I don’t own them. I’m just taking them out for a little fun, maybe some pain, and excitement. All original characters belong to their rightful owns, whoever they are now. No money is being made from this story, just some fun. Any character other than the Lancer TV show characters belongs to me, and may not be used without permission.
Johnny Madrid Lancer
Scott Garrett Lancer
Maria de La Vega
Catherine Garrett Lancer
Captain Mundez – Rurale
General Luis Modero
Puerto Peñasco Prison, Sonora, Mexico
This story will have an R- Rating for language ( some strong ) adult content, and torture.
Synopsis: Murdoch is married to Scott’s mother Catherine. While away on a cattle buying trip or something, he sleeps with Maria and gets her pregnant. he learns she has a son a year and a half later, and brings them to Lancer to work. Catherine finds out Johnny is Murdoch’s son and is furious that he was unfaithful to her. Maria hears them arguing one night and leaves, taking Johnny with her. Scott’s mother is killed a year later by land pirates, and Murdoch refuses to stop searching for his wayward blue eyed son in Mexico. When he learns he’s been found, and who he is now, him and Scott go to Mexico to get him out of the Mexican prison he’s been in for a year.
Word count: 25,025
“Asqueroso mestizo, todavía te haré gritar. Haré que me ruegues que te mate.” ( Filthy mestizo, I will make you scream yet. I will make you beg me to kill you.) Captain Mundez said as two guards dragged Madrid into his cell, and dropped him in a puddle of filthy water. “ Sin comida niagua durante tres días.” ( No food or water for three days.) he ordered as the two guards came out of the cell.
“ Why are we leaving in the middle of the night mamma?” Johnny asked.
“ Hush son. We are leaving because we are not wanted hereby the gringo woman. She knows who we are, and does not wish us to be here. We will go back to Mexico.” Maria said.
“ But why? Is he not my papa?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes, but his wife does not want you. Now hush, and lets go.” Maria ordered as she ushered the boy out to a horse.
That was sixteen years ago. Sixteen years of heartache, abuse, and pain. His mother forbid him to ever speak of the man again. If he did, she would lash out and beat him. Other children in the villages they lived in would always taunt him for his blue eyes. Some even beat him. The first time he was cut, the boy said he wanted to see if a half-breeds blood was red or not. The scar still visible on the palm of his left hand. Since then he had many scars on his body. Some from being shot, others from being stabbed or cut. When only ten, his mother brought a man home during a cold winter night to earn a few pesos. Cold, and hungry, he had slipped back into the small shack to eat a tortilla, when he heard voices from the other room. Moving the blanket back just enough to see in the room, he seen his mother laying on the bed with the man on top of her, grunting as his body moved. Bare skin slapping bare skin. His mother’s legs wrapped tightly around the man’s waist as she moaned loudly, begging for more. Watching the man raise up on his hands as he continued to move and grunt, until he collapsed on top of her. A few seconds later, Johnny heard his mother gasping for air, and kicking with her legs as she tried to pull the man’s hands from around her neck.
When the man got up off the bed, Johnny froze in fear seeing his mother laying on the bed naked, and not moving. Her head to the side, her eyes open, and blank. A look that still haunted him years later.
“ Hey boy!” the man yelled as he bolted for the door.
Johnny grabbed the coffee pot and threw it’s content, hitting the man in the face, making him scream out in pain from the hot liquid. Turning, Johnny bolted out the front door into the cold night air.
“ You little bastard. I’m going to kill you for this.” the man yelled.
That was nine years ago. Nine years of being alone, and unwanted. The orphanage didn’t want him. The padre there beat him every day. Saying he was a devil child spawned from a whore and a gringo. Running away from the orphanage, Johnny vowed nobody would ever beat him again.
When he was thirteen, he found the man who he watched kill his mother. Found him in a cantina in a small Mexican village. The scars on his face still visible from the hot coffee he threw on him that night so he could get away. Walking into the cantina, and over to the table the man sat nursing a bottle of whiskey.
“ What the hell do you want boy?” the man demanded.
“ Your soul.” Johnny said softly.
“ My what?” he asked as he leaned back in his chair and looked at Johnny. “ Do I know you boy?”
“ You do. You killed my mother three years ago. Strangled her right after you fucked her.” Johnny said as the other patrons stood up, and moved away from the two men.
“ Now I remember, you like what you seen that night boy? You like watching me fuck that whore mother of yours?” the man asked as he sat up in his chair.
“ Stand up, you sonofabitch. Stand up and die!” Johnny ordered.
The man looked at the colt hanging low on the boys hip. He could tell the gun was well used, yet taken care of. “ Just who the hell you think you are kid?” he demanded.
“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid.” he responded. “ And I’m going to send you straight to hell.”
“ I don’t think so kid. Johnny Madrid you’re not.” the man said with a laugh.
“ Try me and see, or do you only like to kill innocent women?” Johnny asked.
The man stared at Johnny a few seconds, then made the mistake of going for his gun as a bullet tore thru his chest, knocking him backwards into the wall. Still trying to bring his gun up, the man tried to straighten up as he watched the kid pull the hammer back, aim, and fire hitting the man in the chest again. “ You bastard.” he said as he fell forward, hit the table, and fell to the floor dead.
After that day, Johnny Madrid rode out of Laredo and worked hard building a reputation that would soon be the best, and deadliest along the Mexican border. Any man foolish enough to call him out, would soon lay dead in the street.
Eight months now he had been in the hell hole known as Puerto Peñasco prison. Eight months of being beaten every day by the guards at the orders of the captain, while forced to do back breaking work moving, and busting rocks. Every inch of his body ached. His back, and chest having bruises from being beaten. Both eyes were swollen almost shut now from today’s beating. The lower part of his back hurt from being kicked, as well as his ribs. Every time they managed to not break bones, or make him lose consciousness. Whenever he did look like he would pass out, a cold bucket of water would be thrown in his face to wake him up.
“ Did you really think I wouldn’t find out?” Catherine asked.
Murdoch looked up from the ledger he was working on. “ Find out what my darling?” he asked.
“ Oh come now Murdoch, are you going to try and deny it? Are you going to sit there and lie to my face?” she demanded. “ Course I’m not surprised since you lied to me and our son for four years.”
“ Lied to you about what? I don’t know what you are talking about Catherine.” he said.
“ That whore and bastard half-breed you brought into this house.” she spat. “ How many other women have you been with while away?”
Murdoch stood up. “ It was one time, and a heat of the moment whirl wind. I never intended it to happen Catherine, and I didn’t know she would show up here with a child.” he pleaded.
“ So because she showed up here with that child, you found the need to not be truthful with me, your wife. The woman who has given you a son not out of wedlock.” she said with anger. “ I want that woman out of my house, and I want her out now, or I will take Scott, and I will leave you.” she said before turning and going upstairs. Neither one aware of the figure standing in the shadows of the hallway listening.
That was sixteen years ago. A year after Maria left, land pirates attacked the valley, and Lancer, killing Catherine. A year after her death, he hired Pinkerton’s to try and find his son and bring him home where he belonged.
“ I got that stream cleared out finally.” Scott said as he walked into the room.
Scott Lancer, now twenty three years old, a Harvard graduate who fought in the war after college. Spent a year in Libby prison before being released to come home. Much to the dislike of his grandfather Harlan Garrett, who preferred he stay in Boston, and work in the trading business with him.
“ Any word from the Pinkerton’s about Johnny?” he asked as he walked over, and poured a drink.
“ No son, nothing yet.” Murdoch said.
“ Can I ask why you did it? Why you took this woman to bed when you were married to my mother?” he asked.
“ I tracked a man to Matamoros, she was in the cantina there. I never meant for it to happen son. You have to understand, Maria was a thing of beauty. Just her sight alone could drive a man to not think clearly. To be lost in all that beauty, and unfortunately I was. It was a whirl wind moment. We……I rode out the next day and never knew until she showed up here that we have a son together.”
“ Why do you think she left?” Scott asked.
“ I think she heard me and your mother arguing the night she left.” he said.
“ So if you do find Johnny, if he’s still alive. What are your intentions?” he asked.
“ My intentions son?”
“ Your intentions. Do you plan on bringing him back here, and offering him a third of this ranch?”
“ Would that upset you if I did?”
“ No. Look Murdoch, he may have been conceived out of wedlock while you were married to my mother, but the fact remains, he is still my brother. He’s entitled to a third of this ranch.” Scott responded.
Johnny rolled onto his side, and slowly got up off the floor. The sun was starting to come up, so he knew it would only be a matter of time before the guards came to take him out to work in the yard again. His mouth so dry he couldn’t even lick his parched, cracked lips. When they captured him, he was with a woman who unbeknownst to him had been threatened by the Rurales if she did not lure him to her bed so they could capture him at the one time he was most vulnerable. He held no grudge against the girl for what she’d done. He knew first hand how the Rurales threatened innocent people, even killed to get their point across. Thinking back to that night, and how she lured him into her trap brought a faint smile to his face. Women in that line of business were good at what they did. They knew how to get a man to want to bed them. Their survival depended on the men they took to bed. The better ones charged more than a dollar a poke, and most were well worth every dollar. The girl he was with that night knew how to turn him on, and fast. Barely making it to her room, and closing the door, she undid his pants as he backed her up against the wall, and took her with hunger, barely had he finished when the Rurales stormed into the room. And knocked him up side the head with a rifle butt, waking the next day in what has been hell for him for eight months.
Hearing the guards taking prisoners out of their cells for the days work, Johnny walked up to the bars and waited. Why give them a reason to start beating on his first thing. Rules were said upon his arrival, though most he never heard at the time, but soon learned. No speaking unless spoken too, always be standing at your cell door every morning waiting to be taken out. Never complain about anything when working. Doing so would only get you beat and forced to do harder work. Three men since his arrival had made grave errors and been shot to death. Last month a man was whipped so bad, blood poured from his back as they left him hanging by his arms until he died, and all because he had asked for a drink of water.
Nobody cared he was here. Nobody would come and get him out, and the Rurales knew it, taunted him about it daily. About how he had a worthless gringo father who didn’t even care about him. A father he couldn’t remember. Could he be the man in his dreams? Could the older man be the one? Questions Johnny knew he would never get the answers too. He knew he would die in here, he just wondered when they would have enough and kill him.
“ I picked up the mail while in town. You have a letter from the Pinkerton agent.” Scott said as he walked into the grand room.
Murdoch stood up, and walked over to his son, taking the letter he had waited so long for. With shaky hands he opened the letter and read it.
I have finally located your son Johnny. He has been going by another name these last six years. A name I am not sure you are familiar with, but is well know down along the border. Your son is known as Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter. I have enclosed what I have learned about him from people I have spoken to directly about him. Do not let his name fool you. From what I have learned, your son is very well thought of, and respected by many along the border because of all he has done. Your son however is in Puerto Peñasco prison in Sonora, Mexico. He has been incarcerated there the last eight months.
Pinkerton Detective Agency
“ Oh my god.” Murdoch said softly as he set the letter down, and walked over to the side board, pouring a drink, and downing it.
Scott walked over and picked up the letter and read it. He then started reading the information about his brother. Setting the papers down on the desk when finished.
“ We have to get him out of there.” he said.
“ How, son?” Murdoch asked.
“ They will kill him sir. Can you live with yourself if they do, and you did nothing to try and get him out?”
“ I never said we wouldn’t try son. I asked you how.”
“ We pay them, or bust him out.” Scott responded. “ If he’s using a different name, they won’t know he is your son, and that could be to our advantage on getting him out of there alive.”
“ Alright son. We can take tomorrow afternoon stage to Stockton, and catch the train south as far as we can, and then the stage to Yuma, buy some horses, and ride down there. I just pray we’re not too late.” Murdoch responded.
“ So do I.” Scott said
“ Bring me Madrid.” the captain ordered. “ I want him to feel pain like no other today.”
Twenty minutes later Johnny was dragged out of the building to stand before Captain Mundez. All the other prisoners had been assembled to stand in a half circle to watch as before as punishment was given to this prisoner. Many closed their eyes, unable to bare the sight of the abuse the man was given on an almost daily basis.
“ Outlaw Johnny Madrid, I have decided that today you will receive punishment like no other.” the captain said as he walked over to him. “ Today you will feel leather cut into your flesh, and when my man is done whipping you, I will make sure your wounds which will be bleeding, will not get infected. Do you see that bucket he holds?” he asked.
“ Johnny didn’t answer, and was promptly hit in his lower back with a rifle butt, dropping him to his knees.
“ Answer the captain mestizo.” the guard ordered.
“ Yes.” Johnny spat.
“ That bucket of water, it is not water, but a water like substance I have found to be very effective in making my prisoners do what I want. Do you know what that substance is Madrid?”
“ No.” Johnny said as he struggled to stay standing.
“ It is brine, and I guarantee you will scream out in pain when it is put on your soon to be open, raw back.” the captain said with a smile. “ Tie him up.” he ordered.
Johnny was dragged over to the two post that stood six feet apart, his arms stretched out to each one, and held by a piece of rope. When he was secured, his shirt was torn from his body, and tossed at his feet.
Reaching way down inside, Johnny braced himself for what was coming the best he could. Sucking in a breath when the whip hit his flesh the first time on his left shoulder. Again, and again the leather cut into his flesh. He could feel the sting as his sweat ran into the open marks. Struggling to stay conscious as the guard continued his attack, until his legs could no longer hold him up. Collapsing, putting all his weight on his arms, making the ropes bite into his wrist as he tried desperately to get away from the assault. He could hear the captain laughing, and silently vowed he would kill the man if he ever got the chance. Dropping his head, and having no energy left, Johnny stopped fighting as the whip continued to attack his back.
“ Enough!” the captain yelled. “ I do not want this swine killed.” he ordered as he walked over to Johnny, and grabbed him by the hair, yanking his head up.
Johnny knew what was coming now. He knew he would not be able to stop the scream from escaping him when the bucket of water with brine hit his back. He could see the guard walk around behind him, carrying the bucket.
“ You have anything to say now mestizo?” the captain asked thru tobacco stained teeth.
Johnny looked at the man, and smiled. “ I’m going to take pride in killing you nice and slow.” he said.
