a chair.
“ I heard what happened. How is he?” Randall asked.
“ He’s alive. Addison shot him in the back last night.” Scott responded as Murdoch walked out of Johnny’s room.
“ Mister Randall, I wired the United States Marshal in Stockton. He will be here day after tomorrow. I want those depositions filed against Buck Addison and last nights charge of attempted murder against my son.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Alright. Murdoch I’m sorry. I’ll go back and get started on the charges right now. Who all witnessed the shooting?” Randall asked.
“ Me, Joe, Frank, and Walt. I don’t know if anyone else seen the actually shooting. It was dark.” Scott responded.
“ About what time?” Randall asked.
“ Midnight I think.” Scott said.
“ Okay. I’m going to need statements from all witnesses to give to the Marshal when he gets here.” Randall said. “ Come by my by my office tomorrow with the other men, I’ll ask around today if anyone else witnessed it.”
“ Why do you need other witnesses?” Murdoch asked.
“ Because the witnesses so far all work for Lancer. If we can find one or two who don’t, it will make the charges that much better against Addison.” Randall said. “ Oh, let Johnny know that Judge Parker said the adoption papers are all legal. Nobody can take Sara from him.” Randall added before going out the door.
Johnny opened his eyes to bright light. He could feel someone, or something on his chest. Looking he could see dark long hair and knew it was Teresa.
“ Teresa.” he said softly.
Teresa raised her head up. “ Oh Johnny.”
“ Hi.” he said softly.
“ You had me so scared.” she said. “ Let me get Sam. I’ll be right back.” she said as she stood up and went to the door.
Pain radiated through his right shoulder as he closed his eyes.
“ Sam, he’s awake.” Teresa said.
Sam entered the room followed by Murdoch and Scott.
“ Johnny, how do you feel?” Sam asked as he looked at the bandage around Johnny’s shoulder.
“ Thirsty.” Johnny said.
Teresa, pour him a glass of water. Scott, come around and help me sit him up a little so he can drink.
“ Hey brother.” Johnny said softly.
“ Hey brother. I can’t take you anywhere without you getting in trouble.” Scott said jokingly as he helped Johnny sit up more.
“ Just small sips. Not too much.” Sam instructed.
Johnny relished the feel of the cool water on his dry throat. “Thanks.” he said as he leaned back against the pillows. “ Who shot me?”
Scott glanced at Murdoch and Teresa.
“ It was Addison who shot you son.” Murdoch said.
“ Did I get him?” Johnny asked.
“ You hit him brother. The Marshal will be here day after tomorrow to arrest him for attempted murder.” Scott responded.
“ Must be getting soft.” Johnny said as he pressed his head back into the pillows.
“ You rest. I don’t want you trying to move that arm and tearing those stitches out.” Sam instructed.
“ Where’s Mary and Sara?” he asked.
“ With Maria. I didn’t want them seeing you like this.” Teresa said.
“ If you don’t get an infection, or fever, you can go home in a wagon in a day or two.” Sam said. “ But right now, I want you to rest.”
“ He will Sam. I’ll stay with him.” Teresa said.
“ Alright. I need to go check on Addison down the hall if you need me.” Sam said.
“ He’s here?” Johnny asked.
“ Not for long son. Don’t worry, that man is not coming anywhere near you ever again.” Murdoch said. “ As soon as he can, he’ll be moved to the jail. You do as Sam said and rest now.”
Marshal Jenkins rode into Green River and stopped outside the jail where Addison was being held. A man carrying a doctors bag came outside.
“ Excuse me. I’m Marshal Doyle from Stockton. I’m here to pick up a prisoner named Buck Addison for attempted murder. A man named Murdoch Lancer sent me a wire along with an attorney named Randall. Do you know where I can find these men?” the Marshal asked as he tied his horse up and stepped up next to Sam.
“ Addison, you will find locked up inside. Murdoch Lancer is at my office with his son Johnny. The man Addison shot in the back the other night. As for Randall, he’s at his office taking depositions from the witnesses. I thought you weren’t coming until tomorrow Marshal?”
“ I came a day early because Addison also wanted for murder in San Francisco. Can he travel?” the Marshal asked.