The captain started laughing. “ You……….You are going to kill me. I don’t think so mestizo. Sometime between now and the new year, I will have you shot by a firing squad.”
“ I’m going to gut you from your fucking dick to your throat you bastard.” Johnny said right before the water and brine hit his back, making him scream in agony before passing out.
“ Take this swine back to his cell.” the captain ordered.
Scott sat reading the file again as his father tried to sleep in the seat across from him on the train. Numerous times his brother had hired his gun out just for food and a place to sleep. What caught his eye when reading was how his brother had found the man who had murdered his mother, and shot him dead in a small Mexican village cantina. It seemed from that point on he became Madrid, building a reputation as the best, and fastest along the border. Countless reports it would seem Johnny had hired out during range wars. Scott couldn’t believe what he was reading. What his little brother has done in just six years. What was missing is the three years from the time his mother died until he killed the man who murdered her. Could he have spent those three years becoming Johnny Madrid. Which raised another question, why Madrid? Where did the name come from? Something else he noticed as he read the files, not once had his brother ever broke the law, or been wanted by the law. At least not in the states. It would seem he was only wanted by the Rurales in Mexico. Why the files didn’t say, but Scott suspected it had to do with his brother’s defiance toward them. He had a feeling his little brother was just like their father, all pride and not one ounce of give.
When he read how many times his brother has been shot, cut, and stabbed, he shook his head. “ My god Johnny.” he said softly as he wondered if this part of the report was accurate. Shot nine times, stabbed five, and cut serious enough for stitches seven times. Most doctored by Johnny himself. Something Scott couldn’t begin to imagine doing, especially that many times.
“ You alright son?” Murdoch asked as he straightened up, and stretched his back.
“ Have you read these reports?” Scott asked.
“ Yes, I read them. It shocked me too. His life hasn’t been easy.” Murdoch responded.
“ I’ve heard Mexican prisons can be brutal.” Scott said.
“ Yes they can. They’re filthy, and the prisoners are beaten, and get very little food or water.” he responded.
“ I can’t believe how many times he’s been injured………..He’s barely nineteen.” Scott said as he closed the file, and set it on the seat next to him. “ Do you think he will even remember who you are?”
“ I don’t know son. He was only three when Maria left.” Murdoch said.
“ What if he doesn’t want to come back to Lancer with us?” he asked.
“ Then we will have to convince him too come home with us son.” Murdoch responded. “ You know, I was remembering the first time I put Johnny on a horse with me.”
“ I want to ride horse with you papa.” Johnny said as he reached up.
Murdoch reached down and pulled his son up to sit in the saddle in front of him. “ Take the reins son, and make him go.”
“ Murdoch, I don’t think that is a wise decision.” Maria said. “ He’s too small to be riding a horse.”
“ Nonsense. I had Scott riding when he was two.” Murdoch said. “ He’ll be fine.”
“ I remember that day. His mother was not happy about it. There was no stopping him after that though. Every chance he got, he was riding. He started showing some good horse sense too.” Scott said with a smile. “ Will they kill him?”
“ Given what those reports say, I’m sure they’re beating him. You read how Captain Mundez vowed revenge, and unfortunately he’s the one in charge of the prison.” Murdoch responded.
Scott leaned back, and looked out the window. “ I pray I get the chance to know my little brother.”
“ You have to hang on my son. Do not give in to the darkness.”
“ Mamma, is that really you?”
“ Yes it is me.” Maria said softly.
“ I want to be with you. I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to be wanted.” Johnny said.
“ You are wanted my son. Your padre and hermano, they are coming to get you. You have to stay strong for them. I did not raise you to be weak.” she said.
“ It hurts so bad.” Johnny said.
“ ¿Qué pasó con el hombre duro en el que te convertiste? ¿Qué pasó con Johnny Madrid?” ( What happened to the tough man you became? What happened to Johnny Madrid? ) she asked.
“Por favor dime quien soy.” ( Please tell me who I am. ) Johnny asked.
“ Tú eres mi hijo, y mi hijo no se rinde. Te prohíbo que quedes ahí y te rindas. Tu familia te necesita.” ( You are my son, and my son is not a quitter. I forbid you to lay there and give up. Your family needs you.) Maria said firmly.
“ Quien es mi familia?” ( Who is my family ? )
“ Naciste Johnny Lancer. No pude tomar su apellido porque ya estaba casado con una mujer gringo. Hazme orgulloso de mi hijo. Lucha por mantenerte con vida y, lo más importante, lucha por tu derecho de nacimiento. Prometeme.” ( You were born Johnny Lancer. I could not take his last name because he was married to a gringo woman already. Make me proud my son. Fight to stay alive, and most importantly, fight for your birthright. Promise me.)
“ Te lo prometo mamá.” ( I promise mamma. )
“ I must go now. Hang one just a little longer, and you will be free.) Maria said before slowly disappearing from his dream.
“ Please don’t leave me mother. I want to be wanted.”
Johnny lay on his filthy cell floor for a week before guards came into his cell, picked him up by his arms, and dragged him outside.
“ Why is this prisoner in such a bad way Captain Mundez?”
“ He is swine General Modero. He is Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter.” the captain said.
“ He is a man. I warned you about treating prisoners badly captain. These men are in here for crimes they committed. They are not in here for you to personally torture. I want this man cleaned up, and doctored captain………..now!” the general ordered.
“ Take the prisoner to get cleaned up, and have the doctor tend to his back.” the captain ordered.
Johnny lay flat on his stomach gritting his teeth as the doctor cleaned his wounds. “ I seen him have you beaten. That man should not be in charge here son.” the doctor said as he wiped blood running down Johnny’s side. “ I tried to check on you all week, but he gave the guards orders to not let anyone near you.”
“ I’m going to kill that bastard before I die.” Johnny said as he winced as the doctor cleaned out a deep lash.
“ I’ve had to reopen some of these to clean them out.” the doctor said.
“ How is your patient?” the general asked as he walked into the room.
“ To be honest General Modero, I don’t understand why this boy is still alive. There was no reason for him to be beaten like this.” the doctor responded with anger. “ That man needs to be relieved of duty here. He’s not fit to be in charge of this place.”
“ I will submit a report requesting a replacement for here by year’s end.” the general said.
“ By year’s end this boy will be dead. The good captain said as much right before he had a bucket of brine water thrown on his back.” the doctor responded.
“ How soon can this man be moved in a wagon?” the general asked.
“ A week at the least.”
“ I have a pressing matter I must take care of, but I will be back in a week to have this man transferred to a work camp north of here. He will not be treated there like he is here. Until then, keep him in here so you can doctor his back.” the general said.
Murdoch and Scott rode out of Yuma, headed south, crossing into Mexico as the sun started to rise. Both men lost in thought and quiet until they stopped to make camp along the Yaqui river.
“ What do we do if he’s not still there?” Scott asked.
“ We keep looking for him.” Murdoch said. “ We should be at the prison in four days.”
“ Four days seems like a year.” Scott said softly.
“ We may run into a patrol while down here son.”
“ A patrol?” he asked.
“ Rurale patrol. If we do, there’s a cattle rancher I know down here. If they ask our business, we tell them we are down here to buy stock from him.” Murdoch said.
“ And his name would be?” Scott asked.
“ Don Sebastián Treviño.” he responded. “ He’s the man I bought a bull from the year before you came back home.”
“ I never told you about a letter I received from grandfather once. It seems my mother told him about Johnny. He had nothing good to say about him, or you for that matter.” Scott said.
“ I know Harlan blames me for your mothers death. I blame me for her death.” Murdoch said.
“ You had no way of knowing the ranch was going to be attacked.” he said.
“ She died in my arms. Did I ever tell you that?”
“ No sir, I don’t think you told me that.”
“ If she had just stayed where I put her she never would have been shot.” Murdoch said with sadness. “ They attacked us, and I had her go in the cellar. I guess she thought it was over when the shooting stopped. She didn’t know they were regrouping to attack again. She came into the grand room just as they started shooting again. I heard her scream, and fall to the floor. I went to her, and she died in my arms.”
“ Who was it that attacked?” Scott asked.
“ A land pirate named Pardee. Only him and a couple others managed to get away. Nobody has seen him again since.”
Johnny was sitting up in bed when the doctor came in carrying a tray with food on it.
“ I want you to take it easy eating this beef soup.” the doctor ordered as he set the tray on the bed. “ When you finish, since it’s such a nice day, I want you to go outside and get some sun. You can walk around in the yard.”
“ Thanks doc. For everything.” Johnny said.
“ You’re welcome.” he said as he sat down in the chair by the bed. “ You’ve got something on your mind. Want to talk about it? Whatever you say will go no farther. Patient, doctor confidentiality.”
Johnny looked in the man’s eyes, and could tell he was being truthful with him. “ I heard a prisoners freedom can be bought. Do you know if that’s true?”
Sitting back, the doctor rubbed his face. “ I need to shave.” he said. “ Yes, it’s true. The captain has sold prisoners, but I wouldn’t really call it freedom. He sells them into slavery. In fact, there are customers who will be coming here tomorrow to purchase young, strong prisoners.”
Johnny had heard about prisoners being sold for a life of slavery working on a ship. Just the thought of spending the rest of his life on a ship in conditions worse than being in a prison.
“ Your muscles will be tight, and pull, but as long as you don’t bend over, you should be okay. They’re healing up nicely.”
Modero came out of his office the next morning and looked across the yard, anger coming to his face as he seen Madrid walking around the yard under the watchful eye of two guards.
“ Están aquí capitán.” ( They are here captain. )
“ Bueno. Haga que los guardias reúnan a los prisioneros en el patio.” ( Good. Have the guards assemble the prisoners in the yard.)
“¿Y Madrid?” (And Madrid? )
“ Él también. Tengo la sensación de que traerá mucho dinero.” ( Him too. I have a feeling he will bring much money. ) the captain said before walking toward his waiting visitors.
Johnny watched as Captain Mundez talked to a guard, and then walked over to greet a man who came into the prison in a wagon.
“ Move it Madrid. The captain wants all the prisoners assembled, and that means you too.”
“ Hold on there, General Modero left that man in my care.” the doctor said as he walked toward them.
“ The captain gave me an order to assemble all prisoners, including Madrid.” the guard said.
“ General Modero………..”
“ General Modero is not in charge of this prison, I am.” the captain said as he walked over to the doctor. “ I suggest you remember that.”
“ What is wrong with the prisoner?” the man asked.
“ There is nothing wrong with him senor. He is young, and strong. He will give you many hours of work.” Captain Mundez responded.
“ The man is just getting over being whipped by the captain.” the doc said. “ His back isn’t healed up yet.” the doctor said.
“ He’s a mestizo.” the man said as he stepped closer. “ You have a gringo father? This I know, because you have blue eyes. Do you speak?”
Johnny looked at the man, wondering why someone like him would be buying prisoners. A rifle butt to the small of his back dropped him to his knees.
“ My name is Sebastián Treviño, I will ask you again, do you speak?”
“ I can talk.” Johnny responded as he tried to push the pain aside as the doctor helped him to stand.
“ How old are you?” Sebastián asked.
“ Veinte.” ( Twenty.) Johnny said.
“ Why are you here?” he asked.
“ For being a mestizo.” Johnny said.
“ What do you want for him Captain Mundez?” the woman asked.
“ You do not want this one. He is disobedient. He does not follow orders well.” the captain boasted.
“ I asked you how much?” the man asked again.
“ This one will cost you three thousand dollars.” the captain responded.
“I will buy him.” the man said. “ Captain Mundez, this will be the last time I come here. I do not approve of your methods. Beating a man like you did this man makes you no less than an animal.”
“ There’s a patrol coming toward us son.” Murdoch said as he stopped his horse.
“ What if they ask about the extra saddle mount?” Scott asked.
“ That’s all it is, and extra mount in case something should happen to one of these. Make sure you keep your hands away from your gun.” Murdoch responded.
“ What is your business here gringo?”
“ My name is Murdoch Lancer, and this is my son Scott. We’re down here to purchase breeding stock from Sebastian Treviño.”
“ And the extra horse?” the Rurale asked.
“ In case something should happen to one of ours.”
“ Very well. Make sure you have all the proper papers when leaving senor. I would hate to have to shoot you for stealing.” the Rurale said before riding off.
Scott let out a sigh of relief as the Rurales rode off.
“ Let’s go get Johnny.” Murdoch said.
Sebastián drove the wagon into the yard of his big estancia, and stopped in front of the barn. Climbing down as a vaquero walked over.
“ You can get down.” Sebastián said to Johnny as he walked to the back of the wagon.
Johnny got down and stood looking at the ground. One thing he learned in prison right away was to never make eye contact with a guard until spoken too. He figured this man would be the same.
“ Eres el pistolero Johnny Madrid.”( You are the gunfighter Johnny Madrid.) the vaquero said.
“ Yo solía ser.”( I used to be.) Johnny said barely above a whisper.
“ ¿Eres Johnny Madrid? No es de extrañar que los Rurales te odien tanto.” ( You are Johnny Madrid? No wonder the Rurales hate you so much.) Sebastián said. “ ¿Tendré problemas contigo? ” ( Will I have any trouble from you? )
“ You will have no trouble from me.” Johnny said.
“ Jose, prepare a hot bath for señor Madrid. I am sure he would like to clean up. To get rid of the filth from the prison.”
“ I have no clothes.” Johnny said softly as he looked at the ground.
Sebastián walked up to him, and placed his right hand under Johnny’s chin, bringing his face up. “ Do not hang your head. You will not be beaten here. Ask any of my men, I am a good man to work for.”
“ Why am I here?” he asked.
“ It is the round-up. I am short a few men to take care of things around the estancia. Miguel is my Segundo, he will tell you what he wishes you to do starting tomorrow morning. I will warn you, I have guards posted at night, so do not try to escape.” Sebastián explained. “ Do not break my trust.”
“ What business do you have here gringos?” Captain Mundez demanded.
“ We come about a prisoner you have captain.” Murdoch responded.
“ What prisoner would that be?” he asked.
“ Johnny Madrid. We know he’s here.” Murdoch said.
“ And how do you know this?” the captain demanded.
“ We hired a Pinkerton man to track him down.” Murdoch responded.
“ And why would you want to track him down?” the captain asked.
“ Why is our business captain.” Scott said firmly.
“ You come to my prison asking about the swine Johnny Madrid, and tell me you hired a Pinkerton man to track him down. You said this Pinkerton man told you Madrid was here. Well he is not.” Captain Mundez said as General Modero rode into the yard.
“ What is going on here?” the general asked.
“ Mister Lancer is here for Johnny Madrid.” the doc said.
“ Bring Madrid out.” the general ordered.
“ I can’t do that General Modero. The captain sold him three days ago.” the doctor said.
“ So it is true. I have heard rumors you were doing such a thing. This is not good for you Captain Mundez. How much money did you get paid for him?” the general demanded.
Mundez glared at the doctor. “ Tres mil dolares.”
“ Three thousand dollars. You sold my son for three thousand dollars.” Murdoch said with anger.
“ So you are the gringo who helped create that half-breed bastard.” Mundez spat.
“ He’s my son, Genera Modero. I’ve been looking for him since he was taken from me when only three years old. I’ve spent the last sixteen years having the Pinkertons help me search for him.” Murdoch explained.
“ Who bought him?” Scott demanded. “ Who did you sell my brother too?”
“ I do not have to tell you that?”
“ Sebastián Treviño.” the doctor said.
“ I am sorry for this Mister Lancer. Perhaps you can talk to Señor Treviño, and get your son back.” the general suggested.
“ Thank you General.” Murdoch said as him and Scott turned their horses to leave.
“ Captain Mundez, I am filing a report about your misconduct and treatment of prisoners here. You are hereby relieved of your position here, and your rank as captain is removed.” the general said firmly.
Johnny stepped out of the stall he was cleaning. The last two days he had worked in the stable, cleaning the stalls, and making sure all the horses had fresh hay, and water. None of the hands would speak to him, only give him looks he was all too familiar with. Growing up, especially after his mother’s death, Johnny learned fast just how much a mestizo in Mexico could be hated. Hearing squealing from the corral outside the stable, Johnny walked out to see a beautiful coal black stallion throwing his head, and snorting as he pranced around the corral. When the stallion came over, and stopped next to him, Johnny reached out, and touched the stallion. “ You have so much beauty my friend. I bet he paid a good price for such a magnificent animal.” he said as he scratched the stallions neck.
“ He’s never let anyone touch him before.” Sebastián said as he walked over to stand next to Johnny. “ He seems to like you.”
“ He’s a magnificent horse sir. I’m sorry if touching him is forbidden.” Johnny said softly. “ I’ll get back to work.”
“ John, may I call you John?” he asked. “ Miguel tells me you are a very good worker. He is very pleased with how well you care for the horses.”
“ You have a very beautiful estancia sir. I’ve never seen one as fine as this.” Johnny said.
“ How long had you been in the prison?” he asked.
“ Eight months I think.” Johnny said.
“ Miguel says you are thought of as a saint to many people in Mexico. That you have fought for them against the Rurales, and the way they treated the peasants. Is this true?” he said, and asked.
“ I know what it’s like to be abused sir. To lose everything you own that you work hard for just because you’re not wealthy. I’ve seen the likes of doing without.” Johnny said.
“ Back at the prison, I asked why you were in there. You told me it was because you were a mestizo. What was the real reason? ” he asked.
“ You just said it sir. I fought for the peasants of Mexico.” Johnny responded.
“ Do you not know who your father is?” Sebastián asked.
“ No. All I remember is living with a gringo when small. He was wealthy, and married to a woman who hated me and my mother. She took me away from there when I was three.” he explained.
“ So because this man, your father was married, your mother took you away from him. ” he said. “ If you could find him, and be with him again, would you? ”
Johnny turned to look at the stallion again. “ I don’t know. He got my mother pregnant with me while married. I would still be a bastard child born out of wedlock. Besides, I highly doubt he would want a son such as me tarnishing his good name.”
“ By that you mean Johnny Madrid. ” he suggested. “ It has been many years, John. Perhaps he does want you now. Perhaps he wanted you then, but this other woman, his wife did not want you around to remind her of his infidelity. Did you ever consider it from her point of view? ”
“ No, I guess not. Don’t much matter now. My fate is already sealed. I made my bed. I have a bullet with my name on it coming to me eventually.” Johnny responded. “ Can I ask you a question sir?”
“ I’ve been here three days. Do you not have a wife or children of your own?” he asked.
“ My wife passed away four years ago. My daughter who the stallion belongs too is in Mexico City attending college. When she comes home in the fall, she will help me run my estancia.” Sebastián said as a hand walked up to them.
“ Perdón, señor Sebastián. Hay dos gringos esperando verte.” ( Pardon senor Sebastian. There are two gringos waiting to see you.)
“ Gracias. Diles que estaré allí en breve.” ( Thank you. Tell them I will be there shortly.) “ Dine with me tonight John. I would love to talk to you more about the stallion. I feel you know a great deal about horses.”
“ Alright sir. Guess I better get back to work now. I don’t want the boss getting angry at me.” he said before turning , and going back inside the stable.
Sebastián watched Johnny walk back inside. He could tell the boy wanted to be wanted, to be loved by his father, whoever he was. Tonight he would see what else he could learn about the man. Maybe bring back a memory forgotten from all those years ago.
“ So this is the man you purchased a bull from?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. His wife passed a few years ago. He has a daughter away at college in Mexico City.” Murdoch responded. “ Sebastián, you old sun of a gun. It’s good to see you again.”
“ Murdoch Lancer, I did not know it was you who has come to see me. What brings you all the way here? Don’t tell me you need another bull so soon.”
“ No, no. That bull is doing a great job. He’s producing some really nice calves.” Murdoch responded. “ This is my son Scott.”
“ Scott, it is good to meet you finally. I have heard many things about you. Please, come inside.” Sebastián said as they shook hands.
“ You have a very impressive ranch sir.” Scott said as they walked into the house.
“ Thank you. It has taken me many years to build it up. So what do I owe the honor of your visit?” he asked.
“ There’s only one way to ask this Sebastián. A week ago you purchased a man from Puerto Peñasco prison. I have reason to believe he is my long lost son.”
Sebastián couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Could the man he bought be his friends long lost son? “ I made a purchase of a man to give him freedom yes, but his last name is not Lancer.”
“ No, it wouldn’t be. Unfortunately me and his mother never married. I’ve been searching for him for sixteen years now.” Murdoch responded.
“ My little brother goes by the name Johnny Madrid sir.” Scott said. “ The doctor at the prison said you paid three thousand dollars for him.”
‘ Yes I did. As I said, I bought the man’s freedom. Doing so is fulfilling a wish my late wife had me promise to keep. That twice a year I would purchase a man from that terrible place, give him a place to stay, and allow him a choice after so long, stay, or leave.” Sebastián explained.
“ Is he here?” Murdoch asked.
“ He is here. I am afraid life in the prison was not kind to him however. He has been beaten worse than an animal, but is healing up nicely. I have invited him to have dinner with me tonight so we could talk more. It would seem the boy knows a lot about horses. He is very confused about you, Murdoch. I was having a conversation with him when you arrived about you in fact, and what he remembers about his father.”
“ Can we see him?”
“ Stay, clean up, and have dinner with me tonight. I will introduce you to him.” Sebastián said as he called for his servant. “ My friend Mister Lancer and his son will be staying with me tonight. Please have two guest rooms made up for them.”
Johnny felt under-dressed to be eating dinner in such a fine home. As he followed the man who answered the door to the dining room. Walking into the room, he found there were two other men already sitting at the table.
“ Ah John, come in and sit down.” Sebastián said. “ I want to introduce you too my friend Murdoch Lancer, and his son Scott.”
“ Hello.” Johnny said as he sat down.
Murdoch stared at his long lost son as a lump came to his throat. He could see his son had been beaten down by the way he wouldn’t make direct eye contact with him when he acknowledge him. It made his heart break knowing how bad his son has been treated growing up.
“ John, Murdoch, and Scott came here from their ranch in California. They came searching for someone. Someone they have searched many years for.” he explained.
Johnny glanced at the blonde haired man sitting across from him. His fine features, bluish gray eyes, slight tan to his face Something about the man made him feel uneasy though, something about both men made him uncomfortable. Especially the way they both stared at him.
“ Mister Treviño sir, maybe I should leave you and your guest? ”
“ Nonsense John. As I was saying, Murdoch came here looking for someone he lost sixteen years ago.” he said.
“ Must have been a good fight to lose someone for that long.” Johnny said softly.
“ He was taken away from me in the middle of the night by his mother.” Murdoch said. “ He’s my son, and I want nothing more than to bring him home where he belongs.”
That sick feeling in his stomach got worse. Raising his head, Johnny looked at the man sitting to his right across the table, then at the younger man. When he realized who he was looking at, it was like he’d been kicked in the stomach as he started to slowly shake his head no. The dreams he would have of an older man sometimes when he was a small boy, not made sense.
“ It was you…….both of you.” he said with anger. “ You threw us out. Tell me something old man, was I that much of an embarrassment to you? Did you not want your high and mighty friends to know you slept with my mother, got her pregnant and had me, a half-breed bastard for a son? ”
“ That will be enough of that kind of talk John.” Sebastián ordered.
“ Did you have something to do with this sir?” Johnny asked.
“ I most certainly did not John.” he said. “ I did not know until this afternoon when they came here. I was talking to you when they rode in.”
“ Yeah, mighty convincing the way they show up, and all those questions you were asking me about my gringo father.” he said with anger as he stood up.
“ Sit down young man.” Murdoch ordered.
“ It was my mother who threw you out Johnny.” Scott said. “ She was angry at Murdoch for being unfaithful to her.”
“ Oh I bet she was. I bet she was real happy you came here too?” Johnny spat.
Scott stood up. “ Don’t you ever speak ill of my mother again.” he ordered.
“ John, sit down. Your anger will get you no answers.” Sebastián requested.
Johnny sat down, and glared across the table at Murdoch.
“ I have searched for you since your mother left son………..”
“ Don’t call me son……I’m not your son. I’m nobody’s son.” Johnny cut in, and said with anger. “ All I am is a bastard child created from your lust with my mother.”
“ That’s not true young man. You are my son. Yes I was taken in by your mothers radiant beauty. Yes I took her to bed, but I never knew she was pregnant, and I had another son until she showed up at Lancer with you four years later..” Murdoch said.
“ You were already married to his mother. Did you think nothing would come of your little romp? Or did you hope that she would throw me in the river like most whores did who got pregnant?” Johnny demanded as he stood up again, turned and walked out of the room.
Murdoch sat there shocked at the hateful words his youngest just said to him.
“ He has a lot of anger inside him. Most of it is not meant for you Murdoch. The boy has been broken by the prison guards and Captain Mundez. Do not be angry with him. He has had nobody in his life to love him for a very long time.” Sebastián said.
“ Excuse me.” Scott said as he stood up.
“ Son, maybe you should let him be alone for a while.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I don’t. He’s been alone most of his life.” Scott responded before leaving the room.
Scott found his brother standing in the foyer with his arms wrapped around him, and his head down. As he walked closer, he could tell his brother was shaking.
“ Johnny……..are you alright?” he asked softly as he walked closer.
Johnny ignored his brother, and wrapped his arms tighter, digging his fingers into his biceps.
“ Talk to me……..Please brother.” Scott said.
“ What the hell am I supposed to say………..brother? My whole fucking life has been a lie. For sixteen years I believed he threw us out because I’m a bastard child. That’s all I will ever be……….a bastard child born to a whore mother because of a rich gringo.” Johnny spat back.
“ That’s not true.” Scott responded. “ Johnny, do you remember anything at all from when you were at Lancer sixteen years ago?”
“ I’ve had some things come to my dreams while in prison. Things I couldn’t explain. I’ve seen both of you, but never knew who you were.” he said.
“ Johnny, do you remember the first time Murdoch put you on a horse? Your mother came outside angry. She said you were too little to be riding a horse.” Scott asked.
“I remember, but could never see the mans face clearly. There was another person there also, a boy older than me.” Johnny said.
“ That was me brother. After that day, you were riding a horse every day with me. When I found out your mother left in the middle of the night, I was so heart broken. All I ever wanted was a little brother. You have no idea how lonely I was before you came there, and after you left. I had nobody to do things with, nobody to protect like a big brother should do. You had every right to be happy growing up Johnny. Your mother, and mine took that from you.” Scott explained. “ I read the reports from the Pinkerton agent about what you have been thru. What’s been done to you. I can’t begin to tell you how angry I was when I read how you were tortured, beaten, and god knows what else done to you. I know you’ve been shot nine times, stabbed five times, and cut seven times. None of that should have ever happened to you. I know we don’t know each other, and I don’t blame you for not trusting me, but please believe me when I say this Johnny, I would give my life to protect you little brother in any way I can. If you ever want to talk to me, It will go no further than between us, ever.”
Johnny turned and looked at him. He could see the sincerity in his eyes. “ So tell me something about you.”
“ What do you want to know?” Scott asked.
“ You choose. I mean, sixteen years, a lot can happen in.”
“ I think we should leave them to talk. It would seem Scott is getting somewhere with him. You my friend I feel will have more of a challenge. You and Johnny are cut from the same mold, all pride, and not one ounce of give.” Sebastián said as they walked back into the dining room, and sat down.
“ I don’t want to lose him again. I want him to feel wanted, and loved. I wish him to have my last name. He’s more than entitled to it.” Murdoch said.
“ Yes, but at what price are you willing to give him your last name Murdoch?”
“ What price? I don’t know what you mean?”
“ Were you not married to Scott’s mother for many years? People will know you were unfaithful to her. That Johnny was conceived out of wedlock in a sinful way. Does it not worry you what your friends will say?”
“ I don’t give a damn what people think. He’s my son, I love him, and I want him at home where he belongs.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ Yes, I understand that, but have you forgotten it could come at a price? He is Johnny Madrid. Once the word gets out that he is no longer in prison, men may hunt him down, and try and kill him.” Sebastián said.
“ You said you bought my son for three thousand dollars. I have five thousand with me. I will give it all to you if you let me take my son home.”