“ He can travel in a day or two Marshal. He was shot in the shoulder. Randall’s office you will find across the street.” Sam said.
“ Much obliged. Will Lancer be able to talk to me later?” the Marshal asked.
“ If you mean Johnny, yes. I’ll let them know you are here and will be stopping by to speak to him.” Sam responded.
“ Appreciate it……….”
“ Sam, Sam Jenkins.” Sam said.
“ Okay gentlemen, I believe that just about does it. I’ll give these depositions to the Marshal when he gets here tomorrow.” Randall said as he stood up. “ I’m glad your brother is going to be alright Scott.”
“ So am I.” Scott said as the door opened.
“ Gentlemen. I’m Marshal Doyle from Stockton. Are you Randall?”
“ Yes sir. I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow. I just finished taking these men’s depositions on what happened.” Randall responded. “ This is Scott Lancer, Joe Cooper, Frank Hawkins, and Walt Thomas. They witnessed the shooting.” Randall said. “ I also have four other depositions Marshal from Fort Klamath, Oregon against Buck Addison. These are from a Major Hunter, Colonel Chamberlain, General Crook and Sergeant Wilson. All bearing witness to Addison admitting he shot my client John Lancer in the back two years ago.” Randall said as he opened a file and pulled out some papers, and handed them to the Marshal.
“ I’ve talked with Colonel Chamberlain before. He’s a good man. Says here Addison was with a Captain Duncan.” the Marshal said.
“ Yes sir. When me and my brother and these three men delivered horses to the army in Oregon, Addison was there waiting, hoping to get mt brother arrested for deceiving the army. Captain Duncan told when confronted about how Addison talked him into stealing our horses and contract with the army for a lot of money.”
“ It says here that your brother, Addison claims deceived the army because his real name is Madrid, not Lancer. I thought Johnny Madrid was killed by Rurales in Mexico a couple years ago?” Marshal Doyle asked.
“ No sir. It’s a long story sir, but my brother used to be Madrid, and has come home. He has a wife and two children with another on the way. All he wants to do is live a life as my brother Johnny Lancer, the name he was given at birth.” Scott explained.
“ So, if he was born a Lancer, how’d he become Madrid?” Doyle asked.
“ To stay alive. I too used to be a gunfighter Marshal. Nothing like Madrid, but to stay alive in Mexico, you have to be good with a gun. Especially when you’re………” Joe said.
“ You’re what?” Doyle asked.
“ A half-breed.” Joe said looking at Scott. “ Johnny is damn good person, and I’m proud to have him as a friend.”
“ Okay, so Madrid wants charges filed against Addison for shooting him in the back. How come he didn’t have him arrested in Oregon when he admitted to doing it two years ago?” Doyle asked.
“ Because my brother felt Addison would get his just dues in time.” Scott responded.
“ Okay. I’ll take these and go talk to your brother. The doctor said Addison can leave in a couple days. I’ll go stable my horse and get a room and be down to talk to Johnny.”
Johnny was allowed to go home with strict instructions from Sam to get plenty of rest and not use his arm. When Sam said he could finally get out of bed, two weeks later Scott and Murdoch took him to his ranch and showed him the two bigger corrals with a chute and five of the stalls off the one side of the barn were complete. Even a hay shed was going up behind the barn. Johnny took it all in speechless at what his brother and friends had done for him. A sign on the barn above the doors read, Lancer Horses, Training and Sales. Johnny Lancer, owner.
Within five years, Johnny’s business became very successful. People from all over California brought their horses to be trained. Teresa had a little boy. They named him Ian after his great grandfather. Addison was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a man in San Francisco five years before he came to the San Joaquin valley. Billy became a horse trainer and worked along side Johnny, learning every day.
The drive to Montana took two years to complete, and it paid Johnny twenty thousand dollars for the five hundred head of horses. A month after returning home, they learned that the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux Indians went to war with the U.S. Cavalry at a place called Little Bighorn. Sixteen officers and two hundred and forty two troopers were killed or died from wounds. Scott was sad to learn that General George Armstrong Custer and his seventh regiment all perished that day.
Every evening Johnny would sit with his wife on the porch of their home and just listen to the sounds of the night. Both glad for each other and the love they had that would keep them together forever.
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