“ I don’t want your money Murdoch. I did not know who he was until I got home, and I certainly did not know he was your long lost son. I was merely keeping a promise to my dead wife. Perhaps it was fate that I chose to buy Johnny’s freedom.”
“ I attended Harvard back in Boston, and then served three years in the war. The last one as a prisoner in Libby. I know about the conditions you had while in prison. I watched good men starve to death, or die from sickness, and or a wound that could have been treated, but wasn’t because of the color of our uniform. I stayed with my grandfather while attending college. I came back shortly after being released from prison.” Scott explained. “ Sometimes at night when I close my eyes I can still hear those men screaming in pain, or moaning as their life left them.”
“ What unit did you serve under?” Johnny asked.
“ Phil Sheridan.” Scott responded.
“ General Phil Sheridan huh. I bet you were a snazzy dresser. You got a picture of you and him together?”
“ At home I do. I was a lieutenant in his cavalry unit.” Scott responded.
“ What do you want from me?” Johnny asked.
“ We would like you to come home with us Johnny. Back to Lancer and be a third owner of the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin, one hundred thousand acres, twenty thousand head of beef, and the finest Capanero de Palomino’s in the San Joaquin.” Scott explained.
Johnny laughed. “ Boy you really don’t have a clue who I am do you?”
“ You are my long lost little brother, Johnny Madrid Lancer, who…………..”
“ I’m not a Lancer. You forget he was married to your mother when he slept with mine?” Johnny cut in.
“ As I was saying, you are my long lost little brother Johnny Madrid……….Lancer, who has a birthright waiting for him back in California. Now, my question to you is this……….are you man enough to accept the challenge and become a third owner, and my little brother?” Scott asked.
“ Like I said, you don’t have a clue about me. I’ll bring nothing but trouble to you if I go back there with you.” Johnny repeated.
“ Alright then, why don’t you tell me.”
“ Look, I have spent half my life just about building a reputation as the best. Granted I’ve been locked up for the last nine months, but if word gets out, and it will, that Johnny Madrid is no longer locked up, men will come looking for me.”
“Looking for you, why?”
“ You really that naive?” he asked. “ I just told you, I spent about half my life building a reputation as the best. Let me put it in more simple words you’ll understand. I’m a gunfighter, as long as I’m alive, others like me can’t get the highest pay when they take a job. Some just want my reputation. They will find me, and when they do, they will call me out, and I will kill them.”
“ Whatever happened to the code of the west?” Scott asked.
“ Well you see, that’s just it. You gotta do it to them before they do it to you.” Johnny explained.
“ We are offering you a chance to live a normal life.”
“ He said your mother was killed. Killed by who?”
“ Land Pirates trying to take over the valley.” Scott said. “ They were led by a man named Pardee.”
“ Day……….Day Pardee?”
“ You know him?”
“ Oh yeah, I know him. He’s a gunfighter, a pretty good one too.” Johnny said. “ So he killed your mother huh?”
“ He may not have pulled the trigger, but he’s responsible for her death.”
“ Pardee is a ruthless, brutal man.
“ So you rode with him?”
“ Didn’t say that Scott. I said I knew him There’s a big difference.”
“ Is everything alright?” Murdoch asked as he walked over to them.
“ Is it his idea, or yours?” Johnny asked.
“ Both.” Scott responded firmly.
“ I’m not a free man. I was bought for three thousand dollars.” Johnny said as he looked at Scott a few seconds before turning, and leaving the house.
Sebastián had a feeling where he would find Johnny, and he was right. In one of the stalls, he found Johnny brushing a mare.
“ I figured I might find you in here.” he said. “ Your heart is confused.”
“ Nothing to be confused about. You bought me, you own me. At least here I’m wanted for something.” Johnny responded.
“ And your father and brother wanting you, is that not important?” he asked.
Johnny stopped brushing the horse. “ They don’t understand.”
“ Understand what John?” he asked softly.
“ How I could get them killed. I tried to tell Scott, that once men know I’m out of prison, they will find me, and they will call me out.” Johnny responded.
“ Are you still that man they will seek to call out?” Sebastián asked.
“ As long as I’m still breathing, I will always be Johnny Madrid. I can never be a Lancer. He wasn’t married to my mother. I’m only his bastard child.” Johnny said with anger.
“ You are not his bastard child. You are his son. Why don’t you give him a chance?” he said.
“ A chance until the first man comes along and calls me out to try and kill me?”
“ Lancer takes care of its own, son.” Murdoch said as he walked into the stable.
“ John, I told Murdoch you are free to leave with him. Go to California, to Lancer, and spend one year. See if it is what your heart wants. If it is not then you can come back. You will always be welcome here.”
Mundez rode away from the prison with anger in his heart. Anger at the general, and especially anger for Johnny Madrid, the one he blames for him losing his rank, and position at the prison. Riding north, he vowed that if he ever seen Madrid again, he would shoot him down like a dog. He knew he would never be able to get near him at Sebastián Treviño’s ranch. Too many men there knew him, and would probably have been warned about the man, told to never allow him on the ranch. Heading northwest, Mundez figured he would stay at his cousins in Yuma for a while, and think about how he could have his revenge.
“These were your personal belongings I got from the prison guard. I thought you might like them back. You stay safe John. You’re a good man. Listen to your heart. It will not lead you astray.” Sebastián said as he shook Johnny’s hand.
Johnny took the burlap sack, and tied it to his saddle.“ I owe you my life. I would have died in there had you not got me out.” Johnny said before mounting up on the horse Murdoch, and Scott had brought with them for him to ride.
“ Viya con dios.” ( Go with God.)
“ Let’s go home brother.” Scott said.
“ Sebastián, I can never repay you for what you have given me back. I am forever in your debt.” Murdoch said as they shook hands.
“ He is very confused. Be gentle with him my friend. His spirit is still there, it is just closed off. He will come around with time, and patience.” he said. “ Adios.” ( Goodbye.)
Late afternoon Murdoch noticed Johnny looking like he was starting to get sore from riding. “ Why don’t we make camp early boys?”
“ There’s water in that grove of cottonwoods up ahead. Plenty of grass for the horses.” Johnny said.
“ You know this area well brother. Me and Murdoch camped here when we were coming down to the prison to get you.” Scott said.
“ Up until nine months ago, I spent just about my whole life down here. I know places to hide, where water is when it’s the hottest part of the year. I had to survive, so I learned.” Johnny explained as they stopped and dismounted.
“ Son, why don’t you gather some wood and get a fire going while me and Scoot take care of the horses, and set up camp?” Murdoch asked.
“ Let’s get something straight, I’m not your son. I never will be your son, not like Scott is.” Johnny said firmly. “ Also, I prefer to take care of my own horse.”
“ I’ll gather some wood, and get the fire going.” Scott said.
“ How long are you going to keep denying the truth John?” Murdoch asked as he removed his saddlebags.
“ I’m not denying anything. I’m stating the truth. You were married to Scott’s mother when you took my mother to bed, and unfortunately, I’m the result of that carnal lust you had for her.” Johnny responded. “ I’m not stupid old man. I know the laws okay. I know any child created out of marriage has no rights in the eyes of the law, and churches…………churches were real good at reminding me of being a bastard. So was the orphanage I was shoved in.”
“ I don’t give a damn what other people think or say when we get back. You are my son, and that’s final.”
“ Why, because you call the tune right?” Johnny asked as he stripped his saddle off, and dropped it to the ground. “ I don’t know you, and you think you know me, but in reality, you don’t. You only know what those Pinkerton reports tell you about me. You have no idea who I really am.”
As darkness crept upon the three men sitting around the fire, Johnny looked at his father in the glow of the flames sitting across from him.
“ The padre who ran the orphanage, he hated me from the moment I arrived. Said a child of Mexican heritage with blue eyes was the spawn of the devil. I was there for almost a year before I ran away, and they didn’t find me to drag me back. He used to beat me every day, and would lock me in a closet, at first for a couple hours at a time. Then it got to be two, three days with no food or water. What food I did get was usually a stale piece of bread, and rancid water.” Johnny said softly. Being in that prison, the only difference was the floor was cold, muddy stone.”
Scott swallowed hard several times to keep from losing his supper as he listened to his brother describe a part of his horrible childhood.
“ John, can I ask you a question?” Murdoch asked.
“ You can ask, but it don’t mean I’ll answer you.” Johnny said.
“ Your mother. Can I ask where she’s buried at?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny sighed as he laid back against his saddle, and looked up at the stars. “ Átil. She’s buried in the cemetery at Santa Teresa de Átil.”
“ Átil, that’s not that far from the border.” Murdoch said.
“ Nope, half a mile maybe.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ If you don’t mind, I’m going to check on my horse.”
“ Telling us what happened to him at that orphanage wasn’t easy for him to do.” Scott said.
“ I know it wasn’t son.” he said.
“ Yet you still practically ignored what he said, and instead asked about where his mother is buried. Murdoch, he was reaching out to you.” Scott said with anger in his voice.
Johnny fought to keep his anger in check as the three of them rode up to the mission in the small village of Átil. Dismounting, he tied his horse, and waited for Murdoch, and Scott to dismount.
“ The cemetery is around back.” he said as a man in a brown robe walked out to greet them.
“ Good morning. How can I help you gentlemen on this beautiful morning?” the father asked.
“ Hello Father Soto.” Johnny said softly.
Father Don José Soto looked at Johnny a few seconds before he recognized the face. “ Johnny Madrid. I had heard you were captured by the Rurales, and in Puerto Peñasco prison. It does my heart good to see you are still alive.”
“ Yeah. Padre, this is the gringo who sired me. He wants to see my mother’s grave.” Johnny said.
“ Bueno, you can take them around to her grave. I have been keeping the weeds away. I put flowers on her grave yesterday.” Father Soto responded.
“ Can you show them her grave please?” Johnny asked. “ I have something I have to do.”
“ Si, I will show them.” he said. “ Please, follow me.”
Murdoch started to follow the father around the church, but stopped when he realized Scott wasn’t with him. “ You coming son?”
“ You go ahead sir. I’ll stay out here with the horses.” Scott said.
Johnny sighed as he looked across the street at the building with a small wooden fence around the one side. “ I’ll be back.” he said as he started toward the building.
“ Want some company?” Scott asked.
“ No.” Johnny said flatly. “ This is something I have to do alone. I’ll be back Scott.”
“ This is her grave, señor.” Father Soto said. “ Johnny ordered her headstone five years ago.”
“ Thank you father.” Murdoch said.
“ So you are his father?” he asked.
“ Yes. I’ve searched for him ever since his mother took him from me all those years ago.” Murdoch responded.
“ I hope he does not do something foolish.” Father Soto said.
“ Foolish father?” Murdoch asked.
“ To Father Benito at the orphanage across the street.” he said.
“ Who is Father Benito, and why would you think Johnny would do something to him?” Murdoch asked.
“ For what he did to Johnny all those years ago. The abuse he inflicted on the child.” Father Soto said.
“ You mean to tell me the man who abused my son is still at the orphanage? Why the devil is that man even allowed to represent the church?” He demanded.
“ It happened many years ago señor. He has repented his sins to God.” Father Soto said.
Murdoch headed back around front, and found Scott still standing at the horses. “ Where’s Johnny?”
“ In there.” Scott said as he pointed to the building across the street.
Murdoch started across the street, but was stopped by Scott.
“ Leave him. He has to do this.” he said firmly.
“ He’s going to kill that man.” Murdoch said.
“ No he’s not. He’s going to confront him for what he did to him. Something he has every right in doing sir.”
Johnny opened the front door of the orphanage as horrible memories started coming back to him. Walking inside, he could hear the sound of children’s voices coming from a room off to his right.
“ This is an orphanage sir. Your gun is not welcome in here.” a man said.
Johnny squeezed his eyes shut as the sound of the voice made him sick to his stomach.
“ Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to remove your weapon, or leave. There are children here.”
Johnny walked over to the man standing by the alter. There was just enough light to show the man who he was addressing.
“ Remember me?” Johnny asked coldly.
Father Benito looked into the blue eyes a few seconds before his shoulders dropped, and he sighed as he recognized the man standing before him. “ I should have known only the devils child would come in here wearing a gun.”
“ I came here to get some answers, and to make you pay for what you did to me.” Johnny said.
“ I have paid for my sins. I am a new man in the eyes of God.” Father Benito said as he turned to walk away.
Johnny grabbed the man’s left arm, and spun him around to face him. “ You were supposed to help me. Instead all you did was abuse me and say I was the child of the devil. Well let me tell you something you sonofabitch, I am the child of the devil, but only because of what you did to me all those years ago. I am Johnny Madrid, your worst nightmare.”
Father Benito couldn’t stop the shocked look on his face when he heard who he was facing.
“ You are the child of a whore. A bastard with no right to be alive.”
“ He’s not the child of a whore.” Murdoch said as he stormed into the orphanage. “ He’s my son, and you had no right to abuse him.”
“ So you are the one who helped create this monster?” Father Benito asked.
“ Stay out of this Murdoch.” Johnny ordered.
“ Like hell I will son.” Murdoch said as he walked up to Father Benito, and hit the man hard in the mouth.
Johnny stood there in shock as his father struck the man.
“ Murdoch stop!” Scott yelled as he came in with Father Soto.
“ Now I see where you get your devilish nature from.” Father Benito spat as he stood up, and wiped at the blood in the corner of his mouth.
“ For the love of God, I ask that you leave here.” Father Soto pleaded.
“ I’m going to give you a warning, You better be gone from here by the end of the week, or I will come back here, and I will kill you.” Johnny said with coldness.
“ You dare to threaten a man of God? ” Father Benito asked.
“ End of the week.” Johnny said before walking out, followed by Scott.
“ Father Soto, I strongly suggest you have this………..man removed from here. I have a lot of powerful friends who will see to it he is removed if you don’t.” Murdoch ordered before walking out.
Murdoch walked outside and found Scott at the horses. “ Where is he?”
“ Around back.” Scott said.
Murdoch walked around back, and found his son kneeling beside his mothers grave. His arms were wrapped tightly around him. He could tell his son was shaking.
“ I don’t know what to do mamma.” Johnny said softly. “ I don’t feel wanted.”
“ But you are wanted son.” Murdoch said as he walked over, and placed a hand on his sons right shoulder. “ I want you to come home with me…….Please.”
“ My whole life I wanted to be wanted. To be loved. I wanted to kill that man just now.” Johnny said. “ Maybe he’s right. Maybe I am the child of the devil?”
“ No you’re not. You’re my son, and wanted in more ways than you will ever know Johnny.” Murdoch said.
Three days later Johnny led his horse out of the livery stable in Yuma, followed by Murdoch, and Scott.
“ Let’s go home boys.” Murdoch said.
Johnny started to mount his horse, when a shot rang out, and he was slammed by a bullet, knocking him hard to the ground.
“ NO!” Scott yelled as he went to Johnny.
“ Where did the shot come from?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t know.” Scott responded. “ We need to get him out of here.”
Murdoch reached down, and picked up his youngest son.
“ You, is there a doctor in this town?” Scott asked the livery owner.
“ Just down the street on the right.” the livery man said. “ Aah, here he comes now.”
“ Bring him to my office.” the doctor said.
Mundez watched from the shadows as Madrid was carried to the hotel by the older man. Smiling when he seen the red stain spreading across Madrid’s chest. “ If you survive, I will follow and make sure you do not survive my next bullet.” he said before disappearing.
“ Who shot him?” Scott asked as he paced the floor.
“ We have to assume it was someone from his past son.” Murdoch said.
“ Johnny said men would call him out. Only a coward would shoot a man down when he wasn’t expecting it.” he said.
“ I fear your brother has a lot of enemies. Men who would do a cowardly act like this.” Murdoch responded. “ I just pray he doesn’t die.”
Three hours later the doctor came out of the room Johnny was in.
“ He’s alive, but very weak from blood loss.” the doctor said. “ But if I know Johnny, he’ll pull thru, and be chomping at the bit in a week to get out of bed.”
“ So you know my son doctor?” Murdoch asked.
“ Your son………..I’ve known Johnny Madrid for a long time. I’ve removed bullets from that boy, and stitched up a serious knife wound he got in the past.” the doctor said. “ I noticed he’s been whipped recently. Can I ask how that happened?’
“ My brother was in a Mexican prison doc.” Scott said.
“ That explains why he hasn’t been around.” the doctor said.
“ I think I’ll go ask around if anyone seen who it was.” Scott said.
“ I wouldn’t. One thing about the people who live here, they won’t tell you anything. They’re too afraid.” the doctor said. “ From the entry wound, Johnny was shot from above. So someone waited for the right time on a rooftop to gun him down.”
Johnny opened his eyes four days later, blinking several times to focus on what he was seeing. He had a feeling he had been in this room before, but the last thing he remembered, they were getting ready to leave town, and he had started to mount his horse. Feeling someone close to him, he looked to his right, and found his father sitting in a chair, his head down, sleeping. Trying to move, he was hit by a sharp pain in his chest, causing him to wince from the pain.
“ You need to lay still son.” Murdoch said as he opened his eyes, and leaned forward.
“ Wha……..happened?” Johnny asked in a hoarse voice.
‘ Here, drink some water. You’ve been unconscious for four days, and lost a lot of blood.” Murdoch said as he poured some water in a glass, and helped him sit up enough to drink the water. “ You were shot. Someone waited until you came out of the livery, and shot you from a rooftop son.”
“ How bad is it?”
“ Doc said it missed anything vital.” Murdoch responded.
“ I thought I heard voices in here.” Scott said as he walked into the room, followed by the doctor.
Johnny looked toward the door, a small smile coming to his face. “ You’re still claiming to be a doctor I see.”
“ Well if certain people around here would stop getting shot, I wouldn’t have to.” the doctor said as he walked over to Johnny. “ How you feeling?”
“ Like I was kicked in the chest by a horse.” Johnny said.
“ Well, considering you were shot with a rifle, I’m not surprised. Let’s have a look.” Doc said as he opened his bag. “ You two can wait in the other room.”
“ I get the feeling that doctor don’t like us much.” Scott said once they were in the other room.
“ So do I son. He keeps looking at me in a confusing way.” Murdoch said.
“ You think maybe it’s because we told him who we are to Johnny?” he asked.
“ It’s possible. It would seem he knows more about Johnny than we do.”
“ Yeah, from doctoring him.” Scott said. “ One thing I’ve learned is, Johnny doesn’t trust easy. Once he gets to know someone, he talks to them more.”
“ I’ve noticed that too son. I just hope he continues to trust us, and not shut us out.” Murdoch said.
“ Perhaps we should be careful how we talk about his being shot? Maybe not suggest it was someone from his past.” Scott suggested.
“ So how far to this ranch of yours?” Johnny asked as they rode out of Yuma a month later.
“ About six hundred miles roughly.” Murdoch said. ‘ If you can ride thirty miles a day, we can be there in about twenty days.”
“ I can make it.” Johnny responded. “ So how come you haven’t asked me about being shot old man?”
Murdoch cringed every time he heard his son call him an old man. Stopping his horse, he looked at his son. “ I’m going to say this one time, and one time only young man. Stop calling me old man. You can call me Murdoch like your brother does, pa, or father. I will not stand for you being disrespectful of me. Do I make myself clear?”
“ Sure……..I hear ya old man, but you see, I never was good at taking orders, and for me to call you my father, well that I don’t see happening anytime soon. As far as respect, that you see has to be earned by me. That don’t come on no hunch.” Johnny responded.
“ Your brother’s refusal to show me respect is going to stop.” Murdoch said to Scott.
“ You don’t give at all do you. All pride and Johnny’s cut from the same mold. Not one inch of give.” Scott said.
“ He’s had no proper upbringing son. He has to learn to respect others.” Murdoch said.
“ With all due respect sir, I think you could also.” Scott said before riding on ahead to catch up with his brother.
“ Two more days boys and we will be home.” Murdoch said as he poured a cup of coffee.
Johnny watched him closely, trying to figure the man out. Usually he could read people good, not his father though. Calloused hands told him the man has done more than his fare share of hard work over the years.
“ Where are you from?’ he asked.
“ Me son, I came here from Inverness, Scotland.” Murdoch responded. “ I was not a year off the boat when I married Scott’s mother Catherine. We came out to California, to make a living. I bought Lancer, and have been building it up ever since.”
“ Why did you leave Scotland?” he asked.
“ I wanted a better life. Scotland is a beautiful country, but there was really no money to be made there. So I worked to earn money to come here. I spent three months on a ship, and I have to say, when I stepped off that ship in Boston harbor. Being on solid ground never felt so good.” Murdoch explained.
“ I bet he first thing you did was get a hotel room and take a bath.” Scott said.
“ Yes, and eat food that wasn’t from the ocean. My brother thought I was crazy to leave and come here, but I was determined to make something of myself.” he said.
“ Having the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin, I would say you definitely made something of yourself sir.” Scott said.
“ So I have an uncle also?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes son, you do. I have a brother, and a sister back in Inverness. My parents past away while I was on the ship. I didn’t learn of their death until a year later.” he said.
Johnny leaned back against his saddle, and looked up at the sky. Torn between keeping his past private, or telling them something about it, about him that they possibly didn’t know. His father solved the dilemma for him.
Murdoch watched his son staring up at the stars a couple minutes before clearing his throat, taking a chance, and asking his son a question. “ Can I ask why you would hire out to range wars?”
“ I’m not wanted by the law, if that’s what you’re trying to get at?”
“ Not at all son. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can about you is all. We’re strangers to each other, and I feel you hate me.” Murdoch responded.
“ I hired out to stop others from taking what wasn’t theirs to take. To stop them from pushing the little fella around. Sometimes I would be requested to hire on with a rancher because of my reputation. I always did some asking around, and made sure I hired my gun the the one in the right, not the one who paid the most. A gunfighter is nothing more than a fallen angels, brought down to hell the good book says. Men beyond redemption.” Johnny explained. “ I don’t think you fully understand what can happen if I stay at Lancer Murdoch. With a gunfighter, shuttin’ off your old life is not an easy thing to do. The past has a way of coming up, and nudging at you sometimes. How are you going to feel when say me and Boston there go into town, and some jackass calls me out, and I kill him?”
“ I don’t know the answer to that son, and that’s the truth. The only thing I will be grateful for is that you will still be alive.” Murdoch said.
“ Do you feel that way Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Feel what way?” he asked.
“ What you said about fallen angels?” Scott said.
Johnny shrugged his shoulders. “ I guess if you think about it. It’s the truth Scott. At least for some gunfighters it is.”
“ Son, I think a part of you will always be Johnny Madrid, but I would really like you to stay at Lancer, and become my son, Johnny Lancer.” Murdoch said.
“ I’m a man of my word. I said I would give it a year, and I will.” Johnny responded.
Mundez rode under the Lancer arch, and was met by a man when he rode into the yard.
“ Busco al capataz.” (I am looking for the foreman. ) Mundez said.
“Yo soy el capataz> ¿Qué puedo hacer por ti?” ( I am the foreman. What can I do for you? ) Cipriano asked.
“ Me dijeron en Morro Coyo, ¿podría encontrar trabajo aquí?” ( I was told in Morro Coyo, I might be able to find some work here.) Mundez said.
“ Tenemos un equipo completo, pero tengo un par de semanas de trabajos ocasionales que podrías hacer. ¿Eso es si estás interesado?” (We have a full crew, but I have a couple week’s worth of odd jobs you could do. That’s if you’re interested?) Cipriano said.
“ Gracias. Eso es muy amable de tu parte.” ( Thank you. That is very kind of you. ) Mundez said as he dismounted.
“ El barracón está ahí. Encontrarás una litera vacía donde puedes poner tu equipo. Necesito que ponga su nombre en el libro para que le paguen.” ( The bunkhouse is over there. You’ll find an empty bunk where you can put your gear. I need your name to put in the book so you can be paid.)
“ Paco Mundez.”
“ Paco, soy Cipriano. Ven te mostraré tu primer trabajo.” ( Paco, I am Cipriano. Come, I will show you your first job.) Cipriano said. “ Las bisagras de las puertas del granero deben reemplazarse. Cuando haya terminado con eso, puede descargar el vagón de heno adentro. ¿Puedes hacer eso?”( The hinges on the barn doors need replaced. When you are finished with that, you can unload the wagon of hay inside. Can you do that? )
“ Si, puedo hacer el trabajo. Es una estancia impersionante que tiene aquí tu patrón.” ( Yes, I can do the job. It is an impressive estancia your boss has here.) Mundez said.
“ El señor Lancer ha pasado muchos años y mucho trabajo para hacer de Lancer lo que es ahora. Hay un vagón con todas las herramientas y la madera que necesitará al lado del granero. Se le pagará un dólar al día, con los domingos libres. El trabajo es de sol a sol. Como trabajará aquí cerca de la casa, puede almorzar en el barracón. Consuela cocina para las manos seis días ala semana. Estás solo los domingos para cocinar. Anímate y empieza, ella tocará el timbre de la cena cuando sea la hora de comer.” ( Mister Lancer has spent many years, and a lot of hard work making Lancer what it is now. There is a wagon with all the tools and lumber you will need at the side of the barn. You will be paid a dollar a day, with Sunday off. Work is from sun-up to sundown. Since you will be working here close to the house, you can have lunch in the bunkhouse. Consuela does the cooking for the hands six days a week. You are on your own on Sundays for cooking. Go ahead and get started, she will ring the dinner bell when it is time to eat. )
Mundez walked over to the wagon, and removed his gun belt. “ I could not have a better opportunity to kill you Madrid, and I will kill you in front of your family.” he said as he grabbed the tools he would need to start removing the old roof boards.
Murdoch stopped his horse on top of the hill. “ There it is son. As far as the eyes can see, Lancer.”
“ From here, all the way to those mountains in the distance little brother.” Scott added.
Johnny looked at the valley below. Rolling hills with huge oak trees and tall golden grass waving in the breeze. Numerous corrals with horses, and cattle in them. A huge barn with several smaller ones.
“ The main house is on the left there.” Murdoch said. “ One hundred thousand acres, twenty thousand head of beef, and the finest Capanero de Palomino’s in the San Joaquin. I’ve got a gray hair for every good blade of grass you see down there.”
“ It’s impressive.” Johnny said.
“ Let’s go home boys.” Murdoch said as he started down the road that would take them to the house. A bell could be heard ringing as they got closer to the house.
Looking, Johnny spotted a man waving his arms and yelling to others of their arrival.
“ What’s with the guard in the tower?” Johnny asked.
“ The view from up there allows us to keep watch for any possible trouble coming.” Scott responded.
“ Guess there’s no mistaking what ranch we’re at.” Johnny said as they rode under the huge Lancer arch with the Lancer name. “ That the property line?”
“ One of them yes.” Murdoch said. “ Scott can start showing you around the ranch in a day or so.”
“ In other words brother, you have a couple days before he starts having you work.” Scott said.
“ Can I ask, what work you’ve done on a ranch?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’ve rounded up and moved cattle.” Johnny said.
“ Here you’ll be mending fences, castrating calves, clearing stream beds, moving herds from one pasture to another, pulling cows out of sand traps, and mud holes.” Scott said.
“ Sounds like a long day of work.” Johnny said.
“ Long, and dirty brother. Long and dirty. I’ve been so tired at times, It was all I could do to stay awake to eat.” he said.
“ Supper is at six o’clock sharp every night. Breakfast is between five and six every morning except Sunday.” Murdoch said as they rode into the yard.
“ Welcome home Jefe.” Cipriano said as he walked over. “ Senor Scott, it is good to see you.”
“Hello Cipriano, it’s good to see you as well.” Scott said.
“ Climb on down son.” Murdoch said as he handed his horse off to a hand. “Cipriano is my segundo.”
Johnny hesitated to dismount. Something just didn’t feel right. He just couldn’t figure out what. Every fiber of his being was telling him to be on guard, that something was wrong, something, or someone posed an imminent danger to him, and his family.
“ You alright Johnny?” Scott asked as he walked over. He could see his brothers eyes were scanning every inch of the yard.
“ John, you have nothing to worry about here.” Murdoch said. “ Climb on down.”
Johnny finally dismounted, and shook Cipriano’s hand.
“ You are the infamous pistolero Johnny Madrid?” Cipriano said. “ I have heard of you. My people worship you. They call you their Patrona.” ( Patron Saint.)
“ Been called a lot of things, but never a Patrona.” Johnny said softly.
“ Let’s go inside.” Murdoch said as he turned and headed toward the house.
Walking into the house, Johnny was a little surprised at what he seen in the room. One wall was nothing but books from the floor to the ceiling. In front of it was a huge table and chairs, one at each end with three chairs down each side. Two chairs sat facing a sideboard with beautiful crystal decanters filled with various liquors. A couch placed behind the sideboard faced a wall with two blue chairs across from it, with a table in between. To his right he seen a huge beautifully made desk placed in front of a huge bay window. Different patterned rugs were placed on the floor. A grandfather clock sat next to the veranda doors with a huge ship sitting on a table next to it. In the far right corner was a huge fireplace with what he assumed to be the Lancer L in a circle above it. On the wall next to the fireplace was a map of Lancer. Walking over to it, he could see it contained roads, streams, ponds, and a river that runs thru the property.
“ Care for a drink son?” Murdoch asked as he walked over to the sideboard.
“ This all of it?” Johnny asked as he looked at the map.
“ That’s how Lancer was when I bought it. I need to have surveying done and do an updated one, but it’s almost the same.” Murdoch said as he poured three shots of whiskey.
Johnny walked over and took the drink. “ Thanks. Just how big is this house?”
“ It’s big brother. Upstairs there are ten bedrooms, and downstairs, thru that door you will find four more bedrooms. That is also how to get to the kitchen, unless you come down the back stairs.” Scott explained.
“ Why so many bedrooms?” he asked.
“ It was built by the Spaniards. Out in the one small barn, you will find the only jail cell in the county.” Murdoch responded.
“ An odd place for a jail cell.” Johnny said. “ There any law around?”
“ We have a sheriff in Green River, elected by the cattleman’s association. Super will be ready in a couple hours. Scott, why don’t you take your brother upstairs and show him his bedroom.” Murdoch suggested.
Johnny came downstairs, and walked into the grand room. Sitting down across from his brother.
“ So what’s the plan?” he asked.
“ The plan?”
“ For me. What you want me doing?” Johnny asked.
Murdoch glanced at Scott, and smiled. “ You don’t have to start working right away son. You can take a couple days and see the ranch.”
“ I figure I’ll see it when working. I have a lot of it memorized from the map.
“ Alright, your brother is going to take you to South Mesa. River Creek and Green Creek need cleaned out before the rains start again. I want you to take a look at the line-shack while there. See if the roof is okay.”
“ Now that’s a plan.” Johnny said as he scooped up some eggs, bacon, and a couple biscuits.
“ Where do you put it Johnny?” Scott asked. “ I have never seen anyone able to pack away the food like you can.
“ Paco, necesito que vayas con Walt, y lleves este vagón de suministros a la choza de la línea de South Mesa. Descárgalo y trae el carro de regreso.” ( Paco, I need you too go with Walt, and take this wagon of supplies to the South Mesa line-shack. Unload it, and bring the wagon back.) Cipriano said. “ Walt, check and see if señors Scott or Johnny need anything before you come back.”
“ They working out there?” Walt asked as he climbed up in the wagon.
“ They are clearing out where the two creeks come together.” Cipriano responded.
“ That spot always floods when we get a lot of rain.” Walt said.
“ Maybe you should try widening it?’ Mundez asked.
“ That would take many hours of hard work, and men we cannot spare to do the job. Go and deliver the supplies so you can come back.” Cipriano said.
“ How about some lunch brother?” Scott asked.
“ Did you bring something?” Johnny asked.
“ No, but we can get something from the line-shack. It’s about a mile downstream.” Scott responded as they headed to their horses. “ I believe Cipriano was having supplies brought up today.”
“ Do you like it?” Johnny asked as he mounted up.
“ Working long dirty, sometimes frustrating hours. At first no, but as the days past, I’ve grown accustomed to it I guess you could say.” Scott said. “ Cipriano helped me learn how to rope. The first time I went out to mend fence-line, forgot my gloves, and instead of riding all the way back to get them, I decided to try working without. Boy was that ever a mistake I learned real fast.”
“ Yeah, barbed wire has a nasty bite.” Johnny said. “ I’ve noticed something you do with those gloves Boston, something that could get you killed.”
“ What’s that?” he asked as they neared the shack.
“ You put them on your gun instead of tucking them into your pocket, or belt.” Johnny said.
“ But I’m not a gunfighter brother.” Scott said.
“ Don’t matter. Say a loco cow comes charging at ya out of the brush, you have a couple seconds before she’s on ya. Those gloves can cost you your life.” Johnny explained.
“ I never thought of it like that brother. Thank you. I will remember that.” Scott said as they rode up to the line-shack as Walt walked outside.
“ Scott, welcome home.” Walt said.
“ Thanks. Walt, this is my little brother Johnny.” Scott responded.
“ So you’re the long lost son? I have to say, the boss was so happy when he learned you had finally been found.” Walt said as he shook Johnny’s hand.
“ You bring the wagon here alone?” Scott asked.
“ No, Paco came with me. I don’t know where he got off to though.” Walt said.
“ Paco?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah,a new guy Cipriano hired to do the odd jobs around the house, and yard. I think his name is Paco Mundez.” Walt responded.
Johnny’s head shot up. “ What name did you say?”
“ Paco Mundez, why, you know him?” Walt asked.
“ He in his late thirties, maybe early forties, and have a small scar above his left eye?” Johnny asked.
“ Yeah, why?” Walt asked.
“ Get down.” Johnny ordered as he and Scott dropped down behind the wagon.
“ We need to get inside the cabin.” Scott said as he pulled his rifle.
“ You and Walt go inside and cover me.” Johnny ordered.
“ What the hell is he doing clear up here?” Scott asked.
“ You can ask him that before I kill the sonofabitch.” Johnny said.
“ Would one of you tell me what the hell is going on?” Walt demanded.
“ Paco Mundez, is Captain Mundez from Puerto Peñasco prison. He’s a Rurale hell bent on killing my brother.” Scott said. “ Inside.”
“ Kill your brother, why?” Walt asked as they went inside the line-shack.
“ Because I’m Johnny Madrid.” Johnny said as he started toward the shack door when a bullet slammed into his back left shoulder.
“ Johnny!” Scott yelled as he went to the door, but was stopped by a bullet splintering the door frame near his head. “ Walt, do you see where he’s at?”
“ In the trees about three hundred feet out.” Walt said.
Mundez knew it wouldn’t be long and more hands would be showing up. Seeing one of the horses close to him, he made his way to it, mounted up, and rode off.
“ Mister Lancer………..look!” Frank yelled as he pointed to a wagon coming toward them at a full gallop.
Murdoch was in the yard talking to Cipriano, when Frank yelled. Turning, he seen a wagon approaching at a gallop. His heart sank when he seen Scott in the back, and knew something was wrong. “ How bad is it?” he demanded as he ran to the wagon as Walt pulled up outside the front door.
“ He was shot in the back. The bullet is in his left shoulder.” Scott said.
“ Frank, send someone to get Sam. Let’s get him inside.” Murdoch ordered.
“ I can make it.” Johnny said as he scooted to the back of the wagon, and got down, only to pass out as his brother scooped him up, and carried him inside.
Sam showed up an hour later, running everyone except Maria out of the room to help him.
“ Who shot him?” Murdoch demanded as he walked into the grand room.
“ It was Mundez.” Scott said.
“ Mundez, Paco Mundez shot señor Johnny?” Cipriano asked.
“ You know him?” Scott asked.
“ Si, I hired him a couple days ago to do some odd jobs. He rode in looking for work, and I figured since we were stretched thin, he could do some work needing done around here. I did not know he came here to kill Johnny.” Cipriano said. “ Who is this man?” he asked as they helped Johnny upstairs.
“ He ran the prison in Mexico.” Murdoch responded. “ What the devil is he doing here?”
“ Señor Lancer, I did not know.” Cipriano said.
“ It’s alright. You had no way of knowing.” Murdoch responded.
“ You say you hired him a couple days before we got here?” Scott asked.
“ Si. If I had known, I……….”
“ It’s alright. The man is hell bent to kill Johnny. Nobody blames you for this Cipriano.” Murdoch cut in.
“ He had to have been following us.” Scott suggested.
“ But we never said anything to the man about Lancer. How the devil did he know?” Murdoch asked.
“ The Lancer name is well known in California señor. If he knew your last name, all he would have to do is ask in a town, and come here.” Cipriano said as Frank, and Walt came in.
“ How’s Johnny doing?” Walt asked.
“ Sam’s up there removing the bullet now.” Scott said.
“ We followed his trail to the San Benito’s, but lost it in the rocks.” Walt said.
Sam came downstairs two hours later. “ Would someone mind telling me who that young man is I just dug a bullet out of upstairs?”
“ My brother.” Scott said.
“ Your brother?” Sam asked shocked.
“ Sam, that’s Johnny, my son.” Murdoch said. “ Will he be alright?”
“ Yes. He was lucky the bullet didn’t enter very deep. If he had been shot with a rifle, and not a pistol, he would be dead right now.” Sam explained. “ As it is, he’s not going to be able to use that arm for some time.”
“ Can I see him?” Scott asked.
“ Yes, make sure he stays in bed.” Sam responded.
“ He’s awake?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes, He was awake the whole time I removed the bullet. He refused anything for the pain. I left a bottle of laudanum on the bedside table, but he insist he doesn’t need it.” Sam said. “ Murdoch, I’ve known you a long time. Almost thirty years, and not once did you ever mention to me that you had another son.”
“ If you will excuse me. I’ll go sit with my brother.” Scott said as he headed to the stairs.
“ Let’s go in the kitchen, and get you some coffee.” Murdoch said.
“ I don’t remember Catherine having a second child.” Sam said as they walked into the kitchen.
“She didn’t. I met Johnny’s mother down in Matamoros.” Murdoch said as he poured two cups of coffee. “ She was a thing of beauty Sam. I never meant for it to happen, but it did. I was with Maria just one night. I didn’t know until she showed up here four years later with Johnny, that I had got her with child.”
“ Wait, you mean that little boy that was always playing with Scott……..”
“ Yes. Catherine figured it out, and the only thing I can figure out that makes any sense is, Maria heard us fighting. She packed up, and left in the middle of the night. After Catherine died, I hired Pinkerton’s to search for Maria, and Johnny. A few months back, Johnny was located in a prison in Mexico, me and Scott went there, and brought him home.” Murdoch explained.
“ That would explain the horrible scars on that boys body. He has whip marks that are not that old.” Sam said.
“ His life has been rough Sam. Maria died when he was only ten, and for a…………. for someone like Johnny, life in Mexico can be brutal. The man who shot him, Paco Mundez, is the Captain of the prison, or he was. The man has vowed to kill my son at any and all cost. This is the second time he has ambushed Johnny.”
“ So this Mundez came all the way here from Mexico just to kill Johnny?” Sam asked.
“ Yes.” Murdoch responded.
“Why?” Sam asked.
“ Because of who he is, and what he’s done.” Murdoch responded.
“ Who he is? You said he’s your son.” Sam said with a confused look.
“ He is, but for now his last name isn’t Lancer Sam. I was never married to his mother. Johnny’s last name is Madrid.” he explained.
“ Madrid………..Are you telling me that that boy up there……..your son is Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter?”
“ That’s exactly what I’m saying Sam. He became Madrid to stop the horrible abuse he was receiving, especially after his mother died. He gave me his word he would try living here as my son for a year. At the end of that year, if he doesn’t want to stay, he can leave. Me and Scott offered him a third of this ranch, and hope he accepts.” Murdoch explained.
Johnny opened his eyes and found his father sitting in the chair next to the bed. Not knowing how long it had been since he was shot, he looked toward his window, and could tell it was dark outside.
“ How long I been out?” he asked softly.
Murdoch raised his head up, and looked at his son. “ Two days. Let me get you some water.”
“ I don’t want no laudanum.” Johnny said.
“ It’s just water son.” Murdoch said as he poured a glass, and helped him drink.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said. “ Who shot me?”
“ Don’t worry about that right now son. Sam said you will be alright, but will need time for your shoulder to heal up.” he responded as he set the glass down.
“ I asked you a question!” Johnny said. “ I’ll find out who it was sooner or later. So you might as well tell me.”
Murdoch sat back in the chair. “ It was Mundez who shot you son. He came to work here a couple days before we got home. Cipriano didn’t know who he was when he hired him to do some odd jobs around the place.”
“ Paco Mundez, from Puerto Peñasco prison shot me?” he asked. “ Is he dead?”
“ Yes, and no. He stole your horse and got away. They tracked him to the river where they lost his tracks.” Murdoch responded.
“ That sonofabitch came all the way here to try and kill me again?” Johnny asked with anger.
“ Calm down son.” Murdoch said.
“ To hell with calming down old man. He won’t stop until one of us is dead. I told you this would happen if I came here!”
“ John, I won’t have that kind of language used in this house. Now calm down. The law will handle it.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ The law…….The law won’t be able to stop him. Only I can.” he said with anger.
“ I will not permit you to go after this man. The law will handle it. This isn’t Mexico son.”
“ Get out. Get the hell out of here.” Johnny ordered as Scott opened the door, and walked into the room.
“ I thought I heard voices.” Scott said.
“ I mean it. Get out……….now!” Johnny said again with anger.
Murdoch stood up, and started to the door. “ I’m not going to allow you to do this Johnny.” he said before walking out.
“ I take it he told you who shot you?” Scott asked. “ I’m sorry he got away brother.”
“ He didn’t get away Scott. He won’t stop until I’m dead. He’s still here.” Johnny said.
Johnny talked to Scott some before and after work, but avoided his father mostly by staying in his room. He knew he shouldn’t be mad at the man, but at the same time knew this would happen if he came here. It didn’t matter if it was Mundez, or someone else, as long as Johnny Madrid was alive, someone would come, and try and kill him. Being called out, he could handle because most of the time he could tell when the other person was going to draw, but being hunted, and ambushed, not once, but twice by a man so full of hatred was something he couldn’t stand. If the old man thought he was going to just stand by and wait for Mundez to try and kill him again, he would be in for a big surprise. He knew the man was still close, and probably knew by now he was still alive. He hated doing it, especially to his brother, but Johnny knew he was the only one who could find, and kill Mundez. Finishing the letter, and placing it on his bed, he picked up his saddlebags, and walked over to the door. Opening his his bedroom door, he looked out in the hall. Seeing no light coming from under his father’s bedroom door, he stepped out, and closed the door. He knew he gave his word he would give it a year, but having only been at Lancer a day, and having someone shoot him changed that. He couldn’t have his father and brother put at risk of being killed because of him.
Fifteen minutes later, Johnny walked a horse out of the barn, and mounted up. Looking at the big house one last time, filled with emotions he’d never really felt before, he rode away from the only place he had a chance of calling home.
“ Time to wake up brother.” Scott said as he opened Johnny’s bedroom door, and found the room empty. His bed still made. Seeing the paper on the bed, Scott walked over, picked it up, and began to read.
Scott, don’t try and find me because you won’t. I have to do this. Mundez won’t stop until one of us is dead. I can’t risk having the man kill you or Murdoch because of me. I’m sorry to leave like this, I know I gave my word to you, Murdoch, and Sebastián that I would give it a year, I just didn’t figure a man filled with so much hatred would come here to kill me. I could accept someone calling me out, but Mundez is brutal, and he won’t stop until one of us is dead. It was good getting to know you, and Murdoch. Take care of him for me. Even though he’s a bear sometimes, he’s an alright man. I wished growing up to have a family, I guess it just isn’t in my deck of cards to have one, to be wanted. It’s like I said that night, men like me are fallen angels, brought down to hell. Men beyond redemption. Men like me don’t deserve to have what you have here at Lancer. I sealed my fate brother the day I strapped on a gun, and started living by it. Take care Boston.
Scott walked over to the window, and looked out at the first rays of sun showing in the distance. He knew when he showed Murdoch the letter, the man would most likely explode with anger. Shaking his head, and letting out a sigh, Scott turned and headed downstairs.
Murdoch sat at the table drinking a cup of coffee when Scott walked into the kitchen. “ Your brother awake?” he asked.
“ He’s gone.” Scott responded as he gave him the letter to read.
Murdoch took the letter and read it. Putting the letter on the table when he finished reading it. “ I don’t understand that boy. He’s not alone anymore. He has people who care about him, love him. Why in god’s name would he be so thoughtless, so careless to go off after Mundez alone? His wound isn’t healed up yet. What the devil was that boy thinking?’
“ That’s pretty obvious with what he wrote.” Scott said.
“ He’s immature, and irresponsible. Just like his mother was.” Murdoch said with anger. “ Sneaking off in the middle of the night like a coward.”
“ Is he now!” Scott said. “ My brother is not a coward, and as I recall, it was you who were unfaithful to my mother. It was you who created Johnny out of wedlock, and then had the audacity to allow her to live in this house, and not say anything to my mother. She had to find out on her own about your little adventure in Matamoros.”
“ That will be enough.” Murdoch ordered as he stood up.
“ Why, because you know I’m right? Because for once, the mighty Murdoch Lancer can’t call the tune on this one. My brother has paid for your mistake his whole life. Tell me, how irresponsible is that? How immature is he being when he’s just trying to keep anything from happening to two men he only met a couple months ago?” Scott said with anger.
“ I’m going after my brother.” Scott said.
“ You’ll never find him son. Johnny is a long ways away from here by now. He’s got at least a six hour head-start on you.”
“ That may be, but he said something that night he ordered you out of his room. Mundez is still here. Why would he ride all this way from Mexico, just to run. No, he knows Johnny is still alive. He’s still around waiting to ambush my little brother again.” Scott responded before heading upstairs to grab his saddlebags.
Johnny dismounted at Twin Rapids bridge four days later, and walked along the edge of the bank looking for tracks. It didn’t take him long to find where Frank said Mundez went into the river. Downriver, the water would be way to swift for a horse to swim, and upriver half a mile it was too rocky. Standing there looking at the tracks that went into the water, he seen what Mundez had done. A trick Johnny himself had learned a few years back when tracking cattle rustlers. A trick that had almost cost him his life. Mundez had entered the water, but come right back out after going out about twenty feet or so. Mounting up, Johnny followed the tracks away from the river. Remembering an old, abandoned way-station two hours ride south, the same direction Mundez’ tracks were headed. He couldn’t fault Frank for not finding the man’s tracks after he had crossed Wolf Creek, after all, he man was a cowhand, not a tracker. He knew Mundez was working his way back toward Lancer, and would possibly hold up for the night at the abandoned way station to give his horse a rest.
Scott rode into McCalls Crossing. His gut told him his brother was close. Stopping at the livery stable, he dismounted, and looked around.
“ Can I help you friend?” the blacksmith asked.
“ I’m looking for someone. They may have rode thru in the last four days or so.” Scott said.
“ You’re the first stranger to pass thru in a long time.” the man said.
“ He’d be younger than me, dark haired. He’s tracking another man, a Mexican.” Scott explained.
“ No. Nobody fitting that descriptions been thru here.” he said.
“ It looks pretty dried up. What do the people do around here?” he asked.
“ Mostly farming, but like you said, it’s pretty dried up. The land ain’t none to good anymore.” the blacksmith said.
Scott checked his cinch, and mounted up. “ I thank you for your time sir.”
“ If’n I should see this fella you’re looking for, you got a message you want me to tell him?” he asked.
“ He’s my brother. Tell him Lancer takes care of its own.” Scott said.
“ Lancer, you mean that big ranch outside Morro Coyo?” the man asked.
“ I do. I’m Scott Lancer. The man I’m looking for is my younger brother, Johnny.” Scott responded.
“ I’ll be sure and tell him if I see him friend.” he said.
Scott rode out of McCalls Crossing, headed northeast. He figured he would make a circle back thru Cedar Canyon before heading back toward Lancer.
Johnny rode into Cedar Canyon two days later late morning. He had a feeling Mundez would double back toward Lancer. He just couldn’t figure out why the man was doing what he was doing. Why if he wanted to kill him was he playing a game of cat and mouse.
“ Hey mestizo, I can kill you right now!” Mundez yelled. “ Get off your horse, and step away from him!”
Johnny stopped his horse, but didn’t dismount. “ Come on out and face me you back shooting bastard!” he yelled right before a shot rang out, and his horse screamed out in pain, dropping to the ground from a bullet to it’s chest. Johnny kicked his feet free, and was able to roll away from the horse as it went down. Pain shooting thru his left shoulder as he hit the ground.
“ I see you still do not follow orders very well mestizo!” Mundez yelled. “ It is because of you I shoot your horse. Now I think I will kill you!”
“ Come on out and face me. Or are you not man enough?” Johnny yelled.
Mundez stepped out from the boulders with the rifle aimed at Johnny. “ I am more of a man than you will ever be mestizo.”
“ I doubt that. A real man would have faced me. You, you’re nothing but a filthy coward who likes to go around shooting someone in the back.” Johnny said.
“ I don’t know why you are still alive. I see from the way your left arm is, the wound it is not healed up yet. Killing you I will be putting you out of your misery.” Mundez said before pulling the trigger.
Johnny seen the rifle barrel move just enough, he knew Mundez was going to shoot. Drawing his colt, and firing as a bullet sliced thru his lower right side, causing him to spin to his right, into the wound.
Mundez felt the bullet enter his chest as he fired. Chambering another round into the rifle, he brought the rifle up, and fired again, hitting Madrid a second time in his upper left leg.
Johnny felt the bullet tear into his left thigh, as he turned to fire, causing him to fall.
“ I’m killing you mestizo!” Mundez spat as blood started to run from his mouth, as he dropped to his knees. Lowering his right hand to his pistol, bringing it out as he watch Madrid stand back up, and start limping toward him. Raising the pistol, he fired, hitting Madrid again.
Johnny cocked his colt as he limped over to Mundez, and felt the third bullet tear thru flesh along his ribs. Aiming, he fired, hitting the man again in his chest. “ That’s for shooting me in the back you sonofabitch.” he said as he cocked the colt again. “ This is for all the pain you ever caused me.” he spat as he aimed, and pulled the trigger, putting a bullet between Mundez’ eyes.
Johnny stood there glaring at the now still form of a man he hated more than anything. A man who took pride in torturing not only him, but other prisoners as well. Knowing he wouldn’t last long without help, or a horse. Johnny started limping toward the boulders Mundez came out of to see if his horse was there. Finding the animal tied to some scrub brush, he limped over, and after three tries, finally made it in the saddle. He knew the closest place to get help would be Lancer, but it was a days ride from Cedar Canyon he figured. Then he remembered when he looked at the map on the wall, of a line-shack somewhere not far from him in the canyon.
Scott saddled his horse as the sun started to show the first rays of light. A coyote yapped in the distance as he tightened his cinch. He couldn’t explain it, but sometime in the early hours of morning he woke to a bad feeling. A feeling his brother was in serious trouble, and needed him. Walking over to make sure his fire was out completely he looked up at the sky, and said a silent prayer that the feeling he had was wrong.
Three hours later, Scott stopped his horse, and looked at a Lancer horse lying dead in the canyon. Over to his left two hundred feet away, Mundez lay with his chest covered in dried blood, and a bullet hole between his eyes. Looking around on the ground, Scott seen a blood trail and started to follow it.
“ You better not be dead little brother.” he said softly.
After thirty minutes he kicked his horse into a gallop. He knew where his brother went. He just prayed he would still be alive when he got there.
Johnny lay on the bed in the shack, his knife in his hand. He knew he had to dig the bullet out of his leg and cauterize the wound before he bled to death. Every breath he too hurt like hell from the wound on his side. The other wound, he knew he would have to have a doctor dig that one out. Trouble was, he might not live to have it done. Sitting up, he slowly brought his legs over the side of the cot and stood up. Limping over to the stove, he opened the door, and stuck the blade of the knife down in the hot embers. Hobbling over to the saddlebags, he checked and found a shirt and bandages were inside.
“No chance of you having some tequila in there brother.” he said as he hobbled back over to the stove, removed the knife, it’s blade now glowing red, and went back to the bed. Removing his pants, Johnny sat down, took several deep breaths, stuck a piece of wood in his mouth, and pressed the blade of the knife to the wound, holding it there for several seconds before the pain became to unbearable, and he screamed before passing out.
Scott rode up to the Cedar Canyon line-shack, seeing the horse Mundez stole tied up outside, he dismounted just as he heard a scream coming from inside the shack. Running to the door, ad opening it, Scott found his brother laying on the cot with his bare legs hanging over the side. He could see blood on Johnny’s left thigh, and were it had run down his leg. A knife was laying on the floor next to the cot. It was then Scott knew what his brother had just done to himself.
“ Johnny.” Scott said as he walked over to see if he was still alive. Looking around the shack, he found a pan to boil water in, got that going, and went out to grab his saddlebags. Hurrying back inside, Scott picked up his brothers legs, and put them on the cot so he could bandage the wound, and noticed blood from another bullet thru his right side, and where one had grazed his ribs on the left side, possibly fracturing a rib. “ Don’t you die on me little brother.” he said as he started cleaning the wounds, grateful there were no bullets needing removed.
“ Damn brother, you need Sam, I can’t leave you, and you can’t ride. I’ll rig up a travois to get you back to Lancer as soon as the sun comes up, because if we stay here, you will die. I don’t have enough bandages, and this place isn’t very clean.” Scott said the next morning.” Scott said as he wiped his brother’s forehead.
Johnny moaned, and opened his eyes. “ Scott?” he said softly.
“ Yeah it’s me brother. You hang on. I’m going to get you home and taken care of.” Scott said.
“ Not wan……ted.” Johnny said before he lost consciousness again.
“ That’s where you are wrong little brother. You are wanted more than you will ever know.” he said.
Scott rode up to the front door of Lancer. “ Murdoch, I need help out here!” he yelled as he dismounted and went to Johnny.
Murdoch rushed outside, unprepared for what he seen.
“ Frank, send someone for Sam. Tell him to hurry. Johnny needs him now.” Scott ordered as he felt his brothers forehead.
“ What happened son?” Murdoch asked as he picked Johnny up, and carried him inside.
“ He found Mundez, in Cedar Canyon. He’s been shot in his upper left thigh, a bullet tore thru his lower right side, and another one put a deep gash along his ribs. I found him at the line-shack there.” Scott responded as they settled Johnny in his bed, and started removing his clothes. “ He’s had a fever since early this morning. I did the best I could or him with what I had.”
Murdoch noticed the wound on his leg. “ What on………..Did you do this son?’ he asked.
“ No, Johnny cauterized it right before I got there. He’s been unconscious out ever since. I don’t think I will ever forget his scream.” Scott said.
Murdoch looked at his son. “ Johnny did this………..Oh my god.”
Sam walked into the room, and found Murdoch, and Scott tending to Johnny. “ How bad is it?” he asked.
“ He was shot three times Sam. His leg, side and along his ribs. None of the bullets are still in him.” Scott said.
“ I don’t like the looks of his leg.” Murdoch said.
“ Murdoch, go have Maria heat me up some water. Scott start removing the bandage on his leg so I can see what we have.” Sam ordered.
Scott removed the bandage and looked at the red ugliness of the wound.
Sam put on his glasses as he sat down on the side of the bed. “ Did you cauterize this wound?”
“ No, Johnny did.” Scott said.
“ It’s infected. I’m going to have to open it up again, and clean it out. We need to get the infection out of there so he doesn’t lose the leg.” Sam said as Murdoch walked back in the room carrying hot water, followed by Maria with more bandages. “ We’ll take care of the other wounds after we clean this one out. Was the entry wound bleeding when you found him Scott?”
Yes, but not bad.” Scott responded.
“ Murdoch, he’s not going to like me cutting that wound open, and may come too when I start flushing it out with carbolic acid. I want you to sit next to him on the bed, and be ready to hold him down. Scott, I want you to tie his feet to the bed to keep him from moving his legs. Even though it’s just the one leg, he may kick out with the other in response to the pain.” Sam instructed.
Three hours later Sam dried his hands. “ I don’t think he has a fractured rib from the one wound, The wound in his side didn’t hit anything vital. It’s the leg wound that has me concerned. If his fever doesn’t start coming down, or the redness spreads, I’ll have to remove the leg”
“ How long until you know?” Murdoch asked.
“ I should know by tonight.” Sam said. “ I noticed his left shoulder, the scar is torn a little. Did he take a hard fall recently?”
“ His horse was shot, so he probably landed on it when the horse fell.” Scott said.
“ How long will the tube have to be in him Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“ Until he wakes up at least. It’s the only way we will be able to get water down him to help replenish the blood he lost.” he said.
Scott sat next to his brother reading a book like he had been doing the last five days. Two days after Sam cleaned the wounds, his fever finally started to go down. The redness around the wound in his leg slowly subsided, much to the relief of all three men. The black tube was still inserted in his nose to allow water to be given. Closing the book, and standing up to stretch his sore back muscles, Scott walked over to the window. Hearing a slight moan, he turned back around, and found a set of blue eyes looking back at him.
“ I was beginning to wonder when you were going to open your eyes little brother.” he said as he walked over, and sat down on the bed next to Johnny.
“ S…c…ott.” Johnny said barely above a whisper.
“ It’s me little brother.” Scott said.
Johnny could feel something on his face that ran down the right side. Reaching up, he took hold of the tube.
“ Whoa, leave that in Johnny. Sam had to put a tube in you so we could get water into you. You lost a lot of blood, and had a bad fever from infection.” Scott ordered as he took hold of Johnny’s hand to stop him from pulling the tube out. “ Sam will be here shortly. It’s up to him when it comes out.”
Johnny took his left hand and tried to pull the tube out. “ My body, don’t want this thing.”
“ Johnny stop. Don’t make me have to tie you up. Leave the tube in.” Scott ordered as the door opened and Murdoch walked into the room, followed by Sam.
“ Well, I see my patient is awake finally.” Sam said as he walked over, and set his bag down.
“ I’m afraid he is trying to pull the tube out Sam.” Scott said.
“ I figured as much. Would the two of you leave us please? I want to have some time alone with my patient.”
“ Do you think that’s wise Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’ll be fine. Now go, leave us.” Sam responded.
Johnny glared at the doctor as they left the room. “ Take this out of me now.” he ordered.
“ Young man, you were knocking on deaths door five days ago. If not for me and your brother, you would be dead right now. So I would appreciate some courtesy, and manners. You are in no position to be ordering me around.” Sam ordered.
Johnny became silent as he looked toward the window.
“ Let’s see how this leg wound looks.” Sam said as he move the covers so he could get to the wound. “ You want to tell me why you cauterized this wound?”
“ Only way I had to stop the bleeding. Done it before.” Johnny said.
“ Uh huh. That’s a considerable amount of pain to put yourself thru young man. Scott told me you were unconscious when he found you. Young man, as your doctor, I’m going to give you a piece of friendly advice. Now I don’t know a lot about you, or the life you’ve lead, but I gather it has not been a good one considering the scars on your body. Your body can take only so much. You might want to rethink your line of profession, and find something that doesn’t get you shot up.” Sam said as he unwrapped the leg wound. “ Murdoch, and Scott said they offered you a chance to own a third of this ranch. Have you given that any thought at all?”
Johnny just looked at Sam. He didn’t know this man, and was never comfortable talking to a stranger.
“ John, I promise you that whatever is discussed between us, stays between us. It’s like with a lawyer and his client, doctor, patient confidentiality. It will go no further than this room.” Sam said.
“ He won’t want me here. Hell doc, I was only here a day and someone tried to kill me. All I will do is bring trouble to them if I stay here.” Johnny said.
“ I’ve known your father thirty years. He’s a good, decent man. He does have a temper. I think that’s the Scottish part of him, but I do know he loves both his sons. Scott hasn’t been back here that long. They are still getting to know each other. Why don’t you give him a chance to get to know you, and you to know him?”
“ It won’t work Doc. The first time Scott is put in danger because of me, he will want me to leave.” Johnny said.
“ Let’s get you sitting up so I can check those other two wounds.” Sam ordered. “ You sound pretty sure about knowing how he would react, yet you hardly know the man.”
Johnny held his breath as Sam helped him to sit up.” I know him. He’s no different than anyone else I’ve dealt with in my past. Men I hire out to, they want me around, but only until the job is done, then it’s get lost half-breed.”
“ Well, let me ask you this then. Do you want to quite living by that gun, or do you want to live a life you deserve as a brother and son?” Sam asked.
“ All I want is to be wanted doc. Wanted for something besides my gun arm.” he said softly.
“ Then I suggest you meet Scott, and Murdoch halfway. Give them the chance to get to know you, and you to know them. John, there is no greater love than the love of a family. Something I think you young man have not had any of since losing your mother all those years ago.”
For three weeks Johnny stayed in bed in his room sitting at the table, or in bed thinking about what his life had for him ahead. A life as a gunfighter he already knew would end only one way, but the life of a brother, and son, what did that hold for him in the future? Could he be the son his father wanted? Could the people of the valley accept the bastard son of a prominent rancher, especially one with a past like he has. His last name alone, Madrid, would most likely make him not welcome. His mother having never been married to his father, he would always be a bastard child. The bastard child known as Johnny Madrid, and never as the son Johnny Lancer. He had no right to take the Lancer name as his in his way of thinking.
“ To not hear me knock, or open the door, you must be lost in serious thought brother?” Scott said as he walked in with a tray of food.
“ Sorry.” Johnny said softly.
“ No apology necessary. I thought I would eat supper up here with you tonight.” Scott responded as he set the tray down on the table.
“ Sam said he would release me to go downstairs soon.” He said. “ I never thanked you for saving my life Boston, thank you.”
“ Anytime brother. Just try not to make a habit of it.” Scott said with a smile. “ I think Maria is trying to fatten you up.”
“ Yeah, it looks like she is.” Johnny said with a slight laugh.
“ I have a feeling I know what’s been on your mind these past few weeks brother. Want to talk about it? I’m a great listener, and whatever you say will stay between us. I give you my word on that.”
“ It’s simple Scott, I’m his bastard child. I don’t have a right to the Lancer name, or anything Lancer. The people in this valley are going to know who I am, and they are not going to want me here.” Johnny said as he picked at his pot roast dinner.
“ Sounds to me like you have a conundrum little brother.”
Johnny looked at his brother. “ I have a……..what the fuck is a conundrum?”
Scott laughed. “ A decision that only you can make. It’s a sometimes confusing and difficult problem or question you are faced with that only you can solve.” he explained.
“ You learn that fancy word back in that fancy college you went to?” he asked.
“ As a matter of fact I did.” Scott said. ‘ Listen, I can’t tell you what to do brother. All I can do is offer my support, and any help you may need in reaching a decision.”
“ To my conundrum?” Johnny asked with a smile.
“ Yes. To your conundrum brother.” he said. “ You said something at the line-hack. You regained consciousness for just a minute. You said you are not wanted. Little brother, I am going to tell you that you are wrong in thinking that. I want you. I have always wanted you as my brother. It didn’t just hurt Murdoch when your mother left. It hurt me as well. You don’t remember how happy I was to learn that you were my brother all those years ago. I want you to stay. I want us to get to know each other better. I want us to be a family. You said you would give it a year, but something tells me that because of what happened with Mundez, you want to leave as soon as Sam clears you. I hope to hell I’m wrong, because I don’t want to lose you again.”
“ And how’s he going to feel if someone calls me out and it gets you hurt Scott?” Johnny demanded. “ I’ll tell you how he will feel. He will order me to leave this ranch. You’re his perfect son. The son he deserves. Me, I will always be his bastard child, a gunfighter.”
‘ That is such bullshit Johnny, and you know it.” Scott snapped back. “ Only you can change your life, and how you live it. If you want to stop being Johnny Madrid, and start being Johnny Lancer, then do it. You have a chance to live a normal life, and if you don’t, then you are a fool.”
“ Tell me something Boston, you have a temper like that with those professors when in college?” he asked with a slight smile.
“ Yes, I have unloaded on them a few times.” Scott said.
“ I gave my word, but I can tell you right now. The next year won’t be easy. Especially if they learn where I’m at, and come calling me out.” Johnny said. “ I may be a lot of things to some, but one thing I know I am, and that’s a man of my word.”
“ How’s the leg feeling?” Murdoch asked.
“ It’s okay. Still a little sore to put weight on it, but it’s coming along.” Johnny responded.
“ I couldn’t help but notice how quiet you have been son. Care to share what’s on your mind with your old man?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny laughed softly. “ I think you know the answer to your question already.”
“ I do, but would you want to talk about it with me?’ he asked.
“ I think Boston called it a conundrum or something like that. He said it’s a fancy word for I have to work out a a difficult problem myself.” Johnny responded.
“ Yes, I’m aware of what a conundrum is son. I just don’t understand what could be making you feel like you have one?” Murdoch said.
Johnny sat back and closed his eyes. The afternoon sun feeling good on his face. ‘ How many times you reckon a man can be shot before the right bullet finds it’s mark?” he asked softly.
Murdoch was taken aback by his sons sudden question. He didn’t know how to respond to it really. It never entered his mind that something like that would bother his son, but after hearing him ask the question, he honestly didn’t know how to answer it.
“ I……….I don’t think I can answer that son. I know you’ve been shot many times, and I’m very grateful you are still alive, but in all fairness, I don’t think I can answer it.”
“ Every time I get called out, I wonder if this will be the one. I know It’s just a matter of time before someone comes along who is faster than me.” Johnny said as he stood up, and walked over to the retaining wall. “ All I ever wanted was to be good at my trade. To be the best. Now it don’t seem that important to me anymore.”
“ I think that’s because you have something more important to be good at.” Murdoch said softly. “ What is it you want son?”
“ That’s it right there Murdoch. I will never be your son. I’m a bastard. The people of this valley will know it, and they will not want me living here. In their eyes all they will see is Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter, and bastard son of Murdoch Lancer.” Johnny responded.
“ That’s not true son. There are a lot of good, decent people in this valley who will welcome you home. One of them is my oldest, dearest friend Agatha Conway. She owns the HRC ranch adjacent to Lancer southwest of here.”
“ Yeah I know. Her property line is just south of Needle Rock.” Northwest of Lancer by Cedar Canyon is Driscoll’s ranch, bordered by the Nelson ranch, and Santee ranch.” Johnny said.
“ Why yes. How……..”
“ I looked at that map on the wall remember. I have a good memory.” Johnny cut in. “ Look Murdoch, I don’t have a fancy education like Scott does, but I’m not stupid okay. I know how to read, write, and do sums.”
“ I’m sorry John, I never meant to imply you didn’t.” he said.
“ You wore a badge right?” he asked.
“ Yes. I was a lawman when I met your mother in Matamoros. Why do you ask?”
“ Do you think it’s easy for me, that it doesn’t bother me?” Johnny asked.
“ I’m not sure I know what you are talking about son.” Murdoch said softly.
“ Killing, do you think It’s easy for me to do it, to take another man’s life?” he said.
“ No I don’t son. The first time I had to kill a man, I got sick to my stomach, and threw up. It’s never easy pulling the trigger, especially when you know you are going to take a life.” Murdoch responded.
“ You got sick?”
“ Yes. I was fine, or so I thought I was until I walked up to the man, and looked into his eyes. He was still alive, and started gurgling blood, begging me to shoot him again to end it faster. I turned and walked away from him a few feet and………..To this day it still bothers me.” Murdoch said.
“ I still see their faces. Sometimes at night they haunt me in my sleep.” he said.
“ There are some things a man does in his life that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Things like killing another man.” Murdoch said.
“ That day we stopped up there on the hill, and I seen Lancer for the first time………I thought to my self there’s no way a person like me could ever be a part of something like this.” Johnny said.
“ Why do you feel that way son.” he asked.
Johnny turned around to face his father. “How would you feel if I got called out, and Scott was with me, and he got shot?”
“ I would feel the same way I would if it was you. I would be angry.” Murdoch said. I would be angry at the person who called you out. You said men will come and try to kill you for the reputation you have as the best. * That * is what would anger me more than anything son. That a man could be so not caring, that he would try to kill another man over something so frivolous.”
“ Did you feel that way when Scott’s mother was killed by the land pirates?” he asked.
“ Yes I did. Catherine lost her life because men tried to take what wasn’t theirs to take. It’s the same thing Johnny. Any time a man calls you out, he’s trying to take something that doesn’t belong to him.” he responded.
“ You never said who the leader was.”
“ A man named Pardee.”
“ Day, Day Pardee?”
“ You know him?”
“ Oh yeah, I know him. He’s a gunfighter. A pretty good one too.” Johnny said. “ Did you kill him?”
“ No, him and a couple others managed to escape.”
“ Is he the one who killed Scott’s mother?”
“ I don’t know. I can’t be for certain, but I believe it was him.”
“ I need a good horse. You said there are the finest palominos in the San Joaquin running on Lancer land. I want to catch one, and make him mine.” Johnny said.
“ We already have horses son.” Murdoch responded.
“ Yeah, I know, but those are Lancer horses. I want one that will be mine only. One I can break and train for me.”
“ Does this mean you’re going to accept the offer, and become a third owner?” he asked.
Johnny sighed. “ I don’t think you really understand the risk involved if I stay here, but I’m a man of my word. I said I would give it a year, and I will.”
“ You don’t know how happy that makes me feel hearing you say that son.” Murdoch said with a smile.
“ I don’t want it anymore. Even before you showed up. When I was in that prison, I would lay in my cell at night, hearing the other men moaning, or crying from fear or pain, And I realized I was in there because I was Johnny Madrid. If I had been anyone else, I wouldn’t have been treated like I was growing up. I wouldn’t be the blue eyed bastard son of a prominent California rancher who was hated by the Rurales and others just for trying to do what was right.”
“ Okay, as your father I am going to say this one time, and only one time, so you better listen, and listen good young man. I don’t ever want to hear you say you are my bastard son. * You * are my son, period. Do I make myself clear?”
“ Only if you never call yourself an old man again.” Johnny responded with a smile as the two headed inside. “ You know, all I ever wanted was to be wanted.”
12 – 16 – 2020
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